April 16/2018
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani


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Bible Quotations
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 15-16/18
Former Mossad chief Danny Yatom: We must take the Iranian threats very seriously/Jerusalem Post/April 15/18
Syrian media: Explosions at largest Iranian base in Syria/Jerusalem Post/April 15/18/
Mission Accomplished' in Syria would be blessing for Assad, trouble for Israel/
Jerusalem Post/April 15/18
Turkey's American Hostage - About to be Sentenced for Life/Uzay Bulut/Gatestone Institute/April 15/18
"Why Do They Think Islam Is a Religion of Peace?"/Muslim Persecution of Christians: October 2017/Raymond Ibrahim/Gatestone Institute/April 15/18
What happens after the limited US strike on Syria/Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya/April 15/18
The Dhahran Summit and Tehran/Mohammed Al-Hammadi/Al Arabiya/April 15/18
Zuckerberg congressional hearing: Much more than a trial for Facebook/Mashari Althaydi/Al Arabiya/April 15/18
Europe, Trump and the Iran nuclear deal/Amir Taheri/Al Arabiya/April 15/18
Time for region’s leaders to put Arab interests first/Baria Alamuddin/Arab News/April 15/18

Titles For Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on April 15-16/18
Aoun Urges Riyadh for Initiative to Restore Arab Unity, Dialogue
Al-Rahi Urges Axing Budget Article Granting Residence Permits to Foreigners
U.S.-Led Syria Strike Did Not Violate Lebanon Airspace
Lebanese Officials Condemn Western Strike on Syria
Russia to support Lebanon in refugee return: Russian minister
Nasrallah: A strong presence in parliament, government and state institutions is a guarantee for the resistance and the golden equation
Nasrallah Lambasts U.S.-Led Strikes on Syria
Berri to Expats: Battle Now is Exactly between Sectarianism, Democracy

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on April 15-16/18
Two Christians killed in drive-by shooting outside a church in Pakistan
Saudi King Salman concludes ‘Jerusalem Summit’ in Dhahran
At Arab Summit, Saudi Slams Iran 'Terrorist Acts', U.S. Embassy Move to Jerusalem
Aboul Gheit says current challenges call for dialogue over Arab national security priorities
Saudi Monarch: Palestine and its people are in the hearts of Arabs and Muslims
Abbas: We renew the invitation to all Arabs to visit Jerusalem'
New Western Syria Strikes Would Spark 'Chaos', Putin Tells Rouhani
British PM Faces Backlash for Bypassing MPs on Syria
Netanyahu Warns over Iran after Syria Strikes
Chemical Inspectors to Begin Work in Syria's Douma
After Ghouta, Syria Army to Target Cradle of Revolt in Daraa
Vatican Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran Pierre visits Saudi Arabia
US preparing new sanctions on Russia for covering up Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons: Haley
Israel Says it Destroyed 'Longest and Deepest' Hamas Tunnel in Gaza
Former Mossad chief Danny Yatom: We must take the Iranian threats very seriously
Syrian media: Explosions at largest Iranian base in Syria
France Warns of Humanitarian Disaster in Syria’s Idlib
Despite Constitution Ban, Ba'ath Party Looms over Iraqi Elections
Egyptian Security Official Meets Hamas Leadership in Gaza
Yemeni Govt. Accuses Iran of Pushing Houthis to Escalation
Egypt Court Upholds Life-Imprisonment Sentence against Brotherhood Leader
Russia says will make every effort to improve ties with West

Latest Lebanese Related News published on April 15-16/18
Aoun Urges Riyadh for Initiative to Restore Arab Unity, Dialogue
Naharnet/April 15/18/President Michel Aoun on Sunday led Lebanon's delegation to the 29th Arab League Summit in the eastern Saudi city of Dhahran, where he also held separate talks with Saudi King Salman bin Abdul Aziz and other Arab leaders. Aoun's meeting with the monarch was also attended by Prime Minister Saad Hariri and Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil. “The cause of Palestine has the priority at the heart of the developments and it is the basis of instability in the Middle East,” Aoun said, addressing the Arab summit. He warned that “the Israeli violations of Lebanese sovereignty are continuing without deterrence, in addition to the violation of Resolution 1701 and the use of Lebanon's airspace to bomb Syria, not to mention Israel's continued threats to ignite war.”
Addressing Saudi Arabia, Aoun added: “Today we are on the kingdom's soil and who else can unite the (Arab) family other than its biggest nation?”
“Will an applicable, pioneering initiative be launched from here to restore unity and endorse dialogue as a way to resolve problems, making Article 8 of the charter of our League a binding pledge that obliges each of our countries to truly respect the ruling regimes in the other Arab states by shunning any act aimed at changing them?” the president added.

Al-Rahi Urges Axing Budget Article Granting Residence Permits to Foreigners

Naharnet/April 15/18/Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi on Sunday reiterated his warning over a state budget article granting residence permits to Arabs and foreigners who buy apartments in Lebanon. “The Lebanese remain concerned over the impact of Article 49 of the state budget which grants a residence permit to every Arab or foreigner who buys an apartment in Lebanon,” al-Rahi said in his Sunday Mass sermon. “He and his wife and minor children would benefit from this residence permit and the subsequent rights, which all would come at the expense of the Lebanese people,” the patriarch cautioned. He called for “abolishing this article and amending and suspending the foreign ownership law,” noting that the numbers of Arabs and foreigners “have currently exceeded half of Lebanon's people.”“The current situations do not allow granting any residence permits, citizenship or naturalization,” the patriarch warned.

U.S.-Led Syria Strike Did Not Violate Lebanon Airspace
Naharnet/April 15/18/Missiles fired by the U.S., the UK and France during Saturday dawn's strike on Syria did not cross Lebanon's airspace, Lebanese military sources said. “The army's radars and the radars at Beirut's airport did not detect any violation of the Lebanese airspace at dawn yesterday,” the sources told al-Hayat newspaper in remarks published Sunday. The narrowly targeted strike took aim at three alleged chemical weapons facilities in Syria's Damascus and Homs provinces and the sounds of explosions were heard in Lebanese border regions. U.S. President Donald Trump and his allies ordered the mission in response to a suspected chemical weapons attack a week ago on the rebel-held town of Douma that left more than 40 people dead.
Lebanese Officials Condemn Western Strike on Syria
Beirut - Asharq Al-Awsat/Sunday, 15 April, 2018/A number of Lebanese officials condemned on Saturday the US-led strikes against Syrian regime chemical and military installations at a time when military sources denied claims that Lebanon’s airspace was used in the attack. No foreign jets were detected over Lebanon, they told Asharq Al-Awsat. Lebanese President Michel Aoun, meanwhile, said that the western strike by Washington, Paris and London “does not serve in reaching a political solution to the Syria crisis.”“Lebanon opposes foreign attacks against any Arab country regardless of the reasons that prompted them,” he continued. He expressed pessimism that the recent developments in Syria are a sign that major powers will become further involved in the crisis. Some Lebanese officials said that the condemnation of the strike was a violation of their country’s policy of disassociation from regional crises. Ministerial sources from the Free Patriotic Movement told Asharq Al-Awsat that Aoun’s stance does not violate the policy, but instead underlines Lebanese principles that oppose attacks against any Arab country. Prime Minister Saad Hariri did not issue a statement on the strike. The Defense Ministry condemned the raid, with Minister Yaacoub al-Sarraf saying that Lebanon “categorically” refuses to have its sovereignty violated by allowing its airspace to be used to attack Syria. The Foreign Ministry said that the raid is a “blatant violation of a fraternal state’s sovereignty and a violation of international treaties and norms.”It noted that a transparent international investigation by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons should have been carried out before the raid was staged. The western strike in Syria came in response to the regime’s chemical attack against the town of Douma on April 7. The Foreign Ministry stressed Lebanon’s rejection of the use of chemical arms and the need to hold perpetrators accountable for their actions.

Russia to support Lebanon in refugee return: Russian minister
The Daily Star/Sunday, 15 April, 2018/BEIRUT: A Russian official said that Russia will support Lebanon in returning Syrian refugees to their country, during a meeting with Lebanese President Michel Aoun in Saudi Arabia on Saturday.Russian Deputy Foreign Minister for Middle Eastern Affairs Mikhail Bogdanov said the pledge came “in light of the developments taking place,” according to a statement released by Aoun’s office, which did not elaborate on any plans to this end. Bogdanov’s comments came during a meeting with Aoun in the Saudi city of Dhahran, after the Lebanese delegation arrived for the 29th Arab League summit being held there Sunday. Russia is a key ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad, whose regime has been supported on the ground by Hezbollah for at least the last five years of Syria’s civil war. Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement is allied with Hezbollah in Lebanon. Aoun spoke with Bogdanov about the presence of Syrian refugees in Lebanon, calling for a “gradual return” as, he claimed, “several areas are now enjoying security stability after the fighting ended.”The Lebanese government estimates roughly 1.5 million Syrians are residing in Lebanon, while the number registered with the U.N. refugee agency in Lebanon dropped below 1 million by the end of last year. After the meeting, Bogdanov was also quoted as saying that bilateral relations had been discussed, in addition to developments in the region and the “crisis that the Arab family is witnessing at this stage.” They also discussed security and combating terrorism, Bogdanov said. A date for an official visit by Aoun to Russia will be set after Russian President Vladimir Putin’s inauguration on May 7, Bodanov added. Putin was reelected last month with over 75 percent of the vote.
Nasrallah: A strong presence in parliament, government and state institutions is a guarantee for the resistance and the golden equation
Sun 15 Apr 2018/NNA - Hezbollah Secretary-General Hasan Nasrallah deemed Sunday that the strong presence in the parliament, government and state institutions denotes a guarantee for the Resistance Movement and the "People-Resistance-Army" golden equation to protect Lebanon. Nasrallah urged supporters to vote extensively in the upcoming parliamentary elections, noting that members of Hezbollah and Amal Movement's electoral lists will be part of the national campaign against poverty and unemployment in the country. Addressing a large crowd of citizens and partisans during a Hezbollah rally held in the town of Mashghara this evening to back the Rashaya-West Bekaa electoral list, Nasrallah praised the long history of sacrifices and struggle of the people of West Bekaa and Rashaya. He hailed their attachment to their roots and their existential struggle to protect their land against the Israeli enemy's threats, which he considered an additional reason to support their electoral list for a better tomorrow.
Nasrallah stressed that the list members will be at the service of the people of the region, catering to their needs and demands at the national level, especially in relation to cleaning the Litani River's water and preserving its wealth resource against the Israeli enemy's greedy intentions.
The Secretary-General emphasized that the strong cohesion between the national army, the resistance and the people is the greatest strategic response to any threat. Nasrallah continued to indicate that "no one represents Syria in the elections, but within the 'Better Tomorrow' list are allies to Syria, and if they win, they will work to bridge between the broken ties."He referred to the social, economic and trade relations between the people of Rashaya and West Bekaa with Syria, which denotes part of their daily lives. Hence, Nasrallah called on those betting against such relations and pinning their hopes on the collapse of the Syrian regime to re-consider their stand in this regard. "Anyone still thinking about Syria's collapse in favor of the United States and Israel, or any other country, is delusional," deemed Nasrallah. "The interest of the people of this region is to live with the Syrian dimension," he underlined, reiterating that the benefit of the Bekaa citizens lies in the return to coexistence with their Syrian neighborhood, a fact that also requires ceasing all provocation against Syria. Referring to the US aggression against Syria, Nasrallah indicated that its timing was linked to the arrival of investigators from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, adding, "Trump knew that what happened in Douma was a mere play so they hastened the strike."
Considering that certain sides had their hopes pinned on the strikes in question, the Secretary-General praised the outstanding performance of the Syrian air defense in intercepting several US missiles before they reached their targets. He commended their remarkable military achievement that reflects the courage, challenge and loyalty of the Syrian Arab Army."The axis of the resistance, as well as Russia, was ready for all eventualities relating to the American strike against Syria," Nasrallah reassured. "If the goal of the aggression was to raise the morale of the armed terrorist forces, the opposite occurred. There was more frustration and disappointment among the Syrian opposition and some countries. As for raising the morale of Israel, that did not happen either, because the Israeli assessment of the aggression was zero outcome," explained the Secretary-General.
Nasrallah finally indicated that "if the objective was to pressure Syria to accelerate the political solution, the strike is only going to complicate this solution, and perhaps destroy the Geneva Conference.""They had to state that their goal was not to overthrow the regime, but the chemical weapons," he added. Nasrallah concluded by saying, "With each coming victory, we do not rule out a new aggression."

