April 21/2018
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani


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Bible Quotations
But immediately he spoke to them and said, ‘Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid
Mark 06/47-56: "When evening came, the boat was out on the lake, and he was alone on the land. When he saw that they were straining at the oars against an adverse wind, he came towards them early in the morning, walking on the lake. He intended to pass them by. But when they saw him walking on the lake, they thought it was a ghost and cried out; for they all saw him and were terrified. But immediately he spoke to them and said, ‘Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.’Then he got into the boat with them and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded, for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened. When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret and moored the boat. When they got out of the boat, people at once recognized him, and rushed about that whole region and began to bring the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was.And wherever he went, into villages or cities or farms, they laid the sick in the market-places, and begged him that they might touch even the fringe of his cloak; and all who touched it were healed."

Instruct certain people not to teach any different doctrine, and not to occupy themselves with myths and endless genealogies that promote speculations rather than the divine training that is known by faith.
First Letter to Timothy 01/01-08: "Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the command of God our Saviour and of Christ Jesus our hope, To Timothy, my loyal child in the faith: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. I urge you, as I did when I was on my way to Macedonia, to remain in Ephesus so that you may instruct certain people not to teach any different doctrine, and not to occupy themselves with myths and endless genealogies that promote speculations rather than the divine training that is known by faith. But the aim of such instruction is love that comes from a pure heart, a good conscience, and sincere faith. Some people have deviated from these and turned to meaningless talk, desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make assertions. Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it legitimately."

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on April 20-21/18
The Theatrical Lebanese Elections/Elias Bejjani/April 20/18
Hezbollah Will Be the Big Winner in Lebanon's Elections/Hanin Ghaddar/The Washington Institute/April 20/18
Iranian general: Our hands on the trigger, your airbases within reach. Netanyahu: We are ready/DebkaFile/April 20/18
The Russian Ambassador and Qaradawi/Abdulrahman Al-Rashed/Asharq Al Awsat/April 20/18
Syria: The Defining Issue of Our Generation/Amir Taheri/Asharq Al Awsat/April 20/18
North Korea Talks: Here's What a Pragmatist Could Hope For/Tyler Cowen/Bloomberg/April 20/18
Turkey Targeting Greece - Again/Uzay Bulut/Gatestone Institute/April 20/18
Will Arabs intervene militarily in Syria?/Mashari Althaydi/Al Arabiya/April 20/18
The Iran that Europeans do not know of/Sawsan Al Shaer/Al Arabiya/April 20/18

Titles For Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on April 20-21/18
The Theatrical Lebanese Elections
Congressmen Introduce Bipartisan Disarm Hezbollah Act
Kataeb Activists Summoned for Interrogation over Leaflets Distribution
Elections Supervisory Committee Member Resigns over Inability to Honor Oath
Lebanese Parties Race to Lure in Expatriates Ahead of Polls
Tripartite talks in May to tackle Israeli border aggression: Aoun
Lebanon Seeking $4 Billion at Brussels Conference to Face Refugee Crisis
Aoun Meets U.S. Central Command Chief
Report: Generator Owners ‘Pressure Group in Parliament’ Hindering Solution
Rahi Lays Cornerstone for Qatar Church, Says Politicians Must Respect Constitution
Jumblat: Hariri Invited Me for Iqlim Kharroub Electoral Tour....I Apologized
PSP Dismayed as Hariri Tours Iqlim al-Kharroub 'without Coordination'
HRW Denounces Eviction of Syria Refugees in Lebanon
Richa Slams "Police-Style" Arrest of Kataeb Activist
Former President Amine Gemayel: Lebanon Witnessing Total Surrender, Not Political Settlement

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on April 20-21/18
Iranian general: Our hands on the trigger, your airbases within reach. Netanyahu: We are ready
Saudis Intercept Ballistic Missile from Yemen
Russia: US strikes remove moral hurdles for S-300 missiles for Assad, Russian FM says
Assad Still Has 'Limited' Chemical Capability, Pentagon Says
Islamic State Group to Give Up Last Pocket in Syrian Capital
Four Palestinians shot dead by Israeli forces in Gaza Strip: ministry
Kurds Capture Extremist who Recruited Three 9/11 Attackers
Iraqi Pre-Emptive Strikes Hit Syria
Report: Absence of Factions will not Affect Palestinian National Council Quorum
Ukraine Accuses Russia of Transporting Mercenaries to Syria
Tareq Saleh Leads ‘Republican Guards’ against Houthis on Yemen’s West Coast
Oil Prices on the Rise as OPEC Meets in Jeddah
Comey Memos Show President Trump Obsessed with Russia Probe
Latest Lebanese Related News published on April 20-21/18
The Theatrical Lebanese Elections
Elias Bejjani/April 20/18
The outcome of the theatrical elections is well known in advance to every body. Why? Simply because Hezbollah occupies Lebanon since 2005 after replacing the Syrian one. Since than this Iranian terrorist army has been very successful in penetrating the government on all levels and at the same time enslaving the majority of the politicians and the so falsely called political parties through bribery, fear and terrorism. In conclusion what is going on at the present time in Lebanon is not an election but a theatrical process of appointing MP slaves by Hezbollah to serve the Iranian scheme of occupying all the Arab countries. This is a reality that each and every Lebanese must be ready to face and refuse openly and courageously.
Congressmen Introduce Bipartisan Disarm Hezbollah Act 20th April 2018/U.S. Congress members Tom Suozzi and Adam Kinzinger earlier this week introduced the Disarm Hezbollah Act (HR 5540), a bipartisan bill that instructs the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), to investigate Hezbollah.The Act would require the Director of National Intelligence to produce an official National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Hezbollah’s capabilities, its arsenal, and the illicit supply routes it uses to procure weapons. The report would help assess the work of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), and also detail the ways Hezbollah raises and distributes funds in the territory under UNIFIL’s mandate."Hezbollah continues to build up its military capabilities, with tens of thousands of advanced missiles that threaten our Middle East interests and allies, particularly Israel," Suozzi said in a statement. "I am proud to introduce this bipartisan legislation with Mr. Kinzinger to improve our intelligence community’s understanding of a serious ongoing threat on the doorstep of one of America’s most vital allies.” For his part, Kinzinger also issued a statement saying that Hezbollah has continued to present a clear and present danger to the United States and its allies, noting that the group is still growing and sowing chaos despite sanctions. "It’s time we address the capabilities, the arsenal, and the international operations of Hezbollah, and establish ways in which we can more effectively put stop to their procurement of dangerous weapons," he stressed.

Kataeb Activists Summoned for Interrogation over Leaflets Distribution 20th April 2018/Nine Kataeb activists on Friday have been summoned for interrogation over the distribution of leaflets criticizing MP Ibrahim Kanaan's performance, one day after their comrade Elias Haddad had been arrested for the same reason. The leaflet blames MP Ibrahim Kanaan for the tax hikes approved by the Parliament a few months ago, the waste landfill established in Burj Hammoud and the high-voltage power line project in Mansourieh.

Elections Supervisory Committee Member Resigns over Inability to Honor Oath 20th April 2018/Member of the Elections Supervisory Committee, Sylvana Al-Lakkis, on Friday announced her resignation, saying that she has not been able to honor the oath she had taken when assuming her duties. "After I was appointed as a member of the Elections Supervisory Committee, I took the oath to fulfill my duties with full sincerity, impartiality, loyalty and independence while making sure to fully abide by the elections-related laws and regulations," she said in a news conference held to clarify the reasons behind her decision. Al-Lakkis is the chair of the Arab forum for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (AFRPD) and the regional representative of Disabled People International (DPI). "Months after my appointment, I have found it impossible for me to fulfill my duties as requires by the oath I took," she added. "I found that it is my duty to submit my resignation so that I wouldn't become a false witness on the committee's inability to accomplish its tasks.""Given that the practices we are witnessing have taken a course that is different from the one I was aspiring for, it has become my duty to step down and break the silence that we, as members of the committee, are required to adhere to," she said. "I am here to express my condemnation as I hope that my resignation would serve as a reason to straighten things by boosting the Elections Supervisory Committee's independence and enabling it to perform its role properly so as to ensure transparent and impartial polls."
Al-Lakkis pinpointed the three main reasons behind her resignation decision:
1- The lack of resources needed to enable the committee to carry out its tasks;
2- The direct interferrence in the committee's independence and prerogatives;
3- The reduction of the committee's prerogatives in a way that distorts the purpose why it was initially established, and often turns it into a tool that deepens discrimination between candidates.
Lebanese Parties Race to Lure in Expatriates Ahead of Polls
Beirut - Youssef Diab/Asharq Al Awsat/Friday, 20 April, 2018/Lebanese expatriates have become a main target in the campaigns for the May 6 parliamentary elections as political parties are eager to lure them to vote for their lists in exchange for covering the cost of flights to Beirut.
Although some parties have refused to admit it, others have announced to resorting to such offers on a limited scale.Lebanese sources said not all candidates have the financial ability to buy plane tickets to Beirut so that expats vote for their lists. "Only certain parties have enough money to offer expatriates a vacation in Lebanon at their own expense in exchange for receiving their vote,” the sources said. An official from the electoral campaign of Al-Mustaqbal said “the Movement was prone to meet the requests of some expatriates, especially those residing in Gulf states, who were willing to come (to Lebanon) in return for free tickets.”However, the process came to a halt three weeks ago, said the official. Some expats told Asharq Al-Awsat that “thousands of Lebanese emigrants had received direct phone calls from some parties offering them tickets to travel to Lebanon before Election Day.”However, the offer stands for a couple and not their children. “Flights to Lebanon, especially from Gulf States, are already booked due to the high number of people traveling to Lebanon before the elections,” the sources said. Progressive Socialist Party spokesman Rami al-Rayyes told Asharq Al-Awsat on Thursday that his party was coordinating with expats, including those who had registered their names to vote for the first time at polling stations abroad on April 27 and April 29, in addition to those who did not want to travel to Lebanon to cast their ballots. “The majority of PSP supporters living abroad are eager to participate in the elections. We are studying all options,” Rayyes said, adding that the issue of expats’ flight costs to Lebanon is under discussion.

