April 12/2018
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani


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Bible Quotations
In the last days distressing times will come
Second Letter to Timothy 03/01-09/: "You must understand this, that in the last days distressing times will come. For people will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, inhuman, implacable, slanderers, profligates, brutes, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to the outward form of godliness but denying its power. Avoid them! For among them are those who make their way into households and captivate silly women, overwhelmed by their sins and swayed by all kinds of desires, who are always being instructed and can never arrive at a knowledge of the truth. As Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these people, of corrupt mind and counterfeit faith, also oppose the truth. But they will not make much progress, because, as in the case of those two men, their folly will become plain to everyone."

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on April 11-12/18
Dr. Walid Phares: Assad protector of Christians/Reminder/The US need to do several things/Dr. Walid Phares/Face Book/April 10/18
"Assad protector of Christians?"/Dr. Walid Phares/Face Book/April 10/18
Reminder/Dr. Walid Phares/Face Book/April 10/18
Phares to Fox News: "The US need to do several things/Dr. Walid Phares/Face Book/April 10/18
Dr.Walid Phares: World War 3 alert: 'There WILL be a response' Russia to strike back if US hit Syria/Holly Pyne/Express/April 11/18
After Israeli Attack, Iran Mulls Options in Syria/Amir Taheri/Asharq Al Awsat/April 11/18
"Firewalls" and "Taint Teams" Do Not Protect Fourth and Sixth Amendment Rights/Alan M. Dershowitz/Gatestone Institute/April 11/18
Senior Israeli Officials: If Iran Acts Against Israel We Will Topple Assad/Jerusalem Post/April 11/18
Is the world inhaling Sarin, too? The international stance on Douma/Ali Al-Amin/Al Arabiya/April 11/18
Middle East’s problems more complex than ever/Eyad Abu Shakra/Al Arabiya/April 11/18
Saudi soft power on the Seine: What should the French learn?/Najah Alotaibi/Al Arabiya/April 11/18
How did Mohammed bin Salman change Saudi Arabia’s image?/Mamdouh AlMuhaini/Al Arabiya/April 11/18
El-Sisi faces a litany of challenges during second term/Abdellatif El-Menawy/Arab News/April 11/2018
Angry voices will never bring peace to the Middle East/Ray Hanania/Arab News/April 11/2018
White House: no final decision has been made on Syria/Russia warns that US intervention would be met with 'grave repercussions'/Joyce Karam/The National/April 11, 2018

Titles For Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on April 11-12/18
Lebanon welcomes EU election observers to monitor parliamentary race
Aoun welcomes EU election observer deployment
Aoun to head Lebanese Arab League delegation
Geagea Urges Respect for Dissociation Policy amid Syria Standoff
Berri to Hariri: Dissociation Policy Doesn't Entail Accepting Syria Strike
MEA Modifies Flight Plans after Syria Missile Strike Warning
Spoiled Chicken from Syria Seized in Naccache
Berri Says any Military Attack at Syria Will Be 'Devastating for Arab Leaders'
Mashnouq Chairs Sub-Security Committee Meeting before Elections
Rifi Calls for 'Expelling' Syrian Ambassador, 'Withdrawing' Lebanon's from Syria
Report: General Amnesty Law 'Suspended'
Sami Gemayel Meets Candidates in Western Bekaa-Rachaya District
Sami Gemayel Criticizes Fair Promoting Residency and Citizenship by Investment
MEA to Reroute Flights over Possible Syria Airstrikes
Mashnouq rules out security concerns ahead of elections

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on April 11-12/18
Putin Hopes 'Common Sense Will Prevail' in International Relations
Pentagon 'Still Assessing' Suspected Syria Chemical Attack, 'Ready' to Provide Military Options
Trump warns: missiles ‘will be coming’, Assad forces vacate military airports
Russia's ambassador to Lebanon: We will return Fire For Any USA Launch On Syria
Saudi air defense forces intercept missile over Riyadh
Saudi forces intercept Houthi scout drone over Abha airport
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman arrives in Spain
Saudi Arabia, France issue joint statement after crown prince visit concludes
More than 250 killed in Algerian military plane crash
19 killed in clashes between UN and militia in C.African capital
Israeli settlers storm Al-Aqsa mosque courtyard under police protection again

Latest Lebanese Related News published on April 11-12/18
Dr. Walid Phares: Assad protector of Christians/Reminder/The US need to do several things
Dr. Walid Phares/Face Book/April 10/18
"Assad protector of Christians?"
Dr. Walid Phares/Face Book/April 10/18
There is no need to preach to Lebanese Christians if the Assad regime is their protector. 15 years of savage bombardments of East Beirut and the Christian areas of Lebanon, and 15 years of occupation, detention and torture. Archives are an Ocean. The dead are gone but one evidence can clear the matter. Let Assad free the hundreds of Lebanese, Christians and Muslim, who were detained in Saydnaya, Tadmur and Mazza, over decades. Iranian-Hezbollah propaganda about their "protection" has no effect whatsoever on victims and survivors. Their car bombs shattering Christian neighborhoods of Beirut aren't forgotten. They are protecting their own bases from losing power, that is for sure, but they aren't protecting the people they decimated, tortured, exiled and humiliated for almost half a century

Dr. Walid Phares/Face Book/April 10/18
Iranian backed media claiming Syrian Christians are opposed to striking Assad for use of Chemical "because he protects them." Reminder that the Assad regime killed more than 130,000 Christians in Lebanon, assassinated their leaders and occupied the country for decades. Many are still in his jails. In a sense, the Iran axis is also "Jihadist" as we hear from Hezbollah
In Lebanon, many Christians have allied themselves with Hezbollah and Assad. This won't change history, even if they changed camps.

Phares to Fox News: "The US need to do several things:
Dr. Walid Phares/Face Book/April 10/18
1) US Intelligence detailed certification that chemical weapons were used
2) Show the results at the UN Security Council and ask for a resolution
3) Once the Russian veto is used, call for a Coalition of the Willing to confront this threat
4) Coordinate with NATO and Arab Coalition partners
5) Take action if needed against the chemical weapons
6) Take action in Syria -where needed- to deter the axis from further breaches
7) Develop a comprehensive strategy towards Syria

Lebanon welcomes EU election observers to monitor parliamentary race
2018-04-11 /BEIRUT, April 11 (Xinhua) -- Lebanon's President Michel Aoun said Wednesday that he welcomed the deployment of European Union election observers to monitor the upcoming parliamentary race, a statement from the presidential media office said.During a meeting with EU officials in Baabda Palace, Aoun said Lebanon was "looking forward to the election as an accurate expression of democracy," and the newly introduced proportional vote law would "serve popular representation."Elena Valenciano, the EU's head of mission for electoral monitoring, stressed that they would be watching the election unfold at polling stations across the country until the end. The EU also plans to send observers to Lebanese embassies and diplomatic missions in Europe to monitor expatriate voting.

Aoun welcomes EU election observer deployment
The Daily Star/April 11/18/BEIRUT: President Michel Aoun said Wednesday that he welcomed the deployment of European Union election observers to monitor the upcoming parliamentary race, during a meeting with EU officials in Baabda Palace. Lebanon is “looking forward to the elections as an accurate expression of the Lebanese desire to practice democracy,” Aoun said, according to a statement released by his press office, adding that the newly introduced proportional vote law would “serve popular representation.”He also vowed that Lebanese authorities would work to fight corruption that might occur in the lead up to and during the May 6 polling. The new electoral law, implemented for the first time this election, operates on a proportional vote, rather than a majority, winner-takes-all system that was utilized in previous elections. The latter is widely seen as a system that has kept longstanding parties in power. The European Union election observers will watch the elections unfold at polling stations across the country, head of the EU's Election Observation Mission Elena Valenciano said during the meeting with Aoun. Also present at the meeting was EU Ambassador to Lebanon Christina Lassen. The election monitoring mission would “remain until the end of the elections to report on the progress of the electoral process and submit a final report,” Valenciano said. Observation will take place, she said, “in coordination” with the Interior Ministry, with EU representatives in place to receive any complaints. The EU also plans to send observers to Lebanese embassies and diplomatic missions in Europe to monitor expatriate voting. Valenciano and Lassen also met later Wednesday with Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil in Beirut to discuss the upcoming elections, according to a statement released by Bassil’s press office. Bassil reportedly requested an extension of the EU election observation mission to non-EU countries that have significant numbers of registered expatriate voters, including in the Americas and the Arab world. The Bassil and Aoun meetings came a day after the EU deployed 24 long-term observers to 12 different locations across Lebanon. Each pair will “observe all aspects of the electoral process” and meet with electoral officials to ensure transparency, EU Electoral Observation Mission Deputy Chief Observer Jose Antonio de Gabriel said in a statement Tuesday. Additional observers are set to arrive in time for election day, May 6.

Aoun to head Lebanese Arab League delegation
Georgi Azar/Annahar/April 11/18 /The summit, in its 29th edition, will bring together 21 members seeking to promote and strengthen their ties while calling on Arab states to coordinate their policies and advance shared interests.
BEIRUT: President Michel Aoun will travel to Saudi Arabia Saturday, where he will head the Lebanese delegation attending the Arab League summit in Riyadh. The summit, in its 29th edition, will seek to promote and strengthen ties between member countries and presents an opportunity for Arab states to coordinate their policies and advance shared interests. The Arab League bring together 22 members from the region to "draw closer the relations between member States and coordinate collaboration between them, to safeguard their independence and sovereignty, and to consider in a general way the affairs and interests of the Arab countries." Syria's membership was suspended in November 2011 as a consequence of its bloody civil war. Aoun will be accompanied by Prime Minister Saad Hariri and Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, before traveling back to Lebanon on Sunday. According to media reports, Aoun is then expected to travel to Qatar the next day, where he will attend the grand opening of Qatar's national library in Doha.

Geagea Urges Respect for Dissociation Policy amid Syria Standoff
Naharnet/April 11/18/Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea on Wednesday urged respect for Lebanon's so-called dissociation policy amid the current standoff over the suspected Syria chemical attack. “I call on the president to convene the Higher Defense Council to discuss the latest developments, because the situation does not bear arbitrary policies... We must abide by the dissociation policy and this is our duty,” Geagea said in an interview with MTV. “Today, the Lebanese Army should be in charge and it is not allowed for any party to act to the contrary. No party has the right to subject an entire people to danger,” the LF leader added.“The Lebanese government which represents all parties must take the decision and everyone must abide by its decisions,” Geagea went on to say.

Berri to Hariri: Dissociation Policy Doesn't Entail Accepting Syria Strike

Naharnet/April 11/18/Speaker Nabih Berri announced Wednesday that Lebanon's so-called dissociation policy does not involve “accepting” a military strike on Syria. “Lebanon rejects the aggression against Syria that is being planned by some Western countries with funding from some Arab countries,” Berri said in an interview published by the website of al-Akhbar newspaper. He warned that “any use of the Lebanese airspace” in the potential strikes would be a “blatant violation of Lebanese sovereignty.” “Lebanon cannot accept the use of its airspace for an attack on Syria or any other brotherly Arab country,” Berri stressed. He noted that “those who call for dissociation in this case would be contributing to the aggression against Syria.”Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Saad Hariri had announced that “Lebanon abides by the dissociation policy in light of the possible U.S. strike on Syria.”“Our stance is clear: dissociating ourselves and protecting the country from the repercussions of what's happening in the region,” Hariri added.