Nasrallah Lambasts U.S.-Led Strikes on Syria
Associated Press/Naharnet/April 15/18/Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said Sunday that the Western strikes against Syria following alleged use of chemical weapons will likely complicate prospects of a political solution and have failed to achieve any of their results. Speaking by video link to an electoral rally, Nasrallah said the U.S.-ordered strikes have strained international relations and could totally "torpedo" the U.N.-sponsored peace talks in Geneva. He said the strikes were "limited" and were recognition of the strength of the "resistance axis." The term is in reference to the alliance between Syria, Iran and Hizbullah. The Iranian-backed Hizbullah, founded originally to fight Israel's occupation of Lebanese territories, has sent hundreds of fighters to back the troops of President Bashar Assad in the war, now in its eighth year. U.S. President Donald Trump and his British and French allies say the airstrikes were necessary to deter Syria's use of chemical weapons. Syria and Russia deny any chemical weapons were used and insist the Western powers had no evidence.

Berri to Expats: Battle Now is Exactly between Sectarianism, Democracy
Naharnet/April 15/18/Speaker Nabih Berri announced Sunday that the current battle in the country is between “sectarianism and democracy.”“The battle now is exactly between sectarianism and democracy,” Berri said during an annual gathering organized by the AMAL Movement for the Lebanese diaspora.Referring to the upcoming parliamentary elections, the Speaker added: “I know the pressures that you are facing and I know that the campaign is mainly targeted against the resistance, but vote despite all of this.”“Vote for hope in your homeland and for loyalty to the land, army, people and resistance,” Berri urged. “We hope the diaspora will vote for its representatives, who know its needs, in order to build a society that resists the Israeli enemy,” the Speaker went on to say. He noted that “the battle now is exactly between sectarianism and democracy.” Berri also accused some rival political parties of inciting sectarianism, warning that such practices had “destroyed Lebanon” in the past. “No one is learning and no one has drawn lessons,” the Speaker lamented.
Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on April 15-16/18
Two Christians killed in drive-by shooting outside a church in Pakistan
AFP/April 15/2018/Gunmen on board motorcycles fired indiscriminately at people gathered outside the church. The attack was the second against Christians in the area this month.
QUETTA, Pakistan: Two Christians were killed in a drive-by shooting outside a church in southwestern Pakistan Sunday, officials said. It was the second such attack on the minority community in the area this month. Unidentified gunmen on motorbikes opened fire at a group of Christians outside a church in Quetta, capital of Balochistan province. “Four men on two motorbikes opened indiscriminate fire, killing two people while injuring three others,” local police official Abdul Razzaq Cheema told AFP. The attack happened in the Christian-majority Esa Nagri neighborhood of Quetta. Hundreds of people gathered later to protest the killings. “Around 500” protesters blocked a road by placing the bodies of the two victims in the middle, said local official Javed Anwar Shawani. “We are negotiating with them to make them disperse and bury” the victims, he added. The shooting comes just weeks after four Christians were shot dead in the city, an attack claimed by the Daesh group. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the Sunday shooting. Islamist militants have claimed past attacks on religious minorities in the area. In December last year, two suicide bombers blew themselves up at a Quetta church, which was packed with worshippers, killing nine people and wounding over a dozen. Christians make up less than two percent of Muslim-majority Pakistan’s 200 million people, and have long faced discrimination and violence.
Saudi King Salman concludes ‘Jerusalem Summit’ in Dhahran
Staff writer, Al Arabiya English/Sunday, 15 April 2018/Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz concluded the 29th Arab League Summit in Dhahran on Sunday at the King Abdulaziz International Cultural Center. In his speech at the summit, King Salman stressed that the Palestinian issue is “our first issue and will remain so” expressing his condemnation of the decision of the US administration to transfer its embassy to Jerusalem. King Salman named the current Arab League Summit the “Jerusalem Summit” to remind everyone around the world that Palestine is “engraved in the conscience of the Arab people”. He announced the dedication of $50 million to UNRWA and $150 million to the Islamic Endowment Support Program in Jerusalem, stressing that east Jerusalem should be the capital of Palestine. King Salman also called for a strong UN stance against Iran's expansionist behavior in the region which is causing unrest. He said that Arab national security is a complete and indivisible system. He also welcomed an agreement to establish an Arab cultural summit. The Saudi King also presented the kingdom's initiative and willingness to deal with the challenges that the Arab national security is facing. King Abdullah II bin Al-Hussain of Jordan, the President of the previous Arab League Summit, delivered a speech in which he expressed his thanks to King Salman for the warm reception and generous hospitality.
At Arab Summit, Saudi Slams Iran 'Terrorist Acts', U.S. Embassy Move to Jerusalem
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 15/18/Saudi Arabia's King Salman slammed Iran's "blatant interference" in regional affairs as Arab leaders met in the kingdom on Sunday for an annual summit. In his opening speech at the Arab League summit, Salman also criticized the U.S. decision to move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem but avoided any mention of Syria, just 24 hours after Western strikes against President Bashar al-Assad's regime. The meeting comes after a barrage of strikes launched by the United States, Britain and France hit targets they said were linked to chemical weapons development in Syria, which was suspended from the league seven years ago. But in his opening address Salman focused instead on rivalries with longtime foe Iran -- only 160 kilometers (100 miles) across the Gulf from Dharan. "We renew our strong condemnation of Iran's terrorist acts in the Arab region and reject its blatant interference in the affairs of Arab countries," the king said. And despite being a stalwart ally of the United States, he also criticized U.S. President Donald Trump controversial decision to transfer America's embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. "We reiterate our rejection of the U.S. decision on Jerusalem," said the king, adding that "East Jerusalem is an integral part of the Palestinian territories."

Aboul Gheit says current challenges call for dialogue over Arab national security priorities
Sun 15 Apr 2018/NNA - Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit said in a speech at the Arab Summit held in Saudi Arabia on Sunday that "the current challenges call for dialogue on the priorities of Arab national security."He also stressed "the need to support the vision of President Mahmoud Abbas regarding the Palestinian issue." "Iranian interventions in our region do not aim for the good of Arabs" added the Secretary-General. "Iran has supported rogue gangs in Yemen to threaten the security of Saudi Arabia and we ought to show solidarity with Saudi Arabia in its actions to maintain its security," he noted. Aboul Gheit called on Arab leaders to "support the League to meet its financial deficit to enable it to activate its role."

Saudi Monarch: Palestine and its people are in the hearts of Arabs and Muslims
Sun 15 Apr 2018/NNA - Saudi King Salman bin Abdul Aziz pledged Sunday $50 million to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and $150 million to the Islamic Waqf Support Program in Jerusalem. In his speech at the Arab Summit held in the Kingdom today, the Saudi Monarch also declared naming the 29th Arab Summit as "Jerusalem Summit" so that everyone is well aware that "Palestine and the Palestinian people are in the hearts of Arabs and Muslims."

Abbas: We renew the invitation to all Arabs to visit Jerusalem'
Sun 15 Apr 2018/NNA - "We renew the call on all Arabs to visit Jerusalem, and this is not normalization with Israel," Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said in his speech at the Arab Summit in Saudi Arabia on Sunday. "We have called for an international conference to give Palestine a full international membership," Abbas added. He considered that "the government of reconciliation must receive all dossiers of Gaza, and will not accept otherwise."

New Western Syria Strikes Would Spark 'Chaos', Putin Tells Rouhani
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 15/18/New Western air strikes in Syria would provoke "chaos" in international relations, Russian President Vladimir Putin told his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani on Sunday. Speaking to Rouhani by telephone the day after U.S.-led strikes on suspected chemical weapons facilities, Putin said "if such actions, carried out in violation of the United Nations Charter, are repeated, that would inevitably provoke chaos in international relations," according to a statement from the Kremlin. The two leaders "found that this illegal action seriously damaged the prospects of a political settlement in Syria," the statement said. The United States, France and Britain on Saturday launched strikes against Bashar al-Assad's government a week after an alleged chemical attack in the Syrian city of Douma, just east of the capital Damascus. Putin denounced on Saturday "with the utmost firmness" the strikes which he described as "an act of aggression against a sovereign state which is at the forefront of the fight against terrorism."

British PM Faces Backlash for Bypassing MPs on Syria

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 15/18/British Prime Minister Theresa May faced a backlash from the domestic opposition after launching military strikes on Syria without consulting parliament. As the Conservative leader explained her rationale for the air strikes, opposition parties claimed the attacks were legally dubious, risked escalating conflict and should have been approved by lawmakers. The shadow of the 2003 invasion of Iraq still lingers in the corridors of Britain's parliament, when MPs backed then-prime minister Tony Blair in joining U.S. military action. "Bombs won't save lives or bring about peace," said Jeremy Corbyn, the veteran leftist leader of the main opposition Labor Party. "This legally questionable action risks escalating further... an already devastating conflict. "Theresa May should have sought parliamentary approval, not trailed after Donald Trump." Corbyn has written to May seeking assurance that there would be no further bombing raids and urged the government to negotiate a pause in the Syrian civil war. The British, U.S. and French bombings on Saturday followed an alleged chemical weapons attack on the rebel-held town of Douma on April 7. May's government has insisted the punitive strikes were legal, releasing a statement that said they were aimed at alleviating the "extreme humanitarian suffering" of the Syrian people by reducing the chemical weapons capabilities of President Bashar al-Assad's regime. "The UK is permitted under international law, on an exceptional basis, to take measures in order to alleviate overwhelming humanitarian suffering," the statement said. It added that it believed the Syrian government had committed a "war crime and a crime against humanity" with chemical weapons use and that attempts to find a unified international approach through the United Nations had been blocked by Damascus-ally Moscow. May will face questions from MPs on Monday, when parliament reconvenes after a break. Stop the War, a pacifist coalition once chaired by Corbyn, has called a demonstration outside the British parliament on Monday to protest against the strikes. The group said it "strongly condemned" the action and accused May of "sanctioning killing" at Trump's behest.
'Dangerous escalation'
Deploying the armed forces is a prerogative power, meaning the prime minister can launch action without backing from MPs. But after the Conservatives entered office in 2010, the government suggested that since the 2003 vote on Iraq, a convention had emerged that MPs should have a say, except in cases of emergency. British MPs voted against taking military action against Damascus in 2013, in what was widely viewed as an assertion of parliamentary sovereignty on the use of force. David Cameron, who was prime minister in 2013, tweeted on Saturday: "As we have seen in the past, inaction has its consequences".
Lawmakers backed action in Iraq in 2014, and again in Syria in 2015, strictly limiting strikes in both countries to targets of the Islamic State jihadist group. Four British Tornado jets fired Storm Shadow missiles at a Syrian military base suspected of holding chemical weapons components. The strikes at 0100 GMT were 15 miles (24 kilometers) west of Homs. Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said Syria's use of chemical weapons could not be tolerated but questioned whether the strikes would halt their use or contribute to ending the civil war. "This action risks not just further escalating the civil war in Syria but also a dangerous escalation of international tensions," said the leader of the left-wing Scottish National Party, the third-biggest force in the British parliament.
Both Syria and Russia have denied all responsibility for the alleged chemical attacks.
Riding Trump's coat-tails
Vince Cable, leader of the Liberal Democrats, the fourth-biggest party in parliament, accused May of "riding the coat-tails of an erratic U.S. president.""It shows a weak government putting short term political expediency before democracy and in so doing further diminishing the standing of Britain in the world," Cable said. The Green Party, which has one MP, said May had "trampled over parliamentary democracy" and demanded a vote in the House of Commons on the strikes. However, there was some support for May. The center-right Conservatives rely on the support of the Democratic Unionist Party, Northern Ireland's biggest party, for a majority in parliament. DUP leader Arlene Foster said the air strikes were "limited but proportionate and justified." Tom Tugendhat, the Conservative chairman of parliament's foreign affairs scrutiny committee and a former army officer, said May had "taken the correct decision." Peter Felstead, editor of Jane's Defense Weekly, said he did not think May would face a "serious backlash", as the strikes ultimately were politically and operationally "the right thing to do.""Corbyn will rail against military action, claiming it could widen the conflict, but if he won't sanction military action against a regime that is using chemical weapons on its own people, when would he ever sanction it?" he told AFP. "If the West had acted against Assad's chemical weapons attacks in 2013, we might not have had to embark on military action now."