Tripartite talks in May to tackle Israeli border aggression: Aoun
The Daily Star/April 20/18/BEIRUT: President Michel Aoun said Friday that the Tripartite Military Committee that brings together Israeli and Lebanese military representatives under the mediation of UNIFIL will hold meetings in early May to "end Israeli violations" of Lebanon's borders. Aoun's comments came during a meeting with Gen. Joseph Votel, the commander of American troops in the Middle East, at Baabda Palace, a statement from Aoun’s office reported. The meeting was also attended by United States Ambassador to Lebanon Elizabeth Richard and a U.S. delegation. Aoun condemned Israel for continuing to breach Lebanon’s land and maritime territory, especially along the southern border where the U.N. peacekeeping force in Lebanon is deployed to establish a permanent ceasefire and prevent hostilities. Aoun however assured Votel that hostile retaliation was not in question. "Lebanon will never be an aggressor country, but refuses any aggression on its land,” he was quoted as saying. The two additionally discussed cooperation between the countries’ armies, and U.S. assistance provided to the Lebanese Army. The Lebanese president thanked Votel for the United States’ contribution at the Rome II conference, which was held in support of Lebanon’s Army and security services in the Italian capital on March 15. The U.S. announced a new $9 million investment during the conference, which was allocated to train Internal Security Forces and support its facilities.
At the time, the U.S. said it had contributed more than $1.7 billion to support the Lebanese Army and over $160 million to support the ISF since 2006.

Lebanon Seeking $4 Billion at Brussels Conference to Face Refugee Crisis
Beirut - Paula Astih/Asharq l Awsat/Friday, 20 April, 2018/Lebanon is preparing to participate in the Brussels 2 conference, which will be held on April 24 to rally support for countries hosting Syrian refugees. Prime Minister Saad Hariri is heading an official delegation to the conference, which is hosted by the European Union and the United Nations for the second year in a row, under the title of “Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region.”In remarks to Asharq Al-Awsat, Minister of the Displaced Moeen Merehbi said the Lebanese State would call on the international community to increase the amount of assistance provided to both the displaced Syrians and the Lebanese society, and would reaffirm the need to ensure the appropriate conditions for the safe return of the refugees, as “the recent developments in Syria are delaying and complicating this return.” He added that Lebanon would demand $4 billion to address the crisis of displacement, knowing that the country receives only about half of this amount annually. “About half of the displaced Syrians in Lebanon do not have enough food, and the Lebanese State is unable to cover any of their needs,” Merhebi said, stressing that securing the refugees’ living needs and services such as medicine, education and others “would provide them with stability and would contribute to Lebanon’s stability as well.” “There is no doubt that their return to Syria remains a priority for us, especially since there is a Lebanese consensus around it, but recent developments, including the use of chemical weapons and the military developments, do not contribute to encouraging the Syrians to return, but complicates and delays things,” the minister stated, noting that around 11,000 refugees have returned home voluntarily last year. The records of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Lebanon (UNHCR) show that 995,125 refugees are currently on Lebanese territory, while the number had reached one and a half million in past years. According to the International Monetary Fund, Lebanon bears the financial burdens of the displaced, estimated at about $7 billion, while the Lebanese State already suffers from an economic deficit, as the growth rate declined from 8 percent before the outbreak of the Syrian crisis to its current 1.1 percent.

Aoun Meets U.S. Central Command Chief
Naharnet/April 20/18/President Michel Aoun met on Friday with Gen. Joseph Votel, head of U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), at Baabda palace, the National News Agency reported. Talks have reportedly touched on several issues including Israel’s violation of Lebanon’s territory. Aoun told Votel that “Lebanon will never be an aggressor, but it rejects any aggression against its land.”Pointing to Israeli practices, he said “Israel continues to violate Lebanon’s land and maritime sovereignty. Contacts to end these violations on the border will resume next month,” he said.

Report: Generator Owners ‘Pressure Group in Parliament’ Hindering Solution
Naharnet/April 20/18/Lebanon’s failure to find a solution for its chronic electricity crisis was attributed to “pressures exerted by owners of generators who control 50 percent of the Lebanese market and represent a pressure group within the parliament,” the pan-Arab al-Hayat reported on Friday.
French sources following up closely on the international CEDRE conference held in Paris two weeks ago, which secured billions for Lebanon’s infrastructure, asked about the reasons behind all failed projects that aimed to reform Lebanon’s electricity sector and improve the bill collection system.
The sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told the daily that the answer lies in “threats of owners of generators who control 50 percent of the Lebanese market and represent a pressure group within the parliament.”They added that “investors at CEDRE insist on the need for electricity sector reform in order to reduce public expenses and public deficit, and also because the reforms will not be negative for the consumer, but will be negative for the of owners of generators.”On the electricity plan to lease power generating vessels, they considered it an “expensive and short-term solution,” and Paris has alerted Lebanese officials of corruption because the plan was based on a “single offer.”They warned that imposition of such a plan could trigger a “political crisis,” due to the fact that it raised a lot of criticism and fears of corruption. “Paris can provide the Lebanese authorities with a permanent solution that will increase the production of electricity within 10 months via two power plants, and at a lower cost than the barges. Paris has not yet raised the issue because the Free Patriotic Movement is still committed to the power barges plan. But Paris considers the ships plan as no longer viable politically, as it raised controversy and doubts,” concluded the sources.

Rahi Lays Cornerstone for Qatar Church, Says Politicians Must Respect Constitution
Naharnet/April 20/18/Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi said Friday from Qatar that Lebanon needs politicians who respect the country’s Constitution and law, and fight hard to combat corruption, the National News Agency reported. Speaking from Doha where he laid the cornerstone for the Saint Charbel Church, the first Maronite church in the Gulf ,Rahi said: “Lebanon needs objective politicians who fight corruption and have respect for the Constitution and law.” Hailing President Michel Aoun, he said: “We appreciate President Aoun’s initiative to reevaluate article 49 of the state budget. We call on related authorities to study a housing plan to help the Lebanese.”On Wednesday, Aoun asked parliament to reevaluate a controversial state budget article granting residence permits to foreigners and Arabs who own assets of a specified value.
Rahi has warned over Article 49 urging its revocation noting that the numbers of Arabs and foreigners have exceeded half of Lebanon’s people.

Jumblat: Hariri Invited Me for Iqlim Kharroub Electoral Tour....I Apologized

Naharnet/April 20/18/Following reports that Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat was dismayed by PM Saad Hariri for carrying out an electoral tour “without coordination,” Jumblat said he was invited to take the tour to Iqlim al-Kharroub in the Chouf district, but has apologized for meeting the request, al-Joumhouria daily reported Friday. In an interview with the daily, Jumblat said: “Obviously Hariri implicitly wanted to go alone to Iqlim al-Kharroub.There was no need for us to be there by his side.” “Hariri invited me yesterday to participate in the tour, but I apologized because I sensed that the content of the invitation is of a classical and "preferential" nature,” added Jumblat. “One concludes that the celebration is solely for al-Mustaqbal Movement. We do not accept to be guests or merely an addition,” he said. Hariri on Thursday toured Iqlim al-Kharroub, a majority Sunni area in the Chouf district, the bastion of Druze leader Jumblat. Hariri and Jumblat are allied in Iqlim al-Kharroub and the Chouf-Aley electoral district. Taimur Jumblat (the PSP leader’s son) who heads the electoral alliance, was not present at the Barja rally. Reports said the PSP was dismayed after Hariri carried out his electoral tour “without coordination.”

PSP Dismayed as Hariri Tours Iqlim al-Kharroub 'without Coordination'

Naharnet/April 20/18/Prime Minister Saad Hariri on Thursday toured the Iqlim al-Kharroub region, a majority Sunni area in the Chouf district, the bastion of Druze leader MP Walid Jumblat. “With the start of Rafik Hariri's political career, and later with al-Mustaqbal Movement, Iqlim al-Kharroub became a key component of the political equation in Mount Lebanon,” Hariri said at a huge electoral rally in Barja after touring several towns in the region. “Together with Walid Beik and Taimur (Jumblat) we will continue the journey. Taimur is a rising young man and we will always cooperate with him. There will be bickering of course, but we accept it from Walid Beik,” Hariri added. “Chouf and Aley, especially Iqlim al-Kharroub, will say their word on May 6. Entire Lebanon will realize that this region cannot be infiltrated, because it belongs to Walid Beik, al-Mustaqbal Movement, Rafik Hariri and Saad Hariri,” the premier went on to say. Hariri and Jumblat are allied in Iqlim al-Kharroub and the Chouf-Aley electoral district. Taimur Jumblat, who heads the electoral alliance, was not present at the Barja rally. LBCI television said the PSP was dismayed after Hariri carried out his electoral tour “without coordination.” “Political partnership should be complete in order to exist. The series of unilateral steps that have been made by al-Mustaqbal Movement do not contribute to strengthening partnership, such as insistence on some nominations during the lists formation phase or excluding MP Antoine Saad in an inappropriate manner,” PSP spokesman Rami al-Rayyes told LBCI. In a tweet that coincided with Hariri's speech in Barja, Walid Jumblat said that “experience has proved that electoral seminars are much better than mass rallies and the accompanying demos and actions that represent an annoyance to citizens.”“That's why the Mukhtara and Aley rallies have been called off,” Jumblat added, noting that “preparations are underway to organize a meeting with the dignitaries at a place and time that will be set by the comrades.”