MEA Modifies Flight Plans after Syria Missile Strike Warning
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 11/18/Lebanon's Middle East Airlines will modify its flight routes over the Eastern Mediterranean region in light of the European air safety warning over potential military strikes on Syria in the coming days, a statement said. “The conferees discussed the warning issued to airlines by the European Aviation Safety Agency on the need to observe caution in the Eastern Mediterranean region over the possibility of airstrikes on Syria over the coming 72 hours, seeing as there is a risk of intermittent disruption of radio navigation equipment" for commercial flights, the statement said.
The statement was issued after a meeting that gathered Transport and Public Works Minister Youssef Fenianos, MEA chairman Mohammed al-Hout, a technical MEA team, Civil Aviation Director General Mohammed Shehabeddine and a delegation from the Civil Aviation Directorate.
“After deliberations, a precautionary measure was taken by modifying flight routes until midnight Friday,” the statement said. An official at Beirut's airport told AFP "the decision includes all arriving and departing flights starting from tomorrow morning (Thursday)." Flights from the Gulf will be affected more than others, with expected delays of 30 to 40 minutes, because instead of flying over northern Syria they will travel over Egypt's Sinai Peninsula and then on to the Gulf. Air France was among airlines modifying their flight plans on Wednesday after Europe's air safety watchdog warned of the potential strikes.
A spokesman for the European Aviation Safety Agency said airlines were alerted Tuesday of the possible launch of "air-to-ground and/or cruise missiles with the next 72 hours," urging them to take precautionary measures. "Air France has taken the EASA information into account and modified its flight plans for affected destinations, mainly Beirut and Tel Aviv," the airline said, adding that it was monitoring the situation. Most international airlines no longer fly to Damascus since the outbreak of the Syrian civil war more than seven years ago. The heightened tensions follow reports of a new chemical attack in the rebel-held city of Douma, not far from Damascus, which has prompted a global outcry against the heavy civilian casualties from the Syrian regime's bombing campaign in the area.U.S. President Donald Trump said Wednesday that "missiles will be coming" in response to the alleged chemical attack.

Spoiled Chicken from Syria Seized in Naccache
Naharnet/April 11/18/A quantity of spoiled chicken was seized Wednesday in the Northern Metn area of Naccache, the Finance Ministry said. “After close surveillance, a Lebanese Customs patrol seized in the Naccache area north of Beirut a truck coming from Syria via the northern border and carrying a quantity of 2.7 tons of spoiled chicken meat,” the ministry said in a statement. It said the quantity was destined for the Lebanese market. “The Customs administration has confiscated the shipment and legal measures are underway under the supervision of Customs director general Badri Daher and the relevant authorities,” the Finance Ministry added.

Berri Says any Military Attack at Syria Will Be 'Devastating for Arab Leaders'

Naharnet/April 11/18/Speaker Nabih Berri has warned of the consequences resulting from any possible military attack at Syria, saying the results will be “devastating for Arab leaders,” the National News Agency reported on Wednesday. Berri voiced warnings to his visitors “of the serious repercussions that may result from an attack against Syria," expressing fear that "the first victims would be stability and unity of the region, in addition to bloodshed, destruction and more displacement of Syrians.”He said shall this war “God forbid happen, it will be funded from the pockets of Arab leaders. The results will definitely be devastating and destructive for their future and for the stability of their nations.”

Mashnouq Chairs Sub-Security Committee Meeting before Elections

Naharnet/April 11/18/Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq on Wednesday said Lebanon's security forces are fully prepared for the upcoming parliamentary elections, assuring commitment to the government's decisions in maintaining an “impartial” role towards all political forces. The minister's remarks to reporters came after a sub-security council meeting he held at Sidon Serail. The meeting was held in the presence of South Lebanon Governor, Mansour Daou, as well as security, judicial, and military leaders. Mashnouq said the security situation is under control, dismissing fears of security breaches preventing having the elections staged. To a question on monitoring the election process in polling stations outside Lebanon, Mashnouq said: "The ministry does not have the capacity to send 130 or 140 heads of polling stations to monitor the process in different countries around the world,” noting that “necessary measures have been taken to supervise the process abroad.”Despite the complexity of the new electoral system, “we are fully ready for the elections. Security and administrative preparedness are successful and all political parties are committed to the government's decisions," he said.

Rifi Calls for 'Expelling' Syrian Ambassador, 'Withdrawing' Lebanon's from Syria
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 11/18/Ex-minister and Tripoli parliamentary candidate Maj. Gen. Ashraf Rifi called on Wednesday for “expelling” the Syrian ambassador from Lebanon, and “withdrawing” Lebanon's ambassador from the neighboring country. Rifi has urged President Michel Aoun and Prime Minister Saad Hariri to “withdraw Lebanon's newly appointed ambassador to Damascus, and to expel the Syrian diplomat against the backdrop of the Syrian regime's chemical weapons attack at Douma,” he said in a tweet. The ex-minister added saying: “Hariri should not have agreed on the appointment of a Lebanese ambassador in the first place. He is demanded today to withdraw Lebanon's ambassador after the crimes of the (Syrian) regime." On Saturday more than 40 people died in the rebel-held Damascus suburb of Douma in an alleged chemical attack, which left victims struggling to breathe, foaming at the mouth and with discolored skin. The United States, Britain and France have argued the incident bears all the hallmarks of a strike ordered by the regime of Russia's ally Assad, which has been blamed for previous attacks by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). In the face of intense world outrage, the United Nations Security Council failed to agree a global response to the incident on Tuesday, after Washington and Moscow opposed each other's rival motions to set up an international investigation into chemical weapons use in the seven-year-old conflict.

Report: General Amnesty Law 'Suspended'

Naharnet/April 11/18/A “complicated” general amnesty law has reportedly been “put on the back burner” until after the May 6 legislative elections, al-Joumhouria daily reported on Wednesday. “The draft law has been shelved at the time being because of some complications which need to be addressed. Some political parties prefer its suspension due to the pressing time factor and looming parliamentary elections,” said the daily. “The file needs a legal mechanism and full political consensus to be addressed by the new elected parliament and government,” it added. The government has been weighing potentials for approving said law which was expected to come ahead of the country's first parliamentary elections in nine years. Families of Islamist prisoners have repeatedly rallied demanding the approval of the law. Lebanon had one general amnesty after the end of the civil war in 1990.

Sami Gemayel Meets Candidates in Western Bekaa-Rachaya District 11th April 2018/Kataeb leader Samy Gemayel on Wednesday met with the members of the "Now Is Time" list which is running for the parliamentary seats in the Western Bekaa-Rachaya district. The list comprises the following civil society candidates: Alaeddine Chemaly, Faysal Rahhal, Maguy Aoun, Joseph Ayoub and Ali Soboh. Gemayel praised the list members as competent, saying that the Kataeb party is proud of backing them as they are all seeking change. "The 'Now Is Time' list reflects our aspirations for having competent people shoring up the opposition in all the battles that it will be fighting inside the Parliament; competent people who would speak up loudly in favor of freedom, sovereignty, independence and real reform," he said following the meeting held at the Kataeb's headquarter in Saifi. "The candidates in this list are competent and have the desire to change as well as to defend the Lebanese people’s interest inside the Parliament." "I call on the voters who trust us and are seeking change to vote for the civil society list in Western Bekaa and Rachaya," Gemayel concluded.

Sami Gemayel Criticizes Fair Promoting Residency and Citizenship by Investment 11th April 2018/

Kataeb leader Samy Gemayel criticized a fair to be held in Beirut under the patronage of the Economy Minister to promote residency and citizenship by investment. 

"In any country that respects itself, there is no minister who encourages his compatriots to seek the residency or the citizenship of another country, while at the same time calling on foreigners to come and get a permanent residency in his country," Gemayel tweeted.

MEA to Reroute Flights over Possible Syria Airstrikes 11th April 2018/

Middle East Airlines chairman Mohammad Al-Hout said that the company will be rerouting flights to the Gulf and Europe amid escalating tensions in the region. The new routes will be adopted starting Wednesday at 20:00 (Beirut time) and until Friday night, Al-Hout told the Kataeb website. Later, MEA issued a statement saying that it will be modifying the routing of some of its flights which will affect their departure times. "This rescheduling of flights is valid until Friday evening April 13th 2018 after which a reassessment will be in place and the proper decision will be taken accordingly." Here's the MEA updated flights schedule:
Public Works and Transport Minister Youssef Fenianos stressed that there is no need to panic, saying that the rerouting decision was taken as a precautionary measure following the alert issued by Eurocontrol.
"Due to the possible launch of air strikes into Syria with air-to-ground and / or cruise missiles within the next 72 hours, and the possibility of intermittent disruption of radio navigation equipment, due consideration needs to be taken when planning flight operations in the Eastern Mediterranean / Nicosia FIR area,” the alert said. Aviation regulators in countries including the United States, Britain, France and Germany have previously issued warnings against airlines entering Syrian airspace, leading most carriers to avoid the area. The only commercial flights above Syria as of 0115 GMT on Wednesday were being flown by Syrian Air and Lebanon’s Middle East Airlines, according to flight tracking website FlightRadar24. At other periods later in the day, there were no flights using the airspace. Several airlines had changed some flights paths following the warning, including for Beirut and Tel Aviv flights, while budget airline easyJet said it would also re-route flights from Tel Aviv. A spokesman for Germany’s Lufthansa said on Wednesday its airlines were aware of the Eurocontrol warning and were in close contact with authorities.
“As a proactive precaution, Lufthansa Group airlines have already avoided the airspace in the eastern Mediterranean for some time now,” he said. Ryanair, British Airways, Etihad Airways, and Royal Jordanian representatives said flights were operating normally at their respective airlines, but the situation was being monitored closely. Emirates also said it was closely monitoring the situation and that it would “make adjustments as needed”. EgyptAir is not currently planning changes to flight paths following the warning, a source close to the matter said.

