April 20/2018
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani


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Bible Quotations
Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to kill?’
Mark 03/01-12./"Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there who had a withered hand. They watched him to see whether he would cure him on the sabbath, so that they might accuse him. And he said to the man who had the withered hand, ‘Come forward.’ Then he said to them, ‘Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to kill?’ But they were silent. He looked around at them with anger; he was grieved at their hardness of heart and said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. The Pharisees went out and immediately conspired with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him. Jesus departed with his disciples to the lake, and a great multitude from Galilee followed him; hearing all that he was doing, they came to him in great numbers from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, beyond the Jordan, and the region around Tyre and Sidon. He told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, so that they would not crush him; for he had cured many, so that all who had diseases pressed upon him to touch him. Whenever the unclean spirits saw him, they fell down before him and shouted, ‘You are the Son of God!’ But he sternly ordered them not to make him known."

The Lord stood by me and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed

Second Letter to Timothy 04/09-19/: "Do your best to come to me soon, for Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica; Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia. Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful in my ministry. I have sent Tychicus to Ephesus. When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments. Alexander the coppersmith did me great harm; the Lord will pay him back for his deeds. You also must beware of him, for he strongly opposed our message. At my first defence no one came to my support, but all deserted me. May it not be counted against them! But the Lord stood by me and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and save me for his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory for ever and ever. Amen. Greet Prisca and Aquila, and the household of Onesiphorus."

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on April 19-20/18
Why Samir Frangieh was wrong, and why “March 14” lost/Elie Aoun/April 19/18
Is a thick gaseous cloud hiding Russia’s first S-300 delivery to Syria/DEBKAfile/April 19/18
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Urges Foreign Diplomats to Speak Out Against Iran/Jerusalem Post/April 19/18
White House works to fill its own vacuum in Syria with allied Arab forces/Jerusalem Post/April 19/18
Exclusive: South Damascus Residents Facing Displacement amid Ambiguity on ISIS Fate/Asharq Al-Awsat/April 19/18
Why Germany Didn't Join the Syria Strikes/Leonid Bershidsky/Bloomberg View/April 19/18
Inflation Will Offer Pleasant Surprise to Equity Markets/Neil Dutta/Bloomberg/April 19/18
Gulf Shield, More than a Drill/Salman Al-dossary/Asharq Al Awsat/April 19/18
UK: "Teacher Handbook" Supporting Extremism/Andrew Jones/Gatestone Institute/April 19/18
Turkey's Erdogan Threatens France/Uzay Bulut/Gatestone Institute/April 19/2018
Future scenarios for the unfolding crisis in Syria/Abdullah bin Bijad Al-Otaibi/Al Arabiya/April 19/18
Four reasons why destroying the Brotherhood is a noble task/Mamdouh AlMuhaini/Al Arabiya/April 19/18
What if Saddam had stayed in power/Adnan Hussein/Al Arabiya/April 19/18
France: When Macron confronts secularism/Christian Chesnot/Al Arabiya/April 19/18
How to counter Iran’s military entrenchment in Syria/Dr. Majid Rafizadeh/Arab News/April 19/18

Titles For Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on April 19-20/18
Detainee's Death Brings Case of Lebanese Prisoners Back to Forefront
Aoun thanks Macron for hosting CEDRE
Aoun: Return of the Displaced to Syria Helps Restore Stability
Lebanese Lawyers Participate in STL Training on Int'l Criminal Proceedings
Aoun Orders Reevaluation of Budget Item on Foreigners Residence Permits
Aoun Says Lebanon 'Will Only Rise' with Anti-Corruption Reforms
Khalil, Bassil Engage in New War of Words
Berri: Iran-Saudi Dialogue Has Become Urgent Need
Al-Rahi in Qatar to Lay Cornerstone for Maronite Church
ISF Arrest Man for Impersonating Doctor, Robbing Patients
Nadim Gemayel: Bachir Endowed Me a Cause, Not a Parliamentary Seat
Housing Loans Crisis Solved as Ministry Secures Subsidy
Hakim Calls on Metn Voters to Confront Hatred, Lies and Media Misinformation
British Ambassador Visits Chouf, Inspects UK-Funded Projects
Abbas Says More Displaced Will Be Returning to Syria
Why Samir Frangieh was wrong, and why “March 14” lost?

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on April 19-20/18
Top Vatican cardinal visits Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology
Russia Says German Chlorine, British Smoke Grenades Found in Syria
Iraq Says It Carried Out Air Raid against IS in Syria
US blames Syrian regime for delaying OPCW inspectors from entering Douma
Syrian regime gives ISIS militants 48 hours to surrender enclave near Damascus
Bahrain sentences 24 Shiites to jail, revokes nationality
Woman violently arrested for not adhering to dress code in Iran
Syrian-born German militant tied to 9/11 attacks caught by Kurdish forces
Israel Says it Thwarted Holiday Bomb Plot
Trump Says Not Afraid to Walk Away from Kim Summit
Magnitude 5.9 Quake Strikes Southern Iran
Khamenei Urges Security Forces to Distance Themselves from Divisions
Australian Report Confirms Arrest of ISIS Commander in Emirati Plane Bomb Plot
Libyan Navy: 217 Migrants Rescued East of Tripoli
Cuba Marks End of an Era as Castro Hands Over to Diaz-Canel
Oil Price Soars to Highest Level in Years on Mideast Woes
Latest Lebanese Related News published on April 19-20/18
Detainee's Death Brings Case of Lebanese Prisoners Back to Forefront 19th April 2018/The case of Lebanese detainees held in Syrian prisons has returned back to the forefront following the death of Hassan Hadifeh, a Lebanese-Syrian man who had been incarcerated since 1987.
Head of the Association for Lebanese Detainees in Syria, Ali Abu Dahan, said that Hadifeh's death refutes the Syrian regime's claims that no political detainees are still held in its jails, adding that the Lebanese state should take action to uncover the fate of its citizens.

Aoun thanks Macron for hosting CEDRE
The Daily Star/April19/2018/BEIRUT: President Michel Aoun Thursday thanked his French counterpart, Emmanuel Macron, for hosting the CEDRE conference, adding that the total $11 billion pledged to Lebanon would not be beneficial unless accompanied by necessary reforms. “Lebanon’s renewed advancement will not happen unless there are direly needed economic, fiscal and social reforms,” Aoun said in a message to Macron Thursday, according to an official statement from the presidency’s media office. Aoun also expressed gratitude to Macron “for his efforts to make the CEDRE conference a success” and for France’s financial contribution during the one-day event on April 6, which was aimed at gathering international support for Lebanon’s economy and infrastructure. France was by far the top donor at CEDRE, pledging a total of 550 million euros ($673 million) in soft loans and grants to Lebanon.

Aoun: Return of the Displaced to Syria Helps Restore Stability
Beirut - Asharq Al-Awsat Thursday, 19 April, 2018 - 11:30
Lebanese President Michel Aoun said that the return of displaced Syrians to safe areas in their country would contribute significantly to social stability in Lebanon, as hundreds of refugees left the border town of Shebaa to Beit Jen, which witnessed a reconciliation agreement at the end of 2017. The National News Agency (NNA) reported that Syrian buses have arrived on Wednesday in Shebaa to transport a number of Syrian refugees to their hometowns. Many refugees have boarded the buses as per previously prepared lists, under the command of the Lebanese General Security.  According to the agency, 15 Syrian buses have transported 500 Syrians in line with pre-arranged lists, under the General Security’s supervision, after a delay of about an hour time due to some administrative obstacles. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said it was aware of this process but did not participate in it.
In a statement, the UN agency said its teams were on the ground to talk with the refugees and the concerned authorities and assess the circumstances in which they would return. It added that it would not participate in the organization of this process or other movements of return at this stage, given the humanitarian and security situation prevailing in Syria. “UNHCR, however, respects the individual decisions of refugees to return to their country of origin when taken without pressure,” the agency said in the statement, while the NNA stressed that refugees of different age groups have decided to return to their homeland voluntarily. Meanwhile, Aoun said on Wednesday that the return of displaced Syrians to safe areas in their country would contribute significantly to social stability in Lebanon. The president was speaking before the Archbishop of New York, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, whom he received at the Baabda Palace.  “The international organizations have sensed the desire of Syrians to return to safe areas where there is no fighting,” Aoun said. “There are groups that have begun voluntary returning to Syrian cities, which confirms the existence of security conditions that allow that.”

Lebanese Lawyers Participate in STL Training on Int'l Criminal Proceedings
Naharnet/April 19/18/Thirty Lebanese lawyers participated Thursday in a training organized by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon on the conduct of International Criminal proceedings at the Beirut Bar Association (BBA), the STL said. STL President Judge Ivana Hrdličková, President of the BBA Andre Chidiac, Resident Representative of the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung Achim Vogt, and BBA Human Rights Institute Director Elisabeth Sioufi welcomed the participants and gave the opening remarks at the event. The training is conducted by experts with “extensive experience” in international criminal justice -- Judge Keith Raynor, Crown Court of England and Wales and Vice President of the Kosovo Specialist Chambers and Jonas Nilssen, former senior legal officer at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, the STL said in a statement. The lawyers took part in discussions on international criminal justice and proceedings, as well as advocacy and courtroom techniques. The training continues Friday with a ‘mock’ (practice) trial in which participants will be able to practice their skills. One participant said that this training gives them the opportunity to acquire knowledge of a different legal system and therefore opens up new perspectives and possibilities in the international arena. This event is part of the STL outreach efforts to engage with Lebanese legal professionals, academics, the civil society and others through lectures, conferences, roundtable discussions and trainings on topics related to the mandate of the Tribunal and international criminal justice.

Aoun Orders Reevaluation of Budget Item on Foreigners Residence Permits
Naharnet/April 19/18/President Michel Aoun on Wednesday asked parliament to reevaluate a controversial state budget article granting residence permits to foreigners and Arabs who buy apartments in Lebanon. The Presidency said Aoun signed the 2018 state budget law and referred it to the official gazette for publication. The president will ask parliament to “reevaluate Article 49 of the 2018 state budget for reasons he will detail in his letter,” the Presidency's press office added. Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi had on Sunday reiterated his warning over Article 49, urging its revocation. 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.

Aoun Says Lebanon 'Will Only Rise' with Anti-Corruption Reforms
Naharnet/April 19/18/President Michel Aoun sent a cable message to French President Emmanuel Macron, extending appreciation for his efforts at the CEDRE conference hosted by France early in April, the Presidency media office said on Twitter Thursday. “Lebanon's re-emergence will only take place with reforms that are in line with my interests in combating corruption,” said Aoun. International donors pledged $11 billion in low-interest loans and aid for Lebanon at a conference in Paris on April 6, to try to avert an economic crisis in a country hard hit by the fallout from the Syrian war. Among the biggest donors was the World Bank which pledged more than $4 billion over five years, while France opened the conference with a promise of 550 million euros ($676 million). Saudi Arabia, which vies with arch-rival Iran for influence in Lebanon, said it would renew a $1-billion line of credit to Beirut which had been agreed in the past but never used, Lebanese officials said.

Khalil, Bassil Engage in New War of Words
Naharnet/April 19/18/AMAL Movement Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil and Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil, head of the Free Patriotic Movement, traded new jibes on Thursday, but this time against the backdrop of a conference regarding expatriates voting. When asked about a joint press conference held on Wednesday between Bassil and Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq, Khalil said: “Never heard of it.” Bassil was quick to reply, MTV television station quoted the minister as saying: “Maybe he has hearing problems.”It is not the first bickering between the FPM and AMAL. Relations have been tense between the two parties and deteriorated dramatically after a leaked video early this year showing Bassil – President Michel Aoun's son-in-law calling AMAL head Speaker Nabih Berri a "thug.” The footage drew the ire of Berri's aides and political allies, who lashed out at Bassil, with Khalil calling the foreign minister “lowly” and a “political dwarf.”The video also sparked three days of unrest and protests that involved gunfire and sectarianly-charged standoffs between supporters of Aoun and Berri.

Berri: Iran-Saudi Dialogue Has Become Urgent Need
Naharnet/April 19/18/Speaker Nabih Berri has stressed that dialogue between regional arch-foes Iran and Saudi Arabia has become an “urgent need.”“Dialogue between Arabs and their Muslim neighbors, specifically between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, has become an urgent need,” Berri said in an interview with Iran's official news agency IRNA. “The window of opportunity is now open wide for establishing channels of dialogue and let its gateway be Jerusalem and the efforts to rescue it from the clutches of Judaization,” the Speaker added.

Al-Rahi in Qatar to Lay Cornerstone for Maronite Church

Naharnet/April 19/18/Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi arrived Thursday in the Qatari capital Doha on a pastoral visit during which he will lay the cornerstone for the Saint Charbel Church, Lebanon's National News Agency said. Speaking to reporters, al-Rahi thanked Qatar for “offering a land lot for the construction of the Saint Charbel Church.” Qatar's cooperation “strengthens ties between the two countries,” the patriarch added, noting that “saints have the ability to unite people.”Extending gratitude to Qatar Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad, al-Rahi said: “He knows that Saint Charbel reinforces the great friendship between Qatar and Lebanon, and we as Lebanese must fortify this friendship whether we live in Qatar or in our homeland.”Saluting Lebanese expats in Qatar, the patriarch noted that they “feel at home” in the small Gulf country.

ISF Arrest Man for Impersonating Doctor, Robbing Patients

Naharnet/April 19/18/The Internal Security Forces arrested a fake medical practitioner in Beirut’s neighborhood of Minet el-Hosn, after tricking hospital patients and stealing their belongings, the National News Agency reported on Thursday. ISF issued a statement saying several complaints were filed by citizens complaining that they had been subject to fraud and theft at hospitals around Beirut, Mount Lebanon and the South. After close monitoring, police were able to arrest a Palestinian national who was identified by his initials as Aa.R.He has admitted to the charges and that he had pretended to be a doctor.
He said he robbed the hospital patients during their presence in the bathroom after asking them for urine samples.
Nadim Gemayel: Bachir Endowed Me a Cause, Not a Parliamentary Seat 19th April 2018/Kataeb MP and candidate for the Maronite seat in Beirut's first electoral district, Nadim Gemayel, on Thursday, pointed out that the parliament seat is not to be regarded as a distinction or a prestige, stressing that it is the struggle journey 6000 martyrs who sacrificed their lives for the sake of Lebanon's security, freedom, sovereignty and human dignity. “Bachir did not endow me a parliamentary seat but a cause that is based on principles, ethics, integrity and patriotism,” Gemayel said during a meeting with voters in the Rmeil and Moudawar area. “Our political rival requires us to be united so as to he able to confront. The martyrs did not sacrifice their lives for the sake of electricity, services or asphalt. They shed their blood to preserve dignity and freedom," Gemayel stated. "We need to make sacrifices so as to reach a strong and fair state."Gemayel affirmed that the Kataeb party and its allies will fight for Lebanon's sovereignty and freedom, adding that they will spare no effort so as to face those who are trying to use their arms in order to take control of the state. Gemayel stressed that his platform revolves around four main objectives: safeguarding sovereignty, fighting corruption, addressing socio-economic issues notably the old-age security program, and implementing development projects. “We will ensure hospitalization and medical care for the elderly because it is a right that every human being must have."

