April 22/2018
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani


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Bible Quotations
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 21-22/18
The Theatrical Lebanese Elections & the Vicious Hezbollah’s Scheme/Elias Bejjani/April 21/18
Hezbollah’s homecoming: What happens when fighters return to Lebanon from a Middle Eastern mini-world war/The Globe And Mail/April 21/18
New Threat to the US: the Axis of Autocracy/Hal Brands/Bloomberg/April 21/18
An American Message before the Dhahran Arab Summit/Eyad Abu Shakra/Asharq Al Awsat/April 21/18
A Month of Islam and Multiculturalism in Germany: March 2018/Soeren Kern/Gatestone Institute/April 21/18
Terry Glavin: Here's why some people choose not to believe in Assad's atrocities/Terry Glavin/National Post/April 21/18
Iran vows 'expected and unexpected' moves if US exits deal/Ynetnews/Reuters/April 21/18
Iran heats war rhetoric to cover up military buildup in Syria/Debka Files/April 21/18
New Saudi approach in dealing with US media/Hassan Al Mustafa/Al Arabiya/April 21/18
UAE can’t help if Somalia seeks to self-destruct/Mohammed Al-Hammadi/Al Arabiya/April 21/18
Ghassan Imam: The passing away of an exceptional Syrian commentator/Mashari Althaydi/Al Arabiya/April 21/18

Titles For Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on April 21-22/18
The Theatrical Lebanese Elections & the Vicious Hezbollah’s Scheme
‘Voluntary Return’ of Syrian Refugees Sparks Disagreement between Lebanon, UN
Lebanese President Slams Continued Israeli Aggression
U.S Central Command head arrives in Beirut
Lebanon's re-emergence is linked to reforms: president
Lebanon continues downward spiral on Quality of Nationality Index
Yemen: ICRC staff member shot and killed in Taiz
Aoun Meets U.S. Central Command Chief
Aoun expresses deep regret over Lahoud's death: Sacrificed himself in order to save others everywhere
Foreign Ministry offers condolences over Martyr Lahoud: We are working to return his body to Lebanon
Berri: South is a rock of national unity, May 6 will be a celebration of democracy
American Central Command Chief visits Sidon amidst tight security measures
Riachi from Canada: Changing name of Information Ministry and completing its new structure will be endorsed by Cabinet upon my return
Khoury says Lebanon will flourish, government determined to implement reforms
Release of Lebanese accused of spying for Israel
Hariri Tours Bekaa Region as Elections Loom
Hariri from the Bekaa: Our project is security, stability and reconstruction
Nasrallah: We await you on May 6, and your votes are a message of utter support to the Resistance
Hezbollah’s homecoming: What happens when fighters return to Lebanon from a Middle Eastern mini-world war?

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on April 21-22/18
Tehran Warns Multi-front Scenario Against Israel, Netanyahu Vows to Respond
Rouhani Vows ‘Expected and Unexpected’ Moves if US Exits Nuclear Deal
Iran's FM Threatens ‘Unfavorable’ Measures if US Pulls out from Nuclear Deal
Rifkind Warns against 'Direct Confrontation' between Israel, Iran in Syria
Egypt Army: We Will Continue to Eradicate Terrorism
Hamas Engineer Gunned Down in Malaysia, Family Blames Mossad
Romania Govt Supports Moving Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, President Says Was Not Consulted
Haftar Prepares to Leave Paris
Tareq Saleh’s Forces Confuse Houthis in Yemen
Natalie Portman Backs Out of Jewish Prize Due to Netanyahu Speech
Comey Memos Show President Trump Obsessed with Russia Probe
Latest Lebanese Related News published on April 21-22/18
The Theatrical Lebanese Elections & the Vicious Hezbollah’s Scheme
Elias Bejjani/April 21/18
The outcome of the current theatrical elections is well known in advance to every body.
Why and how?
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 Lebanese government on all levels, and at the same time enslaving the majority of the Lebanese politicians and the so falsely called Lebanese political parties through bribery, fear and terrorism.
In summary what is going on at the present time in Lebanon is not an election, a free and democratic one, but sadly a theatrical process of appointing members in the parliament who are practically enslaved by Hezbollah to serve the Iranian scheme of occupying Lebanon as well as all the Arab countries.
This is a reality that each and every Lebanese must be ready to face and to refuse and fight openly and courageously.
He who attentively listens to the on going challenging kind of the Iranian high rank officials’ bragging about their hegemony and full control on five Arab capitals among them Beirut will with not a shed of doubt clearly know who Hezbollah is and who runs this 100% Iranian militant and terrorist proxy.
At the same Sayed Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah in almost in each of his speeches affirms the Hezbollah’s full affiliation on all Levels and in all domains to the Iranian Mullahs’ religious regime.
Sadly Hezbollah is an Iranian military tool of terrorism and destruction that has been used to threaten the stability, peace and prosperity of Lebanon and all the Arab countries, from Iraq to Gaza…
Definitely there is nothing Lebanese or Arabic in Hezbollah’s aims, agenda, education, decision making process or patriotism. ..It an Iranian military tool no more no less.
In conclusion Hezbollah is an Iranian Army that occupies Lebanon and aims to topple down its multi-cultural -democratic regime and replace it by an Iranian Mullahs’ model and that is why its leadership is working hard and all means to control the Lebanese Parliament.
‘Voluntary Return’ of Syrian Refugees Sparks Disagreement between Lebanon, UN
Beirut - Asharq Al-Awsat/Saturday, 21 April, 2018/The Lebanese Foreign Ministry has called for a re-evaluation of the work of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees after the UNHCR questioned the voluntary return of around 500 Syrian refugees, who left Lebanon mid-week. In parallel, Human Rights Watch accused Lebanese municipalities of forcing hundreds of Syrian refugees in Lebanon to leave their homes and expelling them from a number of Lebanese cities and towns. The Lebanese Foreign Ministry objected to a statement issued by the UNHCR, which it said did not encourage the Syrians to return home.  Lebanon’s Director of Political and Consular Affairs Ghadi Khoury summoned UNHCR representative Mireille Girard to discuss “the agency’s statement which is at odds with Lebanon’s principles,” adding that Lebanon’s measures were in line with international laws and regulations that pertain to human rights. The UNHCR last week said that the agency’s teams on the ground have been discussing with concerned refugees and authorities to assess the intentions of refugees and the conditions in which these returns would take place. “UNHCR is not involved in the organization of these returns or other returns at this point, considering the prevailing humanitarian and security situation in Syria,” according to the statement. Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch said in a report published on Friday that 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, while another 42,000 refugees remain at risk of eviction.”It added that the organization has interviewed 57 Syrian refugees affected by evictions, as well as municipal officials and legal experts. “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 and the report’s author. “Any eviction of a Syrian refugee, as with anyone else, should be on an individual basis for transparent, lawful, and proportionate reasons following proper procedures.”

Lebanese President Slams Continued Israeli Aggression

Beirut - Asharq Al-Awsat/Saturday, 21 April, 2018/President Michel Aoun has reiterated that “Lebanon will never be an aggressive country, but we refuse any aggression on our land.”Aoun made his statement on Friday during talks with United States Central Command head Gen. Joseph Votel, who visited Baabda Palace. Discussions focused on military cooperation with Lebanon as well as regional security developments and US military assistance to the country. The meeting was attended by both a Lebanese and American delegation that included US Ambassador to Lebanon Elizabeth Richard. They also discussed ongoing Israeli violations of Lebanon’s air, maritime and land borders, condemned by Aoun. The president said a tripartite meeting between Israel and Lebanon, mediated by the United Nations peacekeeping mission, is expected to be held next month to “end Israeli violations of Lebanon’s international border.”Votel reiterated his country’s support to the Lebanese army and security forces, and stressed the consolidation of cooperation between the two sides

U.S Central Command head arrives in Beirut
The Daily Star/ 21/18/BEIRUT: United States Central Command head Gen. Joseph Votel discussed military cooperation with Lebanon as well as regional security developments during Friday meetings with President Michel Aoun and Prime Minister Saad Hariri. Votel’s meeting with the president was attended by both a Lebanese and American delegation that included U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon Elizabeth Richard. Together, the groups discussed ongoing Israeli violations of Lebanon’s air, maritime and land borders, condemned by Aoun. “Lebanon will never be an aggressive country, but we refuse any aggression on our land,” he said in a statement from Baabda Palace. A tripartite meeting between Israel and Lebanon, mediated by the United Nations peacekeeping forces, is expected to be held in early May. Border violations will likely be up for discussion, as in previous meetings. Votel separately met with Hariri to discuss ongoing military cooperation. Richard and Hariri’s adviser, Brig. Gen. Maroun Hitti, were present, according to a statement from the prime minister’s office. The U.S. Central Command head oversees U.S. military operations in the region, conducting regular visits to Lebanon and its neighbors. In December, Votel joined Richard at the Grand Serail to announce a new military assistance package to the country valued at over $120 million. Six MD 530G light attack helicopters, six ScanEagle unmanned aerial vehicles and night vision devices were part of the donation announced in the winter. In March, the U.S. committed a further $9 million investment during the Rome II conference that was held in support of the Lebanese Army and security services. The funds have been allocated to train Internal Security Forces and support its facilities. Along with the U.K., the U.S. has been a principal benefactor to Lebanon’s security apparatus. Funds increased after 2011 following the eruption of the Syrian crisis and fears of spillover.

Lebanon's re-emergence is linked to reforms: president
:Xinhua/April 21/18/Lebanese President Michel Aoun stressed Thursday that "Lebanon's re-emergence will only take place with reforms," the presidential media office said on Twitter. According to the media office, Aoun sent a cable message to French President Emmanuel Macron, extending appreciation for his efforts at the Cedar (CEDRE) Conference hosted by France early in April. International donors pledged 11 billion US dollars in low-interest loans and aid for Lebanon at a conference in Paris on April 6, aiming at averting an economic crisis in a country hard hit by the fallout from the Syrian war. Among the biggest donors was the World Bank, which pledged more than 4 billion dollars over five years, while France opened the conference with a promise of 550 million euros (676 million dollars). Saudi Arabia, which vies with arch-rival Iran for influence in Lebanon, said it would renew a 1-billion-dollar line of credit to Beirut, which had been agreed in the past but never used, Lebanese officials said.

Lebanon continues downward spiral on Quality of Nationality Index
Georgi Azar/Annahar/April 21/2018 /BEIRUT: Lebanon continued slipping down the Quality of Nationality Index, coming in at number 138 with a score of 23.6 percent for the year 2017.  The Henley&Partners index, which seeks to provide a comprehensive ranking of the quality of nationalities worldwide in terms of value, settlement freedom and travel freedom, ranks all the world’s nationalities as "legal statuses through which to develop your talents and business." Although Lebanon ranked well in terms of human development, it lagged behind in all other categories, most notably in economic strength, diversity of settlement freedom, and diversity of travel freedom. Lebanon witnessed a turbulent 12 months, culminating in the CEDRE conference to shore up support for its ailing infrastructure and economy hampered by wide-scale corruption. Lebanon is currently the third most indebted country in the world, with a public debt that is estimated at 150 percent of GDP or $80billion, while also dealing with a sizable Syrian refugee crisis. Lebanon has been gradually slipping down the ranks since 2011 when it ranked 119 out of 168 nationalities. It dropped four places since last year when it came it at 134 while coming in at 131 in 2015. The biggest drop was witnessed between 2014 and 2015 when a significant 10 places were dropped in a mere 12 months. The French nationality secured the top place, earning a score of 81.7 percent out of a possible 100, fractionally ahead of Germany, which was knocked off the top spot for the first time in seven years, with a score of 81.6 percent. The Qatari nationality suffered substantially from the country’s diplomatic conflict with Saudi Arabia and its allies, falling 17 places since 2016; meanwhile, the Georgian nationality experienced a spectacular rise of 20 positions, from the 104th position on last year’s General Ranking to 84th position this year a result of a significant increase in visa-free or visa-on-arrival travel destinations.
Yemen: ICRC staff member shot and killed in Taiz
Geneva/Sana'a (ICRC)/April 21/18/The International Committee of the Red Cross is deeply saddened by the fatal shooting today of one of its staff members in Yemen. Hanna Lahoud, a Lebanese national, was in charge of the ICRC's detention programme in Yemen. He was on his way to visit a prison this morning when the ICRC vehicle he was traveling in was attacked by unknown armed men on the outskirts of Taiz. Mr Lahoud was rushed to hospital where he died as a result of his injuries. The colleagues he was traveling with were unharmed in the incident. "We condemn this brutal and apparently deliberate attack on a dedicated humanitarian worker," said the ICRC's Middle East Director, Robert Mardini. "We are all in shock. Hanna was a young man full of life and was widely known and liked. Nothing can justify Hanna's murder and we are in deep mourning for our dear friend and colleague. Our hearts and thoughts are with Hanna's loved ones and friends."Mr Lahoud had been working for the ICRC since 2010 in different field positions and at headquarters. Before that he had been a first aid volunteer and staff member with the Lebanese Red Cross for many years.
Disturbing photos of the incident are circulating in the media. We would ask everyone to refrain from sharing these photos and to respect the dignity and privacy of his family.