Netanyahu Warns over Iran after Syria Strikes
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 15/18/Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Sunday over Iran's presence in Syria after Western strikes in response to the alleged use of chemical weapons and a recent attack attributed to Israel. Netanyahu also called on Western powers to take the same approach toward preventing "terrorist states" from acquiring nuclear weapons, referring to Israel's main enemy Iran. The premier said he spoke with British Prime Minister Theresa May on Saturday night following the joint strikes by the United States, France and Britain in neighboring Syria. The narrowly targeted pre-dawn military operation on Saturday took aim at three alleged chemical weapons facilities. Netanyahu had previously expressed his "total support" for the strikes. "The important international message that came from the attack was zero tolerance for the use of non-conventional weapons," Netanyahu said at the start of a cabinet meeting, describing his discussion with May. "I added that this policy needs to also be expressed in preventing terrorist states and groups from having nuclear abilities." Netanyahu also again warned over Iran's presence in Syria after previously pledging not to allow the country to entrench itself militarily next door. On April 9, seven Iranian personnel were among 14 people killed in an early-morning strike on the T-4 airbase in Syria, with regime allies Iran and Russia blaming Israel for the attack. Israel has neither confirmed nor denied responsibility. Netanyahu said he told May that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad "must understand that when he allows Iran and its proxies to establish a military presence in his country, he endangers Syria as well as the stability of the region."Also on Sunday, two Israeli ministers said their country would continue to act to prevent Iran from establishing itself militarily in Syria. Israel has sought to avoid direct involvement in Syria's civil war, but acknowledges carrying out dozens of air strikes there to stop what it says are advanced arms deliveries to Lebanese armed group Hizbullah, another of its enemies. Hizbullah, like Iran and Russia, is backing Assad in the war.

Chemical Inspectors to Begin Work in Syria's Douma
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 15/18/Inspectors from the OPCW chemical watchdog will begin their investigation Sunday at the site of an alleged chemical attack near Damascus, a senior official said. "The fact-funding team arrived in Damascus on Saturday and is due to go to Douma on Sunday," Deputy Foreign Minister Ayman Soussan told AFP. A delegation of experts from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, based in The Hague, is tasked with investigating an April 7 attack on Douma, just east of Damascus. Western powers say chemical substances, most likely chlorine and sarin, were used in the attack and killed at least 40 civilians. The alleged attack, which Damascus and its Russian ally have denied ever happened, prompted an unprecedented wave of missile strikes by the United States, France and Britain on Saturday. Soussan reiterated a pledge by the Syrian government that the chemical experts would be allow to investigate unimpeded. "We will ensure they can work professionally, objectively, impartially and free of any pressure," he said.

After Ghouta, Syria Army to Target Cradle of Revolt in Daraa
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 15/18/The capture of Eastern Ghouta is a significant milestone for Syria's regime and paves the way for government troops to shift south to where the seven-year uprising first began: Daraa. After securing the capital from deadly rockets that once rained in from its suburbs, President Bashar al-Assad now has forces ready to redeploy elsewhere in the war-ravaged country. The Islamists and jihadists that hold the northwest province of Idlib remain a threat, but analysts say Assad's priority will likely be the southern province of Daraa, where protests against his rule first broke out in 2011. After losing swathes of territory to rebels, Syria's army has regained control of more than 55 percent of the country with crucial help from its ally Russia, according to analyst Fabrice Balanche. Its most recent victory is in Ghouta: the onetime rebel bastion that has now been neutralized after a blistering air and ground assault and the Russia-brokered evacuation of thousands of rebels and civilians. "The liberation of Eastern Ghouta means lifting the security and military threat posed to Damascus," said Bassam Abou Abdallah, who heads the Damascus Center for Strategic Studies. "After Ghouta, it's likely the Syrian government will head south -- the current situation in Daraa must be finished off," he told AFP. The regime said it had retaken Eastern Ghouta on Saturday after a nearly two-month assault that killed more than 1,700 civilians and the evacuation deals that saw rebels and civilians bused up to northern Syria.
Real problem' of Daraa
With Ghouta now taken care of, the only risk posed to Damascus stems from a few southern districts still held by the Islamic State group, including the Yarmuk Palestinian camp. Al-Watan newspaper, which is close to the government, said the army will seek to "finish off" those districts, but analysts believe the regime's real interest lies elsewhere. "Maintaining some IS pockets serves the regime's narrative in order to reconquer the rest of Syrian territory," said Julien Theron, a professor at the Paris Institute of Political Studies. He said the regime could redeploy troops to reinforce other fronts against rebels, including Daraa which he described as a "real problem."
The vast Daraa province lies south of Damascus and also shares borders with Jordan and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. Non-jihadist rebels, backed by the United States and Jordan, hold nearly three-quarters of it and parts of the provincial capital, also called Daraa. "The regime has been focusing on Daraa province for a long time, trying to break through rebel territory to reach the city," said Theron. "Rebels control Syria's southern border, which has undermined the regime's image of being the master of its own territory," he added. Retaking the Nasib border crossing with Jordan, held by rebels since 2015, is a particular prize as it could bring financial rewards for a cash-strapped regime. In the past, the crossing has been a key transit point for trade between Syria, Jordan and the countries of the Gulf.
Ghouta 'lesson' for rebels
But analysts also say Assad's regime will have to avoid any escalation with Israel. "The areas in the south of Syria are particularly sensitive because they are located between Damascus on the one hand, and the Jordanian and Israeli borders on the other," analyst Sam Heller said. "Any military action could affect the national security of the three countries," said the researcher at the International Crisis Group. Thomas Pierret, a Syria specialist at the University of Edinburgh, said Daraa was the obvious next step for the regime after Ghouta, over Idlib. "Daraa is probably more urgent for economic reasons and reopening trade with Jordan."Assad has repeatedly pledged to recapture "every inch" of Syrian territory lost to armed groups since 2011. And while Idlib is surely in his sights, analysts said the province's complex dynamics could put it further down his priority list. Idlib is held by an array of rebel, Islamist, and jihadist forces that have at various times united or fought each other in battles for influence. Taking such forces head-on could prove too costly for Assad's army, said Theron. Furthermore, Idlib lies on the border with Turkey and has been the subject of negotiations between Ankara and Moscow, said Heller.
"Until further notice, Idlib is not one of the Damascus regime's goals, as it is hostage to global political calculations more than military ones," said Heller. "Idlib's fate is linked to what is happening behind the scenes in the agreements between Turkey and Russia," he told AFP. From Damascus, Abou Abdallah said he expected the same tactic used to seize Ghouta will apply to reconquer Daraa and Idlib: "military pressure to reach a settlement, or settlement without military pressure." Ghouta's "fall at that speed should be a lesson to both Idlib in the north and Daraa in the south."

Vatican Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran Pierre visits Saudi Arabia
Staff writer, Al Arabiya English/Saturday, 14 April 2018/Cardinal Jean-Louis Pierre Tauran of the Pontifical Council for the Interreligious Dialogue in the Vatican state arrived in Saudi Arabia’s Riyadh on Saturday, reported the Saudi Press Agency. The cardinal was welcomed at the kingdom’s King Khalid International Airport by Prince Mohammed bin Abdurrahman bin Abdulaziz, Riyadh Deputy Governor and the Secretary General of the Muslim World League, Dr. Mohammed bin Abdul-Kareem Al-Issa.
US preparing new sanctions on Russia for covering up Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons: Haley
Arab News/Agencies/April 15/18/LONDON: Washington is preparing new economic sanctions on Russia for its support of Syrian President Bashar Assad and his continuing use of chemical weapons, the US envoy to the United Nations said on Sunday. Ambassador Nikki Haley said the new sanctions, to be announced by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Monday, targets Russian companies that are “dealing with equipment related to Assad and any chemical weapons use.”
Russia needs to feel the consequences for protecting the Assad regime, Haley told CBS’ “Face the Nation”. She pointed out that Russia has vetoed six resolutions in the UN Security Council regarding Syria's chemical weapons.
The fact that Assad was making the use of chemical weapons “more normal and that Russia was covering this up, all that has got to stop,” she said. Syrian opposition activists and first responders say a chemical attack on the town of Douma, near the Syrian capital, killed more than 40 people on April 7. Haley also said that the US will not have any one-on-one talks with Assad. She said Syria had so far refused to take part in multilateral negotiations as part of a political process facilitated by the United Nations, adding that Russia should “deliver” Syria to the negotiating table. But she said Syria was not “worthy” of direct talks with Washington: “We are not going to have any one-on-one talks with Assad.”
Call for resumption of talks
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, meanwhile, called for a resumption of Syrian peace talks, which took place in Vienna in 2015, to halt the bloodshed in the devastated country. Kurz said no military solution appeared possible in the conflict which had already caused massive suffering for the Syrian people. “After the shocking use of chemical weapons on April 7 and the recent Western military action in Syria, it is now the order of the day to remember reason and to press ahead with the diplomatic peace process with all necessary vigour,” Kurz said in a statement on Sunday. “The Syrian population had already suffered too much with over 400,000 deaths and over five million refugees outside Syria.”
Kurz said there could be no military solution to the conflict and therefore appealed “to all responsible actors” to continue the peace talks of the ‘International Syria Support Group’ took place between 20 different groups in Vienna in 2015.
A further escalation of the Syrian “proxy war” or even a direct military conflict between the US and Russia must be prevented by all means, Kurz added in a statement received by Reuters. Austria has a long tradition as a place of dialogue and a bridge builder in conflicts, most recently in the Iranian nuclear deal, he said, with Austria ready to host talks over Syria at any time. Since Kurz, a conservative, formed a coalition government with the far-right and pro-Putin Freedom Party in December, Austria had repeatedly said it wants to serve as a “bridge-builder” between east and west. It repeated that position when it declined to follow most other EU countries in expelling one or several Russian diplomats over the poisoning by nerve agent of a former Russian spy and his daughter in Salisbury, England. Britain has blamed the attack on Russia but Vienna said it wanted to keep lines of communication with Moscow open.

Israel Says it Destroyed 'Longest and Deepest' Hamas Tunnel in Gaza
Asharq Al-Awsat/Sunday, 15 April, 2018/The Israeli military announced on Sunday that it destroyed a Hamas tunnel stretching from the Gaza Strip into its territory. The tunnel crossed into Israeli territory by several meters (yards) but did not yet have an exit point, military spokesman Jonathan Conricus told journalists. Israel destroyed the tunnel -- which it said connected to several others within Gaza and could have been used for attacks -- by filling it with material to make it inoperative. "We filled the tunnel with material that renders it useless for a very long period of time," Conricus said. Explosives were not used.
"According to our early assessments, this tunnel reaches kilometers, several kilometers, into the Gaza Strip."
Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said it was the longest and deepest Gazan tunnel discovered by Israel. "It's a tunnel that cost millions of dollars to dig, money that instead of going to ease the hardship of Gaza's residents has sunk in the sand," he said. "Residents of Gaza: Hamas is burning your money on tunnels to nowhere."Hamas had no immediate comment. The tunnel came from the area of Jabaliya in the northern Gaza Strip and was being dug in the direction of the Nahal Oz community in Israel, he said. It was the fifth Gazan tunnel destroyed by Israel in recent months, Conricus said. Israel destroyed it over the course of the weekend. The operation comes after protests along the Gaza border since March 30 that have led to clashes in which Israeli forces have killed 34 Palestinians and wounded hundreds of others.
Israel alleges Hamas is seeking to use the protests as cover to carry out violence and said the tunnel destroyed could have been used for that purpose, saying it comes from near an area where demonstrators have gathered. Israel has faced criticism over its use of live fire along the Gaza border since March 30, while the European Union and UN chief Antonio Guterres have called for an independent investigation. The military says its soldiers act to stop attacks, damage to the fence and infiltration bids, and says there have been attempts at all three. Conricus added that Israel had been monitoring the construction of the tunnel for some time. He revealed that Hamas began building the tunnel following the 2014 war. Israel has placed a high priority on halting the tunnel threat since Hamas infiltrated Israel during the war. Although they did not manage to reach civilian areas, the infiltrations caught Israel off guard, with one attack killing five soldiers, and terrified the local population. Israel is erecting a subterranean barrier to detect and prevent attack tunnels. Israel says the barrier, as well as new technological innovations, have rendered the Hamas tunnel project futile.
Former Mossad chief Danny Yatom: We must take the Iranian threats very seriously
Jerusalem Post/April 15/18
Yatom says the Iranian drone Israel shot down was an exact replica of a US drone that fell in Iran. Israel should prepare for a possible conflict with Iran, former Mossad chief Danny Yatom warned a day after the US-led attack in Syria and hours after mystery explosions rocked Iranian bases there.
In an interview on Sunday on 103 FM Radio, Yatom referred to the American-British-French attack on Syria as "a symbolic move, without any strategic significance.""We are on a collision course with the Iranians and I hope that this wont escalate into a direct confrontation. They have accused us of attacking Iranian targets and killing of their people," he said. ."We must take the Iranian threats on Israel very seriously," Yatom said. "My acquaintance with the Iranians and past cases tell me that when they issue threats, they follow up on them. Looking at Iran's violent history will find that they were behind attacks on many Jewish and Israeli facilities. They could also instigate a local incident on the Golan Heights, we have no doubt that Hezbollah acts as an extension of Iran's will. "Yatom also addressed the Iranian attack drone that Israel destroyed after it penetrated Israeli airspace earlier this month. "It was a sophisticated operation. The UAV was almost an exact replica of the US drone that fell in their territory," the former head of Israel's spy organization said. "If it had exploded somewhere in Israel, it may not have been possible to identify it as an Iranian-manufactured drone." "We are in a tough neighborhood, where there is no mercy towards the weak, so we have to stay strong and ever grow stronger to maintain our deterrence," said Yatom. "We were alone in the battle... The attack over the weekend was purely symbolic and a drop in the ocean. The strike should have hit Assad's palace in order to truly scar him. Yatom stressed that Moscow does not share Israel's interests when it comes to Syria. "Once we thought the relationship between Bibi and Putin would succeed in overcoming the gap, but we were mistaken."