HRW Denounces Eviction of Syria Refugees in Lebanon
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 20/18/Human Rights Watch on Friday criticised Lebanese municipalities for what it called the unjustifiable expulsion of hundreds of Syrians from their homes since 2016, as sentiment against refugees simmers. "At least 13 municipalities in Lebanon have forcibly evicted at least 3,664 Syrian refugees from their homes and expelled them from the municipalities, apparently because of their nationality or religion," from the start of 2016 through to the end of March this year, the New York-based rights group said. Almost one million Syrians are registered as refugees in Lebanon, though many expect the real number is much higher. The Mediterranean country's population stood at just four million before neighbouring Syria's civil war broke out in 2011, sending tens of thousands of Syrians fleeing across the border in search of safety. Several politicians have blamed a flurry of social and economic woes in Lebanon on Syrian refugees, and calls for them to return have increased in the run-up to the country's first parliamentary elections in nearly a decade on May 6. "Municipalities have no legitimate justification for forcibly evicting Syrian refugees if it amounts to nationality-based or religious discrimination," said Bill Frelick, refugee rights director at Human Rights Watch. "Lebanese leaders should curb rhetoric that encourages or condones forced evictions, expulsions, and other discriminatory and harassing treatment of refugees in Lebanon," Frelick said.
- Discrimination on religious basis
The evictions have caused refugees to lose income and property, and their children to miss school or drop out altogether, according to HRW, which spoke to 57 Syrians affected by the measures. Some municipalities have claimed the evictions were based on housing regulation infractions such as tenants not registering their leases with them, HRW said. But despite "widespread breaches by Lebanese citizens as well, the measures these municipalities have taken have been directed exclusively at Syrian nationals and not Lebanese citizens", it said. HRW also pointed to discrimination on a religious basis, with most of the municipalities involved in forcibly evicting and expelling Syrian refugees predominantly populated by Christians. All 57 interviewees who spoke to HRW identified as Muslim. But, said HRW, "Lebanon's refugee-hosting fatigue has been exacerbated by a lack of international support" as well.
On Wednesday, around 500 Syrian refugees left southern Lebanon under an agreement between authorities in Beirut and Damascus to return them to their home country. The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) said it was aware of the returns but was not involved in the agreement, "considering the prevailing humanitarian and security situation in Syria". Lebanon's foreign ministry accused UNHCR of "scaring the displaced from any return at this stage because of what it sees as an unstable security situation". It criticised the UN agency's "renewed determination to refuse any positive signs for a return... despite the security situation in many Syrian towns currently being stable."The ministry said this had led it to "re-evaluate" and "question" the UN agency's work. Syria's war has killed more than 350,000 people and displaced millions since starting in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government protests.

Richa Slams "Police-Style" Arrest of Kataeb Activist 20th April 2018/Kataeb's Deputy Secretary-General Patrick Richa blasted the "police-style" way activist Elias Haddad had been arrested on Thursday, saying that the latter's only guilt is that he lives in Metn and smells the foul odor emanating from the Burj Hammoud waste landfill. Richa told New TV that the content of the leaflet, for which Haddad was arrested, is much softer than what is being written on social media platforms, and what is said in fiery and spiteful electoral speeches of some candidates. Richa pointed out that nine other Kataeb activists have refused to undergo interrogation over the leaflets distribution after their comrade has been kept in custody till now. "Had Haddad been released after hearing his testimony, the summoned activists would have accepted to undergo interrogation," he said.
"The elections are just around the corner and we have work to do. We don't want to be distracted by anything."

Former President Amine Gemayel: Lebanon Witnessing Total Surrender, Not Political Settlement 20th April 2018/Former President Amine Gemayel said that the current situation in Lebanon is not the result of a political settlement, but rather of a total surrender to Hezbollah and its allies "who received a precious gift from the March 14 coalition by losing its unity."In an interview published in the Kuwaiti Al-Rai newspaper, Gemayel noted that the balance of power in Lebanon has been disrupted following the settlement that led to the election of Gen. Michel Aoun as president, adding that this major settlement has given rise to other petty deals that are based on transient interests. Gemayel said that any dialogue on Hezbollah's arms will unlikely reach any solution, noting that conditions are still not ripe for this issue to be seriously addressed. "The dissociation policy is an empty slogan that no one is adhering to, except for the state," he said, expressing fear that Lebanon will be the "first victim" of any potential confrontation between Iran and Israel in the region given that Hezbollah will be a key player in it. Asked if the Kataeb party will be part of the next government to be formed after the elections, Gemayel said that the Kataeb's participation will be automatic if the ruling authority is sincere about safeguarding Lebanon's sovereignty and eradicating corruption. "If these two tasks are not among the top priorities of the next government, then the Kataeb party might not accept to take part in it."

Hezbollah Will Be the Big Winner in Lebanon's Elections
حنين غدار: حزب الله سيكون الرابح الأكبر في الانتخابات النيابية اللبنانية

Hanin Ghaddar/The Washington Institute/April 20/18
The group has essentially guaranteed itself a victory by coopting opponents and shuffling electoral districts, but the West can still contain the damage by pressing Beirut on economic reforms.
Since the 2005 Cedar Revolution and the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon, Hezbollah has lost every parliamentary election it has entered. Yet changes to the electoral law and a shift in political alliances have put the organization and its allies in position to secure an unprecedented parliamentary majority in next month's vote, without any significant opposition. Hezbollah's longstanding dominance over the country's security and military decisionmaking will therefore grow even more preponderant.
In 2005 and 2009, the pro-West March 14 coalition managed to secure parliamentary majorities despite security challenges posed by Hezbollah. The group resorted to threats and violence after both of those elections in order to blunt victories by a coalition that had recently helped to end the Syrian occupation.
In 2008, following an eighteen-month sit-in that shut down parliament and other parts of downtown Beirut, Hezbollah forces stormed the capital and the nearby Chouf district to forestall what it saw as problematic government edicts. During subsequent ceasefire talks in Qatar, a "national unity government" was established that effectively stripped March 14 of the prerogatives it had won at the ballot box. Two years later, several ministers from Hezbollah's bloc resigned, collapsing the March 14 government led by Prime Minister Saad Hariri and resulting in another unity government.
In this year's elections, scheduled for May 6, Hezbollah has little need to worry about threatening or toppling governments. The organization is now on excellent terms with its erstwhile political opponents, and its Iranian patrons are eager to maintain stability in Lebanon as they work to establish hegemony in other parts of the region. Indeed, the environment has shifted dramatically in the group's favor since 2009. Although the Syria deployment has been cause for concern among some Lebanese citizens, it has burnished Hezbollah's credentials among other voters.
Most important, the group's competition is anemic. March 14 continues to disintegrate, and Hariri has been accommodating Hezbollah more often than confronting it. He has seemingly deferred to the group even more since returning from his involuntary sojourn in Saudi Arabia last November and recanting his forced resignation. This unfortunate bout of political pragmatism (or appeasement) likely stems from his rift with Riyadh, which has made his political and economic future much more dependent on domestic actors. Although Hariri is not directly partnering with Hezbollah in the elections, his party is aligned with the group's Christian ally, the Free Patriotic Movement, in many districts. Accordingly, Hezbollah is expected to win through a combination of wooing the right allies and coopting its fractured foes.
Last year, Lebanon passed an electoral law that boosted Hezbollah's prospects of victory. Based on proportional representation, the law decreased the country's electoral districts from twenty-six to fifteen. Voters now select a full party list and choose one candidate as their "preferential vote."
Advocates of political reform in Lebanon have long called for a proportional system, theorizing that it would create a more representative parliament in which minorities and nontraditional parties have a better chance to win seats. Instead of opening the political system, however, the new law will actually benefit Lebanon's political establishment. The "preferential vote" mechanism will incentivize citizens to vote according to their sectarian identity. Likewise, the redrawn electoral districts are more homogenous than before, reducing the number of mixed-sect districts and decreasing opportunities for cross-sectarian alliances or cooperation.
In short, the new law is designed to cement the status quo, keeping many of the same key political figures in place while bringing more Hezbollah loyalists into parliament. For example, Christian leader Sleiman Frangieh—who heads the Marada Movement and frequently expresses support for Syria's Assad regime—is expected to win a much bigger bloc, while Hariri and Druze leader Walid Jumblatt will likely lose seats.
What might Hezbollah do with its anticipated victory next month? First, the group is unlikely to gloat, since doing so would alarm the international community and perhaps spur Western sanctions or other punitive economic measures against Lebanon. Instead, it will probably act as if nothing has changed, reinstalling Hariri as prime minister to give the next government an air of legitimacy. This does not mean the group and its parliamentary partners will agree on everything, but when it comes to major issues such as security appointments, regional wars, and other foreign policy matters, Hezbollah will make the decisions.
Second, the organization will likely try to use its parliamentary majority to legalize its weapons. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah recently argued that public sentiment on this issue has changed, stating, "The majority of the Lebanese people support the resistance in deterring Israel and preventing terrorism." Given Hariri's new "zero problems" policy—which essentially boils down to not confronting the group anymore—the prospect of a permanently armed political party may no longer be a hugely controversial issue, at least domestically.
Third, Hezbollah could seek constitutional changes to guarantee its long-term control. When the Taif Accord ended the civil war in 1989, it reapportioned the parliament to give Christians and Muslims equal representation, with each electing 64 of the legislature's 128 deputies. Recently, however, the Hezbollah-allied Amal Party has proposed changing this to a tripartite system between Christians, Sunnis, and Shia. In addition to giving Hezbollah and other Shia factions more power, such a system would also appeal to Sunnis, though it is unclear whether Hezbollah's Christian allies would stand for it.
Despite all of the above advantages, Hezbollah still faces some obstacles to its complete takeover of Lebanese state institutions. Western governments would be wise to consider ways of buttressing these barriers, especially in the economic sector.
As one of the most heavily indebted countries in the world, Lebanon won aid pledges exceeding $11 billion at the April 6 Paris donor conference. Yet these pledges were linked to major economic and structural reforms that have proven difficult for the country in the past. Beirut failed to implement such reforms after previous Paris conferences, and it seems unlikely to do so now. Without serious reforms, however, the country risks falling into a deep economic crisis.
Following the latest Paris conference, President Trump lauded Beirut's commitment to necessary reforms such as combating corruption, increasing transparency, and improving accountability and fiscal management. "The United States stands in support of Lebanon's efforts to strengthen its legitimate state institutions and develop an open, free economy that serves all Lebanese," he noted.
Hezbollah is focused on these issues as well, at least rhetorically. In March, Nasrallah discussed the need to fight corruption following the elections. He also vowed that members of the group's parliamentary bloc, "Loyalty to the Resistance," would tackle urgent economic problems. These issues are a priority for Hezbollah's electorate, and therefore a potential source of exposure for the group.
Although it is too late to prevent Hezbollah's inevitable electoral victory, the international community can still take several steps to contain the group afterward. First, the Paris donors should withhold their pledges until Beirut implements the required economic reforms, since many of these measures would empower legitimate state institutions and help weaken nonstate actors. Second, foreign officials should urge Hariri not to let Hezbollah take advantage of his "zero problems" policy, even if they continue to support the general principles of stability and nonviolence that underlie that policy. Aid programs could give the West an avenue for monitoring this policy and protecting state institutions whenever possible.
To further undermine Hezbollah, Western officials should expose the group's internal corruption—something the Lebanese Shia community is already complaining about. Hezbollah should not be allowed to depict itself as fighting corruption while at the same time engaging in corruption. Releasing intelligence on the group's graft and criminality would likely erode its credibility. Many Western states already target Hezbollah's finances because it is a terrorist organization, and they should not ease up on such pressure just because the group wins a parliamentary majority.
**Hanin Ghaddar, a veteran Lebanese journalist and researcher, is the Friedmann Visiting Fellow at The Washington Institute.
**Hanin Ghaddar is the inaugural Friedmann Visiting Fellow at The Washington Institute, , where she focuses on Shia politics throughout the Levant.

Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published
on April 20-21/18
Iranian general: Our hands on the trigger, your airbases within reach. Netanyahu: We are ready
DebkaFile/April 20/18
Iran’s leaders used their Friday sermons to double down on their threatening invective against Israel, the day after its April 19 Independence Day celebrations. They chose a particularly hardline Revolutionary Guards general, vice commander Hossein Salami, to indicate that they meant business: The promised military punishment was on the way for Israel’s air strike on the Syrian T-4 base on April 9, the deaths of seven Guards officers and the knocking out of their airspace command in Syria. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu replied: We hear the threats from Iran. The IDF and the security forces are ready for any development.” Addressing a festive post-Independence Day cabinet meeting, he said: “We will fight whoever tries to harm us. We are not put off by the price and will exact a cost from those who want to harm us… the people will stand strong.”
Since Iran stepped up its bellicose rhetoric, Israel’s defense deployments on the Syrian and Lebanon borders were substantially beefed up and its air force placed on alert to meet a possible Iranian reprisal for its T-4 attack. Intelligence analysts have advised the government that the threats are to be taken seriously. Although the national holidays of Memorial Day and the 70th anniversary of Israel’s independence passed without security incidents, the military maintained a high level of preparedness.
By his two Twitter messages, the Iranian general Friday brought the threating rhetoric to a new level: “Don’t have hope in US and UK; when they arrive, you won’t be there… Smallest goal will be your existence. You can’t bear. When you escape, you’ll have no way but to the sea.” In an earlier tweet Salami warned, “Hands are on the trigger and missiles are ready and will be launched at any moment that enemy has a sinister plot… North and west of Israel are at the intersection of fire; you will not escape. You live in the dragon’s mouth.
Saudis Intercept Ballistic Missile from Yemen
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 20/18/Saudi air defences intercepted a "ballistic missile" fired by Yemeni rebels at the kingdom's southern coastal city of Jizan, the Saudi-led coalition fighting the rebels said. It was the latest in a series of such attacks. "Saudi air defences intercepted a ballistic missile launched by the Huthi militias targeting Jizan," the coalition said in a statement. The Huthis, in a statement on their news outlet Al-Masirah, claimed that they fired a "Badr 1" ballistic missile and said it struck Jizan Regional Airport. AFP was unable to reach the airport for comment, but open-source flight information appeared to show flights arriving and departing on time. Saudi Arabia has since March 2015 led a coalition of Arab states fighting to roll back the Huthi rebels in Yemen and restore its neighbour's internationally-recognised government to power. Nearly 10,000 people have since been killed in the conflict, in what the United Nations has called the world's worst humanitarian crisis. In March, an Egyptian labourer became the first known fatality in a rebel missile attack on the Saudi capital. Saudi Arabia accuses its rival Iran of smuggling missiles to the Huthis -- a charge Tehran denies.
Russia: US strikes remove moral hurdles for S-300 missiles for Assad, Russian FM says
Reuters/April 20, 2018 /MOSCOW: US military strikes on Syria last week removed any moral obligation Russia had to withhold S-300 anti-aircraft missile systems from its ally Syrian President Bashar Assad, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Friday, according to RIA state news agency.
Lavrov was also quoted as saying that, prior to the US strikes on Syrian targets, Russia had told US officials which areas of Syria represented “red lines” for Moscow, and the US military action did not cross those lines. “Now, we have no moral obligations. We had the moral obligations, we had promised not to do it some 10 years ago, I think, upon the request of our known partners,” he said according to RIA. He also said that he was convinced Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Donald Trump would not allow an armed confrontation between their two countries, RIA reported. A Russian army commander has also said that Moscow would consider supplying S-300 missile systems to Syria following US-led strikes. The United States, France and Britain launched 105 missiles last week in retaliation for a suspected poison gas attack by government forces on a rebel-held area near the capital. According to military analysts, the S-300 surface-to-air missile system would improve Russia’s ability to control air space in Syria, where Moscow’s forces support the government of President Bashar Assad, and could be aimed at deterring tougher US action.

Assad Still Has 'Limited' Chemical Capability, Pentagon Says

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 20/18/The Syrian regime remains able to conduct chemical attacks, though only at a limited level, the Pentagon said Thursday following last week's international cruise missile strikes on chemical weapons-related targets. General Kenneth McKenzie, director of the US military's Joint Staff, said Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime retains a "residual" chemical capability at a variety of sites across the country. "They will have the ability to conduct limited attacks in the future," McKenzie told Pentagon reporters. "However as they contemplate the dynamics of conducting those attacks, they have to look over their shoulder and be worried that we are looking at them, and we will have the ability to strike them again should it be necessary." Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White said there was no indication the Assad regime was preparing to launch another chemical weapons attack. "Assad must know the world will not tolerate the use of chemical weapons under any circumstances," she said. On April 13, the US, Britain and France fired more than 100 cruise missiles at three Syrian sites, including a large research center in Damascus, in response to an alleged chemical attack in Douma that killed more than 40 people. According to satellite imagery displayed by the Pentagon, the three sites were completely destroyed. "We achieved the level of success that we wanted against those three targets," McKenzie said. "We believe that there was probably some chlorine and possibly sarin at possibly all of the sites." The three-star general added the Syrian regime had now returned to a "state of normalcy." "I don't think we sought to change the strategic balance of the Syria conflict with those strikes. We sought to send a lesson that it's bad practice to gas women and children," McKenzie said.

Islamic State Group to Give Up Last Pocket in Syrian Capital
Associated Press/Naharnet/April 20/18/Syrian state media says Islamic State group militants have agreed to give up their last pocket in Damascus. The SANA news agency says militants will be given the option to stay and reconcile with the government or leave on buses to IS-held territory in the eastern Syrian desert. The agreement announced Friday follows a day of intensive government airstrikes on the IS-held neighborhoods of Hajr al-Aswad and the Yarmouk Palestinian camp, in the Syrian capital. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group reported "relative calm" in the two neighborhoods after the announcement of the agreement.

Four Palestinians shot dead by Israeli forces in Gaza Strip: ministry
AFP/April 20, 2018/Thousands of Gazans were gathered on Friday at various locations along the border in the Gaza Strip, calling for Palestinian refugees to be able to return to their former lands in what is now Israel.
Israel is accusing the Palestinian movement Hamas of using the protests as cover to carry out violence. Gaza City: Four Palestinians were shot dead by Israeli forces in the northern Gaza Strip on Friday, the Palestinian Health Ministry said, as demonstrations entered their fourth week along the Gaza-Israel border. Ashraf Al-Qudra, spokesman for the health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza, said Ahmad Abu Aqel, 25, died of bullet wounds sustained east of Jabaliya. The names of the three other Palestinians are unknown. The Israeli army said it was looking into the incident. Security sources in Gaza said Abu Aqel was standing near a group of people setting fire to tyres near the border with Israel. Their deaths bring the number of Gazans killed by Israeli forces in demonstrations and clashes since March 30 to 38, according to Gaza's health ministry. Thousands of Gazans were gathered on Friday at various locations along the border in the blockaded enclave, calling for Palestinian refugees to be able to return to their former lands in what is now Israel. Hundreds were clashing with Israeli forces, an AFP correspondent said. Earlier on Friday, Israel dropped leaflets in the Gaza Strip warning Palestinians not to approach its border fence as the military braced for fresh clashes along the frontier. Israel has pledged to stop damage to the fence, infiltrations and attacks, and alleges there have been attempts at all three. It accuses Palestinian movement Hamas, with whom it has fought three wars since 2008, of using the protests as cover to carry out violence.

Kurds Capture Extremist who Recruited Three 9/11 Attackers
London - Ibrahim Hamidi/Asharq Al Awsat/Friday, 20 April, 2018/The Asayesh Kurdish security units detained Mohammed Haydar Zammar, a member of the so-called Hamburg Cell accused of helping to plan the September 11, 2001 attacks in New York, announced the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and Kurdish officials on Thursday. Zammar, a Syrian-born German, was arrested in northern Syria and is now being interrogated by the security apparatus from the US-led coalition fighting ISIS in northern Syria. The Hamburg terror cell is thought to have been an important operative in the 9/11 attacks in the United States. In 2007, a Syrian court sentenced Zammar to 12 years in prison for being a member of the Muslim Brotherhood. He was later transferred from Syria’s Saadneya prison to the central prison in Aleppo. A Syrian opposition official told Asharq Al-Awsat he had met Zammar in jail. “He spoke little and did not voice his positions. I learned later he had joined ISIS,” the official said. In 2014, reports said Zammar was released as part of a “deal” reached between Damascus and extremist opposition factions. The deal stipulated the release of Zammar and five other extremists in exchange for detained Syrian regime officers. His whereabouts remained unknown until the Observatory and Kurdish officials uncovered on Thursday that they had captured him and others. Zammar is dubbed the “Syrian bear” for his immense size, weighing around 150 kilograms. He has played a leading role in the 9/11 attacks. The man is believed to have recruited from the mosques of Germany’s Hamburg some of the perpetrators of the New York attacks, including Mohammed Atta, Ziad al-Jarrah and Marwan al-Shahhi, who were sent to Afghanistan in 2008 before moving to the US to receive aviation training.

