April 15/2018
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani


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Bible Quotations
Those who try to make their life secure will lose it, but those who lose their life will keep it
Luke 17/20-37: "Once Jesus was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God was coming, and he answered, ‘The kingdom of God is not coming with things that can be observed; nor will they say, "Look, here it is!" or "There it is!" For, in fact, the kingdom of God is among you.’ Then he said to the disciples, ‘The days are coming when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and you will not see it. They will say to you, "Look there!" or "Look here!" Do not go, do not set off in pursuit. For as the lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the Son of Man be in his day. But first he must endure much suffering and be rejected by this generation. Just as it was in the days of Noah, so too it will be in the days of the Son of Man. They were eating and drinking, and marrying and being given in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed all of them. Likewise, just as it was in the days of Lot: they were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, but on the day that Lot left Sodom, it rained fire and sulphur from heaven and destroyed all of them it will be like that on the day that the Son of Man is revealed. On that day, anyone on the housetop who has belongings in the house must not come down to take them away; and likewise anyone in the field must not turn back. Remember Lot’s wife. Those who try to make their life secure will lose it, but those who lose their life will keep it. I tell you, on that night there will be two in one bed; one will be taken and the other left. There will be two women grinding meal together; one will be taken and the other left.’Then they asked him, ‘Where, Lord?’ He said to them, ‘Where the corpse is, there the vultures will gather

Even if we or an angel from heaven should proclaim to you a gospel contrary to what we proclaimed, let that one be accursed!
Letter to the Galatians 1,1-10: "Paul an apostle sent neither by human commission nor from human authorities, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead and all the members of God’s family who are with me, To the churches of Galatia: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to set us free from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory for ever and ever. Amen. I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel not that there is another gospel, but there are some who are confusing you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should proclaim to you a gospel contrary to what we proclaimed to you, let that one be accursed! As we have said before, so now I repeat, if anyone proclaims to you a gospel contrary to what you received, let that one be accursed! Am I now seeking human approval, or God’s approval? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still pleasing people, I would not be a servant of Christ.""
Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on April 14-15/18
Analysis U.S.-led Attack Can’t Hide Fact the World Has Abandoned the Syrian People/Anshel Pfeffer/Haaretz/April 14/18
Sweden's War on Free Speech/Judith Bergman/Gatestone Institute/April 14/18
Iran... the Road to Military Rule/Faraz Safaei/Asharq Al-Awsat/April 14/18
Is there still time to stop the normalization of chemical weapons?/Dr. Azeem Ibrahim/Al Arabiya/April 14/18
How will the Syria strikes resonate at the Arab Summit?/Nathalie Goulet/Al Arabiya/April 14/18
Are western strikes a message to Putin, not Assad?/Martin Jay/Al Arabiya/April 14/18

Titles For Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on April 14-15/18
Aoun, Hariri In Saudi Arabia to partake in Arab Summit
Foreign Ministry condemns air raids on Syria
Sounds of Strikes on Syria Heard in Lebanese Border Region
Aoun: Lebanon Refuses All Forms of Aggression against Arab States
AMAL Says Western Attack at Syria ‘Violates International Law’
Hizbullah Says US War on Syria 'Will Not Achieve Its Aims'
Lebanese Officials Comment on Syria Strikes
Sami Gemayel Urges Accountability in Upcoming Elections
Mustaqbal Supporters Clash with Zuheiri's Bodyguards in Barbir
Riachi says Publications Court was found to sue media professionals and not to arrest them, rejects tradeoff between freedom and judiciary
Jumblatt: No value to strikes on Syria in the absence of a political solution based on transitional authority
Ezzeddine heads to Baghdad to attend a conference on fighting corruption
Rahi meets with Army Commander: Military Institution remains the guarantee of all Lebanese
Political Tension Among Lebanon’s Druze Spills onto the Streets
Aoun, Lebanese leaders criticize Syria missile strikes
The American Mideast Coalition for Democracy (AMCD) Supports Pompeo for Secretary of State..The right man at the right time.

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on April 14-15/18
UN Security Council fails to adopt Russian resolution on Syria
If Syria uses toxic gas again, U.S. 'locked and loaded': U.N. envoy Haley
Trump staking claim of 'Mission Accomplished' in Syria
World leaders react to joint Syria airstrikes
Assad Says Strikes Make Syria Even More Determined to 'Fight Terrorism'
Iraq Says Western Strikes on Syria Could Aid Jihadists
Syria Rebels Say Western Strikes 'Farce' as Long as Assad Stays
Syria Strikes Send 'Clear Message' on Chemical Weapons, Says British PM
Moscow: Over 100 Missiles Fired at Syria, 'Significant Number' Intercepted
Dhahran Summit to Condemn Turkish Infiltration in Syria, Iraq
Russia Calls for Security Council Meeting, Warns of Syria Strikes’ Destructive Influence
Israel: Syria Strikes an ‘Important Signal’ to Iran
Saudi Arabia Expresses Full Support for Raids on Syrian Regime
Iran Warns of Regional Fallout after Strikes on Syria
IEA Says 'Mission Accomplished' for OPEC and Its Allies
Exclusive: Emirates Group CEO Says Negotiations with US Are Ongoing
Egypt says deeply concerned over military escalation in Syria
Egypt Extends State of Emergency as Soldiers, Militants Killed in Sinai
Exclusive: Haftar Treated in Paris Hospital, Confusion in Libya over Death Rumors
One Killed, Hundreds Injured at Gaza Border in 'Burn Flags Friday'
Israel Uses ‘Baseless Legal Interpretations’ to Justify Shooting of Unarmed Gaza Demonstrators- B'Tselem
Abbas Accuses Israeli Army of Protecting ‘Terrorist Settlers’
Saudi Arabia: Lack of UN Resolve Gave Green Light for Iran, Houthis to Stage Violations
US Calls for Additional Sanctions on Venezuela

Latest Lebanese Related News published on April 14-15/18
Aoun, Hariri In Saudi Arabia to partake in Arab Summit
LCCC/April 15/18/President of the Republic Michel Aoun ,Prime Minister Saad Hariri, Interior and Municipalities Minister Nuhad al-Machnouk and Economy and Trade Minister Raed Khoury are all in Saudi Arabia partaking in the Arab Summit. Aoun started his official meetings with numerous Arab Leaders. Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil will join the delegation on Sunday morning.

Foreign Ministry condemns air raids on Syria
Sat 14 Apr 2018/NNA - The Foreign Affairs and Expatriates Ministry denounced in a statement Saturday the "rocket attacks and air raids against the Syrian Arab Republic, which constitute a flagrant breach of the sovereignty of a sister Arab country and a violation of international pacts and conventions."
The statement deemed it more prudent to have conducted a transparent and objective investigation by the International Agency for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, followed by the adoption of a UN legitimate resolution by the international institutions before the implementation of any military strike.
Moreover, the Foreign Ministry statement highlighted Lebanon's continuous support to prohibiting the use of chemical weapons by any side and punishing its users; as well as preventing the possession of all types of mass destruction weapons and their use in any military confrontation, especially nuclear weapons specifically owned by Israel.

Sounds of Strikes on Syria Heard in Lebanese Border Region

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 14/18/Night air strikes conducted by the United States, Britain and France on Syria on Saturday could easily be heard in Lebanon’s border region in Bekaa, LBCI television reported.
Residents of border areas near Syria said they were able to hear the blasts and shelling through the night. The United States, Britain and France carried out a wave of punitive strikes against Bashar al-Assad's Syrian regime on Saturday in response to alleged chemical weapons attacks that President Donald Trump branded the "crimes of a monster." As Trump embarked on a White House address to announce the action -- taken in defiance of Russia's threat to respond -- explosions were heard in the Syrian capital Damascus.
The strikes hit three targets near Damascus -- a scientific research center, a storage facility and command post -- and a chemical weapons storage facility near Homs. Syrian surface to air missile batteries had attempted to fire back, but there were no initial reports of allied losses, reports said. Syrian state media said air defenses were activated to block the attack as it published images of smoke clouds hanging over the capital.

Aoun: Lebanon Refuses All Forms of Aggression against Arab States
Naharnet/April 14/18/After the Western strike on Syria at dawn on Saturday, President Michel Aoun said the attack "will not contribute" to a political solution for the Syrian crisis, stressing that Lebanon “refuses hostility against Arab states no matter what the reasons were.”“What happened in Syria today at dawn doesn’t contribute to finding a political solution for the Syrian crisis. Dialogue is necessary to stop deterioration, and end outside interference that have further complicated the crisis,” the Presidency media office quoted Aoun on Twitter. The President added: “Lebanon refuses attacks at any Arab state no matter what the reasons were. The latest developments in Syria will only involve world powers in the Syrian crisis.”The United States, Britain and France carried out a wave of punitive strikes against Bashar Assad's Syrian regime on Saturday in response to alleged chemical weapons attacks that President Donald Trump branded the "crimes of a monster."The strikes hit three targets near Damascus -- a scientific research center, a storage facility and command post -- and a chemical weapons storage facility near Homs. Syrian surface to air missile batteries had attempted to fire back, but there were no initial reports of allied losses, reports said. Syrian state media said air defenses were activated to block the attack as it published images of smoke clouds hanging over the capital.

AMAL Says Western Attack at Syria ‘Violates International Law’
Naharnet/April 14/18/The AMAL Movement politburo issued a statement Saturday, condemning the joint Western attack at Syria, and describing it as “flagrant violation of international law, and a blatant attack on the Syrian state, the founding member of the United Nations.”The statement said: “The tripartite aggression opens the door wide to make the region a war zone which could have serious consequences on international peace and security. “Amal movement and all honorable people can not dissociate themselves from targeting Syria, mainly that this aggression affects the Middle East, and dubiously coincides with the liberation of large areas of Syria’s geography of the power of terrorism,” added the statement. The “dubious” Western attack at Syria comes as “Lebanon and Iraq are trying to achieve their legislative entitlements, and at a time when Palestinian people embark on emphasizing their right to return and establish an independent state (of Palestine) with Jerusalem as its capital,” added the statement.

Hizbullah Says US War on Syria 'Will Not Achieve Its Aims'
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 14/18/Lebanese movement Hizbullah sharply condemned the barrage of US, French, and British air strikes on its ally Syria on Saturday, saying they would not achieve their objectives. "America's war against Syria, and against the region's peoples and resistance movement, will not achieve its aims," the group said in a statement published on its War Media Channel.

Lebanese Officials Comment on Syria Strikes 14/18/President Michel Aoun on Saturday condemned the U.S.-led strikes on Syria, saying that it doesn't contribute to finding a political solution to the crisis which has been raging for almost eight years.
In a statement released by his press office, President Aoun said that the strikes hinder all attempts to end the suffering of the Syrian people, warning that it may exacerbate the already-complicated situation in the region.
"Lebanon, which rejects foreign attacks on any Arab country regardless of the reasons, sees that the latest developments imply more involvement of the major powers in the Syrian crisis," the president said.
Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri commented on the strikes using a poem written by Mohammad Mahdi Al-Jawahiri in celebration of Damascus.
Lebanon’s Foreign Ministry also denounced the strikes, which represent a "blatant attack on the sovereignty of an Arab country and an encroachment on international treaties and norms."
"Lebanon's position was and is still against the use of chemical weapons [...] as well as against the use and acquisition of all kinds of mass destruction weapons, notably the nuclear arms possessed by Israel," the ministry said in a statement.
For his part, Defense Minister Yaacoub Sarraf condemned the strikes as a “flagrant violation" of international laws, stressing Lebanon’s utter rejection of the violation of its national sovereignty by using its airspace to attack Syria.
“This will drag Lebanon into the Syrian war, rather than helping it dissociate itself," Sarraf said. Moreover, Hezbollah condemned the strikes, saying they would not achieve their objectives.“America’s war against Syria, and against the region’s peoples and resistance movement, will not achieve its aims,” the group said in a statement published on its War Media Channel.