Syrian media: Explosions at largest Iranian base in Syria
Jerusalem Post/April 15/18/
Hezbollah media sources denied the reports and said that the explosions at the site resulted from explosives detonating in a warehouse.
Mixed and contradictory reports emerged from Syria Saturday night over a mystery blast that rocked an Iranian base located on the outskirts of Aleppo. The initial reports coming out of Syrian media was that the base was hit by unidentified aircraft, with some reports attributing the attack to Israel. Later, reports said that the explosion was caused by an accident at the facility. The Iranian base, located in the Jabal Azzan region south of Aleppo, is the largest in the country. Hezbollah media sources denied the reports and said that the explosions at the site resulted from explosives detonating in a warehouse.
“A powerful explosion went off late Saturday in an area of southern Aleppo province,” the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said. The war monitor’s head, Rami Abdel Rahman, said the area was known to host Iranian forces deployed in Syria to support President Bashar Assad’s regime as well as allied Afghan fighters from the Fatemiyoun Brigade. Seven Iranian military personnel were killed last week in an air strike on a Syrian air base which was blamed on Israel. Jerusalem did not confirm or deny mounting the raid, but Israeli officials said the Tiyas, or T-4, air base near Homs was being used by troops from Iran, and that Israel would not accept such a presence in Syria by its arch foe. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed Iran's entrenchment in Syria during a cabinet meeting on Sunday. Relying information from a phone call he held with his British counterpart Theresa May, Netanyahu said he: "reiterated that the element that is undermining the Middle East more than any other is Iran, and that President Assad must understand that when he allows Iran and its proxies to establish its military presence in Syria, he is endangering Syria and the stability of the entire region."Israel said in February it had intercepted an Iranian drone launched from Syria, and carried out air strikes against air defenses and Iranian targets in the country. Iran denied at the time the downing of its drone in Israel.

France Warns of Humanitarian Disaster in Syria’s Idlib
Asharq Al-Awsat/Sunday, 15 April, 2018/French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian warned on Sunday that the rebel-held Idlib region in Syria could be the regime’s new target as it seeks to gain back ground from the opposition. Le Drian said: "There are 2 million people in Idlib now, including hundreds of thousands of Syrians evacuated from rebel towns recaptured by the regime.""There is a risk of a new humanitarian disaster,” he said in an interview with Le Journal du Dimanche weekly a day after the US, Britain and France carried out strikes in Syria. “Idlib’s fate must be settled by a political process,” demanded the French minister. Idlib province is the last in Syria largely beyond regime control. In recent years, tens of thousands of fighters and civilians have fled there from parts of the country which the regime has recaptured. “Let’s not forget that our principal enemy remains ISIS, as well as other terrorist groups which are currently regrouping in the east of the country,” Le Drian added. The French warning came shortly after the regime recaptured Eastern Ghouta from the opposition. The scorched-earth battle ended after a chemical attack killed over 40 people in the town of Douma and which the West blamed on the regime. Le Drian said he hoped Saturday's strikes, aimed at punishing the regime over its use of toxic gas, would convince Russia to pressure regime head Bashar Assad into negotiations on ending the seven-year war. "We hope that Russia understands...we must combine our efforts to promote a political process in Syria that favors an end to the crisis. "France is ready to work towards this. Except that currently the one blocking the process is Assad himself. It's up to Russia to put pressure on him," he said. Le Drian also said Russia was denying reality in Syria and that its protection of Assad could not be justified. “There is a denial of reality, and he have seen this several times. Already in 2013 and then again in 2017 the Russians denied that the Syrian regime had used chemical weapons,” he said. He said that at the time verification mechanisms already put in place by the United Nations had placed responsibility on the regime. “It is no wonder that Russia voted against the renewal of this mechanism last autumn,” he said, adding that when France proposed last week to put in place a comparable mechanism, Russia had vetoed it. Le Drian also called for “really” respecting a ceasefire in the war-torn country. He was referring to a 30-day ceasefire called by the UN in February to facilitate the delivery of aid and medical evacuations, which was never really implemented. On Saturday, the US, France and Britain on Saturday launched a new push at the UN for a ceasefire. In a draft text seen by AFP they also called for a mechanism to probe chemical attacks -- and also ascribe blame for them -- and demanded that Syria engage in stalled UN-led peace talks.

Despite Constitution Ban, Ba'ath Party Looms over Iraqi Elections
Baghdad - Hamza Mustafa/Asharq Al-Awsat/Sunday, 15 April, 2018/
The statement attributed to US Ambassador to Iraq Douglas Silliman on the possibility of Sunnis returning to rule Iraq nearly 15 years after the overthrow of the former Iraqi regime, caused widespread confusion among Shiite circles which fear the return of Baathists in various ways. US Embassy in Iraq implicitly denied the statements attributed to the Ambassador, but this denial which was stated by the bureau of Speaker Salim Jubouri, has made things even more ambiguous because it was not issued by the embassy itself. Later, the US embassy confirmed that "the United States does not support any side, whether a party or someone in the upcoming elections."US assurances did not dissipate the fears expressed by many leaders at the Shiite community. “Accountability and Justice” commission took several measures such as excluding a large number of elections candidates for the elections, most of which are members of “National Coalition” led by former Prime Minister Eyad Allawi, who is often accused that majority of his Sunni supporters are of the Baathist party. Allawi’s spokesman Hussein al-Mousawi issued a statement saying that the exclusion of dozens of candidates of the National Coalition for the parliamentary elections is an unfair decision of the commission. “It deprives some Coalition candidates from the opportunity of fair political competition, and violates the constitutionally guaranteed principle of equality among Iraqis,” added Moussawi. The spokesman voiced the Coalition’s calls to resort the issue to the Iraqi judiciary to achieve justice, and away from politics, revenge, and extortion.
Independent politician Sami al-Askari said in a statement to Asharq Al-Awsat that there is no place for Baathists in political life, especially after the ban of Saddam's Baath party. For its part, “Accountability and Justice” commission denied succumbing to any political pressure to pass some candidates for the upcoming elections, during the audit of their cases. It announced that a total of 4 percent of the total names nominated for the race were excluded. Commission’s spokesman, Fares al-Bekoua, said that the commission’s duty is to accurately study everyone's case, adding “percentage of those excluded so far ranges between 3 and 4 percent of the total number of names presented to the Commission.”Head of al-Sadiqun bloc MP Hassan Salim, political wing of League of Righteous, announced that many Baathist candidates will take part in the upcoming parliamentary elections, noting that some were also among the leaders of the sit-ins at the western provinces. Independent Iraqi politician, Shaker Ketab, told Asharq Al-Awsat that most of those supported by the Baathists in previous elections proved their worthlessness, broke their agreements with the Baath and revealed that they are not qualified for any leadership or political position. He added that Batth party can no longer adopt them because they brought bad reputation, in addition to what is already perceived of negative image about the party. "I think that [Baath] presence this time is weaker than before," he said. However, senior leader “Iraq United” and the former Nineveh governor, Atheel al-Nujaifi believes that Baathists were able to exploit the need for lists close to Shiite parties for the benefit of figures in Sunni areas and joined them."They have exploited the ability of these lists to exclude them from the Commission," added Nujaifi.

Egyptian Security Official Meets Hamas Leadership in Gaza
Gaza - Asharq Al-Awsat/Sunday, 15 April, 2018/The Egyptian intelligence official in charge of the Palestinian file paid a surprise visit to the Gaza Strip on Saturday where he held talks with the Hamas leadership. Sameh Nabil held talks during his five-hour visit with Hamas politburo chief Ismail Hanieh. The meeting was attended by Hamas leader in Gaza Yehya al-Sinwar, his deputy Khalil al-Hayya, Hamas politburo member Nizar Awadhallah and Internal Security Forces chief Toufic Abou Naim. Sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that Nabil delivered an important message from head of Egyptian intelligence Abbas Kamel to Hamas. The message focused on the settlement file and Palestinian Authority demands that the government of national accord be granted complete control of Gaza, which is currently managed by Hamas. Egypt informed Hamas that it wanted to resume reconciliation efforts in line with the Cairo agreement that was reached in October 2017, revealed the sources. Egyptian efforts are currently focusing on resuming communication between Hamas and Fatah, said the sources. They acknowledged that this mission may be “a little complicated” given Fatah’s demand that the government be granted control of Gaza before holding any meeting with Hamas. Tensions have been high between Hamas and Fatah in wake of the failed assassination attempt against national accord government Prime Minister Rami al-Hamdallah as he was paying a visit to Gaza in March.  Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas held Hamas responsible for the attack, hampering efforts to implement the Cairo reconciliation, which was aimed at ending a decade-long rift between the two major Palestinian parties. Abbas had held talks in Ramallah with Kamel on April 3. Discussions focused on the reconciliation.

Yemeni Govt. Accuses Iran of Pushing Houthis to Escalation
Aden - Asharq Al-Awsat/Sunday, 15 April, 2018/Yemeni Prime Minister Ahmed Obeid bin Daghr stated on Saturday that the ballistic missiles and drones used by the Houthi militias are made by Iran. These weapons were never part of the state’s army before the Houthi coup, he explained after a cabinet session in Aden. He added that the militias have no control over agreeing to a peace agreement in Yemen because they are pawns for Iran. Tehran is the side that ordered the militias to intensify their rocket attacks against Saudi Arabia in an attempt to ease their international isolation and hamper peace efforts. Saudi air defenses this week thwarted numerous Houthis ballistic missile attacks. None of the rockets reached their targets and no one was injured in the incidents. The Yemeni cabinet tackled the latest internal and international developments, including the ongoing field victories by the army, supported by the Saudi-led Arab coalition. Official government sources said that the cabinet hailed the heroic victories against the Houthis, the latest of which was the liberation of the coastal city of Midi. It also highlighted the military’s advances on Saada, al-Baydha and Taiz. The meeting lauded “the ongoing military and resistance sacrifices aimed at restoring the state’s authority, liberating what remains of territory still under Houthi control and defeating the destructive Iranian agenda.”“It is certain that Iran’s agents in the Arab region have neared their end after their destructive agenda was exposed to the world,” it continued. It held the Iranian regime completely responsible for the Houthis ballistic missile attacks against civilian targets inside Saudi Arabia, calling on the United Nations Security Council to assume its responsibilities in preserving international peace and stability. Iran must also be held accountable for its insubordination against international resolutions and its ongoing armament of the Houthi militias with ballistic missiles, it continued.

