April 08/2018
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani


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Bible Quotations
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 07-08/18
Political Shameful Subservience in Iran Occupied Lebanon/Elias Bejjani/April 07/18
The hidden chapter of Zahle's battle/Dr.Walid Phares/Face Book/April 07/18
Face Book Comments By Dr. PharesDr.Walid Phares/Face Book/April 07/18
Palestinians: Abbas Targets Hamas, Then Condemns Israel for Targeting Hamas/
Bassam Tawil/Gatestone Institute/April 07/18
France: Soon with No Jews/Guy Millière/Gatestone Institute/April 07/18
Conflicts of the region are led by Iran’s maneuverings/Abdullah bin Bijad Al-Otaibi/Al Arabiya/April 07/18
Syria: The Russia-Turkey summit was a missed opportunity/Amir Taheri/Al Arabiya/April 07/18
Erdogan’s threat to ‘come to Sinjar’/Adnan Hussein/Al Arabiya/April 07/18
The Ankara conference: We are strangers here!/Mashari Althaydi/Al Arabiya/April 07/18

Titles For Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on April 07-08/18
Political Shameful Subservience in Iran Occupied Lebanon
The hidden chapter of Zahle's battle
Face Book Comments By Dr. Phares
Lebanese Diaspora Energy conference opens in Paris
Lebanon Donor Conference Raises Billions
Hariri Urges Voters to Refrain from Voting in Favor of Parties Limiting Reforms
Jumbalt Dreads 'Corruption' Would Impede CEDRE Reforms
Hariri Congratulates Aoun, Berri on CEDRE 'Success'
Hariri at the Lebanese Diaspora Conference in Paris: You are our main force, our secret weapon, and should remain united
Machnouk: Cedre achievement a victory for the mandate and Hariri's long patience policy
Geagea after visiting Sleiman: We are proposing real change
Davis Cup: Lebanon scores twice over Hong Kong
Bassil partakes in honoring ceremony in Paris: Cedar Conference
Bassil at the Diaspora Energy Conference in Paris: We rise to the Lebanese level through our meeting together
Khalil, Fenianos boycott Diaspora Energy Conference inaugurated by Hariri in Paris
Sami Gemayel: We Did Not Surrender When Everyone Else Did
Holy Fire Ceremony in Jerusalem Draws Thousands
Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on April 07-08/18
Reports: 14 Killed in Canadian Hockey Team Bus Crash
Van ploughs into crowd in Germany, at least 3 dead
Gaza-Israel Border: A Week of Deadly Clashes
Palestinian Journalist Dies as Israeli Border Clash Toll Rises to Nine
US Imposes Sanctions on Putin's Oligarch Allies
New Strikes on Syria's Rebel Douma Kill 8 Civilians
Britain Opens Military Base in Bahrain
Talks to Ease Egypt Concerns over Nile Dam Fail, Sudan Minister
French Graft Trial Looms for Uncle of Syria's Assad
Emir of Qatar to Visit White House Next Week
Koreas Discuss Communication Issues ahead of Summit
Top ISIS commander in Afghanistan killed in airstrike
Khamenei Urged to Carry Out Regime Reform
Latest Lebanese Related News published on April 07-08/18
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
Dr.Walid Phares/Face Book/April 03/18
*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.
Lebanese Diaspora Energy conference opens in Paris
The Daily Star/April 07, 2018/BEIRUT: Prime Minister Saad Hariri opened the Lebanese Diaspora Energy Conference in Paris Saturday in a televised speech. "Lebanon can continue as before, with outdated laws and no reforms," Hariri said, "we need to improve the labor market, implement real reforms to fight corruption and create jobs." He said that Lebanese should threaten the candidates for the parliamentary elections with reforms. "If I don't deliver [reforms] then don't vote for me." He expressed his thanks to the French government and the outcome of the CEDRE conference. "But the most important thing for me is reform, reform, and reform." He said that while the Syrian crisis did affect the Lebanese government, the impact would have been less burdensome if there were reforms. "We must not wait every time to reach a problem or an economic collapse and then ask for funds from countries. We have to reform and then if there is an economic crisis beyond our control, then we ask for conferences,"he said. "It is your right to vote, and your duty to vote, so don't lose it by not participating [in the elections]," Foreign Ministry Gebran Bassil was quoted saying by the state-run National News Agency. He told expatriates that he doesn't accept their being called expatriates anymore, saying "you are Lebanese." He said these conferences and the diaspora are helping the government spread diplomacy. "I agree with [Bassil], you are the main force and our weapon. There might be political differences, but you need to stay united alongside Lebanon," Hariri added. "I have prepared a bill to amend the name of the Foreign Ministry to the Foreign Affairs, Diaspora and International Cooperation Ministry," he said, ostensibly as a way to affirm the Lebanese identity of expatriates instead of alienating it. The LDE conference is a regular convention that aims to bring Lebanese around the world together and one was already held in Ivory Coast earlier this year. The next conference will be held on May 10 to May 12 later this year. However, both Finance and Public Works and Transport ministers Ali Hasan Khalil and Youssef Fenianos respectively boycotted the conference.
"We are against conferences that try to influence people or political parties in the [parliament] elections, and we are against exploiting expatriates in the election campaign," Fenianos was quoted saying by the NNA.

Lebanon Donor Conference Raises Billions
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 07/18/International donors pledged $11 billion in low-interest loans and aid for Lebanon at a conference in Paris on Friday to try to avert an economic crisis in a country hard hit by the fallout from the Syrian war. Lebanon's growth has plummeted due to political instability, with the effect compounded by the Syrian conflict which has sent a million refugees across the border -- equivalent to a quarter of the Lebanese population before the conflict. Some 40 countries sent representatives to the CEDRE conference in Paris along with officials from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund where an aid package, made up 90 percent of low-interest loans, was agreed. Praising the "exceptional generosity of the Lebanese people" with regard to Syrian refugees French President Emmanuel Macron said the world needed to show "full solidarity" with Lebanon. The support was all the more critical given that the continued fighting in Syria "makes the imminent return of Syrian refugees impossible," he added. Among the biggest donors was the World Bank which pledged more than $4 billion over five years, while France opened the conference with a promise of 550 million euros. Saudi Arabia, which vies with arch-rival Iran for influence in Lebanon, said it would renew a $1-billion line of credit to Beirut which had been agreed in the past but never used, Lebanese officials said. Iran, which backs Lebanon's powerful Hezbollah Shiite militia, was not invited to the meeting.
- 'Model of pluralism' -"In a Middle East shaken by crises, wounded by civil wars, Lebanon remains a model of pluralism, tolerance and openness which we need," French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said. "But Lebanon is not an island. It's borne the full force of regional tensions and the Syria crisis," he said, adding that it was also grappling with the threat of terrorism. An economic adviser to Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, who was at the conference, estimated the total amount pledged in loans and grants at $2.6 billion by midday.
The figure did not include the World Bank's offer as well as that of the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development (1.1 billion euros), the European Investment Bank (800,000 euros) and Kuwait ($700,000).
The EU promised 150 million euros, the Netherlands 300 million euros and Italy pledged 120 million euros. Economic growth in Lebanon has plunged from eight percent since the start of the Syrian war to around one percent.
"Lebanon cannot succeed alone," Hariri said, adding: "It's not just a matter of Lebanon's security, it's about the security of the region and the whole world."
France, which had mandate power over Lebanon for the first half of the 20th century, has been leading efforts to try stabilise the country.
When Hariri announced his resignation in November, a shock move in which many observers saw the hand of Saudi Arabia's de facto leader Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, President Emmanuel Macron intervened, inviting Hariri to Paris for talks before his return to Lebanon, where he withdrew his resignation.
- Cash for reforms -The Paris conference was aimed at giving Lebanon a boost as it prepares for its first general elections in almost a decade in May. While the small country has managed to avoid a major spillover of the fighting in Syria, it has long been wracked by domestic power struggles, inefficiency and corruption stemming from its own 1975-1990 civil war. With the government forecasting a deficit of $4.8 billion for 2018 -- more than double that in 2011, when Syria's war started -- economists say the state urgently needs to reduce its spending. But public services such as water supplies, electricity and waste management have suffered rampant underinvestment, compounding problems that date back decades. "The political idea behind (the investment plan) is that the Lebanese state could be able to provide services and infrastructure to the public, rather than others," an aide to Le Drian said, referring to the social role also played by the controversial Hezbollah. Lebanon will for its part sign up to a string of reforms including tougher measures to fight corruption.