Housing Loans Crisis Solved as Ministry Secures Subsidy 19th April 2018/The crisis of housing loans was solved on Wednesday after the Finance Ministry had accepted to provide the funds needed to reactivate subsidized loans. Banks will consequently resume giving subsidized housing loans after it stopped doing that a couple of months ago given that the funds provided by the central bank for the year 2018 had been depleted. The solution was approved during a meeting held at the Grand Serail between PM Saad Hariri, Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil and Social Affairs Minister Pierre Abu Assi. Head of the Institute of Public Housing, Rony Lahoud, who also attended the meeting, said that the Finance Ministry will be this time subsidizing loans instead of the central bank, stressing that strict conditions will be set out to control the approval of loans. "The conditions to get a subsidized housing loan will change, as only people with a limited income will benefit from it. The applicant's monthly income and the area of the house will be subject to a deep scrutiny and strict regulations," Lahoud told Al-Liwaa newspaper.

Hakim Calls on Metn Voters to Confront Hatred, Lies and Media Misinformation 19th April 2018/Former Minister Alain Hakim on Thursday called on the voters in Metn to confront hatred, lies and media misinformation, urging them to seek the truth by looking up for facts regarding the taxes, waste crisis, the high-voltage power lines project in Mansourieh, as well as other issues. “The people of Metn will not fall victims to hysterical polarization, but will rather be the spearhead of the right choice whose limit goes beyond May 6,” Hakim said on Twitter.

British Ambassador Visits Chouf, Inspects UK-Funded Projects
Naharnet/April 19/18/As part of his ongoing tours of Lebanese regions, British Ambassador to Lebanon Hugo Shorter has visited Baakline to see first-hand how the UK is supporting vulnerable host communities and Lebanon’s largest library, the British embassy said on Thursday. Shorter held “constructive meetings” with Baakline’s mayor Abdallah El Ghosseini and head of the union of municipalities of Chouf-Souweijani Yehya Bou Karroum, municipal members accompanied by Celine Moyroud, UNDP Lebanon Country Director and George Antoun, Mercy Corps Lebanon Country Director, the embassy said in a statement.Discussions focused on the latest development projects in the area and needs. The ambassador also toured UK funded projects and spoke to beneficiaries around the positive impact the programs are having on people’s lives.And as part of the UK’s support to Lebanon’s Host Communities Support Program (LHSP) in partnership with the Ministry of Social Affairs and UNDP, Ambassador Shorter visited the construction site where work is underway to rehabilitate storm water drainage canals. Baakline suffers from recurrent floods, particularly during winter, affecting residential areas in the village and the souk. The project will benefit over 9,400 people, around 300 housing units and 55 shops. Shorter also inspected UK support to the Union of El Souaijani – under Mercy Corps’ ‘INTAJ’ program - to develop their waste management facility in the area and neighboring municipalities beyond the Union reaching over 7,000 households.“Safeguarding its cultural heritage, historic significance and role in promoting intercultural dialogue, the UK provided a book scanner to Baakline’s National Library that hosts over 50,000 visitors a year,” the embassy added.
The largest library in Lebanon, it is home to over 150,000 books in Arabic, English and French, and around 250,000 newspapers and magazines in the section of documentation and archives. The book scanner will help with archiving, preventing the loss of ancient, fragile books and manuscripts, produce high quality images of books, provide printable e-books for readers and more to attract more students and visitors. At the end of his visit, Ambassador Shorter said: “It’s great to be back in Chouf the heart of Mount Lebanon. Baakline’s historic library and olive trees are a symbol of this town’s ancient history and heritage. It was an opportunity to see how the UK is helping host communities, residents of this area and its cultural heritage through our projects in support of the union of municipalities on waste management and promoting intercultural dialogue.”“I am pleased to say that the UK is now supporting over 1 in 5 Lebanese municipalities across Lebanon with over $30 million over 18 months under LHSP. By 2019 we will have reached over 1,440,000 people and more than 220 municipalities. We have also been supporting ‘INTAJ’ led by Mercy Corps targeting economic opportunities,” Shorter added. “By March 2018 we had invested £12.7m supporting more than 30,000 vulnerable Lebanese communities and refugees and created around 1,400 new full-time jobs. The UK as a strong supporter of Lebanon remains committed to standing shoulder to shoulder with Lebanon now and into the future,” Shorter went on to say.

Abbas Says More Displaced Will Be Returning to Syria
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 19/18/General Security chief Maj.Gen. Abbas Ibrahim said Thursday that many more displaced Syrians will be returning back to Syria in the future, now that the “situation has stabilized in several Syrian regions,” al-Joumhouria daily reported.
“It is the first step of a thousand miles for the return of displaced Syrians after the stability of the situation in large number of areas. The return is linked to several factors, mainly the Syrian - Syrian reconciliation, and was coordinated between the Syrian authorities and returnees themselves,” Abbas told the daily.
Lebanon’s “security apparatus had the task of managing the process at the logistic and security levels, from the Lebanese regions up to the Syrian border,” he added. Abbas assured that the Syrians “have returned to their towns and homes voluntarily after their areas became safe, and we in turn will ensure every return in coordination between the Syrian authorities and those who wish to go back.”Around 500 Syrian refugees left southern Lebanon on Wednesday under an agreement between authorities in Beirut and Damascus that provides for their return to their home country. The U.N.'s refugee agency said it was aware of the returns but was not involved in the agreement, "considering the prevailing humanitarian and security situation in Syria."15 buses provided by Syria reached the southern Lebanese town of Shebaa to transport refugees out. They were accompanied by Lebanon's General Security forces, which are present along the country's borders. An estimated 500 Syrian refugees, who had been living for years in Shebaa after fleeing the war in their neighboring homeland, boarded the buses. Since it broke out in 2011, Syria's war has killed more than 350,000 people and displaced millions more, both internally and to neighboring countries.
Why Samir Frangieh was wrong, and why “March 14” lost?
سمير فرنجية كان على خطأ ولماذا 14 آذار خسرت
Elie Aoun/April 19/18 recently posted an article originally published in Annahar on November 6, 2009 and written by the late Parliamentarian Samir Frangieh.
Mr. Frangieh is accurate in saying that there is “no clear vision for Lebanon’s future and our role in it.” That lack of vision is of the leadership and certain intellectuals – but does not reflect on those who are outside that circle.
In responding to the question “Why did we get here,” Mr. Frangieh described certain symptoms but not the root causes – which can be understood by looking at the following facts:
Patriarch Bechara Al-Rai: Jesuit (College Notre Dame de Jamhour)
Saad Hariri : Jesuit (Georgetown University) and Freemason
Talal Arslan : Jesuit (Georgetown University)
Marwan Hamadeh : Jesuit (St. Joseph University)
Amine Gemayel : Jesuit (St. Joseph University)
Samy Gemayel : Jesuit (St. Joseph University)
Samir Geagea : Jesuit (St. Joseph University)
Nabih Berri : Freemason
Sleiman Frangieh : Freemason
Gibran Bassil: Rotary (a branch of Freemasonry)
Walid Jumblatt: Freemason
Michel Samaha : Jesuit
Salim Jreissat : Jesuit (St. Joseph University, where he worked as a lecturer)
Jean Obeid: Jesuit
Hamid Franjieh (Samir’s Father): Jesuit (St. Joseph University)
And the list goes on…
Having the largest network of schools and universities, the Jesuits indoctrinate future politicians with their doctrinal harmful agenda – which can be understood by anyone who does a minimal research.
Francesco Borgia, the Third Jesuit Superior General, honestly stated: “We came in like lambs, and we will rule like wolves.”
To basic core of political Jesuitism is to be a “dissembler” (a person who professes opinions that he does not hold in order to conceal his real motives; a person who is inwardly evil but outwardly professes to be virtuous).
For example, they speak in favor of a viable nation-state and freedoms while in reality they are against them. They speak in favor of the Christians, while in reality they undermine them, etc.
Lebanon can be healed by first recognizing that the entire political and religious leaderships (Christian, Muslim, and Druze) are anti-patriotic and dissemblers who convey one thing while their objective is something else. We need to recognize that truth, know not to rely on them or help them, and pursue a proven political model for the country.
The three Lebanese presidents and all the leaders of the major political parties are all ruled by Jesuitism and Freemasonry. Regardless of what they say in public, their true ideology is anti-patriotic and in favor of a globalist agenda that has no respect for sovereignty or national boundaries.
A vote for any one of the major political parties is a vote for all of them – because they are all controlled by the same entity. Any public opposition to one another is theatrical, not ideological.
The “March 14 Gathering” lost for two main reasons: (1) they were infiltrated by dissemblers and (2) the non-dissemblers (such as Samir Frangieh) were misled to adopt the dissemblers’ agenda.
The March 14’s leadership was Jesuits and Freemasons: primarily Jumblat, Geagea, Hariri, and Bkirki (which is ruled by Jesuitism as evidenced by the Jesuit logo on the gate of Bkirki). Without listing names, “The Lebanese Front” was influenced by the same and suffered the same consequences.
As long as Christians refuse to acknowledge that the Vatican, Bkirki, and the leaders of the major political parties are infiltrated by dissemblers and are acting against them, they will not be able to improve their status. The same can be said of Muslims and Druze.
General Emile Boustany, who brokered the Cairo Accord with Yasser Arafat and made official concession of Lebanese sovereignty, was given the Golden Commemorative Medal of Pope Leon XIII.
Pope John Paul I was poisoned for wanting to terminate the Jesuits.
Pope Sixtus V was assassinated for trying to change the name of the Jesuits.
It is that same murderous Jesuit Order, responsible in its history for the slaughter of millions of Christians, has its logo on the gate of Bkirki, and rules Lebanese major political parties. Even if ninety percent of these parties’ members are patriotic, the leadership is not – and there is no hope from any of them.
Any Jesuit who chooses to pursue a patriotic agenda – such as Bachir Gemayel, Renee Mouawad, or Pierre Amine Gemayel – gets assassinated. Regardless of the identity of the enforcer, the decision-maker behind the assassinations is a Jesuit, Freemason, or both.
Those who truly rule the country decide who gets assassinated. As rulers, they can ensure that the truth would not be revealed.
There can be no genuine “resurrection” for the country without an honest exposure of Jesuit and Freemason political doctrine and anti-patriotic agenda. Without such an honest exposure, all the discussions on how to improve the country’s wellbeing may not achieve the desired results.
Unfortunately, many of the country’s intellectuals spend their entire life not knowing the identity of their true enemy, and sometimes they unknowingly work for them. Regretfully, Mr. Frangieh was one example, and his Jesuit-misled views published in Annahar would be discussed later in a separate article.

N.B: The writer of any article, analysis or document on the LCCC site takes full responsibility for his/her own personal opinion 
Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on April 19-20/18
Top Vatican cardinal visits Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology
Staff writer, Al Arabiya English/Thursday, 19 April 2018/The Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology “Etidal” received Cardinal Jean Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue in the Roman Curia, as part of his historic visit to Saudi Arabia. Etidal Secretary General, Dr. Nasser Albuqami, welcomed the Cardinal and his delegation and discussed the Center’s efforts to combat extremist ideology - specifically, Etidal’s use of media and technology to disrupt extremist group recruitment and to promote tolerance and coexistence amongst different religions and cultures. Secretary General Albuqami provided the Cardinal with a detailed briefing, “Etidal has designed machine learning systems and algorithms to detect violent and extremist on-line content. We analyze this content and then anticipate how extremist groups use this content to recruit vulnerable audiences. To counter these efforts, we devise strategic programs and projects that encourage tolerance and moderation.”Etidal is an effort by the international community to expose, combat and refute extremist ideology. The Center – known as “Etidal,” Arabic for “moderation” – was established in 2017 and located in Riyadh, the cooperative effort of more than 55 countries. The Center operates mainly around three pivots - ideology, technology and media. Following the visit, Cardinal Tauran commented, “It’s important to see that Etidal has a mission and a vision. The Center is very wise to analyze the causes of extremism. Most of the time, extremism is provoked by injustice.” The Cardinal continued, “I think we have two enemies: extremism and ignorance. I don’t believe in the clash of civilization but rather in the clash of ignorance. Most of the time people react because they don’t know who you are or who they are.” Etidal Secretary General Al-biqami added, “His Eminence Cardinal Tauran’s visit represents the importance of partnership and cooperation in the fight against extremist ideologies.”
Russia Says German Chlorine, British Smoke Grenades Found in Syria
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 19/18/Russia said Thursday that Syrian government forces found German "chlorine containers" and British "smoke grenades" in the country's Eastern Ghouta, an ex-rebel enclave that was taken over by regime forces in April. "In the liberated territories of Eastern Ghouta, Syrian government troops found containers with chlorine -- the worst kind of chemical weapon -- from Germany, as well as smoke grenades made in -- attention -- Salisbury," Russia's foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said. Salisbury is the British town where a former Russian double agent, Sergei Skripal, and his daughter were poisoned on March 4. The incident sparked a bitter diplomatic crisis between Moscow and London. Britain says Russia was behind the attack on the pair, a charge Russia furiously denies. Moscow, an ally of the Syrian regime, has long claimed an alleged chemical attack in the Syrian city of Douma this month was "staged" by Syrian rebels and the civil defence organisation, the White Helmets. Western powers accuse Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad of using chemical weapons against civilians in Douma. The United States, France and Britain carried out air strikes on what they said were Assad's chemical weapons installations in response
Iraq Says It Carried Out Air Raid against IS in Syria
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 19/18/The Iraqi air force on Thursday carried out a "deadly raid" against positions of the Islamic State group in neighboring Syria, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi's office said. Abadi ordered the strike against the jihadists "because of the danger they pose to Iraqi territory," a statement said. A video released by the air force showed two F-16 fighter jets in action. "These raids demonstrate the growing capacity of our armed forces to hunt down and liquidate terrorists," it added. Iraq declared victory in December against IS, which launched a sweeping offensive in 2014 and at one point controlled a third of the country. The jihadists still control pockets of desert along the border with Syria, where Iraq had already carried out limited raids against IS before Thursday's strike.
US blames Syrian regime for delaying OPCW inspectors from entering Douma
Agencies/Thursday, 19 April 2018/US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on Wednesday that the Syrian government was responsible for delays in inspectors reaching sites of a suspected chemical weapons attack, a strategy they had used in the past. “We are very much aware of the delay that the regime imposed on that delegation but we are also very much aware of how they have operated in the past and seal what they have done using chemical weapons,” Mattis said before the start of a meeting with his counterpart from Qatar. “In other words, using the pause after a strike like that to try to clean up the evidence before the investigation team gets in. So it’s unfortunate they were delayed,” Mattis added. Mattis had pushed back against a report on Wednesday saying he had unsuccessfully urged President Donald Trump to seek congressional approval ahead of last week’s air strikes in Syria.  Citing anonymous military and administration officials, the New York Times said Mattis had recommended Trump get a green light from lawmakers before launching Friday’s cruise missile barrage against three targets the Pentagon said were tied to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s chemical weapons program.
“I have no idea where that story came from,” Mattis told reporters. “I found nothing in it that I could recall from my own last week's activities.” Chemical weapons inspectors are waiting to go into Douma, near Damascus, to probe allegations of a chemical gas attack on April 7 that prompted last week’s US-led response.