Aoun Meets U.S. Central Command Chief

Naharnet/April 21/18/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.

Aoun expresses deep regret over Lahoud's death: Sacrificed himself in order to save others everywhere
Sat 21 Apr 2018/NNA - President of the Republic Michel Aoun expressed his deep sorrow for the martyrdom of the Lebanese paramedic Hanna Lahoud, who was shot dead by gunmen while on a humanitarian mission with the International Red Cross, west of the Yemeni city of Taiz on Saturday. "No one has greater love than this...sacrificing oneself for loved ones. Hanna Lahoud gave up his life in order to save others wherever they may be," said the President via his personal account on Twitter. He prayed for Martyr Lahoud's soul to rest in peace, while offering sincerest condolences to his family.

Foreign Ministry offers condolences over Martyr Lahoud: We are working to return his body to Lebanon
Sat 21 Apr 2018/NNA - In an issued statement by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates on Saturday, it expressed its "deepest condolences to the family of the deceased, Hanna Lahoud, who was shot in the Yemeni city of Taiz while carrying out a humanitarian mission of the International Red Cross Committee." The Ministry statement indicated that "it is working in coordination with the Red Cross (ICRC) to return the body of the deceased to Lebanon."

Berri: South is a rock of national unity, May 6 will be a celebration of democracy
Sat 21 Apr 2018/NNA - Speaker of the House, Nabih Berri, deemed Saturday that upcoming May 6 would be a day of celebrating and not of mourning democracy, while describing the South as a "rock of national unity."Berri's words came during his meeting with more than 400 municipal council heads and representatives from the Casa's of Nabatieh, Hasbaya, Marjayoun, Bint Jbeil and Arqoub, who visited him at his Mseileh residence in the South earlier today. The Speaker stressed that "no matter how hard the electoral winds, they must not make any candidate or political party veer away from national grounds." "We will not allow anyone to tamper with national unity and coexistence," he added. On the alliance between Amal Movement and Hezbollah, Berri emphasized that "this alliance is a national coalition for Lebanon, to preserve, fortify and protect it from Israeli aggression."

American Central Command Chief visits Sidon amidst tight security measures
Sat 21 Apr 2018/NNA - Chief of the US Central Command, General Joseph Fotil, visited Sidon on Saturday via a military helicopter amidst heavy security measures by the Lebanese Army at the city's northern entrance, NNA correspondent in Sidon reported. A US Embassy delegation and Lebanese Army representatives accompanied Fotil during his visit, where he met with members of the Southern Military Command at Mohammad Zogheib Military Barracks, in presence of senior Army officers, NNA correspondent added.

Riachi from Canada: Changing name of Information Ministry and completing its new structure will be endorsed by Cabinet upon my return
Sat 21 Apr 2018/NNA - Minister of Information Melhem Riachi, on Saturday, pursued his tour in Canada, noting that his strategic and fundamental achievement was practically "changing the Ministry of Information's name and establishing its new structure.""The Information Ministry's new structure will be endorsed by the Cabinet upon my return to Beirut, along with a draft law to change its name to: Ministry of Information, Communication and Dialogue," Riachi said during an interview to "The New Arab" Website. "The novel structure incorporates new administrative units concerned with communication, dialogue, media, information, and especially social networking," the Minister added. Concluding the interview, Riachi expressed his views on how to strengthen the role and presence of the official Lebanese Radio and Television Stations.

Khoury says Lebanon will flourish, government determined to implement reforms

Sat 21 Apr 2018 /NNA - Economy and Trade Minister Raed Khoury anticipated Saturday a promising and flourishing future for Lebanon, noting that the government in all its constituencies is adamant on implementing its pledged reforms during the "Cedre" Conference in Paris. Khoury's words came in his speech representing Prime Minister Saad Hariri at the opening of the Arab Harvard Graduates Association's 13th annual conference held at the Kempinski Summerland Hotel in Beirut today. The Economy Minister deemed that Lebanon has proved its pioneering position at various levels, despite its difficult circumstances and surrounding conflicts. "After the civil war, the Lebanese people managed to rise from under the ashes," said Khoury, adding, "Lebanon succeeded in neutralizing itself from the chaos that prevailed in the region, maintaining an ongoing pace of its political and economic life." Khoury referred to the many challenges resulting from the turbulent regional situation, especially the Syrian war that resulted in 1.5 million displaced persons seeking refuge in a country with a population of four million. However, he stressed Lebanon's ability to overcome all challenges, outlining the State's achievements thus far. "Lebanon has all the potential and will be able to implement the promised reforms and move its economy to the highest level," he reassured. "Lebanon will succeed and flourish," vowed Khoury.

Release of Lebanese accused of spying for Israel
Sat 21 Apr 2018/NNA - The Permanent Military Tribunal issued on Saturday a decision to release Mohammed al-Dabbet, who was accused of communicating with the Isareli enemy and plotting to assassinate MP Bahia Hariri.
After investigations, al-Dabbet revealed that he was coordinating with the security apparatus of the Resistance Movement.

Hariri Tours Bekaa Region as Elections Loom
Naharnet/April 21/18/Prime Minister Saad Hariri started his electoral Bekaa tour by visiting al-Azhar of Bekaa in Majdel Anjar, where he was received by Mufti of Zahle and Bekaa Sheikh Khalil al-Mais, Mufti of Baalbek Sheikh Khaled Solh, dignitaries and students from Azhar, Hariri’s media office said Saturday. Hariri held a meeting with Muftis Mais and Solh during which they discussed the situation particularly in Bekaa. Later, Hariri held a one-to one meeting with Rachaya al-Wadi Greek Orthodox Monsignor Edouard Shehade at the headquarters of al-Azhar. He also held an expanded meeting with the Sheikhs of Bekaa and the Azhar consultative council in the presence of Minister Jamal Jarrah, MPs Assem Araji, Amin Wehbe and Ziad Kadrii, candidates Ghassan Skaff, Mohammed Karawi, Nizar Dalloul, Hassan Solh and Hariri’s Chief of Staff Nader Hariri. At the onset of the meeting, Sheikh al-Mais welcomed Premier Hariri among his people and beloved ones “who are happy to see you here,” adding that the history of Martyr Rafik Hariri is honorable and continue with Premier Saad Hariri. For his part, the Premier thanked mufti Mais for this meeting at al-Azhar. “We experienced a very difficult period in this region but the people weren’t afraid because God is with them. Your Eminence always says the words of truth and moderation. This is our path at a time when some try to take us towards fanaticism, extremism and the rhetoric that we don’t accept.” Hariri said. “We will continue this path; the path of goodness, the path of Rafik Hariri who martyred for this country. We will continue with you and with Mufti Salim Sousan.” On his second stop, Hariri visited the town of Sweiri where he was received by a large number of citizens carrying the flags of al-Mustaqbal Movement, chanting slogans of support.

Hariri from the Bekaa: Our project is security, stability and reconstruction
Sat 21 Apr 2018/NNA - Prime Minister Saad Hariri pursued Saturday his tour in the Bekaa, accompanied by the region's MPs and Future Movement candidates. Visiting Al-Manara where he was warmly welcomed by a crowd of supporters, Hariri thanked them for their affection, stressing that the march will continue and will show everyone the Bekaa's image of moderation and generosity. In his second stop-over at the crossing of Biret-Izzat al-Falouj towns and then the town of Kamed al-Laouz, the Prime Minister addressed citizens saying, "We will be one voice on May 6 in the face of the lists that portray themselves as new, while in fact you know them and you know the Future Movement, our path and the path of Martyr Premier Rafic Hariri."
Heading to Jeb Jannine where a rally was held at former Minister Sami Khatib's residence, Hariri said: "We are here to tell the people of the Bekaa and those who are against us about West Bekaa and its loyal people, who will reveal on May 6 the true identity of West Bekaa and Rachaya. And we will continue the path of loyalty, affection, development, building, and moderation."After that, Premier Hariri inaugurated Kab Elias Hall in al-Farouk Islamic Complex, in the presence of Muslim and Christian clergymen, citizens, MPs and candidates.
Hariri thanked the Sheikhs for their work in the Association, saying: "You are the loyal people who loved Rafic Hariri and I hope to continue the same path with you. We have a long journey in front of us and you know that there were difficulties in the last few years but the state is starting to recover and achieve some success. This region needs projects and services starting with electricity, water and job opportunities. This region deserves a lot and this is why we went to CEDRE. We allocated big projects for this region, including electricity, water, sewage system and roads. The financing is ensured and all we need to do is to implement some reforms so the projects start."He added: "Some question the love of Kab Elias to Saad Hariri and the Future Movement. I tell them: On May 6, you will see the city that preserved coexistence not because Saad Hariri asked for that, but because it is in the essence of this region. We can see what is happening around us in Syria, Iraq, Libya and we know the cost. This is why this region protected coexistence between Muslims and Christian."He continued: "The most important thing is that CEDRE conference will create 90 thousand job opportunities per year. This is what matters to me because the youth of Lebanon are the future and we should work for you. These candidates are at your service and I am your representative in parliament. We will show them what Kab Elias is on May 6, and the Bekaa will say its word in favor of our list. These are our candidates and you will vote for the list as is."
The Prime Minister later accepted an invitation by the Mayor of Maxeh Atef Mais to a luncheon banquet in his honor, attended by the MPs of the region, Mufti al-Mais, the Secretary General of the Council of Ministers Fouad Fleifel, the candidates of West and Central Bekaa, Nader Hariri and a large number of dignitaries. In his speech at the luncheon, Hariri said: "In these elections everybody will know the loyalty of the people of the Bekaa to Rafic Hariri and to Saad Hariri. Our project is the project of security, stability, reconstruction and education, and you saw our achievements in the last one and a half years, in wake of the political agreement in the country. Our project is clear: activate the state's institutions starting with the army, the security forces, the ministries and particularly, the economy. We went to Rome to ensure all that is needed for the army and security forces. We went to Paris with a main goal, to find job opportunities for the youth all over Lebanon." Hariri concluded: "Regardless of the nature of the electoral laws, Saad Hariri and Rafic Hariri live in your hearts, and on May 6 we will show them what the Bekaa is."

Nasrallah: We await you on May 6, and your votes are a message of utter support to the Resistance

Sat 21 Apr 2018/NNA - In a political rally held in Tyre on Saturday, Hezbollah Secretary-General Sayyid Hasan Nasrallah addressed a crowd of supporters, officials and electoral candidates of the Tyre-Zahrani district, urging them to vote heavily on Election Day in favor of the Resistance-backed lists."We await you on May 6, and your votes will be a message that you would never abandon the Resistance," said Nasrallah, appealing to the gathering crowd through his screen. The Secretary-General paid tribute to the city of Tyre and its people, describing it as "the city of Islamic-Christian co-existence and mutual living between Shiites and unbreakable city, one which accompanied the Arab-Israeli conflict since its start and embraced the displaced Palestinian refugees in 1948...and the city that has resisted occupation."Referring to the long absence of the State from the South, up until the Lebanese Army's deployment along the border became an international demand, Nasrallah asserted that "the Resistance was to one to bring the State to the South.""The project of South leaders throughout history was always to demand the presence of the State in the South, which failed to happen," he added, criticizing "those who attack the Resistance, considering it a crime.""The alternative to the option of resistance meant handing the land over to the Zionists and the ongoing occupation, and the displacement of our people...This Resistance has become a real force, for which the enemy makes a thousand calculations!" Nasrallah underscored.
Touching on what he referred to as "national concerns", the Secretary-General deemed that "Since the beginning of the nineties, there has been a kind of truce, and I do not call it an agreement, which entailed the Resistance's taking over while other forces, including the Future Movement, tended to the economy." However, Nasrallah denied that the Resistance was part of this condition.
"Today, the Resistance can name its achievements," he went on, adding, "We have liberated the land, with the exception of Shebaa Farms and Kfarshuba, and we have retrieved our war detainees and protected our families and our country...We have established the equation of deterrence."
Meanwhile, the Secretary-General pointed to the rising debts and numerous obstacles at the economic level. "I do not want to interfere in the economic dossier, but experience has shown that those who took over this file in the past decades have failed," said Nasrallah, reiterating his demand for "a balanced planning and economic vision."He stressed that "the state of corruption cannot continue," calling on political forces with the approach of a new government to "take steps to fight corruption and stop the waste of public funds," adding that "this needs men, determination and decision."Nasrallah highlighted the need for "more dialogue and communication in matters of national concern," noting that, "in isolation from the election results, all forces will see that no one can be eliminated, and everyone is in need of logical dialogue and reasoning."Pointing to the Zahrani district elections, the Secretary-General urged his Party supporters "to consider the candidate of Amal Movement as a Hezbollah candidate, and the same applies to all Lebanese districts," calling on them to vote heavily for "the elder brother, House Speaker Nabih Berri." Nasrallah concluded by stressing that "the head of the Zahrani electoral list is House Speaker Berri, who represents all of us at the national and resistance level...We entrust in him our maritime and land borders, for he is an internal national guarantee."