Sami Gemayel Urges Accountability in Upcoming Elections 14/18/Kataeb leader Samy Gemayel on Saturday stressed that the party's electoral consists of 131 steps aimed at developing and modernizing our country, calling on the Lebanese to vote for a project and enforce accountability."On May 6, hold those who disappointed them to account," he said during a meeting with the Kataeb partisans in Hamlaya and Kennaba.

Mustaqbal Supporters Clash with Zuheiri's Bodyguards in Barbir
Naharnet/April 14/18/A clash erupted Friday in Beirut's Barbir area between supporters of al-Mustaqbal Movement and the bodyguards of the businessman Raja al-Zuheiri, who is running for the Druze seat in Beirut's second electoral district. Zuheiri is a member of the Beirut Dignity electoral list, which is led by former judge Khaled Hammoud. Al-Jadeed television said the clash broke out as Zuheiri was visiting a fellow candidate, Mohammed Kheir al-Qadi, in Barbir's al-Arab neighborhood. “The clash involved gunfire and witnesses from the area said it came from Zuheiri's bodyguards. Young men from the area who support al-Mustaqbal Movement meanwhile encircled al-Qadi's house and hurled stones and empty bottles at it,” al-Jadeed added. LBCI TV said the clash erupted when Mustaqbal's supporters asked Zuheiri to leave the neighborhood.
“Gunfire ensued, which prompted the army to intervene and evacuate Zuheiri from the house he was hiding in,” LBCI added. Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq meanwhile tweeted that he was following up on the incident with Army Commander General Joseph Aoun and Internal Security Forces chief Maj. Gen. Imad Othman. “Security is a red line and no one is above the law – neither candidates nor their bodyguards,” Mashnouq added.

Riachi says Publications Court was found to sue media professionals and not to arrest them, rejects tradeoff between freedom and judiciary

Sat 14 Apr 2018/NNA - Information Minister Melhem Riachi stated Saturday that the "Court of Publications was established to sue media figures and not to arrest them," voicing his refusal of exchanging freedom for justice or any other. Riachi's words came during his patronage of the book signing of Ralph Charbel's new novel, "Story of Passion", held at Saint Joseph Institute in Aintoura this evening. "Any infringement of liberty is forbidden," stressed Riachi, adding that it is the victim's right to resort to the judiciary, and that we are all subject to the authority of the law on this basis. The Information Minister highlighted the dire need of working collectively as a "one team" in Lebanon, away from selfishness, to raise politics to its standard of importance and sanctity. Riachi concluded by praising the work of Writer Ralph Charbel and "all those who write in this time of decadence in which we live, because their works penetrate a wall of ignorance and cultural illiteracy, building for a future cultural renaissance."

Jumblatt: No value to strikes on Syria in the absence of a political solution based on transitional authority
Sat 14 Apr 2018/NNA - "There is no value to the air strikes on Syria as long as there is no parallel political solution based on the adoption of a transitional authority and accountability of those responsible for war crimes," said Democratic Gathering Chief, MP Walid Jumblatt, via Twitter on Saturday. "This requires an international consensus which is missing today," he added. "Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of Syrians are being displaced, their property confiscated and their lands seized," stated Jumblatt regretfully.

Ezzeddine heads to Baghdad to attend a conference on fighting corruption

Sat 14 Apr 2018/NNA - State Minister for Administrative Development Affairs, Enaya Ezzeddine, left Beirut on Saturday heading to the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, to partake in the sixth Ministerial Conference of the Arab Network for the Promotion of Integrity and Combating Corruption. The Conference will focus on fighting corruption in the service of human security, with the participation of the Supreme Disciplinary Board, the Supreme Court of Justice and the Lebanese Transparency Association. Ezzeddine will deliver a word on Lebanon's most important achievements in this field and the steps that the Lebanese State intends to take in the future.

Rahi meets with Army Commander: Military Institution remains the guarantee of all Lebanese
Sat 14 Apr 2018/NNA - Maronite Patriarch Cardinal Bechara Butros al-Rahi praised Saturday the role of the Lebanese Army, stressing that it will always remain the sole guarantor of all the Lebanese. "This institution has always been and will remain the guarantee and hope of all the Lebanese without exception, in light of its long history of defending the nation and its invaluable sacrifices for the sake of preserving Lebanon's message, civilization and coexistence," said al-Rahi during his meeting with Army Chief General Joseph Aoun earlier today. The encounter was a chance to deliberate over various military and security matters, highlighting the Lebanese Army's readiness to confront any danger threatening the country's security and stability. The Patriarch emphasized the importance of "boosting the Lebanese youth's national belonging and strengthening their faith in the country, so as to encourage them to volunteer in the military and security institutions that remain the greatest guarantors of their future."
Political Tension Among Lebanon’s Druze Spills onto the Streets
Beirut - Paula Astih/Asharq Al-Awsat/Saturday, 14 April, 2018/Supporters of MP Walid Jumblat’s Progressive Socialist Party and others from the Tawheed Party of former minister Wiam Wahhab have clashed as a result of electoral tension among Lebanon’s Druze community. No such skirmishes - resulting from political disputes among the leaders of the Druze sect - had been recorded in the past few years. But the situation changed this week as quarrels among Druze party leaders moved to the streets of Druze-majority villages in the electoral district of Shouf in Mount Lebanon. Reports said that clashes erupted between supporters of Jumblat and Wahhab after the Tawheed chief’s photos were removed from several Shouf areas. One of the perpetrators was arrested amid an exchange of fire, before the Lebanese Army intervened to bring the situation under control. Jumblat and Wahhab were quick to contain the dispute and defuse tension. The PSP leader said he was against his supporters removing the photos of rival candidates. “Leave them and ignore them. Only the preferential vote would decide the winner,” Jumblat wrote in a tweet in reference to the electoral law. For his part, Wahhab called for calm and urged his supporters not to provoke disputes over a photo. The former minister added that winning seats was not worth a drop of blood. Other intra-Druze disputes erupted in Lebanon early this week after Minister Talal Arslan, the leader of the Lebanese Democratic Party, wrote a letter to Jumblat in which he said the PSP leader had gained his force by ruling a weak community through intimidation. “No need to enter in disputes with the Emir of preaching and rhetoric,” Jumblat responded to Arslan on his Twitter account. The widening differences among Druze leaders come three weeks prior to the parliamentary elections. In the Shouf electoral district, six lists are competing for the May 6 polls after political forces failed to agree on forming a consensual list.
Aoun, Lebanese leaders criticize Syria missile strikes
The Daily Star/April 14, 2018/BEIRUT: President Michel Aoun and other top Lebanese politicians spoke Saturday against early morning strikes conducted by the United States, France and Britain against the Syrian government, with most denouncing the move as a potentially dire misstep. The strikes “do not contribute to a political solution” in Syria, Aoun said in a statement released by his press office Saturday afternoon. The “tripartite” decision to fire on Syrian army bases and a research center “impedes all ongoing attempts to end the suffering of the Syrian people,” Aoun added, warning that the strikes would further entangle world powers in Syria’s civil war. Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri responded to the strikes in a Saturday morning statement that was almost entirely comprised of a poem celebrating Damascus’s endurance. “God had mercy on [the famed Iraqi poet] Mahdi al-Jawhari when he said: ‘Damascus is steadfast in the face of affliction’,” Berri’s statement read. Defense Minister Yaacoub Sarraf followed suit Saturday afternoon, condemning the strikes as a “flagrant violation of international law.” Sarraf “affirmed Lebanon’s categorical rejection of the violation of its national sovereignty by using its airspace to attack Syria,” a statement released by his press office read. “This will drag Lebanon into the [Syrian] war, rather than helping it to distance itself.” Prime Minister Saad Hariri had yet to release an official response to the strikes, as of Saturday afternoon. The politicians’ comments come after a handful of Lebanese groups – most notably Hezbollah – released statements condemning the strikes. Berri's Amal Movement expressed its condemnation of the strikes in a statement released Saturday morning. The missile strikes followed a suspected chemical attack last weekend by Syrian government forces in the eastern suburbs of Damascus, which killed dozens of people in a holdout pocket of opposition control. Following the deadly attack, U.S. president Donald Trump threatened via a Twitter post to fire missiles at Syria in response.
The American Mideast Coalition for Democracy (AMCD) Supports Pompeo for Secretary of State..The right man at the right time.
التحالف الأميركي الشرق أوسطي للديموقراطية يؤيد اختيار مايك بومبيو وزيراً للخارجية الأميركية

WASHINGTON, DC, USA, April 12, 2018 -- The American Mideast Coalition for Democracy (AMCD) fully supports President Trump’s pick for Secretary of State, CIA Director Mike Pompeo. Not only is Director Pompeo eminently qualified for the job, having held important posts all across the government, but more importantly, he is much more closely aligned with President Trump’s overall foreign policy on major issues which is shared by AMCD.
“It is urgent that the Senate confirm Mike Pompeo as quickly as possible,” said AMCD President John Hajjar. “Our country is facing a severe test with North Korea and Iran both racing to acquire nuclear first-strike capability. With the situation in Syria reaching a crucial juncture with Russia, the Senate needs to act quickly on this important nomination.”
“Mike Pompeo is a pragmatic and strategic thinker much like President Trump,” added AMCD Co-Director Tom Harb. “Along with UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, Defense Secretary James Mattis and National Security Advisor John Bolton, Director Pompeo will implement Trump’s primary foreign policy vision which is peace through strength.”
“Iranian aggression abroad and oppression at home must be strongly countered,” said Iranian-American AMCD Vice President, Hossein Khorram. “I think Pompeo as Secretary of State will bring a strong commitment to those goals. He was a vocal critic of the Iran Deal and supports the President’s plan to eventually scrap it. All Iranians yearning for freedom from Islamist oppression should take heart with this nomination.”
AMCD calls on the Senate to quickly move Director Pompeo’s nomination forward and to confirm him as US Secretary of State as soon as possible. Our country’s future and indeed, the future of the world is at stake.
*Rebecca Bynum
*The American Mideast Coalition for Democracy/(615) 775-6801

Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on April 14-15/18
UN Security Council fails to adopt Russian resolution on Syria
Reuters, UN/ Saturday, 14 April 2018/The United Nations Security Council failed to adopted a Russian-drafted resolution on Saturday that would have condemned “the aggression against the Syrian Arab Republic by the U.S. and its allies in violation of international law and the UN Charter.”
Only Russia, China and Bolivia voted in favor of the draft resolution. Eight countries voted against the draft, while four abstained. A resolution needs nine votes in favor and no vetoes by Russia, China, France, Britain or the United States to pass. The UN Security Council met Saturday at Russia’s request to discuss air strikes launched by the United States, France and Britain on Syria in response to a suspected chemical weapons attack.UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres briefed the council during the public meeting and said in a statement earlier that all countries should “show restraint in these dangerous circumstances and to avoid any acts that could escalate the situation and worsen the suffering of the Syrian people.”Western officials said a barrage of cruise and air-to-land missiles hit what they said were sites linked to chemical weapons development. The one-night operation hit three targets: a scientific research facility in the Damascus area, a chemical weapons storage site west of the city of Homs and a command post near Homs, the US military said. Russia has warned that any military action against Syria would be in violation of international law as it was carried out without UN Security Council approval.
At a council meeting on Friday, the United States, Britain and France made the case for military action, arguing that President Bashar Assad’s forces had used toxic gases multiple times in violation of international law. Russia countered that their action was aimed at overthrowing Assad and keeping Moscow’s influence in check.

