April 23/2018
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 22-23/18
The Theatrical Lebanese Elections & the Vicious Hezbollah’s Scheme/Elias Bejjani/April 21/18
The Love Affair with Syria's Dictator/Majid Rafizadeh/Gatestone Institute/April 22/18
Belgium: First Islamic State in Europe/Giulio Meotti/Gatestone Institute/April 22/18
Syria: The Defining Issue of Our Generation/Amir Taheri/Gatestone Institute/April 22/18
New Threat to the US: the Axis of Autocracy/Hal Brands/Bloomberg/April 22/18
When Trump the President Refused to Listen to Trump the Candidate/James Kirchick/The Washington Post/April 22/18
Don't Rush Fragile States Toward Democracy/Leonid Bershidsky/Bloomberg/April 22/18
British Ambassador Attests to Saudi Counter-Terrorism Efforts in Awamiya/Salman Al-dossary/Asharq Al Awsat/April 22/18
How teaching philosophy in Tunisia protected the state/Fahad Suleiman Shoqiran/Al Arabiya/April 22/18
Russia at the horns of a dilemma: Further exhaustion or dump Bashar al-Assad/Ali Al-Amin/Al Arabiya/April 22/18
‘A Fistful of Dollars’ during Saudi Arabia’s pre-1979 era/Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya/April 22/18
A new era of ‘petro–Yuan’ and its implications on dollar dominance/Dr. Mohamed A. Ramady/Al Arabiya/April 22/18

Titles For Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on April 22-23/18
The Theatrical Lebanese Elections & the Vicious Hezbollah’s Scheme
Head of ICRC Detention Program Killed in Taiz
Anti-Hizbullah Candidate Ali al-Amin Assaulted in His Hometown
Qatar Emir Meets al-Rahi, Says 'Looking Forward' to Visiting Lebanon
Sami Gemayel Sees in Elections 'Chance to Rectify Country's Course'
Sami Gemayel: We Are Facing a Police State That Put Lebanon for Auction
Elie Marouni: Lebanese Must Realize Significant Importance of Polls
Hizbullah Likely to Win Shiite Seat in Keserwan-Jbeil
Rahi meets with Oatari Prince and Prime Minister
Rahi concludes his visit to Qatar, lauds its Emir's stances
Rahi visits Qatari Foreign Minister
Bassil from Baskinta: We ought to focus in our work on the youth
Jumblatt patronizes reconciliation to fold case of Martyrs Ziad Kabalan and Ziad Ghandour, thanks Berri and Nasrallah
Mikati partakes in solidarity stand with Nizar Zakka, calls for clarifying truth of Zakka's case
Tension in the town of Hissa between Future and Rifi supporters, Army intervenes
Hariri from Bekaa: Your decision cannot be hijacked
NNA Director meets KUNA Director in Kuwait

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on April 22-23/18
Canada/Deaths of 4 people in Timmins part of a 'tragic, violent' event, police sa
Iran Nuclear Deal Tops Agenda of Trump-Macron Talks next Week
Iran-Backed Houthi Militias Seize 19 Oil Tankers
Iran detains ex-prosecutor convicted in 2009 torture case
UAE says Qatari fighter jets intercepted civilian plane
Saudi air defense intercepts ballistic missile fired toward Najran
Qatar says ‘no hypocrisy’, admits to PM attending wedding of terrorist’s son
Proportional Representation Facilitates Arrival of 40 Pro-Syrian Regime Deputies to Parliament
US Urges IMF to Better Police External Imbalances
MWL, Vatican Bolster Interfaith Dialogue
Unauthorized Drone Seized for Flying over Residential Neighborhood in Riyadh
Nude Gunman Kills 3, Wounds 4 at U.S. Restaurant
Armenia Opposition Leader Detained after Failed Talks
Riyadh Finalizes Drone Regulation after Security Alarm near Royal Palaces
Islamic State claims responsibility for Kabul blast
Latest Lebanese Related News published on April 22-23/18
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.
Head of ICRC Detention Program Killed in Taiz
Taiz- Asharq Al Awsat/Sunday, 22 April, 2018/An employee of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has been shot and killed in the Yemeni city of Taiz, the aid group said on Saturday. The organization confirmed Hanna Lahoud’s death in Yemen in a tweet. It said in a statement that unknown gunmen attacked his vehicle as the Lebanese national traveled to a prison in the Adhabab area on the outskirts of Taiz. It is still unknown who killed Lahoud in an area besieged by Houthi fighters for the past three years. In a statement issued on Twitter, ICRC said Lahoud was in charge of the organization’s detention program in Yemen. “Unidentified gunmen attacked Lahoud’s vehicle as the Lebanese national traveled to a prison in the southwestern Yemeni city,” it said. Lahoud was taken to hospital where he died of his injuries. The colleagues he was traveling with were unharmed. The ICRC said it is still investigating the circumstances of the attack. ICRC's Middle East Director, Robert Mardini condemned the “brutal and apparently deliberate attack on a dedicated humanitarian worker.” He said: “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."Lahoud had been working for the ICRC since 2010 in different field positions and at headquarters, including in Geneva. Before working at the ICRC, he had been a first aid volunteer and staff member with the Lebanese Red Cross for many years. Saudi Arabia's Ambassador to Yemen Mohammed al-Jaber, who is also Executive Director of Isnad Center for comprehensive humanitarian operation, condemned the killing of Lahoud. In a tweed, the Ambassador expressed his appreciation for the humanitarian efforts exerted by the ICRC, particularly in brotherly Yemen. The Human Rights Information and Training Center (HRITC), a non-governmental center based in the city of Taiz, described Lahoud’s killing as a “crime,” calling on the official authorities in Taiz to track down the criminals behind this incident and bring them to justice.

Anti-Hizbullah Candidate Ali al-Amin Assaulted in His Hometown
Naharnet/April 22/18/Anti-Hizbullah journalist and parliamentary candidate Ali al-Amin was physically assaulted Sunday in his southern hometown Shaqra at the hands of Hizbullah supporters. “I'm besieged in the town of Shaqra. I have been attacked by more than 30 young men who belong to Hizbullah. My tooth is broken from the beating and I suffered punches and kicks to my body. They used all types of physical assault against me,” al-Amin said in a video posted online, describing the assailants as a “group of thugs.” He called on President Michel Aoun and the Supervisory Commission for Elections to address the incident. “I was assaulted as I was hanging one of my pictures,” al-Amin explained. MTV said he was taken to the Tebnin Hospital for treatment after suffering bruises and fractures in the back. Al-Amin's electoral list, 'Shbaana Haki' (Enough With Talking), which is comprised of independent Shiite figures and a  Lebanese Forces candidate, slammed the incident as a “blatant and demeaning attack.” “This reflects the confusion of the de facto forces and their rejection of any change in their regions,” the alliance said.

Qatar Emir Meets al-Rahi, Says 'Looking Forward' to Visiting Lebanon

Naharnet/April 22/18/Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani held talks Sunday in Doha with Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi and said he is “looking forward to visiting Lebanon,” Lebanese TV networks said. Stressing the importance of al-Rahi's visit to Qatar, where he laid the cornerstone for the Saint Charbel Church, Sheikh Tamim said he is “looking forward to visiting Lebanon in the near future.”And describing Lebanese expats in Qatar as “respectful,” the Emir called on the patriarch to “play a role in promoting dialogue as a solution to the Middle East's problems.”Al-Rahi for his part said “Qataris want to return to Lebanon” and that Sheikh Tamim promised him to “resolve the obstacles that are facing the Lebanese, especially regarding work visas.”“We heard words of peace and a call for accord from the Emir of Qatar, who expressed gratitude for Lebanon's support for Qatar and noted that Lebanon has the ability to overcome difficulties through its unity,” the patriarch added. Al-Rahi had earlier met with Qatar's prime minister and foreign minister. The patriarch and the foreign minister “stressed the importance of peace in the Middle East and the importance of maintaining a good relation between Lebanon and Qatar,” TV networks said. The Qatari minister for his part pointed out that “Lebanese citizens are being treated like Qataris in Doha.”

Sami Gemayel Sees in Elections 'Chance to Rectify Country's Course'
Naharnet/April 22/18/Kataeb Party chief MP Sami Gemayel on Sunday stressed that there is a “chance rectify the country's course” through the upcoming parliamentary elections. “We have a chance in the elections to rectify the country's course,” Gemayel said during an electoral tour in Mount Lebanon.
He lamented that the ruling class' current approach is “full of lies and hypocrisy.”“We belong to a school that has offered martyrs for the sake of the country and we don't know how to endorse the approach of hypocrisy,” Gemayel said. Referring to Kataeb's participation in previous governments, the young leader said: “We tried to create change from within the ruling structure, but we found out that the interests in place have nothing to do with the national interest.” “We, as an opposition consisted of five Mps, have created a debate in the country in the face of 120 MPs. These MPs succeeded in blocking the government's moves in files such as power ships and taxes,” Gemayel added. “Today, as youths, opposition and impartial individuals who are willing to shun power and die for the country, we call on the people to choose upright and competent Mps, we call on them to practice accountability and place their confidence in individuals who have proved that they can honor their words,” Kataeb's chief added. As for the latest CEDRE economic conference that was held in Paris to rally economic support for Lebanon, Gemayel said authorities have shied away from telling people that the participating countries “did not give us money for free, but rather to help Lebanon cope with the burden of keeping refugees on its soil.” “They have not told people that the CEDRE conference was a debt conference and that this debt will be inherited by our children and grandchildren,” Gemayel went on to say.
Sami Gemayel: We Are Facing a Police State That Put Lebanon for Auction 22nd April 2018/Kataeb leader Samy Gemayel on Sunday deemed the upcoming parliamentary elections as "decisive", stressing that the choice to be made by the Lebanese on May 6 will determine the way the country will be governed in the next four years. “We are capable of breaking all expectations as the Lebanese are able to ward off the constraints imposed on them by sending the politicians a stern message that they can neither evade accountability nor distort facts nor fool the Lebanese," Gemayel said during a meeting with Kataeb partisans in Baskinta. "The Lebanese must make it clear to all officials that they are not allowed to make wrong choices and drag the country into financial bankruptcy as well as political and ethical abysses. They must make it clear to them that they cannot commit mistakes and yet guarantee that people will re-elect them blindly." “This is what the ruling authority is betting on. It is betting that its flawed practices would pass unnoticed and that it would return back to power," he said. Gemayel renewed his warning of the rise of a police state in which the judiciary would be turned into a tool to muzzle anyone who speaks up against the authority's performance and has different viewpoints. “Today, we are facing a police state that is destroying what is left of the country's wealth and dragging it into economic collapse. What is even more outrageous than all this is that the ruling authority has put the country for auction in order to get megabucks in return for the naturalization of refugees."
Gemayel stressed that the Kataeb's main goal is to get a free, independent and competent parliamentary bloc that would give rise to a new political life and restore trust between the citizens and the State. “I came here today to ask for your confidence so that we would grow stronger in the Parliament and so that our voice would get louder to be able to speak up for the ambitions of the youth."Gemayel revealed that he will be releasing a 600-page book that includes all the draft laws that he submitted during his mandate over the past nine years (in addition to around 70 draft laws presented by other Kataeb lawmakers), asking people to evaluate his performance accordingly.
"I am the first to ask the voters to put me to account. After four years from now, I will be standing here in front of you so that you would assess my commitment to the Kataeb's 131-point platform."“As I am asking you to hold me to account, I also urge you to do the same with the other deputies and everyone who defended the establishment of the waste landfill in Metn," he said. "On May 6, there is no one who is stronger than you and no one will be standing with you inside the voting booth. Just remember who defended the country and who advocated the people’s rights; remember who has been honorable and who has done his job correctly," Gemayel stressed, adding that the scandalous case of the Article 49 of the budget proves how far the authority can go with its fraudulent tricks.

Elie Marouni: Lebanese Must Realize Significant Importance of Polls 22nd April 2018/Kataeb candidate for the Maronite seat in Zahle district, Elie Marouni, on Sunday hoped that the elections would go smoothly and a transparent way so as to preserve its democratic aspect, saying that the Lebanese should realize the significant importance that the polls enclose. “We count on people’s awareness because the privilege of being elected as a lawmaker generates a government and a President, and determines the fate of a country,” Marouni said in an interview on Voice of Lebanon radio station. “It is unfortunate that the most beautiful country in the world has been turned into a garbage dump,” Marouni deplored, pledging to carry on the struggle for a better country. “I urge the President to put an end to the vote buying charade while the nation is at stake. The people must make their electoral choice freely, away from all forms of pressure and bribery,” Marouni stressed. “If re-elected, I will continue to serve people as I will hold onto the Kataeb's principles and values,” he assured. “I have fulfilled my political role in the past few years and I will continue to pay heed to the people's problems and concerns day and night as I’ve always done."