Mashnouq rules out security concerns ahead of elections
Georgi Azar/Annahar April 11/18/Lebanese voters will hit the polls on May 6 to elect their representatives for the first since 2009, under a newly ratified electoral law which is based on proportional representation in 15 districts.
BEIRUT: Interior Minister Nohad Machnouk maintained Wednesday that Lebanon's upcoming parliamentary elections will be held on time as President Michel Aoun welcomed the deployment of European Union election observers to monitor the parliamentary race. Lebanese voters will hit the polls on May 6 to elect their representatives for the first time since 2009, under a newly ratified electoral law which is based on proportional representation in 15 districts. "There are no security fears that will hinder the upcoming elections," said Machnouk, adding that he has "the utmost confidence in Lebanon's security agencies." Touching on Lebanese abroad who will cast their ballots on April 21, Machnouk said that "the necessary measures have been implemented to oversee this process." According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Emigrants, over 90,000 people across five continents registered to vote in the upcoming parliamentary elections, "exceeding all expectations." Meanwhile, Aoun met with EU officials at the Baabda Presidential Palace, including the head of the European Union’s electoral monitoring mission Ms. Elena Valenciano, saying that Lebanon is "looking forward to the elections as an accurate expression of the Lebanese desire to practice democracy." On Tuesday, the EU's Election Observation Mission deployed 24 long-term observers to 12 different locations in Lebanon, with the aim of instilling the necessary groundwork for a transparent and credible election. On May 6, two observers will be stationed at each location to provide support and observe all aspects of the elections. According to Valenciano, the observers would remain in Lebanon until after the elections to report on the progress of the electoral process and submit a final report with the assistance of nine EU analysts.  The Observation Mission will work in coordination with Lebanon's different institutions, including the Interior Ministry.
Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on April 11-12/18
Putin Hopes 'Common Sense Will Prevail' in International Relations
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 11/18/Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday said he hoped that common sense would prevail in global affairs as the U.S. has threatened to send missiles into Syria. "The state of the world cannot but provoke concern. The situation in the world is becoming more and more chaotic but all the same we hope that common sense will finally prevail and international relations will take a constructive path," Putin said as new ambassadors presented him with their credentials at the Kremlin.

Pentagon 'Still Assessing' Suspected Syria Chemical Attack, 'Ready' to Provide Military Options
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 11/18/Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Wednesday the Pentagon is ready to provide options for a Syria strike in response to a suspected chemical attack, but noted the U.S. and its allies are still gathering information. "We are still assessing the intelligence, ourselves and our allies, we are still working on this," Mattis told reporters when asked if he had seen enough evidence to blame President Bashar al-Assad's regime for the alleged chemical attack in Douma. "We stand ready to provide military options, if they're appropriate, as the president determined."President Donald Trump vowed on Twitter that missiles would be launched at Syria following Saturday's alleged chemical attack, all but guaranteeing a military strike against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. The Russian army has accused the White Helmets civil defense organization in Syria of staging a chemical weapons attack in Douma that has led to calls for further Western intervention. Trump and other Western leaders have vowed a quick and forceful response to Saturday's alleged gas attack, which rescue workers say killed more than 40 people. The United States, Britain and France have argued the attack bears all the hallmarks of a strike ordered by the regime, which the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has been blamed for previous attacks.
Last year, Trump launched a cruise missile strike against a Syrian air base in retaliation for a sarin attack the United Nations later pinned on Assad.
Trump warns: missiles ‘will be coming’, Assad forces vacate military airports
AFP/April 11, 2018/WASHINGTON: The Syrian Monitor for Human right said that witnesses in Syria have reported activities close to Assad regime forces airfields and key installation. The Monitor added that troops were seen withdrawing and redeploying for fear of imminent US stike on Syria in retaliation for the use of chemical weapons against civilians in Douma near Damascus. Earlier, President Donald Trump warned Russia about supporting Bashar al Assad in Syria, and said US missiles "will be coming" in relatiation for a chemical weapons attack on civilians. "Russia vows to shoot down any and all missiles fired at Syria. Get ready Russia, because they will be coming, nice and new and 'smart!' You shouldn’t be partners with a Gas Killing Animal who kills his people and enjoys it!" Trump wrote on Twitter. In UK, Prime Minister Theresa May said that London will join any punitive strike against the Syrian regime. May added that she will not be seeking a vote in parliament to authorise British participation in any forthcoming strike agianst Syria. British media later reported that a British submarime has been ordered to sail towards Syria.
Russia's ambassador to Lebanon: We will return Fire For Any USA Launch On Syria
Jerusalem Post/Reuters/April 11/18
Senior diplomat ups the stakes after Washington and Moscow clash at the UN.
EIRUT - Russia's ambassador to Lebanon said any US missiles fired at Syria would be shot down and the launch sites targeted, a step that could trigger a major escalation in the Syrian war. Russian Ambassador Alexander Zasypkin, in comments broadcast on Tuesday evening, said he was referring to a statement by Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Russian armed forces chief of staff. The Russian military said on March 13 that it would respond to any US strike on Syria, targeting any missiles and launchers involved in such an attack. Russia is Syrian President Bashar Assad's most powerful ally. The United States and its allies are considering whether to hit Syria over a suspected poison gas attack that medical relief organizations say killed dozens of people in the rebel-held town of Douma near Damascus on Saturday. "If there is a strike by the Americans, then... the missiles will be downed and even the sources from which the missiles were fired," Zasypkin told Hezbollah's al-Manar TV, speaking in Arabic. He also said a clash "should be ruled out and therefore we are ready to hold negotiations."Russia and the United States blocked attempts by each other in the UN Security Council on Tuesday to set up international investigations into chemical weapons attacks in Syria. US President Donald Trump on Tuesday canceled a planned trip to Latin America later this week to focus instead on responding to the Syria incident, the White House said. Trump had on Monday warned of a quick, forceful response once responsibility for the Syria attack was established
Saudi air defense forces intercept missile over Riyadh
Staff writer/Al Arabiya English/Wednesday, 11 April 2018/Saudi Arabia’s air defense forces said that they intercepted a ballistic missile over Riyadh on Wednesday while another scout drone that targeted the border city of Jazan was also stopped. Spokesman for the Arab Coalition forces fighting in Yemen, Col. Turki al-Maliki, said that at 7:40 am local time, air defense systems were able to detect an unidentified object in the direction of Abha International Airport and was dealt with accordingly. Maliki said that after examining the debris of the object, specialists of the joint coalition forces said it was found to be a hostile Houthi aircraft with Iranian characteristics and specifications that were trying to target the airport protected under international humanitarian law.

Saudi forces intercept Houthi scout drone over Abha airport
Staff writer, Al Arabiya English/Wednesday, 11 April 2018/Saudi Arabia’s air defense forces said that they intercepted Houthi scout drone over Abha airport on the same day that militias fired a ballistic missile targeting the capital Riyadh. Spokesman for the Arab Coalition forces fighting in Yemen, Col. Turki al-Maliki, said that at 7:40 am local time, air defense systems were able to detect an unidentified object in the direction of Abha International Airport and was dealt with accordingly. Maliki said that after examining the debris of the objet, specialists of the joint coalition forces said it was found to be a hostile Houthi aircraft with Iranian characteristics and specifications that were trying to target the airport protected under international humanitarian law.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman arrives in Spain
Staff writer, Al Arabiya English/Wednesday, 11 April 2018/After concluding his visit to France on Wednesday, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has made his way to Spain on an official state visit. “The Royal Court said in a statement that upon directives of Saudi King Salman and in response to an invitation of the Government of the Spanish Kingdom, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman left France for the Kingdom of Spain,” a statement on Saudi Press Agency read. They also reported that during the upcoming state visit to Madrid, the crown prince will meet with Spanish King Felipe VI, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and a number of officials to enhance bilateral relations between the two countries and discuss issues of common interests.

Saudi Arabia, France issue joint statement after crown prince visit concludes
Staff writer, Al Arabiya English/Wednesday, 11 April 2018/Saudi Arabia and France have issued a joint statement to mark the state visit of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to France, which concluded on Wednesday. According to the statment issued on Saudi Press Agency, the Saudi crown prince met with French President Emmanuel Macron, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, Minister of Europe and Foreign Affairs Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister of Defense Florence Parly and Minister of Economy and Finance Bruno Le Maire. At the Elysée Palace, the crown prince co-chaired the first meeting of the Saudi-French Strategic Partnership Council, which was attended by a number of ministers and senior officials of the two governments. "President Macron held an official dinner banquet in honor of HRH the Crown Prince who conveyed greetings of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud to His Excellency and conveyed to President Macron an invitation of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques to visit the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia," the joint statement read. Macron welcomed the invitation and "sent a message of friendship and great respect to the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques," the statement added. The statement also said that the two countries' commitments will open a new and promising chapter in their relationship within framework of developing a new strategic partnership covering the political, defense, security, economic, cultural, scientific and educational areas of their relationship into new horizons. The communiqué published by Saudi Press Agency highlighted areas of agreement between the two states:
International and regional politics
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and France share a common objective to realize peace and stability, in the Middle East. The ministers of foreign affairs, in the two countries will work towards deepening consultations and coordination to back up political solutions. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and France will work towards tackling world challenges facing international community, including climate change and human development and the joint action of the two countries will decisively contribute to these domains.
Defense and security
The wide-scale and multi-faceted security cooperation, has made counterterrorism a priority to both Saudi Arabia and France, with especial interest in combating terrorism and terrorism funding, and that their close cooperation, in this regard, will expand regional efforts as well as multi-partite endeavors and making them more effective and they will work towards making Paris Conference to combat terrorism funding, set to take place on 25-26 April, a success. France, also, will contribute to back up Kingdom of Saudi Arabia's efforts to upgrade its ministry of defense.
Economy, commerce and investment
Deepening commerce and investment is beneficial to the two countries' economies, as the Kingdom Vision 2030 is an opportunity to explore new domains, in business and cooperation in the main sectors for cooperation such as water and environment, connected sustainable cities, transport, energy, health, agriculture and water supply. The French know-how in the domain of technology is of a great importance for all domains, as its impact would be tangible, in all fields and the financial investments between big and upstart companies, will be encouraged. During the visit, a forum for Saudi and France chief executive officers has been held and attended by executives from the two countries. The forum facilitated presenting offers and making in-depth discussions related to the Kingdom Vision 2030 projects and instituted significant communication between the two parties, culminating in co-signing of a host of contracts and MoUs reflecting the new dynamics of economic as well as technological bonds between the two countries.
Academic, cultural and scientific cooperation
The renewal of the partnership framework between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Republic of France will redefine cooperation priorities between the two countries. The two countries will establish programs in the fields of education, training, research, innovation, culture, heritage, tourism, sport and youth. The Republic of France will share its tourism and heritage skills in the interest of the Kingdom Vision 2030. The new partnership, which embodies the efforts exerted by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in developing a sustainable tourism and heritage sector in Al-Ula province with the participation of international partners, aims to enhance the cooperation in all these fields through tangible procedures and structural projects in addition to existing projects in this regard. In the field of cultural heritage, an agreement on the development of Al-Ula province was co-signed by Prince Bader bin Abdullah bin Farhan Al Saud, Governor of the Royal Commission for Al-Ula and Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister of Europe and Foreign Affairs of France. This cooperation highlights the joint vision between the two countries to maintain and promote the cultural heritage, enhance scientific knowledge, and inaugurate new ways of sustainable tourism for this unique archaeological site.
A memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the Royal Commission for Al-Ula and Campus France was signed in the field of training students from Al-Ula province and a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the Royal Commission for Al-Ula and the Arab World Institute to establish a movable exhibition.
Middle East issues
In the field of regional and international issues, the two sides held deep discussions where they highlighted their commitment to the peace and security in the Middle East. They also discussed the current situation in the Eastern Ghouta, including the recent reports on using chemical weapons. The two sides called upon the international community to hold the involved in these attacks accountable. The two countries reiterated their stance that the solution of the Syrian crisis must be based on a political solution based on Geneva 1 Declaration and UN Security Council resolution no. 2254 - 2015.
The two countries reiterated their firm commitment to confront extremism and terrorism, and combat their financing, including Sahel region. The Republic of France praised the Kingdom's great support for the joint military force in five Sahel countries.
Situation in Yemen
With regard to Yemen, both sides affirmed the need for a political solution, as it was called by Security Council Resolution 2216-2015, to end the suffering of the Yemeni people. The two sides condemned ballistic missile attacks by the Houthi militias on the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and reaffirmed the importance of compliance of the countries providing the Houthi militias with weapons and ballistic missiles, with relevant UN resolutions prohibiting such acts.
The two sides reiterated the importance of supporting efforts of the Special Envoy of the UN Secretary General for Yemen to reach a political solution for the Yemeni crisis. In a parallel context, the Republic of France affirmed its readiness to support the Coalition Supporting the Legitimacy, in Yemen, and UN agencies to accelerate delivery of humanitarian aid to all Yemenis, including $1 billion humanitarian response plan committed by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
The Kingdom and the Republic of France agreed to organize an international conference in Paris on humanitarian aid in Yemen. The two countries also reaffirmed their readiness to enhance cooperation with other friendly countries on the security and development of the Red Sea.
They also affirmed their commitment to the stability, unity and sovereignty of Lebanon as reflected in their pledges and stances, at the Cedar Conference held on 6 April 2018, in Paris, stressing the need for all Lebanese parties to abide by the principle of keeping away from the regional conflicts.
Regional conflicts
With regard to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, the two countries reiterated their call for a two-state solution based on the relevant UN resolutions and the Arab Peace Initiative. The two sides agreed on the need to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. They discussed the steps that will be taken to curb Iran's ballistic program and stop destabilizing aspects of its regional policy. They pointed out that supplying militias, as well as armed groups, including the groups classified as terrorist organizations by UN, with arms and support is unacceptable. They also pointed out that Iran must abide by international laws and principles regarding good neighborliness and non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries. The two sides reaffirmed that the relationship between the two countries has been moved to new horizons because of the state historic visit paid by HRH the Crown Prince to the Republic of France. Both sides expressed looking forward to the visit of President Macron to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to further move the relationship between them to wider horizons.
More than 250 killed in Algerian military plane crash
Agencies/April 11, 2018/ALGIERS: An Algerian military plane crashed and caught fire on Wednesday killing 257 people, mostly army personnel and members of their families, officials said. An AFP photographer at the scene saw the charred wreckage of the plane in a field near the Boufarik airbase from where the plane had taken off. Hundreds of ambulances and dozens of fire trucks with their sirens wailing rushed to the scene of the crash about 25 kilometres (15 miles) southwest of Algiers. The defence ministry said in a statement that 247 passengers and 10 crew were killed without mentioning any survivors. Deputy Defence Minister General Ahmed Gaid Salah visited the site and ordered an investigation into the circumstances of the crash, the defence ministry said. The Ilyushin II-76 transport plane was bound for Tindouf in southwest Algeria. Algeria has suffered a string of military and civilian aviation disasters. Two military planes collided mid-flight in December 2012 during a training exercise in Tlemcen, in the far west of the country, killing the pilots of both planes. In February 2014, 77 people died when a military plane carrying army personnel and family members crashed between Tamanrasset in southern Algeria and the eastern city of Constantine. Only one person survived after the C-130 Hercules transport aircraft came down in the mountainous Oum El Bouaghi region. The defence ministry blamed that crash on bad weather. An Air Algerie passenger plane flying from Burkina Faso to Algiers crashed in northern Mali in July 2014, killing all 116 people on board including 54 French nationals. In October the same year, a military plane crashed in the south of the country during a training exercise, killing the two men on board. That came more than a decade after all but one of the 103 people on an Air Algerie Boeing 737-200 died in March 2003 when it crashed on takeoff in the country's south after an engine caught fire.