Syrian regime gives ISIS militants 48 hours to surrender enclave near Damascus
Reuters, Beirut/Thursday, 19 April 2018/ISIS militants have been given 48 hours to agree to withdraw from an enclave they control south of Damascus, the pro-Syrian government newspaper al-Watan reported on Thursday. “If they refuse, the army and supporting forces are ready to launch a military operation to end the presence of the organization in the area,” it said. The jihadist-controlled enclave is centered around the Palestinian Yarmouk camp and the al-Hajar al-Aswad area south of Damascus. The area is much smaller than the eastern Ghouta region where the Syrian government recently defeated insurgents. A commander in the regional military alliance that backs the Syrian government said the Syrian army had begun shelling the jihadist enclave on Tuesday in preparation for an assault. Yarmouk, some 8 km (5 miles) from the center of Damascus, was home to Syria’s largest Palestinian refugee community before the Syrian war erupted in 2011. Although most residents have fled, the United Nations has said several thousand remain. The Syrian government has recovered swathes of territory from rebels by letting them leave to other rebel-held parts of the country after years of siege and ferocious military assaults backed by Russia and Iran.

Bahrain sentences 24 Shiites to jail, revokes nationality
AFP, DubaiThursday, 19 April 2018/A Bahrain court sentenced 24 Shiite citizens to prison and stripped them of their nationality after finding them guilty of forming a “terrorist group”, a Bahraini judicial source said Thursday. Other charges included travelling to Iraq and Iran for “weapons and explosives training” and attempted murder of police officers. The High Criminal Court on Wednesday sentenced 10 of the defendants to life in prison, 10 to a decade behind bars and the other four to jail terms ranging from three to five years. That trial is set for May 10.The blast cut off the pipeline linking Bahrain’s Bapco refinery with oil giant Aramco’s main pumping station in neighboring Saudi Arabia’s Dhahran province. Manama in February said it had arrested four men suspected of attacking the pipeline, accusing Iran of training and arming two of them, which Tehran denied.

Woman violently arrested for not adhering to dress code in Iran
The Associated Press/Thursday, 19 April 2018/Iran has ordered an investigation after a video surfaced showing police pushing and pulling a young woman who was resisting arrest for not adhering to imposed dress code. The semi-official ISNA news agency reported Thursday that Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli has requested a “comprehensive investigation and report” into the police’s handling of the matter. The video, circulated on social media, shows several police, including policewomen, trying to escort the woman from a public park. Another young woman shouts at the police to go easy on her, saying she has a heart condition. Masoumeh Ebtekar, vice president for women’s affairs, condemned the police’s “violent” approach to the situation. Under Iranian law, women must wear long, loose garments and cover their hair in public.

Syrian-born German militant tied to 9/11 attacks caught by Kurdish forces

AFP, Qamishli, Syria/Thursday, 19 April 2018/A Syrian-born German national accused of helping to plan the September 11, 2001 attacks has been detained by Kurdish forces in Syria, a senior Kurdish commander told AFP Wednesday. “Mohammed Haydar Zammar has been arrested by Kurdish security forces in northern Syria and is now being interrogated,” the top official said, without providing further details. Zammar, who is in his mid-fifties, has been accused of recruiting some of the September 11 hijackers. He was detained in Morocco in December 2001 in an operation involving CIA agents, and was handed over to the Syrian authorities two weeks later. A Syrian court sentenced Zammar to 12 years in prison in 2007 for belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood, a charge that at the time could have resulted in the death penalty. But conflict broke out in Syria four years later, and many hardline Islamist prisoners were released from jail or broke free and went on to join militant groups fighting in the war.
Al-Qaeda branch
Al-Qaeda operated a branch in Syria known as Al-Nusra Front, but the affiliate has since claimed to have broken off ties. The ISIS group also rose to power in the country’s north and east, but a US-backed alliance has ousted it from swathes of its onetime territory.  The Syrian Democratic Forces, a coalition of Arab and Kurdish fighters, has caught several foreign members of ISIS in Syria in recent months, particularly since the SDF captured the northern city of Raqa from the militants.  The Kurdish commander who spoke to AFP on Wednesday declined to say whether Zammar had been actively fighting as a member of an extremist group in Syria. The Pentagon said it had nothing to confirm on Zammar’s capture but was looking into it.

Israel Says it Thwarted Holiday Bomb Plot
Ramallah - Asharq Al-Awsat/Thursday, 19 April, 2018/Israel said on Wednesday it had thwarted a bombing attack on the 70th anniversary of the country’s foundation. Defense Minister Avigor Lieberman said: “We thwarted a huge attack that was set to take place on Independence Day … We will hunt those who plotted to target on our holiday.” The Defense Ministry said guards at the Reihan checkpoint in the northern West Bank found a "powerful explosive device" hidden in the roof of a Palestinian truck loaded with other goods. The driver of the truck, Ibrahim Ahmed Ali Zeid, was arrested. The official in charge of border crossings at the Defense Ministry, Erez Tzidon, praised the guards for "identifying the suspect and the smuggling attempt which turned out to be an explosive, most likely intended for an Independence Day attack." On Thursday, Israel marked the 70th anniversary of the founding of the state amid tight security measures that included a lock-down on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The Israeli army said it has thrown a security dragnet around the West Bank and closed border crossings with Gaza until dawn Friday.

Trump Says Not Afraid to Walk Away from Kim Summit
Asharq Al-Awsat/Thursday, 19 April, 2018/US President Donald Trump said Wednesday that although he's looking ahead optimistically to a historic summit with North Korea's Kim Jong Un, he warned he was not afraid to walk away if the meeting appears unlikely to be "fruitful."The odds of the Trump-Kim talks taking place were boosted by the shock news of secret Easter weekend talks between CIA chief Mike Pompeo and the reclusive thirty-something strongman -- the most significant US-North Korea contacts in almost two decades. Pompeo raised the plight of three US citizens held in North Korea during his meeting with Kim Jong Un, a senior White House official, who was not authorized to publicly discuss the sensitive discussions, told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.At a press conference Wednesday with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Trump said the US and North Korea are negotiating for their release. He said: "We are doing our very best."The official said Trump is hopeful they will be released soon. Trump had said he thinks "there's a good chance of doing it" around his potential talks with Kim. Trump earlier tweeted that "details of Summit" between him and Kim were "being worked out now," with five possible locations being considered. Ever disposed to set out the options in the starkest terms possible, Trump predicted a "very successful" May or June summit with Kim. Trump also pledged to push Kim to free Japanese abductees held in North Korea. But in the same breath, he warned: "If I think that it's a meeting that is not going to be fruitful, we're not going to go. If the meeting, when I'm there, is not fruitful, I will respectfully leave the meeting.""I like always remaining flexible, and we'll remain flexible here," Trump added.

Magnitude 5.9 Quake Strikes Southern Iran
Asharq Al-Awsat/Thursday, 19 April, 2018/A magnitude 5.9 earthquake on Thursday struck Iran's southern province of Bushehr, which is home to a nuclear power plant, state television reported. There was no immediate report of damage or injuries. Many houses in rural parts of the province are made of mud bricks, which have been known to crumble easily in quake-prone Iran. "The quake hit the Kaki area in the province this morning," the television said. State TV did not report any damage at Bushehr plant, which has seen other earthquakes in the past. According to the semi-official Tasnim news agency, the depth of the quake was 18 km. It gave no further details. Iran sits atop several fault lines and has been hit by a series of earthquakes since November 2017, when a 7.3-magnitude tremor killed 620 people in the western province of Kermanshah and eight in Iraq.

Khamenei Urges Security Forces to Distance Themselves from Divisions

London - Asharq Al-Awsat/Thursday, 19 April, 2018/Iran's supreme leader Ali Khamenei has asked intelligence agencies to distance themselves from internal divisions, calling for changes in the rules of the intelligence game. During his meeting with high-ranking officials in the Iranian intelligence ministry, Khamenei said that his country is fighting a largescale intelligence war with the “regime’s enemies.” The Iranian regime is facing a large and strong front of enemies in the battlefield, he said. The war involves power and data theft, changing decision-making methods and people’s beliefs, igniting economic and financial unrest as well as security tension, Khamenei added, stressing that the intelligence community should go on the offensive, in addition to adopting preemptive tactics.Khamenei attempted to hinder any attempt to distance intelligence agencies from their traditional role, asserting that they follow the Iranian regime’s policies. His statements came as the end of President Hassan Rouhani’s first presidential term witnessed an implicit struggle between the ministry of intelligence and similar bodies in the Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), in addition to the establishment of an intelligence body in the Iranian judiciary.
After Rouhani began his second term, the IRGC’s intelligence body arrested - in coordination with the judiciary – his brother Hossein Fereydoun and VP Eshaq Jahangiri's brother Mehdi Jahangiri on corruption charges.
Neither the details of the corruption charges nor the result of the investigation against them have been revealed.

Australian Report Confirms Arrest of ISIS Commander in Emirati Plane Bomb Plot
Sydney - Asharq Al-Awsat/Thursday, 19 April, 2018/An ISIS commander suspected of plotting to blow up an Emirati plane from Sydney last year has been captured in Iraq, a media report said Wednesday. Senior Australian officials have told the ABC that ISIS commander Tarek Khayat and his Australian relative, Ahmed Merhi, were detained in Iraq earlier this year. Khayat, a Lebanese citizen, has allegedly directed his Sydney-based brothers, Khaled and Mahmoud Khayat, to blow up the Emirati flight from Sydney to Dubai on July 15 last year with 400 passengers and crew on board.
The plot was later foiled, ABC said.

Libyan Navy: 217 Migrants Rescued East of Tripoli
Tripoli - Asharq Al-Awsat/Thursday, 19 April, 2018/Libya's navy said it has rescued 217 African migrants from two rubber boats that were stranded in the Mediterranean Sea east of Tripoli. A navy statement issued Wednesday said there were 85 women and 10 children among the migrants, who were trying to reach southern Europe. The navy said the migrants, who were found on Tuesday, were taken to a naval base in the capital. Meanwhile, a high-ranking Libyan official said the number of illegal migrants detained by Libyan authorities has dropped significantly, reaching 5,200 from 27,000 in May last year. This drop has allowed the country to close around 20 detention centers since May, the head of Libya’s Directorate Combating Illegal Migration, Mohamed Beshr, said. There are currently 32 detention centers, he added.
Cuba Marks End of an Era as Castro Hands Over to Diaz-Canel
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 19/18/Cuba marked the end of an era Thursday as Miguel Diaz-Canel was formally elected as the country's new president, succeeding Raul Castro and becoming the first non-Castro to lead the island in six decades. The silver-haired Diaz-Canel -- a top Communist Party figure who has served as first vice president since 2013 -- is the island's first leader born after the 1959 revolution. Diaz-Canel was elected in a landmark vote of the National Assembly a day before his 58th birthday. The chamber erupted into applause as the results were read out, with many of the delegates smiling, and shaking hands warmly with Castro and Diaz-Canel. As Diaz-Canel walked to the front of the chamber, he high-fived the front line of delegates, embracing Castro as he took to the stage, images broadcast on state television showed. Then the 86-year-old Castro raised his successor's arm in the air in victory, prompting another wave of applause from the delegates -- some were in their shirt sleeves, while others wore military fatigues.Between them, father of the nation Fidel and his younger brother Raul made the Caribbean island a key player in the Cold War and helped keep communism afloat despite the collapse of the Soviet Union. Raul has been in power since 2006, when he took over after illness sidelined Fidel, who seized power in the revolution. Diaz-Canel, who has spent years climbing the party ranks, was named the sole candidate for the presidency on Wednesday.
Thursday's symbolic vote took place on the anniversary of the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion, when Fidel's forces defeated 1,400 US-backed rebels seeking to overthrow him. Havana has long hailed the showdown as American imperialism's first great defeat in Latin America.
In Raul's footsteps
Diaz-Canel, who some say bears a passing resemblance to American actor Richard Gere, is a fan of The Beatles whose penchant for wearing jeans has set him apart in Havana's corridors of power. Although he has advocated fewer restrictions on the press and a greater openness to the internet, he also has a ruthless streak, with harsh words for Cuba's dissidents and the United States. Crucially, he will remain under the watchful eye of Castro, who will continue to serve as the head of Cuba's all-powerful Communist Party.  Once sworn in, Diaz-Canel will be tasked with pursuing reforms begun by Castro to open up Cuba's economy to small private entrepreneurs and reach a rapprochement with its Cold War arch-enemy, the United States.
In 2015, Havana and Washington renewed diplomatic ties, with then president Barack Obama making a historic visit to the island a year later. But, steps towards a normalization of ties have been severely curtailed since Donald Trump arrived in the White House last year. Diaz-Canel will also inherit a youthful population hungry for change on the Caribbean island -- one of the world's last outposts of Communism since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Cuba watchers and domestic analysts say he will favor continuity over change in the early days of his presidency, however.
Oil Price Soars to Highest Level in Years on Mideast Woes
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 19/18/Oil surged Thursday close to 3.5-year peaks on simmering Mideast tensions and keen U.S. demand, while London stocks rose with drugmaker Shire boosted by a takeover move. World oil prices extended Wednesday's gains on the back of data showing a drop in U.S. stockpiles -- indicating improved demand -- and expectations that a Russia-OPEC output cap deal will be kept in place. The market was also propelled after OPEC kingpin reportedly stated it wanted crude prices to top $80 per barrel as it prepares for a gigantic listing of part of its state oil company. Tensions in the oil-rich Middle East also kept prices elevated. "Saudi Arabia still calls the shots on global oil markets, and it is increasingly obvious the Saudis are comfortable with oil at $80 or more," said Interactive Investor analyst Lee Wild. "Add a drop in weekly U.S. oil reserves to the mix and the only way for crude prices is up."Oil surged to summits last seen in November 2014, with London Brent striking $74.74 per barrel and New York crude touching $69.56. European equity markets meanwhile diverged amid lingering fears over Syria and a possible China-U.S. trade war, but London edged 0.04 percent higher despite news of sliding March retail sales. Wall Street opened lower, with the Dow dropping 0.2 percent in the first minute of trading.
Shire shares leap
The British capital's benchmark FTSE 100 index was given an early shot in the arm from media reports, later confirmed, that Japan's Takeda Pharmaceuticals was making a takeover move on Shire. Shire, which is based in Ireland and listed on the London stock market, saw its share price rocket more than 10 percent higher. It gave up much of those gains after Takeda confirmed it had made a takeover bid worth £42 billion ($60 billion), but that Shire had rejected the offer.
Shire said it had rejected three offers from Takeda, and was still in discussions with the firm about "whether a further, more attractive, proposal may be forthcoming."Asian markets enjoyed another day of gains Thursday as the region's energy firms also tracked a surge in oil prices. Fresh hopes that Donald Trump and North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un will hold a historic summit within months also provided some much-needed optimism. The positive trading environment is a far cry from the unease felt at the start of the week after U.S.-led strikes on Syrian targets -- in response to an alleged chemical attack -- sparked worries of a confrontation with Russia, which is an ally of the Damascus regime.
Trade, Syria risks ease
While reports have suggested Russian President Vladimir Putin is looking to ease tensions as he faces fresh sanctions, on Thursday Russia became the third powerful member of the World Trade Organization to challenge U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum, following China and the European Union. China's announcement of a timetable to remove restrictions on foreign ownership in its car market, the world's biggest, also lifted optimism that a simmering trade war with the United States can be avoided.Tough rules on doing business in the country's auto sector had been a major source of anger for Trump, who has already threatened tariffs on billions of dollars of Chinese imports in recent weeks as part of his "America First" protectionist agenda.
- Key figures around 1330 GMT -
New York - Dow: DOWN 0.2 percent at 24,705.67 points
London - FTSE 100: UP 0.04 percent at 7,320.12
Frankfurt - DAX 30: DOWN 0.3 percent at 12,557.12
Paris - CAC 40: UP 0.1 percent at 5,385.70
EURO STOXX 50: DOWN 0.2 percent at 3,483.92
Tokyo - Nikkei 225: UP 0.2 percent at 22,191.18 (close)
Hong Kong - Hang Seng: UP 1.4 percent at 30,708.44 (close)
Shanghai - Composite: UP 0.8 percent at 3,117.38 (close)
Euro/dollar: UP at $1.2380 from $1.2374 at 2100 GMT
Dollar/yen: UP at 107.38 yen from 107.23
Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.4233 from $1.4203
Oil - Brent North Sea: UP 81 cents at $74.29 per barrel
Oil - West Texas Intermediate: UP 49 cents at $68.96

Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on April 19-20/18
Is a thick gaseous cloud hiding Russia’s first S-300 delivery to Syria?
DEBKAfile/April 19/18/
As Israel celebrated its 70th anniversary, a Russian ship unloaded a suspect military cargo from a freighter at the Syrian port of Tartous. Was Moscow answering Israel’s celebration by delivering advanced S-300 air defense missiles as a show of support for Bashar Assad?
This not confirmed. However, DEBKAfile’s military sources report that the Russians undoubtedly took advantage of Israel’s preoccupation with its Independence Day revelries to deliver advanced weapons systems for the Syrian army. The Russian ship docked in Tartous on Wednesday afternoon, April 18. Before unloading it, they positioned in the Russian section of the port giant compressors which spewed thick gaseous clouds over the operation to hide it from oversight by Israel’s surveillance planes, drones and satellites. This tactic intensified Israel’s suspicion that the cargo included S-300 weapons systems.On Tuesday, April 17, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow had refused Syria’s demand for the advanced S-300 missiles, but since the “appalling act of aggression” committed by the US, France and Britain, “Moscow was ready to consider any means to help the Syrian army curb further aggression.”According to our military sources, the Russian vessel was sighted crossing through the Bosporus near Istanbul on Monday, i.e., just two days after the Western strike on Syria’s chemical sites. No attempt was made to conceal the presence on its decks of military equipment, which looked like the command vehicles of missile batteries and radar apparatus. The ship was loaded at the Russian military port of Novorossiysk on the Black Sea.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Urges Foreign Diplomats to Speak Out Against Iran
Jerusalem Post/April 19/18/ نتنياهو يحث الدبلوماسيين في بلاده التحدث ضد إيران
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has urged foreign diplomats to speak out against the Islamic Republic.
“Iran is the enemy of us all – of the Arab world, of civilization,” the prime minister declared, in a wide ranging address on Thursday to heads of diplomatic missions in Israel, ambassadors to the United Nations who were brought to Jerusalem by Israel’s ambassador to the UN Danny Danon, spiritual leaders of Christian communities, honorary consuls, military attachés and an international delegation of Friends of the Israel Defense Forces.
Saying that a murderous tyrant must be opposed from the beginning, Netanyahu warned that Iran wants to conquer the whole of the Middle East.
He was speaking in his capacity as foreign minister at the annual Independence Day reception that the president hosts for the diplomatic community.
Netanyahu said that this was not only the 70th anniversary of the birth of the State of Israel, but also the 70th anniversary of the rebirth of the Jewish people, which he said had nearly died. Taking a quick leap through Jewish history from the time of the Exodus from Egypt, including heroic and creative periods for some 2,000 years prior to centuries of exile, Netanyahu said: “When we lost our land we lost our capacity to defend ourselves.”
Jews were subjects of pity or derision and victims of many pogroms, the worst of all being the Holocaust. More than half a century before the Holocaust, a new Moses had appeared in the person of Theodor Herzl. In the beginning people ridiculed his ideas, Netanyahu acknowledged, but the prime minister’s own grandfather had been captivated by Herzl though he did oppose him on the Uganda plan, which had been suggested as an alternative to a return to the Holy Land.
“If we had not built this state in this crucial point of history, the whole future of the Jewish people would have been in doubt,” said Netanyahu.
The creation of the State of Israel rekindled the spirit of the Maccabees, he said, and even though Israel was surrounded by seven hostile Arab armies in 1948, “we prevailed.”
Since then, Israel has built a powerful army and an amazing economy, he said.
Listing some of Israel’s many innovations, Netanyahu boasted that Israeli intelligence, technology and innovation have helped to thwart terrorism, conquer disease and produce water in many countries, and have contributed to Israel’s diplomatic relations. When he entered the foreign service in 1982, he said, Israel had diplomatic relations with around 80 countries. Now it’s close to double that. “Israel’s technology and security prowess has given us diplomatic prowess,” said Netanyahu, adding that “power has given us peace.”
AS LONG as Israel’s neighbors regarded the nation of Israel as ephemeral, and thought that they could drive it into the Mediterranean, there was no peace, said Netanyahu. But now he’s optimistic about peace, not only because Israel and the Arab states have a common enemy, but because people in Arab countries want a better life.
“Technology and innovation will bring peace,” he predicted. “I have hope and I intend to pursue peace,” he pledged.
Netanyahu also made the point that countries working with Israel toward peace could hasten the process by moving their embassies to Jerusalem. “Recognizing reality is a way to build peace,” he insisted as he pointed out that all of Israel’s major state institutions are in Jerusalem. He praised Guatemala for being quick to follow the example of the United States and said that some half dozen countries were considering moving their embassies to the capital.
President Reuven Rivlin, who spoke before Netanyahu, addressed similar subject matter, saying that Israel would always be willing to share its know-how and experience. With regard to Iran, Rivlin said that it was a challenge for the whole world which “we must face together.”
He was heart-broken about what is happening in Syria, he said.
If the world does not work together, “future generations will ask what we did to stop crimes against humanity,” he cautioned.
Relating to Israel’s building of walls to keep out terrorists, Rivlin said that even with the construction of such walls, “we will never close the door to peace.”
World leaders including the queen of England and the presidents of the United States and Russia sent congratulatory messages to both Rivlin and Netanyahu, with President Donald Trump adding that he was looking forward to moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem next month.

White House works to fill its own vacuum in Syria with allied Arab forces
Jerusalem Post/April 19/18
ترامب يسعي لتشكيل قوة عربية تحل مكانه قواته في سوريا
WASHINGTON – Keen to withdraw US troops from the Syrian battlefield, President Donald Trump has asked Arab nations led by Egypt and Saudi Arabia to replace them with their own – a move that could work against the regrowth of terrorist organizations there, but also risk direct conflict between Arab and Persian armies.
The policy is being spearheaded by John Bolton, Trump’s new national security adviser, and Mike Pompeo, his CIA director and choice for secretary of state, according to CNN. Bolton has been in contact with Egypt’s intelligence chief on the matter.
Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates would also be expected to take part.
“We are in discussions with the US and have been since the beginning of the Syrian crisis about sending forces into Syria,” Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister, Adel al-Jubeir, said on Tuesday, at a press conference in Riyadh with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
Mideast analysts pounced on the idea as ill-conceived, on social media: Egypt can barely contain terrorists in its backyard, Sinai, and Saudi Arabia has already diverted military resources from Syria to its fight against Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen. And the prospect of direct military conflict between Arab and Iranian forces – much more likely than between US and Iranian forces – increases the chances of a dangerous regional escalation.
The Trump administration is asking for the troop contributions in addition to financial contributions in the billions of dollars to rebuild northern Syria, devastated by Islamic State forces that occupied the land for three years until a US-led coalition took it back.
US, British and French forces pound Syria with air strikes early on Saturday in response to a poison gas attack, April 14, 2018(Reuters)
But internally, Trump’s team is in disagreement over the future US role there. Leadership on the anti-ISIS coalition says that the mission is not yet complete. And the majority of his National Security Council, including his secretary of defense, James Mattis, warned against a hasty withdrawal of US troops from the area that would provide a vacuum for extremists – and for Iran’s forces – to move in. But Trump has said for weeks that the cost to US taxpayers of continuous military operations in the “troubled place” that is the Middle East has run too high. “It’s very costly for our country, and it helps other countries a hell of a lot more than it helps us,” Trump said earlier this month. “We’re going to be making a decision on what we do in the very near future.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has expressed concern with Trump’s withdrawal plan, over its implications for the Iranian threat to the Jewish state.
“I want to get out – I want to bring our troops back home,” Trump said. “I want to rebuild our nation.”
Exclusive: South Damascus Residents Facing Displacement amid Ambiguity on ISIS Fate
Damascus - Asharq Al-Awsat/Thursday, 19 April, 2018
With the end of the presence of armed opposition forces in eastern Ghouta, the Syrian Regime forces and their allies are currently preparing to “resolve” the situation in some southern areas of Damascus, which are still out of their control, as part of efforts to secure the capital and its surroundings.
Areas dominated by the Syrian opposition factions are likely to witness the same situation seen in other regions, including forced displacement of fighters and their families, while ambiguity surrounds the fate of ISIS-held cities.
The besieged southern regions of Damascus, with the eastern region of Kalamoun, are the last two strongholds of the armed opposition, ISIS and Nusra Front in the vicinity of the capital, after the regime and its allies regained control over most of Damascus’ cities and towns.
The Southern Gate
The southern part of Damascus is divided into five main areas, the largest of which are Yalda, Babila and Beit Sehm, which are part of Rif Dimashq governorate and located in the southeast of the capital. The area is bordered to the north by Yarmouk Refugee Camp and Al-Tadamoun neighborhood, to the south the area of Sayeda Zeinab, which is controlled by Iranian militias, to the east Damascus’ Ghouta, and to the west the Black Stone area.
The region stretches over four square kilometers and was dominated, seven years ago, by Islamic factions and members of the Free Syrian Army.
These factions signed a truce agreement with the regime in February 2014, after they expelled ISIS and Nusra Front to the Black Stone and Yarmouk camp. Since then, these towns have been relatively calm, under a siege imposed by the forces of the regime. Only civilians are allowed to go to the capital and return to their towns almost daily through the Babila-Qazzaz crossing.
In September 2015, factions including Ahrar al-Sham and Nusra signed a cease-fire agreement with Hezbollah in the towns of Fuaa and Kafriya in the countryside of Idlib, which are inhabited by factions supported by Iran, as well as Madaya and Zabadani in the countryside of Damascus. However, Russian intervention at the end of the same month froze the agreement.
Few months later, the agreement was revived and covered other regions as well.
In April 2017, the first phase of the agreement was implemented, as 8,000 civilians and fighters of Al-Fua and Kafriya were evacuated. The second phase - which entails the evacuation of the rest of the two towns and the displacement of Nusra militants and their families from Yarmouk camp – has not been completed so far.
During the recent Astana meetings, which brought about agreements to establish de-escalation zones in Syria, the factions attempted to annex the towns of Yalda, Babila and Beit Semh to the de-escalation zone agreement in eastern Ghouta. Iran refused the proposal on the grounds that these areas in southern Damascus were part of the agreement covering the towns of Fuaa, Kafriya, Zabadani and Madaya.
These towns are currently densely populated, as their residents have refused to leave, and a large number of people from nearby areas (Black Stone, Yarmouk Camp, Al-Tadamon neighborhood) have resorted to the region, fleeing ISIS.
The Stronghold of ISIS
The Black Stone area is administratively affiliated to Rif Dimashq. It lies on the south of the capital and is bordered to the north by the Yarmouk refugee camp, to the west by the Damascene neighborhood of Al-Qadam, to the east by the town of Yalda and is about 7 kilometers from the center of Damascus.
Before the war, the Black Stone population was estimated at 60,000, most of whom were displaced from the Golan Heights in 1967. The area has also a mixed Syrian population and Palestinian refugees.
Many of the residents have joined the peaceful opposition movement, and later formed armed factions affiliated with the Free Army, mainly the Black Stone Brigade and the Golan Falcons.
The Black Stone was then dominated by different armed factions, under different agendas and slogans. Radical factions prevailed over the Free Army, whose members disintegrated or joined Nusra Front and ISIS.
A struggle for influence between Nusra and ISIS has ended with the later expelling Nusra members to Yarmouk camp.
The Capital of the Palestinian Diaspora
The third area is the Yarmouk refugee camp, which is administered by the governorate of Damascus and is located around seven kilometers south of the capital. It is also known as the capital of the Palestinian Diaspora, as it comprises 36 percent of Palestinian refugees in Syria.
The area witnessed military chaos due of the existence of different armed groups, working under different agendas and slogans.
Nusra Front and Al-Aknaf formed the two most powerful factions in Yarmouk and managed to end the presence of many other factions, taking full control of the camp throughout 2014.
In April 2015, ISIS intervened and supported Nusra to get rid of Al-Aknaf, which had around 250 members. Suddenly, in April 2016, ISIS launched an aggressive attack on Nusra in Yarmouk and took control over 80 percent of the area previously dominated jointly by the two groups.
With ISIS controlling the Yarmouk camp, many civilians were forced to leave to areas dominated by the Free Army in Yalda, Babila and Beit Sehm, while only 4,000 civilians remained in the camp.
The Example of Diversity
The fourth area is the southern part of the Tadamon neighborhood of the Damascus governorate. It is strategically important, being the southern gate between the capital and its countryside. It is connected by Yarmouk Camp from the west and Yalda from the east and the south. In the north, it is bordered by the regions of Al-Zahra and Daf Al-Shawk.
The neighborhood was an example of diversity in Syria, where the population, before the beginning of the crisis, was estimated at 200 thousand, forming a social fabric that included residents from the Golan Heights, the governorates of Suweida, Idlib, Deir Zor, Daraa, Latakia and Tartous.
In November 2012, after the militarization of the civil movement, factions of the Free Army swept through the southern part of the area, forcing the displacement of the majority of its population.
When ISIS took control over the largest part of Yarmouk camp in April 2016, it also dominated the southern part of Tadamon neighborhood, while the factions retreated to the towns of Yalda, Babila and Beit Sehm.
The fifth area is the Al-Qadam prominent neighborhood, one of the oldest Damascene neighborhoods around the capital’s old city. Located in the south of the capital, it is bordered to the north by Al-Midan, to the south by Sabina, to the west by Daraya and to the east by the Black Stone.
Since the beginning of the militarization of the civil movement, the area has witnessed clashes between the Free Army and the regime forces, leading to the displacement of most of the residents and the complete destruction of the infrastructure.
The Al-Qadam district consists of two sections: one is located west of the Damascus-Daraa old road and the other east of the international road. The Free Army dominated most of the two sections at the beginning of the revolution, but the regime later managed to regain control over the western section.
Like in many opposition strongholds, the regime recently managed, following a gruesome siege on the neighborhood, to impose a “settlement” agreement in March, by which fighters and their families were driven from the area to the north of the country. However, ISIS swept through areas previously controlled by the opposition factions, killing dozens of regime fighters.
Increasing Pressure
In conjunction with the military operation launched by the regime and its allies in mid-February on the cities, towns and villages of Ghouta in eastern Damascus, which led to the displacement of more than 200 thousand fighters and civilians to the north of the country and the control of the regime over the region, the regime and its Russian ally have always maintained that their next objective was the region of south Damascus.
According to local sources from Yalda, Babila and Beit Sehm, representatives of the regime and its Russian ally have intensified their visits to the region and held several meetings with the opposition factions, threatening to invade the area if they did not accept “settlement” agreements similar to those implemented in Ghouta.
In addition, the regime demanded that those wishing to leave the region should not be deported unless they participate in fighting ISIS in the Black Stone, Yarmouk Camp, Tadamoun neighborhood and Al-Qadam, according to the sources.
In the midst of these limited options, factions are divided between those who want to stay in the region to prevent Iranian militias from imposing their control, and those who refuse to engage in the fighting against ISIS and to be exploited by the regime.
Crowds and Ambiguity
The regime has been strengthening its military presence in the area, as a number of vehicles, military equipment, buses and trucks carrying members of the regime’s army and loyal militias were seen last week in the vicinity of regions controlled by ISIS.
However, some observers believe that the scenarios of ending ISIS presence in the south of Damascus were unpredictable.
“The scene is surrounded with many ambiguities,” they say, noting that the regime was well aware of ISIS’ weak points in that area, and hence “will not allow the organization to impose its conditions, even if such scenario required a military intervention.”