Hizbullah Likely to Win Shiite Seat in Keserwan-Jbeil
Naharnet/April 22/18/Hizbullah is currently seeking to secure the electoral threshold needed for the win of its Shiite candidate Hussein Zoaiter in Jbeil, a media report published Sunday said. “This electoral threshold is at around 14,000 votes,” sources informed on the electoral campaigns told Asharq al-Awsat newspaper. Under the new electoral system, which is based on proportional representation, any list needs to secure a certain electoral quotient, or threshold, in order to stay in the race after the initial counting of votes. “Hizbullah has almost secured this threshold,” the sources said, attributing the party's successful endeavor to “the agreements it has struck across the district.” “There are around 19,000 Shiite voters in this district, among them 12,000 who are loyal to Hizbullah and will unanimously vote for its list. The party only has to secure around 2,000 additional votes and we don't think that it is a tough mission, seeing as the Christian candidates on its list may secure the needed votes,” the sources added. Zoaiter's candidacy has been very controversial in the district amid accusations that he is an “outsider.”

Rahi meets with Oatari Prince and Prime Minister
Sun 22 Apr 2018/NNA - Pursuing his visit to Qatar, Maronite Patriarch Cardinal Bshara Boutros al-Rahi, met Sunday with Emir of Qatar Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, thanking him for his generous initiative of providing a piece of land to build the Church of St. Charbel within Doha's religious compound, and for all the facilities and courtesy in ensuring the success of his pastoral visit. The Patriarch praised Qatar's advancement in various fields, particularly in the cultural and developmental sectors "because they are the pillars of thriving societies and proof of the State's keen concern for its youth who are the future."
In turn, Prince Tamim welcomed the Patriarch's successful visit, stressing "Qatar's belief in coexistence among all religions in the Arab world, being a unique feature." He also expressed "great respect for the Lebanese expatriate community residing in Qatar, particularly for their exerted efforts in the advancement of life in the country."Moreover, the Qatari Prince commended Lebanon's "national unity and solidarity in the face of the crisis that is gripping the Middle East region, which caused many repercussions on Lebanon," noting that "with the unity of its sons, Lebanon managed to maintain its security and stability."Additionally, Prince Tamim emphasized "the importance of the Patriarch's role as a man of peace, dialogue and openness, a role that encourages dialogue and communication between peoples in the Arab world, and the world at large."Patriarch al-Rahi later held talks with Qatari Prime Minister, Interior Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa Al Thani, highlighting the significance of the Lebanese community in Qatar, in light of its respect for the State's laws and its remarkable efforts in various fields.

Rahi concludes his visit to Qatar, lauds its Emir's stances
Sun 22 Apr 2018/NNA - Maronite Patriarch Cardinal Bshara Boutros al-Rahi ended his pastoral visit to the State of Qatar on Sunday afternoon, praising the positions of its Emir, Tamim ben Hamad Al Thani, and his great generosity and warm hospitality. Al-Rahi lauded the Qatari Prince's "balanced, kind and peaceful speech, in which he calls for understanding between peoples and nations." He also thanked the Emir for "singling out Lebanon with a special word of appreciation, due to the Lebanese expatriate community living and working with great loyalty to Qatar." "His Highness Prince Tamim loves Lebanon and the Lebanese, and has expressed his great joy at the ability of Lebanon, and the unity of its people, in overcoming the difficult stage witnessed in the region," said al-Rahi. He added that the Prince has always deemed Lebanon as "a unique, democratic and co-existence country with liberties, while pointing to the role it has to play in the region." Praising Qatar's remarkable advancement and the keen concern of its leaders towards their people, the Patriarch called on Lebanese officials to render Lebanon "a regional paradise, and to pledge utter loyalty and love to it." Al-Rahi concluded by expressing a word of sincere appreciation to the Qatari State Prince and officials for ensuring his visit's success, with the blessings of Saint Charbel.

Rahi visits Qatari Foreign Minister
Sun 22 Apr 2018/NNA - Maronite Patriarch Cardinal Beshara Boutros Rahi began the fourth and final day of his pastoral visit to Qatar, by visiting the Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman II, who warmly welcomed the Patriarch and his accompanying delegation.Abdulrahman praised Rahi's visit to Qatar and stressed the importance of preserving friendly relations between the peoples of both countries. He also lauded Rahi's role in bringing together all the Lebanese in Lebanon and abroad. In turn, the prelate thanked Abdulrahman for offering a land to build first Maronite church in an Arab country. Finally, the Patriarch stressed the need to consolidate ties between the two countries.
Bassil from Baskinta: We ought to focus in our work on the youth
Sun 22 Apr 2018/NNA - Pursuing his tour among various towns in the Metn region on Sunday, Free Patriotic Movement Head, Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil focused in his speech on the importance of tending to the needs and aspirations of the Lebanese youth. In his stopover in the town of Baskinta where he was warmly received by townsmen and supporters, Bassil lauded Baskinta's youthful candidate Eddie Maalouf, who will represent the town in the upcoming parliamentary elections on FPM's Metn list. "I say to all that we must focus our work on young people and show them keen concern because the Free Patriotic Movement started with them," underlined Bassil.
Jumblatt patronizes reconciliation to fold case of Martyrs Ziad Kabalan and Ziad Ghandour, thanks Berri and Nasrallah
Sun 22 Apr 2018/NNA - Democratic Gathering Chief, MP Walid Jumblatt, patronized Sunday a reconciliation to end what was known as the "Two Ziads" Case that took place 11 years ago, leading to the death of Ziad Kabalan and Ziad Ghandour. In this context, Jumblatt met this evening at his Clemenceau residence with Hezbollah Party Coordination and Liaison Head Wafiq Safa, and House Speaker Nabih Berri's representative Ahmad Baalbaki, in the presence of Democratic Gathering Member MP Ghazi Aridi and representatives of Martyrs Kabalan and Ghandour families. The encounter resulted in a final settlement of the dossier and dropping all legal disputes relating to the case.Jumblatt thanked Hezbullah Secretary-General Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah and House Speaker Nabih Berri for "their cooperation in ending this case and their keenness to consolidate national unity." He also expressed his appreciation to "the families of the martyrs and their responsible positions during the ordeal," reiterating that "the case has been finally resolved and closed." In turn, Safa and Baalbaki praised Jumblatt's position and "continuous efforts and precautions to ward off strife resulting from the regretful incident, thus protecting civil peace and national unity." Both Kabalan and Ghandour families also thanked MP Jumblatt for his relentless efforts, stressing the necessity of always coming together and turning the painful pages of the past.

Mikati partakes in solidarity stand with Nizar Zakka, calls for clarifying truth of Zakka's case

Sun 22 Apr 2018/NNA - Former Prime Minister Najib Mikati participated Sunday afternoon in the solidarity stand organized by the people of Qalamoun with their fellow citizen, Nizar Zakka, who was arrested in Iran. "In this solidarity stand, I salute our beloved family in Qalamoun, a city that is always patient and one that is enduring today while it awaits the release of its son Nizar," said Mikati. "We call upon the Lebanese government, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in particular, to clarify the truth regarding this case, and we hope and pray to God Almighty for Zakka's release and safe return to his family and homeland," Mikati added, expressing full support to Qalamoun and its people.

Tension in the town of Hissa between Future and Rifi supporters, Army intervenes
Sun 22 Apr 2018/NNA - Tension rose this afternoon between supporters of the Future Movement and former Minister Ashraf Rifi in the town of Balanet al-Hissa, with attempts to cut off the international highway with burning tires in protest against a planned visit by Rifi to the town as part of his electoral tour, which led to verbal quarrels and stone-throwing among each other, NNA correspondent in Akkar reported.The road blockage caused a traffic jam along the highway, while Army units intervened immediately to re-open the road and restore calm to the area.

Hariri from Bekaa: Your decision cannot be hijacked
Sun 22 Apr 2018/NNA - On the second day of his tour in the Bekaa, Prime Minister Saad Hariri visited the town of Karaoun, with candidates from the Future lists in the Western and Central Bekaa: Mohammed Karaawi, Ziad Kadri, Amin Wehbe and Mary Jan Pelizikjian. After a welcoming speech by the Mayor of Karaoun, Yahya Daher, Prime Minister Hariri spoke to the crowd and said: "The most beautiful thing in this celebration is to be between a mosque and a church. This is indeed the coexistence that you have maintained in this beautiful region full of love and peace. This region, which expelled the Israeli enemy. You taught others the resistance. When I am among you I feel that I do not want to leave the Bekaa, therefore I am building a house to spend time in the Bekaa among you."He added: "We have crucial elections for Lebanon and the Bekaa, and recently there have been lists that publicly declare that they represent Bashar Assad and are proud of that. But the Karaoun will show them on May 6 what the Future Movement is and what the decision of the Bekaa and Karaoun is and what dignity is. We have to work day and night in these elections. It is true that the Future Movement has an electoral machine, but I consider each and every one of you as the electoral machine, especially the women among you, who will take the men with them to the polls."Hariri went on to state that, "This region needs many projects and at the Paris conference we put all the projects required for this region. Perhaps in the past the projects were specific but they did not have funding. Today, funding is available; all we have to do are some reforms and eliminating corruption. The projects include electricity, roads and projects for the Litani and Karaoun. To complete these projects, Saad Hariri needs all your votes, so that we return with a big bloc to Parliament, and I am sure that you are the people of loyalty and dignity."After presenting the candidates of the Future Movement in the region, he said: "I ask you to preserve coexistence because this is Lebanon, and so it will remain, despite the ones who try to change this. Coexistence in Lebanon is essential. This is what Rafic Hariri wanted and what Saad Hariri wants in order to build the country."
Kamed El Loz
In his second stop, Prime Minister Hariri visited the town of Kamed El Loz, where there was a popular rally in the presence of former Minister Mohammad Rahal, MPs Ziad Kadri and Amin Wehbe and candidate Mohammed Karaawi. Hariri said: "I think that the other side is asking today: What happened in the Bekaa? They do not know that this has been happening for a long time and that you, the good people, rejected the guardianship, which they are trying to bring back with the pro-Syrian regime lists. But I have confidence in each and every one of you, the good people in Kamed El Loz and all the Bekaa."He added: "We are heading towards parliamentary elections in this region and all of Lebanon, and I ask you all to work day and night until Election Day. Many are trying to hijack the decision of the Western Bekaa and Rashaya and all the Bekaa, we have to be ready and to send them on May 6 a message that the Movement of Martyr Prime Minister Rafic Hariri and Saad Hariri will vote so that they understand that this is not a place to impose guardianship. We will tell all those who are proud that they are the allies of the regime that is killing the children, that on May 6, the people will hold you accountable for this relationship with criminality."Hariri then visited the towns of Lala, Baaloul, Sultan Yaacoub and Hawch Al-Huraimi, where large crowds greeted him.
Hariri also visited Ghazeh, where the mayor of the town, Mohammed Hussein al-Majzoub, held a public celebration in his home. The villagers gathered and chanted slogans of support and loyalty to Prime Minister Hariri. The Prime Minister thanked them, saying, "On May 6, we will show everyone the identity of Ghazeh and Western Bekaa. We will all vote in the Bekaa and in Ghazeh specifically, for the Future Movement list and hopefully we will complete this journey together".

NNA Director meets KUNA Director in Kuwait
Sun 22 Apr 2018/NNA - National News Agency Director, Laure Sleiman, met Sunday with Board Chairman and Director General of Kuwait News Agency (KUNA), Sheikh Mubarak Duaij Al-Ibrahim Al-Sabah. Discussions focused on means of boosting cooperation between the two news agencies in various media fields.It is to note that Sleiman is currently on a visit to Kuwait to partake in the Arab Media Forum.

Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on April 22-23/18
Deaths of 4 people in Timmins part of a 'tragic, violent' event, police say
CBC CBC/April 22/18
Canada/Ontario/Investigators believe that the deaths of four people discovered inside a badly burned vehicle in a remote area near Timmins, Ont., were part of a "tragic, violent" event, but believe the incident is "isolated," police said Sunday. Timmins police found the remains on Friday afternoon after a caller reported that a vehicle stopped on a publicly accessible logging road about six kilometres southwest of the city was on fire. "We haven't ruled out foul play completely," said Marc Depatie, communications co-ordinator for the Timmins Police Service, adding that no further details about the victims will be available until forensic investigators complete their work. According to Depatie, the bodies were discovered inside a 2004 Chrysler Intrepid sedan. Both the remains and the vehicle are currently en route to the Centre of Forensic Sciences in Toronto for examination.  "But the indications are that this is, in fact, some sort of tragic, violent event that did occur but in an isolated sense — where the alleged suspect is linked to the victims directly," he continued. Depatie did not offer any other details about the suspect or their relationship to victims. At an afternoon news conference, Depatie said that although positive identifications have not been confirmed for each victim, a family in Timmins has been notified that some of their loved ones are likely among the dead. Depatie said the warning was provided "so they are braced for the worst outcome."There is no remaining threat to the public, he told CBC News by telephone on Sunday morning.
Investigators are appealing for any information about the Chrysler Intrepid in an effort to piece together when the sedan may have been driven down the logging road. According to Depatie, the car is registered to someone from Timmins. "This particular vehicle is the key element of the investigation at this point. We're hopeful to determine a timeframe that will better allow investigators to determine how the vehicle ended up where it did," Depatie said. It's likely that whoever drove it to the forested area would have done so when the road was still covered in a layer of hard snow. Given the spring thaw underway, it would have been nearly impossible to navigate a four-door sedan on that road in the last several days, Depatie said. Police are scheduled to provide another update on the investigation on Monday. Depatie said the grisly discovery is a "benchmark event" for Timmins police and that all available resources have been deployed to help in the probe.
Iran Nuclear Deal Tops Agenda of Trump-Macron Talks next Week
Asharq Al-Awsat/Saturday, 21 April, 2018/US President Donald Trump will host French President Emmanuel Macron at the White House on Tuesday, with the Iran nuclear deal topping their agenda. A senior administration official told reporters at a briefing on Friday that Trump would also discuss other issues with Macron, including the joint military strike on Syria this month following a regime chemical weapons attack against the town of Douma on April 7. "The visit comes at a time of extremely close relations between France and the United States with regular and intense exchanges between the two presidents," an aide to Macron told reporters this week. The aim of the trip is to "continue and reinforce this dynamic," he added. "We hope that the visit will be useful in convincing and in advancing things in the right direction," Macron's advisor said on condition of anonymity, but he warned: "You shouldn't expect a diplomatic breakthrough." The 2015 reached between Iran, the US 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 Washington sees as the deal’s flaws or he would refuse to extend the critical US sanctions relief that it entails. He set a deadline for May 12 for the amendments to be made. US disarmament ambassador Robert Wood said on Thursday Washington had been having “intense” discussions with the three European allies ahead of the deadline, when US sanctions against Iran will resume unless Trump issues new “waivers” to suspend them. The Trump-Macron relationship has been one of the few stable elements in recent American foreign policy, with the French leader emerging as the privileged European partner for the White House. While Trump's relations with German Chancellor Angela Merkel have often been tetchy and he has clashed publicly with British Prime Minister Theresa May, the mercurial US leader has been consistently friendly with France's 40-year-old centrist. Their warm ties will be on display from Monday when Macron becomes the first foreign visitor during Trump's term to be honored with a state visit, nine months after Trump was guest of honor during France's national day on July 14 last year."The friendship between our two nations and ourselves is unbreakable," Trump told Macron during his trip to Paris last July, which ended with their famous 25-second-long handshake. They have since worked closely on the fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria and last week’s strike against the Syrian regime’s chemical facilities. Other issues set to be discussed include the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, US talks with North Korea, and relations with Russia following the poisoning of an ex-Russian spy in Britain. During his visit, Macron will visit the State Department, take part in a state dinner at the White House and demonstrate his English-language skills -- a rarity for a French president -- in an address to a joint session of Congress on Wednesday.

Iran-Backed Houthi Militias Seize 19 Oil Tankers
London- Asharq Al Awsat/Sunday, 22 April, 2018/Saudi ambassador to Yemen Mohammed Al Jaber said on Saturday that Houthi militias have hijacked 19 oil tankers in the Red Sea. Jaber, who is also the executive director of the Comprehensive Humanitarian Support Center in Yemen, raised the alarm on Houthi militias possibly taking the decision to blow up the oil vessels. “The Yemen Comprehensive Humanitarian Support Center (YCHO) is deeply concerned that the Iranian-backed Houthi militias are holding more than 19 oil vessels in the militia-controlled area of Al-Mustaqaf, preventing them from entering the port,” Jaber wrote in a tweet on Saturday. Carrying 200,000 tons of oil, Iran-backed Houthis prevented the 19 oil tankers from entering the Hodeidah port which remains under militia control. Jaber condemned Houthi militiamen imposing “royalties up to $1 million for each ship allowed docking in the port.”He said that Houthi belligerence inevitably prolongs and refuels the war, pointing out that militias continue to starve the Yemeni people. Houthi armed coupists have not been shy about exploiting the dire humanitarian situation for their war agenda, added Jaber. The Iran-backed militia is known to recruit tribesmen drenched in difficult humanitarian conditions, using them as cannon fodder on battlefronts. “Houthis apprehending the 19 oil tankers is a condemnable act, and they bear full responsibility for their actions and consequential disaster,” spokesman for the Yemeni internationally-recognized government Rajih Baddi told Asharq Al-Awsat. Baddi pointed out to barbarism employed by Houthis and the extent of their criminality. He reaffirmed the need to push against Iran-allied Houthis that are a terrorist group not only threatening Yemen, but also the whole world. “Coupist militias took control of the port of Hodeidah to detain vessels loaded with relief and humanitarian aid sent to those in need,” said Yemen's Minister of Local Administration and Higher Relief Committee chairman Abdul Raqeeb Fatah.“Militias have detained over 65 relief vessels, and militarized the Hodeidah port—use it to seize relief and commercial vessels, and threaten international navigation in the Red Sea,” Fatah added in a statement published by Yemen’s Saba news agency. Fatah reiterated the government's call for the international community to shoulder its legal responsibilities in pressuring the militias to hand over ports to the legitimate Aden-based government.

Iran detains ex-prosecutor convicted in 2009 torture case
The Associated Press, TehranSunday, 22 April 2018/Iran’s official judicial news agency is reporting that police have arrested a former Tehran prosecutor who faces a two-year prison sentence over the death of prisoners following the country’s 2009 protests. The website of the Mizan news agency said Sunday that Saeed Mortazavi had been arrested, without elaborating. Mortazavi was sentenced to prison by an appeals court in December. That court found him indirectly responsible for the torture deaths of protesters following former hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s disputed re-election in 2009. Since that court decision, Mortazavi apparently couldn’t be found by authorities. Last week, a judicial spokesman suggested publicly that Mortazavi was missing. The former prosecutor's wife and lawyer, however, said he was only looking to appeal the ruling. His lawyer could not be immediately reached Sunday.

UAE says Qatari fighter jets intercepted civilian plane
Reuters, DubaiSunday, 22 April 2018/The United Arab Emirates said on Sunday that Qatari fighter planes had intercepted a civilian aircraft carrying 86 passengers aboard a flight bound for Bahrain, UAE state news agency WAM reported. The agency added that the Emirati civilian craft had to take evasive manoeuvres to avoid a collision. The Qatari jet is reported to have flown within 200 meters of the civilian aircraft. The UAE’s General Civil Aviation Authority said the maneuver worked just seconds before the collision of the aircrafts, endangering the lives of those on board. “We will file a complaint with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) regarding this infringement,” they said. “The threat of passenger safety in any way is unacceptable. The incident is a clear repetition of the threat to the safety of civil aviation and a violation of international laws and conventions,” they added. There was no immediate comment by Qatari officials on the accusation.

Saudi air defense intercepts ballistic missile fired toward Najran

Staff writer, Al Arabiya EnglishSunday, 22 April 2018/Saudi Arabia’s air defense says they have intercepted a ballistic missile fired by Houthi militias towards the border city of Najran. Authorities confirmed that forces intercepted one missile on Sunday while another landed in a secluded desert area of the border city.The southern city of Najran - close to the border with Yemen, has borne the brunt ever since the Houthi militia forces took over swathes of the country in a 2014 coup. According to officials, the city has witnessed more than 10,000 rocket attacks mostly arbitrarily targeting civilians since the conflict in Yemen first began.

Qatar says ‘no hypocrisy’, admits to PM attending wedding of terrorist’s son
Staff writer, Al Arabiya EnglishSunday, 22 April 2018/The Qatari government admitted in a statement released on Saturday that their Prime Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa al-Thani did in fact attend the wedding of terrorist financier Abdulrahman al-Nuaimi’s son, affirming that there is “no hypocrisy at work.”They added that he was “personally” invited by the groom, whom they described as “a government employee of the state of Qatar, and an upstanding young man.”An Al Arabiya recent expose on Qatar’s open relationship between government officials and known terrorist financiers, some of whom are on Doha’s on terror sponsor list, has shed light on the country’s lack of seriousness on addressing its ties and support of extremists groups. Last week, Al Arabiya reported that know terrorist financier Abdulrahman al-Nuaimi had been living out in the open despite having just been designated as a terrorist by his own country a month earlier. “There is no hypocrisy at work here. The prime minister will continue to support the good work of his employees,” the government communications office added in the statement. In a new claim, the Qatari government said that prosecutors were “building a new case” against al- Nuaimi whom they added roams free “due to lack of evidence.”However, in March, and after significant international pressure, Qatar itself included Al-Nuaimi in their terrorist list, five years after he was first designated by the US as a supporter of terrorism, and a longtime after the United Nations Security Council and its GCC neighbors did so as well. In the statement, the Qatari government claimed that “the Emir of Qatar has no authority to unilaterally jail an individual.”International experts said that the Qatari statement reaffirms the questioning of the credibility of Doha’s government over its support of terrorism. Last year Trump denounced that Qatar is a “funder of terror”, after Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain severed diplomatic and trade links with Qatar in June of 2017 for its support of terrorist activities and groups in the region.Following further assurances made by Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, the Qatari Emir, during a visit to the White House on April 9, Trump welcomed the Emir’s pledge to combat terrorist financing. Sheikh Abdullah’s attendance of the terrorist financier’s son’s wedding came just two days after this pledge. “It throws into doubt Qatar’s claims to be taking a zero-tolerance approach to terror financiers as it attempts to end a blockade by neighboring states that accuse the country of supporting terrorist groups across the region and of being too close to Iran,” prominent UK newspaper The Telegraph wrote. The Telegraph confirmed the information first exposed by Al which revealed that the prime minister was photographed in the event only a few weeks after his government designated Nuaimi as a financier of terrorism. The report pushed many terrorism experts and former US officials to call the White House and the international community to make Doha accountable for its double-sided policy.Who is Trump really siding with in Qatar’s crisis?

Proportional Representation Facilitates Arrival of 40 Pro-Syrian Regime Deputies to Parliament
Beirut- Nazeer Rida/Sunday, 22 April, 2018/Pro-Syrian regime candidates running for Lebanon’s May 6 elections might secure 40 seats in the next Parliament, according to the counts of leading electoral campaigns. Currently standing at 34 MPs, this number is expected to rise by 7 seats, mostly from Sunnis supported by the Shi’ite Hezbollah and Amal Movement in the Bekaa, north, south and Beirut electoral districts. “This is very possible,” former MP Mustafa Alloush, a prominent leader in the Future Movement, told Asharq Al-Awsat on Saturday. Alloush said that the Syrian regime did not enlist the candidature of Baath party members as they may be counterproductive, and cannot constitute an electoral leverage if supported by Syria's Allies."“Therefore, new faces were enlisted by the Syrian regime for the electoral race, either in public or behind the scenes. Based on the proportional representation in the new electoral law, those candidates have a chance to sneak into Parliament,” the MP said. According to Alloush, there are rumors saying that following the elections, "pro-Syrian regime Sunni lawmakers from outside the Future Movement will meet in a bloc headed by former Prime Minister Najib Mikati."“It would be a large Sunni list parallel to the Future Movement. This list would be used later to say that Hariri does not represent the Sunnis,” Alloush said.However, sources close to Mikati denied Alloush’ accusations. “Accusations marketed by the Future Movement are baseless and untrue. The Movement needs to determine its electoral identity due to its shifty alliances, which varies from one district to another,” the sources told Asharq Al-Awsat. They also denied reports about Mikati’s willingness to form a parliamentary bloc parallel to the Future. “Our aim is to reach Parliament with a firm bloc, which sets as its priority the benefit of Tripoli and the north,” the sources added.