Iraqi Pre-Emptive Strikes Hit Syria

Moscow - Ankara - Raed Jabr and Saeed Abdelrazek/Asharq Al Awsat/Friday, 20 April, 2018/Iraqi warplanes attacked on Thursday positions in Syria as officials from Iraq, Russia, Iran and the Bashar Assad regime were meeting in Baghdad. The pre-emptive attacks came ahead of a US plan to withdraw from Syrian areas east of the Euphrates River. "Our heroic air force carried out deadly air strikes against ISIS sites in Syria on Thursday near the border with Iraq," said a statement issued by the office of the Iraqi Prime Minister. It added that the attacks aim to counter dangers posed by militants to Iraqi territories and is proof of the improved military capabilities of the armed forces in fighting terror. PM Haider al-Abadi had stated earlier that Iraq would take all necessary measures against ISIS if their militants threaten the security of his country. Iraqi warplanes have previously attacked ISIS positions inside Syrian territories. However, it is the first time that such attacks coincide with a meeting of military and security officials from Iraq, Iran, Russia and Syria in Baghdad to coordinate their efforts in “fighting terrorism,” according to Iraqi sources. Meanwhile, it is still unknown whether international chemical weapons inspectors had entered the location of a suspected poison gas attack in the Syrian town of Douma. The inspectors had delayed their entry after gunfire at the site during a visit by a UN security team last Tuesday. On Thursday, the US State Department accused Russian and Syrian regime officials of denying an investigative team access to the alleged chemical weapons attack sites as they sanitize them and remove incriminating evidence. At the political level, Ankara said Thursday that the next round of the intra-Syrian talks would be held between May 14 and 15 in Astana. UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura will be visiting Moscow on Friday to discuss means for improving efforts to hold a new round of Syrian talks in Geneva.

Report: Absence of Factions will not Affect Palestinian National Council Quorum
Ramallah - Kifah Ziboun/Asharq Al-Awsat/Friday, 20 April, 2018/The National Council will convene at the end of April, well-informed Palestinian sources said, stressing that the boycott of some factions will not affect the legal quorum. In remarks to Asharq Al-Awsat, the sources said: “The Fatah Movement, independents and other factions and unions would constitute a majority if the Popular Front insisted on its decision to boycott the Council.” The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine announced on Thursday that it will not participate in the National Council meeting scheduled for the end of April. “The PFLP delegation, which met with representatives from the Fatah Movement on Wednesday (in Cairo) called for postponing the session, and continuing efforts to hold a national unity council, in accordance with national agreements signed in this regard,” a statement issued by the Front said.
“In light of the lack of agreement between the two delegations to postpone the National Council meeting, the Popular Front decided not to attend,” the statement added. The Hamas Movement described the PFLP decision as “historic”, calling for similar national stances. “We highly appreciate the PFLP position and consider it a historic position that comes in line with national responsibility and concern over the march towards Palestinian national unity,” it said in a statement. The PFLP, as well as Hamas and Islamic Jihad, were seeking to convene the National Assembly abroad with the participation of all members and unions, but Fatah insisted on holding the meeting in Ramallah and refuses the entry of Hamas to the Palestinian Liberation Organization before the completion of the reconciliation process. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is insisting on convening the Council at the end of April to elect a new PLO executive committee, as the last step in “pumping new blood” in institutions, which is aimed at securing a smooth transition of power in the event of any forced absence of the president. The session will come a year after the Fatah elections, which established a new Central Committee and Revolutionary Council. The National Council serves as the PLO parliament, representing all Palestinians at home and abroad. It currently has around 650 members, who represent Palestinian factions, forces and unions everywhere. The Council has convened 22 times since it was founded, the most recent of which was a special session in Ramallah in 2009 that ended with the appointment and election of six new members to the Organization.

Ukraine Accuses Russia of Transporting Mercenaries to Syria
Moscow - Raed Jaber/Asharq Al Awsat/Friday, 20 April, 2018 /The issue of "Russian mercenaries" fighting in Syria once again returned to the spotlight after Ukrainian special forces published details showing that the Russian army provided extensive facilities for transporting private fighters with their weapons to Syria. Ukraine, which closely monitors the movements of Russian special forces fighters known as the Wagner Private Military Company (PMC), revealed its data as the US Congress discussed the case. It listened to an extensive briefing two days ago by Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Wess Mitchell on “attacks carried out by the mercenaries against US forces positions in Syria.”Although he did not specify the nature or date of the attacks, it is clear that Mitchell was referring to the confrontation that took place near Deir al-Zour in February and resulted in the death and injury of hundreds of fighters from Russian private companies. "[Russia’s] reckless intervention in Syria and support for the Assad regime has raised the risk of confrontation with the West," Mitchell said, adding that the "failed attack on US forces by Russian mercenaries recently in Syria was one sobering example of this behavior."Earlier, Ukraine’s Security Service published results of an investigation conducted with a Russian military personnel, who was in Syria between 2015 and 2017. He was detained two months ago while attempting to illegally cross the border into Ukraine. He told Ukrainian investigators that he was serving as a contractor on the Varyag missile cruiser from 2015 and 2017 and had regularly taken part in the transportation to Syria of members of the Wagner PMC and their heavy weapons and ammunition. He noted that "a large number of packets similar to that of ammunition were loaded, but they told us that it is humanitarian aid.""Army of Wagner" was first mentioned in 2015 right after Russia’s military intervention in Syria. Russian media at the time reported details of "special missions" of army members, who had previously fought alongside pro-Moscow separatists in eastern Ukraine. Russian media also published details of an agreement signed between the Syrian regime and private companies in Moscow, run by Kremlin close associates, to carry out operations at oil sites in exchange for huge revenues estimated at a quarter of Syria's oil production. But this private army received a hit by US forces in February when three units of about 1,000 members tried to approach an oil facility near Deir al-Zour. The US bombed the area, killing hundreds of the members, 217 of whom were part of the Wagner army. Moscow initially denied any irregular military formations in Syria. Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova at the time described the information that Russian soldiers were killed by a US military strike as "misleading". The Russian Foreign Ministry said citizens of Russia and the countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States were in Syria without the knowledge of the authorities of their countries.
But the ministry later admitted the US operation killed and injured dozens after details about the fighters and interviews with their families were published in Russian media. The Russian Ministry of Defense denied Ukrainian security service information about using the Varyag cruiser to transport mercenaries to Syria. "Before spinning some tales, the illiterate bosses in Ukraine’s intelligence services should have consulted either the Ukrainian Naval command or their Western handlers," Russian Defense Ministry Spokesman Igor Konashenkov said on Wednesday. Konashenkov stated that the Varyag guided missile cruiser was never called into Syria’s Tartus, explaining that its naval facility had no quays adequate for ships with such displacement to moor or dock. "As for the alleged shipment of heavy weaponry, the Varyag’s design lacks cargo holds. The cruiser is neither meant nor built for the transportation of military equipment and other large-sized cargoes for military use," he stressed.

Tareq Saleh Leads ‘Republican Guards’ against Houthis on Yemen’s West Coast
Sanaa - Asharq Al-Awsat/Friday, 20 April, 2018/General Tareq Saleh, the nephew of slain former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, joined the fighting against the Houthis militias in the battle for the western coast. Saleh is leading the “Republican Guards” unit, a name he chose for his troops, who used to make up the special forces that were loyal to the late Saleh. This development coincided with the launch of the December 2 news website that specializes in covering the field operations of this unit. The website revealed that the Houthis threatened to kill Tareq Saleh’s detained relatives in Sanaa, who include his son, brother and cousins, but he was undeterred and insisted on joining the battle against the Iran-backed group. Sources loyal to the General People’s Congress told Asharq Al-Awsat that Saleh’s forces breached on Thursday the Houthi frontlines at the Khalid bin al-Walid camp and Jabal al-Nar on the western coast. His forces had launched their attack from their main base in the city of al-Mokha, where they had arrived days earlier from Aden. Observers said that their advance is aimed at covering their back from the East, by seizing Houthi positions west of Taiz, before turning north towards al-Hodeidah. December 2 is named after the date the late Saleh announced that he severing his alliance with the Houthis and prepared to open a new chapter in ties with the Saudi-led Arab Coalition aimed at liberating Yemen. His decision ultimately cost him his life and he was killed by the Houthis on December 4. The late Saleh’s uprising was the “spark that launched the new revolution” against the Houthis, said the website. “This uprising can only end with the recapture of Sanaa and ending the Houthi existence.” “The national resistance forces established by General Tareq Saleh is a significant addition to the military effort to support the resistance in the South and the Arab coalition forces,” it continued. It confirmed previous Asharq Al-Awsat reports that Tareq Saleh and his officers stripped themselves of their military ranks so that they could stand on equal footing with their soldiers. They had vowed to restore their ranks once Yemen is liberated from the militias.