19 killed in clashes between UN and militia in C.African capital
AFP/April 12, 2018/Bangui, Central African Republic: The Central African Republic, one of the world’s poorest and most unstable countries, was rocked on Wednesday after 19 people, including a UN soldier, were killed and more than 100 wounded in clashes between peacekeepers and militias in a flashpoint Muslim enclave of the capital. Bangui’s bloodiest flareup in two years brought hundreds of angry residents of the PK5 district to the base of the United Nations mission, MINUSCA. There they laid out the corpses of 17 men who they said had been killed by UN troops on Tuesday — violence that according to MINUSCA had begun with an ambush of peacekeepers after they had launched a security sweep. Several bodies bore bullet wounds, an AFP reporter saw. “Yesterday they killed lots of people. Here are the dead, which we have brought here,” one man told AFP, as the bodies, draped in white, were laid before the closed door of the mission. Reacting to the clashes, President Faustin-Archange Touadera said later Wednesday that criminal groups were holding people in the troubled district to ransom. “Bandits have taken the population hostage,” Touadera said as he left a meeting of UN and African Union representatives, according to a video released by the UN. “This operation has as its sole objective the apprehension of the leaders (of the armed militias). It is not against one community or against the population” of the area, he added. A security source late Tuesday said a UN soldier was killed and eight were wounded in the violence, which came when their patrol was ambushed on the outskirts of the neighborhood. Fifty-six wounded people were brought to the Bangui public hospital, one of whom subsequently died, according to staff there. Separately, the aid group Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said it treated 44 wounded. “A Rwandan patrol supported by Central African forces was shot at and then pursued the attackers into PK5,” the security source told AFP. The clashes marked the bloodiest incident in Bangui since President Faustin-Archange Touadera was elected in 2016 — an event showcased as a turning-point in one of the world’s most chronically unstable countries. “When President Touadera was on the campaign trail, he promised us that he would not touch a hair on a Muslim’s head if we voted for him, which we did. Now you can see the results,” said one of the demonstrators, who gave his name as Riyad. The former French colony of 4.5 million people spiralled into bloodshed after longtime leader Francois Bozize was overthrown in 2013 by the mainly Muslim Seleka rebel alliance. France intervened militarily to push out the Seleka alliance, but the country — one of the poorest in the world — remains plagued by violence between ex-rebels and vigilante militias. Many armed groups are nominally organized along Christian or Muslim affiliations. They both typically gain their revenue from extortion, roadblocks or mineral resources. The PK5 district was once a Muslim rebel bastion, but it is now home to several criminal groups who have taken advantage of the weakness of the state.
Touadera’s government can claim to control just a fifth of the country, with the rest in the hands of militias. The UN recently threatened to dismantle all the armed groups’ bases in PK5 unless they hand over their weapons, according to sources. A series of clashes began on April 1, when UN peacekeepers on patrol in PK5 came under attack and returned fire. A security sweep that began in the area on Sunday led to the deaths of two people, with 60 others injured, and was followed by Tuesday’s bloodshed. The UN’s under-secretary general for peacekeeping operations, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, and the African Union’s commissioner for peace and security, Smail Chergui, issued a joint statement on Wednesday appealing for calm. The two arrived in Bangui on Tuesday on a visit aimed at promoting peace in the troubled country. The AU last July agreed to launch an “African peace initiative” for CAR, consisting of a round table gathering armed groups and the government. It had finished off a round of exploratory talks with militia groups on April 1. In Paris, the French foreign ministry said it condemned “with the greatest firmness the attacks and violence” against MINUSCA and CAR forces.
Their joint operation consisted of “disarming and arresting criminal groups” in PK5, it said.

Israeli settlers storm Al-Aqsa mosque courtyard under police protection again
Agencies/April 11, 2018/Israeli settlers storm Al-Aqsa mosque courtyard under police protection again London: Dozens of Israeli settlers stormed the courtyards of Al-Aqsa Mosque in the city of Jerusalem on Wednesday. Local sources said that Israeli troops protected the settlers in their endeavor to roam the yards outside the mosque, seen as one of Islam’s holiest sites. Israeli troops have also been accused of increasing their security measures against Palestinian worshippers trying to access the mosque to pray.

Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on April 11-12/18
Dr.Walid Phares: World War 3 alert: 'There WILL be a response' Russia to strike back if US hit Syria
وليد فارس يتوقع رد روسي على أي عمل عسكري أميركي يستهدف نظام الأسد
Holly Pyne/Express/April 11/18
RUSSIA will fight back if the United States attacks Syria but Donald Trump should not attack the Russians directly, Fox News' Senior National Security Analyst has warned.
Russia will respond if the US hits back at Syria, but Washington should not get to a “point of direct confrontation”, warned Walid Phares, after the recent chemical attack in Douma, Syria.
Mr Phares told Fox News: “Well look, the Russians are today stronger in Syria than they were a year ago and certainly six years ago.
"So they are trying to say to us and our partners that there will be a response maybe directly by the Russians or as they do usually, task the Iranians to do it.”
His comments come after US President Donald Trump threatened imminent military action against Syria and Russia over the “atrocious” suspected poison gas attack that killed at least 60 civilians.
If you attack their allies, the Syrian regime or the Iranians or Hezbollah, what they may do is ask their allies to attack our allies
Mr Phares said: “For us, for the United States, it is very important that we begin with the right thing to do and ask the intelligence community to have a detailed report of these chemical attacks so that we can take it to the UN Security Council and then confront the world and tell them ‘it did happen.’
“I expect that the Russians are going to have a veto. Once you have that veto from the Russians then you have the legitimacy to form this international coalition and start having US-led strategies.
“We don’t want to engage the Russians directly because by the rules of engagement of any nation that have military, if you attack their military they are going to respond.
“If you attack their allies, the Syrian regime or the Iranians or Hezbollah, what they may do is ask their allies to attack our allies.”
This time last year, Mr Trump fired 59 cruise missiles at a Syrian air base used to launch a sarin attack on a rebel area that killed 89 people, including 33 children.
Mr Phares said: “There are a lot of scenarios, I’m sure our National Security Council and our allies are focusing on what can be done without getting to a point of direct confrontation between the US and Russia which should not happen.
“These are two superpowers with nuclear weapons so the fact that they speak to each other for the security of the world that will continue.
“But, friendly relations as it was projected a few years ago, they are in jeopardy.”
Mr Trump issued a stark warning to Russia on Twitter and wrote: “Russia vows to shoot down any and all missiles fired at Syria. Get ready Russia, because they will be coming, nice and new and “smart!”
“You shouldn’t be partners with a Gas Killing Animal who kills his people and enjoys it!”