US Urges IMF to Better Police External Imbalances
Washington- Asharq Al Awsat/Sunday, 22 April, 2018/Trade tensions between the United States and China, which threaten to spill over into the global economy, have dominated the spring meetings of the International Monetary Fund. Official after official has called for disputes to be resolved through dialogue rather than unilateral tariffs, and warned about the threat to the economic recovery. French Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire criticized what he called a "vain and pointless" spat with China. "We run the risk of trade war. We run the risk of multilateral order breaking down that is good for no one, and most definitely not for the world economy and growth," Le Maire told reporters during the spring meetings of the International Monetary Fund. But US President Donald Trump's top finance official said the fault lies with countries that employ unfair trade policies.
"We strongly believe that unfair global trade practices impede stronger US and global growth, acting as a persistent drag on the global economy," US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement to the IMF.
Mnuchin said on Friday that the IMF needed to “step up to the plate” to police large external imbalances, demand the dismantling of trade barriers and protection of intellectual property rights.
In a statement to the IMF’s steering committee, which meets on Saturday, Mnuchin said countries which have large and persistent external surpluses must do more to carry their share of the adjustment.
“The IMF must step up to the plate on this issue, providing a more robust voice and consistently noting when members maintain macroeconomic, foreign exchange, and trade policies that facilitate unfair competitive advantage or lead to imbalanced growth,” Mnuchin said.
The statement reflects the Trump administration’s view that the IMF, through its country surveillance and policy advocacy efforts, can help rein in what are seen as China’s trade abuses. Mnuchin said the Trump administration welcomes the IMF’s efforts to improve the External Sector Report, the IMF’s assessment of currency valuations. “At the same time, we urge the IMF to speak out more forcefully on the issue of external imbalances, including by providing clear policy recommendations for countries with large surpluses, in support of more balanced global growth,” Mnuchin added.“Ensuring that trade is free, fair, and reciprocal will boost global trade and support stronger, more sustainable growth,” he explained.
While IMF chief Christine Lagarde has offered the fund as a forum to resolve differences, Mnuchin instead said the IMF "should be a strong voice" in urging members "to dismantle trade and non-tariff barriers and to protect intellectual property rights."Le Maire agreed China must respect the rules, but said the country is a key part of the world trading system.
"We must redefine international trade with China, not against China."
Serious consequences
Theft of American intellectual property and technology has been a key irritant in the dispute with Beijing, which prompted President Donald Trump to announce steep tariffs on tens of billions of dollars' worth of Chinese goods, on top of last month's punitive duties on steel that were primarily targeted at China as well. Washington and Beijing have traded tariff threats and also filed complaints against each other at the World Trade Organization.
WTO Director Roberto Azevedo warned that the effects of a major escalation "could be serious," and poor countries would be the collateral damage.
"A breakdown in trade relations among major players could derail the recovery that we have seen in recent years, threatening the ongoing economic expansion and putting many jobs at risk," he said in a statement to the meetings.
The IMF has highlighted the trade tensions as a major downside risk to the otherwise solid global recovery, and Lagarde said the dispute undermines confidence and creates uncertainty that could choke off investment which has been a prime engine of the global recovery.
The WTO projects global merchandise trade will expand by 4.4 percent this year, after increasing by 4.7 percent in 2017.
G20 avoids trade issue
Despite the intense focus on the US-China dispute, the Group of 20 finance ministers, from the world's major economies, avoided discussion of the issue Friday, even while acknowledging the potential danger it posed to the global economy. "We didn't have a discussion on specific measures on trade," Argentine Treasury Minister Nicolas Dujovne told reporters after the meeting. "The G20 is not the place to discuss specific measures. That's the WTO." It was a surprising omission for the group that was key to shepherding the global economy through the 2008 financial crisis and preventing another depression.
But Dujovne said, "We have to also recognize the limitations that we as a group have... and try to find a consensus even if the consensus is more limited than we want."The ministers did express concern over the growth of "inward-looking policies," he said, using a frequent euphemism for trade protectionism.
But German central bank chief Jens Weidmann said the G20 officials all agreed trade must benefit all countries. "Protectionism, not to mention a trade war, is certainly not the solution." Le Maire repeated his criticism of the US tariffs on steel and aluminum which were aimed at China but only spared the EU and other key trading partners under a temporary exemption that is due to expire May 1.As close allies in the EU "we expect not only temporary exemption but a full and permanent exemption," he said.
"We cannot live with a kind of sword of Damocles hanging over our heads."
Treasury chief to China
As trade tensions simmer between the world’s two largest economies, Mnuchin said on Saturday he may travel to China. Mnuchin told reporters he was continuing to have discussions with his Chinese counterparts to try to resolve the differences over trade, but said he may go to Beijing. “A trip is under consideration,” Mnuchin said at a news conference during the International Monetary Fund and World Bank spring meetings in Washington. “I am not going to make any comment on timing, nor do I have anything confirmed, but a trip is under consideration.”
Mnuchin also declined to say what he wants from a trade deal with China, adding, “If we have a deal, you’ll know what it looks like when we have it.”
Mnuchin said he met China’s new central bank governor, Yi Gang, during the IMF and World Bank meetings and discussed the potential for China to open its markets to more foreign competition.
“I did meet with the Chinese here. The discussions were really more around the governor’s actions at the PBOC (People’s Bank of China) and certain actions they’ve announced in terms of opening some of their markets, which we very much encourage and appreciate.”
In a statement on Saturday to the International Monetary and Financial Committee, Yi said China would “vigorously” push forward the reform and opening of its financial sector, significantly relax market access restrictions, create a more attractive investment environment, strengthen the protection of intellectual properties and actively expand imports. On Sunday, China’s commerce ministry said it would welcome US officials to discuss trade and economic issues. “The Chinese side has received information that the US side hopes to come to Beijing to discuss economic and trade issues. China welcomes this,” the ministry said in a statement on its website.

MWL, Vatican Bolster Interfaith Dialogue
Riyadh- Asharq Al Awsat/Sunday, 22 April, 2018/Muslim World League Chief Mohammed Al-Issa and President of the Pontifical Council for Interfaith Dialogue Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran on Saturday signed a cooperation agreement on achieving common objectives. Under the terms of this, the two parties agreed to establish a standing work committee to be headed by the cardinal and Issa. A coordinating committee composed of two members from each side shall also be set up to meet annually to prepare for meetings. The joint committee shall convene every two years, with its meetings held alternately between Rome and a city chosen by the MWL.This arrangement represents the culmination of the previous cooperation agreement signed between the MWL and the Pontifical Council, following the secretary-general’s visit to the Vatican last September, during which Al-Issa met with the pope and Tauran, adding to the recent visit of the cardinal to the Kingdom. To that effect, the MoU highlights the importance of interfaith dialogue and recognition of existing religious and spiritual ties between Christians and Muslims. It also acknowledged the outstanding role played by the Pontifical Council in promoting constructive relations with believers of other religions and the exceptional MWL role in interfaith dialogue. On the other hand, Tauran praised the efforts of the MWL in leading initiatives to strengthen relationships and build bridges between religions. “It is not my intention to present a list of the many initiatives implemented by this organization, but I am fully aware of the relentless efforts exerted to make it through its various programs, really reflect the true meaning of its name, a link, not only among Muslims but also with believers of other religions, especially Christians, to achieve common goals,” he said. Tauran urged religious leaders to avoid employing religions in the service of narrow ideologies as opposed to seeking to spread proper religious education and awareness, belief in pluralism and rejection of aggression.  Terrorism is an ever-present enemy that rejects coexistence and cannot be justified by religious motives, explained the Cardinal. The modern-day challenge is not a clash of civilizations, but a confrontation of ignorance and radicalism, stressed both leaders.

Unauthorized Drone Seized for Flying over Residential Neighborhood in Riyadh
Asharq Al-Awsat/Saturday, 21 April, 2018/Police in the Saudi capital Riyadh announced on Saturday that they seized a toy remote-controlled drone after it flew over the al-Khuzama residential neighborhood. The official Riyadh police spokesman said that at 7:50 pm on Saturday, a security position in the neighborhood noticed a small drone flying over the area. The drone was found to be unauthorized, prompting the security forces to deal with the aircraft “according to their orders.”The concerned authorities have opened an investigation in the incident.

Nude Gunman Kills 3, Wounds 4 at U.S. Restaurant
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 22/18/A nude gunman shot dead three people and injured at least four more in the early hours of Sunday at a restaurant on the outskirts of Nashville in the U.S. state of Tennessee, police said. The Metropolitan Nashville Police Department said in a statement that the shooting occurred at a Waffle House restaurant in Antioch, a suburb southeast of Nashville, at 3:25 am (0825 GMT). "A patron wrestled away the gunman's rifle. He was nude & fled on foot. He is a white man with short hair," the statement added. A following statement named 29-year-old Travis Reinking, of Morton, Illinois -- a village located some 450 miles north of Antioch -- as a person of interest. Police said the suspect arrived in a car registered to Reinking. They added the gunman, who had shed his coat, was last seen walking on Murfreesboro Pike, where the 24-hour diner is located. Local media citing police on the scene reported the gunman was armed with an AR-15 assault rifle -- a weapon commonly used by mass shooters in the U.S., where debate over gun control is fierce and shootings are all-too-frequent. Reports added at least one victim was taken to Vanderbilt University Medical Center, located in Nashville itself. AR-15 rifles were used to kill 58 people in Las Vegas last October, while Florida school shooter Nikolas Cruz in February opened fire on his former high school with an AR-15 style rifle, killing 17 students and staff members. In the wake of the Florida massacre, student survivors launched a gun control campaign -- drawing hundreds of thousands to demonstrations -- and businesses including Walmart and Dick's Sporting Goods took measures to restrict access to assault weapons and firearms in general. However, Congress is sitting on its hands when it comes to the issue. Meanwhile, an ABC News/Washington Post poll published Friday suggested that support for a ban on assault weapons has risen sharply in the past few months. Sixty-two percent of those polled said they support a nationwide ban on the sale of assault weapons, up from 50 percent in mid-February and 45 percent in late 2015.

Armenia Opposition Leader Detained after Failed Talks
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 22/18/Armenia's political turmoil deepened on Sunday with the detention of anti-government protest leader Nikol Pashinyan, shortly after Prime Minister Serzh Sarkisian stormed out of talks with him on the tenth day of mass rallies against his rule. Pashinyan and two other opposition politicians "were detained as they were committing socially dangerous acts", the prosecutor general's office said in a statement. Armenian police earlier denied opposition MP Sasun Mikaelyan's report that Pashinyan had been arrested. Pashinyan whereabouts have so far been unknown. As a lawmaker, he is protected by parliamentary immunity and cannot be arrested without the approval of fellow MPs. It came hours after Sarkisian stormed out of talks with Pashinyan on Sunday morning, accusing him of "blackmail."The tense televised meeting in the capital Yerevan between the premier and Pashinyan lasted only a couple of minutes before the premier cut it short. "I came here to discuss your resignation," Pashinyan, the leader of the opposition Civil Contract party, had told the prime minister in front of the cameras. "This is not a dialogue, this is blackmail, I only can advise you to return to a legal framework... Otherwise you will bear the responsibility" for the consequences, replied Sarkisian, a former military officer. "You don't understand the situation in Armenia. The power is now in people's hands," Pashinyan hit back. Sarkisian said the Civil Contract party "can't speak on behalf of the people", having scored only 8 percent in a recent parliamentary election, during the brief talks.
Hundreds detained
Pashinyan then vowed to "step up pressure" on Sarkisian to force him to resign and called on police officers to "lay down arms and join in the protests". Bu instead security forces intervened using stun grenades and began dispersing the crowd in Yerevan's suburban Erebuni district. After Pashinyan's detention, thousands of protesters gathered at Republic Square outside the government's headquarters, which were cordoned off by riot police. Hundreds of people were detained, police said in a statement, and seven protesters have sought medical help, according to Armenia's health ministry. Armenia's interior ministry said it took the decision to "disperse demonstrators, including those assembled in Yerevan's Republic Square." "In order to perform these duties, police are entitled to carry out arrests and use force. We urge protesters to comply with these and other lawful demands of policemen," the statement said. The country's security service said in a statement it would take "the entire range of action envisaged by the law" to prevent crimes against national security and acts of terrorism and extremism. The EU delegation to Armenia issued a statement expressing "concern" over the rapidly unfolding crisis. "The European Union reiterates that it is crucial that all parties show restraint and responsibility and urgently seek a negotiated solution," the statement said. Opposition supporters have criticized the 63-year-old leader over poverty, corruption and the influence of powerful oligarchs. Pashinyan had earlier announced the "start of a peaceful velvet revolution" in the landlocked South Caucasus nation of 2.9 million people.He called for a nationwide campaign of "civil disobedience," urging civil servants "to stop obeying Sarkisian."Under a new parliamentary system of government, lawmakers elected Sarkisian as prime minister last week. Constitutional amendments approved in 2015 have transferred power from the presidency to the premiership. After Sarkisian was first elected in 2008, 10 people died and hundreds were injured in post-election clashes between police and supporters of the defeated opposition candidate.