Hezbollah’s homecoming: What happens when fighters return to Lebanon from a Middle Eastern mini-world war?
The Globe And Mail/April 21/18
Standing on a hill overlooking Lebanon’s border with Israel, Talal Saad is telling his brother, visiting from Germany, tales of the last war between Israel and the Hezbollah militia − and the destruction that was wrought in the south of this country.
The border is quiet now, and has been for most of the intervening 12 years. But few things in the Middle East feel permanent these days, as the multisided war in Syria grinds on and the risk of a major clash between Israel and Hezbollah’s main backer, Iran, grows larger.
The seven-year-old conflict in Syria has grown into something like a mini-world war in recent months, further dragging regional and global players into the fray at an alarming pace. The United States and its allies Britain, France and Saudi Arabia stand on one side of the conflict, seeking to isolate and perhaps topple the regime of Bashar al-Assad, who is backed by Russia and Iran, both of which have forces on the ground to support Mr. al-Assad. There’s a separate, but related, conflict in the north of the country, pitting Turkey’s army against a Kurdish militia that it considers to be a “terrorist” group, while Turkey’s NATO allies the United States and France support the same Kurds in a fight that has pushed the Islamic State to the brink of defeat.
But none of those dynamics is as flammable as the confrontation between Israel and Iran. And Tehran’s firmest ally in any fight with the Jewish state would be Hezbollah, the Shia militia − called “terrorist” by Canada and the United States − that is the dominant military and political force in Lebanon, a country with fading hopes of staying out of the fighting that surrounds it.
Hezbollah is armed and funded by Iran, and for the past six years it has fought on the side of Mr. al-Assad’s forces, helping prevent the collapse of the regime. There are reports Hezbollah fighters have also been dispatched to help train pro-Iranian forces in Iraq and Yemen. Now, Lebanese analysts say, with the Syrian regime increasingly gaining control over the country, Hezbollah is starting to bring the bulk of its fighters home. The question hanging over Lebanon and the region is what Hezbollah intends to do with them next.
In the valley below the road the two brothers paused on, Israel has begun erecting a concrete barrier between the Lebanese village of Kfar Kila and Metula, an Israeli town a shouting distance away. Eventually, the seven-metre-high wall is supposed to extend along the entire Israel-Lebanon frontier. Mr. Saad isn’t sure it will matter. “If there’s another war, it will happen whether this wall is here or not.
I wouldn’t call it peaceful’”
On Feb. 10, an Iranian drone that Israel says was armed with explosives was shot down over the Golan Heights, prompting an exchange of fire that saw Israeli fighter jets strike at the Syrian base the drone was launched from, while Syrian anti-aircraft defences shot down one of the attacking planes, which crashed just after it crossed back into Israeli airspace.
On April 8, Israeli jets − this time operating from Lebanese airspace − struck again, attacking another Syrian airbase, known as T-4. Seven Iranians were among the dead. Israel, in a break with past practice, acknowledged it was behind the strike. “It was the first time we attacked live Iranian targets − both facilities and people,” an unnamed military source told The New York Times.
Israel has signalled repeatedly that it will not allow Iran to continue building up its military infrastructure in Syria. The nightmare scenario for the Jewish state would be to see Iran take advantage of Syria’s civil war to replicate a Hezbollah-like force there, the same way it used the chaos of Lebanon’s wars in the 1980s to create the original.
Assaf Orion, a retired Israeli brigadier-general, recently told The Globe and Mail that any effort to confront Iran in Syria would almost certainly involve Hezbollah and Lebanon as well.
Iran has vowed vengeance for the strike on T-4. The country’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said on Thursday the Islamic Republic was facing its enemies on “a large battlefield.” In words that will be taken as orders by the country’s military establishment, Ayatollah Khamenei added that “besides defending, we should have offensive plans against the enemy, too.”
In Lebanon, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah has delivered his own warning. Israel, he said in a televised speech, had made a “historic mistake” by attacking T-4. Iran and Israel, he said, were now in “direct confrontation.
Israel, which is on high alert amid celebrations to mark the country’s 70th birthday, announced this week that it was cancelling plans to send fighter jets to Alaska to take part in joint exercises with the United States, just in case the warplanes were needed on the home front.
While some analysts dismiss the rising rhetoric as bluster that neither side is likely to follow through on, Kamel Wazne, a Beirut-based expert on Hezbollah, said he believes the danger is real.
“What has happened in the past week to 10 days is very serious … my estimate is that war between [Israel and Iran] will happen, it’s just a matter of timing,” Mr. Wazne says. “And any miscalculation by either of these two entities will bring regional war to our area.”
The fragile peace along the Israel-Lebanon frontier is supervised by a 10,500-soldier UN force that first deployed here in 1978, and which saw its mission expanded after the 2006 war.
“We have to make sure on a daily basis that there is no escalation of tension,” says Andrea Tenenti, spokesman for the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, or UNIFIL. “The situation on the ground is stable now. But I wouldn’t call it peaceful.”
Hezbollah’s costly war
Lebanese analysts believe Mr. Nasrallah wasn’t initially keen on joining Syria’s war. The bearded 57-year-old cleric, who studied in Qom, Iran, and rose to power after his predecessor was killed in an Israeli air strike, prefers to portray himself as a regional, rather than a sectarian, leader − the only one willing to confront Israel over its occupation of Arab lands. Although its name means “Party of God,” Hezbollah often refers to itself simply as “the Resistance,” indicating its willingness to stand up to both Israel and its supporters in the West. Its flag features a hand clutching a Kalashnikov assault rifle.
Syria’s war has been sectarian from the moment it began in 2011, pitting Mr. al-Assad’s regime − which is dominated by followers of the Alawi faith, which is an offshoot of Shia Islam − against the country’s Sunni Muslim majority. In the eyes of many of the region’s Sunnis, Hezbollah reduced itself to just another Shia militia by wading into the morass of Syria.
Mr. Nasrallah likely felt he had no choice. The fall of Mr. al-Assad’s regime would have severed the route via which Iran supplies Hezbollah with weapons. It’s also unclear whether Mr. Nasrallah is allowed to say no to Iran, which has armed and funded Hezbollah since 1982, when it was established by a unit of Iran’s crack Revolutionary Guards who entered Lebanon via Syria.
Hezbollah first made its existence known in the early 1990s with a wave of suicide car bombs against Israeli and U.S. targets, including an April, 1983, attack on the U.S. embassy in Beirut that killed 63 people.
Syria has been a costly war for Hezbollah. In addition to the political damage, the military wing is believed to have lost upward of 1,500 fighters. “Even the Shi[ites] themselves are not very keen on the war, because they are losing a lot of young people,” says Timur Goksel, a Turkish journalist who spent more than two decades working for the UNIFIL mission in Southern Lebanon.
But Mr. Goksel says many Lebanese also accept Hezbollah’s assertion that its intervention in Syria has kept the fight on that side of the border and that it prevented the Islamic State from bringing its jihadi carnage to Lebanon.
“There have supposedly been high costs of casualties, but [also] a high level of recruitment,” Mr. Wazne says. “The Shi[ites] accept the high costs because they feel that if Hezbollah did not go to Syria, the costs would have been higher
Challenging the ‘Party of God’
Riad al-Assaad has one of the most daunting political challenges anywhere. He’s running for office in Lebanon’s May 6 parliamentary election, facing off against Hezbollah in its Southern Lebanon stronghold.
Mr. al-Assaad has no illusions about how it will go. Lebanon’s new electoral law is expected to create cracks in the political order that emerged after the country’s own 1975-90 civil war − a system that remains dominated by sectarian-based political parties − by opening the door for more independent politicians to win seats in parliament. But nobody expects Hezbollah will lose its hold on the country’s Shias, who are estimated to account for somewhere between 1.2 million and two million of the country’s total population of 4.3 million. (Lebanon hasn’t conducted a census since 1932.)
“Of course, they are confident. They have a strong power base. The Shi[ites] are unified,” Mr. al-Assaad says when asked if he expects to defeat Hezbollah and its fellow Shia party, Amal. “But we are running to show that not all the people in the south are Amal or Hezbollah.”
The middle-aged Mr. al-Assaad, a Shiite who is running as part of a slate of independent candidates, walks a careful line in challenging the “Party of God.” Unlike some Sunni and Christian politicians − and their supporters outside Lebanon − he does not question Hezbollah’s need to retain its own militia separate from the Lebanese army.
The independents are running, he says, to highlight Hezbollah’s failure to help bring economic development to the country. Lebanon’s economic growth has slowed from 8 per cent in 2010, before the start of the war in Syria, to about 2 per cent last year. President Michel Aoun recently acknowledged that the country is awash in debt and risks bankruptcy.
Meanwhile, the country’s civil service has mushroomed in size as sectarian leaders reward their co-religionists with jobs in the ministries they control.
Hezbollah, Mr. al-Assaad says, could win over a lot of skeptical Lebanese if it used its political clout to tackle such corruption, especially as Mr. Nasrallah is viewed as one of Lebanon’s few clean political leaders. But while Hezbollah has held seats in parliament since 1992, it hasn’t sought to set the country’s economic agenda. Instead, Hezbollah lawmakers have largely served to ensure the movement maintains a veto over government decisions that might affect it.
Hezbollah went into politics primarily to protect the movement’s status as a heavily armed state within the state. A dozen years ago, after the war against Israel, some Lebanese politicians tried to press Hezbollah into giving up its weapons and leaving the country’s security to the Lebanese army.
After the group’s military successes in Syria, there’s no force in Lebanon strong enough to even raise the question any more.
“You’re not going to be able to fight Hezbollah and you shouldn’t fight Hezbollah. The question is how are we going to bring Hezbollah into the body politic?” Mr. al-Assaad asks. “This election, finally, everybody is saying, ‘We have no issue with your weapons, we have no issues with the resistance.’ We’re saying ‘who will create jobs? Who will deliver electricity?’
A blanket of silence
The 2006 war is widely considered to have been a stalemate, a bloody one that left 165 Israelis and 1,300 Lebanese dead. Israel, however, fell short of its stated aim of eliminating the threat posed by Hezbollah and the arsenal of missiles it used to threaten cities such as Haifa and Tel Aviv.
It’s a conflict that changed how the “Party of God” works. After briefly courting foreign and Lebanese media − and winning some public-relations battles by highlighting the suffering of Lebanese civilians in the 2006 conflict − the movement has once again become a box that’s closed to outsiders.
Hezbollah’s media office in the Beirut neighbourhood of Haret Hreik was among the buildings destroyed in 2006, when Israeli warplanes battered the Shia-dominated southern suburbs of the Lebanese capital.
The suburb has been rebuilt, and so has the media office, which now sits above a hairdresser’s on the second floor of a non-descript apartment block. Plastic toys are visible on some of the neighbouring balconies.
But where foreign journalists could visit the prewar media office to request and receive interviews with senior members of the Hezbollah leadership (although not Mr. Nasrallah, who was in hiding even then), the new media office is there largely to collect business cards and passport copies from journalists − and then tell them the answer is no.
“We’ve found [dealing with media] didn’t work very well for us. It caused a lot of troubles,” explains Aya, a pleasant young woman in a headscarf who meets journalists in a room furnished with couches along all four walls. The only decorations are a red-white-and-green Lebanese flag and a yellow Hezbollah banner.
A blanket of silence has also descended over some of Hezbollah’s former critics. With Syria’s war creating fears of a spillover into Lebanon − where many Beirut buildings still bear the scars of bullets and heavier weapons fired during the civil war − the awkward peace that exists here is maintained largely by the knowledge that no other Lebanese force could hope to confront Hezbollah militarily.
“No one is powerful but Hezbollah. They have a monopoly on power,” says Selim Sayegh, a former Lebanese cabinet minister and a member of Kataeb, a Christian party. “They let the other parties play politically, in terms of the issues of the state, but all the issues that matter − defence, security, foreign affairs, the electoral law − are under the control of Hezbollah.”
Kataeb and Hezbollah have been on extreme opposite sides of Lebanon’s divide since the moment of the latter’s creation. When Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982, one of its objectives was to install a Kataeb president, hoping to see an Israel-friendly government on its northern border. The invasion turned into a two-decade Israeli occupation of Southern Lebanon, which in turn gave birth to Hezbollah.
Thirty-five years on from those events, Kataeb is a marginal force − and one of the few groupings still openly opposed to Hezbollah’s influence here.
Fear of Syria’s sectarian conflict spilling over Lebanon’s borders has led to an informal peace pact between the country’s main Sunni, Shia and Christian leaders. Barring a catastrophe, the elections will go ahead on May 6, but no one expects to see any change to the power-sharing agreement that sees Saad Hariri, a pro-Western Sunni politician, serving as the country’s Prime Minister, while Mr. Aoun, a Maronite Christian who has aligned himself with Hezbollah and Syria, remaining President. Nabih Berri, the head of the Shia Amal movement, will keep the parliamentary Speaker post he has held since 1992.
The peace pact has seen all sides make an effort to tone down their sectarian rhetoric.
Mr. Hariri’s father, the popular former prime minister Rafic Hariri, was killed in a 2005 car bombing, for which prosecutors at a special international tribunal in The Hague are trying four Hezbollah fighters in absentia. But even the younger Mr. Hariri rarely criticizes Hezbollah any more. In 2016, he gave into a long-standing Hezbollah demand and voted in favour of Mr. Aoun becoming President.
“Of course it’s dangerous to oppose Hezbollah,” says Mr. Sayegh, whose driver tries and fails to hide the fact that he has an assault rifle in the car with us as we drive through the Christian neighbourhoods of west Beirut. “You’re taking a risk by coming to see me.”
History repeating itself
High on another hill in Southern Lebanon stands perhaps the best-maintained museum in the country.
Mleeta, which is dubbed “a touristic site about the resistance in Lebanon,” offers a one-sided tour of the region’s violent history. Visitors are told how “the Zionists” invaded Palestine in 1948 and then came to Lebanon again and again after that.
No reasons are given for the Israeli military actions, other than a desire to crush “the resistance.” (Israel invaded Lebanon in 1978 and 1982 to push the Palestine Liberation Organization away from its borders after a series of cross-border attacks; the 1996 and 2006 assaults were in response to provocations by Hezbollah.)
Hezbollah’s involvement in Syria gets no mention at all in the open-air museum, nor does the party’s long affiliation with Iran.
Visitors to Mleeta, which opened in 2010, are allowed to wander through tunnels and bunkers used by Hezbollah fighters and to peruse an exhibition of captured Israeli weapons, including the ID cards of Israeli citizens whose fates are unknown.
The entire museum − which includes a gift shop selling yellow Hezbollah flags and kitschy faux-grenade keychains − is guarded by Hezbollah security men in their trademark ballcaps and beige fatigues.
The exhibit is about the past, but visitors are also shown a 10-minute video that ends with Mr. Nasrallah making clear it could all happen again.
“If you bombard Rafic Hariri International Airport in Beirut, we will bombard Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv,” the Hezbollah leader tells the camera. He’s dressed in his customary brown robes and his words are punctured by the angry waving of his right finger. “I announce this confrontation, and we and I all accept this confrontation.”
A 30 year-old tour guide named Mohammed appears after the movie is finished to ask if there are any questions. So, is Hezbollah worried − after the clashes in Syria – that war will come again to Lebanon?
“No one knows what will happen,” he says, before launching into a long diatribe about how it’s the United States and Israel who are responsible for Syria’s long civil war.
Behind him is the opening to a twisting path that takes visitors through a graveyard of captured and destroyed Israeli military equipment. The sign indicates that this part of the tour is called “the Abyss.”
“People anywhere want peace,” Mohammed continues, “but if war comes, we will fight.”

Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published
on April 21-22/18
Tehran Warns Multi-front Scenario Against Israel, Netanyahu Vows to Respond
Tel Aviv – Nazir Majli/Asharq Al Awsat/April 21/18
Conflict between Iran and Israel escalated on Friday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announcing the readiness to confront Iran at any price and with Iran responding through Deputy Revolutionary Guard Corps Commander (IRGC) Hossein Salami, who said Iran is ready to target Israel from two fronts, adding that Israel will only have to flee through the sea.Anyone who aims to harm Israel will pay a heavy price, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Friday morning at a special cabinet meeting for the 70th year of declaring Israel. "We hear threats from Iran, and the Israeli forces are prepared for every possible Iranian move. We will fight whoever tries to harm us. We will not shy away from action against those who threaten our security. They will pay a heavy price," warned Netanyahu. Iran immediately responded to Netanyahu's comments via Salami, who threatened Israel saying: "Do not trust your air bases, they are within the range of fire. Our fingers are on the trigger and the missiles are ready to launch. The moment the enemy decides to act against us, we will launch them." "We have learned ways to overcome our enemies, and we can harm the enemies vital interests anywhere we want," Salami added.
Observers view those threats as serious and could lead to a direct dangerous clash, given there is no third force to ease the tension between the two. In response, Israel's Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman warned Tehran on Friday not to even consider an attack on the Jewish state, which he said Israel has never been better prepared to counter Iran. "I would suggest to all those on our northern border to think again about what they are doing," Liberman said. The minister stressed that Israel is ready for every scenario, including a multi-front scenario, adding: "I don’t remember a time when we were so prepared and so ready, both the army and the people of Israel." Things deteriorated two weeks ago when Israel bombed an Iranian air base in Damascus known as T4, killing 14 persons including 7 Iranian officers. Iran officially vowed to retaliate. Last Monday, Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi said his country will sooner or later respond to the recent crime and aggression of Israel. Qassemi said the attack will be met with a response, emphasizing that Israel’s “hit and run” policy shouldn't be tolerated anymore. Israel responded to the threat via a senior Israeli security official who said that "in the event of a military confrontation with Iran in Syria, Israel will bring down the Syrian regime." New York Times journalist Todd Friedman published a statement that he considered a "slip of the tongue" from a senior Israeli army officer in which he said Israel had hit Iran's base and killed Iranian officers. It was then published that it was "calling the Israeli reserve was a mistake, as a result of a computer error."According to an Israeli official, the "mistake" was not a mistake but a part of the war plans. Earlier on Thursday during a meeting with foreign diplomats, Netenyahu addressed the officials saying there are two things that "you can do to help Israel celebrate this great Independence Day. The first thing is—speak out against Iran.""Iran is the enemy of us all—of Israel, the Arab world, Civilization," he stressed. The Prime minister addressed that it is 2018 and Iran openly speaks about liquidating Israel.
"It encircles the whole Middle East which it wants to conquer, it fires rockets into Riyadh and Saudi Arabia, it is occupying Lebanon effectively, it’s trying to inflame Gaza again, it is in Iraq, and it is trying to establish a military base in Syria, which all peace loving nations should resist, speak out against Iran," he urged. According to Israeli military expert Alex Fishman, the sequence of events during the past week in Israel, which included a series of "mistakes", was not a coincidence, but a strategy pursued by Israel aimed at entering into a military confrontation with Iran on Syrian territory.
At this stage, Israel concluded that diplomatic methods and the limited military strikes are no longer adequate, and it must take new steps, according to Fishman. However, he noted that the policy of controlling "flames" contains a large amount of risk. Israel currently expects Russia to intervene in the matter and accept its red lines, rejecting any Iranian military presence in Syria. Russia has no interest in a confrontation between Iran and Israel at present time, as it would suspend and possibly end all agreements and compromises reached by Russia in Syria so far.

Rouhani Vows ‘Expected and Unexpected’ Moves if US Exits Nuclear Deal
Asharq Al-Awsat/Saturday, 21 April, 2018/Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Saturday that Iran's atomic agency was ready with "expected and unexpected" reactions if Washington pulls out of the nuclear deal.
"Our Atomic Energy Organization is fully prepared ... for actions that they expect and actions they do not expect," Rouhani said in a speech carried by state television, referring to a possible decision by US President Donald Trump to leave the accord next month. The deal reached between Iran, the United States and five other world powers put curbs on Iran's nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief. Trump has called the agreement one of the worst deals ever negotiated. In January he sent an ultimatum to Britain, France and Germany, saying they must agree to fix what the United States sees as the deal's flaws or he would refuse to extend the critical US sanctions relief that it entails. Iran has said it will stick to the accord as long as the other parties respect it, but will "shred" the deal if Washington pulls out. "Iran has several options if the United States leaves the nuclear deal. Tehran's reaction to America's withdrawal of the deal will be unpleasant," Iranian state TV quoted Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif as saying in New York.

Iran's FM Threatens ‘Unfavorable’ Measures if US Pulls out from Nuclear Deal
New York - Ali Barda/Saturday, 21 April, 2018/Iran’s foreign minister warned on Friday that a US pullout from the international nuclear deal would be met with “measures” that would be “very unfavorable" for the US. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear deal was signed in 2015 between Tehran and six world powers, including the US. Speaking upon his arrival in New York for a six-day trip, Zarif said: “The measures to be undertaken by Iran and the response of the international community to [the] US leaving the JCPOA will be very unfavorable for the Americans.”The Iranian FM will attend the UN’s two-day High Level Meeting on Peace building and Sustaining Peace, scheduled to start on Tuesday. “If the European countries want to preserve the deal, they have to make it sustainable for Iran,” he was quoted as saying. Zarif reiterated that European countries need to impose pressure on the US in order to compel and encourage it to implement what it pledged under the deal, adding: “Unfortunately, it hasn’t been doing that.”The minister said that in all events, Tehran would make no “concessions” and that any suggestion to renegotiate the deal would “not get a positive answer” from Iran.
On the UN session, Zarif said one of the reasons behind his trip to New York is to participate in a special meeting of the UN General Assembly on sustaining peace. He said that he would outline during the meeting Iran’s attitudes and proposals on holding dialogue and reaching understandings in the region.
During his stay in New York, Zarif is scheduled to meet with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and some of his counterparts. He will also deliver a speech at the US Council on Foreign Relations.

Rifkind Warns against 'Direct Confrontation' between Israel, Iran in Syria
London - Kamal Tawil/Saturday, 21 April, 2018/The Iranian nuclear file and the policies of Tehran in the Middle East countries have dominated a seminar hosted by the House of Commons of the United Kingdom, held this week, amid warnings against possible “direct confrontation” between Israel and Iran on the backdrop of the Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) establishment of bases for missiles and drones on Syrian territories. Former Conservative cabinet minister Sir Malcolm Rifkind talked, during the seminar, about the nuclear deal as the date of May 12 approaches, the date when US President Donald Trump will announce his decision whether to stay or withdraw from the deal. He said that UK, France and Germany; the western countries partnering with the US in the nuclear deal with Iran, are attempting to keep the agreement as it is. However, Rifkind noted that the three European countries can't alone decide the European Union policy towards Iran. What is more dangerous now is the file of Iran’s policy in Syria – Iran is not only supporting the Head of Syrian regime Bashar Assad to stay in power but is also extending its power to the Mediterranean Sea, said Rifkind.
He added that what has happened is dangerous, given that Iran established a long-term base, near Homs, from where a drone was launched. Former CIA Officer Jack Caravelli said that the nuclear deal is only an agreement among six countries and Iran, therefore it is possible to withdraw from it, although the US usually doesn’t withdraw from agreements already signed by the former administration. Analyst Jonathan Paris stated that reports reveal that the actual ruler of Syria is not Assad but Qassem Suleimani. Whereas, MP Jim Shannon slammed Iran and depicted it as one of the worst committers of violations against human rights.

Egypt Army: We Will Continue to Eradicate Terrorism
Cairo - Walid Abul Rahman/Saturday, 21 April, 2018/Egypt's Defense Minister Colonel General Sedki Sobhy stressed on Friday that terrorist attacks will not undermine the armed forces in its mission to eradicate terrorism and defend the country. During his visit to a number of soldiers wounded in terrorist attacks in Sinai, the minister confirmed that the military will continue to protect the nation thanks to the valor of its members. The army and police have since February 9 been waging a major security operation in northern and central Sinai to purge the region of militants and criminal elements. Known as Operation Sinai 2018, President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi instructed the army and the police to use "all force" to root out terrorism. An ISIS affiliate in Sinai has been behind the majority of terrorist attacks in Egypt. On April 14, the terrorist organization claimed responsibility for an attack in northern Sinai that killed eight army members and injured 15 others. Meanwhile, an Egyptian study said that "the justification of takfiri groups to commit terrorist acts in Egypt is primarily based on six main concepts.”The Observatory of Takfiri Fatwas of Egypt's Dar Ifta said that the first concept is "governance", which dictates the nature of the relationship with the Egyptian state. The second concept is "Jihad," which is the main excuse used by terrorists to commit their crimes. Based on this idea, the ISIS affiliate in Sinai views "the political system, Christians, the army and the police" as its enemy. The third is "takfir and apostasy", which are accusations thrown against all who oppose the group. "Repentance", according to the study, is the fourth concept of the so-called Sinai State. It is used mainly to attract members from categories it had previously deemed as apostate. Accountability (“hisbah”) is the fifth concept, which is synonymous with the idea of promoting virtue and preventing vice. The sixth concept, as stated in the study, is "loyalty and dissociation,” which calls for fighting infidels.