Oil Prices on the Rise as OPEC Meets in Jeddah

London - Asharq Al-Awsat/Friday, 20 April, 2018/Oil prices continued to rise on Thursday hitting a new high not seen since 2014 at the time US crude supply decreased, after sources told Reuters that Saudi Arabia looks to push prices higher. Brent crude benchmark touched $74.75 a barrel, its highest since November 27, 2014, the day OPEC decided to pump as much as it could to defend market share which led the prices decrease to just over $27 in 2015. US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures settled 98 cents higher at $68.45, and the WTI earlier hit $69.56, their highest since November 28, 2014. The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and other major producers including Russia began in 2017 an agreement to curb their production. OPEC and its partners are expected to meet in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, on Friday, after which the organization will meet on June 22 to review its oil production policy. Reuters reported on Wednesday that Saudi Arabia would be happy for crude to reach $80 or even $100 a barrel, viewed as a sign that Riyadh will not seek changes to the supply pact. A global oil glut has been virtually eliminated, according to a joint OPEC and non-OPEC technical panel, two sources familiar with the matter said, thanks in part to an OPEC-led supply cut deal in place since January 2017. A source familiar with the matter said that OPEC's Joint Technical Committee found that inventories in developed nations in March were at just 12 million barrels above the five-year average. The declared goal of reducing supplies is to reduce the surplus of oil stocks to an average of five years, but a number of oil ministers said other measures must be taken into account. Brent crude surged above Dubai's price to $4.30 a barrel, its highest since January 2016, amid strong performance of European benchmark crude, based on Reuters' data. Rising price differentials encourage Asian consumers to buy crude from Russia and the Middle East, which is priced in comparison to Dubai, while reducing the crude consumption of the Atlantic associated with Brent.
Comey Memos Show President Trump Obsessed with Russia Probe
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 20/18/US President Donald Trump repeatedly complained to FBI director James Comey in early 2017 that the Russia meddling investigation was a cloud over his young administration, weeks before firing him, leaked memorandums showed Thursday. Trump "said he was trying to run the country and the cloud of this Russia business was making that difficult," Comey wrote in a memo on a conversation they had on March 30, 2017. Eleven days later, Trump again pressed Comey about the issue. The president told Comey that "he is trying to do work for the country, visit with foreign leaders, and any cloud, even a little cloud, gets in the way of that," Comey wrote, referring to "the Russia thing."The memos, which Comey wrote immediately after several meetings with Trump in the weeks after his inauguration on January 20, 2017, depict a president deeply worried about the impact of the probe into Russian meddling in the election the previous year. Obtained by AFP Thursday after the Justice Department released them to Congress, the memos could become evidence in a criminal investigation into whether Trump consciously tried to obstruct the probe. Comey makes clear in his memos that he was uncomfortable with the pressure and that it was not completely proper, though at the time he did not allege the president had broken any laws. But Comey never committed to easing off the investigation, which continues to examine a number of suspicious contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia. Weeks after their last conversation, on May 9, Trump fired Comey, saying in an interview two days later that he decided to dismiss the FBI chief in part out of unhappiness over the Russia probe. "In fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, you know, this thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story, an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election." "In my opinion, it should've been over with a long time ago." Much of what is in the memos, most notably Trump's demand that Comey pledge his loyalty, has been known for nearly a year. Comey wrote that the president repeatedly raised the still-unconfirmed story that Russians have a video of him with prostitutes in a Moscow hotel. "The president said 'this hookers thing' is nonsense," Comey wrote. However, Trump also said "that Putin had told him, 'We have some of the most beautiful hookers in the world,'" Comey noted.

Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on April 20-21/18
The Russian Ambassador and Qaradawi
Abdulrahman Al-Rashed/Asharq Al Awsat/April 20/18
While recalling his memories as a diplomat, former Russian ambassador to Qatar Vladimir Titorenko spoke about his experience in Qatar and recounted an interesting conversation that happened between him and Muslim Brotherhood leader Yusuf al-Qaradawi.
During an interview with a program that airs on the Russia Today channel, Titorenko said: “Qaradawi told me: ‘Russia must accept the truth that bloody and corrupt regimes in Arab countries must go, and that people have gotten sick of their old governments which must be replaced by the power of society. When these countries get rid of their expired rulers, they will be able to build prosperous societies that are based on our authentic traditions.’ I then asked him: ‘Excuse me but you keep repeating the word democracy. Do you think the regime of the country where you live is democratic? I mean Qatar and other neighboring countries where there are no political parties and parliament but absolute monarchies, so is this democratic?’ He answered: ‘No, but their turn will come too.’”
Speaking on the program called “A Journey Through the Memory”, the we continued: “I repeated my question: ‘Do you think it’s necessary to also overthrow the rulers and emirs of Qatar?’ and he answered: ‘Emirs must first carry out their role and the people will overthrow them later.’”
Titorenko thinks that Qaradawi has influence in Qatar as, for instance, he would contact the Amiri Diwan to recommend that Qatari television channels air more horrific scenes. Titorenko said that Qaradawi did that in front of him, quoting him as saying: “Air more scenes that show plenty of blood and murdered children as much as possible.”
The program’s host then commented: “Really?! That is horrible!”
The envoy responded: “Indeed. I informed Moscow of this and wrote about my impression that Qaradawi gives directions to Qatar’s leadership on how to manage propaganda and how he asks them to show the massacres of children and women on television.” Titorenko’s story and his impressions are not surprising and do not offer any new information. However, it is a testimony from a retired diplomat, not someone who is part of the dispute, although Russia remains friendly with some of Qatar’s allies, such as Iran and “Hezbollah”.
Those who overheard Qaradawi’s order and the Russian envoy’s testimony, which is publicly backed by some of Qaradawi’s followers, may see it as a testimony for, not against, the Brotherhood. The Brotherhood sees the testimony as a reflection of their vision and system of modern governance that believes in political participation through democracy.
There is not enough space here to fully discuss this, but I’ll clarify that Islamic groups’ political expressions and speeches, particularly the Brotherhood’s, are distinguished for their advanced political rhetoric, which is in fact misleading and does not reflect their exclusionary, religious and theological agenda.
During the Arab Spring in 2011, they tried to hijack that historic moment. They abandoned talking about their political religious agenda under the slogan “Islam is the solution” and went along with the new situation, focusing on three words in their speech: “freedom, rights and elections,” to fall in line with Egypt and Tunisia’s polls.
However, the truth is incomplete, because democracy is a term they copied and linked to harsh fascist religious concepts, which guarantee permanent governance by a certain group. This is exactly the case of the democracy in Khamenei’s Iran, which brags about empty elections until this day. The truth is it had executed during the revolution tens of thousands of its nationalist and leftist group partners.
Qaradawi’s statements – according to the envoy’s narrative – about Qatar and the rest of the Gulf states are not unusual. The religious group had used the Shah during a difficult period of his reign and they also rode the horse of democracy in Gaza where they have been in power ever since, turning the strip into an Iranian garrison. The Brotherhood seized the opportunity in Sudan where they took over power and toppled the elected government of Sadiq al-Mahdi.
Extremist ideological groups will, therefore, not fool us into believing that they really want popular change and political participation and that they believe in rights and elections because they don’t. Communists, too, used to adopt the same rhetoric.
However, I do not agree with the former envoy that Qaradawi is running Qatar. He probably has a function in the Amiri Diwan, exploiting the Brotherhood’s rapprochement with some Arab nationalists. And just like the former envoy, we do not understand how Qatar’s politicians can turn a blind eye to those conspiring against them. There is no scientific explanation or historical logic to this.

Syria: The Defining Issue of Our Generation
Amir Taheri/Asharq Al Awsat/April 20/18
“We are here to protest against the bombing of Syria by Donald Trump and Theresa May,” said the placard waving young man sporting a ferocious beard.
“Killing Muslims must be stopped,” added the middle-aged lady dressed all in black with a demeanor of a diva.
Our interlocutors were among a handful of activists from the anti-war coalition spending part of their weekend venting their hatred of Trump and America, and presumably of capitalism and imperialism in general, in front of an empty US Embassy in London.
We asked whether they would also demonstrate in front of the Russian Embassy in Bayswater, a posher part of London?
The answer was a chagrined look all around.
How could we not understand that in their Manichaean world the role of evil was reserved solely for the Western democracies?
Over the past decade or so Russia has waged war against Georgia, in Ossetia ad Abkhazia, attacked Ukraine, annexed the Crimean Peninsula, turned Chechnya into a pile of rubble and driven thousands out of their villages in Ingushetia and Dagestan without the Anti-War Coalition waving a single placard. When we come to Syria, the anti-war coalition, one of whose big beasts Jeremy Corbyn is now leader of the British Labour Party, deigns to remember that Russia has been bombing Syria, killing countless civilians, since 2015.
Under Russian attack from air and land, Syria’s most populous city Aleppo has suffered a level of destruction never seen since the Mongol Invasion in the Middle Ages. And yet no anti-war coalition militant, least of all Corbyn, turned up to demand that the blizzard of death and destruction released by the Russia stop. The fact that the minimalist American-British-French missile launch against Bashar al-Assad’s alleged chemical weapons’ sites did not amount to “bombing Syria” as such didn’t matter. Nor did our protesters care about the fact that no one had been killed in the US-led operation and that “killing Muslims” was a rather exaggerated claim bearing in mind that there are 1.5 billion Muslims in the world.
In some cases, intense hatred shown against Western democracies may be prompted by self-loathing, a common disease in many other societies including Russia. The only difference is that in Western societies giving expression to that self-loathing is risk-free, indeed somehow chic, while it is severely repressed in Russia. In Washington, London or Paris you could express dissent even beyond reasonable limits without suffering punishment. In Moscow, however, you could be shot even in Red Square or, if you flee Russia, risk being murdered with chemical substances in Gloucester.
In other cases, the pro-Russian position taken by some elements in the West is prompted by nostalgia for the “good old days” when Soviet ideology, represented by Mother Russia, challenged the global status quo and promised a golden future beyond “earth-devouring Imperialism”.
All that gives Russia a distinct advantage in what is at times, erroneously I believe, termed “a new Cold war.” In terms of power Russia is in no position to challenge the global status. With a GDP of $1.5 trillion it lags far behind the United Sates with almost $20 trillion. The US military budget is more than times that of Russia’s. And in terms of soft power, including scientific, cultural and artistic fields, the American “Great Satan” remains far more attractive. People queue in Moscow ad Vladivostok for those easy to eat and hard to digest McDonalds. But no one lines up in Washington of Paris for a nice bowl of borscht.
To be sure, Russia is a nuclear “superpower”. But its nuclear arsenal, as President Vladimir Putin has pointed out on occasions, is old, not to say antiquated. The “new generation” of undetectable nuclear warheads that Putin promised on the eve of his re-election may still be a long way down the road. In any case, no one seriously envisages a thermonuclear war or even a new arms race if only because Russia lacks the wherewithal to keep up with the Western Joneses.
So what we have is a lukewarm war in which Russia’s assets consist mainly of the anti-West constituencies inside Western democracies plus the veto power that Russia has in the United Nations’ Security Council.
In the case of Syria, the two become interlinked. This is why Corbyn, like his French counterpart Jean-Luc Melanchon, and other anti-West leaders in Europe, insist that any Western military intervention in Syria should first be ratified by the United Nations Security Council.
Interestingly, they don’t demand that Russia’s military intervention should also be subject to approval by the UN Security Council. This is because Russia can never master a majority in the Security Council. (Its last resolution there last week, seeking to condemn the US-led missile attack on Bashar’s alleged chemical sites, won the votes only of China and Bolivia!)
In other words, the pro-Russia constituency in the West wants the Western democracies to give Moscow a veto on their policy without securing a similar advantage vis-à-vis Russia.
The Russian propaganda scheme in his “lukewarm war” is aimed at sowing confusion in Western democracies, destroying trust in democratic leaders and institutions, including the media, and preventing the formation of a consensus on any major issues.
Thus while the Western democracies have far more power than Russia to influence global events they won’t be able to use more than a fraction of it without Moscow’s assent. Russia, however, would be able to use all of the little power it has.
As things are, Putin, helped by the anti-West constituencies inside Western democracies, is playing a weak hand well to his advantage. In most other circumstances one might have said: Well, why not? Why shouldn’t a weak power try to exploit the adversary’s weaknesses?
The problem, however, is that Syria isn’t just a power game. It is a tragedy in every sense of the term. More than half a million have died and a further three million injured. Half the nation’s population has been driven out of their homes and even their country. This conflict has gone beyond the level of popular uprising, civil war or even regional proxy wars, to become a tragedy that produces nothing but losers. Syria has become the defining issue of our generation. To use it as a means of propping up Putin or his second fiddles, the mullahs of Tehran, in a sinister regional power game is the height of folly.
By supporting Putin’s illusion of victory in Syria, as a larger version of Chechnya, the pro-Russian constituency in the West merely prolong the tragedy.