Hariri Urges Voters to Refrain from Voting in Favor of Parties Limiting Reforms
Naharnet/April 07/18/Prime Minister Saad Hariri on Saturday urged the Lebanese to refrain from casting votes in favor of parties who abstain from introducing reforms they once vowed to do. Addressing the Lebanese community at the opening of the Lebanese Diaspora Energy conference for Europe in Paris, Hariri said: “You are our secret weapon. You must as well threaten us into introducing reforms, otherwise you may refrain from voting for us.” The Premier stressed the need for serious work when the parliamentary elections are over, saying reforms can only be attained through combating corruption in order to create new job opportunities.He emphasized that Lebanon can not continue without reforms, and stressed the necessity to modernize laws. The LDE conference kicked off in Paris one day after the international donor conference in the French capital raised billions of dollars in low-interest loans and aid for Lebanon to try to avert an economic crisis in a country hard hit by the fallout from the Syrian war. Lebanon will stage its first general elections in nine years in May based on a complex proportional representation system. For the first time, Lebanese nationals living overseas will be able to cast ballots in early voting. The parliament has postponed elections several times over security reasons. Its term was supposed to expire in 2013 but lawmakers approved several extensions since then.

Jumbalt Dreads 'Corruption' Would Impede CEDRE Reforms
Naharnet/April 07/18/Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat on Saturday, hailed the outcome and reforms of an international donor conference in France on Lebanon, but at the same time said he was concerned that “corruption would impede application of reforms.”In his common sarcastic remarks, Jumblat said in a tweet: “Recommendations of the dates, excuse me the Cedar (CEDRE) conference in Paris came out very well, but what matters is reforms. Can the political administration of the Lebanese state carry out the desired reform, or has the monster of corruption infiltrated everywhere to swallow the promises and foundations of the conference?”He added referring to Lebanon's long-term electricity crisis saying: “The experience in electricity sector so far is not promising.”International donors pledged $11 billion in loans and grants on 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. In total, donors committed $10.2 billion in loans and $860 million in gifts, France's ambassador to Lebanon Bruno Foucher said on Twitter.

Hariri Congratulates Aoun, Berri on CEDRE 'Success'
Naharnet/Associated Press/April 07/18/Prime Minister Saad Hariri contacted President Michel Aoun and Speaker Nabih Berri from Paris, and “congratulated” them on the “success” of the CEDRE conference that concluded Friday raising billions of dollars aimed at averting an economic fallout in Lebanon, Hariri's media office said. Hariri stressed that the success of the donor conference is the result of “political consensus in Lebanon and a new proof of what consensus can achieve for Lebanese citizens when there is a will to prioritize Lebanon and its interests,” the Premier's office quoted him as telling Berri and Aoun. International donors pledged $11 billion in loans and grants on 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.In total, donors committed $10.2 billion in loans and $860 million in gifts, France's ambassador to Lebanon Bruno Foucher said on Twitter.
Hariri at the Lebanese Diaspora Conference in Paris: You are our main force, our secret weapon, and should remain united
Sat 07 Apr 2018/NNA - Partaking in the opening session of the Lebanese Diaspora Energy Conference held this morning at the Westin Hotel in Paris, Prime Minister Saad Hariri delivered the following inaugural speech: "First I thank Minister Gebran Bassil and all those working in the Diaspora Energy project because bringing the Lebanese together is one of the important things that we are doing as a government and a state. The basic idea about Lebanese expatriates in the past was to benefit from them financially and that was all. It was the biggest mistake because communication between them and their home country is the most important. This communication must be based on the feeling of belonging to one's country, and that one's country cares about him wherever he is. I am glad to talk to you after the CEDRE Conference that we all worked day and night to achieve, with President Michel Aoun and Speaker Nabih Berri. It is a vital conference for Lebanon, its economy and to change the way we work. Lebanon cannot continue in the current way of work, without reforms and with trade laws that go back to the 1950s and 1960s.For example, there is no mention in the Lebanese Republic's legal texts of the computer and we still rely on the typewriter. We must work seriously after the elections to change the way we work. As the French Minister of Finance and Economy Bruno Le Maire said regarding France, we also cannot continue without courageous decisions. We continue to hire employees in the state, but the state is not the basis of the employment process, the private sector is. We all know that real reforms and fighting corruption guarantee employment opportunities. As for the CEDRE Conference, I thank France and its President Emmanuel Macron for their hard work. President Macron's commitment to this project was great and we succeeded in getting the amounts that we got yesterday. Nevertheless, the most important thing for me in this conference is reform, reform and reform. We cannot continue to work the way we do and this requires us to take bold decisions. We must not wait every time to reach a problem or an economic collapse, and then ask for funds from the countries. We should carry out reforms, and then in wake of an actual economic crisis beyond our control, we call for conferences. What is happening in Lebanon today is the best example. It is true that there are 1.5 million displaced Syrians in Lebanon. This has cost Lebanon, according to the World Bank, about $18 billion by 2015. However, if we had carried out these reforms before this happened, the impact on us would have been much less than it is today.
We, as Lebanese, must carry out the necessary reforms, and you the Lebanese Diaspora, are indeed the main force and our secret weapon, and should remain united.
However, our problem in Lebanon is that we distinguish between ourselves and there is no doubt that the political disagreement in the country will continue, but you must remain united and stand by Lebanon. Political differences should have no effect on what you are doing for Lebanon. In this sense, the Lebanese Diaspora is one million times stronger than any Diaspora in the world, and this is an act of faith and truth. We must move away from partisanship, sectarianism and all these things because they do not benefit us. What protects this country is to keep "Lebanon First". You can force us to carry out reforms, because we have to improve our performance, and to do so we must feel that someone is watching us. You must say to us, if you want our votes, you have to carry out reforms first. If I do not do reforms, do not vote for me and I am serious about this! I renew my thanks to France, the Minister of Finance, Mr. Le Maire, and to President Emmanuel Macron, for holding the CEDRE Conference and for the depth of this friendship that began a long time ago and was consolidated by my late father, Martyr Prime Minister Rafic Hariri with former President Jacques Chirac. We saw how this relationship was in the interest of both Lebanon and France. Today, you can see that we are continuing this relation with President Macron for the benefit of both countries.
I am proud of people like Carlos Ghosn who raised Lebanon's name all over the world. The reason for Carlos Ghosn's success is that he worked and did reforms. He took charge a company that was suffering from problems, and we have a country with problems where we cannot continue working without reforms. The main reason behind our ability to accomplish these achievements in Lebanon, especially after the election of President Michel Aoun, is the consensus in the country. Small political differences will continue but we agree on all the essential issues, and that the interest of the Lebanese citizen comes before any other matter. This is the most important thing and we should preserve this consensus because experience proved that whenever we disagree the country pays the price. We cannot and should not disagree, and nothing will make us disagree except some personal sensitivities. I salute President Aoun, Speaker Berri and all the political parties in the country, particularly after we have been close to losing the country in the past. But with the cooperation of all the parties in the government, we were able to drive the country to a safe place where the Lebanese citizen is starting to have confidence in it, and we will continue to work hard to achieve your
dreams and the dreams of our children."

Machnouk: Cedre achievement a victory for the mandate and Hariri's long patience policy
Sat 07 Apr 2018/NNA - "The success of the Cedar Conference is a victory for the long-patience policy of Prime Minister Saad Hariri, who has bet on stability and tranquility to create a favorable investment climate in the country," said Interior and Municipalities Minister Nuhad al-Machnouk on Saturday. "This is the only way to expand the economy and create new jobs that address the unemployment crisis," he added. "The assistance provided by the international and Arab community to Lebanon is also a success for the current mandate and a proof of international confidence in the policy of Prime Minister Hariri. This success is an answer to all those who questioned the Prime Minister's march," confirmed the Interior Minister. Machnouk's words came during a meeting with Al-Sabeh Family, in presence of former Minister Hasan Al-Sabeh at Al-Sayad Restaurant earlier today.

Geagea after visiting Sleiman: We are proposing real change
Sat 07 Apr 2018/NNA - Lebanese Forces Party Chief Samir Geagea confirmed Saturday, after meeting with former President Michel Sleiman at his home in Amshit, that actual change is required at this stage. Geagea called on the Lebanese to vote for the "Definite Change" electoral list that "reminds us of the old tripartite alliance and the actual national dignity," adding, "What we are proposing today is real change and we have made a difference through our ministers in the government."In turn, Sleiman said, "We have to strengthen foreign relations, where Lebanese reside. The new authority must be held accountable not only for waste and corruption, but also for random and arbitrary formations...and we have to create new projects and restore the role to the people of Jbeil and Kesrouan who were always the pioneers."For his part, Jbeil Municipality Head Ziad Hawat said, "We affirm the sovereign positions that are the basis of the legislative work, and our list is different because it is consistent with its political and developmental discourse." "The more hands are united, the more we can achieve many goals...God willing, May 6 will be a real revolution between right and wrong," Hawat concluded.