Hamas Engineer Gunned Down in Malaysia, Family Blames Mossad
Asharq Al-Awsat/Saturday, 21 April, 2018/The Gaza Strip’s ruling Hamas movement said Saturday that an engineer who was gunned down in Malaysia was an important member of the group, amid suspicions that Israel was behind the brazen killing. Hamas said Fadi al-Batsh, a Palestinian former resident of Jabalya in northern Gaza, was a "loyal" member and a "scientist of Palestine's youth scholars." It gave no further details on his scientific accomplishments but said he had made "important contributions" and participated in international forums in the field of energy. The movement stopped short of blaming Israel, saying only that he had been "assassinated by the hand of treachery." But in a statement from Gaza, his family said: "We accuse the Mossad of being behind the assassination." Malaysian police say the 36-year-old Batsh was gunned down early Saturday by two assailants who shot at least eight bullets at close range from a motorbike as he was heading to a mosque for dawn prayers in Kuala Lampur. It said closed-circuit television showed him targeted by assassins who had waited for him for almost 20 minutes. They then fled the scene. Besides his Hamas affiliation, Batsh was a cousin of Khaled Batsh, a senior official in the Islamic Jihad militant group, which accused the Mossad of the assassination without providing evidence. Batsh specialized in electrical and electronic engineering and worked at a Malaysian university. He had lived there with his family for the past eight years and was an imam at a local mosque.
He received his Ph.D degree from the University of Malaya in 2015 and was a senior lecturer at the British Malaysian Institute. His official biography said his research interests included power converters, power quality and renewable energy. However, Israeli media reported that he was also deeply involved in the Hamas drone development project. In 2015, the Shin Bet security service revealed that Hamas was training Palestinian students in Malaysia.

Romania Govt Supports Moving Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, President Says Was Not Consulted

Bucharest - Asharq Al-Awsat/Saturday, 21 April, 2018/The Romanian government has backed moving its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, which makes it the one of the first countries to relocate its embassy following the United States according to Reuters. In December, US President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, infuriating Washington’s Arab allies and dismaying Palestinians who want the eastern part of the city as their capital. Under Romanian legislation, the final say on embassy relocation belongs to centrist President Klaus Iohannis, who said he had not been consulted, Reuters added. “Yesterday, the government adopted a memorandum deciding to start the procedure to effectively move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem,” Social Democrat leader and lower house speaker Liviu Dragnea told private television station Antena3 late on Thursday. Dragnea keeps a tight grip on his party and is seen as effectively in charge of the cabinet, according to Reuters. In a statement Friday, President Iohannis urged government to show “responsibility and discernment on major foreign policy decisions that have strategic effects including on national security.” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that “at least half a dozen” countries were considering moving their embassies to Jerusalem. The US Embassy is due to relocate its unit on May 14. “Our gesture has a huge symbolic value ... for Israel, a state with an unbelievably large influence in the world and with which we have had a special relationship for many years,” Social Democrat leader Dragnea said. “Moving the embassy to Jerusalem can and I believe will bring short, medium and long-term benefits for Romania and we must use this huge chance and opportunity,” he added. However, President Iohannis further stated: "Such a decision must be taken only after consulting and securing the approval of all foreign policy and national security institutions, with a final decision belonging to the President, according to the constitution.”

Haftar Prepares to Leave Paris
Cairo - Khalid Mahmoud/Saturday, 21 April, 2018/Libyan commander Khalifa Haftar is getting ready to return to his headquarters in Ar Rajma, after almost completing the treatment he is receiving at a Paris hospital, reliable sources said. A source told Asharq Al-Awsat that Haftar will travel to Libya soon but rejected to comment on circulated information that he might stop in Egypt for a couple of hours during his return trip. Some officials, officers and members of the parliament in east Libya said that Haftar is more likely to return from Paris to Benghazi without a stopover in Cairo. In the same context, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in a news conference that Moscow, which is following up the condition of Haftar since he was admitted to hospital, has been receiving mixed information on his health. Zakharova said that there hasn’t been any confirmation of health concerns, as described by some media outlets. Rumors have been exaggerated, according to official Libyan agencies in east Libya, she added. Meanwhile, security sources in the capital have expressed concern regarding the outburst of clashes among militias competing for power in the city, saying there is an unusual “counter mobilization” in some parts of Tripoli’s suburbs. A security officer, who preferred to remain anonymous, said that “battalion 33” militias are preparing to stage a new offensive on bases of Special Deterrence Forces linked to Fayez al-Sarraj’s government in Tripoli. A spokesman from the Special Deterrence Forces said that a missile has hit an Airbus 320 while preparing for takeoff at the Mitiga International Airport. Other missiles landed on the airport’s arrival hall. In its turn, Tajoura Council of Elders (TCE) accused the Special Deterrence Forces of not responding to the mediation efforts to resolve pending differences with the “battalion 33” militias.

Tareq Saleh’s Forces Confuse Houthis in Yemen
Sanaa - Asharq Al-Awsat/Saturday, 21 April, 2018/After three months of anticipation, the forces led by Tareq Saleh, nephew of late Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, announced that they have joined the battle against the Iran-backed Houthi militias. The development has led to high hopes among the General People's Congress supporters that his forces will be able to avenge the Houthis for murdering the former president in December 2017 and for committing abuses against the party. Party sources confirmed that panic gripped Houthi militia commanders after Tareq Saleh entered the battle. The militia summoned hundreds of its members in the northern front of the western coastal region to reinforce its lines against his forces’ imminent attack, said local sources in the al-Hodeidah region. Military observes said that the participation of Tareq Saleh’s highly prepared forces marks a major transition in ending the Houthi presence in Yemen and shifting the battle in the country in favor of the legitimate forces. Even though the confrontation against the Houthis will not be as easy as Saleh’s supporters believe, they are however hoping that his forces will have enough motivation to break the militias’ spirit and defeat them – at least on the west coast and towards the city of Hodeidah and its strategic port. Because the direct advance on Hodeidah is an unpredictable undertaking, said military observers, Saleh’s forces, which were formed with the backing of the Arab coalition, chose to start their mission by protecting their back through liberating the regions east of the Mokha coastal city, which lies west of Taiz. Saleh’s forces’ joining of the battle prompted a warning from the Houthis. One commander, Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, threatened to launch attacks against the marine route in the Red Sea. While many, pro-legitimacy partisan and political forces welcomed Tareq Saleh’s arrival on the scene, pro-Turkey and Qatar activists heavily criticized the development, which they perceive as a threat to their influence should the Houthis be defeated. They fear that the Houthis’ demise will return the Saleh family back to ruling Yemen.

Natalie Portman Backs Out of Jewish Prize Due to Netanyahu Speech
London - Asharq Al-Awsat/Saturday, 21 April, 2018/Oscar-winning actress Natalie Portman has canceled her participation in a ceremony in Israel to accept a $2 million prize because she did not want to be seen as supporting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was scheduled to speak at the event. Portman's decision, which she said was "mischaracterized by others," had caused a minor backlash in Israel on Friday after organizers of the prestigious Genesis Prize award ceremony said they cancelled the prize-giving. The group had quoted a representative of Portman who said recent "distressing" events in Israel caused the actress to back out. This led many to interpret her decision as connected to the international criticism of Israel for its use of live fire over the past three weeks during protests on the Gaza-Israel border, in which scores of Palestinians were killed and injured. Israel has said it is doing what it must to defend its borders. Some ministers in Netanyahu's right-wing government said Portman appeared to have been manipulated by the Palestinian-led international campaign to boycott Israel. "Let me speak for myself," Portman said later in a statement posted on Instagram. "I chose not to attend because I did not want to appear as endorsing Benjamin Netanyahu, who was to be giving a speech at the ceremony." Portman said she did not support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which aims to isolate Israel over its treatment of Palestinians. "Like many Israelis and Jews around the world, I can be critical of the leadership in Israel without wanting to boycott the entire nation," she said. "Israel was created exactly 70 years ago as a haven for refugees from the Holocaust," she said. "But the mistreatment of those suffering from today’s atrocities is simply not in line with my Jewish values. Because I care about Israel, I must stand up against violence, corruption, inequality, and abuse of power." The Genesis Prize has been awarded since 2014 to individuals for excellence in their professional fields and "who inspire others through their dedication to the Jewish community and Jewish values,” according to their website. Portman was born in Jerusalem to a doctor father and an artist mother. She moved to the United States at age three. She won a best actress Oscar for 2010's psychological ballet thriller "Black Swan".
Comey Memos Show President Trump Obsessed with Russia Probe
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 21/18/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 21-22/18
New Threat to the US: the Axis of Autocracy
Hal Brands/Bloomberg/April 21/18
It sounded like an echo of Sino-Soviet alliance of the 1950s and 1960s when China’s new defense minister, Wei Fenghe, said at a meeting in Moscow this month, “The Chinese side has come to show Americans the close ties between the armed forces of China and Russia.”
A full-blown military alliance remains a long ways off, of course, and it is easy to dismiss Wei’s remarks as rhetorical posturing. But that would be a mistake, because Wei nonetheless captured an ominous feature of world politics today: the growing alignments between America’s various geopolitical rivals.
That alignment is not new, of course: Rogue states and American adversaries such as North Korea, Syria and Iran have cooperated on issues from arms sales to nuclear proliferation for years. What is changing now is that collaboration between America’s great-power competitors is increasing, as the threats to the US-led international order also grow. Start with Russia and China. As those countries have intensified efforts to reassert their geopolitical influence, they have made common cause on a number of fronts. China provided diplomatic cover for Russia in the United Nations Security Council after Moscow’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, despite its traditional reluctance to support “separatist” movements for fear of emboldening such forces on Taiwan. Moscow and Beijing have also worked together to block UN support for intervention against the Assad regime in Syria, and to oppose additional US military deployments on the Korean peninsula, while also pursuing closer bilateral ties with respect to arms sales, energy deals and development of military technology.
Most visibly, the two countries have conducted combined naval exercises in the South China and Baltic Seas and in the Sea of Japan, areas in which Chinese and Russian tensions with Washington are particularly sharp. Altogether, cooperation between Moscow and Beijing is more significant than at any time since the Mao-Khrushchev split more than half a century ago.
Nor is this the only pair of American antagonists currently cooperating. Russia and Iran have often been geopolitical rivals, but today they are working in tandem to undermine American influence in the Middle East.
Tehran and Moscow have formed a de facto military alliance to keep Syria's Bashar al-Assad in power -- and thus preserve or increase their own sway in the region -- with the Russians providing the airpower and the Iranians (or the proxy militias they control) providing the shock troops. Coordination between Russian and Iranian officials has intensified not just on the battlefield but also at the top levels of government. “Our cooperation can isolate America,” Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei reportedly told Russian President Vladimir Putin in late 2017. And last month, Bloomberg reported that Iran’s Russian-provided SA-20C air defense system was now operational, giving Tehran what US intelligence officials have called a “generational improvement in capabilities.”
These alliances are all the more noteworthy for the fact that America’s rivals are not, by any means, natural partners. Russia and China continue to compete for influence in Central Asia and elsewhere; the growth of Chinese power may ultimately pose as much of a threat to Russia -- a country with which it shares a long land border -- as it does to anyone else. One would also expect to see some inevitable tensions between Iran, which is bidding to become the dominant power within the Middle East, and Russia, which is increasingly throwing its weight around in the region.
Yet if the cooperation between US rivals has rightly been described as more opportunistic than systematic, it is striking that these countries are finding more and more occasions when working together appears to be in their interests.
This is happening for two reasons, one geopolitical and one ideological. The geopolitical reason is that what Iran, Russia and China have in common is that they are all trying to weaken, in their own way and for their own motives, an international order that is built on the dominance of the US, its allies and its partners. Given the inherent dangers and difficulties of taking on the leading power and its formidable strategic coalition, they are naturally attracted to cooperating with states that share their hostility to the US-led system and can help them nibble away at its edges.
It may well be true that, over the long term, Russia has more to fear from a rising, aggressive China than it does from a democratic, declining Europe. Yet for the foreseeable future, the revisionist powers all share a common strategic adversary.
The ideological reason is that these countries also share a commitment to illiberal rule in a relatively liberal age. Admittedly, we have not gone back to the 1950s, when the ideological conflict between Washington and Moscow took on global dimensions. Marxism-Leninism no longer provides the core of the relationship between Moscow and Beijing, as it did in the days of Stalin and Mao. But Russia, China and Iran are all autocratic regimes that see themselves fighting for influence and even survival in a world in which the leading power is a democracy and democratic values are still pre-eminent. Strategic and ideological resistance thus go hand-in-hand.