If Syria uses toxic gas again, U.S. 'locked and loaded': U.N. envoy Haley
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters)April 14/18/ The United States is "locked and loaded" to strike again if Syria's President Bashar al-Assad's government again uses chemical weapons, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley told the Security Council on Saturday. "We are confident that we have crippled Syria's chemical weapons program. We are prepared to sustain this pressure, if the Syrian regime is foolish enough to test our will," she said. "If the Syrian regime uses this poison gas again, the United States is locked and loaded," Haley said.
(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by David Gregorio)

Trump staking claim of 'Mission Accomplished' in Syria
WASHINGTON (AP)/April 14/18/ — Allied missiles struck at the heart of the Syrian chemical weapons arsenal, aiming to punish the Assad government for a suspected poison gas attack against civilians and deter the possible future use of such banned weapons. Pentagon officials said the assault pummeled, but did not eliminate the Syrian program. "A perfectly executed strike," President Donald Trump tweeted Saturday in the aftermath of his second decision in just over a year to attack Syria. "Could not have had a better result. Mission Accomplished!"His choice of words recalled a similar claim associated with President George W. Bush following the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. Bush addressed sailors aboard a ship in May 2003 alongside a "Mission Accomplished" banner, just weeks before it became apparent that Iraqis had organized an insurgency that tied down American forces for years.
Syria's chief allies, Russia and Iran, called the use of force by the United States, Britain and France a "military crime" and "act of aggression" with the potential to worsen a humanitarian crisis after years of civil war. The U.N. Security Council was meeting at Moscow's request. "Good souls will not be humiliated," Syrian President Bashar Assad tweeted, while hundreds of Syrians gathered in Damascus, the capital, where they flashed victory signs and waved flags in scenes of defiance after the one-hour barrage launched Friday evening (early Saturday in Syria). The strikes "successfully hit every target," Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White said at a briefing. The Pentagon said there were three targets: a chemical weapons research and development site in the Damascus area, a chemical weapons storage facility near Homs and a chemical weapons "bunker" a few miles from the second target.
By late Saturday in Washington, more than 12 hours after the attack, neither Syria nor its Russian or Iranian allies had retaliated, Pentagon officials said.
Disputing the Russian military's contention that Syrian air defense units downed 71 allied missiles, Marine Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, director of the Joint Staff at the Pentagon, said no U.S. or allies missiles were stopped. He said Syria's air defenses were ineffective and that many of the more than 40 surface-to-air missiles fired by the Syrians were launched after the allied attack was over. He said the U.S. knew of no civilians killed by allied missiles. McKenzie said 105 U.S. and allied missiles were fired, of which 66 were Tomahawk cruise missiles launched from aboard three Navy ships and one Navy submarine. U.S., British and French attack aircraft, including two U.S. Air Force B-1B strategic bombers, launched advanced missiles from outside Syrian airspace, officials said.
A global chemical warfare watchdog group said its fact-finding mission would go as planned in Douma, where the apparent use of poison gas against civilians on April 7 that killed more than 40 people compelled the Western allies to launch their attack. Syria has denied the accusation.
But France's foreign minister said there was "no doubt" the Assad government was responsible, and he threatened further retaliatory strikes if chemical weapons were used again, as did Pentagon chief Jim Mattis, who said the assault was a "one-time shot," as long as chemical weapons weren't used again.
NATO representatives planned a special session to hear from U.S., British and French officials.
Pentagon officials said the attacks targeted the heart of Assad's programs to develop and produce chemical weapons, and delivered "a very serious blow," McKenzie said. Assad's Barzah research and development center in the Damascus area was destroyed, the general said. "It does not exist anymore," he said, while noting that some facilities associated with the Syrian chemical weapons enterprise were not targeted and thus remain available to Assad.
Trump said the U.S. was prepared to sustain economic, diplomatic and military pressure on Assad until he ends what Trump called a criminal pattern of killing his own people with internationally banned chemical weapons. That did not mean military strikes would continue; in fact, Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said no additional attacks were currently planned. Russian leader Vladimir Putin reaffirmed the Kremlin's skepticism about the allies' Douma claim, saying Russian military experts had found no trace of the attack. He criticized the U.S. and its allies for launching the strike without waiting for international inspectors to visit the area. But British Prime Minister Theresa May cited reports she said indicated the Syrian government used a barrel bomb — large containers packed with fuel, explosives and scraps of metal — to deliver the chemicals. "No other group" could have carried out that attack, May said, adding that the allies' use of force was "right and legal."
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the West's response was "necessary and appropriate."
Mattis said Thursday evening that the U.S. had not yet confirmed that the Douma attack -- the most recent suspected Syrian chemical weapons attack, on April 7 -- included the use of sarin gas. He said at least one chemical was used — chlorine, which also has legitimate industrial uses and had not previously triggered a U.S. military response.
He said the targets selected by U.S., British and French officials were meant to minimize civilian casualties.
"This is difficult to do in a situation like this," he said, in light of the volatility of chemical agents.
Defense officials from the countries involved in the attack gave differing accounts of how much warning was given to the Russians, Syria's powerful ally.
Dunford said the U.S. did not coordinate targets with or notify the Russian government of the strikes, beyond normal airspace "de-confliction" communications. But the description from an ally put things differently. French Defense Minister Florence Parly said that "with our allies, we ensured that the Russians were warned ahead of time."
British leader May said in London that the West had tried "every possible" diplomatic means to stop Assad from using chemical weapons. "But our efforts have been repeatedly thwarted" by Syria and Russia, she said.
The Syrian government has repeatedly denied any use of banned weapons.
The decision to strike, after days of deliberations, marked Trump's second order to attack Syria. He authorized a barrage of Tomahawk cruise missiles to hit a single Syrian airfield in April 2017 in retaliation for Assad's use of sarin gas against civilians. Trump chastised Russia and Iran for supporting "murderous dictators," and noted that Putin had guaranteed a 2013 international agreement for Assad to get rid of all of his chemical weapons.
White, the Defense Department spokeswoman, said the strikes did not "represent a change in U.S. policy or an attempt to depose the Syrian regime." But, she said, "We cannot allow such grievous violations of international law."

World leaders react to joint Syria airstrikes
Sky News/April 14/18/World leaders react to the airstrikes in Syria carried out by the US, UK and French forces following the latest in a series of alleged chemical attacks by Bashar al Assad's regime.
:: Syria
In a statement, Damascus branded the move illegal. Its foreign ministry said: "The Syrian Arab Republic condemns in the strongest terms the brutal American-British-French aggression against Syria, which constitutes a flagrant violation of international law."
:: Russia
The Kremlin strongly denounced the missile strikes and said it was calling an emergency session of the UN Security Council. In a statement, it said: "Russia severely condemns the attack on Syria where Russian military are helping the lawful government in the fight with terrorism."
:: Iran
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader, branded Donald Trump, Theresa May and Emmanuel Macron "criminals" following the joint military operation.
"The attack this morning against Syria is a crime," he said. "The American President, the French President and the British Prime Minister are criminals, they will gain nothing from it."
:: Iraq
The Iraqi Foreign Ministry has said the airstrikes in Syria could allow terrorism to expand in the region and branded the move a "very dangerous development".
It said: "Such action could have dangerous consequences, threatening the security and stability of the region and giving terrorism another opportunity to expand after it was ousted from Iraq and forced into Syria to retreat to a large extent."
:: Qatar
A statement released by the country's official news agency expressed support for the military action to stop further chemical attacks in Syria.
:: Turkey
Ankara hailed the move before accusing the Syrian regime of "crimes against humanity".Its foreign ministry said: "We welcome this operation which has eased humanity's conscience in the face of the attack in Douma."
:: What did military action hit?
:: China
China said it was "opposed to the use of force" and called for a political solution and a a "return to the framework of international law".
:: Germany and others in Europe
German Chancellor Angela Merkel welcomed the move and said the strikes were a "necessary and appropriate military intervention". The Netherlands, Spain, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia and Czech Republic have all defended the airstrikes.
:: EU
Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, said the European Union "will stand with our allies on the side of justice". "Strikes by US, France and UK make it clear that Syrian regime together with Russia & Iran cannot continue this human tragedy, at least not without cost," he tweeted.
:: Chemical attacks in Syria - A deadly history
Nato Secretary General Jen Stoltenberg said in a statement he backed the US, UK and France in their action "against the Syrian regime's chemical weapons facilities and capabilities". He added: "This will reduce the regime's ability to further attack the people of Syria with chemical weapons."
:: United Nations
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged member states to "show restraint in these dangerous circumstances" and to "avoid any acts that could escalate the situation and worsen the suffering of the Syrian people".

Assad Says Strikes Make Syria Even More Determined to 'Fight Terrorism'
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 14/18/Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said Western strikes on government military installations Saturday only made him more keen to fight back against his opponents, in comments published by his office. "This aggression will only make Syria and its people more determined to keep fighting and crushing terrorism in every inch of the country," Assad, in his first reaction to the strikes, told his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani.

Iraq Says Western Strikes on Syria Could Aid Jihadists
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 14/18/Iraq warned that Western air strikes Saturday on Syria were a "very dangerous" development that could fuel a jihadist resurgence in the region. A statement by foreign ministry spokesman Ahmad Mahjoub said the strikes' "consequences threaten the security and stability of the region". Mahjoub said the raids carried out by the United States, France and Britain were "a very dangerous development... that will provide an opportunity for the expansion of terrorism after it was destroyed in Iraq and largely pushed back in Syria". He said the ministry was "worried" and called for a "political solution that would satisfy the aspirations of the Syrian people".
Iraq's foreign ministry also called on an Arab League summit to be held on Sunday in Saudi Arabia to "adopt a clear position concerning this dangerous development". The Iraqi government declared victory over the Islamic State group, which it considers a terrorist organisation, in December after pushing IS jihadists out of their final holdouts along the border with Syria. But the group retains the capacity to strike despite losing control of vast swathes of Iraqi territory it seized in 2014 and still clings to pockets of desert in war-torn Syria.

Syria Rebels Say Western Strikes 'Farce' as Long as Assad Stays
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 14/18/A prominent Syrian rebel faction said on Saturday that Western strikes against government positions were a "farce" as long as President Bashar al-Assad remained in power. "Punishing the instrument of the crime while keeping the criminal -- a farce," wrote Mohammad Alloush, a key member of the Jaish al-Islam rebel group. Jaish al-Islam was in control of the town of Douma, the site of the alleged chemical attack that prompted Western military action.

Syria Strikes Send 'Clear Message' on Chemical Weapons, Says British PM
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 14/18/Air strikes by Britain, France and the United States in Syria sent a "clear message" against the use of chemical weapons, British Prime Minister Theresa May said on Saturday. "This collective action sends a clear message that the international community will not stand by and tolerate the use of chemical weapons," May told a press conference. She said that at an emergency cabinet meeting in London on Thursday "we agreed that it was both right and legal to take military action" after hearing legal advice. "I believe that the action taken will have significantly degraded the Syrian regime's ability to use chemical weapons," she said. "While the full assessment of the strike is ongoing, we are confident of its success," she added. Four British fighter jets struck a military base near Homs where Britain said Syrian government forces were holding chemical weapon components.
"We have hit a specific and limited set of targets," she said. Asked why she had proceeded without consulting parliament, May cited operational security consideration. "It was right to take the action that we have done in the timing that we have done," she said. May said she would address parliament on Monday about the strikes.