Davis Cup: Lebanon scores twice over Hong Kong
Sat 07 Apr 2018/NNA - Lebanon won over Hong Kong (2-0) on the first day of the semi-finals of the Davis Cup Asian-Oceania Group.
The Davis Cup is organized by the Lebanese Tennis Federation under the patronage of Youth and Sports Minister Mohamed Fneish, taking place at "Our Lady of Loueizeh" University tennis court. With its achieved victory, Lebanon has taken a major step towards qualifying for the second round of Group B in the Davis Cup.

Bassil partakes in honoring ceremony in Paris: Cedar Conference
Sat 07 Apr 2018/NNA - Foreign Affairs and Expatriates Minister Gibran Bassil participated Friday evening in the annual honorary ceremony organized by the Lebanese-French Women's Gathering at the Intercontinental Hotel in Paris, in presence of a number of ambassadors, diplomats and friends of the Gathering from France and Europe and a crowd of Lebanese expatriates. Bassil delivered a speech on the occasion, in which he praised the Lebanese women and their contributions. He highlighted their long struggle to regain their rights, referring herein to his submitted law that gives Lebanese women the right to pass their citizenship onto their children. Bassil also seized the opportunity to touch on the success of the "Cedar Conference" held in the French capital, Paris, considering that it "was good for Leb

Bassil at the Diaspora Energy Conference in Paris: We rise to the Lebanese level through our meeting together
Sat 07 Apr 2018/NNA - Foreign Affairs and Expatriates Minister Gebran Bassil confirmed Saturday that through coming together, the Lebanese rise up to the national level surpassing any partisan, sectarian or regional factors.  Speaking at the inauguration of the Diaspora Energy Conference in the French capital, Paris, Bassil said, "We meet today in the first Diaspora Energy Conference for the European Continent and the twelfth in the world, following our participation in the Cedre Conference in support of Lebanon's economy, and in order to protect those remaining in Lebanon against migration." Bassil deemed that the Cedre Conference has "proven that Lebanon has restored trust in itself and regained the world's confidence as well."  "Lebanon's relationship with Europe is historical, for Lebanon is the backyard of Europe and its gateway to the East, while Europe is Lebanon's front garden and its entrance to the West," said Bassil. "We are here today away from concerns, together in a unanimous celebration of Lebanon, the formula that the Fathers of the Republic have concocted, which we fought to preserve, Lebanon the message...It is our role in this ideologically complex orient to be the message, to be the example of cohabitation, equally coexisting as a bouquet of flowers ordained wisely by a heavenly God," the Foreign Minister went on. He urged all Lebanese expatriates to remain attached to their Lebanese identity, noting that he has drafted a law to amend the name of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates to become the "Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Diaspora and International Cooperation." "You are Lebanese, Lebanese, Lebanese...Exercise your rights and abide by your duties and cling to your identity. Lebanon awaits you with stretched-out arms, so come to it!" concluded Bassil.

Khalil, Fenianos boycott Diaspora Energy Conference inaugurated by Hariri in Paris
Sat 07 Apr 2018/NNA - Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil and Energy Minister Youssef Fenianos boycotted Saturday the Conference on Diaspora Energy patronized by Prime Minister Saad Hariri in Paris. "We are here for an event that concerns all of the country, which is the Cedar Conference. As for our electoral battle, it will be undergone in Lebanon...and expatriates' elections will be administered through our capabilities and not the State's," said Khalil, justifying his absence from the conference inaugural session. In turn, Fenianos stated that, "We are against conferences that use the influence of people or political movements in the elections, and we are against exploiting expatriates in the electoral battle."

Sami Gemayel: We Did Not Surrender When Everyone Else Did
Kataeb.orgSaturday 07th April 2018/Kataeb leader Samy Gemayel on Saturday deemed the upcoming parliamentary elections as pivotal and decisive, urging the Lebanese to vote as their conscience tells them to. "This electoral battle is decisive as it encloses a significant importance for us as an opposition force," Gemayel said during an event held by the Kataeb party in Jbeil. "This electoral battle is challenging because we are confronting a flawed and erroneous mentality; one that has nothing to do with our history, values and resistance." "This mentality has made people think that the successful is the person who lies, deceives and commits corruption acts the most," he said. "We are facing an evil that is bigger than any military power." "On May 6, we are counting on the public opinion and the righteous people. We will win our bet because the resistant Lebanese will not relinquish their sovereignty and know how to reward those who did right and sanction those who did wrong." The Kataeb chief said that the elections serve as a referendum on whether the wrongdoers and the corrupt people should be allowed to evade accountability, calling on the Lebanese to convey a strict message to those who consider themselves to be immune and able to exploit the state institutions as they want. "Should we reward or put to account each official who accepted to yield to the power of non-state arms? Should the authority's performance and recklessness towards the people's right, the state's finances and the environment pass unnoticed and evade accountability? These are the questions that the Lebanese will be answering on May 6."
"The electoral campaigns are marred with corruption and a degraded level of ethics as we have all witnessed how candidates were picked to join lists based on their financial capabilities and how the state institutions are being used as electoral platform," he pointed out. "Is this the political life we want in Lebanon? Is it acceptable to speak against corruption while allying with corrupt forces at the same time?" he asked. "Unfortunately, there is now a flagrant dualism as most of the political forces have contradictory stances and act." "Today, Lebanon is split between being the country of the honorable and dishonorable people."
Gemayel stressed that the Kataeb party has stood firm to what it believes in and decided to work hand in hand with all the honorable people, vowing to carry on with the same anti-corruption fight. "Those who thought that we can be subdued, cornered or isolated are all mistaken. The Kataeb party has 12 candidates across Lebanon," he stated. "We will work hard, fight and win; our victory will be that of the martyrs and honorable people who seek a sovereign, free and independent country." "We work for the sake of Lebanon away from compromises and dubious calculations." Gemayel hailed the alliance with former MP Fares Souaid, adding that the latter and the Kataeb party have both refused to abandon their constants when all the others chose to compromise theirs. "We did not surrender when everyone else did. It was out of question for us to abandon everything we struggled for and everything our martyrs died for." Later, Gemayel met the Kataeb partisans at the party's center in Sahel Alma, calling on them to work hard so as to get deserving people into the Parliament and, consequently, protect the country."We are fighting a big and essential battle that revolves around the future of the country and its youths," he said. "We will stand against the train that is drifting the country off into the abyss. We are fighting this battle in defense of the Lebanese people's dignity. We cannot be either bought or sold by anyone." Gemayel also visited the Kataeb's center in Al-Hayyata where he urged the locals to vote for the candidates they are convinced of, despite the electoral bribery and the pressure they are being subject to. "We will enduring the consequences of the choice that we, as Lebanese, are going to make in the upcoming polls."

Holy Fire Ceremony in Jerusalem Draws Thousands

Kataeb.orgSaturday 07th April 2018/Thousands of Christians are gathering in Jerusalem for an ancient fire ceremony that celebrates the resurrection of Jesus. In a ritual dating back at least 1,200 years, they crowded Saturday into the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where Christian tradition holds that Jesus was crucified, buried and resurrected. During the annual ceremony, top Eastern Orthodox clerics enter the Edicule, the small chamber marking the site of Jesus’ tomb.They then emerge to reveal candles said to be miraculously lit with “holy fire” as a message to the faithful from heaven. The details of the flame’s source are a closely guarded secret.

Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published
on April 07-08/18
Reports: 14 Killed in Canadian Hockey Team Bus Crash
Asharq Al-Awsat/Saturday, 7 April, 2018/A crash between a transport truck and a bus carrying a junior hockey team in Western Canada left 14 people dead, Canadian media reported citing police. Fourteen more were injured -- including three critically -- in the accident involving the Humboldt Broncos team bus, which was heading north for a Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League playoff game against the Nipawin Hawks, the Saskatoon StarPhoenix reported. Police said the crash took place about 28 kilometers (18 miles) north of Tisdale, Saskatchewan as the bus was traveling on highway 35. Royal Canadian Mounted Police inspector Ted Monroe had said at a news conference late Friday that there were "fatalities among the passengers on the bus" and "a number of serious injuries"."It's a horrible accident," said Darren Opp, president of the Nipawin Hawks hockey team. "It's very, very bad." Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expressed his sadness at the tragic incident involving such young athletes. "I cannot imagine what these parents are going through, and my heart goes out to everyone affected by this terrible tragedy, in the Humboldt community and beyond," Trudeau wrote on Twitter. Kevin Henry, a coach who runs a hockey school in Prince Albert, said people are in shock. "It is sort of every parent's worst nightmare."
Van ploughs into crowd in Germany, at least 3 dead
Ynetnews/Reuters/April 07/18/German police say some 30 injured, some dead after car hits group of people sitting outside a popular restaurant in Muenster; driver among dead after taking his own life; security source says 'an attack cannot be ruled out.'A man drove a van into a group of people sitting outside a popular restaurant in the old city centre of Muenster in western Germany on Saturday, killing at least three before taking his own life, police and the interior ministry said. "There are several dead," a police spokeswoman said, adding that several of those injured were in critical condition. A police spokesman said around 30 people were injured, while some reports indicated the number of wounded is higher, and stands at some 50. A security source added: "The scenario is such that an attack cannot be ruled out." The van drove into people sitting at tables outside the Grosser Kiepenkerl restaurant, which is popular with tourists, the police spokeswoman said. Mass-selling daily Bild reported in its online edition that three people had died in the incident. Police said they were not looking for further suspects after the driver took his own life after the crash, but on Twitter they urged people to avoid Muenster city centre. "The danger is over," the police spokeswoman said. According to German media, large parts of the city were closed off after the car ramming, and helicopters were seen circling overhead. "I am shocked by the news from Muenster," said Andrea Nahles, parliamentary leader of the Social Democrats, junior partner in Chancellor Angela Merkel's ruling coalition. "My thoughts are with the victims and their relatives," she added. "I hope that our authorities can quickly clarify the background to this incident and wish the local forces much strength for their work."The incident evoked memories of a December 2016 truck attack in Berlin that killed 12 people. Anis Amri, a failed Tunisian asylum seeker with Islamist links, hijacked a truck on December 19, 2016, killed the driver and then ploughed it into a crowded marketplace, killing 11 more people and injuring dozens of others.

Gaza-Israel Border: A Week of Deadly Clashes
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 07/18/The Gaza border with Israel has been enflamed by violence since Israeli forces opened fire on a protest march on March 30.It was the deadliest single day in the territory since a 2014 war with Israel, and led to new riots, clashes and deaths. Here is a rundown of the unrest:
- Bloodiest day in years -On March 30, tens of thousands of Palestinians including women and children gather at sites throughout the blockaded Gaza Strip, which is flanked by Israel along its eastern and northern borders. They are taking part in "The Great March of Return" which calls for the "right to return" of the descendants of some 700,000 Palestinians who fled or were expelled from their lands during the war over Israel's creation in 1948. A smaller number stray from the main protest and approach the heavily fortified border fence, confronting Israeli troops by throwing stones and firebombs.
Israeli soldiers open fire, killing 19 Palestinians in what is the bloodiest single day in Gaza since 2014. The next day, Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas declares a day of national mourning and says he holds Israel fully responsible for the deaths. Palestinians and Turkey accuse Israel of using "disproportionate force". The Arab League, Egypt and Jordan all condemn the Israeli response. Officially organised by civilians, the march is supported by Hamas, the Islamist movement that runs the Gaza Strip. - Netanyahu praises soldiers -Thousands of Gazans gather to bury their dead on March 31 while just a few hundred protesters return to several areas near the border to continue the demonstration. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praises troops for "guarding the country's borders". "Well done to our soldiers," he writes in a statement. The United States blocks a draft United Nations Security Council statement urging restraint and calling for an investigation of the deadly clashes. On April 1, Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman rejects any independent investigation. "There will be no such thing here. We shall not cooperate with any commission of inquiry," he tells public radio.
- Israel stands firm -The defence minister warns on April 3 that protesters who approach the fence between Gaza and Israel will put "their life in danger". There is the first death since the 19 were killed, that of a Palestinian shot in the chest by Israeli forces. On April 5, another Palestinian is killed, this time in an Israeli air strike, the health ministry says. US President Donald Trump's envoy Jason Greenblatt puts the onus for the violence squarely on the Palestinians. Protesters "should not approach the border fence in any way or any location", he says. As tensions mount ahead of new Friday protests, marking a week since the first outbreak of violence, defence minister Lieberman says there will be no change in the open-fire rules. "If there are provocations, there will be a reaction of the harshest kind like last week," Lieberman tells public radio. The UN envoy for the Middle East peace process, Nickolay Mladenov, calls for peaceful demonstrations and restraint by Israeli forces. - New Friday clashes -On April 6, a week since the violence broke out, thousands of Palestinians gather again near the security barrier. They burn mounds of tyres and throw stones at Israeli soldiers over the border fence. The security forces respond with tear gas and live fire, that leaves at least nine people dead, including journalist Yasser Murtaja. Some 500 people are reported injured by Israeli gunfire including five other journalists. Kuwait again makes a push at the UN for a statement demanding an investigation into the killings but the US says it is opposed. Israel's army insists its troops opened fire "in accordance with the rules of engagement".

Palestinian Journalist Dies as Israeli Border Clash Toll Rises to Nine
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 07/18/Two Palestinians, including a journalist, have died after being shot by Israeli troops during border clashes, the health ministry in Gaza said Saturday, bringing the total killed in the latest violence to nine.Thousands of protesters approached the border fence around the Gaza Strip for a second Friday in a row, burning tyres and hurling stones at Israeli forces, who responded with tear gas and live ammunition. In addition to the nine dead, at least 491 were wounded by Israeli gunfire, the health ministry in the Hamas-run Gaza strip said. Israel estimated the number of protesters at around 20,000, saying they were seeking to breach the border. Numbers were down from the previous Friday, when tens of thousands approached the border in demonstrations that saw Israeli forces kill 19 Palestinians, making it the bloodiest day in Gaza since a 2014 war.
No Israelis were injured on either day and the latest deaths have sparked fresh calls for an investigation.  Among those killed at Friday's protest was Yasser Murtaja, a photographer with the Gaza-based Ain Media agency, who died from his wounds after being shot, the local health ministry said Saturday. Murtaja's company confirmed his death, with witnesses saying he was close to the front of the protests in Southern Gaza when he was hit. An AFP photograph taken after he was wounded showed Murtaja wearing a press vest as he received treatment. The Israeli army declined to comment, saying it was reviewing the incident. The Palestinian Journalists' Syndicate said five other journalists were also shot during the protests, insisting they were wearing clothes clearly identifying them as members of the press. In a statement, the syndicate said it held Israel "fully accountable for this crime."
The Gaza health ministry also announced Saturday the death of another man, 20-year-old Hamza Abdel Aal, saying he was shot east of Al-Bureij in central Gaza.
The nine men were expected to be buried Saturday.
- 'Fence was not crossed' -Weeks of border protests have been called to demand the return of Palestinians to land they were forced from or fled after the founding of Israel 70 years ago. They come with tensions high as the US gears up to shift its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem after recognising the disputed city as the capital of the Jewish state.Protesters on Friday said Gaza's economic woes were also fuelling frustration. The territory has been under an Israeli blockade for a decade, while Egypt has mostly sealed its borders in recent years as well, leaving the cramped area of two million people largely sealed off.
Ahmad al-Naqaa, 40, said he was bringing his seven children to the protest because "we are living like sardines.""I am ready to die for our land and our dignity," he told AFP. At the United Nations, Kuwait on Friday called on the Security Council to investigate the deaths. A Kuwaiti text is expected to be vetoed by the United States after a similar draft declaration was blocked last week. Israel has rebuffed international calls for a probe into last Friday's killings.
UN chief Antonio Guterres urged it to "exercise extreme caution with the use of force" ahead of the latest clashes. The Israeli army said its troops opened fire on Friday "in accordance with the rules of engagement". The military said "attempts were made to infiltrate into Israel under the cover of a smokescreen" and that firebombs and explosive devices were thrown at the soldiers. Israel 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.It claimed more than half the dead from the previous Friday were members of militant groups, including Hamas's armed wing. Hamas claimed only five of the dead, saying they were participating "in popular events side-by-side with their people."Those killed would receive $3,000 to support their families, Hamas announced ahead of Friday's protests. Late Friday Israeli army spokesman Brigadier General Ronen Manelis classified the operation along the border as a success. "None of our troops were wounded, the fence was not crossed," he said, noting that what happened last week had "deterred Hamas, which prevented the masses from approaching the fence". But on the other side, Hamas's leader in Gaza Yahya Sinwar also claimed victory and pledged Palestinians would eventually "break the border and return to our land and pray in Jerusalem". Israel has also banned the entry of tyres into the Gaza Strip, the head of a Palestinian committee for coordinating imports to Gaza said.
The borders were quiet Saturday morning.