An American Message before the Dhahran Arab Summit
Eyad Abu Shakra/Asharq Al Awsat/April 21/18
Questions about the strikes, led by the US with British and French support, on Syria were raised as soon as they were carried out. These questions dealt primarily with two issues: The scale of the strikes, and their prime objective. However, it is impossible to ignore that they came a few hours before the start of the 29th Arab summit in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia.
The summit could not have been convened in more troubled times, and on several levels: First, in the Gulf region and Arabian Peninsula there is the Qatar issue and the Iranian support to the Houthi coup in Yemen. Secondly, in the Middle East – as a whole – there is the bigger picture of intersecting, conflicting and integrated plans at the expense of the region’s people. Internationally, the ‘Cold war’ is looming on the horizon, whether in a timid way or in the shape of reciprocated blackmail, and noticing how even Western democracies and their well-established political and party institutions have been running towards extremism, populism, and even outright racism.
The Qatar issue is a minor detail in Gulf security, but this is not the case of Iranian intervention which has reached unprecedented levels after years of accumulation due to the former US administration turning a blind eye to Tehran’s ambitions, and the late response of Yemeni and Arab sides to their repercussions in Yemen. As a result, the Houthi-controlled areas now in open rebellion against UN resolutions, GCC initiatives, as well as resolutions of Yemeni National Dialogue, have become launch pads for ballistic missiles and the spread of sectarian tension in a sensitive part of the Arab World.
The mission entrusted to the Houthi rebels complements similar missions Tehran has given to its henchmen, backing them with money, arms, training, and media resources; succeeding so far in creating influential political players in more than one Arab country.
Here, it is necessary to analyze the Arab scene as a whole. Indeed, it is quite sad to realize that there seems to be no end in sight to the state of division and fragmentation be it in the Palestinian file, the Syrian file, the fight against extremism and terrorism, or the containment of regional interventions in Arab affairs.
The meddling would not have been possible had respect for human rights and proper citizenship been prioritized. Worse still, is that some Arab parties believe that respect for human rights and proper citizenship contradict with the fight against extremism and terrorism. Thus, we find ourselves in a ‘dark tunnel’ of contradictions which undermine human rights and serve the cause of extremists – namely, those raising ultra-conservative Islamist slogans – by giving them undeserved credibility.
Here too, for some Arabs, the form becomes more important than the essence, and loud empty slogans gain an advantage against the principles on which the coexistence, needed for internal consolidation, is built. Internal vulnerability is undoubtedly a main reason behind outsiders’ ambitions, which is exactly what we see today in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Palestine.
A few decades ago, a Palestinian intellectual living in the West, argued that if Palestinians shun the concept of a tolerant and democratic state, they would be playing into the hands of Israel’s extreme right. He also said that a phenomenon like Hamas – unknowingly – allows this extreme Israeli right to mobilize internally, and gain sympathy internationally. Furthermore, in the calculations of the Israeli right, the move towards religious extremism inside the Occupied Territories would justify the rhetoric of Israeli settlers on biblical grounds. Thus, what has always been an undoubted just humanitarian cause becomes an endless confrontation between two religions, blurring the dividing lines between the culprit and the victim.
The situation in Syria is as bad as the Palestinian Occupied Territories but the way Arabs are dealing with it is becoming more problematic and confusing.
When Bashar Al-Assad began confronting peaceful popular demonstrations, there was almost unanimous Arab backing for the people’s uprising. Even Assad regime’s allies were too embarrassed to support him openly. Hence, the Arab League was able to pass several anti-regime resolutions, including suspending Syria’s membership in the League, and withdrawing ambassadors from Damascus; only Iran-dominated member states and a couple of others siding with the regime. Russia too, before its real intentions became clear, claimed in the early days that it did not support the regime but was rather keen on a political settlement.
So the Assad regime intensified its bloody suppression and blackmailing under the pretext of fighting extremism and terrorism. In the meantime, claiming to be confronting Iran’s military intervention – initially, through Lebanon’s Hezbollah, and later through other Iranian, Iraqi, Afghan, and Pakistani ultra-sectarian militias – Arab and regional parties embarked on arming and aiding loyal extremist groups, and marginalizing moderate voices, which gradually began to dwindle.
On the other hand, the failure of some ‘Arab Spring’ uprisings, and the change in some viewpoints regarding their benefits, in addition to the fast consolidation of power by Egypt’s ‘political Islam’, provided a great boost to Assad to intensify the bloodshed and achieve ‘demographic changes’ through massacres. Internationally, the regime and its backers made gains in 2013 when fictitious red lines announced by Barack Obama crumbled. This dangerous development confirmed that Obama preferred to reach an understanding with Iran and give it a free rein in the Middle East, than think about the fate of the Syrian people.
In the last few days, we witnessed yet again a Trump administration response that totally differs with his predecessor, although it was a little more than a message and less than a strike. Taking place just before the Dhahran Arab Summit, the Summit should have taken it on board, despite the fact that the message was intended for Moscow. However, internal cohesion and strength should be prioritized in a world of ever changing conditions and equations, and collapsing illusions about friends and foes. The consolidation should take into consideration the dangers surrounding the Arab region and its entities, and understanding the ‘dynamics’ of the political game, and broad and narrow interests connected with it.