Moscow: Over 100 Missiles Fired at Syria, 'Significant Number' Intercepted
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 14/18/The US and its allies fired more than 100 cruise missiles at Syria, a significant number of which were intercepted by Syrian air defences, the Russian defence ministry said Saturday.
"More than 100 cruise missiles and air-to-land missiles were fired by the US, Britain and France from the sea and air at Syrian military and civilian targets," the ministry said in a statement quoted by RIA Novosti news agency, adding that "a significant number" were shot down by Syrian air defences. It said that 12 cruise missiles were fired at an airfield close to Damascus and all were intercepted by Syria's air defences. "Russian air defence systems located on Syrian territory have not been used to counter the missile strikes", it said.
It said earlier that none of the Western strikes in Syria had hit areas covered by Russia's air defences around its Hmeimim air base and naval facility in Tartus.
The Russian military said the missiles were fired from US ships in the Red Sea as well as from tactical aircraft over the Mediterranean and by US strategic bombers from the Al-Tanf base in southeastern Syria. The US, France, and Britain announced a joint operation against Syria's government, a week after an alleged chemical attack outside the capital Damascus that was said to have left more than 40 people dead.

Dhahran Summit to Condemn Turkish Infiltration in Syria, Iraq
League. GIUSEPPE CACACE / AFP/Asharq Al-Awsat/Saturday, 14 April, 2018/Dhahran - Riyadh - Mirza al-Khuwaildi and Sawsan Abu Husain
The 29th Arab League summit will kick off in the Saudi city of Dhahran on Sunday amid several challenges facing the Arab world, mainly in Syria, Yemen and Palestine, in addition to Iranian and Turkish interference. Asharq Al-Awsat received Friday a copy of the draft closing statement and draft resolutions agreed on by Arab foreign ministers following their preparatory meetings held last Thursday in Saudi Arabia ahead of the summit. The interference of several countries, namely Iran and Turkey, in the internal affairs of some Arab countries is among those items. Another item calls on the Arab League to reject the Turkish military operations in Syria’s Afrin and to condemn escalation in the Damascus suburb of Eastern Ghouta. It also asserts respect to safeguarding the sovereignty and unity of Syrian territories. The Arab foreign ministers confirmed their continuous support to the legitimacy of the internationally recognized government of Yemeni President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi against the Iran-supported Houthi militias, with an aim to end the conflict in Yemen and reject any interference in the internal affairs of the country. The ministers also stressed the importance of building relations with Iran based on the principle of good neighborliness and the rejection of force or threat, condemning Iranian meddling in the internal affairs of Arab states. The closing statement of the summit is expected to reflect Arab support for Palestinians. The foreign ministers reiterated that the Palestinian cause remains a central issue for the Arab nation, rejecting the US decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem. They also condemned Turkey’s incursion into Iraqi territories and called for an immediate and unconditional withdrawal. Sunday’s meeting will be the first Arab League summit since Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain cut their diplomatic ties with Qatar 10 months ago and the first since President Donald Trump announced his decision to relocate the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Russia Calls for Security Council Meeting, Warns of Syria Strikes’ Destructive Influence
Asharq Al-Awsat/Saturday, 14 April, 2018/Russian President Vladimir Putin denounced on Saturday raids carried out by the US, France and the UK as aggression that will make the humanitarian crisis in Syria worse and called for an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council. Putin said that the strikes had a "destructive influence on the entire system of international relations.""Without the sanction of the UN Security Council, in breach of the UN charter and the norms and principles of international law, an act of aggression was committed against a sovereign state," the Kremlin said earlier. Pentagon officials said the attacks targeted the heart of Bashar Assad's programs to develop and produce chemical weapons. The three countries launched the military strikes to punish Assad for an apparent chemical attack against civilians in Douma and to deter him from doing it again, US officials said. The Russian military said the Western allies fired 103 cruise missiles including Tomahawk missiles at Syria but that Syrian air defense systems managed to intercept 71 of them. "All together, 103 cruise missiles were deployed," senior military officer Sergei Rudskoi said at a briefing in Moscow. "Seventy-one cruise missiles were intercepted."After the Western air strikes, Russia may consider supplying S-300 missile systems to Syria and other countries, Rudskoi said. The situation in Damascus and other towns and cities in Syria is calm now, he added. The chairman of the international affairs committee of Russia's upper house of parliament, Konstantin Kosachev, described the air strikes as a groundless attack on a sovereign government, Interfax said. "It's also highly likely an attempt to create complications for the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons mission which was just starting its work in Syria's Douma, or an attempt to completely derail it," Kosachev was quoted as saying. Putin also reaffirmed Russia's view that a purported chemical attack in Douma that prompted the strike was fake. Putin added that Russian military experts who inspected Douma found no trace of the attack. He criticized the US and its allies for launching the strike without waiting for inspectors from the international chemical weapons watchdog to visit the area.

Israel: Syria Strikes an ‘Important Signal’ to Iran
Asharq Al-Awsat/Saturday, 14 April, 2018/Punitive US-led strikes in Syria on Saturday are justified and are an "important signal" to Iran, Syria and Lebanon’s “Hezbollah,” Israeli officials said. "The use of chemical weapons crosses a red line that humanity can no longer tolerate," Yoav Gallant, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's security cabinet, wrote on Twitter. "The American attack is an important signal to the axis of evil - Iran, Syria and Hezbollah," Gallant said. "Last year, President (Donald) Trump made clear that the use of chemical weapons crosses a red line. Tonight, under American leadership, the United States, France and the United Kingdom enforced that line," another Israeli official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. "Syria continues to engage in and provide a base for murderous actions, including those of Iran, that put its territory, its forces and its leadership at risk," the official said. Public radio said that Israel had been informed ahead of time of the strikes that were carried out by the United States, France and Britain in response to the alleged chemical weapons attacks in the rebel-held Damascus suburb of Douma last Saturday. The air strikes at multiple targets began around 9:00 pm Eastern Time (0100 GMT) and saw US, French and British assets firing missiles at the Bashar Assad regime's chemical production facilities. The poison gas attack in Douma killed up to 75 people including children.

Saudi Arabia Expresses Full Support for Raids on Syrian Regime
Asharq Al-Awsat/Saturday, 14 April, 2018/The Saudi Foreign Ministry expressed on Saturday full support for the military operations carried out by the US, UK and France on military targets in Syria, the Saudi Press Agency reported. SPA quoted a ministry source as saying that the raids came in response to the Syrian regime’s continued use of chemical weapons, which are banned internationally, against innocent civilians including women and children. The source said the Assad regime has been committing “heinous crimes” against the Syrian people. The source also held the Syrian regime fully responsible for the US-led raids amid the international community’s failure to take strict measures against it.

Iran Warns of Regional Fallout after Strikes on Syria
Asharq Al Awsat/Saturday, 14 April, 2018/Iran's Foreign ministry on Saturday condemned the US-led attacks on Syria and said Washington and its allies would bear responsibility for the consequences in the region and beyond. "The United States and its allies have no proof and, without even waiting for the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to take a position, have carried out this military attack," said the foreign ministry. The United States, Britain and France carried out a wave of punitive strikes against the Syrian regime in response to alleged chemical weapons attacks in the rebel-held Damascus suburb of Douma last Saturday. They “will assume the responsibility for the regional and trans-regional consequences of this adventurism," the Iranian foreign ministry said in a statement carried by state media. "Iran is opposed to the use of chemical weapons on the basis of religious, legal and ethical standards, while at the same time it ... strongly condemns (using this) as an excuse to commit aggression against a sovereign state," it said. "This aggression is designed to compensate for the defeat of the terrorists" in Eastern Ghouta, an area recently recaptured by regime forces, the ministry added. Iran has been Bashar al-Assad's most supportive ally in the Syrian war. It provides him with military advisers and "volunteer" ground forces. US President Donald Trump warned Russia and Iran on Friday about their association with Assad, as he announced the launch of the retaliatory strikes. In a primetime address from the White House, Trump said: "To Iran and to Russia, I ask: What kind of a nation wants to be associated with the mass murder of innocent men, women and children?"

IEA Says 'Mission Accomplished' for OPEC and Its Allies
London- Asharq Al Awsat/Saturday, 14 April, 2018/OPEC and its allies appear to have accomplished their mission of reducing global oil stocks to desired levels, the International Energy Agency said on Friday, signaling that the market could become too tight if supply remains restrained.
The IEA, which coordinates the energy policies of industrialized nations, said stocks in developed countries could fall to their five-year average - a metric used by OPEC to measure the success of output cuts - as early as May. “It is not for us to declare on behalf of the Vienna agreement countries that it is ‘mission accomplished’, but if our outlook is accurate, it certainly looks very much like it,” the IEA said in its monthly report. Vienna-based OPEC has reduced production in tandem with Russia and other allies since January 2017 to prop up oil prices, which soared above $70 per barrel this month, giving a new boost to booming US output of shale oil. But as oil production has collapsed in OPEC member Venezuela and still faces hiccups in peers such as Libya and Angola, the oil exporter group is producing below its targets, meaning the world needs to use stocks to meet rising demand. On Thursday, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries said in a monthly report that oil stocks in the developed world were only 43 million barrels above the latest five-year average. The Paris-based IEA put the figure at just 30 million barrels as of the end of February. The IEA said that even though non-OPEC output was set to soar by 1.8 million barrels per day this year on higher US production, it was not enough to meet global demand, expected to rise by 1.5 million bpd or around 1.5 percent. OPEC was producing 31.83 million bpd in March, below the call on its crude for the rest of the year at 32.5 million bpd. “Our balances show that if OPEC production were constant this year, and if our outlooks for non-OPEC production and oil demand remain unchanged, in 2Q18-4Q18 global stocks could draw by about 0.6 million bpd,” the IEA said. The figure would represent 0.6 percent of global supply or around half of OPEC’s current production cuts of nearly 1.2 million bpd. The output-limiting pact runs until the year-end. OPEC meets in June to decide its next steps. The organization’s de facto leader, Saudi Arabia, has said it would like the agreement to extend into 2019.

Exclusive: Emirates Group CEO Says Negotiations with US Are Ongoing
Dubai- Jocelyn Elia/Asharq Al Awsat/Saturday, 14 April, 2018/“We hope that the day will come when we will be able to conduct other flights onboard the largest giant to Lebanon,” said Emirates Group CEO Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum on the one-off Emirates Airbus A380 flight from Dubai to Lebanon.Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat from his office at the Emirates Building, which overlooks the Dubai airport runway, the big shot CEO addressed many files, highlighting the first landing made by the world’s largest passenger Airbus, A380, at Beirut's international airport. The trip was organized “to mark the 27th anniversary of the Emirates' launch of services to Beirut.”To that effect, the success of this trip proved the readiness of Beirut’s Rafic Hariri International Airport to receive the double-deck, wide-body, four-engine jet airliner. “Emirates sees the A380 as the future, and the UAE now has 150 double-decker aircraft that fly long distances to places like Sao Paulo, Australia and the United States, Kuwait and Jeddah,” Al Maktoum explained on the Emirates Airline owning the largest number of A380s. The UAE airliner also recently made an additional order, increasing its flock to ensure that the aircraft’s production continues into 2030. He pointed out that “the reason for such an investment in this type of aircraft is driven by supply and demand.”The UAE believes that there has been an increased demand for these flights by its clients since it first flew the Airbus ten years ago. Al Maktoum, also the president of the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority, went on saying that the Dubai-based Emirates airline has undergone significant change over the last 30 years. “Not only in terms of improving the seat size and capacity, but also in terms of flying hours—going from a former peak of 8 hours to 18 hours of non-stop flights.”The CEO also did not rule out the airliner relocating to Dubai's recently opened Al Maktoum International Airport. However, the move will not be made for another eight years, because the current Dubai International Airport has not yet reached its maximum capacity. Dubbed the world’s busiest airport, the Dubai International Airport received 88 million and 200,000 passengers last year alone. It is expected for passenger traffic to hit 119 million passengers. Al Maktoum also described the recent approval earned for the company's flights to Mexico via Madrid as an “achievement under the umbrella of the Open Skies Agreement.” Emirates flies to 159 destinations worldwide and is opting for fresh landing spots, such as Chile in July, and increasing the number of flights to London. While preparations are underway for UAE’s Expo 2020, Emirates Airline is aiming to ensure that as many passengers as possible can reach Dubai to participate in the universal exposition. “There are many programs we are working on now,” said Al Maktoum.
Addressing rising complications caused by new US regulations imposed on Gulf airlines, including reducing the number of flights at some airports and preventing passengers from carrying electronic devices on board, Al Maktoum said: “negotiations are currently underway with the US authorities.”
Pointing out that his company, which senses “a kind of bias directed against it,” seeks to reach an agreement. “The UAE is implementing the Open Skies Act and its airports are receiving four US airlines without any restrictions,” he elaborated.
“We are doing everything we can to reduce the burden on passengers.”As for other obstacles faced by the airliner, Al Maktoum says that the carrier “like any other service provider suffers from high and unstable oil prices-- which in turn affects passengers as ticket prices hike.”
He added that “oil is not the only problem, but also the dollar rate spike, because the company's transactions are dealt in dollars.”The airliner believed the AED one billion loss last year was due to currency fluctuations. More so, the Emirates airliner suffered “security crises in some areas-- buying planes is very expensive, and civil aviation is affected by geopolitical issues.” “But airlines have to adapt to the situation,” explained Al Maktoum. He also pointed out that “competition between airlines is large, and therefore it is necessary to provide additional services that interest all travelers.”
The company recently introduced seat selection services and enabled economic class travelers to visit business class lounges at the airport.
“Competition is very beneficial because it contributes to improving services.”
Flydubai and the Emirates are both state-owned airliners. Flydubai, established 10 years ago, has proved successful over the years. “But the competition between the two carriers is ultimately in the interest of the traveler-- good cooperation between them is also fruitful,” said Al Maktoum. Adding stations reached by flydubai to the stations reached by Emirates, the total number for the latter increases from 159 to 200 stations.“Some stations are covered by flydubai only and vice versa,” explained Al Maktoum. “We do not know what the future holds, but the company must adapt to any situation according to plan and expand the number of stations, allocate budgets of over 100 billion dollars for modern aircraft applications, and revamp the fleet constantly,” he said. He reaffirmed the carrier’s desire to increase the number of flights and to expand further into South and Central America. Concluding his interview, Al Maktoum stressed on the Emirates seeking to go where it hasn't gone yet and to open station in cities not yet reached by the UAE carrier.