Riyadh Finalizes Drone Regulation after Security Alarm near Royal Palaces
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 22/18/Saudi Arabia was finalising regulation for the use of recreational drones, state media said Sunday, after a toy aircraft sparked security alarm as it hovered close to royal palaces in Riyadh. "The regulation for the use of remote controlled drones is in its final stages," the Saudi Press Agency said, citing the interior ministry. Until the new guidelines are adopted drone enthusiast must obtain police permission to fly their devices in "permitted sites" only, the ministry said. The statement comes a day after the kingdom said it shot down an unidentified toy drone that hovered over a neighborhood home to royal palaces in the capital Riyadh. Unconfirmed videos on social media appeared to show heavy volleys of gunfire in the neighborhood, triggering speculation of a possible coup attempt. But the government ruled out any major security breach, adding that an investigation had been launched into the incident. The Saudi civil aviation authority in 2015 banned the use of remotely controlled drones "of all types and sizes" without prior permits. Security around the palaces appears to have tightened in recent months as Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman oversees landmark social and economic reforms to prepare for a post-oil era, despite the risk of riling religious hardliners. The powerful 32-year-old prince has also overseen a major military shake-up and a royal purge as he consolidates power to a degree well beyond that wielded by previous rulers. Last October a gunman shot dead two Saudi guards and wounded three others at the gate of the royal palace in the Red Sea city of Jeddah, according to the interior ministry. Royal guards killed the gunman, identified by the ministry as a 28-year-old Saudi national armed with a Kalashnikov assault rifle and three grenades. Saudi Arabia is also embroiled in a long-running conflict with Iran-backed Huthi rebels in neighboring Yemen, dubbed by the United Nations as the world's worst humanitarian crisis. Huthi rebels have repeatedly fired missiles into Saudi territory, including Riyadh. Saudi Arabia claims to have intercepted most of them.

Islamic State claims responsibility for Kabul blast
Sun 22 Apr 2018/NNA - Islamic State claimed responsibility for a blast that hit a voter registration center in the Afghan capital Kabul on Sunday, the militant group's AMAQ news agency said. The blast, carried out by a suicide bomber wearing an explosive vest, killed at least 31 people and wounded 54 others, a health ministry spokesman said. --- Reuters
Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on April 22-23/18
The Love Affair with Syria's Dictator
Majid Rafizadeh/Gatestone Institute/April 22/18
Finally, a world leader, President Donald Trump, took a stance against the war criminal who rules Syria. Instead of supporting that action, however, many people have been attacking Trump for the clear message he sent Bashar Assad: He cannot use illegal weapons to target civilians and enjoy immunity.
Whoever appeases Assad and legitimizes his actions should be aware that they are complicit in crimes against humanity. Many people claim to champion the pursuit of justice and the defense of human rights around the globe. If there is an opportunity for them to make promises, they will. But when a true need arises, when their voices and rallying could make a genuine difference, many of those promises prove false.
Recently, Syria's dictator, President Bashar Al Assad, attacked his own people with banned chemical weapons -- at least 50 times. The victims were mainly civilians. Innocent people -- men, women and children -- were suffocated by these attacks, but not before burning their eyes and drowning their lungs in fluid.
Finally, a world leader, US President Donald Trump, took a stance against this war criminal. Instead of supporting that action, however, many people have been attacking Trump for the clear message he sent Assad: He cannot use illegal weapons to target civilians and enjoy immunity.
Why would people take the side of a man who murders his own people? If we look at the history of the relationship between the Syrian regime and the public, it is clear that this is not the first time that many have leaned towards Assad.
Former US President Barack Obama set several "red lines" for the Syrian regime, but Assad freely crossed them without eliciting any response from either Obama. In international politics, when a world leader sets red lines and does not take action against those who cross them, he shows only weakness -- immensely damaging to his country's security on the global stage. A weak leadership empowers dictators and emboldens extremists. It indicates that there will be no consequences for illegal actions. It also gives Assad and his ally, the Islamic Republic of Iran, the green light to give chemical weapons to militias and terrorist groups that target the United States and its allies.
After Assad's military crossed the first "red line," the world apparently realized that the Obama Administration was not going to act on its promises.
In a move that further helped Assad, Obama saw to it that all economic sanctions against the Iranian regime were lifted. Before then, Iran's mullahs were on the verge of economic collapse; their hold on power was in danger, and they could not afford lavishing billions of dollars on Assad. Syria's regime was saved by the "nuclear deal," given cost-free to the world's leading state sponsor of terrorism, Iran, and its proxy terrorist groups. Despite all those promises to defend the voiceless and the victims of such unspeakable crimes, the Obama administration provided the perpetrators of these crimes with the financial and political tools they needed to continue committing atrocities.
Many Americans' love affair with Assad continued with the decision of Rep. Tulsi Gabbard's (D-Hawaii) to meet with the Bashar Assad. Gabbard was a strong supporter of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) during the Democratic presidential primary. These Democrats, however, were unwilling to criticize her for the trip. Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), an Iraq War veteran, however, said about the Gabbard visit:
"An elected official, a representative of the United States, went on a secret trip to meet with the brutal dictator who had murdered nearly half a million of his own people -- it's reprehensible and cannot be justified.... The actions of Congresswoman Gabbard have put our nation's reputation and foreign policy concerns at high risk and I couldn't be more disgusted."
Dennis Kucinich, a former Democratic congressman and presidential candidate, also met several times with Assad. Astonishingly, Kucinich, during a recent interview, appeared to defend Assad's actions.
Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca.), while she was Speaker of the House of Representatives, met with Assad as well, apparently without even questioning whether such a meeting might undermine America's national security.
Pictured: Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca.), then Speaker of the US House of Representatives, meets with Syrian President Bashar Assad in 2007. (Image source: AP video screenshot)
These kinds of meetings and love affairs between the leftists and such a dictator only give legitimacy to Assad, the Islamic Republic of Iran and terrorist groups. Whoever appeases Assad and legitimizes his actions should be aware that they are complicit in crimes against humanity. While they hide behind their empty promises and shake hands with a mass murderer, they are responsible for countless children's torturous deaths.
*Dr. Majid Rafizadeh, is a business strategic and advisor, Harvard-educated scholar, political scientist, board member of Harvard International Review, and president of the International American Council on the Middle East. He has authored several books on Islam and US Foreign Policy. He can be reached at Dr.Rafizadeh@Post.Harvard.Edu
© 2018 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

Belgium: First Islamic State in Europe?
Giulio Meotti/Gatestone Institute/April 22/18
The leaders of Belgium's ISLAM Party apparently want to turn Belgium into an Islamic State. They call it "Islamist democracy" and have set a target date: 2030.
"The program is confusingly simple: replace all the civil and penal codes with sharia law. Period". — French magazine Causeur.
"The European capital [Brussels] will be Muslim in twenty years". — Le Figaro.
The French acronym of Belgium's ISLAM Party stands for "Integrity, Solidarity, Liberty, Authenticity, Morality". The leaders of the ISLAM Party apparently want to turn Belgium into an Islamic State. They call it "Islamist democracy" and have set a target date: 2030.
According to the French magazine Causeur, "the program is confusingly simple: replace all the civil and penal codes with sharia law. Period". Created on the eve of the 2012 municipal ballot, the ISLAM Party immediately received impressive results. Its numbers are alarming.
The effect of this new party, according to Michaël Privot, an expert on Islam, and Sebastien Boussois, a political scientist, could be the "implosion of the social body". Some Belgian politicians, such as Richard Miller, are now advocating banning the ISLAM Party.
The French weekly magazine Le Point details the plans of the ISLAM Party: It would like to "prevent vice by banning gaming establishments (casinos, gaming halls and betting agencies) and the lottery". Along with authorizing the wearing the Muslim headscarf at school and an agreement about the Islamic religious holidays, the party wants all schools in Belgium to offer halal meat on their school menus. Redouane Ahrouch, one of the party's three founders, also proposed segregating men and women on public transport. Ahrouch belonged in the 1990s to the Belgian Islamic Center, a nest of Islamic fundamentalism where candidates for jihad in Afghanistan and Iraq were recruited.
The ISLAM Party knows that demography is on its side. Ahrouch has said, "in 12 years, Brussels will principally be composed of Muslims". In the upcoming Belgian elections, the ISLAM Party is now set to run candidates in 28 municipalities. On first glance, that looks like a derisory proportion compared to 589 Belgian municipalities, but it demonstrates the progress and ambitions of this new party. In Brussels, the party will be represented on 14 lists out of a possible 19.
That is most likely why the Socialist Party now fears the rise of the ISLAM Party. In 2012, the party succeeded, when running in just three Brussels districts, in obtaining an elected representative in two of them (Molenbeek and Anderlecht), and failing only narrowly in Brussels-City.
Two years later, during the 2014 parliamentary elections, the ISLAM Party tried to expand its base in two constituencies, Brussels-City and Liège. Once again, the results were impressive for a party that favors the introduction of sharia, Islamic law, into Belgium. In Brussels, they won 9,421 votes (almost 2%).
This political movement apparently started in Molenbeek, "the Belgian radicals' den", a "hotbed of recruiters for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant". Jihadists there were apparently plotting terror attacks all over Europe and even in Afghanistan. The French author Éric Zemmour, facetiously suggested that instead of bombing Raqqa, Syria, France should "bomb Molenbeek". At the moment in Molenbeek, 21 municipal officials out of 46 are Muslim.
Riot police guard a road in the Molenbeek district of Brussels, after raids in which several people, including Salah Abdeslam, one of the perpetrators of the November 2015 Paris attacks, were arrested on March 18, 2016.
"The European capital," wrote Le Figaro, "will be Muslim in twenty years".
"Nearly a third of the population of Brussels already is Muslim, indicated Olivier Servais, a sociologist at the Catholic University of Louvain. "The practitioners of Islam, due to their high birth rate, should be the majority 'in fifteen or twenty years'. Since 2001... Mohamed is the most common name given to boys born in Brussels".
The ISLAM Party is working in a favorable environment. According to the mayor of Brussels, Yvan Mayeur, all the mosques in the European capital are now "in the hands of the Salafists". A few weeks ago, the Belgian government terminated the long-term lease of the country's largest and oldest mosque, the Grand Mosque of Brussels, to the Saudi royal family, "as part of what officials say is an effort to combat radicalization". Officials said that the mosque, was a "hotbed for extremism".
A confidential report last year revealed that the police had uncovered 51 organizations in Molenbeek with suspected ties to jihadism.
Perhaps it is time for sleepy Belgium to begin to wake up?
**Giulio Meotti, Cultural Editor for Il Foglio, is an Italian journalist and author.
© 2018 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