Why Germany Didn't Join the Syria Strikes
Leonid Bershidsky/Bloomberg View/April 19/18
Former German Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg has mockingly remarked that the German government's decision to back the US, British and French strikes in Syria with rhetoric but not with missiles "has shown once again that it's a grandmaster of dialectics." US President Donald Trump may snort in agreement. But Chancellor Angela Merkel's Hegelian approach to geopolitics makes more sense than her Western allies' willingness to rattle their weapons.
Merkel's statement on Saturday morning's strike on Bashar al-Assad's supposed chemicals weapons installations is one of unequivocal support. It also hints at an excuse for Germany's decision not to participate directly in the raid: The US, the UK and France, unlike Germany, are permanent members of the United Nations Security Council -- nations with the ultimate responsibility of making sure international rules are followed. It's a subtle abrogation of global leadership ambition in a situation where Germany cannot lead. Saturday's strike, after all, was a direct result of US President Donald Trump's incautious tweet last week, in which he promised that the missiles were "coming." It was after that outburst that the Trump administration sought to enlist allies' help (though French President Emmanuel Macron needed no prodding); Trump badly needed followers, especially since he wasn't going to ask Congress for authorization to take action.
UK Prime Minister Theresa May couldn't refuse: Trump had backed her all the way in the aftermath of the attempted poisoning of a former Russian double agent, and May had to be seen as both grateful and consistent, given that Assad is accused of using chemical weapons. Macron didn't have to get on board, but he's cultivating a relationship with Trump that's better than any other European leaders. And Macron wants to be seen as a foreign policy leader.
Merkel has struggled to get along with the US president and failed to hide her distaste for his politics. Sending a few planes to participate in the raid would have been a relatively cheap way to get into Trump's good graces: He's praised the UK and France effusively for going along with him. Yet the German chancellor passed on this opportunity. As ever, her considerations are primarily domestic. Merkel has never wanted a higher international profile for Germany in exchange for a more troubled domestic situation, and she still doesn't.
May backed Trump despite British public opinion's strong opposition to the Syria strikes. Macron, too, went against the majority of the French. Merkel, facing similar polls -- 60 percent of Germans consider the three nations' strike a mistake -- went along with public opinion.
Merkel was only recently -- and barely -- able to form a government after an inconclusive election last September. The last thing she needs early in the fragile cabinet's tenure is controversy about dragging Germany into what could turn into a military confrontation between the US and Russia. German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who was instrumental in helping Merkel form a coalition with his old party, the Social Democrats, warned last week against "galloping alienation" between the West and Russia. Merkel and other German government officials make it clear they're no friends of Russian President Vladimir Putin, but that they don't want any part of a hot war with his country. That's not as self-contradictory as it might seem.
Merkel is being criticized both from the right and from the left, anyway. Green politician Juergen Trittin called the government's "applause" for the attack on Assad "unbearable": To the German left, diplomacy is the only way to resolve the Syrian conflict. At the other end of the spectrum are hawks such as zu Guttenberg and Atlanticists like the leaders of the pro-business Free Democratic Party, who condemned the lack of action on Germany's part as damaging to the country's alliance with the US.
The criticism, however, is easy to deflect. The left should be happy with Merkel's inaction regardless of the statements she makes: That inaction is what their voters want more than her own. The pro-US politicians should take note that Merkel states unequivocally in which camp she is. And, as her right-hand man, Economy Minister Peter Altmaier told the daily Bild, "If we don't conduct airstrikes ourselves, that doesn't mean we're keeping out." Germany, for example, trains the anti-Assad Kurdish peshmerga forces.
Another domestic factor is rarely mentioned. Since 2014, 513,213 Syrians have applied for asylum in Germany. Most of them are anti-Assad, but even if only a minority isn't, it's simply not wise for Germany to get too mixed up in the Syrian civil war or to lend open military support to one of the sides. Compared with Germany, participants in Saturday's strikes barely accept any Syrian refugees. The US let in only 3,024 of them last year.
A few bombs dropped on Assad's military installations would have cost German taxpayers far less than Merkel's asylum policy does. But I appreciate the refugee effort more, not just for humanitarian reasons but as an important integration experiment that no other country has dared attempt. Dropping bombs on the country of origin of many of these new German residents would further complicate that experiment.
Merkel is a grandmaster of compromise. Her position on Syria is one -- between domestic stability and the need to signal loyalty to the US-led Western alliance. It makes sense that the balance of the compromise is in favor of domestic issues. After all, the three nations' one-time attack on Assad was largely symbolic: It didn't reverse the Assad regime's military victory in Eastern Ghouta, and, if the regime has any chemical weapons capability left, it's not likely to have been housed at the obvious, previously used sites that were hit.
When it comes to symbolic gestures, words are about as good as missiles. Most Germans, and this German resident, are pleased their leader understands that.

Inflation Will Offer Pleasant Surprise to Equity Markets
Neil Dutta/Bloomberg/April 19/18
To some, the US economy is on the verge of experiencing a sharp upturn in inflation that will force the Federal Reserve to accelerate the pace of interest-rate increases. The reality is that the balance of risks around inflation has normalized, which should be good news for equity markets that have been on high on alert for the prospect of an aggressive Fed.
Inflation is usually viewed on a trailing 12-month basis, which means that if prices move sharply in a particular month, the shock is carried over for the next 11 months before it drops out. This is relevant because energy prices were declining around this time last year, causing a drag on the inflation data. But now, a simple model that translates the current price of Brent crude oil to an estimate for the headline personal consumption expenditure index suggests that measure of inflation will rise to 2.5 percent by July before retreating. That’s higher than the Fed’s current projections.
Some 60 percent of the run-up in oil prices from the lows can be attributed to low supply rather than high demand. After all, proxies for global demand such as copper prices and bond yields have not moved as much as oil. This is not surprising given escalating tensions in the Middle East. However, it does raise the risk that supply conditions could come into better balance once the tensions subside, sending oil prices lower. As such, the Fed should thus ignore the recent price run-up.
Much of the recent increases in survey and market-based measures of inflation reflect this headline phenomenon. Inflation breakeven rates have returned to their recent highs, which is not surprising given the strong correlation with oil. The 30-day rolling correlation on daily changes between oil and inflation expectations is a robust 0.45. Similarly, regional manufacturing indexes have been in the spotlight lately because of the uptrend in the “prices paid” portions of the surveys. Again, like inflation expectations, this largely appears to be a proxy for energy prices. The contemporaneous correlation with the year-over-year changes with consumer prices related to energy is 0.86.
Meanwhile, core PCE started 2017 running about 1.9 percent, just short of target the Fed’s 2 percent target, before finishing the year at just 1.5 percent. Although the latest data show a welcome pick-up, a breakout is unlikely. To see why, consider a model popularized by former Fed Chair Janet Yellen. In short, core inflation is largely a function of inertia, or previous readings of core inflation and long-term inflation expectations. The model, which also incorporates labor market slack and the relative price of imports, is pointing to an acceleration in core inflation but not to a level that exceeds the Fed’s forecast. Importantly, long-run inflation expectations remain tame.
Finally, much of the recent run-up in core prices appears to be concentrated among a few items. While food and energy prices tend to be volatile, removing these two categories alone can result in some bias. Trimmed-mean measures of inflation, which remove components above or below a certain threshold, thus taking out the most volatile inputs, show that this measure of CPI has run about 0.2 percentage point lower than core CPI over the last year. That suggests the current pick-up in inflation is not especially broad-based.
Admittedly, inflation risks are no longer skewed to the downside, having returned to a more normal environment. That has created some volatility in markets of late, but being closer to normal is largely good news and there is some chance that the recent firming of inflation might lead to some companies posting revenue figures that beat estimates in the current reporting season.

Gulf Shield, More than a Drill
Salman Al-dossary/Asharq Al Awsat/April 19/18
Gulf Shield wasn’t an ordinary military maneuver on the Saudi eastern coasts – it wasn’t similar to dozens of other maneuvers taking place in the region and other places in the world. It showed a different military dogma.
The drills took one year and a half of preparations, thousands of land, air and maritime forces and strategic weaponry. The four participating countries are classified among the top 10 strongest armies ever. It's one of the biggest military movement plans, worldwide.
Most importantly, the prepared scenario resembled the current threats in the region: booby-trapped frigates, professional military operations, landing on shores, confrontations in sea, as well as simulation of two types of wars, in which regime or militias participate. In the region, militias are many.
Mainly, these military maneuvers were linked to Iran but I don’t think this was the case. Iran is not equal to Saudi Arabia, as said by the Saudi crown prince during his interview with CBS, and its army is not among the five strongest armies in the Islamic world. I find that real armies don’t show off just to send messages to rivals but aim to reinforce their military planning strength, their capability to manage war operations and use of most advanced armament techniques.
These goals fall in line with the statements made by Mohammed bin Salman that the drills are an affirmation of the kingdom's capability to work within a coordinated coalition and a unified military organization to face the regional risks and threats. The threats facing the region are many, whether those coming from regular armies or terrorist militias and groups, which are the greatest risks jeopardizing the region’s stability and security.
Perhaps the major message of this exercise is the presence of a modern methodology in confronting hostile actions that require international coordination and planning.
Indeed, it is not necessary that the 24 countries participate in any further military cooperation, since there are political calculations for each state. What is important is that the participating forces have gained more expertise, especially with the presence of US, French and UK forces that work on strengthening the joint work within coalitions to reinforce security through enhancing capabilities, efficiency and professionalism of participating forces in dealing with threats.
Riyadh is leading these coalitions, as it did in the Arab Coalition to restore legitimacy in Yemen or the Islamic military counter-terrorism coalition.
Tuesday, Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir renewed his country’s stance from dispatching military forces to Syria to fight terrorism, restating that it's not a new idea to send forces to Syria and that the kingdom made a suggestion for the Islamic military counter-terrorism coalition in this regards, before and after suggesting these ideas to Washington.
Despite the former US administration's hesitation in dealing with the Saudi proposal, Riyadh is aware that it has military capabilities of high professionalism and readiness to back its political stance. The kingdom is well aware of its assigned role in leading the region and has military alliances assisting it.