Egypt says deeply concerned over military escalation in Syria
Sat 14 Apr 2018/NNA - Egypt said on Saturday it was deeply concerned over a military escalation in Syria which could affect the safety of Syrian people and threaten agreements to curb tension. U.S., British and French forces struck Syria with more than 100 missiles on Saturday, targeting what they called chemical weapons sites in retaliation for a poison gas attack. The White House has accused Syria of being behind the toxic gas assault on April 7 that killed dozens of people in Douma, near Damascus. Without specifically mentioning Saturday's missile strikes, Egypt's foreign ministry said it was deeply concerned "at the current military escalation in Syria". It also rejected the use of internationally banned weapons on Syrian territory and demanded a transparent international investigation. "The Arab Republic of Egypt expresses its solidarity with the brotherly Syrian people in their aspirations to live in security and stability," the ministry said in a statement. It called for a peaceful resolution to the Syrian crisis and efforts to ensure humanitarian aid reaches those affected by the conflict. --- Reuters

Egypt Extends State of Emergency as Soldiers, Militants Killed in Sinai

Asharq Al-Awsat/Saturday, 14 April, 2018/Eight Egyptian soldiers and 14 militants were killed in a confrontation in central Sinai on Saturday, the army said in a statement, as the country extended its nationwide state of emergency for another three months. The military said earlier that 27 militants were killed over the last few days in a sweeping operation launched on February 9 in the Sinai to quash extremists based in the peninsula. Six of the militants were killed by aerial bombardment on their hideouts while 12 died in a shootout with police forces, the military said in a statement. It did not say how the other nine were killed. Security forces also arrested 114 suspects and found and destroyed a training camp which included a shooting range, an obstacle course and an underground conference room, it said. Security forces have sought to quell attacks by an Egyptian extremist group that later declared allegiance to ISIS since 2013. The group has killed hundreds of soldiers, policemen and civilians, mainly in its North Sinai stronghold but also elsewhere in Egypt. The militants have also killed scores of Christians in church bombings and shootings. Meanwhile, the official gazette said that Egypt is to extend its nationwide state of emergency for three months from April 14. Egypt first imposed the current state of emergency in April 2017 after two church bombings killed at least 45 people. It was extended in July and again in October then January. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi issued a decree on Saturday to extend a curfew already in place in a new declaration. The latest extension was to allow security forces to "take (measures) necessary to confront the dangers and funding of terrorism and safeguard security in all parts of the country," the official gazette said.

Exclusive: Haftar Treated in Paris Hospital, Confusion in Libya over Death Rumors
Paris - Cairo - Michel Abou Najm and Asharq Al-Awsat/Saturday, 14 April, 2018/The commander of the Libyan National Army, Field Marshall Khalifa Haftar, is being treated in a hospital in Paris, exclusive sources told Asharq Al-Awsat. The French Foreign Ministry, however, refrained from disclosing any information about Haftar and referred journalists investigating his case, including Asharq Al-Awsat, to the Libyan commander’s office. French media, including Le Monde newspaper and L’Express magazine, have already confirmed the presence of Haftar in a Paris hospital, quoting senior diplomatic sources as saying that the Libyan official was transferred from Amman to Paris on April 10. According to available reports published in L’Express and Le Monde, Haftar had suffered a brain hemorrhage, which necessitated his transfer from the Jordanian capital to Paris by private plane; but the complications were no longer life-threatening. Meanwhile, conflicting reports about Haftar’s health sparked a wave of rumors and speculation in Libya. Egyptian Journalist Mustafa Bakri announced Haftar’s death on his Twitter account, before denying the rumor. He said that he reported the news from the Libyan media. But the Libyan armed forces have remained silent over the health of the marshal, while sources confirmed he was “already receiving treatment in Paris.” Speaking to Reuters, a Libyan source close to Haftar, who asked not to be named, said the commander was expected to return to Libya over the weekend. Other Libyan sources had said that Haftar was flown to Jordan and then France earlier this week. On a different note, more than one million people are in need of humanitarian assistance in Libya, the UN refugee agency said, noting that civilians, especially those who have fled their homes, remain very vulnerable. “1.1 million people, including refugees and migrants, who are the most vulnerable, need humanitarian assistance,” said the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in a statement published late Thursday.

One Killed, Hundreds Injured at Gaza Border in 'Burn Flags Friday'

Gaza - Asharq Al-Awsat/Saturday, 14 April, 2018/One Palestinian was killed and hundreds were injured in confrontations with Israeli soldiers at multiple spots along Gaza’s border with Israel following a third consecutive Friday of protests dubbed “Burning Flag Friday,” in reference to the Israeli blue and white flag. Agence France Presse quoted a spokesperson from the Health Ministry in Gaza as saying that Islam Herzallah, 28, was killed by Israeli troops east of Gaza City. The young man was taken to the Shifa medical center in Gaza city, where he was rushed to surgery but succumbed to his serious wounds. The health ministry said that at least 968 people, including 16 medics and reporters, were wounded by gunfire and tear gas Friday. The ministry said 419 of them were moved to hospitals and medical centers, and 550 received treatment in field clinics and makeshift hospitals near border areas. Israeli soldiers deliberately targeted field clinics with gas bombs, east of Khan Younis, in the southern part of the Gaza Strip, according to the Health Ministry in Gaza. Hamas spokesperson Fawzi Barhoum said Friday's events showed that Israel's attempts to “change the reality” have failed. He added that the burning of Israeli flags is a message to those "who believe in normalization with the occupation and a message to the world that this occupation's presence on the land of Palestine is illegitimate." The Israeli army said that about 10,000 Palestinians protested on Friday along the Gaza border. It added that Palestinians took part in violent protests, with demonstrators throwing an explosive device and firebombs at Israeli troops. The Israeli military also displayed a video footage in which the frontier fence is seen being cut and breached during the recent clashes. In the West Bank, Israeli soldiers also injured 11 Palestinians after the army attacked protesters in Kafr Qalil, in the city of Nablus.

Israel Uses ‘Baseless Legal Interpretations’ to Justify Shooting of Unarmed Gaza Demonstrators- B'Tselem

Ramallah- Asharq Al Awsat/Saturday, 14 April, 2018/Israel is repressing Palestinian protests in Gaza with “unlawful use of lethal force”, using “baseless legal interpretations” to justify this policy, an Israeli human rights group reported as thousands of Palestinians gathered in protest along the Gaza-Israel border on the third Friday of “Great Return March” protests. B’Tselem, an internationally-respected human rights group, published its new position paper entitled " If the heart be not callous: On the unlawful shooting of unarmed demonstrators in Gaza," in which it provided its findings on the events of Friday, 30 March 2018 and analyzed the illegality of the open-fire orders issued to the soldiers. In the paper, B’Tselem describes “Israel’s position that it may use live and potentially lethal fire against unarmed demonstrators who are endangering no one undermines every moral principle, contradicts the provisions of international law and is unlawful.”The NGO adds that “the identity of the demonstrators and their organizational affiliation make no difference; blaming Hamas, as if it were Hamas operatives who shot the demonstrators, is baseless.”None of these justifications, however, pass muster, B’Tselem asserts. “The open-fire policy cannot be dictated by worst-case scenarios that may or may not materialize, nor can the existence of such scenarios justify the widespread shooting of persons who in no way participate in realizing them,” the paper states. "About half an hour before evening prayers, my friend Shihab, who was standing next to me, headed west to buy a slushy from vendors who had come there with their carts. Suddenly I heard live fire and saw Shihab lying injured on the ground, about four meters from me... The minute I saw Shihab lying on the ground, I feared for his life and wellbeing. I also feared for myself, because I realized the soldiers were aiming directly at people, even onlookers or people standing and protesting peacefully," a B’Tselem researcher quoted Mahmoud Wishah, 19, from al-Bureij Refugee Camp as saying in the paper. B'Tselem described the military’s announcement that the general staff investigation mechanism led by Brig. Gen. Motti Baruch will look into the incidents in which Palestinians were killed, focusing on civilian deaths, as "pure propaganda, intended – among other things – to prevent an independent international investigation."
It added: "This mechanism is part of the whitewashing toolkit that the MAG Corps uses to create a semblance of an efficient law enforcement system that works to uncover the truth and ensure accountability. "Given the combination of local public opinion, which ranges from ardent support to indifference, and a judiciary skilled in draining moral rules of meaning and whitewashing crime, it is difficult to imagine the necessary substantive change coming from within Israel. True, many countries violate human rights. Yet Israel is unique in insisting that its unlawful actions are in keeping with international law. This challenges the very foundations of international law – unlike the conduct of states that make no attempt to lend a semblance of legality to their actions. If the international community does not come to its senses and force Israel to abide by the rules that are binding to every state in the world, it will pull the rug out from under the global effort to protect human rights in the post-WWII era. This is not a merely theoretical concern: Until Israel changes its policy, the Palestinians will continue pay for this state of affairs with life and limb."Israeli troops have shot dead 31 Gaza Palestinians and wounded around 1500 since the protests began, drawing international criticism of the lethal tactics used against them. No Israelis have been killed during the demonstrations. The planned six-week protest has revived a longstanding demand for the right of return of Palestinian refugees to towns and villages from which their families fled, or were driven out, when the state of Israel was created 70 years ago. The protest began on March 30 and is expected to culminate on May 15.