Egypt Court Upholds Life-Imprisonment Sentence against Brotherhood Leader
Cairo - Waleed Abdulrahman/Sunday, 15 April, 2018/An Egyptian court upheld Saturday a life sentence against Mohamed Badie, the leader of Muslim Brotherhood. The court of cassation, Egypt’s top court, rejected an appeal by Badie against verdicts issued against them in the case known in local media as “the Rabaa Operations Room” trial.The case relates to a sit-in in Rabaa to support ousted President Mohamed Mursi. In august 2015, Badie, and 18 others were sentenced to life imprisonment in the case. The defendants were charged with leading an illegally founded organization, plotting to stir chaos and publishing false news, in addition to other crimes. In November, the appeal court upheld a life-imprisonent sentence in a case related to violent acts by Badie, taking place in Ismailia, east the Egyptian capital. The sentence included 7 others in addition to Badie. They were sentenced to life imprisonment, 29 others to 10 years in prison, and 19 others to 3 years in prison.The prosecution stated that Ismailia incidents, in July 2013, led to the deaths of 3 and the injury of 16. In September also, Badie and 15 others were sentenced to life-imprisonment due to aggressive incidents on August 14 2013 in Biba, Beni Suef Governorate, south Cairo.
Russia says will make every effort to improve ties with West
Sun 15 Apr 2018/NNA - Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said on Sunday Moscow would make every effort to improve political relations with the West, TASS news agency reported. Ryabkov was speaking after Western powers launched missile strikes against Syria, a close ally of Russia, over a suspected poison gas attack. The strikes were condemned by Russia. Ryabkov also said Russia would study a U.N. resolution on Syria proposed by the United States, France and Britain, but added that it would be hard to reach a compromise on the issue, TASS reported. --- Reuters

Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on April 15-16/18
Mission Accomplished' in Syria would be blessing for Assad, trouble for Israel
Jerusalem Post/April 15/18
Jerusalem remains concerned that the US and its partners are turning a blind eye to Iran's attempts to entrench itself in the country.
The United States, Britain and France on Saturday launched coordinated strikes targeting Bashar Assad's chemical weapons infrastructure; this, in the wake of an alleged chlorine gas attack on the besieged city of Douma—located in the strategic Eastern Ghouta suburb of Damascus, which Syrian government forces have almost entirely recaptured after a two-month fierce offensive.
The Western mission would never have been necessary had the international community enforced a 2013 deal brokered by Washington and Moscow—the latter being Assad's foremost backer—which called for the complete removal of weapons of mass destruction from Syria. The agreement, in turn, followed then-US president Barack Obama's unwillingness to uphold a publicly drawn "red line" to intervene militarily in the event of the usage of such arms by pro-regime forces.
For his part, President Donald Trump has for the most part followed Obama's policy of limiting the US' involvement in the war to a campaign to eradicate the Islamic State, which, by all accounts, has been successful. The major exception was last year's targeting with dozens of Tomahawk missiles of a Syrian army base from which a previous chemical attack was initiated. The intended message, however, evidently was not received in Damascus, which on numerous occasions since has deployed non-conventional weapons against its adversaries.
The question, therefore, is whether the latest Western attack will have the desired effect or, given President Trump's stated goal of withdrawing American forces from Syria, the Assad regime and its allies will simply view the incident as a one-off and continue on their merry destructive way.
Notably, in the immediate aftermath of the strikes, the Syrian government shared on social media a photograph of Assad strolling into his office, a message of defiance that suggests little has changed. In this respect, while the targeting with some 100 missiles of three chemical weapons facilities constituted the most severe US, British and French intervention to date, the time-lag leading up to the response reportedly allowed the centers to be partially evacuated.
According to Dr. Jonathan Spyer, a Fellow at the Jerusalem Institute for Strategic Studies who has traveled extensively in Syria during the seven-years-long conflict, the attack over the weekend will have "absolutely no effect on the strategic course of the war, with the possible exception that Assad might be inclined in the future to use conventional high explosives to root out rebels as opposed to non-conventional arms.
"The point of the strikes," he elaborated to The Media Line, "was that the Trump administration along with its allies wanted to enforce the international norm of the non-use of chemical weapons on the battlefield which has largely held since 1945."
Danny Ayalon, a former Israeli deputy foreign minister and ambassador to Washington, concurs that President Trump's primary motivation was to end Assad's use of chemical weapons, in addition to re-establishing a modicum of American deterrence. "After Assad persisted in using these arms after the US strike last year, Trump had to respond and by doing so in conjunction with London and Paris it brought more legitimacy.
"That said," he expounded to The Media Line, "the scope of the attack was minimal, as it was only on infrastructure related to chemical weapons and did not target other regime assets in order to hold Assad accountable. Also, Trump said the operation is completed so it appears as though he wants to close the file and maybe just leave Syria altogether. This would be a huge mistake because it would open the door for the Russians to control the entire Middle East and allow the Iranians to roam free."
Such an eventuality has raised alarm bells in Jerusalem and among regional Sunni Arab states which share a desire to curb Iran's expansionism, in particular. To date, Moscow has essentially granted the Israeli army free rein over Syria's skies in order to both prevent the transfer of advanced weaponry to Iran's Lebanese proxy Hezbollah and to ensure that Tehran is unable to gain a permanent military foothold within striking distance of Israel's northern border.
However, the playing field may be changing as evidenced by last week's public condemnation by the Kremlin of an Israeli attack on the Iranian Tiyas, or T-4, base near Palmyra.
Thereafter, Russia's Ambassador to Beirut claimed in an interview that Russian soldiers would begin intercepting missiles targeting infrastructure in Syria fired from Lebanese air space, where Israeli jets generally carry out their missions. Furthermore, Moscow announced that it is considering supplying the Assad regime with the S-300 missile defense system, a move that would jeopardize Israel's air superiority.
"The implications [of the Western strikes] for Israel from one point of view are positive," Ayalon contended to The Media Line, "as it conveyed to everyone that weapons of mass destruction—including the Iranian nuclear program—are a red line and America is determined to stop this. But at the same time" he continued, "the restricted activity shows that the US has no appetite to be overly involved in the Syrian war and when the winning parties carve out their spheres of influence the Americans will not be sitting around the table. The interests of the Israelis will thus be compromised and Jerusalem will find itself on its own."Indeed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared to highlight this broader strategic reality in the aftermath of Saturday's strikes, praising President Trump's resolve before qualifying that Assad's "provision of a forward base for Iran and its proxies endangers Syria."
This concern comes on the backdrop of the very real possibility that the White House will, in fact, opt for a complete military withdrawal from the Syrian arena. In this respect, US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis described this weekend's assault as a "one time shot," even as President Trump contradicted his "mission accomplished" statement by asserting that Washington was "prepared to sustain [a] response until the Syrian regime stops its use of prohibited chemical agents."
Overall, the collective dissonance lends further credence to those who maintain that the US lacks a comprehensive long-term strategy for Syria, a reality that, especially in light of growing tensions between Jerusalem and Moscow, bodes poorly for the Jewish state.