UK: "Teacher Handbook" Supporting Extremism?
Andrew Jones/Gatestone Institute/April 19/2018
Britain's educational authorities also failed to note the underlying message of the Teacher Handbook: that jihadist violence is justified when committed by those who believe themselves to be victims. This is a crucial point: it accepts at face value what might only be many Muslims' perception of "victimhood."
Despite the Teacher Handbook's questionable attempts to align Islam with secular, Western principles such as human rights, fundamental British values are undermined by the very content of theTeacher Handbook.
No amount of Western appeasement can counter jihad, which is, as openly admitted, a global expansionist project.
Many religious texts have violent verses, but in Islam people still live by them.
Sweeping reforms in Britain's education system are having an unintended dangerous consequence: the infiltration of extremist Muslim influence on the teaching of Religious Studies.
This influence is visible in The Oxford Teacher Handbook for GCSE Islam, authored by a small team of educational specialists and Muslim community leaders. The purpose of the manual is to guide British teachers lacking in-depth knowledge of Islam to help their students pass the Religious Studies General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE), the UK's public examination for pupils at the end of Grade 11. This academic study of religions is an optional but relatively popular subject in British high schools -- 322,910 students took the examination in 2017, out of a total GCSE cohort in all subjects of 3,694,771.
The understanding of Islam -- absorbed by a significant proportion of each year's 300,000+ Religious Studies students (whose school chooses to take the Islam module) -- is sufficient to create a national climate of opinion, given that the GCSE is a near-essential first stepping-stone to higher education and influential professions in British public life. It is therefore alarming that a portion of such influence has been granted to the Islamic scholar and activist, Shaykh Ibrahim Mogra, a co-author of the Teacher Handbook, who oversaw his fellow authors' contributions.
Mogra is an imam of the purist, revivalist Deobandi sect, which harks back to 7th century Islam and currently controls between 40-45% of Britain's mosques. It has a strong politicized and jihadist pedigree, having begun as a form of resistance to British colonial rule in India and, later, with its role as the ideological foundation of the Taliban. Mogra also serves as assistant secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), the UK's foremost Muslim advocacy body. It is nonetheless cited in the British government's 2015 Muslim Brotherhood Review as having "consistently opposed programmes by successive Governments to prevent terrorism." In response to one such government call for assistance countering radicalization in Britain's Muslim community, Mogra suggested that "the demand could fuel anti-Muslim sentiments in British society" -- a claim which could be seen as playing the victim card to dodge an entirely reasonable request.
The 2015 Review also referred to Daud Abdullah, the MCB's former deputy secretary general, having signed the 2009 Istanbul Declaration, "a public document which appeared to condone violence against any country supporting an arms blockade against Gaza." Britain, whose naval vessels provided logistical support to the Gaza blockade, was one such country. Furthermore, the Istanbul Declaration contained a call for attacks on Jewish communities and individuals globally.
A few years earlier, in 2004, Sir Iqbal Sacranie, then the head of the MCB, attended a memorial service at London's Central Mosque in honor of Sheik Ahmed Yassin, the founder of Hamas, the charter of which mandates the extermination of Israel and the Jews. To justify his support for Yassin, Sacranie likened the arch-terrorist to Mahatma Gandhi.
Although Mogra has been more guarded in his statements than his overtly terrorist-supporting MCB colleagues, he has never sought to distance himself from any of them, nor has he ever contradicted their support for Hamas in particular. Furthermore, Mogra has also shared a platform with a terrorist lynchpin. Mogra spoke alongside Imam Anwar al-Awlaki in 2003 at the annual summer conference of the Federation of Student Islamic Societies[1]. Al-Awlaki was killed in a US drone strike in 2011 for his role as a senior Al Qaeda ideologue and regional commander. Critics say Mogra is fronting for a dirty, interconnected underworld.
From its founding in 1997, for more than a decade, the MCB was open about its terrorist allegiances. After the Istanbul Declaration, however, the administration of Prime Minister Gordon Brown suspended ties with the organization. Since then, subsequent British governments have backtracked. Perhaps seeking the fuller inclusion of the early 2000s, with Mogra at the forefront, the MCB has attempted in recent years to rebrand itself as a moderate force promoting inter-faith dialogue and integration in multicultural Britain.
Mogra's statements, however, call into question his supposed enthusiasm for inter-faith dialogue.
"Islam says it's forbidden [inter-faith marriage]. And I think to have your daughter openly go against God's law is and can be very, very difficult," he said. Mogra commemorated Holocaust Memorial Day in January 2018 by tweeting on a variety of historical genocides, seeming to imply that the Nazi genocide of the Jews was only one among many mass murders. A week earlier, the MCB's Our Mosques, Our Future conference, featured as a speaker Mohammed Kozbar, chairman of the Finsbury Park mosque, one of whose key trustees is Mohammed Sawalha, a former senior Hamas military commander. Sawalha evaded Israeli authorities in 1990 and subsequently found refuge in London, from where he organized flotillas to Gaza -- and allegedly directed funds for Hamas's military and missionary wings.
As a key author and editor of The Oxford Teacher Handbook for GCSE Islam, Mogra's true allegiances need scrutiny.
In a BBC interview after the 2015 Paris attacks, Mogra dodged the principal issue of Islamic terrorism, and stressed instead the supposed victimization of UK Muslims. "[W]e are beginning to see society turning on Muslims who've made this country their own and now are being seen as a threat or as an enemy within," he said.
It was not an innocuous statement, given that the Teacher Handbook specifies the following circumstances under which the "lesser jihad" of supposedly justifiable, religiously-sanctioned violence is permitted in Islam:
In self-defence ("Those who have been attacked are permitted to take up arms because they have been wronged");
As a last resort (i.e. all other ways of trying to solve the dispute have been tried);
To preserve Islam or to enable Muslims to freely practice their faith;
To protect the oppressed (i.e. if a tyrant is ruling a country).
In this context, Mogra's bemoaning of supposed Muslim victimhood on the BBC could be perceived either as a "dog-whistle" to jihad, or, at the very least, as a veiled threat of "defensive" violence, should Muslims feel that they or Islam are in any way regarded as responsible for Islamic terrorism.
The logic of Mogra's BBC statement and the content of the Teacher Handbook, when combined, is that if society is "turning on Muslims," then they are "oppressed," and it is then but a small step to "tak[ing] up arms because they have been wronged."
Herein lies the crux of the matter. Behind Mogra's softly spoken rhetoric of inter-faith dialogue, there seems to lie a faint but clearly discernible threat of violence -- a potential menace made all the more real by the company he keeps.
The Teacher Handbook itself has many examples of the Muslim-as-victim narrative. The section on "Islam in the media," for example, includes the following passages:
"...[M]any Muslims feel they are the targets of a sinister agenda, and that there is a commitment on the part of big news corporations to demonise them at any opportunity. Everyone knows there are bad Muslims, but there are also bad Jews, Buddhists and atheists, whose fanaticism and violence do not seem to be as newsworthy. A lot of Muslims argue how this proves conclusively that there is institutional prejudice against Islam, and explains why there is distrust in Western journalism especially. Sometimes it is difficult to establish which 'news' items are even true...[He continues later in the section:]
"As the role of the RE [Religious Education] teacher requires both an appreciation and appraisal of religions, it is important to redress the imbalance of constant negativity about Islam and Muslims in the media."
This claim, however, that Islam suffers from "constant negativity [...] in the media" is false. The BBC, for instance, completely whitewashed the Finsbury Park mosque's links to Hamas, while promoting its imam, Mohammed Mahmoud, as a hero. Mahmoud prevented a Muslim mob assaulting Darren Osborne, the perpetrator of the deadly van-ramming attack on worshipers outside the mosque in June 2017. The grim irony -- of a Hamas-linked mosque being the recipient of a Hamas-inspired vehicular ramming -- was not, of course, mentioned by the BBC.
Similar to the British media's blindness, British educational authorities also failed to note the underlying message of the Teacher Handbook: that jihadist violence is justified when committed by those who believe themselves to be victims.
This is a crucial point: it accepts at face value what might only be many Muslims' perception of "victimhood." In one of its most misjudged references, the Teacher Handbook uses the key perpetrator of the 7/7/2005 London bombings, Mohammad Sidique Khan, as a mouthpiece for terrorism's rationale. "Many Muslims feel very strongly about the role of foreign policy as a factor in inspiring terrorism," Mogra and his co-authors state, pointing to the video message left by Khan, who described his actions as a means of "protecting and avenging my Muslim brothers and sisters."
Although the Teacher Handbook does refer to Khan's Al Qaeda-inspired slaughter of dozens of innocent people as "terrorism," the editing of Khan's video message omits its most cold-blooded aspect, which is tantamount to a call for the mass murder of citizens of Western countries. The quotation, in full, is:
"Your democratically elected governments continuously perpetuate atrocities against my people all over the world. And your support of them makes you directly responsible, just as I am directly responsible for protecting and avenging my Muslim brothers and sisters." [Emphasis added]
The part omitted from the Teacher Handbook reveals the extent of Khan's adversarial thinking and the true nature of jihadism. Its absence, and the misrepresentation that Khan's edited quote then becomes, provides teachers and students in the UK with a false basis for the belief -- or wishful thinking -- that if only Western foreign policy were more humane and compliant, there would be no Islamic terrorism.
In fact, no amount of Western appeasement can counter jihad, which is, as admitted, a global expansionist project.
As elsewhere noted, many religious texts have violent verses, but in Islam people still live by them.
Although violent, "lesser jihad" is presented in the Teacher Handbook solely as a reaction to oppression and injustice, the imperial dimension of the religion seeks to re-establish and expand the Caliphate and govern society globally according to Islamic principles. Despite the Teacher Handbook's questionable attempts to align Islam with secular, Western values, such as human rights, the manner of society Mogra and his MCB colleagues are eager to achieve does not correspond with fundamental British values -- as evidenced by a fondness for Hamas and the Handbook's apologist attitude to Sharia's corporal punishments, including amputation. British values, listed since 2014 in the UK Department of Education guidelines -- "democracy, rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect for and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs and for those without faith," are undermined by the very content of the Teacher Handbook:
"Democracy" is undermined by sanctioning "lesser jihad," instead of settling disputes at the ballot box.
"Rule of law" is undermined, for instance, by asserting Sharia (Islamic) law's position on polygamy in the face of its prohibition by the UK legal system.
"Individual liberty" is undermined, for instance, by uncritical reference to the Qur'an's endorsement of slavery (24:30-31).
"Mutual respect" for different faiths and beliefs is undermined by teachings such as: "To worship other gods or idols [...] instead of Allah is the main sin of Islam...Thus, all polytheistic faiths and also the Christian idea of the Trinity are rejected."
In The Open Society and Its Enemies, published during World War II, the Austrian-British philosopher Karl Popper defined the "Paradox of Tolerance" as follows:
"Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them... We should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant."
The time for Britain to digest these words is overdue.
*Andrew Jones, a researcher, is currently based in Europe.
[1] The Muslim Brothers in Europe: Roots and Discourse, edited by Brigitte Maréchal.
© 2018 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