Abbas Accuses Israeli Army of Protecting ‘Terrorist Settlers’

Ramallah - Kifah Ziboun/Saturday, 14 April, 2018/Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas condemned on Friday Israeli settlers for torching a mosque in the northern West Bank village of Aqraba before dawn, accusing the Israeli army of providing protection for them to carry out attacks against citizens. "Torching the mosque is a crime. The serious crimes committed by the terrorist settlers are carried out under the eyes and protection of the Israeli occupation forces," Abbas said in a statement. “This is not the first time that settlers burn mosques and churches in the occupied Palestinian territories,” Abbas added. “The incident confirms that these heinous crimes by the terrorist settlers… are being carried out under the eyes of the Israeli army,” he asserted. The Palestinian government will resort to international institutions "to ensure that these terrorists are punished and the holy sites of the Palestinian people are protected," he noted. Israeli settlers set fire to a mosque in Aqraba and sprayed racist slogans on its walls early Friday morning. Security camera footage showed two masked men pouring what seems to be flammable liquid at the entrance to the mosque and setting it on fire before fleeing the scene. Local residents saw slogans reading "Death" and "Price Tag" sprayed on the external walls of the mosque. According to Israel’s Ministry of Public Security (MOPS), at least 53 mosques and places of worship have been desecrated or burned from 2009 to 2017 in the West Bank. The Ramallah-based Palestinian government likewise condemned the attack, accusing its Israeli counterpart of “sponsoring settler terrorism”. “The cabinet of Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu is one of Israel’s most pro-settlement governments ever,” Palestinian government spokesman Yusuf al-Mahmoud said in a statement. He reiterated his call on the international community to "immediately act on the implementation of international laws and provide international protection for the Palestinian people, land and holy sites”.

Saudi Arabia: Lack of UN Resolve Gave Green Light for Iran, Houthis to Stage Violations
London- Badr Al-Qahtani/Asharq Al-Awsat/April 14/18/In a letter to the United Nations Security Council, Saudi Arabia has called for the international body implementing previously made commitments on Yemen's verification and inspection mechanism. Riyadh criticized the Security Council and considered its “inability” to deter Iran’s influence and continued supplying of Houthi militias with ballistic missiles. The Security Council's lack of resolve to act has given Iran and the Houthi militias the green light to commit atrocities in Yemen, the letter said. Saudi Arabia previously sent a letter to the UN Security Council regarding Iranian-Houthi ballistic missiles. The letter was presented by the Permanent Representative of Saudi Arabia to the United Nations Ambassador Abdullah bin Yahya Al-Maalami and was received by the UN Secretary-General and the President of the Security Council. The letter also stated that gaps in the verification system in Yemen allowed Iran to supply ballistic missiles to Houthi militias. Insurgents firing ballistic missiles against populated areas goes against international humanitarian law, the letter added.The letter also quoted undeniable evidence presented by Saudi Arabia and several UN member states demonstrating Iran's support for Houthi terror militias, especially by smuggling ballistic missiles into Yemen, in order to target and undermine Saudi Arabia’s security in flagrant violation of Security Council Resolutions 2216 and 2231. On the other hand, the Saudi-led Arab Coalition also announced that Saudi air defense forces intercepted a ballistic missile fired by Houthi militias targeting residential areas in Jizan. “The missile was fired at Jizan indiscriminately with the aim of hitting civilian areas,” a coalition spokesman told the official Saudi Press Agency. “It was successfully intercepted... and the debris fell on a residential neighborhood... but no casualties or damage was reported.” The missile was launched from Sadaa, the coalition added.

US Calls for Additional Sanctions on Venezuela
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 14/18/US Vice President Mike Pence on Friday called for more sanctions on Venezuela to isolate President Nicolas Maduro and his administration, overshadowing the opening of a summit in Peru with Latin American leaders. Pence urged the extra measures as he met with Venezuelan opposition figures in Lima who called for more sanctions and "intervention" in their crisis-hit country. Maduro was not invited to take part in the summit, which began on Friday but was overshadowed by Pence's calls for sanctions and US-led strikes in Syria, which caused the vice president to abruptly leave the opening ceremony. Most of the countries represented favor strong action against Caracas, though are wary of anything that could increase the flow of Venezuelans leaving their impoverished nation. Pence said the US delegation he was leading at the summit was "bringing a message for additional sanctions, additional isolation, and additional diplomatic pressure -- beginning in our hemisphere, but across the wider world -- to recognize that Venezuela is a dictatorship."The United States already has sanctions in place against Maduro and his top officials, as well as other measures preventing the teetering Venezuelan government and state oil company from accessing international credit through US markets or entities.
Humanitarian funding
So far, Washington has stopped short of imposing an embargo on Venezuelan oil imports -- a measure that would be crippling for Caracas but also damaging to refiners in the US dependent on Venezuela's heavy crude. "We are with the people of Venezuela and will continue to do everything in our power to provide sustenance and support to those who have fled," Pence said. He added that "the US and our allies, I believe, are prepared to do much more." Pence said the United States would give $16 million in extra funding for humanitarian assistance for Venezuelans who have fled. Part of that funding was going to the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR. Hyperinflation, scarcities of basic food and medicine, and skyrocketing violence are gripping Venezuela, prompting a swelling exodus of its citizens that is increasingly concerning the UN. The International Organization for Migration says nearly one million Venezuelans have left the country over the past two years. Many head to Brazil, Colombia and Panama, and often beyond. Pence was filling in for President Donald Trump, who cancelled his trip to the summit to watch over America's response to a suspected chemical weapons attack in Syria, which took the form of punitive strikes against President Bashar al-Assad's regime on Friday. The US vice president's meeting with the Venezuelan opposition included Julio Borges, an opposition lawmaker and former speaker of the National Assembly, David Smolansky, former mayor of the city of El Hatillo, Carlos Vecchio, political coordinator of the Popular Will party he co-founded with opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, and Antonio Ledezma, former mayor of Caracas. Ledezma told Pence: "We ask not only for humanitarian aid, but humanitarian intervention." He urged the US to step up sanctions to "seize planes, yachts, mansions."
More than a dozen Latin American countries have strongly criticized Maduro, accusing him of trampling democracy by sidelining the opposition and appointing a super-legislative body over the heads of the opposition-controlled National Assembly. The countries, collectively named the Lima Group after the location of their first declaration, have vowed not to recognize the results of a May 20 Venezuelan presidential election that the opposition says Maduro has rigged in his favor. Maduro accuses the United States of helping the opposition to undermine his authority by waging what he calls economic "sabotage" in Venezuela.

Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on April 14-15/18
Analysis U.S.-led Attack Can’t Hide Fact the World Has Abandoned the Syrian People
هآرتس الإسرائيلية:الهجوم الذي قادته أميركا أمس على سوريا ليس بقادر على اخفاء حقيقة تخلي العالم عن الشعب السوري
Anshel Pfeffer/Haaretz/April 14/18
Despite Friday’s airstrikes there’s nothing to prevent Assad, after a discreet period of reorganization, from using chemical weapons once again
Even by the highest estimates available, the number of Syrian civilians killed by the Assad regime using chemical weapons – mainly sarin and chlorine gases – does not exceed 4,000. That is less than 1 percent of those who have died over the last seven years in Syria’s war.
In all this time, the United States and its allies have retaliated directly against the regime precisely twice: Following the Khan Shaikhoun sarin attack in April 2017; and now, in response to the chemical bombing of civilians in Douma last weekend.
The isolated nature of these attacks – U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis called Friday night’s strikes a “one-time shot” – highlight the extent to which the world has abandoned the Syrian people.
Syrians can be murdered by their own regime, with the help of Russia, Iran and Hezbollah, by any means possible – including, most of the time, chemical weapons.
Very occasionally, when the pictures of dead children gassed in their homes intrude on Western television screens, a symbolic gesture will be made, but with no follow-up or any real strategy for ending this war and holding Syrian President Bashar Assad to account.
Overnight, American, British and French aircraft and ships launched more than 100 cruise missiles at Syria. They hit eight targets connected to the development and use of chemical weapons, including the Dumayr air base from which the Mi-8 helicopter that is believed to have dropped the bombs containing chlorine and sarin took off last Saturday night.
It is unclear at this point exactly what form of warning the Russian military received in advance of the targets chosen for the attack. But there is no doubt they were among the sites the regime had more than enough time to evacuate essential personnel and equipment from.
In over seven years of war, the regime has become adept at moving its assets around. And since 2013, when it signed the Chemical Weapons Convention – as part of the Russia-brokered deal to prevent an airstrike following the East Ghouta chemical attack – it has got even better at hiding its remaining chemical capabilities from Organization for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) teams.
These capabilities may have been degraded by Friday night’s attacks, but they still exist and can be used again.
There is no reason for Assad not to do so again. Almost everything about the U.S.-led attacks was tailored to tell him and his sponsors he has nothing to worry about.
The missile strikes were carried out without any attempt at challenging or suppressing the Syria and Russian air defense systems. Not one target was chosen that’s connected with the Assad regime’s capability to continue bombing and killing civilians by any conventional means.
At any point in the last seven years, the West could have launched a more comprehensive campaign to take out Syrian air force and artillery bases. No-flight zones could have been imposed over the rebel enclaves, where homes, schools and hospitals are bombed from the air on a daily basis. A clear threat to bring Assad to justice in front of a war crimes tribunal could have been issued.
Any of these steps could have been considered before Russia deployed its aircraft to Syria in September 2015. And even after, the United States and its allies still had the means to do any of this – Russia’s expeditionary force is small and limited, effective only because everyone else has abandoned the Syrian people to its fate.
Assad has used chemical attacks not for direct tactical or military gain. He did it to break the will of those living in rebel enclaves to continue resisting and to ever rise up again.
Some in the West wonder why he would risk using these weapons when, thanks to Russia and Iran, he has overwhelming conventional firepower at his disposal to pulverize civilians in those hold-out areas. But to him, utilizing the terror of a silent weapon, seeping into homes and basements and suffocating entire families, makes perfect sense.
Now, thanks to the nature of the Western attack, Assad may have sustained some damage to his chemical weapons program – but he has had ample time to remove essential components and materials to alternative sites.
Just like the world backed down in 2013 and with the limited response to the 2017 Khan Shaikhoun attack, he has once again received confirmation that the price he has to pay for gassing his own citizens is at most minimal. Certainly nothing that comes even close to jeopardizing his hold on power or slowing his campaign to reestablish control over most of his war-torn country.
There is absolutely nothing to prevent Assad, after a discreet period of reorganization, from using chemical weapons once again.
In 2013, then-President Barack Obama was rightly excoriated for betraying both his own “red lines” statement and the Syrian people, and not responding to the killing of hundreds in East Ghouta. But at least Obama didn’t pretend he wasn’t backing down
Friday night’s attacks, ordered by U.S. President Donald Trump, British Prime Minister Theresa May and French President Emmanuel Macron, will have little effect on the deadly trajectory of the Syrian war. They are not much more than an empty gesture and a symbol of how the West has long ago abandoned the Syrian people.