US Imposes Sanctions on Putin's Oligarch Allies
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 07/18/The United States struck President Vladimir Putin's inner circle Friday, imposing sanctions on seven of Russia's most influential oligarchs and stoking a diplomatic crisis some have dubbed a new Cold War. Those hit include metals magnate Oleg Deripaska, described as operating for the Russian government, as well as Alexei Miller, director of state-owned energy giant Gazprom. Any assets they hold in areas under US jurisdiction could now be frozen.Also on the list are tycoon Suleiman Kerimov, under investigation in France over allegations he brought in millions of euros in suitcases full of cash, and Kirill Shamalov, a billionaire reported to be Putin's son-in-law. Russia's state arms exporter, a key tool in Putin's efforts to support the modernization of his own military by selling advanced hardware around the world, was also added to the sanctions list. In all, President Donald Trump's administration targeted seven oligarchs, 12 companies they own or control, 17 senior Russian officials and the state-owned arms export company Rosoboronexport. "The United States is taking these actions in response to the totality of the Russian government's ongoing and increasingly brazen pattern of malign activity across the world," a senior administration official told reporters. "This included their occupation of Crimea, instigation of violence in eastern Ukraine, support for the Assad regime in Syria... and ongoing malicious cyber-activity," the senior official said. "But most importantly this is a response to Russia's continued attacks to subvert western democracies." Nevertheless, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said the new sanctions did not mean that Trump's offer to sit down with Putin in Washington is off the table. "As the president has said, he wants to have a good relationship with Russia but that's going to depend on some of the actions by the Russians," she said. "However, at the same time, the president is going to continue to be tough until we see that change take place. And we're going to continue working forward in what we can to have that meeting and have a meeting with Vladimir Putin at some point." Russia's foreign ministry promised a "tough response" and said the United States had joined the "enemies of the market economy and honest and free competition" as they "use administrative methods to eliminate competitors" such as Rosoboronexport. "The requisitioning of private property and other people's money is known as theft," the ministry added. Campaigners against Kremlin corruption welcomed the US move. Bill Browder, a US-born British financier whose lawyer Sergei Magnitsky died in a Russian jail while investigating alleged tax fraud, tweeted that Washington was "finally hitting Putin and his cronies where it counts."The measures were taken under a US law passed to punish Russia for its alleged bid to interfere in the 2016 presidential election, engage in cyber-warfare and intervene in Ukraine and Syria. But Friday's announcement also came as Washington and its allies face a new diplomatic crisis with the Kremlin over the attempted poisoning of a former Russian double agent on British soil. Trump begrudgingly signed the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) in August last year, despite arguing that it undermined his own authority to lead US foreign policy.
Election interference -
The president had long disputed the idea that Russia's alleged cyber-espionage and propaganda efforts sped him to victory in the election, seeking better relations with Putin. But Congress persisted, backed by evidence from US intelligence agencies, and in March the administration finally imposed sanctions on 19 Russian entities for "malicious cyber attacks." In parallel, and to Trump's fury, former FBI chief Robert Mueller has been empowered as a special prosecutor to investigate possible collusion between the president's campaign and Russia. So far Mueller has indicted 19 people, including 13 Russians, and reports suggest he may soon ask to interview Trump himself. US officials confirmed that their action against the oligarchs was in part related to Russia's alleged interference in the US vote, but stressed the broader nature of their concerns. "The Russian government operates for the disproportionate benefit of oligarchs and government elites," Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said."Russian oligarchs and elites who profit from this corrupt system will no longer be insulated from the consequences of their government's destabilizing activities." - Nerve agent -Ties had already plummeted to a post Cold War low over last month's attack on a former Russian double agent living in England. Sergei Skripal is recovering in hospital, but officials in Britain and its ally the United States say he was poisoned by "Novichok," a nerve agent they say only Russian intelligence could have deployed. Trump's administration reacted by expelling 60 Russians they accused of being spies working under diplomatic cover and Moscow responded in kind.

New Strikes on Syria's Rebel Douma Kill 8 Civilians
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 07/18/Air strikes on Syria's rebel-controlled Douma killed eight civilians on Saturday, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, as government forces resumed a military blitz of the town. The Britain-based monitor said it could not confirm whether the strikes were carried out by Syrian government warplanes or those of its ally, Russia. It was the second day of heavy bombardment on Douma, with at least 40 civilians killed on Friday in a sudden resumption of strikes after a more than week-long lull. The renewed raids appear to be an attempt to pressure Jaish al-Islam -- the Islamist group that holds the town -- to agree to the regime's terms of a withdrawal. Six civilians were also killed and dozens more wounded as Douma rebels shelled the capital Damascus on Saturday, Syrian state media said.
State television broadcast live footage from a hospital in Damascus, where pools of blood stained the floor and wounded could be heard wailing in pain.

Britain Opens Military Base in Bahrain
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 07/18/Britain on Thursday opened a new naval base in Bahrain, its first permanent military outpost in the Middle East in nearly half a century, London's defence ministry said. The base, south of Bahrain's capital Manama, will house around 300 British troops and support personnel as Britain and Gulf states press their campaign against jihadist groups in the region. "Our presence in Bahrain will play a vital role in keeping Britain safe as well as underpinning security in the Gulf," defence secretary Gavin Williamson said. Bahrain and Britain are part of the US-led coalition battling the Islamic State (IS) group in Syria and Iraq, and the new base means Britain will have the opportunity to add to its four mine-hunter warships currently based at the Mina Salman port. "What happens in the Gulf region has a direct impact on the national security of the United Kingdom, our prosperity and the safety of our citizens," Britain's defence ministry said. "It is vital that we work with close allies like Bahrain to tackle regional threats such as that posed by Daesh," it added, using an Arabic acronym for IS. The tiny island nation of Bahrain currently houses the US Navy's Fifth Fleet. Britain withdrew from bases in the Gulf in 1971 as part of its plan to pull out from "East of Suez". It ended its troop presence in southern Iraq in 2009, leaving bases built in Basra after the 2003 invasion.

Talks to Ease Egypt Concerns over Nile Dam Fail, Sudan Minister
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 07/18/A new round of talks held in Khartoum to ease Egypt's concerns over a controversial dam that Ethiopia is building along the Nile have failed, a Sudanese minister said Friday. The foreign ministers and intelligence chiefs of Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan met in Khartoum on Thursday, and after nearly 17 hours of discussions they failed to reach an agreement on issues concerning Addis Ababa's ongoing construction of the controversial Grand Renaissance Dam on the Nile. "We didn't reach an agreement," Sudanese Foreign Minister Ibrahim Ghandour told reporters after the officials of three countries wrapped up their talks held at a luxury hotel in Khartoum. "We spent the whole day talking as ordered by the leaders of the three countries, but we didn't reach an agreement." "I can't specify what the disagreements were, but they were technical issues," Ghandour said as his Ethiopian and Egyptian counterparts refused to speak to journalists. Ghandour also said that no new date had been fixed for the next round of talks. The latest round of discussion had been held after leaders of Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan met in Addis Ababa last month and agreed to break the months long impasse over the dam. Ethiopia began building the $4 billion dam in 2012, but the mega project has triggered tensions primarily with Egypt as Cairo fears that once commissioned the dam will reduce water supplies from the Nile to Egypt. Egypt relies almost totally on the Nile for irrigation and drinking water, and says it has "historic rights" to the river, guaranteed by treaties from 1929 and 1959. Cairo argues that the treaties grant it 87 percent of the Nile's flow, as well as the power to veto upstream projects. It fears that any reduction of water supplies to the biggest Arab country will affect its agriculture.
Cairo is primarily concerned at the speed at which the dam's reservoir would be filled. The Blue and the White Nile tributaries converge in Sudan's capital Khartoum and from there run north through Egypt to the Mediterranean. Initially Sudan too had concerns over the project, but in recent months has supported it, with experts saying that the dam will help regulate floods along Sudan's share of the Nile. The Grand Renaissance Dam aims to produce 6,000 megawatts of hydro-electric power -- the equivalent of six nuclear-powered plants. The dam was initially expected to be commissioned in 2017, but Ethiopian media reports say only about 60 percent has so far been built.