Turkey's Erdogan Threatens France
Uzay Bulut/Gatestone Institute/April 19/2018
"Why hasn't any 'kind-hearted' anti-Assad Arab state (e.g. Saudi) taken any Syrian refugees? Shouldn't countries that spent billions on arming militants (including terrorists) in the name of 'liberating' Syrians take refugees in? The only Syrian refugees that got attention in the Gulf states are the vulnerable underage girls they bought in the name of marriage." — Dr. Abbas Kadhim.
"Why not bring Christians and Yazidis from the Muslim world here first?... Finally, why not bring Muslim girls and women who are already in flight from honor-based violence, including from honor killing, here next -- before we extend visas, green cards and asylum to Muslim boys and men?" — Professor Phyllis Chesler.
"It is ironic that millions of Muslims are trying... to reach the borders of a civilization they have historically blamed for all the world's evils... is it 'Islamophobic' to point out that there is no war in Greece, Serbia, Hungary, or Austria?" — Burak Bekdil, BESA Center for Strategic Studies.
Last month, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan slammed French President Emmanuel Macron for his recent offer to mediate between Turkey and the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), saying he hopes Paris will not ask Ankara to help when terrorists fleeing Iraq and Syria arrive in France:
"With this attitude, France has no right to complain about any terrorist organization, any terrorist, any terrorist attack. Those who sleep with terrorists, welcome them in their palaces, will understand sooner or later the mistake that they made."
On April 7, hours after a man ploughed his van into pedestrians in Münster, Germany, Erdogan threatened France again, referring to the incident: :
"France, [you are] being a stooge... providing support to the terrorism, you are hosting terrorists at the Elysée Palace... You are seeing what is happening in Germany, right? The same will happen in France. The West will not able to free itself from terror. The West will sink as it feeds these terrorists."
The Turkish government's enabling violence in Syria and Iraq has apparently turned Turkey into a center for ISIS and other Islamist terrorists. Many of the jihadi terrorists who participated in deadly attacks in Manchester, Paris, Brussels, Berlin, Stockholm and St. Petersburg in recent years had connections to Turkey. Some were caught there; others either traveled there to cross into Syria to join ISIS, or had lived there a while. Turkey has been routinely used by Islamists as a route into areas of Syria and Iraq to join ISIS. (See appendix for a list of such terrorists)
In November of 2016, Erdogan targeted Europe again:
"You have never treated humanity honestly. You have never looked at people in the right way. You did not go and take the babies when they hit shores on the Mediterranean... We are the ones feeding 3 million, 3.5 million Syrian refugees in this country. You have not kept your promises. When 50,000 refugees headed to Kapıkule [at the Turkey-Bulgaria border], you shrieked: 'What will we do if Turkey opens it border gates?' Look at me! If you go too far, we will open those border gates. Just know this."
For Europe, the result of ignoring these threats could be deadly.
This is the sad state of affairs of the European Union today: Erdogan continues threatening the continent with terrorists -- some born in Europe, and some hiding among the "refugees" whom Europe is trying to help.
Many of the terrorists born in Europe had declared their jihadi intentions before their attacks. Some were arrested and then released; others were not even arrested or deported after Turkey sent them to European countries. In these cases, European officials made huge mistakes that cost the lives of hundreds of innocent people.
The EU's current immigration system is gravely endangering the lives and liberties of EU citizens as well as the genuine refugees there.
Meanwhile, the rich Arab nations -- including Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman and Bahrain -- do nothing to help their Muslim brethren. These states are wealthy, as well as geographically and culturally close to the stricken war zones, but they have not offered any financial help or resettlement possibilities, and have not taken in any refugees.
Given the cultural, linguistic and religious background of the refugees, many of them could integrate smoothly with their fellow Muslims in those Arab states.
Dr. Abbas Kadhim wrote on Twitter:
"We know that Iran is pro-Assad, but why hasn't any 'kind-hearted' anti-Assad Arab state (e.g. Saudi) taken any Syrian refugees? Shouldn't countries that spent billions on arming militants (including terrorists) in the name of 'liberating' Syrians take refugees in? The only Syrian refugees that got attention in the Gulf states are the vulnerable underage girls they bought in the name of marriage."
Professor Phyllis Chesler had another idea:
"Why not bring Christians and Yazidis from the Muslim world here first? Why not bring Muslim dissidents, ex-Muslims, and Muslim homosexuals here second? Finally, why not bring Muslim girls and women who are already in flight from honor-based violence, including from honor killing, here next -- before we extend visas, green cards and asylum to Muslim boys and men?"
Immigration is not only about movement of people. It needs to be understood that radical or pious Muslims bring a certain culture with them. Muslim migrants who refuse to integrate into the West try to impose their own belief systems on their host countries. Many try, for example, to establish parallel sharia law systems, the rules of which aim to oppress or even kill women, non-Muslims, and homosexuals.
Just recently, Germany was shocked by newly revealed footage from the mosque of the Turkish-Islamic Union DITIB Association in Herford. Pictures and videos showed four- to 7-year-old children parading in military uniforms with toy weapons and pretending to die as martyrs under the Turkish flag. Is this what passes for "cultural enrichment through immigration" now?
One serious problem seems to be the ignorance of many European officials about the teachings and traditions of Islam -- including terrorism and violence. One European official who does understand is Hungarian Secretary of State Zoltán Kovács. Western European nations, he said, are paying a heavy price by pretending that Islam does not matter. "We've been living with and close to Islam for centuries in the past and we know about it. So, that's why it does matter who has come in and in what manner people are coming," Kovács told CBN News.
Last year, Turkish journalist Burak Bekdil wrote about his observations about illegal Muslim migrants in Greece: Many of the "'poor" illegal migrants on the Greek islands want to go to Germany, where they have heard from friends and relatives that they will be the best paid for being refugees. The notion that poor souls are fleeing war, although many may still be, is becoming less and less convincing by the day.
"It is ironic that millions of Muslims are trying, through dangerous means, to reach the borders of a civilization they have historically blamed for all the world's evils, including those of their own countries. The 'romantic' West does not question why millions of West-hating Muslims are heading in their direction. Or is it 'Islamophobic' to point out that there is no war in Greece, Serbia, Hungary, or Austria?"
Now that ISIS has been defeated in Syria and Iraq, where are its former fighters now? And how many have already crossed the border to Europe? Of the new refugee and migrant arrivals in Greece, how many are jihadis planning to attack Europeans or "moderates" who could get "radicalized" later on? Is it even possible to know?
What is clear is that, as Erdogan keeps threatening France with more terror attacks, European officials need to be extra cautious about who are crossing their borders.
Uzay Bulut is a Turkish journalist born and raised in Turkey. She is presently based in Washington D.C.
Some of the terrorists with connections to Turkey include:
The Manchester Arena Bombing
On May 22, 2017, a suicide bomber blew himself up outside the Manchester Arena, where the American singer Ariana Grande had just performed a concert. Twenty-three people were killed in the attack, including the terrorist, and more than 500 were wounded. German intelligence services later announced that the perpetrator, Salman Ramadan Abedi – a British Sunni Muslim of Libyan origin – had returned from the Middle East to Britain, via Turkey and Germany, four days before the attack.
The Stockholm Attack
On April 7, 2017, a terrorist drove a hijacked truck into pedestrians in Stockholm, killing five people and seriously wounding 14 others. The perpetrator, an Uzbek citizen named Rakhmat Akilov, had been caught two years earlier trying to cross the Turkish border to join ISIS in Syria and was deported to Sweden, where he had resided as a refugee.
The Saint Petersburg Metro Bombing
On April 3, April 2017, a Kyrgyz-born Russian citizen, Akbarzhon Jalilov, blew himself up on the St. Petersburg Metro, killing six people and wounding at least 45. According to a Reuters report, two people who knew him said that he traveled to Turkey in late 2015, soon after developing an interest in Islam. He was deported to Russia about a year later over "migration violations." Russian investigators revealed that Jalilov had received money from an "international terrorist group" in Turkey.
The Berlin Christmas Market Attack
On December 19, 2016, a truck-ramming attack on a Christmas market in Berlin – which left leaving 12 people dead and 56 others wounded – was perpetrated by Anis Amri, a Tunisian asylum-seeker, who was killed four days later in a shootout with police in Italy. In addition, a German of Jordanian origin identified as W.D. and suspected of giving Amri the order to commit the attack, was apprehended in Izmir in March 2107.
According to Turkish media reports, W.D. made his way illegally to Turkey for the purpose of crossing into Greece after the attack. Meanwhile, European authorities found that four out of five names on Amri's phone – some of whom were suspected of planning the attack – were located in Turkey.
Another suspect, of Syrian origin, was subsequently caught during a raid on the hotel at which he was staying in Izmir. Identified as M.A.K., the suspect had arrived in İzmir with the purpose of entering Greece, and was planning to stage attacks in Europe. Two additional suspects were apprehended in Istanbul. Three others – German citizens of Lebanese origin -- were apprehended at Istanbul's Atatürk Airport.
The Normandy Church Attack
On July 26, 2016, two 19-year-old ISIS terrorists, Adel Kermiche and Abdel Malik Petitjean, attacked Christians attending mass at a Catholic church in Normandy, France. After taking six people hostage, they slit the throat of one of them, 85-year-old priest Jacques Hamel. Kermiche, who had twice attempted to join ISIS in Syria, was released from custody, and in spite of his electronic police monitor, had managed to participate in the attack.
One of the occasions on which he tried to join ISIS in Syria was in May 2015, when he flew first to Istanbul. He was apprehended, however, and deported back to France.
The Brussels Bombings
On March 22, 2016, Islamist terrorists committed three coordinated suicide bombings in Belgium's capital city -- two at the Brussels Airport and one at the Maalbeek metro station -- killing 32 people and wounding more than 300. It turned out that one of the perpetrators, Ibrahim El Bakraoui, had been arrested less than a year earlier in Gaziantep in southern Turkey, close to the Syrian border, and deported to Holland before being sent back to Belgium. Erdoğan accused Belgian authorities of failing to confirm the suspect's links to terrorism, "despite our warnings that he was a foreign fighter."
Nine days before the Brussels bombings, when a car bomb in Ankara killed at least 37 people and wounded another 125, Erdoğan lashed out at Europe for supporting the Kurds in Syria and Iraq, after responsibility for the attack was claimed by the Kurdistan Freedom Hawks (TAK). "The bombs exploding in Turkey might not mean anything to you," Erdoğan said. "But when these bombs explode in your own cities, you will understand how we feel. But it will be too late."
The Paris Attacks
On November 13, 2015, three jihadists blew themselves up outside the Stade de France in Saint-Denis during a soccer match; other terrorists – one of whom later blew himself up -- shot at diners at cafes and restaurants; and others committed mass shootings at an Eagles of Death concert at the Bataclan Theater. The multiple attacks, which were claimed by ISIS, left 130 people dead and another 413 wounded.
One of the perpetrators, Brahim Abdeslam, had traveled to Turkey earlier that year, with the intention of going on to Syria, but Turkish authorities deported him back to Brussels, where he was questioned by police and released.
Another, Omar Ismail Mostefai, is believed to have traveled to Turkey at the end of 2013, from where he went to Syria. A senior Turkish government official claimed that Turkey had contacted France about Mostefai in December 2014 and June 2015, but only received a request for additional information about him after the Paris attacks.
A third, Ahmad Al Mohammad, reportedly posed as a refugee to gain entry into Europe through Greece a month before the attacks. Greek police said that Al Mohammad had arrived on a small vessel from Turkey.
A fourth, Samy Amimour, reportedly joined ISIS in Syria via Turkey.
A day after the attacks, Turkish authorities arrested Ahmet Dahmani, a Belgian man of Moroccan origin whom they suspected of having scouted out the venues for the deadly assaults in Paris. He was arrested at a luxury hotel in Antalya, after traveling from Amsterdam. Two other suspects, both Syrian, were also detained in Turkey.
As he did ahead of the Brussels bombings, three days before the Paris attacks, Erdoğan lambasted Europe for what he perceived to be its lack of opposition to terrorist groups. "If a principled stance is not taken in the face of terrorism, this fire will spread to the entire world sooner or later," he said. "The countries that think they are safe and prosperous within their own borders will not be able to avoid the fire of terrorism to the hilt."
The Hyper Cacher Supermarket Siege
On January 9, 2015, a Malian-French terrorist, Amedy Coulibaly, laid siege to a kosher supermarket in Paris, killing four Jewish shoppers and taking several others hostage. It emerged that Coulibaly, who had pledged allegiance to ISIS, had killed a police officer in Montrouge the previous day.
A week earlier, on January 2, Coulibaly's common-law wife, Hayat Boumeddiene, took a flight from Madrid to Istanbul, and crossed the Turkish border into Syria on January 8, a day after the Charlie Hebdo attack. She has since disappeared and is still wanted in France.
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Future scenarios for the unfolding crisis in Syria
Abdullah bin Bijad Al-Otaibi/Al Arabiya/April 19/18
No sound is louder than that of the drums of war once they start beating. War neither compliments nor trusts anyone. It is one of the most rigorous expressions of conflict, opposing beliefs and the imbalance of power in the region and the world.
During the Cold War and its several battles across the world, the sound of the war drums rose after the fundamentalist revolution in Iran was led by Khomeini in 1979. He was praised by many top intellectuals and writers in the region and the world, who portrayed him as a loyal, glorious, free and revolutionary man and a guardian jurist just like he wanted.
Putin was acting as if the war in Syria was a cold regional war that he could effortlessly manage through quick and intense intervention, but things didn’t pan out as he had planned. Despite acknowledging the major differences that cannot be controlled inside Syria and despite regional disputes, Putin made his allies blindly believe in his country’s military, political and economic power
Today, the Wilayat al-Faqih regime boasts of its control over four Arab capitals — Baghdad, Damascus, Beirut and Sanaa. Nothing has helped it in this respect more than the political mistakes of the most powerful country in the world, the United States. In 2003, the US militarily invaded Iraq without any viable strategic plan for the post-occupation phase. Saudi Arabia blamed the United States for this mistake for a long time. Blaming it should have lasted for a short period of time, yet it has consumed many years, and this is a story which is too long to explain.
Russian confidence
The situation is changing, and the positions of the antagonists are evolving. A short while back, Russian President Vladimir Putin was making threats. He is proud of himself and his allies, as he has military bases in Syria. He has an alliance with Iran and Turkey, therefore consequently with all the extremist groups.
During his election campaign, he paraded the new generation of Russian weapons and whipped up a euphoria that Russia was back on the international political map. Barack Obama had made it possible for him to come forth as a major force in the international arena due to his lack of awareness and to his visions that only included withdrawal and isolationism.
Putin was acting as if the war in Syria was a cold regional war that he could effortlessly manage through quick and intense intervention, but things didn’t pan out as he had planned. Despite acknowledging the major differences that cannot be controlled inside Syria and despite regional disputes, Putin made his allies blindly believe in his country’s military, political and economic power. However, is this really the case? Could the impression he gave to his allies be justified on the ground? Does Russia really have the capabilities of the former Soviet Union?
The answer is simply no. Russia’s military power is well known and doesn’t need any evidence. It is a major nuclear and military power. Nevertheless, it cannot stand in the same league as the United States, let alone confront an alliance that includes the US, France, Britain and others around the globe. Even economically, Russia’s economic weight is significant, yet it is incomparable to the economies of major counties, notably the United States and Western countries. The comparison is not at all in Russia’s favor.
So now the question emerges, who decided to escalate the situation in Syria? Who decided to use internationally banned chemical weapons in Douma last week? There is quite a controversy surrounding this, and all data and speeches at the UN Security Council strongly put the finger of blame on the regime of Bashar al-Assad. What is important here is that Western countries have assembled their forces and weapons to act in response to what it deems as provocation. Russia’s tone has shifted to a calmer demeanor. Apart from the slogans, there is no comparison in power between the United States and Russia thanks to a new coalition that is underway that will restore international balances.
Escalation of the Syrian conflict
This major international escalation in Syria underscores the importance of three things. The first thing is the major changes in the regional balance of power, and the strong Saudi role carried out on the regional and international scene in all fields (in Yemen, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and others) as part of a major confrontation against the Iranian and Turkish projects and for the purpose of creating an efficient Arab political force.
This is in addition to the Arab quartet that boycotted Qatar, the actual war chaperoned by Saudi Arabia against extremism and terrorism and Saudi Arabia's mastery to establish ample political, military and economic alliances with Arab countries, Muslim countries and worldwide.
Secondly, the mistakes of international escalation served the interest of the United States and the Western countries supporting it and its allies around the world. North Korea’s unprecedented concessions bear resemblance to what’s happening to Iran as the United States’ remains adamant to repress Iran and subjugate it to international law.
The phases of restoring international balance have historically needed brave leaders known for their strong political decision-making, with the victims being those who had benefitted from the imbalances.
Thirdly, the past cannot stand up to the future. Countries that focus on the future are completely different from ideological countries that are nostalgic for the past and seek to reclaim it, exploit it and employ it.
Russia wants to go back to the era of the Soviet Union, and Iran wants to go back to an extremist ideology that belongs to the past and to reinterpret and exploit it. This is the Shiite version of political Islam, which Khomeini interpreted from Sunni political Islam, i.e. the Muslim Brotherhood’s version. Khomeini adapted it for the Shiite rhetoric and coined it as Wilayat al-Faqih.
Meanwhile, Turkey aspires to bring back the ill-famed Ottoman past and works hard to link Muslims to the idea of the Ottoman caliphate via a contradictory discourse that’s based on Ataturk’s secularism, which represents the legitimacy of the modern Turkish state, and that also bodes the return of the caliphate which the Turkish state itself abolished.
Politics has never been easy, as some of its fixed principles are complexity and interlacement. During important moments, when the world is holding its breath, politics needs skills, decisions and balances that assess everything, including the Syrian scene, accurately. The accumulation of mistakes does not allude to their lawfulness, repeating crimes doesn’t mean normalizing them and harvesting temporary gains doesn’t ensure one gets to maintain these gains. As such, the Syrian crisis needs a major re-creation of balances, not only in the region but also internationally.
An important question remains: What are the future scenarios for the crisis in Syria? There are many. One of it is Russia’s, Iran’s and Turkey’s scenario that hands over Syria to Iran as a little annexation to serve its terrorist project. The second one is handing over Syria to extremist and terrorist groups that are supported by Qatar and which had tarnished the Syrian cause.
It is best to have a scenario that revives Syria's unity, independence and the rights of its people without sliding the country into any situation leading to the first two scenarios.
Finally, no one likes war but sometimes it is a necessity, not an option.

Four reasons why destroying the Brotherhood is a noble task
Mamdouh AlMuhaini/Al Arabiya/April 19/18
The governments of Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt are performing what we can call the noblest task that we are continually witnessing – the task of destroying the Muslim Brotherhood as an ideology, organization and individuals. However why is this task, which will have the greatest impact in the future, viewed as the noblest? In my opinion, there are four reasons.
Completely destroying the Brotherhood means a complete and final victory of the idea of the civil state without any future threats to it. Just like the West destroyed Nazism, fascism and communism to progress and advance without any obstructions, it is important to completely destroy the Muslim Brotherhood
A fertile soil of extremism
The first reason is that the Brotherhood’s ideology is the fertile soil of extremism and without it, we would not have known the most dangerous terrorist leaders who caused plenty of tragedies and tarnished the image of Islam and Muslims. If the Muslim Brotherhood hadn’t existed, Bin Laden would have probably been a rich contractor residing in Jeddah and Zawahiri would have probably been a surgeon living in the suburbs of Cairo.
However, their belief in this extremist ideology is what made them murderers whose hands are stained with the blood of innocent people. It is perhaps an exaggeration to say that terrorism will completely end without the Brotherhood as there will continue to be scattered groups that transform the culture of hatred into violence. However, they will not be like the Brotherhood who have transformed extremism into a skill and a profession and nurtured terror groups with a countless number of recruits. Imagine our world without the Brotherhood and you will clearly realize that terrorism will not reach this massive extent it has reached.
The Brotherhood vs the civil state
The second reason is that there cannot be a state with the Brotherhood, meaning a modern civil state which people cannot develop without. The Muslim Brotherhood are this state’s worst enemies as they aspire to establish a religious state or a caliphate. This is why they admire Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The Brotherhood has destroyed the concept of a state every time they attained power, just like what happened during the eras of Mursi, al-Shater and the group’s general guide as they’ve pushed Egypt, for the first time ever, to the edge of collapse, darkness and chaos. The Brotherhood’s insults are continuously directed at the modern state in an attempt to fully delegitimize it. According to them, rulers are tyrants, security forces are murderers, the applied laws are not Islamic and religious scholars are the preachers of the sultans.
This Brotherhood perspective is nothing strange because it relies on old and well-established teachings spread by Muslim Brotherhood thinkers like Maududi, Sayyid Qutb and others who solidified these concepts such as hakimiyyah and jahiliyya (ignorance) of societies. Their ideas influenced the thinkers and leaders of the Shiite Brotherhood version represented in Khomeini and Khamenei after that who translated Qutb’s works into the Iranian language.
Completely destroying the Brotherhood means a complete and final victory of the idea of the civil state without any future threats to it. Just like the West destroyed Nazism, fascism and communism to progress and advance without any obstructions, it is important to completely destroy the Muslim Brotherhood in order to fold the last page of their obnoxious book forever.
Blocking advancement
The third reason is that there cannot be scientific, intellectual and cultural advancement with the Brotherhood and their ideology. The Brotherhood controlled educational institutions in several Arab countries and completely destroyed them. They poisoned students’ minds with hatred and conspiracies that are woven against the West thus creating a severe state of disconnect and conflict between Muslims and the rest of the world to the point where coexistence and integration became such a difficult idea. They also created an internal state of disconnect as part of the Uzlah al-Shu'uriyyah concept (isolation from others through feelings) which the pious must adopt within their ignorant societies.
This isolation is the psychological foundation to any terrorist, whether a beginner or a professional. Those whom the Brotherhood taught are unfortunate because they never felt the joy of reading a literary novel. How can they do so when Naguib Mahfouz was a heretic and a secular? They did not understand the beauty of poetry as to them, Adonis, Nizar Qabbani and Ghazi Al-Gosaibi are a bunch of immoral writers.
The same goes for prominent western intellectuals who are specialized in Islamic heritage, like Georges Tarabichi who they see as a Christian infiltrator and Bernard Lewis who they see as a Zionist orientalist and an enemy of Islam. They destroyed the idea of experimental and neutral science and sought to link it to religion according to the mythical methods of Zaghloul El-Naggar. A nation whose education is destroyed, is steeped in conspiracy theories whose literature is suspicious and theoris for science are a joke cannot rise. This is exactly what the Muslim Brotherhood specializes in and it’s not possible to take one step forward in their presence.
An epidemic
The fourth reason is that the Brotherhood’s ideology is an epidemic that spreads in every spot. The Brotherhood ideology is totalitarian. Those who believe in it infiltrate all institutions and ministries and manage to spread this epidemic, especially if they are at the head of power.
The Brotherhood destroyed the media and turned it into a tool for blatant propaganda and promotion that celebrates terrorists and calls them clerics and describes them as pious men. The Brotherhood turned the media, which must support civilized values like freedom, openness, coexistence and tolerance, into platforms that spread violence, sanctifies extremists and promotes the fatwas of suicide bombings. They spread their ideas in religious institutions and mosques. Even in institutions which you’d think they’re distant from, they will still find a chance to spread their doctrine. You will find their books in hospital and prison libraries. Even among terrorists, there are men who advise them. The Brotherhood ideology is a tank for terrorism that is against the civil state, science and culture and it is a disease which infiltrates institutions and tampers with them and destroys them. There are other reasons which put this ideology in direct conflict with civilization and progress. This is why the noblest task is the one which is clearly and bravely carried out by Riyadh, Abu Dhabi and Cairo on behalf of everyone.