Syria: The Defining Issue of Our Generation
Amir Taheri/Gatestone Institute/April 22/18
How could we not understand that in the anti-war coalition's Manichaean world, the role of evil was reserved solely for the Western democracies?
Over the past decade or so, Russia has waged war against Georgia in Ossetia and Abkhazia, attacked Ukraine, annexed the Crimean Peninsula, turned Chechnya into a pile of rubble and driven thousands out of their villages in Ingushetia and Dagestan without the "anti-war coalition" waving a single placard.
So what we have is a "lukewarm war" in which Russia's assets consist mainly of the anti-West constituencies inside Western democracies plus the veto power that Russia has in the United Nations Security Council.
"We are here to protest against the bombing of Syria by Donald Trump and Theresa May," said the placard-waving young man sporting a ferocious beard.
"Killing Muslims must be stopped," added the middle-aged lady dressed all in black with a demeanor of a diva.
Our interlocutors were among a handful of activists from the "anti-war coalition," spending part of their weekend venting their hatred of Trump and America, and presumably of capitalism and imperialism in general, in front of the US Embassy in London.
We asked whether they would also demonstrate in front of the Russian Embassy in Bayswater, a posher part of London?
The answer was a chagrined look all around. How could we not understand that in their Manichaean world, the role of evil was reserved solely for the Western democracies?
Over the past decade or so, Russia has waged war against Georgia in Ossetia ad Abkhazia, attacked Ukraine, annexed the Crimean Peninsula, turned Chechnya into a pile of rubble, and driven thousands out of their villages in Ingushetia and Dagestan without the anti-war coalition waving a single placard. When we come to Syria, the anti-war coalition, one of whose big beasts, Jeremy Corbyn, is now leader of the British Labour Party, deigns to remember that Russia has been bombing Syria and killing countless civilians, since 2015.
Under Russian attack from air and land, Syria's most populous city, Aleppo, has suffered a level of destruction never seen since the Mongol invasion in the Middle Ages. And yet no anti-war coalition militant, least of all Corbyn, turned up to demand that the blizzard of death and destruction released by the Russians stop.
The fact that the minimalist American-British-French missile launches against Bashar al-Assad's alleged chemical weapons' sites did not amount to "bombing Syria" as such didn't matter. Nor did our protesters care about the fact that no one had been killed in the US-led operation and that "killing Muslims" was a rather exaggerated claim, bearing in mind that there are 1.5 billion Muslims in the world.
In some cases, intense hatred shown against Western democracies may be prompted by self-loathing, a common disease in many other societies, including Russia. The only difference is that in Western societies, giving expression to that self-loathing is risk-free, indeed somehow chic, while it is severely repressed in Russia. In Washington, London or Paris you could express dissent even beyond reasonable limits without suffering punishment. In Moscow, however, you could be shot even in Red Square or, if you flee Russia, risk being murdered with chemical substances in Gloucester.
In other cases, the pro-Russian position taken by some elements in the West is prompted by nostalgia for the "good old days" when Soviet ideology, represented by Mother Russia, challenged the global status quo and promised a golden future beyond "earth-devouring Imperialism".
All that gives Russia a distinct advantage in what is at times, erroneously I believe, termed a "new Cold war." In terms of power, Russia is in no position to challenge the global status quo. With a GDP of $1.5 trillion, it lags far behind the United Sates with almost $20 trillion. The US military budget is many times more than that of Russia. And in terms of soft power, including scientific, cultural and artistic fields, the American "Great Satan" remains far more attractive. People queue in Moscow and Vladivostok for those easy-to-eat and hard-to-digest McDonald's meals. But no one lines up in Washington or Paris for a nice bowl of borscht.
To be sure, Russia is a nuclear "superpower". But its nuclear arsenal, as President Vladimir Putin has pointed out on occasions, is old, not to say antiquated. The "new generation" of undetectable nuclear warheads that Putin promised on the eve of his re-election may still be a long way down the road. In any case, no one seriously envisages a thermonuclear war or even a new arms race, if only because Russia lacks the wherewithal to keep up with the Western Joneses.
So what we have is a "lukewarm war" in which Russia's assets consist mainly of the anti-West constituencies inside Western democracies plus the veto power that Russia has in the United Nations Security Council.
In the case of Syria, the two become interlinked. This is why Corbyn, like his French counterpart Jean-Luc Mélenchon, and other anti-West leaders in Europe, insist that any Western military intervention in Syria should first be ratified by the UN Security Council.
Interestingly, they don't demand that Russia's military intervention should also be subject to approval by the Security Council. This is because Russia can never muster a majority in the Security Council. (Its last resolution there, last week, seeking to condemn the US-led missile attack on Assad's alleged chemical sites, won the votes only of China and Bolivia!)
In other words, the pro-Russia constituency in the West wants the Western democracies to give Moscow a veto on their policy without securing a similar advantage vis-à-vis Russia.
The Russian propaganda scheme in this "lukewarm war" is aimed at sowing confusion in Western democracies, destroying trust in democratic leaders and institutions, including the media, and preventing the formation of a consensus on any major issues.
Thus, while the Western democracies have far more power than Russia to influence global events, they won't be able to use more than a fraction of it without Moscow's assent. Russia, however, would be able to use all of the little power it has.
As things are, Putin, helped by the anti-West constituencies inside Western democracies, is playing a weak hand well to his advantage. In most other circumstances, one might have said: Well, why not? Why shouldn't a weak power try to exploit the adversary's weaknesses?
The problem, however, is that Syria isn't just a power game. It is a tragedy in every sense of the term. More than half a million people have died, with a further three million injured. Half the nation's population has been driven out of their homes and millions driven out of their country. This conflict has gone beyond the level of popular uprising, civil war or even regional proxy wars, to become a tragedy that produces nothing but losers. Syria has become the defining issue of our generation. To use it as a means of propping up Putin or his second fiddles, the mullahs of Tehran, in a sinister regional power game is the height of folly. By supporting Putin's illusion of victory in Syria, as a larger version of Chechnya, the pro-Russian constituency in the West merely prolongs the tragedy.
Amir Taheri, formerly executive editor-in-chief of Iran's premier newspaper, Kayhan, before the Iranian revolution of 1979, is a prominent author based on Europe. He is the Chairman of Gatestone Europe.
*This article was originally published by Asharq al-Awsat and is reprinted by kind permission of the author.
© 2018 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

New Threat to the US: the Axis of Autocracy
Hal Brands/Bloomberg/April 22/18
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.

When Trump the President Refused to Listen to Trump the Candidate
James Kirchick/The Washington Post/April 22/18
Days before the 2016 presidential election, candidate Donald Trump warned: “You’re going to end up in World War III over Syria if we listen to Hillary Clinton.”
Good thing President Trump ignored him.
Dire predictions about foreign intervention leading to “World War III” aren’t merely the most predictable and laziest form of anti-interventionist “logic.” They’re also an insidious echo of Soviet propaganda, routinely deployed to undercut the West’s defense of democracy and important international norms. If Trump had listened to his former self, he’d have abdicated an opportunity to enforce the global prohibition against use of chemical weapons.
On the campaign trail, Trump said Clinton’s suggestion of establishing a no-fly zone to protect civilians would risk confrontation with nuclear-armed Russia, which had sent men and material to abet Bashar al-Assad’s murderous regime. “You’re not fighting Syria anymore, you’re fighting Syria, Russia and Iran, all right?” Trump explained. “Russia is a nuclear country, but a country where the nukes work as opposed to other countries that talk.”
But last week, after a chemical weapons attack against civilians reportedly perpetrated by the Assad regime, Trump ordered airstrikes against three Syrian government targets in concert with allies Britain and France and, noticeably, a world war didn’t start.
Before missiles were launched, the Pentagon warned Moscow through already established “deconfliction” channels that strikes were imminent, and subsequently, no Russian assets were hit. Russia vigorously protested the action against its client state — one in which it has an air and a naval base — but retaliation was entirely verbal, consisting of the usual diplomatic double talk at the United Nations, after this initial statement by Russia’s ambassador to the United States:
Statement by the Ambassador Antonov on the strikes on Syria:
A pre-designed scenario is being implemented. Again, we are being threatened. We warned that such actions will not be left without consequences.
All responsibility for them rests with Washington, London and Paris.
This was unsurprising, and transparent, as Russia — which plays a non-trivial role in perpetuating the Syria conflict — has little desire to pick an actual fight with the world’s most powerful military over a limited airstrike meant to punish specific war crimes, not overthrow the Assad regime. Nonetheless, in the days leading up to the strike, critics resorted to an apocalyptic framing of the conflict. Russian state television encouraged citizens to stock up on water and emergency supplies. In the United Kingdom, the Telegraph ran a headline asking, “could Britain be drawn into World War Three?” and the Daily Express ran one declaring “World War 3 ALERT: The ‘REAL reasons’ Trump is going to war in Syria.” Germany’s widely read Der Spiegel blared (in a headline since changed), “‘Get Ready Russia’: Donald Trump Risks a World War in Syria.” In the United States, Salon ran with the headline, “Trump and allies approach World War III in Syria, on literally no evidence.”
The claim that increased American military activity in Syria — whether in the form of a no-fly zone to protect civilians or the sort of precision airstrike carried out last week — would precipitate world war is one made by noninterventionists across the political spectrum. But as Washington Post columnist Anne Applebaum explained back in 2016, when Trump initially used this line of attack against Clinton, the threat of World War III erupting over Syria could be sourced back to Russian propaganda, which painted the former secretary of state as a deranged “warmonger.” The specter of Western democracies plunging humanity into world war, though, claims a pedigree much older than the most recent American presidential election. Or the present-day U.S.-Russia dynamic. From the onset of the Cold War, it was a staple of Soviet propaganda meant to cast the United States as the aggressor and the Soviet Union as the bulwark of global “peace.”
As the Soviet Union lowered its Iron Curtain across Central and Eastern Europe in the ashes of World War II, Moscow castigated opposition to its moves as risking World War III. Instrumental in this effort was perversion of the word “peace.” To win over potential allies in the West, Soviet leader Joseph Stalin orchestrated the creation of communist front groups and conferences with anodyne names like the “World Peace Council” and the “World Congress of Partisans for Peace.” The real purpose of this campaign wasn’t the promotion of “peace,” however, but Soviet foreign policy; the cynical implication being that anyone remotely skeptical of an organization or conclave with “peace” in its name was obviously in favor of war. George Orwell satirized this abuse of language in his masterpiece, “1984,” imagining a fictional superstate with the slogan: “WAR IS PEACE FREEDOM IS SLAVERY IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH.”
Across the globe, Moscow-backed peace outfits decried opposition to Soviet prerogatives as fascist agitation that would bring about another world war. At the 1949 National Labor Conference for Peace in Chicago, the Communist Party USA newspaper, the Daily Worker, reported “new opportunities for massing the strength of labor against the fomenters of the Cold War and the preparations for World War III.” The following year, after the United States joined a United Nations-led mission to resist the Soviet Union and China-backed invasion of South Korea by North Korea, the American Communist Party announced, “American imperialism has now entered the open military phase of its preparations to unleash World War III, threatening to embroil the whole world in a new world holocaust.”
Talk of World War III mostly abated throughout the years of detente but returned with a vengeance after the election of President Ronald Reagan and the subsequent “Euromissile” debate, one of the last great strategic confrontations of the Cold War. In the late 1970s, the Soviet Union began deploying intermediate-range nuclear warheads in Eastern Europe. As NATO debated whether to match this provocation by stationing similar weapons on its own territory, the Soviets launched a propaganda onslaught, echoed by Western sympathizers, insisting that any attempt to deter its nuclear blackmail would result in nuclear Armageddon.
“Stopping World War III” was the blunt title of a 1981 book published by the US Peace Council, the American chapter of the Soviet-backed World Peace Council. “We fought World War I in Europe; we fought World War II in Europe and, if you dummies will let us, we will fight World War III in Europe,” declared Gene La Rocque, a retired US Navy admiral who went on to become a fierce critic of American foreign policy and advocate for the dissolution of NATO. La Rocque’s Center for Defense Information, a think tank devoted to criticizing US military spending, produced a 1983 documentary about nuclear weapons, “War without Winners.” Narrated by Paul Newman, it invited viewers to “contribute to preventing World War III.” Writing in the Guardian that same year, British Marxist historian E.P. Thompson, a founding member of European Nuclear Disarmament, claimed NATO was a “war movement” instigating “the preliminaries of World War III.”
Following the collapse of Soviet communism, and as Putinist Russia began to attract sympathizers on the political right, the rhetoric of “World War III” expanded beyond traditional leftist redoubts. “Are we far from World War III?” former Texas Republican congressman, GOP presidential candidate and 1988 Libertarian Party presidential nominee Ron Paul asked last April, when Trump first struck Syria after its use of banned chemical weapons. “If you’re in favor of World War III, you have your candidate,” his son, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), declared during a 2015 Republican presidential debate after then-Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.) called for a no-fly zone over parts of Syria. “We can’t risk World War III,” alt-right leader Richard Spencer tweeted at the time, imploring his followers to attend a protest against the strikes. A search for “World War III” on the paleoconservative clearinghouse yields hundreds of results; the same for Ron Paul’s Institute for Peace and Prosperity.
Ideology aside, and intended or not, invocations of “World War III” have the same net effect: to obfuscate the belligerence of authoritarians and discourage deterrence by democracies. During the Cold War, it was never NATO — a consensual and defensive alliance of democratic nations — which threatened world peace but rather the Soviet-dominated Warsaw Pact, which invaded Hungary in 1956, Czechoslovakia in 1968, and held Central and Eastern Europe in its grip until dissolving in 1991. Today, aided by guileless Westerners, the Russians insist that letting them get away with invading sovereign countries and suborning mass murder in Syria is predicate to preventing world war. A variant of “warmonger” — an epithet which roughly translates, in this context, into “critic of Russian foreign policy” — conjurings of “World War III” are a rhetorical means by which Russia psychologically projects its own bellicosity and lawlessness onto the West.
Of course, Moscow is capable of “turning the United States into radioactive ash,” as one of the Kremlin’s propagandists declared shortly after the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014. But knowing the United States has the same nuclear capability has reliably prevented it from ever acting upon such a threat, and Russia certainly won’t risk doing so over a few dozen Tomahawk missiles fired at its troublesome puppet, Assad.
The purpose of invoking “World War III” isn’t to sound genuine alarm. It is to foster a culture of war-weary appeasement within one’s adversaries. That so many in the West have adopted this overwrought characterization indicates the triviality of much of our foreign policy debate.
Ponder a world where America and its allies backed down from their commitments and principles at every Russian cry of imminent world war. We would have surrendered West Berlin to Soviet blackmail, abandoned South Korea to the totalitarian North and permitted the placement of nuclear missiles 90 miles off the Florida coast. Thankfully, we never took empty World War III threats seriously. We shouldn’t do so today.