French Graft Trial Looms for Uncle of Syria's Assad
The uncle of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad alone accounts for 80 percent of the assets seized by French customs authorities last year as a four-year probe into his eye-popping assets in Europe winds up. Dubbed the "Butcher of Hama", Rifaat al-Assad, now 80, may soon face trial over his allegedly ill-gotten gains valued at tens of millions of euros, according to sources close to the case. He headed an elite force that put down a Sunni insurrection in the central city in February 1982, a crackdown that claimed between 10,000 and 40,000 lives, according to varying estimates. Two years later, he fled the country after mounting a failed coup bid against his brother Hafez al-Assad, Bashar's father, who led Syria from 1971 to 2000. After he arrived in Europe, Rifaat al-Assad's lavish lifestyle with four wives and a dozen children soon raised eyebrows. The breadth of Assad's alleged fortune, amassed mainly during the 1980s, is dizzying: more than 500 properties in Spain; two mansions in Paris including one covering 3,000 square metres (30,000 square feet); a stud farm and chateau near the French capital; 7,300 square metres of office space in Lyon. Most of these were acquired through offshore companies in Panama, Curacao, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg and Gibraltar. In France alone, his fortune has been valued at 90 million euros ($110 million). Most of the assets have been sequestered. Last year, of the 862 million euros confiscated by French customs authorities, 691 million euros' worth belonged to Assad, they said in March. The family is also thought to have been the owners of Witanhurst, the largest residence in London after Buckingham Palace, through a shell company in Panama, before selling it in 2007. - 'It was raining cash' -A source close to the case said a former manager in France described how "it was raining cash" from 1996 to 2010, recalling that he withdrew around 100,000 euros a month to pay the Assads' many employees. French authorities opened an investigation in April 2014 after two anti-graft groups, Sherpa and Transparency International, raised red flags.
Two years later, they charged Assad with tax fraud and embezzlement of public funds. Appearing before a French magistrate for the first time in January 2015, Assad was evasive, saying he did not manage his fortune personally. "I'm concerned only with politics," he insisted. However, wiretapping records and witnesses suggested otherwise, painting a picture of a man who did not delegate and closely watched his holdings.
- Saudi benefactor? -He also claimed he owed his fortune to the largesse of Saudi king Abdullah, who died in January 2015.
His lawyers Pierre Haik, Pierre Cornut-Gentille and Benjamin Grundler produced a cheque for $10 million from Abdullah dating from when he was still crown prince in 1984. They said in a statement to AFP: "We provided proof of three other very large transfers in 2008, 2009 and 2010 -- admittedly after the acquisitions (of French property) -- but which illustrate continuous and massive aid from the king since the early 1980s."The defence team also recently handed over a letter from Abdullah referring to donations to Assad. They argued that its was practically impossible to dig up bank records from more than 30 years ago. Allegations of corruption and embezzlement have come from a variety of sources. The former head of Romania's secret service, Ion Mihai Pacepa, wrote in a book that the late dictator Nicolae Ceaucescu referred to Rifaat al-Assad as his agent in Syria, performing services in exchange for large sums of money. Investigators also cite statements by Syrian former foreign minister Abdel Halim Khaddam, who said Hafez al-Assad had some $300 million paid to his brother in 1984 as a way to get rid of him following the abortive coup.
Two-thirds allegedly came from the president's budget and the rest from a Libyan loan. Investigators noted that the budget spiked in 1984. Former defence minister Mustafa Tlas alleged that Assad's "men" helped themselves to pallets laden with banknotes from the Syrian central bank as well as cultural property. Another witness testified to archaeological looting, telling investigators that the president's uncle had stolen "a treasure of great value" from land owned by his grandfather in Syria. Assad has dismissed the allegations as attempts by rivals to smear him. He may also face charges in Switzerland, where he has been under investigation since 2013 for war crimes allegedly committed in the 1980s.

Emir of Qatar to Visit White House Next Week
Associated Press/Naharnet/April 07/18/The emir of Qatar will be meeting with President Donald Trump at the White House next week. White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders says Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani will be meeting with Trump on April 10. She says Trump looks forward to discussing ways to strengthen ties between the two countries and "advance our common security and economic priorities." Qatar has been under siege since early June, when the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and its other neighbors severed ties over claims the small, gas-rich monarchy was funding terrorism, disrupting Gulf unity and fomenting opposition across the region. Qatar has denied the charges. A top fundraiser for Trump also filed a lawsuit last month against Qatar and lobbyists working for the state, alleging they hacked his and his wife's emails as part of the ongoing dispute.

Koreas Discuss Communication Issues ahead of Summit
Associated Press/Naharnet/April 07/18/North and South Korea on Saturday held talks over establishing a telephone hotline between their leaders and other communication issues ahead of a rare summit between the rivals later this month. The closed-door talks between working-level officials at a border village were part of preparatory discussions to set up the April 27 summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in. The meeting, only the third summit between the Koreas since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War, could prove to be significant in the global diplomatic push to resolve the standoff over North Korea's nuclear program. A summit between Kim and President Donald Trump is anticipated in May. Before Saturday's meeting, South Korea didn't specify what would be discussed other than the hotline between the leaders. The Koreas have agreed not to disclose the contents of their preparatory talks until they reach an agreement, Moon's office said. The Koreas agreed on the date of the summit in a high-level meeting last week. South Korea, which has shuttled between Pyongyang and Washington to set up the talks, said Kim had expressed willingness to talk about giving up nuclear weapons during his upcoming meetings with Moon and Trump. The North has yet to officially confirm such intent or Kim's interest in meeting Trump.
Kim last month made a surprise visit to Beijing and met with Chinese leader Xi Jinping, a move widely seen as strengthening the North's position ahead of his talks with Moon and Trump. China, North Korea's only major ally and main economic lifeline, has been calling for a "dual suspension" of North Korean nuclear and missile activities in return for the United States and South Korea suspending their large-scale military exercises. The Koreas earlier this week held separate working-level discussions on the protocol, security and media coverage issues of the inter-Korean summit. The countries will hold at least one more meeting on these issues to discuss the summit's agenda. Working-level officials need to determine how Kim would arrive at the southern side of the border village for the summit. South Korean media have speculated whether Kim, who has a flair for the dramatic, would cross the Military Demarcation Line that bisects the countries in a symbolic gesture of peace. The Koreas have to also decide how many times Kim and Moon would meet on April 27 and whether parts of the summit would be broadcast on live television.
The rivals agreed to set up a hotline between the offices of Kim and Moon in March when Moon's envoys visited Kim in Pyongyang. In a subsequent trip to Washington, Moon's envoys brokered a meeting between Kim and Trump, who said he would meet the North Korean leader by May. South Korea says a functional hotline between Kim and Moon would help facilitate dialogue and reduce misunderstanding during times of tension. Moon and Kim plan to hold their first telephone conversation sometime before their face-to-face meeting, according to Moon's office. North Korea's abrupt diplomatic outreach since the start of the year has brought a temporary lull to tensions sparked by its flurry of nuclear weapons and missile tests last year that resulted in Kim and Trump exchanging crude insults and threats of war.
The North last year tested a purported thermonuclear warhead and three intercontinental ballistic missiles designed to strike the continental United States. It also flew two midrange missiles over Japan while threatening to fire similar weapons toward Guam, the Pacific U.S. military hub.
The United States responded by frequently sending its strategic assets such as long-range bombers and aircraft carriers to the region in a show of force and floating talks of military options against North Korea.

Top ISIS commander in Afghanistan killed in airstrike
AFP, Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan/ Saturday, 7 April 2018/A high-ranking ISIS commander in Afghanistan has been killed in an airstrike, officials said Saturday, as Afghan and US forces dial up attacks on the militant group. Qari Hekmat was the top commander of ISIS’s Afghan franchise in the northern province of Jowzjan, where the group established a stronghold after coming under intense pressure in the eastern province of Nangarhar. Hekmat was killed on Friday in an Afghan airstrike in Darzab district, the defense ministry said in a statement, describing him as “one of the key figures” for ISIS in northern Afghanistan. He was involved in or responsible for “deadly terrorist attacks” and has been replaced by Mawlawi Habib-ul-Rahman, the ministry added. Provincial governor Lutfullah Azizi confirmed Hekmat had been killed but said US Forces carried out the airstrike. US Forces did not immediately respond to AFP’s request for comment. “Our intelligence sources have identified his body. His death will affect the recruitment of ISIS and disperse ISIS fighters in Afghanistan’s north,” Azizi said. Ramped up airstrikes, ground offensives . Afghan and US forces have ramped up airstrikes and ground offensives against ISIS fighters in Jowzjan in recent months as the group seeks to expand its foothold in the country. Afghan security forces last month detained a French woman fighting for ISIS in the same district of Jowzjan. AFP has reported that French and Algerian fighters, some arriving from Syria, have joined ISIS in the restive province. In January, Afghan forces caught the group’s “head facilitator of foreign forces”. Two months later, his two successors were killed in a US airstrike, NATO’s Resolute Support mission said previously. Jowzjan provincial police chief Faqir Mohammad Jawzjani said Hekmat’s death was “a big blow” to ISIS in the north. “He was the founder of ISIS in northern Afghanistan and had recruited fighters,” Jawzjani said. He said Hekmat was killed on Thursday in a joint operation between Afghan and foreign forces. ISIS first emerged in Afghanistan in 2014 as NATO combat troops withdrew from the country and handed over responsibility to Afghan security forces. Despite being vastly outnumbered by the Taliban, ISIS has claimed responsibility for devastating attacks in Kabul and elsewhere in the country.Some Western and Afghan officials believe it has received help from the Haqqani network, a brutal wing of the Taliban.