What if Saddam had stayed in power?
Adnan Hussein/Al Arabiya/April 19/18
If we compare the situation in Iraq since 2003 with what it was before that year, would Iraq (and consequently the Middle East and the world) have been in a better position now, had Saddam Hussein and his regime not been toppled?
Some people think this is true, but this belief defies logic. For example, let’s take a look at Syria. Is its situation today better than it would have been if Bashar al-Assad had responded to his people’s demands and given up power or at least carried out political reforms?
Resignation and transfer of power to someone else from the Baath Party was an option, even after the war began in 2003. The Late President of the UAE, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahyan had offered a safe haven for him and his family but he arrogantly dismissed it and threw Iraq into the cauldron of a destructive war
Saddam: The brutal dictator
About a quarter century prior to 2003, Saddam had started his term as president in 1979, after having carried out a horrific massacre of some of his own Baath Party members because they had voted against forcing former president Ahmed al-Bakr to retire in order to allow Saddam, who was then vice president, to attain high office. Within that period, Saddam also waged an internal war against the Communist Party in his country, which was a small partner in power, as well as against other nationalist parties. In fact, Saddam wanted all Iraqis to become Baathists and thereby loyal to him alone. In case they refused, they were to be sentenced to prison, torture or death. The war against the Kurdish movement also escalated after Saddam upturned the peace and autonomy plan, accepted five years earlier. He then reached a deal with the Shah of Iran – a deal which violated Iraq’s sovereignty and national independence, just to seek Tehran’s aid to eliminate the Kurdish revolution.
The toll of Saddam’s wars
In less than a year, Saddam began to prepare the stage for a war against Iran. He ignited a war within months, which began in 1980 and lasted eight years. The war drained Iraq’s financial, economic and military resources. After it ended without achieving its aims, Saddam began to blackmail Gulf countries that had opened their vaults to him during the years of war. When they refused to submit to his blackmail, Saddam launched a new war and invaded Kuwait in 1990. He arrogantly and stubbornly refused to withdraw from Kuwait and was then faced with another war that further harmed Iraq. Still, Saddam refused to acknowledge defeat in the Kuwait war and insisted on describing it a victory, similar to what happened with the war with Iran. At this time, Saddam committed three major massacres against his people: the chemical attack on the Kurdish city of Halabja, the Anfal campaign against the Kurds (1988) and the campaigns of killing or burying alive thousands of people from the southern and central provinces who later rose following the defeat of the Gulf War of 1991. These campaigns cost Iraqi people hundreds of thousands of lives.
Obduracy of the tyrant
Even after these developments, Saddam did not change his approach in terms of domestic and foreign policy. He further tightened his grip on power and increased the level of suppression and arbitrariness while being indifferent to the situation of Iraqi people who sold all they had to maintain minimum standard of living. Meanwhile, the international siege was tantamount to a collective punishment against the Iraqi people, as Saddam continued to build lofty palaces and live extravagantly.
Saddam could have given up power after the end of the war against Iran and allowed someone else to lead the state but he didn’t. He could have done so following his defeat in the Gulf war of 1991, but he didn’t. He could have limited his absolute powers and adopted an open approach towards opposition parties and revived the autonomous rule agreement with the Kurdish movement. However, he did not adopt any of these options and he stubbornly held on to power in a tyrannical and unjust manner towards his people, Iraq’s neighbors and the rest of the world.
Resignation and transfer of power to someone else from the Baath Party was an option, even after the war began in 2003. The Late President of the UAE, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan had offered a safe haven for him and his family but he arrogantly dismissed it and threw Iraq into the cauldron of a destructive war.
Leadership woes continue
What’s clear from the resume and behavior of such a person is that he would have become more arrogant and tyrannical, the longer he stayed in power. He would have exacted revenge on any opposition within Iraq and foreign states who stood against him following his invasion of Kuwait and supported its liberation. Those who say the situation of Iraq and the world would have been better had Saddam still been in power say so because Iraq and the Middle East have been headed towards turmoil during the past 15 years. The present bad situation in Iraq is due to those who assumed power after Saddam was ousted as they did not work on building the state which the Iraqis have waited decades to establish. After Saddam’s barbaric regime was toppled, Iraq was ready to build a state that has economic might and level of public welfare, comparable to that of Saudi Arabia and the UAE. In addition to its huge oil and gas wealth, Iraq has massive agricultural and industrial capabilities. The country’s human resources, specifically the competent educated class stood out among the region’s countries.
The problem is that Saddam’s successors dealt with the state and society, with unjust and brute force. They fought over power and sought to share it on the basis of a sectarian system. This led to serious and violent conflicts and to the spread of administrative and financial corruption. A state that has been exhausted by consecutive wars and a long phase of dictatorial rule could not stand on its feet amid armed sectarian and nationalist conflicts and the regulated looting of the state’s financial resources.
Just like Saddam, his successors were also stubborn and arrogant. They did not want to undo their mistakes and sins and amend the path. The Iraqi people’s situation thus deteriorated which made some publicly long for the days of Saddam and his regime!
Toppling Saddam’s regime was right. However, what was not right was how after toppling it, the US put Iraq in the hands of political Islam groups which, based on experience, are only fit to manage shrines, mosques and hossainyas.

France: When Macron confronts secularism
Christian Chesnot/Al Arabiya/April 19/18
On April 10, Emmanuel Macron delivered a speech before the Bishops of France in Paris. He addressed the prelates by saying that “the association between the Church and the State has declined and that it is important for both you and me to mend it.” Some observers, especially from leftist groups, regarded this statement as an act of questioning secularism, which is a pillar of the republic, as they felt that that there was no "repairing" to be done.
Historically, the debate has been sealed since 1905, the date of the notable law on the separation of Church and State, which prescribes two fundamental principles still implemented today: “The Republic guarantees the freedom of conscience and the freedom of exercise of worship, but, the state does not recognize, finance, or subsidize any religion”.
Secularism is essentially a French theory, often difficult to comprehend in other languages, especially in Arabic. It is difficult to export abroad. Besides France, it is challenging to understand this concept, even in Europe.
In reintroducing the debate on the status of the Catholic Church, Emmanuel Macron has apparently taken note of the return of religion in France. Confronted with poverty and a confused society, people turn to religion. The implementation of marriage for everyone, including homosexual unions, has incensed Catholic elements in France and thus divided the country in two.
Macron is walking on a thin line since French secularism forbids the state to meddle in religious affairs, only to perpetuate public order. It is an ongoing debate that has not ceased making headlines.
What Emanuel Macron wants to say to us is that the state is secular but that doesn’t necessarily mean that people are too and that it is his duty to bring together all French citizens, whatever their faith or belief, since the country needs all the potential to bounce back. Hence he has reached out to the Catholics.
Here, Emmanuel Macron is not forgetting about the Muslims, the second religion in France, which has few places of worship. Catholics do not face this dilemma, since the great majority of churches and cathedrals were built before the law of 1905, hence received the aid of the State. For the Muslim community, it is a convoluted situation as they have to build a mosque on their own because, as the law of 1905 dictates, “the Republic does not subsidize any religion ...”
The great majority of French Muslims are migrants from the Maghreb countries (Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia) and black Africa (Senegal, Mali, Niger, etc.). Very often to fund their mosques, they revert to their countries of origin for funds. Earlier, this link was tolerated but now it is being questioned.
In a recent interview, Emmanuel Macron did not mince words when he said: “I do not want any more mosques that use secret capital.” A large number of Muslim places of worship are subsidized by the followers themselves, but it would appear that there is still much transparency needed.
The fact that Islamophobia is fueled by a militant communitarianism, it is crucial that all cards are laid on the table and that Islam gets its place in the Republic and it disposes itself off of its radical leanings.
Emmanuel Macron promises acts and reforms in this sense. All of his predecessors failed to create an Islamic structure in France. The French president is walking on a thin line since French secularism forbids the state to meddle in religious affairs, only to perpetuate public order. It is an ongoing debate that has not ceased making headlines.

How to counter Iran’s military entrenchment in Syria
كيفية مواجهة الهجمة العسكرية الإيرانية في سوريا
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh/Arab News/April 19/18
Iran’s foreign and military policies in Syria are far-sighted and carried out with the aim of accomplishing the long-term revolutionary, ideological and hegemonic objectives of the regime. Any change in Iran’s militaristic role in Syria would not only significantly impact the seven-year-old conflict and the status quo between Bashar Assad and the opposition groups, but it could also have severe repercussions on the alliances and national security of other nations in the region.
In the space of a few years, the Iranian regime went from simply conducting an advisory role to becoming deeply embedded in Syria’s political, military and security infrastructure.
As the conflict continues, the Iranian regime shows ever greater disregard for the sovereignty of the Syrian nation, and Tehran is effectively acting more like an occupying force. Strategically speaking, the regime of Assad is too vital for Iran to abandon. Controlling Syria gives Iran immense geopolitical and military clout in the region. In addition, Tehran is effectively utilizing Syria to create a land corridor from Tehran to the Mediterranean, to support Hezbollah, empower Shiite militias in other nations, accomplish its regional ambitions, and tip the regional balance of power in favor of the “Shiite Crescent.”
Due to Iran’s current deep involvement in Syria, officials including Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif have begun to boast that no force can push Iran out of Syria. Nevertheless, the international community still has the time to halt Iran’s entrenchment in Syria via five strategies that have not yet been paid adequate attention. Yielding to Iran’s political posturing will only assist Tehran in further solidifying its presence in Syria to the point of no return. This could alter the geopolitical chessboard of the Middle East in favor of the ruling clerics of Iran for decades to come.
In order to halt Iran’s entrenchment, first it is important to understand Iran’s twin strategies and modus operandi in Syria. In order to expand its influence in Syria more rapidly, the Iranian regime has transformed the function of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. The IRGC and its various domestic branches, including the Basij, have been deployed to act like the Quds Force, which specializes in conducting operations in foreign countries. Secondly, Iran deploys Hezbollah and Iraqi Shiite militias to fight on its behalf in Syria.
Iran’s military and militias rely on the Syrian regime’s air force to give its militants cover on the ground.
The first strategy in countering the Iranian regime’s efforts is for the US and its allies to establish a no-fly zone on the Syrian borders. Among the countries that are bordered with Syria — Turkey, Lebanon, Israel, Iraq and Jordan — Jordan and Israel are the most likely to agree to such a move.
Iran’s military and militias rely on the Syrian regime’s air force to give its militants cover on the ground. Aerial attacks put the Syrian regime, and consequently the IRGC, in a more advantageous position in comparison to the opposition groups. Without the aerial bombardments, Iran’s military would find it extremely difficult to score victories and make territorial advances at its current swift pace.
Secondly, the US and its allies ought to dismantle the IRGC’s independent command and control system in Syria with air strikes. It follows that the command and control centers in Iran’s military bases, which are being built across Syria, should be targeted.
Third, to push back against Iran’s military, a powerful, moderate and legitimate domestic force is required. The international community appears to have given up on finding such a moderate force in Syria. This is partially due to the notion that, since the West has decreased its engagement in Syria, the Iranian and Syrian regimes have been on the offensive, shelling and bombing areas held by opposition groups. In addition, Damascus and Tehran appeared successful at spreading their narrative and propaganda message that the only anti-Assad groups left in Syria are terrorist and extremist groups.
With intelligence and advisory assistance, the Gulf Cooperation Council, the US and its EU allies can reinitiate their plan to support a moderate Syrian opposition group. A moderate Syrian force could play a significant role as a bulwark against Iran’s entrenchment.
Fourth, empowering minority ethnic groups, specifically the Kurds, is essential to countering Iran and its linked groups. The Kurds were effective at fighting Daesh, but the West has recently cut back on its support for them. This has allowed Iran, Turkey and Russia to expand their influence in Syria’s Kurdish areas.
Finally, Iran is hemorrhaging billions of dollars to keep Assad in power. Iran’s main revenue originates from its oil exports and, thanks to the nuclear agreement, it is exporting approximately 40 percent of its oil to Europe. The leaders of Europe can put significant pressure on Iran’s military by suspending its oil imports. Europe’s other alternatives for oil supply can be the Gulf states.
**Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated Iranian-American political scientist. He is a leading expert on Iran and US foreign policy, a businessman and president of the International American Council. He serves on the boards of the Harvard International Review, the Harvard International Relations Council and the US-Middle East Chamber for Commerce and Business. Twitter: @Dr_Rafizadeh