Don't Rush Fragile States Toward Democracy
Leonid Bershidsky/Bloomberg/April 22/18
Former UK Prime Minister David Cameron now heads a commission on "state fragility, growth and development" formed by the London School of Economics and Oxford University. There's a certain irony to that -- after all, didn't Cameron's disastrous gamble with the Brexit referendum make the UK more fragile, putting its further growth and development into question? The commission's first recommendations, however, are sober and sensible: Take care that people feel economically secure and at peace before building a governance system that looks like those of old democracies.
The report argues that developed nations trying to help fragile ones have been doing it wrong. They have pushed the "best practices" of wealthy nations, demanding quick multi-party elections and often unpopular, harsh economic policies backed by global financial institutions like the International Monetary Fund. This has resulted in deeply flawed and easily subverted or overturned democracies in countries such as post-Saddam Iraq, post-Mubarak Egypt and post-Gaddafi Libya. In Yemen, according to the report, the program proposed by the international financial institutions demanded a radical transformation of the country within two years."The reform program was aborted because the state collapsed through rebellion triggered by one of the reforms," the report says.
Forcing events, including by calling for multi-party elections right after major upheavals, doesn't work, the authors write:
Conventional elections may inadvertently undermine checks and balances by handing power to majority groups, as happened in Iraq. Further, since in the conditions prevalent in fragile societies elections are easily manipulated, the results are not widely trusted by citizens. As a result, until effective checks and balances have been built that are trusted within the society, elections typically do not confer legitimacy on the declared winner.
In Somalia, for example, donor demands for an election absorbed all the energy of national leaders for three years between 2014 and 2017 -- and resulted in a "token election held at the airport with only 14,000 voters."
External players interested in stabilizing a fragile country should be more interested in the indigenous version of checks and balances, in mechanisms to build national cohesion rather than in a rush to representative democracy as practiced in the West. "Shared identity needs to supplant identities that are fragmented," the report says.
A civil peace, a deal that minimizes divisions, is necessary to give the government the power to collect taxes, secure the streets and build some institutions that can ensure the rule of law and property rights for private investors, both foreign and domestic. As the government goes about it, it shouldn't be forced to follow specific economic policy prescriptions -- it's enough that its policies are realistic and growth-oriented. More important are quick wins that most of society can appreciate, like the new Tunisian government's 2014 program to clean all the mosques, and popular signals aimed at building credibility, like the Rwandan government's decision to strip ministers of their state-provided cars.
One can read this as a blasphemous endorsement of populism from top establishment academic institutions or as a set of pragmatic, non-ideological advice for Western nations and institutions working to reduce poverty and instability in what used to be known as the Third World. I'm more interested in a third possible reading, however. In effect, the report argues that certain attributes of successful, wealthy states' governance have priority over others; namely that social cohesion, the rule of law and property rights trump the trappings of democratic politics.
That's an interesting framework for thinking about countries that aren't as fragile as Iraq or the Democratic Republic of Congo. At which point, for example, should the European Union start worrying about the seeming erosion of democracy in Poland and Hungary? Perhaps these countries are merely dealing with a backlash to the mistake highlighted to the report -- going too quickly to a government system typical of old democracies without fixing the fundamentals first.
For example, in both Poland and Hungary, the nationalist governments have made quick progress in beating dysfunctional tax systems into shape and increasing collection. In both, the governments took unconventional economic steps to provide more social benefits, increasing their support base but also increasing poorer citizens' confidence in the state and giving them a stronger feeling of inclusion. These actions appear to be in line with the recommendations in the Cameron commission's report -- as long as the governments preserve the key institutions that ensure a decent investment climate, such as the independence of low-level courts and the enforcement of property rights. Both in Hungary and in Poland these basic institutions remain strong despite the nationalist governments' judiciary reforms. So perhaps it doesn't make sense to push the ruling parties in the direction of Dutch or French best practices, at least until the living standards in Poland and Hungary are closer to those of these older democracies.
One could also wonder about the direction of Ukraine, a country with all the trappings of a Western democracy but without solid property rights, a functioning court system or much social cohesion. What if Western pressure focused on ensuring the sanctity of contracts and the independence of judges, as well as on working with the country's pro-Russian minority -- including in the areas held by Russian proxies -- to forge a power-sharing arrangement? Perhaps that would ensure faster growth and a smoother transition to a European-style democracy.
It's possible that Ukraine's rogue neighbor, Russia, was lost to the Western world because it went for non-core democratic change in the 1990s without securing property rights and a confidently independent judiciary -- and because it pursued non-inclusive economic policies that fostered mistrust in the government and cleared the path for Vladimir Putin's authoritarian project. Even the world's most powerful nations suffer from some symptoms of fragility. The US, for example, is a deeply divided society in which many citizens doubt the legitimacy of Donald Trump's presidency. But the US legal system makes sure investment is protected and basic justice is achievable in most cases, order is maintained and the state retains citizens' fundamental trust. The US today is a powerful example of how what might be called the Maslow hierarchy of democracy works. At its foundations lie property protections and the economic confidence that comes with them; an enlightened, well-functioning, popular, inclusive government is desirable but not a must for a country to resist fragility.

British Ambassador Attests to Saudi Counter-Terrorism Efforts in Awamiya
Salman Al-dossary/Asharq Al Awsat/April 22/18
The years between 2011 and 2018 have witnessed the spark of terrorism in Awamiya village, east of Saudi Arabia, where crimes, drug trafficking, arms selling, killing, acts of terrorism and intimidation were carried out. Later on, Iran’s foreign intervention led to the rise of “activists,” “human rights activists” and human rights organizations, yet Saudi government alone was capable of imposing security and stability for its citizens, confronting all campaigns of distortion and falsification, calling things by their proper names, gradually imposing the same logic and validating the premise of the state that it declared from the beginning. It proved that what happened had nothing to do with rights or duties. What happened from the beginning was not related to people’s demands, but to terrorism.
Of course, with time and the return of tranquility to the village many positions have changed. Governments, organizations and international organizations were initially deceived and swept away by a wave of confusion as all those who raised arms against the state were seen as if they were practicing their rights even if they were terrorists. Last Thursday, the British government attested to Saudi Arabia’s efforts in fighting terrorism. British Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Simon Collis published a video on his Twitter account saying that Saudi authorities defeated terrorists in Awamiya village.
“This is the place where Saudi authorities defeated terrorists and where they have begun to rebuild the community,” Collis said.
“There have been problems in the past, but now there is a drive to renew the community based on the return of security to Awamiya,” Collis added. This official British talk came during the ambassador’s visit to a development project implemented in the center of the village that would transform it into a tourist attraction. Perhaps the most significant part of Collis’s statement is that it proved what the Saudi government has said and been doing since the first day about seven years ago. The government said back then that the incidents that took place were neither protests nor "Arab spring" demonstrations as they were promoted at the time. In fact, they were a riot during which civilians and residents were killed and wounded. The incident included attacks on judges, diplomats, banks, shops and security headquarters and sought to destabilize security and stability in the region.
The story was not in the position of the state, and with it the vast majority of the citizens of the town, in the face of tampering, riot and terrorism; it is the role of States and their duties to provide security for their citizens.
However, the real issue was the chaos that accompanied the riot, supported by states, organizations and international organizations, and caused to prolong terrorist acts promoted as "demonstrations" for citizens and "legitimate claims."
Years have passed and the Kingdom has succeeded in proving its credibility, supported by testimonies from officials, showing that what happened was terrorism. There is no doubt that what the Arab world witnessed during the Arab Spring created a state of Western enthusiasm and support, innocent and malignant, in order to spread this "spring" to all those who took up arms against the state. It did not matter whether it was a regime that killed its people, like that of Muammar Gaddafi and Bashar al-Assad, or a stable and secure country that protected its citizens from criminals and saboteurs, as in Saudi Arabia.
And today, after the skies have cleared and the Kingdom has proved its credibility against the flood of allegations and accusations, will the countries and parties proven wrong apologize for supporting a terrorism disguised in an "Arab Spring"?!

How teaching philosophy in Tunisia protected the state
Fahad Suleiman Shoqiran/Al Arabiya/April 22/18
Philosophy has never been an ally of education, despite the fact that philosophers have taught philosophy for over two and a half millennia. Education paralyzes philosophy’s progress and freedom, but it is important to teach philosophy despite all the limitations it entails for making it a successful educational experience.A few days ago, Abdulrahman al-Shoqair tweeted a page of the philosophy syllabus taught in Tunisia’s secondary schools. The topic was about the importance of awareness in history, and quoted Schopenhauer’s notable book The World as Will and Representation, with a quote that reads as follow: “The will is the knowledge a priori of the body, and the body is the knowledge a posteriori of the will.” I immediately remembered this phrase in Schopenhauer’s book, which is taken from page 195.
Some North African countries have yielded to the demands of radicals, and have revoked the teaching of philosophy. Others mix two contradictory fields, such as naming philosophy syllabuses “philosophy and Islamic thought”, which is an association between two different disciplines and sources of knowledge
How Schopenhauer sharpens the mind
The text expresses a fundamental premise of Schopenhauer’s book, which is one of the most important philosophical books of the 19th century and to this day. It is known that the majority of Schopenhauer’s writings were aimed at completing the shortcomings of his favorite philosopher Kant.
In his work Critique of the Kantian philosophy, Schopenhauer said: “An age of fearful abortions, was, as we all know, introduced by Kant, it may be concluded that the services he rendered were not complete, but must have been negative and one-sided, and burdened with great defects.”
He states: “For a purely individual characteristic of Kant’s mind is a remarkable love of symmetry, which delights in a varied multiplicity, so that it may reduce it to order, and repeat this order in subordinate orders, and so on indefinitely, just as happens in Gothic churches.” Thus, choosing this text in the secondary curriculum of philosophy is a boost to sharpen and awaken the mind.
Tunisia and Arab philosophy
Dr. Salah Mosbah, a professor at the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences in Tunisia, considers that the teaching of philosophy in Tunisia precedes the dawn of French colonization, citing the syllabus taught in al-Zaytuna Mosque since the era of the Hafsids, generalizing this standard as similar to what was taught in the al-Azhar Mosque in Egypt, the Umayyad Mosque in Syria and al-Qarawiyyin Mosque in Marrakech. On teaching philosophy at the secondary level, he writes that people responsible for the syllabus “selected philosophy and scientific texts, texts of thinkers and some novelists who are affiliated with classical as well as contemporary Arab culture. They specifically focused on the thinking methods of Avicenna, Ibn al-Haytham, Al-Ghazali, Miskawayh, Averroes, Ibn Hazm, al-Farabi, Al-Kindi, Ibn Khaldun and other classical Arab writers such as Mikha'il Na'ima, Naguib Mahfouz, Samir Amin, Abdelkebir Khatibi as well as intellectuals, epistemologists, economists and visual thinkers.” This is the experience of Tunisia in teaching philosophy in high schools, which is one of the most successful Arab experiences. Some North African countries have yielded to the demands of radicals, and have revoked the teaching of philosophy. Others mix two contradictory fields, such as naming philosophy syllabuses “philosophy and Islamic thought”, which is an association between two different disciplines and sources of knowledge. But as the debate on how to start teaching philosophy in Saudi Arabia is still raging, we can be inspired by the Tunisian experience of teaching philosophy at secondary schools since it is enlightening and modern, and it has proven its utility over time.
A generation with critical skills
A few days ago, I was having a discussion with a Tunisian editor-in-chief who studied the curricula and is well-acquainted with it. He even recalls the time when French philosopher Michel Foucault came to Tunisia to teach. He told me that teaching philosophy was the virtue of the late Habib Bourguiba.
Two names such as Lamin Chebbi and Mahmoud Messadi had enormous impact on bolstering Tunisian education, he added. Hesaid that the power of education was responsible for saving Tunisia after the events of 2010 and that the state, following the departure of Ben Ali, appointed philosophy professors as heads of institutions before going to the Constituent Assembly elections. Philosophy contributed to strengthening education thus protecting the state. Teaching philosophy does not appear to be a luxury at all; it creates a generation of youth, with the minimum requirement of critical outlook or existential experience.
We can walk in the footsteps of others and start teaching philosophy, then periodically test the curriculum for additions and modifications, while complying with the requirement of freedom of discussions and debates, appealing to the minds to learn, to have a desire for knowledge and perseverance to ask questions and to search for approaches to find answers. This is not impossible. States have undergone this experience and it has served them for generations and enhanced the minds of societies while increasing national morality and existential vitality. Here I say that philosophy is the antidote against ideology.
This article is also available in Arabic.