After Israeli Attack, Iran Mulls Options in Syria

Amir Taheri/Asharq Al Awsat/April 11/18
Seven years after getting involved in the Syrian war and helping to prolong it, Iran may be trying to re-think a strategy that has had many unintended, and undesired, consequences.
Calls for a review of Iran’s Syria policy are not yet either emphatic or loud. But they are coming from many different quarters inside and outside the ruling establishment.
Islamic Majlis member Mahmoud Sadeqi has called for “assessing the impact of our Syrian involvement” on Iran’s relations with other nations, most notably within the Middle East. The question is whether or not by siding with Syrian regime head Bashar al-Assad, Iran has antagonized other Arab and Islamic states. Worse still, Iran’s involvement in Syria may have enabled the United States, always singled out as “The Great Satan”, to rally its regional allies and form a solid bloc to challenge Iran.
Writing in “Iran Diplomat”, a periodical published by a relative of “Supreme Guide” Ali Khamenei, the retired Iranian diplomat, Mussawi Khalkhali, argues in favor of “looking again at our policies in the region, most notably in Syria.” Without suggesting that Assad should be thrown to the lions, he urges a profit-and-loss approach to a policy that has already claimed over 2,000 Iranian lives and in excess of $20 billion in expenditure.
One issue Iranian analysts focus on is the emergence of Russia as the setter of agenda in Syria, pushing Iran into the sidelines. This is because, besides the Assad regime and dependents, Iran didn’t have a genuine constituency inside Syria.
“Our sole constituency was Assad,” says analyst Ali Nobari. “Now that constituency is under Russian control.”
Besides the Assad clan, Russia has some genuine support among the Christian and Druze minorities in Syria that see Vladimir Putin as their protector against a Sunni Muslim majority rule. Iran, however, for obvious reason, has made no headway among Syrian Christians, while the Druze minority suspects Iran of harboring the ambition of spreading its brand of Shi’ism across the Middle East, regarding the Druze as a theologically “wayward” community.
Grand Ayatollah Alawi Borujerdi, one of the highest ranking clerics in Iran, has suggested that the Druze, the Nusairis (Alawis) and other communities known as “ghulat” (exaggerators) join a broad “Fatimid Front” led by Iran as a first step to “joining the mainstream of Shi’ism”. The seminaries in Qom and Mash’had would be prepared to dispatch missionaries to help the Syrian “ghulat” re-join the tradition of theological research and development.
In fact, Iran started to promote those ideas before the Syrian conflict began. Tehran set up 14 “cultural centers” across Syria to train Syrian clerics and publicized the late Ayatollah Ruhallah Khomeini’s version of Islam. However, by 2013, all those centers had been shut down for fear of “terrorist attacks”, and their personnel repatriated to Iran.
Last December, the Office for Islamic Convergence, part of Khamenei’s network of control announced a new scheme to re-open one of those centers in Damascus. The Office’s head Ayatollah Mohsen Araki, a British-educated mullah, was to lead a delegation of 40 clerics on that mission. However, the move was never made, ostensibly because of “security concerns” but, in reality, because both Alawite and Druze religious leaders conveyed their “serious reservations” to Assad.
It is not only the scheme for mass conversion of Syrians to Iran’s brand of Islam that has been put on the backburner.
With Russia assuming leadership in Syria and Turkey building a huge military presence there, Iran has had to trim its other ambitions in the war-torn country.
Last year, Tehran unveiled a plan to build a 1,800 kilometers highway between Qom and Beirut, passing through Iraq and Syria, within two years to give Iran a direct presence on the Mediterranean.
Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the man who commands the Quds (Jerusalem Corps) in charge of “exporting” revolution, was hailed by the official media as “the great leader who made Iran a Mediterranean power for the first time since the 7th century AD.”
Last week, however, Fars News, controlled by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) exposed the project as a pie in the sky. It said no one knew who would build the highway and that no budget had been assigned even to preliminary studies.
In 2013, Soleimani boasted that his force, also using Lebanese “Hezbollah” and other mercenaries from Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan, controlled an archipelago of territory in the center of Syria from east to west and thus could build a contiguous “presence on the ground”.
However, almost all chunks of that archipelago were abandoned under pressure from various Syrian forces opposed to Assad and pursuing different agendas.
“Lacking air power, Iran needs a strong presence on the ground,” says Hamid Zomorrodi, who studies Iranian military matters. “The initial idea was that Iran and Assad would provide the boots on the ground, while Russia acted as their air force.”
However, that idea led nowhere as Putin refused the role that Tehran wanted to assign to Russia.
“Putin thinks he has won the Syrian war with his air force,” says Zomorrodi. “He thinks that gives him the right to decide how the spoils of war are distributed.”
With Iran’s dream of a contiguous land route to Lebanon and the Israel border gone, Putin is trying to persuade Khamenei to abandon the two chunks of land Iranian forces and their Lebanese mercenaries still control near the borders with Israel and Lebanon. Israel already launched three air strikes against those two locations in the past year or so, reinforcing Putin’s message that Iran should transfer its presence to a “de-escalation zone” earmarked for it in Deir al-Zour close to the border with Iraq, far from the sizzling Syria-Lebanon-Israel triangle.
It may be premature to conclude that Iran is mulling its options in Syria. But one thing is clear, a growing segment of the political and military leadership in Tehran seems persuaded that Iran has got a bad deal in Syria and must rethink its options. However, while entering a war is easy, getting out of it is always difficult, especially when religious myths and revolutionary romanticism blur the political vision.

"Firewalls" and "Taint Teams" Do Not Protect Fourth and Sixth Amendment Rights
Alan M. Dershowitz/Gatestone Institute/April 11/18
The Fourth and Sixth Amendments prohibit government officials from in any way intruding on the privacy of lawyer/client confidential rights of citizens.
The very fact that this material is seen or read by a government official constitutes a core violation. It would be the same if the government surreptitiously recorded a confession of a penitent to a priest, or a description of symptoms by a patient to a doctor, or a discussion of their sex life between a husband and wife.
The recourses for intrusions on the Fourth and Sixth Amendments are multifold: the victim of the intrusion can sue for damages; he or she can exclude it from use by the government in criminal or civil cases; or the victim can demand the material back. But none of these remedies undo the harm to privacy and confidentiality done to the citizen by the government's intrusion into his private and confidential affairs.
Many TV pundits are telling viewers not to worry about the government's intrusion into possible lawyer/client privileged communications between President Trump and his lawyer, since prosecutors will not get to see or use any privileged material. This is because prosecutors and FBI agents create firewalls and taint teams to preclude privileged information from being used against the client in a criminal case. But that analysis completely misses the point and ignores the distinction between the Fifth Amendment on the one hand, and the Fourth and Sixth Amendments on the other.
The Fifth Amendment is an exclusionary rule. By its terms, it prevents material obtained in violation of the privilege of self-incrimination from being used to incriminate a defendant – that is to convict him of a crime. But the Fourth and Sixth Amendments provide far broader protections: they prohibit government officials from in any way intruding on the privacy of lawyer/client confidential rights of citizens. In other words, if the government improperly seizes private or privileged material, the violation has already occurred, even if the government never uses the material from the person from whom it was seized.
Not surprisingly, therefore, firewalls and taint teams were developed in the context of the Fifth Amendment, not the Fourth or Sixth Amendments. Remember who comprises the firewall and taint teams: other FBI agents, prosecutors and government officials who have no right under the Fourth and Sixth Amendments, even to see private or confidential materials, regardless of whether it is ever used against a defendant. The very fact that this material is seen or read by a government official constitutes a core violation. It would be the same if the government surreptitiously recorded a confession of a penitent to a priest, or a description of symptoms by a patient to a doctor, or a discussion of their sex life between a husband and wife. The government simply has no right to this material, whether it ever uses it against the penitent or the patient or the spouse in a criminal case.
So, let's not dismiss the potential violation of the rights of Michael Cohen and his client, if it were to turn out that included among the materials seized by the government in the raid were private or confidential information or documents.
The recourses for intrusions on the Fourth and Sixth Amendments are multifold: the victim of the intrusion can sue for damages; he or she can exclude it from use by the government in criminal or civil cases; or the victim can demand the material back. But none of these remedies undo the harm to privacy and confidentiality done to the citizen by the government's intrusion into his private and confidential affairs.
An equally important harm is to important relationships that are protected by the law: between lawyer and client, priest and penitent, doctor and patient, husband and wife, etc. If an ordinary citizen, seeing that even the president's confidential communications with his lawyer can be seized and perused, he or she will be far less willing to engage in such communications. As a society, we value such communications; that is why our laws protect them and that is why it should be extremely difficult for the government to intrude upon them, except as a last recourse in extremely important cases.
From what we know, this case does not meet those stringent standards. Much of the material sought by the warrant could probably be obtained through other sources, such as bank, tax and other records that are subject to subpoena. Moreover, the alleged crimes at issue – highly technical violations of banking and election laws – would not seem to warrant the extreme measure of a highly publicized search and seizure of records that may well include some that are subject to the lawyer/client privilege.
Someday soon, the government is going to have to justify its decision to conduct this raid. I challenge any reader who is not concerned about this raid to honestly answer the following question: If the raid had been conducted on Hillary Clinton's lawyer's office and home, would you be as unconcerned? The truth now!
**Alan M. Dershowitz is the Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law Emeritus at Harvard Law School and author of "Trumped Up, How Criminalization of Political Differences Endangers Democracy."
© 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.

Senior Israeli Officials: If Iran Acts Against Israel We Will Topple Assad
رسميون في إسرئيل يؤكدون أن بلادهم سوق تسقط نظام الأسد في حال قامت إيران بأي عمل انتقامي ضد تل ابيب

Jerusalem Post/April 11/18
"Assad's regime and Assad himself will disappear from the map and the world if the Iranians do try to harm Israel or its interests from Syrian territory."
Around 80% of the 32 Palestinians killed so far by the IDF during the Gaza border protests were terrorist operatives or identified with terrorist organizations, a new report asserts.
The report by the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center said that 26 of the 32 Palestinians fit into those categories.
According to the report, nine of the dead Palestinians were part of military terror cells and four were part of Gazan security services.
The report said that the other 17 identified as connected with terrorist groups were identified as such based on public statements made by various terror groups taking credit for the loyalties or activities of those individuals.
The last six killed Palestinians were not mentioned by any terror groups and are presumed to be civilians. The Meir Amit center is viewed by many as unusually credible because it has ongoing connections to current military intelligence and is filled with top former Israeli intelligence officials.
According to the report, five of the dead were part of Hamas' Izzadin Kassam military unit, while four were part of security services controlled by Hamas. Hamas took credit for the loyalties and actions of another seven of the dead and their bodies were wrapped in Hamas flags. One individual from that group was identified as an activist in Hamas' student support group.
One of the dead was identified as being connected to Islamic Jihad's military wing. Two of the dead were identified as operatives of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine - one as a military operative and one as a leader of the group in the al-Nazirat refugee camp. One of the dead was identified with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
Six of the dead were both members of Fatah and involved in violent or provocative activities as part of the border standoff, according to the report and Meir Amit center Director Reuven Ehrlich. Two were identified as operatives of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, Fatah's military wing. Four more were identified as members of Fatah when Fatah took credit for the connection and wrapped their bodies in the Fatah flag.
The report said that the high percentage of persons identified with terrorist groups at the front showed that the protests and clashes are being orchestrated mostly by those groups and not by civilian leaders.
According to the center, many of the dead were not merely celebrated by terror groups, but the terror groups published photos of them armed and in military clothing.
Some of those killed were identified as being shot while trying to breach the border wall, during IDF attacks on Hamas lookout positions and one, who was armed with a Kalashnikov and explosives, was shot by an IDF aerial vehicle.
All 32 of the dead, except for two, were men between the ages of 19 and 45 and none of them were the original civilian organizers who were pushed aside by Hamas, Ehrlich told the Jerusalem Post. Ehrlich emphasized that this disproved accusations that Israel is targeting women and children and civilians generally.
Two of the dead were minors with estimated ages between 14 and 16. While one of them was said to be part of Hamas’ student group, it was unclear under what circumstances they were killed and what justifications might be put forth.
The report did admit that regarding one of the dead, that the family has disputed the IDF’s characterization of him as being connected to a terror group.
Regarding a few of the dead, the report had more uncertain language saying “it appears” that the individual was connected to a particular terror group. Some of these more borderline cases may account for the report identifying 80% of the dead as being connected with Hamas when an earlier report by the center said the percentage was at least as high as 60% (though that report said more research needed to be done).