Turkey's American Hostage - About to be Sentenced for Life?
Uzay Bulut/Gatestone Institute/April 15/18
The Turkish government is using Pastor Brunson's detention as a bargaining chip. In exchange for his freedom, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had demanded the return to Turkey from the United States of self-exiled cleric Fethullah Gülen, a political opponent, whom Erdogan claims was behind the failed coup against him in the summer of 2016.
"They are treating the U.S. government with contempt and paying no price for it." — Pastor Andrew Brunson, March 17, 2018.
Turkey -- a NATO member holding an American political prisoner hostage -- has so far faced no consequences.
An American Pastor, Andrew Brunson, has been jailed on false charges in Turkey since October, 2016. He is accused, in a 62-page indictment of espionage, overthrowing the Turkish Parliament and government, undermining the constitutional order of the state, and membership in an armed Islamic terrorist group, namely the "Fethullahist Terrorist Organization/Parallel State Structure", or the "FETÖ/PDY", which the Turkish government accuses of organizing the failed coup attempt in 2016.
Brunson was not charged until after being imprisoned for 17 months without any evidence at all, and with no access to his file. In late March, Turkish prosecutors finally filed official charges and called for a life sentence of 35 years. His trial is scheduled to begin on Monday, April 16.
Pastor Andrew Brunson, after he lost 50 lbs. in Turkish prison. (Image source: American Center for Law and Justice)
Brunson has lived in Turkey for 23 years with his wife and three children without incident. He was applying for permanent residency in Turkey before his arrest and served as pastor at the Protestant Resurrection Church in Izmir.
The 2017 Human Rights Violations Report by Turkey's Association of Protestant Churches states that the incarceration of Pastor Brunson and the 2016 failed coup attempt not only paved the way for a massive nationwide purge targeting thousands of people but negatively affected the Protestant community in the country.
The Association of Protestant Churches sent a letter to all the Protestant fellowships, saying that "it would be good and beneficial to not do evangelism or hand out brochures in public areas."
One of their most serious problems concerns the lack of their "legal entity and right to organize".
The Protestant community, as many other non-Muslim communities, is not recognized as a "legal entity" by the Turkish government. Hence, its followers do not have the right freely to establish and maintain places of worships.
"The legal entity problem is a problem for all religious groups as well as minority groups in Turkey," according to the report.
Apparently, even limited efforts are randomly thwarted by the Turkish government. Some foreign religious workers and church members were deported, denied entry into Turkey, refused residence permits, or denied entry visas.
The Turkish government is using Brunson's detention as a bargaining chip. In exchange for his freedom, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan demanded the return to Turkey from the United States of self-exiled cleric Fethullah Gülen, a political opponent, whom Erdogan claims was behind the failed coup against him in the summer of 2016. Erdoğan said in September 2017:
"America wants us to return a priest... You also have a priest. You should give him to us too. Then we will try and return the one here. But you then say, 'Don't mix them up.' What is that supposed to mean? That you have judiciary and we don't? In fact, the one here is tried. But the one over there [Gülen] is living in a palace in Pennsylvania. It would be much easier for you to return him to us."
The American Center for Law and Justice, which had been advocating Brunson's release, reported that "A large percentage of the 62-page indictment presented against him is comprised of rhetoric by unknown 'secret witnesses.'"
On March 2017, in a statement from his jail cell, Brunson said:
"Even though I have a long public track record as a church pastor, they falsely accuse me of being a member of an Islamist terrorist group. The Turkish government has produced no proof and has rebuffed numerous attempts by the American government to secure my return to the United States. In fact they are treating the U.S. government with contempt and paying no price for it...."
Turkey -- a NATO member holding an American political prisoner hostage -- has not even faced any consequences.
*Uzay Bulut is a Turkish journalist born and raised in Turkey. She is presently based in Washington D.C.
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"Why Do They Think Islam Is a Religion of Peace?"/Muslim Persecution of Christians: October 2017
Raymond Ibrahim/Gatestone Institute/April 15/18
Three Muslim men kidnapped a 12-year-old Christian girl, gang-raped, and sadistically tortured her, including burning her body with cigarettes. When her mother of went to police the same day, they refused to start a criminal investigation or even to file a complaint. — Pakistan.
"These attacks are being carried out daily..." — A villager in Nigeria.
"I fled from Pakistan to escape violence such as this, but more and more the same violence is coming into Britain. Freedom of religion should be the right of any British citizen but today I feel unsafe..." — Tajamal Amar, Darby, England.
"Why do they [Western people] think Islam is a religion of peace? These people have been killing us for decades and your media just ignores it. Now they are killing you and still your President Obama [had] called it a peaceful religion. We see Western leaders saying that over and over again. Why?" — A Nigerian Christian.
In one of the most brazen attacks on Egypt's Christians, a Muslim man slaughtered a Christian bishop in broad daylight. Security camera footage captured a man with a large butcher knife chasing and stabbing Bishop Samaan Shehata—in the head, neck, and torso—in the streets of Cairo on October 12. According to eyewitnesses "the assailant had seen Shehata in his car, forcibly stopped him, ordered him out and then started to stab him in the neck and torso. Shehata fled, and the attacker followed him into the warehouse and finished his attack there with several blows to the head." Then, while standing over his victim, "the assailant used the bishop's blood to form a cross on his forehead." It took 90 minutes for an ambulance to arrive, and "the bishop was alive for half an hour after being struck and could have been saved if the ambulance had arrived timely."
Some people acquainted with the murderer said that Ahmed Saeed Ibrahim had recently "begun praying in the street, shouting loudly and calling Christians infidels." As for a motive, one report said, "he had decided to kill any Coptic priest, purchased a dagger, and lay in wait for one to pass by, in a street leading to the local church." His father "is more of a terrorist than his son," added one woman; he "used to stop children on their way back from church and say, 'You are multiplying, may Allah destroy your houses and burn you all. You have filled our neighborhood with filth.'"
As in similar cases, Egyptian authorities labeled Ahmed "crazy," prompting one Copt to ask:
"Why is it that anyone who kills Christians is crazy? The person who killed two Christians in a train was crazy. We got used to this, and are expecting [the murderer] will soon be released too. We don't want to be unfair to anyone, but Ahmed Saeed is not crazy, he's a religious extremist."
A woman waiting for visits from the police said:
"We saw a sheikh online saying those who kill Christians should be prosecuted and not sentenced to death, even before the priest's blood had cooled, because those who kill Christians are better than us. But, if a Christian does something, he is executed, his house burned and his family displaced... What did the dead priest do wrong? Christians have always had no rights...We saw a sheikh online saying those who kill Christians should be prosecuted and not sentenced to death, even before the priest's blood had cooled, because those who kill Christians are better than us. But, if a Christian does something, he is executed, his house burned and his family displaced."
The rest of October's roundup of Muslim persecution of Christians around the world includes, but is not limited to, the following:
Muslim Slaughter of Christians
Pakistan: On October 9, seven Muslim police officers stormed a school and beat to death a 14-year-old Christian boy who had refused a forced conversion. According to the boy's father, "they all started beating Arsalan with fists, kicks and rifle butts." After murdering him, "the police team threw Arsalan's body on the roadside and fled." Four months earlier, Arsalan had apparently fought a Muslim classmate who was pressuring him to renounce Christianity and accept Islam. "I did not know about the fight until recently," the father explained. "Arsalan had reportedly beaten up a boy whose uncle, Sardar alias Billu, is a constable in the Sheikhupura District police. Billu nurtured a grudge against Arsalan, and that's why he brought his police friends with him to teach the poor boy a lesson." (Another teenage Christian student had been beaten to death by Muslim students angered that an "unclean" infidel had drunk from the same water source used by Muslim pupils a few weeks earlier, in September.)
In a separate incident, a Muslim man murdered his sister because she had married a Christian. Mubeen Rajhu, 24, from Lahore, confessed to shooting Tasleem,18. He said the murder came largely in response to ongoing taunts from co-workers that his sister was involved with an infidel. One of his colleagues said, "He used to tell us, 'If you don't stop, I will kill myself. Stop!' The guys here told him, 'It would be better to kill your sister.'" At one point, Rajhu demanded that his sister swear on the Koran never to marry an infidel: "I told her I would have no face to show at the mill, to show to my neighbors, so don't do it. Don't do it. But she wouldn't listen. I could not let it go. It was all I could think about. I had to kill her. There was no choice. There was no yelling, no shouting. I just shot her dead." Their father blames his daughter: "My family is destroyed. Everything is destroyed only because of this shameful girl. Even after death I am destroyed because of her."
Syria: Islamic State militants are believed to have executed two Russian mercenary fighters— Roman Zabolotny, 39, and Grigory Tsurkanu, 38—for refusing to renounce Christianity and embrace Islam. Commenting on their appearance on an ISIS propaganda video, Senior Russian MP Viktor Vodolatsky said:
"It is very sad but 99 per cent Roman Zabolotny is not alive, nor is the second prisoner. Before filming that video they were given a statement which they had to read. In this text they would reject their Orthodox religion, reject their motherland, become Muslim and join ISIS. They stayed loyal to the Orthodox faith and their Motherland until the very end, and this is what they were killed by those gangsters for."
Separately, in what eyewitnesses described as a "shocking massacre," the Islamic State spent 20 days systematically slaughtering people in the Christian village of al-Qaryatain. According to one report:
"The militant group killed at least 116 civilians [later sources say 128 people] in executions committed in the days before the Syrian regime recaptured the town... ISIS regained control of the town three weeks ago, and then the killings began. Syrian regime forces, backed by Russian air power, arrived and liberated the town on October 21 after dozens of ISIS fighters retreated, at which point the remains of the victims of the mass execution were found. After the regime retook it, the town's residents found the bodies on the streets. They had been shot dead or executed with knives."
Iraq: The Muslim family of a Baghdad man who had turned Christian slaughtered him. According to the report, "after Muhammed shared the gospel with his mother, she talked with his father and his father became angry. He gave his son two days to repent or be killed." When Muhammad refused, "his cousins just killed him."
In another example of the actions of the Islamic State, a separate report explained how "Three years ago, there were 73 nuns with the Dominican Sisters of Saint Catherine," but "[s]ince the Islamic State captured the Plain of Nineveh in 2014, one-third of them have died," about 24. One of the survivors, Sister Silvia, said:
"We pray for them [Islamic terrorists] every day as sisters. We pray for them, for those bringing peace, for our soldiers, for those who help people have a better life. This prayer helps us forgive—not to forget, because you can't forget, but to not hate the other person. If we hate others, that means that we're doing what the devil wants, not what Jesus wants.
"The sisters—whose community has lived in the Nineveh Plains and Kurdistan regions of Iraq for 120 years—were forced to flee in August 2015. During ISIS' occupation of the Nineveh Plain, some 100 places of worship were destroyed, mostly Christian churches."
Nigeria: A report shed light on the nature and frequency of Muslim Fulani raids on Christian villages. In 13 separate invasions, the Islamic herdsmen slaughtered 48 people—including women and children—and destroyed 249 homes. "All Christians in villages around here have been displaced, and worship buildings have been abandoned. Some of the church buildings were destroyed by the attackers, said the resident of one of these villages. "These attacks are being carried out daily," said the resident of another village. "Every blessed day we witness the invasion, killing of our people, and the destruction of their houses."
In a different attack, "A Christian woman and her two children were killed ... three days after a kidnapped priest was slain by his abductors in the southwestern part of the country." "We have been under attack constantly from these Fulani herdsmen because we are Christians," Gyang Dahoro, a Christian elder said. "Our villages have been ravaged, and our houses and churches destroyed, and in most cases these herdsmen have taken over the villages where Christians have been displaced."
On another day, a masked gunman stormed the mission house of the Christ Apostolic Church in search of Rev. Oluwarotimi Akinroyeje. Upon finding him, the assassin opened fire, and, according to a witness, did not flee until making sure that the pastor was dead. The murderer did not steal anything; it appears he was only targeting Akinroyeje. Although the killer's motivation is unknown, several Christian leaders have been similarly targeted in Nigeria and elsewhere on the pretense that they are successfully converting Muslims to Christianity.
A separate report in October quotes a Nigerian Christian wondering:
"Why do they [Western people] think Islam is a religion of peace? These people have been killing us for decades and your media just ignores it. Now they are killing you and still your President Obama [had] called it a peaceful religion. We see Western leaders saying that over and over again. Why?"
The Egyptian Jihad on Christian Churches
On Sunday, October 15, a group of Islamic militants in the Sinai region attacked St. George, a Coptic Christian church, as part of a staged operation to distract security forces while another group of militants successfully robbed a nearby bank. The attack, which involved lobbing grenades and exchanges of gunfire, left three civilians—including a young child—three bank guards, and one soldier dead, and 15 people, mostly women and children, wounded. The church, which had sustained extensive damage from earlier terror attacks—after its priest was killed last year, its congregation fled—was not occupied at the time.
In four separate incidents, Muslim authorities responded to Muslim mob uprisings against four individual churches in Minya—in one, Christians were pelted with rocks during service—by closing the Christian buildings of worship on the charge that they incited unrest and violence. As a result, in the heavily Christian regions of Minya province, thousands of Christians were left with no place to worship.
In one of these uprisings, on Sunday, October, 22, a mob of about 60 Muslim men were seen storming out of a mosque and marching to the nearby church of St. Moses, all while screaming: "no matter what, we'll bring the church down," and "Islamic! Islamic!" meaning the village must be entirely Islamic, with no place for infidels. According to the report, "The attackers attempted to break into the building, the first floor of which houses a pre-school nursery [that serves 38 toddlers and children aged 2 to 4] and reception hall. When they could not get through they set the main iron gate on fire and broke the CCTV camera on top of the gate." They also hurled rocks at Christian homes and burned one Copt's car. "As soon as the violence erupted, the police cordoned off the village and restored security, but caught no culprit." Authorities proceeded to shut down the church, thereby leaving 1,000 Christian locals without a place of worship.
Another Christian eyewitness described a different mob attack in similar terms:
"Following the [Islamic] Friday prayer [on October 27], many Muslims gathered into a mob and began to attack us. They threw stones at our homes resulting in breaking the doors and windows of some houses, injuring a Coptic woman... they set three stables owned by Copts on fire. They then headed to the church (the building services) and tried to attack it but the security guards who were assigned confronted them and prevented them from approaching the church."
Instead, and to appease the Islamic rioters, security services shuttered the church, thereby denying that village's 1,800 Christian residents a place of worship.
"What did we Copts do to be attacked, our church closed, and Christians prevented from praying in it?" asked another Christian resident.
"We are very peaceful and we have not made any trouble with them. Is this because we are Christians? They do not want us to have a place to pray in. Their aim was to close our church. They consider us Kaffir [infidels] and they say no to places for Kaffir to pray in our village. While they were throwing the stones at our homes last Friday they were shouting, 'Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar, we don't want a church in our Islamic village.'"
In response to these Muslim mob uprisings against churches —followed by their closure -- the Coptic Orthodox Archbishop of Minya issued a statement on October 29:
"We stayed silent for two weeks after the closure of a church hoping that the officials would do the job they were assigned to do by the state. However, this silence has led to something worse, as if prayer is a crime the Copts should be punished for... churches are closed, the Coptic Christians are being attacked and their property destroyed, and there is no deterrent."
He went on in his statement to call the response of the Egyptian authorities "disappointing": closing churches punishes the victims while validating the will of violent mobs.
Muslim Attacks on Christian Churches
Pakistan: Islamic terrorists hurled grenades on the Gospel Faith Church before fleeing the scene. Although there was significant damage to the property—including a church wall, the surrounding gate, and a parked car — congregants had already left church so no one was harmed.
Mali: Christians, who make up just 2% of the Muslim-majority nation's population and churches, "have come under systematic attacks by extremist Muslims" with a "lack of a government response to the crisis," a report states. In one attack, "armed men stormed the local church, taking the crucifix, altar furnishings, and the statue of the Virgin Mary. They burned the church material right at the church door." In another incident, "Christians were chased away from their church with the threat that if they kept worshiping, they would be killed. Over the next few weeks, several churches were burned in Mali's central Mopti region, forcing parishioners to flee." "On previous occasions," said a local Catholic leader, "the government has deployed military units in our parishes. But this still hasn't been done against these new attacks."
Algeria: Claiming that a 2006 law which regulates non-Muslim worship is being breached, Muslim authorities cracked down on at least two churches, including one that was using a house leased on behalf of the Protestant Church of Algeria (an accredited institution formally recognized by the government since 1974). The report that reveled this condition goes on to argue that churches are facing "intimidation and harassment because of the 2006 law," even though they are operating in full accordance with the law, as can be seen by their affiliation with a formally acknowledged institution. "It is an unjust law against Christians, who are denied their right to worship and the opportunity to share the Gospel freely," a local Protestant leader said. He added that "the situation of Christians in Algeria will not improve until the outright law, which is no longer justified, is repealed."
Sudan: On Sunday, October 22, police officers marched into a church in Omdurman and ordered its leadership to cancel the worship service. When they refused, all five were arrested and taken to jail. There, they were threatened that unless they complied, they would be kept in prison indefinitely. Twelve hours later, they were released.
Nigeria: Unknown persons plundered the Kings Tabernacle International Church before setting it on fire. According to the report, "Burnt roof, drum set, PVC, electric wires, wall clock, light fittings ashes of completely burnt pulpit and alter rug littered the scene of the incident with smoke still billowing out from the burnt items. Sympathizers and members of the church gathered watching helplessly as the fire had already burnt down a part of the church completely." Although the attack was registered as a criminal act of theft, Nigeria, which is roughly half Muslim, has witnessed the bombing and burning of hundreds of churches in recent years.
Muslim Attacks on Christian Freedom
Iran: Authorities continued attacking converts to Christianity, including by arresting four Christians and raiding their homes. Their Bibles and other Christian paraphernalia were also confiscated. Mohabat News says it had "obtained confirmed reports of them being beaten in prison and threatened that if they don't renounce their faith in Christ and turn away from their Christian faith they will be forced to leave the country or be beaten to death."
Uganda: A Muslim father beat his son and forced him to flee the family home after he learned that the 20-year-old had converted to Christianity. When the father, who had noticed that Magale Hamidu had long stopped going to mosque and had been seen in Christian company, he pressed his son to confess. When his son remained silent, "his father began beating him with a stick,"; before long "other family members picked up sticks and joined in. Hamidu's screams ... alerted neighbors who managed to pull the bleeding young man away" and rushed him to a hospital. After the attack, a neighbor said the unrepentant father told him, "I will rest only after getting rid of Hamidu—he has become a big embarrassment to my family." Pastor Kisense, who took the outcast son in, said he was reluctant to press charges, as "it would trigger Islamist attacks on him or his church..." The pastor has already been receiving threatening messages from area Muslims, including: "We are aware that several of our Muslim members are being accommodated by your church, and if you continue housing them, then be informed that your church and life has been marked, and expect something serious to happen soon."
Indonesia: An open-air Christian prayer service was canceled due to pressure—and threats—from Muslim groups claiming that the public event was a "plot to convert Muslims to Christianity." "For the sake of interreligious harmony," the Reformed Evangelical Church of Indonesia responded in a statement, "and to avoid acts of intolerance, the committee decided to call off the national prayer service to mark 500 years of Reformation." A few months earlier, a Christmas service was also stopped by Muslim rioters.
Sudan: Approximately one million Christians have no access to Bibles in the Muslim majority nation. "They need Bibles, they need materials," a senior church leader said. "It's very difficult for them to get them now. The government is denying their right to know their own belief and study their own religion." A separate report says that a shipment of Arabic language Bibles intercepted in a port has been held by authorities for at least two years:
"The detained shipments were destined for Sudan's capital, Khartoum.... At present the Bible Society in Sudan does not have a single copy of an Arabic Bible available in Khartoum. Other shipments of Bibles at Port Sudan, on the Red Sea, have also been detained over the past two years."
United Kingdom: Another Christian who fled to the West from the Islamic world in search of religious freedom was attacked and beaten senseless by Muslim men angered by the crucifix hanging from his car's rearview mirror. Tajamal Amar awoke five hours later in a hospital with a broken nose and several lacerations to his head. According to the report,
"Mr Amar, remembers being stared at by a group of Muslim men who seemed to be taking offence at the cross in his vehicle... After this Mr Amar is not very clear on what happened but he seems to have been hit on top of the head and then suffered further violence as he lay on the floor unconscious."
Later, Amar said:
Several times local Pakistani people in Derby have taken offence from the fact that I am Christian, when they first find out many stop talking to me. My wife and I have often been shunned. On the day of my attack the visible display of a cross in my car and two poppies just below the front bonnet, triggered the violence against me. I know this, because for a few days before the attack the same men glared at me after they notice[d] my Christian paraphernalia. I fled from Pakistan to escape violence such as this, but more and more the same violence is coming into Britain. Freedom of religion should be the right of any British citizen but today I feel unsafe, even then nothing will stop me going to church.
A Christian man who fled to the West from the Islamic world in search of religious freedom was attacked and beaten senseless by Muslim men in Derby, England in October. The attackers were angered by the crucifix hanging from his car's rearview mirror. Pictured: Derby city center. (Image source: Ray Bradbury/Flickr)
Pakistani Abuse of Christians
Three Muslim men kidnapped a 12-year-old Christian girl, gang-raped, and sadistically tortured her, burning her body with cigarettes. When her mother went the same day to the police, they refused to start a criminal investigation or even to file a complaint. While explaining that things are bad for Christian minorities in general, one human rights activist Shahid Anwar added:
"things are twice as bad [for females]. First, because she belongs to a religious minority. Secondly, because she is a woman. What is more, when minors go to police to file complaints, they are not treated the same way as other [Muslim] citizens, and their complaints are not taken seriously... In Pakistan, [Christian] girls are often taken, raped and converted by force. The competent authorities did not take any action."
In another incident, Christian activists accused authorities "of failing to protect a 17-year-old Christian girl who for years has been sexually harassed and stalked by a Muslim man who threatened to throw acid on her," according to a report. She "has been heckled since 2013 by a man 10 years her senior who is trying to get her to marry him." He has apparently been "accosting her daily on her way to school.... [T]he chance of meeting with him filled her with fear and dread, so much so that often she would stay at home and cry her day away having lost all hope." On such days, "the man would also sit outside her house and yell her name." The girl eventually "stopped attending school and did not leave her home for an entire year, becoming seriously ill and depressed." At one point, the Muslim man "even pulled a dagger and chased away a police officer who wanted to talk to him about the case." In general, however, "police have failed to deal with the man despite his threats, including one instance in which he threatened to throw acid on Iqbal." According to a human rights group:
"It's sad to hear how this Christian girl has lost her ambitions and dreams of a brighter future, because fear of an impending and looming attack has left her so disheveled. Samina should have the freedom to live as she wants and this man should be punished. He has left her without an education and has destroyed a promising career."
Finally, as part of a plan to continue avoiding paying rent—and possibly to expropriate their property— Muhammad Arshad, a Muslim tenant falsely accused the Christian family renting to him of kidnapping a newborn Muslim girl. The false accusation led to the arrest and "excruciating torture" of the family's three sons at the hands of police. According to the report:
"It has been forty days that the three Christians have been detained. What is more, the police are also intimidating and abuse female members of the Christian family. The victims claim that Muhammad Arshad had fabricated a false case against them in order to avoid payment of rent due from past seven months."
About this Series
While not all, or even most, Muslims are involved, persecution of Christians by Muslims is growing. The report posits that such Muslim persecution is not random but rather systematic, and takes place irrespective of language, ethnicity, or location.
**Raymond Ibrahim is the author of Crucified Again: Exposing Islam's New War on Christians (published by Regnery with Gatestone Institute, April 2013).