Khamenei Urged to Carry Out Regime Reform
London - Asharq Al-Awsat/Saturday, 7 April, 2018/Hours after 300 Basij activists and other conservative groups sent an open letter to Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, slamming the regime’s performance, Iranian websites published two separate statements by the Freedom Movement of Iran (FMI) and activist Abolfazl Qadiani, addressing Khamenei.The statement by the liberal Freedom Movement expressed fear over “widespread violence” in case of renewed protests similar to demonstrations witnessed by more than 80 Iranian cities in December and January. The statement criticized the lack of political reforms and media transparency as well as the absence of civil national institutions, in addition to the accumulation of capital under the pretext of privatizing state agencies and institutions. FMI was founded in 1961 by Mehdi Bazargan, the first prime minister in Iran after the revolution, Ebrahim Yazdi who once served as foreign minister, deputy prime minister Yadollah Sahabi, as well as cleric Mahmud Taleqani and Sadegh Ghotbzadeh, the first foreign minister in Iran. Qadiani, a senior member of the Mojahedeen Organization (IRMO), harshly criticized Khamenei in open letters, likening him to Joseph Goebbels, a German Nazi politician and Reich Minister of Propaganda of Nazi Germany, and accusing him of telling big lies. “Khamenei's claims about freedom and democracy, and the right to choose, is reminiscent of Goebbels, Hitler's Minster of propaganda, who believed that the bigger the lie, the more truthful it will appear," he added. Qadiani further called on Khamenei to put his legitimacy to test by allowing for free elections where various political parties exist in the Assembly of Experts.
He also called on Khamenei to start the battle against corruption from institutions affiliated to him, including his office and the Guard Corps.
Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on April 07-08/18
Palestinians: Abbas Targets Hamas, Then Condemns Israel for Targeting Hamas
Bassam Tawil/Gatestone Institute/April 07/18
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.

France: Soon with No Jews?
Guy Millière/Gatestone Institute/April 07/18
Today, France is the only country in the Western world where Jews are murdered simply for being Jews.
Jews may be the main victims, but they are not the only ones. In just five years, 250 people in France have been murdered by Islamic terrorists.
The main problem is the spread of hatred against Jews, France and the Western world. Many Muslim extremists incite murder; and more and more often, murders occur.
A year ago, in Paris, on April 4, 2017, Sarah Halimi, an elderly Jew, was horribly tortured and murdered in her home in Paris, then thrown from her window by a man shouting "Allahu Akbar" ("Allah is the greatest") . She had reported to the police several times that she was the victim of anti-Semitic threats -- in vain.
Less than a year later in Paris, another elderly -- and disabled -- Jew, Mireille Knoll, was raped, tortured and murdered in her apartment by another Muslim extremist. Mrs. Knoll, a Holocaust survivor, had also contacted the police to say that she had been threatened. Again, the police did nothing.
For months, the French justice system tried to cover-up the anti-Semitic nature of Sarah Halimi's murder; the judge in charge of Mireille Knoll's case at least recognized the anti-Semitic nature of her murder at once.
Mireille Knoll, an elderly and disabled Jewish Holocaust survivor, was recently raped, tortured and murdered in her apartment by a Muslim extremist. (Image source: Knoll family)
Both women were victims of an anti-Semitic hatred that is rising quickly in France.
French Jews live in constant insecurity. The men who murder them evidently do not hesitate to break into homes and attack elderly women; they seem to know they can threaten their future victims without fear of arrest. More often than not, the police do not even record the complaints of Jews who go to the police station, but simply note in the daybook that a Jew claiming threats came and went.
The French authorities say they are fighting anti-Semitism, but they never speak of the only anti-Semitism that today in France kills Jews: Islamic anti-Semitism. If the murderer is a Muslim, he is usually described as suddenly "radicalized".
The word "radicalized" is now used to describe Muslim killers. It allows those who use it to avoid the words "Muslim" or "Islam".
The French mainstream media also use the same language as the French authorities. When a killer's neighbors are interviewed, they usually say he was "a nice guy".
There was almost no news coverage of the murder of Sarah Halimi when it took place. There was more on the murder of Mireille Knoll, but almost none referred to the cause of her murder.
The fear that neutralizes French politicians and journalists is: Being accused of "Islamophobia".
In all the uncountable number of books on the danger and the consequences of anti-Semitism published in France since World War II, only one deals specifically with the hatred of Jews in the Muslim world. The author, Philippe Simonnot, a former journalist for the daily Le Monde, actually justifies this hatred. He alleges (incorrectly) that Jews who lived in Muslim countries were well treated, but then betrayed Islam by not fighting alongside Muslims at the time of Western colonization; that the creation of Israel has been a crime against the poor "Palestinians", and that Muslims have the right to collectively punish Christians and Jews. These ideas are not marginal. In France, they are widespread.
Each time, an anti-Semitic crime is committed by a Muslim on French territory, French politicians and journalists try to hide who the criminal is or what his motivations were. Often, they explain that the criminal is also a "victim."
When a criminal leaves a message stating that he acted to avenge the suffering of "Palestinians", French politicians and journalists almost unanimously repeat that what happens in the Middle East must stay in the Middle East, and then that a "just solution" must be found to "Palestinian suffering". They ignore that, despite all of Israel's efforts to treat Arabs humanely, every French report on Israel starts with denouncing Israeli soldiers as ruthless killers, supposedly happy to humiliate Arabs.
Today, France is the only country in the Western world where Jews are murdered simply for being Jews. Since 2006, eleven French Jews have been killed -- men, women, children. At the Ozar Hatorah school in Toulouse, in March 2012, children aged three, six and eight were shot to death at point blank range.
Giulio Meotti wrote:
"If they had been Muslims, their stories would have become a universal warning against intolerance, racism, ethnic and religious hatred ... Politicians would have given their name to streets and schools."
But they were Jews, so in France, the anti-Semitism is not named.
A few weeks ago, at the annual dinner organized by the Jewish organization CRIF in Paris, President Emmanuel Macron said that France is at war with anti-Semitism. In the aftermath of the murder of Mireille Knoll, he said the same thing.
For decades, all French Presidents have used virtually the same sentences.
Macron repeated many times that "without Jews, France would no longer be France". What appears to be taking place, however, is precisely that: a France with no Jews.
In two decades, more than 20% of French Jews have left the country. According to a survey, 40% of the Jews still living in France want to leave. Although Jews now represent a little less than 0.8% of the French population, half of the military and police deployed in the streets in France stand guard in front of Jewish schools and places of worship.
French Jews see that what remains of the Jewish presence in France is being erased. They know that they have to hide their Jewishness and that even if they are street-wise and carefully lock their door, risks are everywhere. They also know that what happens to them does not interest the rest of the French population. The French National Assembly has 577 members. Only one of them tirelessly and courageously draws attention to what is happening: Meyer Habib. He represents the French living in the Middle East and was elected thanks to the support of the French Jews who now live in Israel but still have their citizenship. Without them, he would have no chance of being elected.
After the murder of Sarah Halimi, a tribute to her was organized in the street where she lived. Only Jews attended. They were welcomed with insults, and bottles thrown from the windows of buildings.
When Jewish institutions called for a silent march in memory of Mireille Knoll, more people came. Again, most were Jews. Gilles-William Goldnadel, president of Lawyers Without Borders, and the Knoll family's lawyer, said that Mireille Knoll's late husband had been a survivor of Auschwitz and their children had lived with the memory of the Holocaust constantly in their minds, and how "terrible" it must be for them to see their mother murdered and her body burned. One of Mireille Knoll's sons, Daniel, said that "Muslims must react".
French Muslim organizations condemned the murder, but not the Jew-hate.
A study conducted for Fondapol (Foundation for Political Innovation) in 2014 showed that 25% of the French population have anti-Semitic sentiments, and that among practicing Muslims, the proportion is 42%. According to the study, 28% of French Muslims are strictly hostile to the teaching of the Holocaust in schools. Many say that the Holocaust is a Jewish invention.
Jews may be the main victims, but they are not the only ones. In just five years, 250 people in France have been murdered by Islamic terrorists -- the most recent victims were shot just a few hours before Mireille Knoll's body was discovered in the ashes of her apartment.
On March 23, a French Islamic terrorist killed four people in Trèbes, a small town in Southwestern France. One of the victims was a senior officer of the French national gendarmerie who took the place of a hostage and was slaughtered with a butcher knife. The terrorist was shot dead.
Mainstream French media hid that the officer was stabbed to death; they said he had been "hit on the neck". The terrorist, who shouted "Allahu Akbar" was not described as an Islamist, but, of course, as a man who was "radicalized". The French Department of the Interior added that he was considered extremely dangerous and had been "closely monitored" by the police. Thousands of people who are "radicalized" and are considered extremely dangerous are being "closely monitored" by the police.
When a police squad went to the neighborhood where the terrorist had lived, they were greeted by rioters.
Many Frenchmen consider the slaughtered senior officer, Arnaud Beltrame, a hero; in Paris, a solemn homage was paid to him. At the same moment, thousands of young Muslims were in the streets celebrating the terrorist and shouting his name, Radouane Lakdim. "For many young Muslims, the terrorist is the hero", Thibault de Montbrial, the president of the Center of Reflection on Homeland Security, said.
The day after the Islamic attack in Trèbes, France's government spokesman said that France had the moral duty to welcome and "reintegrate" 258 French former members of the defeated Islamic State presently imprisoned in Syria. This is apparently the French government's entire view of its moral duty.
A few days ago, a "call of 100 intellectuals against Islamist separatism" was published in Le Figaro. The text accuses Islamists of trying to "separate the Muslim population from the rest of the French."
A large part of France's Muslim population already lives separately from the rest of the French population. It self-segregates. The main problem, however, is not self-segregation. The main problem is the spread of hatred against Jews, France and the Western world. Muslim extremists incite murder; and more and more often, murders occur. They do not want to live separately: they want to destroy, ravage and conquer. One only has to look at the histories of Turkey, all of North Africa, all of the Middle East, Eastern Europe, Greece, Portugal, northern Cyprus and southern Spain.
Last year, the historian Georges Bensoussan, born and raised in North Africa, published a book called A Submissive France. The title seemed only too accurate.
Will the French finally revolt? A poll published on March 29 shows that 83% of the French are in favor of the expulsion of all foreigners who have an "S file" with the intelligence services, whose holders are considered to be a threat to national security. The poll also showed that 87% of the French are in favor of sending French citizens with a "S file" to jail. The French government, however, has shown no interest in any of it.
**Dr. Guy Millière, a professor at the University of Paris, is the author of 27 books on France and Europe.
© 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.