موقف دولي يتنشق “السارين” في دوما
علي الأمين/العرب/10 نيسان/18
Is the world inhaling Sarin, too? The international stance on Douma
Ali Al-Amin/Al Arabiya/April 11/18

Is the world inhaling Sarin, too? The international stance on Douma
Ali Al-Amin/Al Arabiya/April 11/18
The missiles which targeted the Syrian military T4 air base in Homs on Monday at dawn are Israeli and not American, and they did not come in response to the Syrian regime’s chemical attack on Douma in Ghouta. The Syrian regime, which has used Sarin gas before according to local and international reports, seems reassured that American and international objections to using these weapons will not go as far as adopting deterrent military measures. This is what developments since 2012 have shown as, in the best case scenario, reactions have been restricted to limited military strikes against some Syrian posts and to condemnations.
The word “animal” which US President Donald Trump used to describe Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is the best thing the Syrian regime can expect from the American stance. There are American hints that Washington may take military measures in response to the recent use of chemical weapons; however, amid the US orientations to withdraw from Syria, as Trump announced, no observers expect the US to take any measures to deter the Syrian regime and its allies in Syria.
The Israeli airstrike on the T4 airbase is a development that falls within another context that has nothing to do with what’s happening in Douma. The Syrian army has posts in this airport and many reports confirm that Iran uses it as a base to launch missiles and drones. Meanwhile, Syrian activists confirmed that Israeli jets were seen launching a number of missiles from Lebanese airspace and Syrian official reports said a number of Syrian army personnel were killed and injured in the strike.
The American stance sets withdrawing from Syria as a strategy while leaving countries that are militarily present in Syria with the task of finding solutions - especially that Trump has asserted that America’s task ends with eliminating ISIS from Syria. Although some US administration officials have questioned this withdrawal, it seems what’s constant here is the lack of a US strategy that exerts pressure to impose solutions or curb Russia’s and Iran’s military roles in Syria. Battles in eastern Ghouta and the destruction there show that the US stance does not seem concerned in confronting this bloody and military role and does not believe its interests are threatened if the Syrian regime restores whatever is left of opposition-held areas in Damascus’ surroundings.
Based on this American stance, it seems developments in Syria will further escalate towards allowing the regime and its international ally to crush the Syrian opposition. It does not seem there is anything to prevent this especially in areas within the control of the regime and its Russian and Iranian allies. All that Washington may do is adopt a formal military response to the regime’s use of chemical weapons. The ongoing battles in eastern Ghouta and the crimes committed against civilians did not bring about any change in American and international behavior. All which upset the American administration is the use of the internationally prohibited weapons. The reaction will thus be nothing more than a limited military objection that falls within the context of taking a stance that is mainly based on international and not Syrian calculations.
Russia’s veto at the UN Security Council has so far prevented issuing any international resolution that can curb the Syrian regime from committing crimes. This, to a large extent, confirms that Russia and Iran are directly concerned in the measures which the Assad regime carries out while, at the same time, they are well-aware of the limits of US interests which they avoid coming near. This was evident when few months ago they approached areas east of the Euphrates. The US’ reaction was violent as in one night it killed hundreds of Russian soldiers. Few weeks before this, it killed dozens of Iranian and Iraqi militiamen when they tried to approach areas of American influence in this area.
State of surrender
What’s tragic in this Syrian scene is Arab absence as while using chemical weapons has stirred international controversy, there’s an Arab silence that reflects a state of surrender or helplessness, if not complicity, especially as Syria witnesses systematic destruction of economic and urban structure and, more importantly, demographic change that’s no longer a secret. Meanwhile, the features of Iranian and Israeli influence are being accurately drawn under Russian supervision. Perhaps the recent Israeli strikes against the airport in Homs’ countryside shows, to a large extent, the concerns which go beyond humanitarian and political considerations related to the Syrian people.
In brief, the American and international stance indicate that Syrian political, military and humanitarian developments in Damascus’ surroundings will not provoke Washington no matter how loud Trump is against the crimes of Assad and his allies, and the UN Security Council will be incapable of adopting any stance which Russia does not accept – knowing that any military development that results from America’s intervention is not in Washington’s calculations and European countries do not desire this either. This is in addition to the fact that Israel which seems reassured to Russia, in terms of stability of Syrian-Israeli borders and to stability along the borders with Lebanon, does not want to risk this stability. It’s worth noting that Syrian developments allowed it to carry out military strikes against what it views as threats to its security in Syria without provoking Russia or Syria or triggering either to react.
Although an Israeli jet was downed by Syria few months ago, it seems Israel is not restrained when responding to what it believes is a threat to its security in Syria. Meanwhile, other parties seem largely committed to the conditions of Israeli security. This is all according to the facts on the ground as they’ve clearly shown that the international community will remain helpless or a mere spectator as Assad and his allies massacre civilians but will be decisive and strong when things are related to Israel’s security or Washington’s zones of influence in North or South Syria.

Middle East’s problems more complex than ever
Eyad Abu Shakra/Al Arabiya/April 11/18
لبنان: وعود باريس… وشيطان التفاصيل
إياد أبو شقرا/الشرق الأوسط/08 نيسان/18

Middle East’s problems more complex than ever
Eyad Abu Shakra/Al Arabiya/April 11/18
The blood that was shed in the occupied Palestinian territories on the anniversary of ‘Land Day’ will be followed by more of the same if the ‘March of Return’ continues until Nakba Day on May 15.
The Palestinian wound has been bleeding for 70 years and, with the current Israeli and global leaders in place, the prospect of any meaningful compromise is virtually non-existent. Rather, it may be said that the conflict has never been so far from settlement as it is today, and there are a number of reasons for this.
The first reason is Palestinian division. This division serves the tactical interests of many regional and international players, as well as serving opportunistic groups within the Palestinian territories that benefit from the division. Therefore, despite the desire of every sincere Palestinian for unity, the beneficiaries are not willing to give up their gains.
Second, Israel’s continued evasion of peace. Any real peace must be based on a sincere desire for a coexistence that rejects oppression, domination, captivity or ‘transfer’. But, when we look at the political programs of the partisan Israeli forces, we can only conclude that the Israeli evasion of peace is fixed and that any other talk or goodwill is a variable.
A third reason is the regional reality. Despite the centrality of the ‘Question of Palestine’, it is no longer the only issue in the Middle East. As well as the occupied lands in Palestine, there are occupied lands in the ‘Palestines’ of Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen; and in addition to Israeli occupation, we now complain of Iranian, Turkish, Russian and American occupations in the region.
A deep understanding of the Middle East is vital, not only for the forces concerned with their own destinies but also the powers that deal with the region as a mere chessboard
The state of Israel
Fourth is the international situation. The state of Israel was originally established by a resolution adopted by the UN Security Council, which became the representative of global legitimacy after the end of the Second World War.
Yet, over the past 70 years, Israel has been one of the leading violators of UN resolutions, either through total disregard or thanks to the protection provided by the American veto. In fact, a major part of the region’s dilemma — and indeed the world’s dilemma — is the reliance of rogue governments on absolute power, or the protection of the American veto in the case of Israel, and Russian and Chinese vetoes in the case of Syria.
With regard to Syria, US President Donald Trump — in the midst of the tit-for-tat diplomat expulsions with Russia, and the accelerating sectarian cleansing by Moscow and Iran in Syria — announced his intention to withdraw US troops after “knocking the hell” out of ISIS.
Up to this point, the statement was clear. However, the second part of his speech was a bit strange, as he went on to say: “We’ll be coming out of Syria, like, very soon. Let the other people take care of it now.”
In Syria, the “other people” he referred to are Russian and Iranian forces, which are supposed to be Washington’s most serious opponents, both globally and regionally. Therefore, there is a need to clarify the background of what the American president meant; and here the issue of different priorities within the administration arises.
Apart from the recent changes that affected prominent figures — including replacing Secretary of State Rex Tillerson with Mike Pompeo and the appointment of John Bolton as National Security Advisor instead of H.R. McMaster — the power struggle within some US institutions is familiar, particularly, during Republican administrations. It is no secret that the biggest role in the preparation for the 2003 invasion of Iraq was played by the Pentagon and the ‘hawks’ in then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s team.
The ’big stick’ approach
Over the past two weeks, Washington observers have seen the removal of Tillerson and McMaster and the choice of Pompeo and Bolton as a double victory for the ‘big stick’ approach to foreign affairs at the expense of those who cherish compromise and soft diplomacy. A number of European allies have even expressed fears that the White House would adopt radical positions, but Trump’s words gave a completely different indication.
Undoubtedly, US foreign policy is not limited to one region of the world and is generally based on priorities, strategic and tactical balances, and compromises. Besides, many statements and initiatives are meant to be testers for the intentions of friends and foes.
However, as far as the Middle East is concerned, it is wise to deal with crises with two different approaches. First, the specifics of each case should be taken separately due to the different ‘composition’ of Arab entities and their geographic locations and demographics. Second, there is a need to recognize there are more pervasive dangers, beyond the current existential limits, that seek to change the broader regional reality.
A deep understanding of the Middle East is vital, not only for the forces concerned with their own destinies but also the powers that deal with the region as a mere chessboard. Consequently, if the policy used to deal with the phenomenon of Daesh — i.e. to treat the symptoms and neglect the causes — is repeated, the world will have to wait much more than 70 years before it is relieved of its Middle East concerns.