A Month of Islam and Multiculturalism in Germany: March 2018
Soeren Kern/Gatestone Institute/April 21/18
Anti-Semitism is running rampant at German primary schools, according to Heinz-Peter Meidinger, president of the President of the German Teachers' Association (Deutschen Lehrerverbandes, DL). He also said that videos of beheadings are commonplace at German schools, and that female pupils are being threatened with murder. "In chat forums like WhatsApp, movies such as ISIS beheading videos are spreading like wildfire."
"It is unacceptable that non-Muslim and above all Jewish children have to be afraid of going to school in this country because they are being labeled as 'unbelievers' and even threatened with death.... Since autumn... Kuwait Airways is allowed to discriminate against Jews at Frankfurt Airport, and the Federal Government does not object. Let us not fool ourselves: it is the Federal Government, which, for inexplicable reasons, allows Jews in Germany to be treated like this." — Julian Reichelt, Editor-in-Chief of Bild.
"Mass gatherings that degenerate into violence are incompatible with our understanding of democracy. Humanity, tolerance, respect and dealing with each other in a democratic way are the basic values ​​on which our coexistence is oriented. We all want to live in a peaceful, open and democratic society." — Sören Link, Mayor of Duisburg.
March 1. The Spreewald Elementary School in Berlin's Schöneberg district hired security guards to protect teachers and students from unruly students. Around 99% of the pupils at the school have a migration background. "Within the past year, the violence has increased so much that we now had to take this measure," said headmaster Doris Unzeit. "The violence is widespread and we want to take countermeasures with the security service. This should improve the reputation of the school and ensure that the children can learn here again in peace."
The Spreewald Elementary School in Berlin's Schöneberg district hired security guards to protect teachers and students from unruly students. Around 99% of the pupils at the school have a migration background. h his 37-year-old wife in Mühlacker. The couple's three children, a girl and two boys, witnessed the murder. It later emerged that immediately after the killing, the blood-stained man posted a video on Facebook warning women not to irritate their husbands: "This is how you'll end."
March 4. A 30-year-old man who raped at least four women at or near subway stations in Berlin turned himself in after police published surveillance photos of him. The man chose his victims while riding on subway trains. He made eye contact with them, followed them out of the station and subsequently raped them. Berlin police blacked out information about the man's nationality. Berliner Zeitung filled in the missing details: he is from Egypt.
March 4. A group of ten migrants sexually assaulted several women at an outdoor festival in Lienen. The attack was a case of taharush, a practice in which groups of Arab males encircle females and assault them.
March 5. Middle Eastern crime families in Berlin are intimidating police by provoking officers during arrests and filming them with cell phones, according to Welt am Sonntag. They are also spreading false rumors, accusing police of seeking sexual favors from prostitutes who are pimped by the very same crime families. "This is a very observable tactic to discredit the colleagues," said the spokesman for the GdP police union in Berlin, Benjamin Jendro. "The criminals want to show that the state is losing control. This has become a popular sport."
March 5. Federal prosecutors in Hamburg charged a 20-year-old Syrian migrant, Yamen A., with planning to carry out a jihadist attack in Germany. "The accused is charged with planning an Islamist-motivated attack with explosives and had already begun with its preparation," prosecutors said. "The accused wanted to kill at least 200 people with his attack and thus tie in with the previous attacks attributable to the Islamic State in Europe. It was important for him to stir up a climate of fear and uncertainty among the population of the Federal Republic of Germany."
March 6. The trial began of four Eritreans who gang-raped a 56-year-old woman in Dessau. The men were drinking alcohol at an outdoor plaza when a woman collecting recyclable bottles and cans ventured into the area. The men offered the woman their bottles. As she approached them, they hit her on the head with a broken bottle, pulled her down the concrete steps of a nearby building and for more than an hour took turns raping her. Prosecutors described scenes of "unrestrained brutality." The defendants, who were identified by DNA, were remorseless. One of the accused, 21-year-old Sultan A., said he suffered from memory loss because he was drunk: "I am Muslim, I do not tolerate alcohol very well." The trial continues.
March 6. Parliamentarians with the anti-immigration party Alternative for Germany (AfD) traveled to Syria to assess the security situation there. The AfD has been pushing to declare Syria a safe country and send back half a million Syrian refugees currently living in Germany. Christian Blex, an AfD state parliamentarian from North Rhine-Westphalia, tweeted scenes from the Damascus bazaar: "Pure everyday life. Modern shops. Women with and without headscarves. It is hard to believe that thousands of Syrian men are now in Germany and that they also want to bring their families..." He also tweeted images of Syrian women in Damascus: "Blue jeans instead of a black veil! Women sit in bars. Barely imaginable in Mecca — also sadly not in Berlin-Neukölln."
March 10. Award-winning author Uwe Tellkamp was let go by his publisher, Suhrkamp Verlag, after he questioned Chancellor Angela Merkel's open-door migration policy. In a public debate in Dresden, Tellkamp said, "Most migrants in Germany do not flee from war and persecution, more than 95% of them come here to immigrate to the social welfare system." Suhrkamp's move triggered an outpouring of support for Tellkamp and social media users referred to the publisher as "Stasi Verlag," a reference to the former East German secret police agency which suppressed dissent. Tellkamp has warned of an imminent "moral dictatorship" in Germany, where there exists a "mindset corridor between desired and tolerated opinion." Tellkamp added: "My opinion is tolerated, it is not desired."
March 11. Incoming Interior Minister Horst Seehofer announced a "master plan" to speed-up deportations of illegal migrants. He said there would be "zero tolerance for criminal offenders and no-go zones." Seehofer said his goal is more security and his role model is Bavaria: "Bavaria is one of the safest regions in Europe, and that must be possible for all of Germany."
March 11. Kurds were suspected of carrying out an arson attack on the Turkish Koca Sinan mosque in Berlin. The attack was one of several, reflecting an upsurge in violence between nationalist Turks and militant Kurds on German soil.
March 12. In Flensburg, an 18-year-old Afghan asylum seeker, Ahmad G., stabbed to death his 17-year-old girlfriend, Mireille B., apparently because she refused to convert to Islam.
March 12. A labor court in Hanover ordered Volkswagen to rehire a 30-year-old German-Algerian man, Samir B. The carmaker had fired the man in November 2016 because it feared he might carry out a jihadist attack at its main factory in Wolfsburg. The man had threatened his co-workers — "you all will die" — and said he wanted to join the Islamic State. In 2014, B. was arrested at Hanover airport. He was carrying a drone and 10,000 euros in cash and was heading to Syria. German authorities revoked his passport. The Administrative Court of Braunschweig later determined that B. "was involved in the recruitment and support of jihadists from Wolfsburg." The Hanover court ruled that VW had failed to prove that B. specifically disturbed the company peace.
March 14. Germany's lower house of parliament, the Bundestag, formally elected Angela Merkel to a fourth term as chancellor. The vote margin was tight: only nine votes. In all, 364 members of the Bundestag voted for Merkel, while 315 voted against her. There were nine abstentions, and 21 parliamentarians were either absent or did not cast valid ballots.
March 14. Around 50 West African migrants went on a rampage after police tried to deport a Gambian asylum seeker at a migrant shelter in Donauwörth, a town in Bavaria. Police suspended the operation and called for reinforcements. The migrants threw bottles and chairs at police and poured hot water on them from above. Later, more than 150 West Africans gathered to protest at the railway station, thereby triggering a large-scale police deployment. In all, 32 people were arrested. "On the one hand, they seek protection and security here with us, but on the other hand, to organize such riots and disregard our legal system at the same time is unacceptable," said Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann.
March 15. A 23-year-old Afghan asylum seeker shouting words that sounded like "Allahu Akbar" rushed toward Chancellor Angela Merkel as she was leaving the Reichstag building in Berlin. The man was intercepted by her body guards and admitted to a psychiatric hospital.
March 16. In his first interview since being sworn in on March 14, Interior Minister Horst Seehofer was asked if Islam belongs to Germany. He responded: "No. Islam does not belong to Germany. Germany is shaped by Christianity. This tradition includes work-free Sundays and church holidays and rituals such as Easter, Pentecost and Christmas." Seehofer's remarks prompted an immediate firestorm of criticism from the self-appointed guardians of German multiculturalism, including from Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has repeatedly insisted that "Islam belongs to Germany." German voters, however, appear to agree with Seehofer. A poll for Focus magazine found that 74% of those surveyed said that Islam does not belong to Germany. Only 6.4% said that Islam definitely belongs to Germany.
March 19. Germany's top court rejected a Muslim woman's request to suspend a ban on driving while wearing a face veil. The woman had argued that the ban for drivers violated her religious freedom. The court found the woman, who has worn the niqab for seven years, failed to explain how the law violated her religious freedom or why she faced harm driving unveiled.
March 21. Chancellor Angela Merkel, in the first major speech of her new term, said that her decision to allow into the country more than a million migrants was a "humanitarian exception" that would not be repeated. She said that Germany would do more to strengthen United Nations aid programs while at the same time pushing for beefed-up security on the European Union's external borders. She added that Germany would continue to take in political refugees, but that the government would also focus on deportations. "People who have no right to protection will have to leave our country, preferably voluntarily, but if necessary by state deportations," Merkel said. She repeated her government's pledge in the coalition agreement that the numbers of migrants per year would be capped at 200,000 or fewer. She added: "It is beyond question that our country was historically formed by Christianity and Judaism. But it's also the case that with 4.5 million Muslims living with us, their religion, Islam, has also become a part of Germany."
March 23. Police in Flensburg classified parts of the city center as a "danger zone" after violent clashes among youths of different nationalities. The classification allows police to search anyone in the area regardless of whether they are suspected of committing a crime. Police blame the youths for an increase in robberies, assaults and thefts in the area.
March 24. A 17-year-old Syrian migrant stabbed and seriously injured a 24-year-old German woman at a supermarket in Lower Saxony. The woman was attacked after she intervened in a dispute between her boyfriend and two migrants, aged 13 and 14. The 17-year-old is the brother of one of the younger teenagers. She was in an induced coma; doctors removed her spleen and parts of the pancreas. Police reportedly were considering dropping murder charges against the 17-year-old and charge him with the lesser crime of grievous bodily injury. The boy's lawyer said he acted in self-defense.
March 25. Anti-Semitism is running rampant at German primary schools, according to Heinz-Peter Meidinger, president of the President of the German Teachers' Association (Deutschen Lehrerverbandes, DL). He also said that videos of beheadings are commonplace at German schools, and that female pupils are being threatened with murder. "Unfortunately, these are no longer individual cases, not even with very young students at elementary schools. Such incidents now exist at many schools in Germany. One thing is certain: Cruel violent videos in social networks have long since become a part of student life. In chat forums like WhatsApp, movies such as ISIS beheading videos are spreading like wildfire."
March 25. The German government bears responsibility for growing Arab anti-Semitism, which has worsened with the refugee crisis, according to Julian Reichelt, Editor-in-Chief of Bild:
"It is unacceptable that non-Muslim and above all Jewish children have to be afraid of going to school in this country because they are being labeled as 'unbelievers' and even threatened with death. Our government claims it should not be accepted. But while it could act now, it has failed miserably for months. Since autumn, the humiliating verdict of the district court of Frankfurt stated that it is 'unreasonable' for the Arabian airline Kuwait Airways to transport Israelis (meaning in the Arab world: Jews). Kuwait Airways is allowed to discriminate against Jews at Frankfurt Airport, and the Federal Government does not object. Let us not fool ourselves: it is the Federal Government, which, for inexplicable reasons, allows Jews in Germany to be treated like this. Discriminating against citizens of the state that emerged from the Holocaust is expressly allowed by a court in this country and the government does nothing to stop it."
March 26. Northern Germany is experiencing an outbreak of scabies, an infectious skin disease transmitted by mites. The disease is prevalent in refugee shelters but experts reportedly are at a loss to explain the cause of the outbreak.
March 26. Lübecker Nachrichten posted a video of a Turkish wedding celebration in which clan members shut down the Lübeck-Kücknitz Autobahn (highway) and shot firearms into the air from parked vehicles. The practice has spread to other parts of Germany (here, here and here).
March 28. A state of emergency was declared in Duisburg after dozens of Lebanese, Kurdish and Turkish men armed with machetes and iron rods gathered on city streets to do battle. A cellphone video showed the men, who police said comprise a "cross-section" of the local population, smashing store windows and attacking police officers. "A constitutional state cannot accept that individuals or groups think that they can operate outside of our value system," said Duisburg Mayor Sören Link. "Mass gatherings that degenerate into violence are incompatible with our understanding of democracy. Humanity, tolerance, respect and dealing with each other in a democratic way are the basic values ​​on which our coexistence is oriented. We all want to live in a peaceful, open and democratic society."
March 28. The Federal Statistics Office reported that in 2016 Germany registered its highest birthrate since 1973. Migration had a significant impact on the birth rate: 184,660 children were born to mothers of foreign nationality — an increase of 25% compared to 2015. The birth rate among German women rose from 1.43 children in 2015 to 1.46 children per woman. The birth rate among non-German women increased from 1.95 to 2.28 children per woman.
March 30. Cardinal Reinhard Marx, the highest representative of the Catholic Church in Germany, on Good Friday urged Christians to "reconcile" with Muslims: "Without friendship, without encounters, without openness for others, there is no understanding, no reconciliation, no community, but instead the creation of mistrust, fear and violence."
March 31. A 32-year-old Syrian asylum seeker set fire to a six-story apartment building in Leipzig. One person was killed and 16 were injured; 34 people lost their homes. The Syrian was charged with murder, attempted murder and arson. A 30-year-old Eritrean asylum seeker stabbed to death a 44-year-old Eritrean asylum seeker in downtown Wetzlar.
March 31. Bundestag President Wolfgang Schäuble said that Islam is in Germany to stay: "We cannot stop history, everyone has to deal with the fact that Islam has become part of our country."
**Soeren Kern is a Senior Fellow at the New York-based Gatestone Institute.
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Terry Glavin: Here's why some people choose not to believe in Assad's atrocities
Terry Glavin/National Post/April 21/18
With the benefit of several days’ hindsight, one might have thought that the hysteria attending to the largely performative, perfunctory and pinprick 70-minute airstrikes that the United States, Britain and France carried out on Syrian targets last Friday night would have subsided somewhat by now.
For a while there, you’d have thought we were on the cusp of the apocalypse. In the lead-up, so many people were wetting their pants about U.S. President Donald Trump’s falling out with Russia’s Vladimir Putin over the barbaric behaviour of Putin’s proxy in Damascus that there was a huge spike in Google searches for “World War 3.”
But Syria’s agonies go on, and the morally decrepit Euro-American political and cultural order continues to stew in its own toxic juices. Anything that deadens the pangs of conscience is bound to go viral. And so, the latest grasping-at-straws extravagance in a long line of spurious and hysterical excuses — Assad’s air defences are just too sophisticated, any intervention would unavoidably end in a quagmire like Iraq, there are no good guys in Syria — is readily at hand.
Syrians walk past a poster of Syrian President Bashar Assad in Damascus on April 18, 2018. Louai Beshara/AFP/Getty Images
Like so many times before, the absolution we seek for our abdication from the duties of human solidarity in the teeth of Arab tyranny comes from that most notorious purveyor of reliably unreliable pseudo-journalism, Robert Fisk, whose most recent version gets you off the hook by means of what purports to be evidence that there was no mass murder by poison gas in Douma on April 7 after all. It was just dust. People were choking on dust. There had been a “dust storm.”
The people of Douma were happy to see him, Fisk reports, and they are happy now that the Islamist rebels have finally surrendered and left. People are “mostly smiling.” The bit about the dust storm comes from a doctor by the name of Assim Rahaibani. Never mind that Dr. Rahaibani admitted that on the night of April 7, he was nowhere near the hospital where scores of people were rushed, foaming at the mouth, with pinpoint pupils, exhibiting what the World Health Organization says were classic symptoms of asphyxia by poison gas.
Never mind that reporters with The Associated Press, CBS News, Sweden’s TV4 and other reputable news organizations were escorted into Douma by regime officials at the same time as Fisk, and they had no difficulty finding people who were capable of describing consistently and in great detail what happened on April 7: the regime helicopters, the barrel-like canisters they dropped, the stench of gas, the choking, dying people. Never mind that the Union of Medical Care and Relief Organizations (UOSSM), the largest medical aid agency in Syria, reports that the medics who attended to the April 7 victims are being intimidated by Assad’s police and warned not to talk about what happened, and they are being told that if they love their children they better keep their mouths shut.
Scores of people were rushed, foaming at the mouth, with pinpoint pupils, exhibiting what the World Health Organization says were classic symptoms of asphyxia by poison gas
Never mind that all this was happening while the Assad regime and its Russian military gendarmerie were preventing the United Nations’ Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons from entering Douma. Never mind that Russia’s deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov was caught in an outright lie when he said it was because the UN’s Department for Safety and Security hadn’t issued the proper papers. UN spokesman Stéphane Dujarric said the OPCW was in possession of all the requisite clearances. “We have not denied the team any request for it to go to Douma.”
Never mind all that. It is Fisk’s account — indistinguishable from a report by the far-right One America news site — that was picked up by the Kremlin propaganda outlets RT and Sputnik, and by leftish pseudo-journalism sites like Common Dreams, and the neo-Marxist Morning Star newspaper, and the extreme-right “news” organization South Front.
For whatever little good the U.S./U.K./French airstrikes might have accomplished in putting a dent in Assad’s capacity to commit mass murder by chemical weapons — and again, never mind his mass murder of civilians by other means, including napalm and starvation sieges — the action was supported by the European Union’s 28 foreign ministers, Canada, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Qatar, Japan, Australia, Bahrain, and of course the National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces.
The town of Douma, previously held by rebels, is seen on April 17, 2018, following a two-month offensive including a chemical attack that killed more than 40, including civilians. AFP/Getty Images
If you opposed the strikes, you would be happy to believe Fisk, because you’ve already taken the side of the Kremlin, Khomeinist Iran, the Chinese Communist Party, Hamas, Hezbollah, Venezuelan strongman Nicolas Maduro, and of course the Syrian mass murderer Bashar Assad. On your side: American extreme-right crackpot Alex Jones, British Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn, uber-conservative Breitbart news, the venerable and ostensibly left-wing magazine The Nation, Canada’s stylish NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh and British celebrity fascist Nick Griffin.
You will take your cues from Robert Fisk, not in spite of, but precisely because to do so allows you an alibi for your indifference to Arab suffering, a habit of mind you will predictably conceal behind a pretended allegiance to the cause of Palestinian freedom. Because that is how it’s done. Always. Because the “head of the snake” in the Middle East, as Fisk puts it, is Israel. Believe Robert Fisk and your conscience will not trouble you, and you won’t have to believe the World Health Organization, the Syria Violations Documentation Centre or the Union of Medical Care and Relief Organizations. This is what they say: Bombs were dropped at two locations in Douma. Within hours, more than 500 people were exhibiting symptoms consistent with suffocation by poison gas. At least 42 people died.
During the past six weeks of Assad’s final assault on the rebel redoubt of Douma, before the April 7 incident, at least 1,000 civilians were killed, almost all of them by bombs dropped by Assad’s helicopters and by Russian fighter bombers. In the month leading up to the April 7 event, the Syrian Network for Human Rights counted 54 massacres in Syria, almost all by Assad and his allies, and almost all in the vicinity of Douma.
But this isn’t just about Douma.
From the outset of the Syrian uprising against Assad, Fisk has been telling the fashionably “anti-war” constituencies of the NATO capitals, on the right and on the left, exactly what they want to hear. In the uproars following Assad’s 2013 sarin-gas slaughter of more than 1,000 civilians in Ghouta — the chemical weapons “red line” president Barack Obama ended up allowing Assad to cross — Fisk was already the go-to journalist for “false-flag” conspiracy theories. If Obama were to retaliate against Assad as he’d vowed, he’d have been “on the same side as al-Qaida,” Fisk wrote back then.
Writing in the New Arab in December 2016, columnist Idrees Ahmad damned Fisk for consistently ventriloquizing Baathist propaganda during his assignments in Syria, which are always undertaken under the protective care and the watchful eye of regime security forces. “Fisk appears to yield to the controlling arms of his handlers with the somnambulant innocence of a debutante,” Ahmad wrote.
And it isn’t just about Robert Fisk, either. There is a ravenous appetite for his kind of journalism in the “West” these days. It offers absolution for the crime of indifference to the Syrian catastrophe. It offers a “narrative” that justifies a kind of righteous uselessness in the face of unfathomable human suffering, and a respite from the certainty that crimes of indifference do not long remain unpunished.
And punishment will come from it, one way or another, one day.