What happens after the limited US strike on Syria?
Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya/April 15/18
Prior to the US, France and Britain strikes, there were rumors circulating that the Syrian regime and Russian government offered to get Iran and its militias out of Syria as part of reaching a proposed settlement, in return for refraining from attacking, and engaging in a new political process.
If we assumed that this offer was proposed, would it be acceptable? Certainly, it is better than a limited strike. But the problem is that these three parties are used to promoting lies. Even the Russians have lost their credibility due to their supporting of the claims of Damascus and Tehran. In the chemical weapon attack on Douma, they went back to creating the same old stories, that the opposition were the ones who executed the attack against themselves and that the UN should pursue field investigations. That’s how they waste time and minimize the crisis. It is obvious that the genocide and revenge mentality is dominant in Damascus and Tehran, or else there would have been no compelling reasons to make them use chlorine gas and the nerve agent Sarin against civilians in Douma
The evil axis
Without credibility, there is no way to engage with the evil axis in finding political solutions or projects, as they are probably just going to be like medical drugs. The Syrian regime survived the military sanctions imposed on it when the Russians suggested, on September 2013, that the regime hand over their chemical weapon stocks to UN inspectors. Thus it was moved and the regime claimed that this was all it had, but wehave come to find now that there are more in their hideouts. What is more dangerous than the fakeness, is that the regime is ready to go to extremes without considering the consequences. These are the old characteristics of the regime that the world thought may have changed and became more flexible due to the civil war circumstances. It is obvious that the genocide and revenge mentality is dominant in Damascus and Tehran, or else there would have been no compelling reasons to make them use chlorine gas and Sarin nerve agent against civilians in Douma. The role of the Revolutionary Guard’s generals is important in this war, as they have been leading several battles in Syria for the past three years, and they have a reputation for being brutal. They have also become famous for performing horrifying revenge operations with their militias.
What next?
Let’s go back to talking about the coming few days, considering that the military response against using chemical weapons was executed and achieved its goal, which did not weaken the regime or its forces. US President Donald Trump wanted to deliver a message; that he means what he says and the message was understood. So what’s next? We are facing two interrelated cases, American sanctions against Iran, a fight that did not begin yet, and the second one is wanting to end the civilian war in Syria whether peacefully or not, or reach a solution in accordance with the regime, or create a new reality on the ground through military reserves, like the US project in eastern Syria in an area from which forces surveil and move when needed to fight ISIS or others. US sanctions against Iran will certainly weaken the regime in Tehran, create a better environment for a solution in Syria, and ease Iran’s control over Iraq and Lebanon.
Without the sanctions Tehran would continue to cause unrest in the region, and Syria might be the Achilles heel of Waliyat-al-Faqih (Guardianship of the Islamic Jurist), which started to feel as if it is an invincible power there. One of the signs of overconfidence is that it turned Syria into a confrontational country against the Kurds and Israel, and from where it threatens the security of Lebanon and Iraq. According to the Iranian project, Syria will turn into a country of militias, all of which follow Iran, and it will also be used by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards as a launching base targeting neighboring areas.
Can we believe that the regime in Damascus is capable of expelling the Revolutionary Guards and its militias out of Syria? It is very difficult. Chaos makes Syria a source of unrest, which perfectly suits Iran and Russia, who are looking for more reasons to be part of the regional issues and to ignite or extinguish battles.

The Dhahran Summit and Tehran
Mohammed Al-Hammadi/Al Arabiya/April 15/18
Arab kings and presidents will convene in Dhahran for the 29th Arab League Summit on Sunday. They meet in a very critical and difficult time, which is not new to our region; however, this time they meet when Arab countries are more divided and have become different now more than ever as they now disagree over some major issues which they’ve never disagreed about before. There are three important files that cannot be ignored: The Israeli occupation, Iranian ambitions and terrorism. The first Arab League summit was held in 1946 in Cairo with the invitation of King Farouq. The main topic was Palestine. And today, after 70 years of the declaration “the state of Israel,” Arabs meet again only a few weeks before the US transfers its embassy to Jerusalem
The Palestinian file
The first Arab League summit was held in 1946 in Cairo with the invitation of King Farouq. The main topic was Palestine. And today, after 70 years of the declaration “the state of Israel,” Arabs meet again only a few weeks before the US transfers its embassy to Jerusalem after it recognized it as the capital of Israel. This means that Arabs should do something in the Palestinian file that is still open since the very first summit and until this 29th summit which has to handle several thorny issues that require clear and practical Arab stances and not just statements or emotional and dreamy positions! What is needed here is stances that help Palestinians make gains instead of further increasing their losses.
The more dangerous file is regarding Iranian interferences in the region and different Arab stances when dealing with Tehran. Arabs should agree that Iran is a lurking and ambitious enemy that must be confronted. Clear stances must be taken in this regard especially after it was confirmed that the ballistic missiles launched from Yemen against Saudi Arabia were of Iranian origin. It’s not unlikely that these missiles were launched by Iranian officers. An attack against any Arab country is supposed to be tantamount to an attack against Arabs. This is in addition to the blatant Iranian interference in Syria, Yemen, Lebanon and Iraq. There is no doubt that holding the Arab summit in Dhahran is a message to Tehran that Arabs are convening in the nearest Saudi city on the other bank of the Arabian Gulf opposite to Iran.
Actions, not words
During this summit, Arabs must realize that they have to proceed to taking actions and not making reactions or emotionally interacting with what’s happening. The scene around Arabs is extremely unfortunate or rather shameful as Iran is tampering with the region. Meanwhile, foreign countries meet and look for solutions for the crises in Syria and Yemen and there isn’t a single Arab party that represents Arabs and their stances present at these meetings. This international neglect is normal since Arabs themselves do not have an agreement on these matters and they don’t even stand with their fellow Arab brothers who decide to take action. It is unfortunately clear that some Arabs await foreign stances and do not act alongside their Arab brothers who take practical stances. Therefore, if we want to be present in the decision-making forums regarding what concerns us, we must prove to the world that we are capable of making decisions and adopting practical action.