Russia at the horns of a dilemma: Further exhaustion or dump Bashar al-Assad
Ali Al-Amin/Al Arabiya/April 22/18
The recent strike by the three major powers against Syria was no more than a message to the Syrian regime over its use of chemical weapons in the city of Douma in Damascus’ suburbs. American, French and British missiles targeted military sites and research centers inside Syria. The US, France and Britain claimed these were locations linked to the manufacture, transportation and use of chemical weapons. No casualties of civilian and military personnel were reported, which confirms that the regime and its allies were expecting the strikes in these locations in advance.
It is also likely that the three countries did not want to cause casualties or destruction in areas that are vital for the regime and its allies but they had to act especially after the Russian veto at the UN Security Council against any attempt to draft a resolution has become a source of international embarrassment and defiance which it’s no longer possible to keep silent about or surrender to. The use of internationally banned weapons is spreading in the wake of the ineptitude of the Security Council to take decisions. Thus, London believes that the failure to take action against Syria earlier in this regard encouraged the Russian intelligence to use chemical weapons against one of its former agents in Britain.
Conveying a message
The ‘tripartite’ strike against Syria has other aims besides what was said about international calculations linked to the necessity of carrying out measures that prohibit the Syrian regime from using internationally-prohibited weapons against its people. These aims, however, still do not qualify as being part of a well calibrated strategic plan for Syria where influence is for Russia and is shrouded by Iranian and Turkish influence. The strike however was not a merely limited strike. It’s actually a message, as formulated by the three international capitals. Since it is message, they expect a response, not from the Syrian regime whom they know well that it has lost the ability to make any decisions, but from Russia firstly and Iran secondly. Addressing Iranian influence is the first objective of these countries, with increasingly clear discussions on removing Iran and its militias from Syria as an absolute precondition to reaching a solution to the crisis in the country. The former and last leader of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev said the ‘tripartite’ strike is a preparation before the coming actual assault. Perhaps the last head of the Soviet empire is aware that the major movement of American ships towards the eastern Mediterranean in such an unprecedented manner since the Iraq war in 2003 can only be a prologue to a major military operation.
US strategic development
Meanwhile, Nikki Haley, United States Ambassador to the United Nations, confirmed that US troops in Syria would not leave the country. This stance, which was voiced after the ‘tripartite’ attack, reflects an American strategic development after US President Donald Trump declared two weeks ago that he will withdraw US troops from Syria. This position also comes amid the absence of any military response to the ‘tripartite’ assault in Syria as the Assad regime celebrated ‘thwarting’ it. This has been the regime’s usual response for years whether the strikes were made by Israel or the US. Even though there was no response against the attack, the US envoy to the Security Council has adumbrated a new package of sanctions against Russia, specifically against Russian companies that Washington believes are associated with providing Syria with technologies or materials related to chemical weapons.
The details of United States’ plan are still not clear. It is broadly based on forging an alliance with Britain and France as its main allies and enjoys an Arab cover in which Saudi Arabia is a main pillar. Meanwhile, Israel has announced that it provided intelligence about Syria to the US, Britain and France, which is another indication over the growing cooperation between these parties regarding Russia.
Addressing Iranian influence is the first objective of these countries, with increasingly clear discussions on removing Iran and its militias from Syria as an absolute precondition to reaching a solution to the crisis in the country. This stance will crystallize even more in the future, displaying in its core a shift in the American strategy towards the Syrian crisis which was founded by former US President Barack Obama by paving the way for Russian military intervention in the country in a step that aimed for Russia to commit to providing the conditions for a solution in Syria while taking into consideration the interests of major powers in the country and in line with the resolutions of the United Nations, particularly the Geneva conference on Syria.
Trust in Russian role shaken
The new development is that the American administration and the French and British governments’ trust in the Russian role has been shaken. This has called for a shift in their attitude regarding the Syrian crisis, which gives priority to besieging Iranian influence. Russia will thus either protect the Iranian role in Syria or take steps that would display its willingness to play a serious role in reducing or eliminating this influence. The carrot and stick policy is clearly on display in the US policy towards Russia – a policy in which the US administration and its allies seem stricter towards Iran. Meanwhile, they will observe Russia’s reactions and the most important test is the anticipated US move of cancelling the nuclear deal with Iran next month.
The US military power in the region is paving the way for a confrontation with Iran in an as yet unclear manner, but with the end of the war with ISIS in Iraq and Syria the chances of major confrontation are likely, with Iran being at the center of the crisis and the Arab geography being the theater of the war. From now on, economy and sanctions will not be the only weapons that Washington will use to fight the Iranian role in the region. In fact, the American missiles are on the ready after the decline of the display of Iranian rockets which have so far been Iran’s only matter of military pride.
In sum, Russia is facing difficult choices this time: either resume its exhaustion and worsening it in Syria along with facing new US sanctions or forge a new policy that would embarrass both the West and Arabs by changing the head of the Syrian regime.

‘A Fistful of Dollars’ during Saudi Arabia’s pre-1979 era

Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya/April 22/18
This is the name of a movie which is engrained in my memory for a simple reason: I watched it in a cinema in Riyadh 40 years ago! I watched it before cinemas were prohibited and their doors shut, shutting with it a whole social life following the Iranian revolution of 1979.
A year earlier, I travelled to study in the US, and so I was one of the survivors as these changes did not impact me personally, but it changed for a generation after mine.
Riyadh before 1979
Riyadh was a small city compared to what it is now. Its population did not exceed half a million people, and it had three cinemas in sports clubs. The cinemas served tea and soft drinks with cheese sandwiches. Everything was organized, tickets were at the entrance and film posters were glued on the walls inside with the largest cinema boasting 150 seats. This accepting, tolerant and enthusiastic spirit faded away gradually with the emergence of Jihadi songs in the Afghan war, while religious preachers took the stage, and schools and mosques were politicized
On weekends, the cinemas showed two movies: An Arabic one and an American one which was translated, while on the week nights only one movie was shown. The hall was usually crowded, with some movie goers choking the rest of us by smoking, while others overreacted by whistling or clapping at the emotional or heroic scenes. Western movies premiered late, sometimes 10 years later.
‘A Fistful of Dollars’ starring Clint Eastwood, despite being a relatively old movie, it was more than entertaining for us to watch it that night. After that ominous revolution, Riyadh was no longer the city I had left. It became a gloomy city. Extremists surrounded it from all sides and the whole social scene changed. It became dominated by hardliners and those enthusiastic about more religious advocacy in one of the most religious cities in the world.
In the 1970s and 1960s, we witnessed Riyadh as a simple city, its residents satisfied with a few small-scale activities that made them happy. Muhammad Ali visited the city, as we eagerly waited for him at the Water Tower, one of Riyadh’s main landmarks, the international Brazilian football player Revellino had joined the Saudi al-Hilal football team while the stadium filled up with the spectators... Even Ramadan nights were full with sports activities with an abundance of basketball and volleyball leagues to the point where there was no place to sit or stand.
The capital was filled with entertainment, aside from the cinemas, there were shops specialized in renting out movies and projectors on the weekends in the al-Murabba’ district. And despite the livelihood conditions of the city that did not allow a lot of luxury, artistic concerts were held, the military band played music in the streets during the holidays, and popular festivals that reflected the country’s folklore culture were held as well.
The infiltration of extremism
This accepting, tolerant and enthusiastic spirit faded away gradually with the emergence of Jihadi songs in the Afghan war, while religious preachers took the stage, and schools and mosques were politicized. Meanwhile, intellectuals and educated individuals withdrew in the face of the power of a new youth generation, who bluntly called them infidels in official and popular festivals, as well as in mosques. Time passed, a generation became old, and a new generation emerged with an open-mind and eyes to reveal its past: The age of its more civilized and tolerant ancestors who were subjected to attempts to erase them from collective memory. When cinemas opened last week in Riyadh, it was like going back to the beautiful era, and it symbolically buried the 1979 era. Every nation experiences political and social deteriorations, and emerges out of its crisis either strong or destroyed. There is no doubt that Saudi Arabia is emerging today with a will to be stronger than its tough experience. An ignorant era hindered development and brought society backwards, and it is still suffering from it. Years will pass before we complete recover. Other nations have had their experiences as well. China experienced what was known by “the Cultural Communism Revolution”, which was similar to the Sahwa movement in Saudi Arabia. It pointed figures of betrayal and forced people to follow its agenda. I read the “Wild Swans” novel by Jung chang that described this tough Maoist era. How shocking it is to know the details of peoples suffering back then due to the cruelty of ideological and Utopian ideas. Saudi Arabia’s experience will be a guide for other nations going through similar crises and for Islamic countries as well, and Iran is one of them. Saudi Arabia is important because it is a leader and a source of inspiration in the Islamic system. That is why Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said that we did not do anything new, but we are only going back to an era prior to 1979. He said that we will not allow extremist ideas to make a comeback.
He wants to bridge the gap and connect the two eras, where development had stopped in between them for about 40 years due to the crisis resulting from the Iranian revolution and its local productions. We are looking at change as something that suits the desire of the people and their choices, and not something that they are forced into, but still, it remains an open choice for everyone.

A new era of ‘petro–Yuan’ and its implications on dollar dominance
Dr. Mohamed A. Ramady/Al Arabiya/April 22/18
For decades the US greenback dollar has dominated the international financial and trading system with few challengers, and not even the Euro has been able to assume as important a role as the US dollar.
However, this is about to be challenged from a new quarter. While the world has been engrossed with the latest spats over tariff wars and who and when countries will retaliate against the US, the Chinese have very quietly set the ball rolling to end the American dollar’s hegemony in international trade.
The country introduced in March the first-ever Yuan crude futures contracts in Shanghai stock exchange. This raised some questions on whether the move was a symbolic one or a more long-term assertiveness by the Chinese to introduce the Yuan into global trade relations and possibly as an alternative currency of international reserve to the US dollar.
Others saw it as one more move by the Chinese as a sign that the country is indeed liberalizing and opening up as requested by the USA and other trading partners. This is not an idle Chinese threat given that that China possesses the largest US Treasury holdings by the Chinese Central Bank, estimated at around $1.18 trillion in December 2017, the largest foreign holder after Japan with $1.02 trillion. To put this in perspective, the largest Arab US Treasury holding is that of Saudi Arabia with $ 112 billion in January 2018. The total estimated Chinese foreign exchange reserves of around $ 3.14 trillion also highlights the significant overseas soft economic power the Chinese can deploy today, ranging from investments in Latin America, Africa and in the Middle East and enable s that country to try and challenge the American dollar’s global hegemony.
Paying in Yuan for oil could also become part of President Xi Jinping’s “One Belt, One Road” initiative to develop ties across Eurasia, including the Middle East and entice Chinese investments in the Middle East
Futures contracts
Did the Chinese have to take this action to introduce their own Yuan futures oil contracts? Today the Chinese are the largest commodities contract traders and in 2017 they accounted for 3.052 billion commodity trade lots, valued at a staggering $ 24.8 trillion.
On the oil front, China has also surpassed the US as top world importer of oil, taking this from 4.85 million bpd imports in 2010 to 9.05 million bpd in 2017. The USA meanwhile saw its import of oil drop from 9.24 million bpd in 2010 to 7.33 million bpd in 2017.
The Chinese have done this before with nickel commodity trades. Nickel was the last major commodity to be listed in Shanghai in 2015 and to all intents and purposes it was a successful launch as within six weeks, trading in Shanghai surpassed benchmark futures on the London Metal Exchange.
Beijing responds
The Chinese decision revolves around two policy considerations – politics and pragmatism on the type of oil contracts being carried out today. Politically, futures trading would wrest some control over pricing from the main international benchmarks such as West Texas Intermediate, or WTI, which trades on the New York Mercantile Exchange, and Brent crude, which trades on ICE Futures Europe in London and both of which are based on dollars. Denominating oil contracts in Yuan would promote the use of China’s currency in global trade, one of the country’s key long-term goals as an alternative to the dollar and making this even more appealing to sanctions threatened countries relying on the American dollar. On the pragmatic side, China would benefit from having a benchmark that reflects the different grades of oil that are mostly consumed by Chinese refineries and often differ from those underpinning Western oil futures contracts. Foreign commodity traders have been split in their welcome to the new Chinese oil futures market and point out to a list of obstacles compared to the larger and more transparent London or New Your mercantile exchanges but some of it could be due to imbedded inertia and the fear of embracing the unknown. However, a vote of confidence has been given to the new oil futures exchange through the participation of two of the world’s better known commodity trading companies – Glencore and Tarfigura with others watching to see how the debut exchange operates before joining.
Foreign participation
To attract more foreign participation, China will waive income taxes for overseas individuals and institutions. For China’s regulators, the hope is that the futures will serve as a risk management tool for its oil companies, as well as help open the country’s financial markets.
Using the Yuan in international trade is something that is not new as China has recently been proposing to Gulf oil producers and others for making payments in Yuan instead of dollars for its oil imports and has made this more attractive by making the Yuan convertible to precious metals.
It makes sense in the long run for oil producers looking to enter or gain market share in China to look at transactions in Yuan because China is a key market for their exports, thus bringing forward the day of a new “petro – Yuan” like the famous “petro–dollar” of the 1970s.
Paying in Yuan for oil could also become part of President Xi Jinping’s “One Belt, One Road” initiative to develop ties across Eurasia, including the Middle East and entice Chinese investments in the Middle East economies such as the announced intention of Chinese participation in Saudi Aramco’s planned IPO offering. The ‘One Belt, One Road’ also fits in with the Kingdom’s vision to have Saudi Arabia become a regional and international engineering and service hub and this has opened up new Gulf investment and finance opportunities.
A Chinese agreement to consider international loans denominated in the Yuan was discussed during last year’s China-Saudi Economic Forum in Jeddah as the Kingdom seeks to diversify its sources of capital market venues.
All the above will take time to materialize but it has started a small ball rolling for the emergence of a global “petro–Yuan” and Gulf companies have to take this into consideration in future Chinese dealings.