North Korea Talks: Here's What a Pragmatist Could Hope For
Tyler Cowen/Bloomberg/April 20/18
It's been confirmed that CIA Director Mike Pompeo held direct talks with Kim Jong Un in North Korea, and negotiations between Kim and President Donald Trump really do seem in the offing, so we need to ask how such negotiations might actually succeed.
There are indeed reasons to be optimistic, but not because I see high odds of striking a workable deal with the North Korean totalitarian regime to abandon its nuclear ambitions. Instead, the best realistic scenarios would have the North Korean leaders deciding to carve out a more normal existence for their nation. Talks can help create or hasten that outcome.
The case for pessimism is not hard to see. The North Korean regime is notorious for conducting and then stalling negotiations -- and then proceeding to violate agreements -- as a tactic to buy time to build up weapons of mass destruction. There is a very real danger that, two years from now, there will have been plenty of talk but North Korea will have developed high-quality intercontinental ballistic missiles, capable of striking Europe or North America accurately.
So if time appears to be on the side of the North Koreans, and America does not seem on the verge of a preemptive attack (nor would I recommend one), what is the cause to be optimistic about the outcome of talks?
First: The North Korean regime has never been bureaucratized in the modern sense of that term. While we don't have comprehensive information, it seems that until recently Kim as leader had not been going abroad, nor had he been receiving many visits from other heads of state. His position and perhaps his mood has been one of extreme isolation, and he is not surrounded by anything resembling the US State Department or even the old-style Soviet bureaucracies that managed foreign policy for the USSR. The rest of his regime is probably poorly informed about the extent of American military superiority, should a conflict come to pass.
By meeting with other foreign leaders, the North Korean regime would be forced to build up its basic processes for dealing with the rest of the world. That in turn creates interest groups and flows of information (some of which invariably leak out). The North Korean populace responds by thinking more about the outside world, making it harder to control by propaganda. In turn the North Korean leadership may decide to continue economic liberalization.
One need not count on an "End of History" story culminating in liberalism and democratization. The more modest hope would be for the North Korean leadership to become more decentralized, more bureaucratic, better informed and harder to marshal behind crazy military measures.
The unspoken goal of engagement would be to encourage North Korea to evolve into a more banal and more predictable form. That is the natural flow of most bureaucratic organizations, so in this regard American negotiators actually have time on their side. The North Koreans are going to change a lot more than the US is likely to.
Second: Kim is only human and has to be thinking some about his own life. Does he want 40 or more years of lining up officials and executing them? These days the headlines are about K-pop in North Korea, such as when the popular girl group Red Velvet performed for Kim and his wife early in April. It turns out that Kim is quite the fan of South Korean popular culture -- long banned for his people, with brutal enforcement.
Another good sign is that Chinese President Xi Jinping has vowed to go to Pyongyang for further talks with Kim. And in addition to these explicitly political contacts, Kim visited China's technology hub Zhongguancun, where he was the recipient of much attention and he tried on virtual-reality headsets.
Perhaps this leader would personally prefer more cultural and economic exchange with South Korea, China and the West.
Given that Kim studied in Switzerland (and perhaps crossed a few borders incognito), he is hardly a stranger to foreign travel and contacts, but this is the first time he is enjoying the perks of being a leader abroad or receiving others. Is that not a superior and indeed more stable existence than ruling the Hermit Kingdom? Let's hope he sees that. Think of any diplomatic talks with North Korea as a big act of theater -- designed not to fool him, but to teach him that theater itself can be fun.