Zuckerberg congressional hearing: Much more than a trial for Facebook

Mashari Althaydi/Al Arabiya/April 15/18
The congressional hearing, or rather investigation, of Mark Zuckerberg, the symbol of the global Facebook company which is the most famous social network in the world, is in fact the first revealing session for this whole idea of social media. The young billionaire is an American, and his massive company Facebook is also American. So is Twitter, Google and the rest of the leading platforms of this new world that controls people’s sentiments, circumstances and passions. I have been always certain that these platforms – which have been haphazardly designed under the pretext of free flow of information, making communication available between all people and protecting users’ personal information – or so they promise – are in fact anomalous, dangerous and destructive
Dubious justifications
I have been always certain that these platforms – which have been haphazardly designed under the pretext of free flow of information, making communication available between all people and protecting users’ personal information – or so they promise – are in fact anomalous, dangerous and destructive. However, the western mindset has always tended to say that this is a usual disposition of the third world, especially Arab Islamic countries as their people are not saturated with democratic values and regulations. Okay, so what about the western reproaching cries, from the very bastions of western democracy, against the threat of social media on the stability, security and even identity of western countries? During his congressional testimony, the ‘digital’ billionaire reportedly apologized several times and was “bored” of the congress members’ political questions. He perhaps hid his cynicism towards these old men’s ignorance of the digital world, its modern applications and manipulative advances. The charges leveled against Facebook by the United States as well as some European countries pertained to the company’s sale of its users’ information thus violating their privacy - which the leaders of these companies claim they protect against governments. Facebook is accused of selling this information to other “parties” including both political and non-political parties.
Violation of privacy
The testimony began with a single question as to whether Zuckerberg would be willing to disclose the name of the hotel in which he stayed a fortnight ago, to which Zuckerberg objected. Congress members pointed out that the question was asked to prove the importance of people’s privacy and their reluctance to disclose anything about it to others. It was striking to see Zuckerberg turned up at the hearing in full suit and tie, which is quite a rarity for him. Senator Harris commented on Zuckerberg’s evasive answers saying: “During the course of this hearing … you’ve been asked several critical questions for which you don’t have answers.” What was also notable is how much he apologized. Senator John Thune commented on this and cited a Wired story about Zuckerberg’s “14-year history of apologizing”, asking “how is today’s apology different?” Today accountability began. This is the beginning as the operation of these giant online platforms which have billions of users, without regulations and outside the law reaps blood, destruction and vanity. For the umpteenth time, I am saying that the West is the reason behind the production of the demon of social media, and as the proverb says: “He who summons the demon must dismiss it.”

Europe, Trump and the Iran nuclear deal

Amir Taheri/Al Arabiya/April 15/18
The so-called Iran nuclear deal, a witches’ brew concocted by that most deserving of Nobel peace laureates Barack Obama, has furnished the theme of many bizarre diplomatic twists and turns. The latest is an attempt by sections of the European Union to persuade President Donald Trump to renege on his campaign promise to improve or scrap the “deal.”
During the past year, the EU’s foreign policy point-woman, Federica Mogherini has been collecting air-miles calling on world capitals, including Washington and Rangoon, to demand “commitment” to the “deal” as if this were an article of faith in an as-yet undefined religion.
The retiring British Ambassador to Washington Sir Peter Westmacott has been granting interviews to Iranian media demanding kudos for having spent “much time and energy” trying to persuade the US to stick by the “deal”.
Outgoing German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel also boasts about having spent much energy in his final months in office “defending the deal” as a Crusading knight protecting a holy relic.
And now is the turn of the French Ambassador to Washington, Gerard Araud, to launch a Twitter campaign to persuade the Trump administration to “honor” that most questionable item in Obama’s legacy.
Basically, the Europeans advance four arguments. The first, advanced by Westmacott, is that discarding the “deal” could damage the credibility of “major powers”, that is to say Britain, France, Germany and the US that signed it along with China and Russia.
There are two troubles with that argument. The first is that it assumes that any diplomatic deal should be treated like a Catholic marriage that one abides “till death do us part”. Such an assumption would mean the end of diplomacy as the art of responding to changing realities.
If we were to go by Mogherini’s or Westmacott’s “commitment” to an unchangeable “deal”, Britain and France should have never denounced the “peace accord” that Chamberlain signed in Munich in 1939.
Right now, Tehran has difficulty bankrolling Lebanese “Hezbollah” and paying the salaries of Bashar al-Assad’s regime forces and civil service
‘Respecting signatures’
However, the EU argument about “respecting signatures” has another problem because nobody signed anything. The so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) is no more than a press release stating a set of desirable moves by Iran and the P5+1 which, incidentally, didn’t include the EU as such.
Moreover, there are significant differences between the JCPOA’s English and Persian versions, making various imaginative re-readings, a la Roland Barthes or Jacques Derrida, possible. Mogherini cannot claim respect for “signatures” which never happened and that, had they happened, would not have included the EU. The second argument is that the “deal” is working and, thus, the dictum “if it ain’t broken why fix it” applies. That assumption is not borne out by facts. Iran and the P5+1 have either tried to circumvent or have brazenly broken their promises.
Sir Peter, the retired UK diplomat, certainly knows that his government, in violation of the “deal” still refuses to allow the Iranian Embassy to open a bank account in London. Nor has the UK government unfrozen more than $600 million in Iranian assets.
The Germans and the French still refuse to issues export guarantees to firms seeking trade with Iran. Huge memorandums of understanding are signed but put on the back-burner as Iran remains subject to sanctions by the United Nations, the EU and US. As for Russia, during an official visit to Iran last week, Chairman of Russia Duma Vyacheslav Volodin heard an avalanche of complaints.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has shown what he thinks of Iran, a supposed ally notably in Syria, by his recent treatment of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in Ankara. At the end of a “summit” with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Rouhani demanded a two-some with Putin.
The Russian consented to a brief standing encounter which lasted around eight minutes. The Tsar Vladimir had no time to sit down with the Iranian mullah for a cup of tea. As for China, it says Iran could use its frozen assets, piled up through oil exports to the People’s Republic, only by buying Chinese goods.
Beijing even refuses to let the 3,000 or so Iranian students in China to receive their stipends through banks, forcing the embassy to send people around to distribute cash among the budding scholars.
Mafia-style smuggling
Ironically, the only P5+1 member that has partially complied with the “deal” is the US, including by Mafia-style smuggling of $1.7 billion cash to Tehran and the transfer of $700 million a month since August 2015.
Iran, for its part, asserts that there has been no change in its nuclear project. Earlier this month, spokesman for Iran Atomic Energy Agency Behruz Kamalvand told a press conference in Tehran that the Iran’s nuclear project was “going full speed ahead” with “new and more ambitious plans under preparation.”
More importantly, Iran has managed to block international inspection of key research and development centers by claiming they are military sites and thus off limits. Less than half of Iran’s enriched uranium stocks have been shipped abroad, along with 10 percent of plutonium accumulated at the Arak plant.
Last week, marking National Nuclear Day, Rouhani unveiled what he called “83 new nuclear projects” as slaps in the face of the American “Great Satan.” Why should Mogherini or Araud beat their chests about a “deal” not honored by either side?
The ambassador advances one last argument: If you scrap the “deal” how could you be sure Iran will not go “full speed ahead” with its nuclear ambitions? This is a casuistic argument: accept the bad for fear of getting the worse.
Since the JCPOA was unveiled Iran’s national currency has fallen by some 40 percent to an all-time low against foreign currencies, including the Iraqi dinar and the UAE dirham.
The Tehran government cannot regularly pay the salaries of its employees. Had it not been for the cash smuggled and funneled by Obama, the mullahs would have been unable to pay their military either. Right now, Tehran has difficulty bankrolling the Lebanese “Hezbollah” and paying the salaries of Bashar al-Assad’s regime forces and civil service.
So the Obama “deal”, as Trump said during his campaign, is a bad deal. What Trump didn’t say was that the “deal” was bad, both for Iran and the rest of the world.
Araud would do well to re-read what Laurent Fabius, then France’s Foreign Minister, said in 2015: “France will not accept a deal if it is not clear that inspections can be done at all Iranian installations ... We’ll accept a deal, but not any deal.”
It was partly because of France’s refusal to give the JCPOA legal status by signing that the Obama “deal” was launched as an informal initiative. Interestingly, Araud who now campaigns for the “deal” was appointed by Fabius, who took care to have a pinch of salt about it.

Time for region’s leaders to put Arab interests first
Baria Alamuddin/Arab News/April 15/18
With the Middle Eastern policies of Western nations more fickle, uncommitted and unreliable than ever before, the Dhahran Arab League summit was an opportunity for Arab states to stand up and display strategic regional leadership.
Iranian meddling is the common denominator straddling the perfect storm of geopolitical crises the region faces. Tehran should not be feared or placated — combined Arab League GDP, at over $3.2 trillion, is nearly 10 times that of Iran. Tehran boasts third-rate military capabilities and only constitutes a threat because it spent decades mobilizing Arab militants against their own countrymen. Should we pity or despise those who sold their souls for pennies from Tehran, when the Arab world boasts such immense capacities and riches? If only we could come together to deploy these resources effectively and wisely.
The Tehran regime cannibalized its own economy to bankroll overseas terrorism and militancy. Iran furthermore invests billions in media, educational and theological institutions that sow seeds of sectarian hatred throughout the Arab world. We should not demonize the Iranian people, or resort to vacuous rhetoric while failing to take action. Our end goal should be a peaceable administration in Tehran, which the Arab world looks to as a neighbor and friend. For Arab League decision-makers pursuing this objective within a holistic vision for enhancing regional security, the principle cornerstones are straightforward.
Active measures are needed to ensure that no Arab state hosts paramilitary forces whose primary loyalty is to foreign powers. Such principles, for example, are in harmony with Iraq’s own laws. The problem is meaningful enforcement, perhaps through an Arab League task force that assists states in extending control over ungoverned spaces and reining in non-state militias. Saudi Arabia’s impressive $1.5bn in pledges for reconstruction should be beefed up with an Arab League role for restoring Baghdad’s central position within its Arab heartland, away from malignant influences.
The Arab League summit can be a first step toward the restoration of an assertive Arab position on the world stage.
The Arab League must play the principal role in substantive negotiations concerning member states. For Syria, this means ensuring that no future status issues conflict with Arab interests. A handful of rockets fired at Syrian chemical weapons installations will not alter the situation on the ground. With Donald Trump tweeting mixed messages about his desire to cut and run, a joint Arab role is required to obstruct the consolidation of enemy forces in Syrian territory toward a solution that allows Syrians to be free of violence and tyranny. In Libya and Yemen, a broadened Arab role is required to bring these conflicts to a quick end, ensuring a stable Yemen that doesn’t host hostile forces.
Pro-Iranian narratives are propagated through a plethora of media outlets, while the Arab world either remains silent or deploys its media outlets against each other. This doesn’t mean replicating the deranged propaganda of Al-Manar TV: Rather, a sophisticated, evidence-based communications strategy is needed to actively promote Arab interests around the world, raising awareness about the consequences of Iranian meddling and other challenges. To counter hostile ideologies and internal divisions, the Arab world requires a cultural revival: A reassertion of what it means to be Arab, through the arts, literature and educational activity; along with collective action against poverty and social grievances — promoting Arab unity, banishing sectarian divisions, and ostracizing those serving malicious ideologies.
Our enemies gloat at our divisions. The Arab League and Gulf Cooperation Council must jointly act to compel Doha to implement necessary concessions, thus restoring our Qatari brothers and sisters to the Arab fold. This bitter experience demonstrates the need for Arab institutions to efficiently address disputes. An enforceable set of principles for acceptable behavior by organizations and the media would ensure that the Arab world doesn’t host entities serving hostile agendas. The infestation of hostile media and political offices in “Hezbollah-land” is a reminder that Doha is only the tip of the iceberg.
Finally, we must grasp the roots of this pestilence with both hands. Since 1979, the Islamic Republic never missed one opportunity to destabilize the Arab world, and the Arab world hardly lifted a finger in response. Right-minded Iranians consistently vote, protest and act against their theocratic, totalitarian leadership. A multi-faceted strategy against misrule in Tehran would support Iranians in realizing their potential. This strategy, nevertheless, wouldn’t resort to even one percent of the vicious and malicious tactics that this regime wielded against Arab states over the years.
Certain states will predictably baulk at such principles. Yet much of the above is simply implementing what has long existed as ink on paper. Rather than squandering our energies confronting one another, it is time for the Arab world to unify and demonstrate what it is capable of. For all its past failings, the Arab League remains the institutional heart of the Arab world and will remain the forum for coordinating joint Arab action. The Palestinian question has held the region back for too long, providing a pretext for Tehran, Hezbollah and others to meddle. The Saudi-based 2007 Arab League summit reaffirmed the Arab Peace Initiative. The Arab League should act to restore this initiative to the top of the world’s agenda. Benjamin Netanyahu must be forced to understand that stealing Palestinian land has consequences. A shared solution for Jerusalem is required so that Israelis and Palestinians alike can reap the benefits of peace.
Progress on all these issues is achievable if members act together to promote regional security and put Arab interests first. The Dhahran summit can constitute a first step toward the restoration of an assertive Arab position on the world stage — an aspiration that every proud and nationalist Arab would share. Let us pray that our leaderships rise to the challenge.
**Baria Alamuddin is an award-winning journalist and broadcaster in the Middle East and the UK. She is editor of the Media Services Syndicate and has interviewed numerous heads of state.