Conflicts of the region are led by Iran’s maneuverings
Abdullah bin Bijad Al-Otaibi/Al Arabiya/April 07/18
The Cold War dynamic in the Middle East, which is now also playing out in other theatres internationally, is finally being accepted by many analysts in the region after being rejected for years. History has again become a living reality for the entire world. Historically, Iran has sought to achieve its hegemony over the region by exporting its revolution, and has succeeded in four Arab capitals. Many observers during the so-called ‘Arab Spring’ had believed that Iran and its axis in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, and Qatar and within the Brotherhood in Egypt and its branches in the Arab Gulf and the world, Hamas in the Gaza Strip and extremist groups in Libya and in the triangle of south of Algeria, northern Mali and eastern Mauritania, Sudan, Somalia, Afghanistan and others can dominate the region and the Arab world.
Reversing the ‘Arab Spring’
All the previous observations, which deceived and confused some of the most renowned researchers and institutions, changed during the portentous ‘spring.’ A huge conflict between different opinions, ideas and analysis erupted as a result. Hence came several questions such as: How did Egypt strongly vote in support of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi for a second term? How has Saif al-Islam Gaddafi been able to present himself as a real candidate for leadership of the new Libya? How has it become possible to conceive a new future for national states in Iran's areas of influence — namely in Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen?
The evil axis in the region is now exposed and is drawing condemnation of the people who can see the great evil and harm it is capable of. This harm does not only affect the stability of countries but also targets people and aims to force them to yield to demographic changes by using the power of arms, terrorism and the savagery of extremism. Some tactics are tantamount to war crimes, such as using chemical weapons, committing genocide, carrying out forced displacement and other internationally condemned practices.
Events have today proven that the emergence of an Arab axis between Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates is politically imperative. It is a historic event backed by the rationale of history, the commonality of interests and the power of alliances. The establishment of this Arab axis involved regional and international institutions, especially over the past three years. It’s enough to cite the successful visit of Prince Mohammed bin Salman to the United States, and the magnitude of the UAE's presence in favor of all Saudi positions and policies in all regional and international platforms.
Countering Iran’s designs
While Iran and its axis drown in current crises in the Arab world, such as in Yemen and other countries, the UAE deliberates on the experience of Singapore and South Korea among others, and Saudi Arabia talks about a new ‘Europe’ in the Middle East after resolving these crises. There is a huge difference between countries seeking to expand and extend their influence under the slogan of ‘Waliyat-al-Faqih’ or the ‘Awaited Imam’, and others who direct their efforts for the future and stability, and build their cases in harmony with international conventions and institutions.
Those who follow the developments and study strategy must admit that the future is better and brighter, that careful planning can achieve the impossible and alter balances, and that firm and stable politics builds its cases patiently and enduringly thus gaining enough time to mature and become influential. From here, Saudi Arabia adopted two approaches in confronting the Yemeni issue; the first by way of supporting the national army and popular resistance through training, organization and armament and it is moving in an upward direction towards Sa'ada, Taiz and Sana'a. The second is to build an internationally strong court case against Iran which is smuggling ballistic missiles to Yemen. Saudi Arabia has proven that, as stated by the spokesperson of the Arab coalition, it reserves the right to retaliate against Iran in the right time and place. It is a new chapter in the conflicts of the region.

Syria: The Russia-Turkey summit was a missed opportunity
Amir Taheri/Al Arabiya/April 07/18
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!
Excluding Iran from the Syria scene? Not easy
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.

Erdogan’s threat to ‘come to Sinjar’
Adnan Hussein/Al Arabiya/April 07/18
With audacity, the Islamist President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan did not hesitate to publicly threaten that he will violate Iraq’s sovereignty and independence. What encourages such threats is the silence of his fellow Islamic leaders in Iraq.
Turkey threatens Iraq
Two days ago, Erdogan said in Istanbul while addressing the Iraqi government: “If you are able to handle them (referring to the elements of the PKK, who are present in Sinjar since its liberation from ISIS in late 2015), do so or else we will come to Sinjar and deal with them ... We do not ask the permission of anyone.” He added: “We have said before that we may come by surprise, and here we are.”In the sphere of international relations, offensive remarks (such as Erdogan’s aforementioned direct threat to Iraq) are generally delivered by government spokespersons or low ranking security or military personnel.
As a matter of fact, the threat issued by the Turkish president is not even relevant, as Turkey has its forces deployed in the Kurdistan region of Iraq since Saddam’s times. In recent years, Turkey has moved additional troops and established new bases there. Two days ago, the Turkish newspaper Ahval revealed that Turkish troops violated Iraqi territory in the Kurdistan region, where it is establishing roads and advanced permanent bases.
Iraq’s weak response
Erdogan is dealing with the sovereignty of the Iraqi state as if someone in Baghdad had given him a carte blanche. The Iraqi government is merely responding with statements that it does not accept the violation of Iraqi sovereignty and that it has been talking with the Turkish government regarding this matter, but it has not applied any pressure. The Iraqi government has the aptitude to employ political and economic pressure to coerce Erdogan into disciplining himself. Strangely, some Islamist forces in Iraq have occupied themselves and their supporters with an unfounded case over the alleged visit of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to Iraq. These forces have concocted false stories about the visit and organized paid demonstrations only to be exposed that their case had no basis at all. There were no Iraqi invitations sent to the Saudi prince and Baghdad didn’t receive an invitation from the Kingdom either, as announced by Prime Minister Haidar Abadi after the last meeting of the Council of Ministers last Sunday. It is understandable that Erdogan gets a free rein in pushing his boundaries in this matter since he can see the Iraqi government’s silence towards his impudence and how powerful forces in Baghdad keep creating fictitious Iraqi foes while letting real enemies do what they want with Iraqi national sovereignty such as violate it or derogate it.

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.