Iran vows 'expected and unexpected' moves if US exits deal
ايران تهدد بردود متوقعة وغير متوقعة في حال ألغى ترامب الإتفاق النووي معها
Ynetnews/Reuters/April 21/18
President Rouhani says Iran's Atomic Energy Organization is 'fully prepared' for American withdrawal from the nuclear deal, adds his government intends to prevent instability in the foreign exchange market as result of such move.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Saturday Iran's atomic agency was ready with "expected and unexpected" reactions if the United States pulls out of a multinational nuclear deal, as US President Donald Trump has threatened to do. "Our Atomic Energy Organization is fully prepared ... for actions that they expect and actions they do not expect," Rouhani said without elaborating in a speech carried by state television, referring to a possible decision by Trump to leave the accord next month.
The deal reached between Iran, the United States and five other world powers put curbs on Iran's nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.
Trump has called the agreement one of the worst deals ever negotiated. In January he sent an ultimatum to Britain, France and Germany, saying they must agree to fix what the United States sees as the deal's flaws or he would refuse to extend the critical US sanctions relief that it entails.
US disarmament ambassador Robert Wood said on Thursday Washington had been having "intense" discussions with European allies ahead of the May 12 deadline, when US sanctions against Iran will resume unless Trump issues new waivers to suspend them.
Iran has said it will stick to the accord as long as the other parties respect it, but will "shred" the deal if Washington pulls out.
"Iran has several options if the United States leaves the nuclear deal. Tehran's reaction to America's withdrawal of the deal will be unpleasant," Iranian state TV quoted Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif as saying in New York.
Rouhani said his government intended to prevent instability in the foreign exchange market after a possible Washington exit from the nuclear accord when the central bank this month slapped controls on markets in an attempt to unify the Iranian rial. "This was a preventative blow against any American decision on May 12. They fully hoped to ... cause chaos in the (foreign exchange) market. I promise to the people that the plot of the enemy has been thwarted, and whether or not the nuclear deal remains in effect, we will have no problem," Rouhani said.
On April 9, Iran moved to formally unify the country's official and open market exchange rates and banned money changing outside of banks, after its currency, the rial, plunged to an all-time low on concerns over a return of crippling sanctions.

Iran heats war rhetoric to cover up military buildup in Syria
إيران تصعد الحرب الكلامية للتغطية على زيادة وجودها العسكري في سوريا

Debka Files/April 21/18
Tehran is drumming up an oral war of attrition against Israel as a ruse to deter the IDF from striking the military hardware and personnel flowing into Syria.
Iran is pouring out violent threats in a rising crescendo against the Jewish state for two goals: One is to keep Israel off-balance and frozen in a high defense posture on its northern borders; and two, to con Israel into fearing that any IDF action would tip over into an all-out conflict. This stratagem allows Tehran to keep up a continuous stream of hardware and personnel into Syria and Lebanon free of hindrance by Israel’s air force and missiles, and so anchor its military presence in both of Israel’s northern neighbors.
Tension between Tehran and Jerusalem has been high since April 9, when an Israel air strike knocked out a Revolutionary Guards air force command center at the Syrian T-4 air base. But, apart from blistering threats of retaliation, Iran has none nothing. Israel celebrated its Independence Day under clear skies, although the following day, Friday, April 20, the Guards deputy commander Gen. Hossein Salami warned that Iran’s hand “was on the trigger of its missiles” and Israel’s air bases were “within reach.” But Tehran sees an opportunity for taking a high tone against Israel following three developments:
The missile strike conducted by the US, the UK and France on Syrian chemical sites on April 14 was a letdown. And also, against expectations, the Western attack avoided Iranian targets, although Hizballah and other pro-Iranian forces played a central role in the Syrian conquest of East Ghouta and its use of chemical weapons. Saudi sources put out a report on Friday alleging that 15 Iranian officers were killed in the missile strike. There are no grounds for this report and it appears to have been designed for home consumption.
President Donald Trump repeatedly asserts that he is determined to pull American troops out of Syria as soon as possible. This gift is a boon for Tehran’s goals. It will remove the main obstacle, a US military presence along the Syrian-Iraq border, that impedes the transfer of pro-Iranian Shiite militias from Iraq into Syria and the creation of a continuous land bridge from Tehran to the Mediterranean. In celebration of its effortless gain, reports appeared on Saturday that Iran, Iraq and Syria had undersigned a project for building a 1,700km highway from Tehran to Damascus via Baghdad that will be ready for traffic in two years. Moscow and Jerusalem are at loggerheads over Syria after a long period of amity. Tehran has taken note of President Vladimir Putin’s recent warning to Israel that its air force operations in Syria would no longer have the freedom previously enjoyed. Putin has therefore removed another big obstacle from Tehran’s goals. Iran will make every effort to deepen the rift. For all these reasons, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman cannot be satisfied with their protestations of the IDF’s readiness and willingness to pick up the gauntlet against any threat. Tehran’s belligerent rhetoric is a cover for an action which Israel’s leaders have vowed to prevent. This can’t be done by talk alone.

New Saudi approach in dealing with US media
Hassan Al Mustafa/Al Arabiya/April 21/18
The New York Times and Washington Post have published several investigative reports and opinions on Saudi internal affairs and foreign policy. Their tone has been mostly critical, direct and straightforward. Many observers believe this shows a “negative” political attitude towards Riyadh while others think it is part of the journalistic style which freedom of expression allows in the US.
Taking on America’s top dailies
These two dailies are also critical of US President Donald Trump who has very good ties with the Saudi political leadership. Although their editorial position is critical of Saudi policy on several issues, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman visited their offices and sat with their editorial boards. He engaged in a candid discussion about the kingdom and its future, his plan for change and reform as well as social, cultural and economic transformations to build a civil state that believes in plurality and respects human rights. There is a new approach in dealing with the media and it must reflect on the performance of Saudi officials and on the work of media offices in important capitals. The crown prince did not take an opposing stance towards these two dailies on account of their criticism of Riyadh’s policies but he visited them and frankly talked about issues of fundamentalism, citizenship, women’s rights and the fight against terrorism. He listened to all their questions and comments without any sign of consternation or concern and without setting any red lines. The same geniality and candor was evident in the Crown Prince’s attitude during his interview with the editorial board of The Wall Street Journal. His manner of speaking in his interview with the CBS’ 60 Minutes was something the Saudis are not used to. His other interviews with The Atlantic and Time magazine had the same freshness about them.
An end to diffidence
In the past, Saudi officials avoided talking about issues related to extremism, corruption, women and sects. However, all these topics which were not addressed before were tackled by the crown prince in a transparent and objective manner and he even presented them as part of his vision and reform project.
The press and the media in the US and developed countries are a real fourth estate that is influential and that monitors political and government functioning. Journalists look for information and stories and seek to find scoops. This is exactly what Prince Mohammed bin Salman did as he provided the American press with useful information and clarity on political views that they were seeking and which any media outlet wishes to secure. He thus gained respect of these media outlets.
Style is the message
This Crown Prince’s interaction with the media during his visit to the US is worthy of contemplation. In this respect, the vital role played by the media office of the Saudi embassy in Washington shows the level of its awareness, professionalism and objective approach in dealing with media outlets. We could see this in the interview of the Saudi Ambassador to the US, Prince Khalid bin Salman, with CNN. Choosing CNN was the right choice and it granted the interview credibility and helped it gain widespread interest.
There is a new approach in dealing with the media and it must reflect on the performance of Saudi officials and on the work of media offices in important capitals like London, Paris, Brussels, Berlin, Geneva, Moscow, Beijing and Cairo. The aim is not to launch a costly promotional campaign but to present the change happening in the kingdom and reflect its new and open outlook towards the world, which is not afraid of the media’s questions nor does it oppose it but respects it.

UAE can’t help if Somalia seeks to self-destruct
Mohammed Al-Hammadi/Al Arabiya/April 21/18
What the UAE has provided to Somalia over the decades and since a civil war and famine ravaged the latter has not been provided by any other state. The UAE’s decision to end its training operations in Somalia, where they have been helping the country raise an army since 2014 does not come as a surprise, especially after Somali security forces detained an Emirati airplane earlier this month and seized money that was allocated for supporting the Somali army and for paying Somali trainees.
UAE’s steadfast support
The UAE has stood by the brotherly Somali people for about a quarter of a century, when few countries paid attention to the country. It tried to help it mitigate its suffering and tried to ensure security and stability in Somalia. To achieve this purpose, it spent at least AED 1 billion in humanitarian, relief and developmental assistance.
Somebody today wants to exploit Somalia, the suffering of its people and their divisions in order to involve the country in conflicts which it has nothing to do with. It’s unfortunate that there are some Somalis who are willing to sell themselves to their exploiters and help them further divide the people and land. The triumvirate of destruction — Qatar, Turkey and Iran — is present in Somalia and it aims to control the Horn of Africa from this country. The UAE went to help Somalia and its brotherly people. However, when chaos spreads the UAE cannot continue to remain in a land of anarchy, exploitation and dirty money. It cannot stay with those who trade with the lives of innocent people. The means to achieve this control is via extremists and terrorists whom the regime of Hamad bin Jassim and Hamad bin Khalifa supplied with money and weapons and turned them into mercenaries in their own homelands, taking orders from those who are exploiting their cause instead of helping them resolve it.
Somalia unravelling
Somalia does not need any more weapons and it does not need the money with which to start internecine feuds. It needs someone to train their regular army and help them achieve security and stability in the face of extremism and not support it and fund it. The UAE has fulfilled its responsibility, in cooperation with the UN, on several fronts in Somalia. When it was faced with violations of diplomatic traditions and norms and of the memorandum of understanding between it and Somalia, it decided to suspend its operations of establishing the Somali army after building three training centers and a hospital, sent medical teams to treat the Somalis and succeeded in training thousands of Somali soldiers and other security forces and after paying the wages to more than 2,400 Somali soldiers. The UAE went to help Somalia and its brotherly people. However, when chaos spreads the UAE cannot continue to remain in a land of anarchy, exploitation and dirty money. It cannot stay with those who trade with the lives of innocent people.

Ghassan Imam: The passing away of an exceptional Syrian commentator
Mashari Althaydi/Al Arabiya/April 21/18
With the passing away of prominent Syrian journalist Ghassan Al Imam in his exile in France, the Syrian story has lost a key witness, an exceptional memory and a pen of light and fire. The 80-year-old doyen, “the stubborn Arab,” died while he’s away from the spotlight and out of his close bond with society. In a brilliant article issued on July 10, 2012, after the Syrians’ revolution erupted against the Assad regime, he described himself saying: “I’m neither an opposition figure nor a loyalist. I look at the world from the screen of journalism, and I like it to be wide so that I can perceive what both the supporters and opponents cannot see.”
His meeting with Assad
Imam met Bashar Al-Assad in Paris shortly before the death of Bashar’s father. While the young man was at that time promising people with a flourishing Syrian political spring, the veteran journalist did not believe him. Assad invited him to return to his “homeland” Syria on the condition that he stops writing in Asharq al-Awsat. Ghassan Al Imam was a treasure trove of history, and I personally remember him while working in the Opinion section of the newspaper, where I closely followed the submission of his articles
Recounting his first meeting with Bashar Al-Assad in Paris in 2000, Imam said: “Bashar told me while shaking my hand, ‘you have to return to Syria. We closely follow your writings there’ and then he proceeded into a long lecture on democracy.”
Telling more about himself, Imam wrote: “I have worked in the Syrian press for about 10 years only (1954 – 1963) and left my country following the decimation of the Syrian press as the coup government of Salah Al-Bitar shut down the newspaper where I was working and then shut down the office of the news agency for which I worked as a reporter. Then I worked in Lebanon, but when the Syrian army pursued me (1976) I fled to Europe.”
Hidden melancholia
When all odds seemed to turn against the experienced Syrian journalist, a Saudi gesture was extended to him. Imam himself recounted this gesture and not the man who did him the favor. In that melancholic article, the late journalist revealed: “The (then) Saudi crown prince (now King) Salman bin Abdulaziz is a lover of journalism and an avid reader of it. He was also aware of the calamities that befell journalists and so he felt sorry for my state. He petitioned his brother, late King Fahd bin Abdulaziz, to grant me a Saudi passport. King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz later renewed it, and late Crown Prince and Interior Minister Nayef bin Abdulaziz also renewed it.” Ghassan Al Imam was a treasure trove of history, and I personally remember him while working in the Opinion section of the newspaper, where I closely followed the submission of his articles. He was very meticulous about his writing and insisted on correcting every detail no matter how small it was — periods, commas and so forth! Whenever we spoke with each other, he was extremely polite but his voice held a concealed melancholia. No wonder, in the end, he died in his exile. What a very sad end. Colleague and editor in chief of Asharq al-Awsat, Ghassan Charbel mourned him by stating on Twitter: “The death of a journalist in exile, his final article.”In his words that describe his story with the new Syrian regime he declared: “Bashar deceived me. He deceived me too far.” Finally, I wish that his home, Asharq al-Awsat daily, would collect his writings of his column ‘Shells and Pearls’ as they are the finest of what the man wrote on politics, journalism and art.

إياد أبو شقرا/رسالة أميركية ذات معنى قبل القمة العربية/Eyad Abu Shakra: An American Message before the Dhahran Arab Summit

Iran heats war rhetoric to cover up military buildup in Syria
إيران تصعد الحرب الكلامية للتغطية على زيادة وجودها العسكري في سوريا
Debka Files/April 21/18
Iran vows 'expected and unexpected' moves if US exits deal
ايران تهدد بردود متوقعة وغير متوقعة في حال ألغى ترامب الإتفاق النووي معها
Ynetnews/Reuters/April 21/18