Saudi soft power on the Seine: What should the French learn?
Najah Alotaibi/Al Arabiya/April 11/18
And so the world tour continues...the new reforming Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s munificent caravan hoovering up expensive arms contracts from grateful western allies, and reassuring skeptics that Saudi Arabia has changed fundamentally for the better. But the Riyadh gold making its way into the coffers of the UK and US governments will not be on display in France now; the relationship between these two countries is more nuanced than with others.
True, Paris is keen to strengthen its ties – especially in the wake of Brexit – when the UK’s role as most reliable EU ally for Saudi Arabia becomes vacant.
But the relationship between the two countries has not been easy ever since King Abdul Aziz, the founder of modern Saudi Arabia, found France’s colonial history troublesome. Far easier to deal with the US which had none of the colonial hang overs of Lebanon, Syria and elsewhere in the Arab world. Even today France takes a very different stance on Qatar, Yemen and Iran than Riyadh would like.
The lesson will have been learned by Paris that to be on board with the modernizing Prince, and benefit from it, means to inhabit his worldview
In fact – in language rarely used in diplomatic circles – President Macron’s last trip to the Kingdom was described as “tense” after he refused to have the Elysee Palace’s policy towards Iran dictated by Riyadh. Yet he has softened a little since then – noting publicly that Iran’s missile program should be under surveillance, along with Tehran’s involvement in Syria.
But his public statements haven’t gone as far as far as Saudi Arabia would like. And Franco-Saudi shared views on Lebanon were tarnished last year by the sequence of events surrounding Lebanese Prime Minister.
So, with this background in mind what will France get at the end of Mohammed bin Salman’s visit? Forget lucrative arms contracts for the moment. Riyadh has decided that an exercise in soft power will get Paris to toe the line in future. Cue some touchy feely deals in tourism, culture and entertainment.
Entertainment industry
Which is good news if you like classical music. Saudi Arabia announced recently that it would invest $64 billion in developing its entertainment industry over the next years. And as part of this the Crown Prince has signed an agreement with Paris to help set up a national orchestra and opera in Jeddah city.
There’s also an initiative to support the development of Saudi film and cinema industry. Saudi short films will this year – for the first time – be entered in the Cannes Film Festival.
There’s some neat timing in this as well, as it comes as the first cinema for decades is due to open in Riyadh on the 18th of this this month. The start, it’s hoped, of a thriving home-grown film industry.
But the biggest cultural deal being signed in France is an agreement for the French to help transform a huge chunk of almost uninhabited Saudi land into a multi-billion dollar open air museum. France will also develop the al-Ula – a 5,000-year ancient valley in northwest – into a cultural tourism destination
But, is this what France was looking for in its relationship with the new powerful leader? Probably not. But the lesson will have been learned by Paris that to be on board with the modernizing Prince – and to profit from it – means to inhabit his world view. And once Paris shows it can do that there will be much more to come.

How did Mohammed bin Salman change Saudi Arabia’s image?
Mamdouh AlMuhaini/Al Arabiya/April 11/18
For years, Saudi Arabia witnessed fierce and intensified campaigns by three different parties. All of them aimed to present a bad image about the kingdom to the world. The first party consisted of extremist figures inside Saudi Arabia and whose popularity increased in recent years due to social media platforms. The second is Qatar’s media outlets while the third is western and American dailies and networks with leftist leanings. Observers will notice that all these parties have been confused in the past phase and their influence has declined – not because they suddenly fell in love with Riyadh but because the recent decisions against extremism, the social and religious reforms as well as Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s US tour and candid interviews with the most famous media outlets confused them and shook their stances.
Before this phase, a huge part of these parties’ success was because of the Saudis themselves as they generously supplied them with the cards they needed for the game and with ready-made justifications due to laws and customs that restrain women’s activities and to strange measures which prohibited arts and to preachers who prohibited Valentine’s Day and commissions that confiscated red flowers. All this provided them with ready-to-use live ammunition and helped their rhetoric gain more credibility and supporters from different inclinations, human rights activists, liberals, leftist and right-wing, and eventually they developed a deeply negative image about the kingdom.
The first party, represented by Saudi extremists in Saudi Arabia, used to negatively promote the kingdom via the extremist ideas which they marketed, the pubic takfiri fatwas (religious edicts) they issued and their continuous and organized social media presence. Everyone who wears the shemagh (the traditional scarf which men in the Gulf wear on the head) and echoes the most hideous statements against Jews and Christians left a bad reputation behind. These people had such a loud voice to the point that people outside the kingdom thought all the Saudis were like that; intolerant, hostile to women and outdated.
Saudi Arabia overcame a difficult obstacle and became a power capable of changing history by solidifying the culture of tolerance and moderation in the entire region and getting rid of the disease of extremism which obstructed Muslims for centuries.
These extremists sought to strengthen this wrong image during the past few decades to create a huge gap between Saudi Arabia and the civilized world – a gap which is difficult to narrow. They sought to drag the country to the spheres of backward and dark forces. This is why bin Laden chose 15 Saudis to hijack airplanes and carry out suicide attacks on September 11, 2001, in order to burn bridges between Saudi Arabia and the West and create bitter and mutual enmity. There was an evil plan well-schemed by extremists for years. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman destroyed it within few months by restraining these extremists until their voices disappeared from the general sphere which they controlled, until recently, by criminalizing the hate speech which they fed on and by pursuing major social reforms such as allowing women to drive, opening cinemas and restoring the Saudis’ life back to normal prior to Sahwa and with the spirit of 2018.
The disappearance of these instigators’ voice mitigated pressure, and a new tolerant rhetoric replaced that dark image thanks to the crown prince’s statements that called for restoring moderate Islam that’s open to all religions and cultures and to his historical visits like those to Saint Mark's Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in Alexandria and the Anglican church in London. He associated his words with action. Saudi Arabia’s image thus surprisingly changed during a short time from a country that’s accused of exporting extremism into a country whom there is international hope it will eliminate extremism. It overcame a difficult obstacle and became a power capable of changing history by solidifying the culture of tolerance and moderation in the entire region and getting rid of the disease of extremism which obstructed Muslims for centuries.
The second party is the Qatari media outlets which adopted two different contradictory rhetoric; a national Brotherhood rhetoric to appeal to its Arab audience and a leftist rhetoric to appeal to its western audience. Both aim to tarnish Saudi Arabia’s image to serve Hamad bin Jassem’s and Hamad bin Khalifa’s project in Doha. The Brotherhood’s media has for years been occupied with strengthening extremist rhetoric by supporting local figures allied with it. These figures made television appearances via the Brotherhood’s media outlets and always visited Doha. However, they lost this card when they were prohibited from promoting their dangerous ideas.
Inciting against Saudi reforms
Most recently, these media outlets began to incite against all Saudi reforms and positive measures, thus adopting a propaganda that professionally dragged them down. Boycotting Qatar exposed the truth about the Brotherhood’s media and how it’s a guided media that claims defending rights when in fact it’s an arena for instigators and advocates of hate. Meanwhile, the leftist western media which is supported by Qatar focused on religious and social affairs like women’s rights, arts and tolerance; however, they’re no longer attractive or convincing after the recent wave of consecutive reforms. How can a country be accused of exporting terrorism when it has an orchestra, Opera House with France’s participation, and Al-Ula, the largest open air museum in the world? Plans A and B failed so they resorted to fabricated hashtags for their unconvincing and uninfluential press coverages.
The third party is the leftist American media outlets that are skeptic of Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia’s enemies, whether Iranians or Brotherhood affiliates, played a big role in launching fierce campaigns without strong defenses. During his US tour, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was candid while discussing some of the most sensitive matters like Wahhabism, corruption, the royal family, Sahwa, Iran and others. In the past some topics were prohibited and not discussed or publicly brought up. This created mysteriousness which was exploited to guide raging campaigns against the “backward” kingdom which is not “open” as they described it. Prince Mohammed did much more than turning the tables and provided strong, persuasive and smart answers to sensitive matters and turned them into ordinary and simple issues which are no longer used as a platform to attack and target Saudi Arabia.
During my first few days in the US as a student, a man became upset after he learned of my nationality and took me by surprise when he made angry critical statements about Saudi Arabia then left before I could say a single word. I did not blame him for what he said because I knew that he based his remarks on ideas which he heard from Saudi extremists and rival media outlets which focused on what serves their ideologies and agendas. What will happen if I meet him now? What will he object on in such an angry manner? Women have been allowed to drive, cinemas will open soon, the orchestra played its music, tolerant ideas prospered and extremists were silenced. He will be just like media outlets that are hostile to Saudi Arabia – confused now that they have ran out of cards to play and which until a few months ago they had successfully used to win the game from the first round.

El-Sisi faces a litany of challenges during second term
Abdellatif El-Menawy/Arab News/April 11/2018
Egypt’s presidential elections concluded with the predicted outcome — President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi sweeping to a second four-year term in office. Official results show that more than 24 million Egyptians went to the polls and 97 percent of them voted for El-Sisi. A great deal of controversy surrounded the elections and the absence of genuine competitors, but the elections are now over and the most pressing question is: What is on the president’s agenda for the next four years?
The challenges facing him seem difficult and intertwined — whether relating to internal or external affairs.
The war on terror might be the most obvious challenge. During El-Sisi’s first term as president, Egypt managed to corner extremism in Sinai and, according to observers and analysts, achieved a lot in terms of combatting terrorism. However, Egypt continues to experience attacks, so tackling terror is among the most important and urgent files on El-Sisi’s agenda. The people of Egypt believe that defeating extremists is the key step on the path to stability — not only in terms of security, but also economically and politically.
There is a need to develop new security models, employ the latest equipment, and increase citizens’ awareness of the matter. Without an alliance between citizens and the state in the war on terror, the challenge will be more difficult.
The completion of large national projects is also a concern. El-Sisi successfully launched several national projects, some of which raised controversy, during his first term. Perhaps the most important of these ambitious projects is the Suez Canal Area Development Project, which, if it succeeds, will change the face of Egypt’s economy.
Other important projects, including housing, roads, transport and infrastructure, as well as building a new administrative capital, continue to attract significant investment.
El-Sisi must explain what his priorities are and, most importantly, what the outcomes of the state’s projects will be. This will help the people understand how he will affect their lives and therefore be convinced to support the state in overcoming tough situations. The public must be able to understand and accept the difficult measures they may undergo while the economic situation is addressed.
There is no doubt that the Egyptian economy has improved in the past four years. The trade deficit dropped by 25 percent in 2017 compared to the previous year, commodities exports rose by 11 percent to reach $5.8 billion, and remittances from Egyptians working abroad reached roughly $6 billion in July last year. Nevertheless, these rates are far from the target that will drive the economy forward and improve people’s lives. In fact, these rates are considered a decline when compared to those before the events of Jan. 25, 2011.
The president is tackling a number of significant challenges that previous leaders and governments failed to approach. But if El-Sisi and his team managed to turn their economic objectives into reality, this would be a great achievement that would reflect positively on Egypt and make it once again very attractive for international investments, after having been neglected in recent years.
Challenges facing El-Sisi during his second term as Egypt's president are difficult and intertwined.
Foreign policy matters that El-Sisi will have to handle are also important, as success would reflect positively on the country’s internal situation in terms of stability and its economy. In the past four years, El-Sisi managed to diversify his political and economic partners, making several visits to countries whose relations with Egypt have been cold since 2011, including the US and France.
Remarkable progress has been seen in the cooperation between Egyptian and US forces, and this has been noted by US President Donald Trump. Moreover, Egypt’s arms deals with France and Russia are among El-Sisi’s biggest achievements, in addition to the country’s current strong relations with the UAE and Saudi Arabia.
El-Sisi’s continuation in office will motivate international financial institutions that have largely cooperated with his economic program — especially the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the African Bank, and the European Bank — to continue to do so during his second term. This will ensure continuous foreign inflows and direct investment in the Egyptian market.
Egypt’s relationship with international human rights organizations continues to be somewhat tense, and this is a matter El-Sisi must address by creating more communication channels, or by clarifying what those organizations refer to as “violations of human rights.” If he fails to deal with this challenge in a positive manner, it will remain a major obstacle to improving Egypt’s foreign relations.
Meanwhile, the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam and Egypt’s relationship with Ethiopia continue to be a pressing foreign affairs challenge for El-Sisi. This issue may enter a more complex phase during his second term, so it must be tackled in a more assertive manner, especially when Sudan has encouraged Ethiopia to procrastinate.
Some believe El-Sisi has tackled the Renaissance Dam challenge with wisdom and reason, taking into account the strong relations between Egypt and its neighbors. This was evident in his keenness to highlight the strength of the historic and economic partnerships between the countries of Africa. However, the result so far is that the Renaissance Dam and Egyptian-Ethiopian relations continue to be thorny issues, and the challenge here lies in how to improve this relationship without undermining the rights of the Egyptian people. This requires a direction different to the one adopted during El-Sisi’s first term.
*Abdellatif El-Menawy is a critically acclaimed multimedia journalist, writer and columnist who has covered war zones and conflicts worldwide. Twitter: @ALMenawy