Turkey Targeting Greece - Again

Uzay Bulut/Gatestone Institute/April 20/18
With the illegal seizures and occupation of northern Cyprus in 1974 and the Syrian city of Afrin this March -- with virtually no global reaction -- Turkey apparently feels unchallenged and eager to continue; this time, it seems, with the oil-and-gas rich islands of Greece.
"To take an interest in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Crimea, Karabakh, Bosnia and other brotherly regions is both the duty and the right of Turkey. Turkey is not just Turkey. The day we give up on these things will be the day we give up on our freedom and future." — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, 2016.
Turkish needs are in reality supplied by its association with the US. Turkish officials usually get whatever they want from the West, but they seem to have chosen to align themselves with Iran and Russia, possibly in attempt to blackmail the West for more.
Turkey has been harassing Greece consistently. Most recently, this week, on April 17, two Turkish fighter aircraft harassed the helicopter carrying Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and the Greek Armed Forces Chief Admiral Evangelos Apostolakis as they were flying from the islet of Ro to Rhodes.
With the illegal seizures and occupation of northern Cyprus in 1974 and the Syrian city of Afrin this March -- with virtually no global response -- Turkey apparently feels unchallenged and eager to continue; this time, it seems, with the oil-and-gas rich islands of Greece.
A computer-generated rendering of the April 17 incident in which Turkish fighter jets harassed the helicopter carrying Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, and in response Greek fighter jets arrived to protect the helicopter. (Image source: 'A News' video screenshot)
Another provocation by the Turkish government recently took place when three young Greek men recently paid tribute to a dead pilot by planting five flags in some islets in the Aegean.
According to the Turkish media, Turkey first urged Greece to remove the flags, then carried out a military operation against a tiny islet, Mikros Anthropofagos, at night: special operation units (SAT) of the Turkish Navy allegedly removed them on April 15.
"Do not take dangerous steps," Turkish foreign minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, warned Greece: "Our soldiers might cause an accident."
Many Turkish media outlets proudly covered the operation as if Turkey, in a triumphant battle, had conquered new realms. The Greek media, however, reported that according to witnesses in the area, all five flags are apparently still in place.
The Aegean islands that Turkey keep threatening to invade, legally and historically belong to Greece.
Since Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited Greece last December, the Turkish media has escalated its anti-Greek, pro-war reporting concerning "the Greek occupation of the islands." Some newspapers claim that "Greece has become home to terrorists hostile to Turkey." Others say, "Greece is planning to invade Turkey." Some columnists claim that "Turkey can fight against Greece in the Aegean", while others accuse Greek consular officials in Istanbul of trying to revive the Greek Byzantine Empire through an exhibition the Greek consulate organized in Istanbul from December 2017 - January 2018.
Why are so many Turks obsessed with Greece?
In 1923, after a major attack against Anatolian Greeks -- the 1913-1923 genocide -- the Turkish republic was founded. Since then, Turkey's expansionist goals seem to be inspired by a seeming historical aggression, hatred towards Greeks, neo-Ottomanism and an Islamic tradition of conquest, or jihad.
From the mid-15th century until the proclamation of the first Hellenic republic in 1822, modern Greece's borders were occupied by the Ottoman Empire. Erdogan has been open about his goals of resurrecting the Empire or at least expanding Turkish territory as much as possible:
"There are physical borders and there are borders in our hearts," he said. "Some people ask us: 'Why do you take an interest in Iraq, Syria, Georgia, Crimea, Karabakh, Azerbaijan, the Balkans, and North Africa?'... None of these lands is foreign to us. Is it possible to divide Rize [in Turkey] from Batumi [in Georgia]? How can we consider Edirne [in Turkey] to be separate from Thessaloniki [in Greece]? How can we think that Gaziantep [in Turkey] has nothing to do with Aleppo [in Syria], Mardin [in Turkey] with Al-Hasakah [in Syria], or Siirt [in Turkey] with Mosul [in Iraq]?
"From Thrace to Eastern Europe, with every step you take, you will see traces of our ancestors... We would need to deny our true selves for us to think Gaza and Siberia, with whom we speak the same language and share the same culture, is separate from us. To take an interest in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Crimea, Karabakh, Bosnia and other brotherly regions is both the duty and the right of Turkey. Turkey is not just Turkey. The day we give up on these things will be the day we give up on our freedom and future."
Erdogan also referred to the Misak-ı Milli ("National Pact"), a set of decisions made by the Ottoman Parliament in 1920 concerning the borders of the future Turkish state to be established in Ottoman Turkey. The National Pact is commonly referenced by Turks when calling for Turkish territorial expansion.
The Turkish newspaper Hürriyet wrote:
"Some historians say that according to the National Pact, the Turkish borders include -- in addition to the current borders of Turkey -- Cyprus, Aleppo [in Syria], Mosul, Erbil, Kirkuk [in Iraq], Batumi [in Georgia], Thessaloniki [in Greece], Kardzhali, Varna [in Bulgaria], and the Aegean islands."
On April 18, the Turkish foreign ministry asserted, "the Kardak rocks [Greece's Imia islets] and their territorial waters and airspace above them are exclusive under Turkish sovereignty."
Major political parties in Turkey unite in their desire to invade the Aegean islands -- what they disagree on is who is guilty of having allowed Greek sovereignty over the islands in the first place. The main opposition party, the CHP, (Republican People's Party) accuses the ruling AKP (Justice and Development Party) of "letting Greeks occupy Turkish islands"; the AKP accuses the CHP, the founding party of Turkey, of "letting Greeks take the islands through the 1923 Lausanne treaty."
Turkey's quests for new economic gains from additional tourism, but especially from the newly-found Aegean oil and gas potential, seem to have intensified Turkey's renewed interest in Greece.
In 2011, after facing an economic crisis, Greece re-launched its own gas and oil exploration. Last year, France's Total and Italy's Edison companies signed a lease for oil and gas exploration off Greece, Reuters reported.
Although Greece might well be willing to partner with Turkey in economic agreements, Turkey appears to prefer "other means."
Turkish needs are in reality supplied by its association with the US. Turkish officials usually get whatever they want from the West, but they seem to have chosen to align themselves with Iran and Russia, possibly in attempt to blackmail the West for more.
In the meantime, Turkish politicians threaten Greece on Turkish national television. Yiğit Bulut, a chief advisor to Erdogan, recently said that he wants to avenge the blood of his grandfather, whom he claims was killed by Greeks:
"Anatolia [Turkey] will walk all over Greece. And no one can prevent this. Greece should know its place. If they try to attack and rape this geography like they did 100 years ago by trusting [French President] Macron, England, the U.S., Germany and [Angela] Merkel, these attempts will end terribly."
The time to stop Turkey is now.
**Uzay Bulut is a Turkish journalist born and raised in Turkey. She is presently based in Washington D.C.
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Will Arabs intervene militarily in Syria?
Mashari Althaydi/Al Arabiya/April 20/18
No matter what happens in Syria, can Russians and Iranians remain stuck to the idea that Assad should remain in power forever or that ‘it’s either Assad or nothing’, which are the most popular regime slogans sprayed on the walls of Damascus and Syria, or whatever is left of these walls?
Is it possible to overlook the facts written in the blood and tears of millions of refugees and displaced people as well as in the hundreds of thousands who were killed, wounded, missing and imprisoned? Is it possible to overlook these facts that are documented with the ashes of tens of billions worth of losses in construction, agriculture and many others? After the American-British-French airstrikes against Assad’s deadly chemical weapons warehouses, US President Donald Trump said Syria’s crisis is also the region’s crisis, and they must seek to resolve it. Frankly, and away from interpreting the significance of his remarks, he’s right . More importantly, can Russian emperor Vladimir ‘the terrible’ or the religious Shah, Khamenei, wipe up the wounds, the anger and the malice, resulting from the sectarian murder and abuse that has been ongoing since 2001 from the hearts of the Syrian people and many Arabs?
Can the world – the reasonable and the just – forgive that Bashar’s regime and his protectors ploughed the earth and dug holes in which murky waters attracted al-Qaeda’s pestilence and the ISIS disease?
Syria's neighboring countries
In the end, the Syrian cause remains the primary concern of Syria’s neighbors and its partners in the wider region of the Middle East.
After the American-British-French airstrikes against Assad’s deadly chemical weapons warehouses, US President Donald Trump said Syria’s crisis is also the region’s crisis, and they must seek to resolve it. Frankly, and away from interpreting the significance of his remarks, he’s right.
During a press conference with UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres in Riyadh on Tuesday, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said: “We are holding talks with the US about sending troops to Syria within the context of the Islamic Alliance, and we have been doing so since the beginning of the Syrian crisis.” He added that Saudi Arabia had proposed this idea to former US President Barack Obama.
This came a day or two after the conclusion of the Joint Gulf Shield 1 massive military drills by Islamic Alliance forces in east Saudi Arabia.
Assembling Arab forces
The Wall Street Journal recently quoted American officials as saying that the Trump administration is seeking to assemble an Arab force in Syria. The report added that there was actual communication with Egypt for this purpose.
This came after the Saudi Kingdom reaffirmed that it stands with the Syrian people, and called for “maintaining the unity and independence of Syria’s sovereignty.” This is according to the Saudi government’s statement during its weekly meeting chaired by King Salman. Of course, the statement here is clear when they mentioned the “unity and independence” of Syria. If this intervention happens, it won’t be solely Saudi, but rather an intervention within the context of an international plan and international guarantees. It will also be under the umbrella of a massive Islamic alliance in partnership with the US.
Will this happen?

The Iran that Europeans do not know of
Sawsan Al Shaer/Al Arabiya/April 20/18
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has equated the danger posed by Khamenei with that of Hitler, a threat the Europeans realized too late back then. This is an analogy that Europeans, especially the French, can resonate with pretty well.
Yes, we need to expose Iran to the European public opinion, specifically Germany and France. There is another medium through which this message should be communicated well to the Europeans, which is the North African Arabs. They are the most capable of addressing European parliaments, organizations and media outlets in a language that Europeans can better understand, as they are closer to them geographically and historically and are more related to them culturally.
The question I always ask is how did countries that were the cradle of civilizations such as Iraq, Syria, Iran and Yemen, the countries which I consider as the pearl of human civilization, became a prey to this regime and its destructive practices?
Persuading Europeans
Iran has gotten involved and stationed in areas that are remote from the Arab center in the Arabian Peninsula. It specifically got involved in North African regions like Algeria and created problems that North Africans had not experienced throughout their history ever since they were introduced to Islam.
They had never witnessed Sunni-Shiite sectarian conflict, but it is Iran that has introduced these conflicts and is now seeking to uproot North Africa from its Arab roots as much as it can.
Before visiting France, the Saudi Crown Prince said: “The biggest enemy in the region is the Iranian regime and not the Shiite sect.” He highlighted that Islam is totally different from what extremists are trying to promote. It is a fact that the Arab world with its Sunni majority had no problems with the Shiite minorities before the Khomeini revolution. The Sunni sect peacefully co-existed with the Shiites and granted them the freedom to practice their beliefs in all Arab countries.
We never heard about Shiite-Sunni issues, especially in North Africa, until Khomeini came. Thus, the problem is not sectarian, but it became so after Iran’s involvement.
Algerian-Iranian relations
Former Prime Minister of Algeria and Chairman of the Arab Islamic Solidarity Committee Sid Ahmed Ghozali recently said: “(I am speaking) as an Algerian citizen who does not serve any political trend or movement. The cause which I believe in and commit to is the cause of the people who have been taken hostage by the most dangerous regime in the world.
The path I am taking is not a theoretical or intellectual one; but rather it stems from my personal beliefs and experiences. It is based on my experience in Algeria with Iran, whether during the Shah’s era or even the new regime, which claims to be ‘Islamic,’ until the phase when we cut ties with it. I have known the Iranians since the Shah’s era. Our relation with Iran back then was cold…I have also known them through (OPEC).”
“After the revolution, Algeria was against the war against Iran and stayed neutral during the Iraqi-Iranian war. Algeria also played the role of an honest mediator in solving the American hostage issue, between the US and Iran. In spite of all this, we later learnt that the Iranians were working through their networks inside Algeria.?
They began to lure and recruit Algerian youths by promoting Nikah al-Mut’ah (pleasure marriage),” Ghozali said, adding that Ali Akbar Velayati, then-Iranian foreign minister, bluntly told him: “You allowed the Salafists from Saudi Arabia to work on promoting Wahhabism in your country so allow us to promote for Shia!”“After that we knew that they were supporting terrorists with money, training them and politically supporting them so we severed ties. President Boudiaf decided to sever ties as per a suggestion from my government. Ties were severed after Boudiaf was assassinated,” he added.
Iran’s conspiracies
“I have no doubt that the Iranian regime thrives on destabilizing other countries, and pushes all countries to instability. It wants to exploit Islam and Shiites…to control all Islamic countries,” Ghozali also said, noting that “Iran’s theocracy claims to be Islamic, but it has killed the largest number of Muslims, (more) than any other country in modern times. There is no doubt that there is no solution for the Arab and Islamic countries except to eliminate this cancerous tumor which defines itself as wilayat al-faqih regime.”
“The Iranian regime sees itself as a guardian of the Arab and Islamic countries, and it works to flagrantly interfere in these countries and to export terrorism and sectarian wars. Unfortunately, Western policy also supports it in this regard.
The question I always ask is how did countries that were the cradle of civilizations such as Iraq, Syria, Iran and Yemen, the countries which I consider as the pearl of human civilization, became a prey to this regime and its destructive practices? When we look at these countries, we see in each, the hand of the Iranian regime behind all ordeals, wars and destruction, as it was in Algeria in the late 1980s and 1990s,” the former PM said.
“Yes, our elites must wonder: how did countries like Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Yemen which were considered as the most important centers of human civilization, turn into an arena for killing, terrorism, wars and tragedies, behind which stands Iran’s theocracy?” Ghozali inquired.
Such a speech knows how to persuade the Europeans and reach their ears, better than our speech does. We have to unite our efforts and arrange meetings with the Arab North Africa who knows Iran as well as us to make their voices heard in Europe.