Sweden's War on Free Speech
Judith Bergman/Gatestone Institute/April 14/18
Apparently, turning in fellow Swedes to the authorities for alleged "hate speech" is now viewed in Sweden as "heroic".
"One can criticize fascism or Nazism, but why not Islam? Why should Islam have any protection status?" — Denny, a 71-year-old pensioner, on trial for "incitement to hatred".
Instead of using its limited resources to protect its citizens against the violent onslaught against them, Sweden is waging a legal war on its pensioners for daring to speak out against the same violent onslaught from which the state is failing to protect them.
According to the Swedish mainstream media, the country has experienced a significant rise in prosecutions for "hate speech" on social media
last year. The organization believed to be largely responsible for this rise is "Näthatsgranskaren" ("The Web Hate Investigator"), a private organization founded in January 2017 by a former police officer, Tomas Åberg, who has taken it upon himself to identify and report to the authorities Swedish individuals whom he and his organization decide are committing thought crimes and "inciting hatred" against foreigners.
Åberg's organization reported no fewer than 750 Swedish citizens in 2017 to the authorities for "web hate". According to Aftonbladet, 14% of the reported cases went on to prosecution of which about 7% -- 77 cases -- led to actual convictions. Most of the people identified and reported by the organization were middle aged and elderly ladies. "The average age is around 55 years", said Åberg, "Young women almost do not appear at all".
According to Aftonbladet, "In his work, Tomas Åberg sees how quickly people are radicalized on the internet and he thinks it's scary. It may begin with statements against foreigners that are within the framework of the law, only to end with serious criminal hatred". ("Hate" is actually not a crime, according to Swedish law; "incitement to hate" is). [1]
Åberg founded the organization with a friend, because, he said, he did not think that "serious internet crimes" were being taken seriously enough in Sweden. "We created our own search application, which finds words and phrases that might be suspected of constituting incitement against ethnic groups and unlawful threats".
At present, the organization consists of 15 people, including police officers, system developers, lecturers, lawyers and social workers, all of whom are anonymous. The organization refuses to identify the people working for it.
Åberg was recently nominated for a prestigious prize, the "Swedish Hero" award, by one of Sweden's largest newspapers, Aftonbladet. Since 2007, the newspaper has awarded the "Swedish Hero" prize every year "to everyday heroes who have shown bravery, civil courage and human compassion". Apparently, turning in fellow Swedes to the authorities for alleged "hate speech" is now viewed in Sweden as "heroic".
Shortly after Tomas Åberg's nomination to the "Swedish Hero" award, however, his name reportedly disappeared from the list of nominees with no explanation offered by Aftonbladet. Åberg, it turned out, who used to own an animal farm, had apparently starved his oxen to death in 2013. After he was reported to the police for the animal abuse, he reportedly changed his name, fled abroad to escape justice, and returned to Sweden only as the statute of limitations on his crime was expiring.
Notably in Sweden, while it is not seen as "compassionate" or "heroic" to starve animals to death, it is viewed as 'heroic' to report elderly citizens to the police for them to be prosecuted and have their lives potentially ruined for voicing their opinions on social media.
Not only does the mainstream media view reporting thought crimes to the media as "heroic"; the Swedish state actively supports it. Åberg's organization received 600,000 Swedish kroner ($73,000) from the Swedish government. This support was motivated by referencing "activities against racism and intolerance".
It is curious that the Swedish state can afford to give more than half a million Swedish kroner away to a private vigilante organization, run by a seemingly shady figure, at a time when the Swedish police are starved for resources and barely have time to investigate the very crimes, including horrific gang rapes, which are causing these 'hateful' social media posts to begin with.
One of the elderly women, whose life Åberg has disrupted and possibly ruined, is a 73-year old woman with no criminal record, who shared an old text from 2015, widely available on the internet and written by someone else, in a small Facebook group of barely 50 people. She has been charged with "incitement against an ethnic group" for sharing the following:
"A biological sensation in Sweden. A new bird species (parasitus muslimus) has established itself here... In recent years, the Arab bird (parasitus muslimus) has been widely spread in northern Europe, largely because it lacks natural enemies here...The female has a comprehensive feather shield, where only the eyes are visible... The male usually has four females... The species is a migratory bird but with the weird feature that they never move back..."
Another woman, 75, was charged with "inciting hatred against an ethnic group" after writing the following about marriage among Muslims on Facebook in May 2017:
"The right to our bodies? Wonder what they mean by that? They say they are not allowed to choose the husband themselves. It must be a cousin, uncle... or maybe a grandfather. Probably they are completely IQ-liberated because inbreeding among Muslims has been going on for thousands of years. "
Yet another woman, Christina, 65, was charged with "inciting hatred against an ethnic group" for writing on Facebook: "If this continues, the intelligence in Sweden will be at goldfish level" and "Refuse all that has to do with Islam". She denies having written those statements but insists that she wishes to warn Swedes against Islam. According to news reports, in 2016 Christina was assaulted by four so-called "unaccompanied minors" (migrants) and knocked unconscious, an act that has impaired her memory. No one was sentenced for that assault, but she now faces financial difficulties and cannot pay her rent. She receives no help from the Swedish state. So far, Christina has reportedly been interrogated six times, for up to two hours each, for her alleged thought crimes, asked about her childhood, and whether she was doing drugs. She has no criminal record.
"It's terrible to feel like a dangerous criminal because you write the truth about what's happening in our society, while rape is high and criminals go free," she told Samtiden. It was someone from Näthatsgranskaren who reported her to the police. She risks being fined or possibly going to jail.
Denny, a 71-year-old pensioner, is currently on trial for "incitement to hatred" for having asked, "One can criticize fascism or Nazism, but why not Islam? Why should Islam have any protection status?"
A 64-year old man was reported to the police by Näthatsgranskaren for encouraging Swedes to learn self-defense. He is now being charged with "incitement to hatred against an ethnic group" for writing on Facebook:
"Before it's too late, I suggest that anyone... who is able to manage to defend this country, joins the shooting clubs, self-defense clubs, karate clubs or anything... Everything is allowed for a Muslim as long as he harasses 'infidels'... a Muslim feels as bad about chopping off a human head as we do about opening a can of sardines".
During interrogations, he reportedly said that he has no intention of hurting anyone and that his post was merely about self-defense. The police questioned him about whether he has anything against Muslims: "I have nothing against Muslims...," he said. "That is not what this is about. It is about Islam and the Koran that does not have the same values as us... It says in the Koran that all infidels must be killed..." He asked the police to deal with imams who preach hatred in the mosques instead.
Even before Åberg's organization came into the picture, Sweden was prosecuting Swedes for "incitement to hate" as if the future of the Swedish state depended on it. Here are a few recent cases:
A 71-year-old woman referred to so-called unaccompanied minors as "bearded children" and said that they are "engaged in rape and demolishing their [asylum] homes". She posted the comment on the Facebook page of the Sweden Democrats in June 2016. In February 2018, a Swedish court sentenced her to a fine for "incitement of hatred against an ethnic group".
During her trial, she said that she had been reading several articles about these purported unaccompanied refugees who "burned down asylum housing and raped and then refused to have their age medically determined in order to escape sentencing".
"It made me terrified," she said, apologizing for her post, which she said was aimed solely at those who commit crimes. The court evidently did not care about the elderly woman's fear, and concluded:
"...the [woman] must have realized that there was an imminent risk that people who read the text would perceive it as an expression of disagreement with other ethnic groups of people in general and the vast majority of single unaccompanied refugees, who, at the time of the comment, had come to Sweden in particular. Despite this, she wrote the comment on Facebook." the co.
A woman in her fifties was sentenced to a fine in December 2017 for a post on Facebook, in which she called men from Afghanistan, who had lied about their age, "camel riders": "These damn camel riders will never be self-sufficient, because they are damn parasites," she wrote. Prosecutor Mattias Glaser emphasized that the post was directed against "young men struggling to stay in the country". According to the court:
"... condescending words were used in a manner that... expressed contempt for people of Afghan origin or people from neighboring areas with respect to skin color and national or ethnic origin in a manner which fits the provision about incitement to hatred".
In November 2017, a 65-year old man was sentenced to a fine for "incitement of hatred against an ethnic group". His crime? Writing on Facebook that, "newly arrived" migrants, not Swedes, were guilty of committing gang rapes. According to the court, the man "claimed that Afghans, Africans and Arabs who have newly arrived in Sweden commit crimes such as gang rapes". This claim, according to the court, constitutes, "clear contempt" for people of the mentioned national origins. The 65-year old man argued that he published the comment because Sweden withholds statistics about the ethnic origins of rapists and that his comment was a way to spread information and start a debate. This made no impression on the court, which concluded: "The post contains a serious accusation that people of certain national origins commit serious crimes and it [the post] cannot as such be considered to arouse or contribute to an objective discussion on the subject."
In February, a 55-year old man was sentenced to a fine for, "incitement against an ethnic group" for writing on Facebook that Sunni Muslims are behind most of the gang crime in Sweden, as well as rapes. "Somalis are Sunni Muslims... they are behind much of the gang crime in Sweden and all the other violence, such as rapes. Afghans are 80% Sunni and they are a damned people!" he wrote.
During the trial, he said he was under the impression that there was freedom of speech in Sweden. "You see this stuff everyday", he said; "gang rapes, shootings, animal abuse and the like and the politicians do not seem able to do anything about it. The police do not do anything either and people get angry". The court concluded:
"... the post expresses that Muslims in general are behind gang crime and rapes in Sweden and is formulated in an offensive manner... the post does not invite a critical discussion about religion, it expresses the exact kind of contempt that the provision about incitement against an ethnic group is aimed at. The defendant is sentenced to 10,000 kroner [$1,200] for incitement against an ethnic group".
The list goes on....
Sweden is being swept by a strong wave of murder, violent assault, rape, gang rape and sexual assault, in addition to the ever-present terror threat. Instead of using its limited resources to protect its citizens against the violent onslaught against them, Sweden is waging a legal war on its pensioners for daring to speak out against the same violent onslaught from which the state is failing to protect them.
**Judith Bergman is a columnist, lawyer and political analyst.
[1] Brottsbalken chapter 16, § 8,1 st, explicitly talks of "incitement" (Swedish: "hets mot folkgrupp") against groups of people defined by their "race, skin color, national or ethnic origin, faith or sexual preference". However, the provision does not criminalize criticism of religion, ideology or ideas.
© 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.

Iran... the Road to Military Rule

Faraz Safaei/Asharq Al-Awsat/April 14/18
Electing a military official for presidency in Iran has turned into a fundamental debate among national political circles. The discussion has headlined many important newspapers over the past few days.
Perhaps the current situation has made the issue of the presidency going to an army figure become more important and expected than ever before. The economic situation in the country is not only about to collapse, but each of the culture, society, family and security faculties of the country have not been excluded from calamity. Iran is on the brink of a complete and utter collapse. At least such an impression is sharply expanding at the level of the political elite. A clear example is seen in statements made by moderate parties.
Iranian conservative pundit and activist Hossein Allahkaram was the first to open up the doors for debate a few days ago on the “need” for a military strategist filling up the post of Iranian president.
Allahkaram founded the ultra-conservative Ansar-e-Hezbollah movement in Iran in the early 1990s.
He launched the organization after returning from fighting in the Iran-Iraq war.
The movement is notorious for leading pressure groups that targeted self-declared moderate presidents in Iran, such as former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and former President Mohammad Khatami.
Ansar-e-Hezbollah soon emerged as one of the most powerful conservative lobbying tools.
After disappearing from the limelight for a while, Allahkaram returned to the forefront last week, lambasting current policies and issuing alarming statements.
“Iranians believe that they have to make a strategic choice in the military heading the government, otherwise the result will only be in nation-wide collapse," Allahkaram said.
Although Allahkaram is not a well-known figure in Iranian politics, he is a specimen testing for the ideology yielded by Iranian ultra-hardliners close to Revolutionary Guard.
By and by, public platforms and institutions, like Iran’s Islamic Azad University are slowly turning into a stronghold for conservatives. Once an unbiased center, the university’s board now is headed by Ali Akbar Velayati, who serves as top adviser on international policy for Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.
Khamenei leads a shadow government against current President Hassan Rouhani and remains in control of most strings of power in the country.
Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, a branch of Iran's Armed Forces founded after 1979 Revolution, answers exclusively to orders from the Supreme Leader.
The “collapse – militarization” cause-effect argument is fueled largely by conservatives who seek further control over government institutions. From their point of view, Iran is on the verge of collapse, and there is no other way to escape this collapse than resorting to the military establishment to distance the country from impending doom.
However, the concept of “militarization” is not new to the country. Iranians strongly remember a century-ago model of Iran that had both supporters and oppressive opponents mimicking today’s regime.
Reza Shah, the Persian monarch who founded the Pahlavi system, at the onset of the 20th century extended his power in a period of time that historical books recall as the time Iran was on the verge of collapse.
Of course, a Republican president with a military background is not limited to the Reza Shah Pahlavi model.
Understanding that Rouhani heads Iran today after previously serving as air defense commander, it is obvious that conservatives seek a military president who is fresh out from the establishment and is overwhelmingly conservative.
Army officials aren’t even qualified in the eyes of conservatives, as they are looking for Iran’s next president among the ranks of Revolutionary Guard Generals.
Consequently, Revolutionary Guard decision-makers will not refuse to be named as candidates for the next round of presidential elections.
But perhaps the issue is not a matter of collapse, at least it is not the main cause of concern among conservatives, especially the Revolutionary Guard.
Observers shed the light in the other direction, proposing the fact that this feared disarray can be stemming from Supreme Leader Khamenei not only being sick, but also old.
Everyone recognizes that he will not be alive for long. With a ruler with the breadth of power as big as Khamenei’s dying, Iran will definitely be witnessing a vicious crisis and competition for the title.
Such a dispute can easily raze Iran to the ground. The Revolutionary Guard, which has shown over the years that it is using Iran as a bastion, is ironically propping itself for the crisis.
But some still consider the escalation of internal strife to be exaggerated, saying that this debate, like others, will be ruled over by the upper hand and exit public circles at the end. Hot topics like this have long been brought into light, to soon be muzzled by the system—such as the debate on changing the political system from a presidential republic system to rule with a Prime Minister as the highest political authority acting under the Supreme Leader.