Angry voices will never bring peace to the Middle East
Ray Hanania/Arab News/April 11/2018
The Arab world listened intently to Barack Obama six months after he was sworn in as US president, when he outlined his “new beginning” in relations with the “Muslim world” in his famous Cairo speech.
Obama did not address the “Arab world,” he addressed the “Muslim World” for a reason that many Arabs would not fully understand until years later. He was not trying to lift the Arab world up and bring peace to the Middle East — he was instead seeking to elevate Iran’s influence in the region.
By the time Arabs realized what was happening, it was too late. Obama had abandoned them by turning his back on promises of freedom for Palestinians, and he backed an unprecedented policy to bolster Iran by allowing it to pursue nuclear technology.
The fact is more Palestinians were killed during one conflict with Israel in 2014 under Obama’s watch than under any previous American president. Worse still was that more Palestinians were injured during Obama’s eight years in office than under Bill Clinton or George W. Bush. Clearly, Obama’s perceived compassion for Palestinian rights was undermined by the reality. And that was because Obama was more concerned about the interests of Iran. Instead of curtailing Iran’s regional hegemony, Obama was fueling it at the expense of the Arab world.
One of the president’s most influential advisers was Valerie Jarrett, his longest-serving aide. Jarrett was born and raised in Shiraz, Iran, and enjoyed a particular love of the Iranian culture that had vanished under the oppressive rule of the ayatollahs and the conflict with the West.
When Trump was elected, he slammed the door on Iran and encouraged moderate Arab leaders who faced two major but distinct challenges. The first was the drive to stop Iran’s meddling in Arab affairs; the second the endless Palestine conflict with Israel.
There is an achievable though elusive goal in seeking compromise with Israel, but the fanaticism of Iran presents the Arab world only with destruction. That is what has defined Saudi Arabia’s foreign policy as crafted by its new voice, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and it has put extremists on notice.
Someone with Palestinians’ best interests in mind must shake them out of their suicidal nosedive and force them to see reason. Palestinians can’t keep “rejecting” the inevitable. It is one thing to dream of the past, but it’s another to live in the present. You can’t take 70 years of injustice and oppression and expect it to miraculously blossom into paradise.
You can’t take 70 years of injustice and oppression and expect it to miraculously blossom into paradise.
On his recent visit to the US, the crown prince was straightforward in speaking about Palestine. Rather than sit down for a sugar-coated interview with pro-Palestinian media, he walked into the lion’s den of pro-Israel bias, giving an interview to The Atlantic magazine’s Jeffrey Goldberg, who has a history of anti-Palestinian writing. Despite Goldberg’s prodding, MBS stood his ground on Palestine and on Israel. He spoke about a reality many Palestinian activists don’t want to hear, but his words appeal to Palestinians who aspire to a freedom from Israeli oppression.
MBS clearly defined a path to Palestinian statehood in his reasoned responses to Goldberg’s queries, which were given before the recent violence on the Gaza-Israel border. Asked about the right of Jews to have their own “nation-state,” he said all people have “a right to live in their peaceful nation. I believe the Palestinians and the Israelis have the right to have their own land. But we have to have a peace agreement to assure the stability for everyone and to have normal relations.”
Goldberg pressed MBS if he had a religious-based objection to Israel. He responded: “We have religious concerns about the fate of the holy mosque in Jerusalem and about the rights of the Palestinian people… We don’t have any objection against any other people.”
MBS said Arabs do not have “a problem with Jews.” He said Christians, Muslims and Jews face the same problems all over the world.
The question that made headlines, though, came in the context of who is worse, Israel or Iran. “Israel is a big economy compared to their size and it’s a growing economy, and of course there are a lot of interests we share with Israel and, if there is peace, there would be a lot of interest between Israel and the Gulf Cooperation Council countries and countries like Egypt and Jordan,” MBS responded.
Goldberg is not popularly read in the Arab world and the exaggerated criticism received much mileage. However, few of the crown prince’s critics will acknowledge that Gaza is under the heel of Hamas and Muslim Brotherhood extremists, who reject peace with Israel while believing that continued conflict, despite the ever-rising death toll, is a better option that might one day result in Israel’s destruction.
But Israel’s destruction won’t happen. While many Palestinians can’t see the reality of today through the violent vision of their extremist activists, MBS sees the future clearly.
Peace is possible if we recognize that Israelis and Palestinians are diverse peoples. You can see a future both for Israel and Palestine, and an end to the suffering — but only through pragmatic reasoning and confidence that moderation and dialogue achieve far more than hate-driven anger and extremist rhetoric.
*Ray Hanania is a Palestinian American columnist and author of several books. Twitter: @rayhanania

White House: no final decision has been made on Syria/Russia warns that US intervention would be met with 'grave repercussions'
Joyce Karam/The National/April 11, 2018
White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders appeared to step back from Mr Trump’s tweet earlier on Wednesday that missile strikes “will be coming” on Syria, saying no timetable has been set for US action, and no final decision has been made about whether an attack will even take place.
Asked about Mr Trump’s warning to Russia on Wednesday morning that “nice, new and 'smart'” missiles will be targeting Syria, Ms Sanders said “that is certainly one option but it is not the only option or the only thing that the president may or may not do.”
She continued to say that “[Mr Trump] has not laid out a timetable and is still leaving a number of other options on the table, and we're still considering a number of those." The president holds both the Syrian regime and Russia responsible for the chemical weapons attack, she added.
Ms Sanders stressed that “no final decision” has been made, and “all options remain on the table.” The White House spokeswoman expected the Syria debate to continue, with Mr Trump and his defense secretary James Mattis having both cancelled travel plans to focus on the issue at hand.
The Daily Beast reported on Wednesday that the head of the central command General Joseph Votel has also cancelled a speaking engagement in New York planned for Thursday.
The delay in Mr Trump’s decision could be due to consultations both militarily and diplomatically with allies, especially France and the United Kingdom, in order to coordinate possible joint action, movement of military assets and targeting plans in Syria.
Carl Bildt, co-chair of the European Council on Foreign Relations and a former Swedish prime minister, saw the apparent de-escalation as a sign that the White House was thinking more strategically about its aims in attacking Syria.
Mr Mattis and the national security team had met on Wednesday at the White House, and vice president Mike Pence chaired the meeting, Ms Sanders said.
Earlier, Mr Mattis presented the White House with a set of military options ahead of a possible strike in Syria in response to a chemical attack.
He told reporters at the Pentagon that these options are available, even as the US and allies are still in the process of gathering information.
"We are still assessing the intelligence, ourselves and our allies, we are still working on this," Mr Mattis said when asked if he had seen enough evidence to blame president Bashar Al Assad for a chemical attack in Eastern Ghouta that killed at least 60 people and injured hundreds.
“We are ready to provide military options if they are appropriate” he added.
Shortly after the announcement Mr Mattis discussed the Syria options with president Donald Trump at a White House meeting.
Both the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal quoting US officials said an extended air campaign lasting more than one day is possible. “Options included salvos aimed at crippling Mr Assad’s chemical-weapons capabilities, while not seeking to push him from power,” the Wall Street Journal said.
President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday was also briefed by Mr Mattis on military options, said Le Figaro.
On the ground, the US navy reportedly moved warships carrying cruise missiles in the direction of the Mediterranean, towards a firing distance from Syria. French Rafale fighter jets at Saint Robinson Dizier air base have been put on alert ahead of a possible strike, said Le Figaro.
The Pentagon, however, refrained from confirming any military movement saying it did not comment on “potential military actions.”
Mr Trump however took to Twitter early on Wednesday to suggest what US military action might look like.
The tweet came in response to Russian warnings that US intervention in Syria would be met with "grave repercussions."
"Get ready Russia, because they will be coming, nice and new and 'smart!'" Mr Trump tweeted in reference to US missiles.
But US strikes will only be effective so long as they can debilitate Mr Al Assad's war machine, said Nicholas Heras, a defence fellow at the Center for a New American Security.
“That means the United States and its allies will need to hit a range of targets that are both military and which are non-military targets that are significant to the regime” Mr Heras told The National. “These targets could include forward operating bases, military airbases, intelligence buildings, and possibly the Assad family business assets.”Meanwhile, the UAE on Wednesday expressed concern over developments in Syria and the UN's failure to take action.
"The United Arab Emirates calls upon the international community to take all the necessary measures to ensure the protection and safety of civilians, and ensure the cessation of violence that unfolded in the Syrian crisis," said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation. "The UAE also calls for the establishment of a commission of inquiry and accountability on this heinous act."
At least 60 people were killed and hundreds injured in Saturday's chemical weapons attack in the town of Douma, in Eastern Ghouta, Syrian relief workers said. An estimated 500 people were being treated for "symptoms consistent with exposure to toxic chemicals," the World Health Organisation said on Wednesday.
The Syrian government and Russia, however, say the reports are bogus.
Moscow on Wednesday suggested US plans to strike Syria could be a pretext to destroy evidence of an alleged chemical weapons attack, which Russia has said was a staged "provocation" to justify Western intervention.
The escalation followed Russia's rejection of a US draft resolution at the UN that sought to create a new expert group that would determine responsibility for the attacks. The Security Council voted 12-2 as Russia used its veto for the 12th time to protect its ally president Mr Al Assad. China abstained while Bolivia voted against the resolution.
Expectations in Washington suggested that the impending airstrikes could be larger than those carried out by the US last year which fired 60 missiles at the Shayrat airbase. The number of US military assets and possible participation of other countries, as well as reports indicating this could be a multi-day operation, suggest a greater scope than in 2017.
Syria's army reportedly has evacuated key defence buildings in Damascus following intelligence they might be targeted.
"The buildings of the ministry of defence and the army headquarters have been empty for two days," the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said. Regime forces have also evacuated military airports as well as the bases of the elite Fourth Division and Republican Guard outside the capital, the Observatory said. "The Russians told the Syrian army's leadership they had intelligence on possible US and French targets in Syria," Observatory head Abdel Rahman said.
Activists on the ground according to Sky News Arabia reported that Hezbollah was vacating some of its positions near Homs and Qusair on the border with Lebanon. But there was no indication in Washington on Wednesday of plans to hit pro-Iran fighters or members of Hezbollah directly.
The Foreign Ministry in Damascus denounced Mr Trump's threat to attack the country as "reckless" and a danger to international peace and security.
Meanwhile civilians in government-held areas in Syria expressed a mix of fear and defiance, commenting on social media pages, with some lamenting Syria's perpetual conflict while others taunted Mr Trump to go through with his threats.