Is there still time to stop the normalization of chemical weapons?
Dr. Azeem Ibrahim/Al Arabiya/April 14/18
The Assad regime seems to have come to the realization that despite having the support of the Russian air force and Iranian militias, an outright military victory may not be possible against a population which is willing to suffer considerable affliction to see a Syria that is free of the Baathist regime.
With an out-and-out military victory off the cards, Assad also seems to have realized that the only way he can achieve control over Syria in its entirety, is if the population tires of the war believing the cost has become too high and simply surrenders.Therefore, to facilitate and speed up the surrender process the people have to be thoroughly and regularly terrorized. And nothing quite terrorises like sarin gas.
The use of chemical weapons, and possibly nerve agents, is therefore not a tactical battlefield decision which furthers territorial gain but a strategic calculation. The aim is not to kill large numbers of people per se but to kill in the most brutal fashion as a lesson for other Syrians as to what to expect.
Victims lose control over all bodily functions resulting in drooling and foaming at the mouth, vomiting, urination and defecation. The objective is to watch your loved ones slowly lose their dignity before they lose their lives.
A decisive and clear signal must be sent that reverberates around the globe that the use of chemical weapons will never go unchallenged
Chemical stockpile
The UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria believes Assad has used such chemical weapons at least half a dozen times though many NGOs on the ground put the number much higher. Assad it seems did not destroy his chemical weapons stockpile as famously stated by President Obama when he claimed to have achieved a significant triumph by “not following the Washington playbook” and refused to enforce his own red line.
So it is not surprising that Assad feels untouchable. Russia has used its veto for the 12th time to protect Syria from any penalty. Four times it was used to halt UN investigations into the use of chemical weapons and once to thwart sanctions on Syria for using those chemical weapons.
So we now have a situation where the use of chemical weapons is being normalized with the key lesson to all global despots that there will be no international repercussions as long as you have a powerful patron to veto any international consequence.
It’s easy with hindsight to argue counter-facts but this situation was completely avoidable. A retired US Air Force General I spoke to in 2013 told me it would take less than a day for the US to destroy the entirety of Assad’s air force and create a no fly zone putting an immediate end to the barrel bombs which continue to kill indiscriminately.
Safe zone?
A safe zone could also have been established on the Turkish-Syrian border to arrest refugees overflowing into Europe.
Before Russia and Iran entered the Syrian domain, a strong military response to Assad’s brutality would quite likely have forced him to the negotiating table – especially when you consider his regime, according to many insiders, was only weeks away from collapse.
He would have been forced to take the Geneva Peace Talks seriously and could have even been pressured to step down and take a dignified retirement to Latakia province after agreeing a federalized solution similar to Bosnia.
Not ideal, certainly, as there can be no peace without justice but ending the conflict would have required uncomfortable compromises on all sides. Unfortunately, there are no longer any good options. Any military action now has to be calculated with Putin in the equation.
It is highly unlikely Putin would be willing to risk war with the US for Bashar al Assad. Nevertheless, a decisive and clear signal must be sent that reverberates around the globe that the use of chemical weapons will never go unchallenged.

How will the Syria strikes resonate at the Arab Summit?
Nathalie Goulet/Al Arabiya/April 14/18
Last night’s air strikes by the US, France and the United Kingdom have been announced as a response to the chemical weapons attacks that hit the Syrian people last week in Douma. Seven years of deadly conflict in Syria has left thousands of civilians facing indescribable suffering and massacre of innocents.
But is this a proportionate response? Well it is difficult to say but the warning shot is indeed obvious. Its Trump’s America will not be content with “Twitter diplomacy”. This is the second time that the US has intervened in Syria. The previous one was a very limited strike following the Khan Sheikoun episode in April last year.
This time the US is supported by France and the United Kingdom. Emmanuel Macron said it and he did it. The red line of the use of chemical weapons crossed, France intervenes. However, the question that remains unanswered is why today? While the latest chemical attacks date back a few days? What about the timing, preparation and coordination?
Arab Summit
All this might be a coincidence but it is also reasonable to link the timing of the strike with the Arab summit being held today and tomorrow in Saudi Arabia.
This summit, in which Syria is not invited, is expected to meet urgently and might support the strikes and mark the beginning of a new era of foreign policy in the GCC. The attentive spectators of this region who had predicted a confrontation between Iran and Saudi Arabia on an external ground at the end of the year could have made believe that Lebanon would pay for this war, and it is Syria which offers today to Saudi Arabia the opportunity to strike indirectly but surely at the Iranian regime via its allies and ground troops.
The France-UK-US coalition strikes resonate as a counter-power to the talks held for a way out of the Syrian crisis last week in Astana between Presidents Putin, Erdogan and Rouhani. The attentive spectators of this region who had predicted a confrontation between Iran and Saudi Arabia on an external ground at the end of the year could have made believe that Lebanon would pay for this war, and it is Syria which offers today to Saudi Arabia the opportunity to strike indirectly but surely at the Iranian regime via its allies and ground troops
A response to the murderous actions of the Syrian president was also on the agenda of Wednesday’s talks between the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia and Emmanuel Macron.
There is no doubt that at each of the recent GCC diplomatic visits to the West, the officials recalled the dangers resulting from Iran’s policy of interference in the region and in particular in the Syrian file.
Hezbollah would have 5,000 to 8,000 combatants present around Damascus, eastern Ghouta, Aleppo, Kuneitra, near the Golan, and the eastern province of Deir Ezzor. According to information published by Radio France Internationale, Hezbollah and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards evacuated their positions in Al-Chaayrate and T4 military aerodromes in the central province of Homs, where they had deployed a squadron of drones.
Nor would it be surprising that the Arab summit in Saudi Arabia offers GCC and the Arab world a platform to develop its strategy of supporting countries that have intervened in Syria.
Financial and logistical support
It remains to know the reactions of Syria and its allies in the face of the air strikes. The allies of the Syrian regime will count on the weakness in their eyes of the democracies that “clutter” in view of their criteria of institutional processes to engage in a conflict.
In fact, past the shocking images of child victims of chemical attacks, an open conflict in Syria would be a risky and expensive adventure.
Western countries now are openly supported by Saudi Arabia, and can the Arab countries meeting at the summit, go beyond? Can they help break the deadlock of the Security Council to act?
Are they going to finally bury the UN whose inefficiency is well established! While the United Nations does not resolve any conflict - the Middle East has been torn apart for more than a century is proof - the fact remains that it is the only existing international institution.
The illegal war of 2003 in Iraq had given a two-fold stroke of shock to the institution! The intervention in Syria, for legitimate reasons that is apparent for many of us, must be part of a UN framework.
This is undoubtedly the moment to open a new page in the reorganization of this institution which in the present state answers only partially to the needs of a world which has never been so unstable and unpredictable but which has the merit of existing as the fragile bulwark of a moribund state of international law.

Are western strikes a message to Putin, not Assad?
Martin Jay/Al Arabiya/April 14/18
“Half-baked” could be a phrase one might coin while analysing the western airstrikes on Assad’s weapon facilities, which are believed to be linked to the regime’s alleged chemical attacks.
But to put the strikes in context, they are at least more effective at delivering a clear message to Russia that if chemical weapons are used again in Syria, then there will be a coherent military reaction from the US and its allies.
The strikes will not change anything on the ground and not be a game changer in the dynamics of the Syria war. There is still no Syria policy from the US which leaves America’s two key allies in Europe – France and the UK – more confused.
But the strikes do provide some political leverage to the US as, not only did Trump have the support of these two giants in Europe but the decision to make the attacks very precise, on military installations which are exclusively Assad’s, was a smart one – and one that Russia appreciates.
The attacks are largely symbolic and were not designed to change anything. Its timing also cannot be ignored in that it coincides with news of Trump’s own lawyer being investigated for campaign fraud payments – one which includes paying off a porn star to keep quiet about her allegations against the President.
We should also note that Russia informed all Syrian military workers at the sites targeted to leave in good time and that no hardware of the Syrian army was hit – only a weapons storage facility and a research centre.
The critical question now is what does Russia – not Syria – do, given that Putin is a man who cares about his public image and has made bold statements about retaliation
Russia knows it’s a charade
What is important is that Putin has now been sent a message: “don’t go any further” in Syria with chemical weapons. Despite irate responses from Russian officials and ambassadors who were quick to react, my interpretation is that Russia will be pleased with the outcome of the strikes.
Russia was, after all, informed of the precise targets and Putin knows really what Trump is trying to do which is to compound his public image as one of a political nemesis of Obama – and to assert himself in Syria, without actually asserting himself at all. It was very much a charade and the Russians know it.
Crucially what is significant and should stand out is Trump’s support on chemical weapons from France and the UK.
Without London and Paris he could not have gone ahead such strikes and many will wonder just how much of the Russian poisoning debacle involving a double agent who lived in the UK pushed Theresa May over a line, when just 48 hours before she was being reported as saying that UK would require more evidence before launching air strikes.
The critical question now is what does Russia – not Syria – do, given that Putin is a man who cares about his public image and has made bold statements about retaliation – specifically stating he would attack the sources of the strikes.
Putin is spoilt for choice if he wishes to retaliate and also send a message back. It’s unlikely he will do this on a grand scale though as he’s not eager to engage his forces with those of western allies.
Al Tanf base
But US military bases – one near Raqqa in North East Syria and a second pivoted on the axis of Jordan, Iraq and Syrian borders at Al Tanf – may well see an increase in local insurgency.
Given that Al Tanf was a base where rebels were trained both by US and UK soldiers and that in 2017 came under fire from Assad forces (supported by his allies), it might be a campaign which Assad will be more robustly supported in now.
Curiously the strikes drew the support from Turkey’s leader Recep Erdogan. Yet one option to really vex Trump and make a mockery of his Syria policy would be to support Turkey by weakening Kurdish positions held by the so-called SDF, which controls around 20 percent of the country.
This is, after all, Trump’s Achilles Heel in Syria and it will be an attractive target for Russia. Putin can also hit back diplomatically though as buried in the quagmire of somnolent statements was a reference made by Defence Secretary James Mattis who called for the UN peace process in Vienna to be kick started.
Clearly Russia’s own peace processes, which galvanized Iran, Russia and Turkey, have irked Washington. Putin may well opt to breathe new life into them as a counterweight to any new UN momentum.