April 24/2018
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani


The Bulletin's Link on the lccc Site


News Bulletin Achieves Since 2006
Click Here to enter the LCCC Arabic/English news bulletins Achieves since 2006


Bible Quotations
Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him
Romans 06/01-14/"What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin because anyone who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace."

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on April 23-24/18
The Theatrical Lebanese Elections & the Vicious Hezbollah’s Scheme/Elias Bejjani/April 21/18
Is this real or is it surreal, or both/Dr.Walid Phares/Face Book/April 23/18
Palestinians: New Twist on an Old Lie/Bassam Tawil/Gatestone Institute/April
Turkey: Is Erdogan's "Magic Spell" Beginning to Pale/Pinar Tremblay/Gatestone Institute/April
The Energy Revolution has Already Begun/David Von Drehle/The Washington Post/April 23/18
When the Writer Apologizes/Ghassan Charbel/Asharq Al Awsat/April 23/18
How Trump Can Actually Reach 'Mission Accomplished' in Syria/James Stavridis/Bloomberg View/April 23/18
When Trump the President Refused to Listen to Trump the Candidate/James Kirchick/The Washington Post/April 23/18
Iran’s leaders to blame for currency crisis/Dr. Majid Rafizadeh/Arab News/April 24/18
Trump starts indirect negotiations with Iran ahead of his summit with Kim/Debka File/April 23/18

Titles For Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on April 23-24/18
The Theatrical Lebanese Elections & the Vicious Hezbollah’s Scheme
Is this real or is it surreal, or both?
Anti-Hizbullah Candidate Ali al-Amin Assaulted in His Hometown
French FM to visit Lebanon after elections
Nasrallah: Kesrouan outrage ‘petty’
Nasrallah: 'Keserwan Key' Remains with President Aoun, Patriarch al-Rahi
Electoral Supervisory Committee Says ‘No Power over Political Candidates’
Report: Heated Electioneering, Disturbances as Lebanon Gears for Elections
Makhzoumi Campaign Office Vandalized in Beirut
Mikati rows with crowd at rally in Qalamoun
Jumblat ‘Sponsors’ Reconciliation Ending 2007 Ziads’ Murder Case
Report: Lebanese Ambassador ‘Urges French Condemnation’ of Syria Strikes
Lebanon's Hariri to Follow Up on Nizar Zakka Case
Machnouk Asks Mount Lebanon Governor to Summon Hobeich over Key Bestowment
Sami Gemayel Blames Presidential Settlement for Keserwan Key Bestowment
Kataeb Party: Electoral Warning Signs Must Be Taken Seriously
Lakkis Says She Will Not Back Down on Resignation
Nohra: Lebanese Yearning for Rescue Project and Change
Saade Says He's Running for Polls to Continue What He Started

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on April 23-24/18
9 dead, 16 injured after pedestrians struck by van during attack in Toronto
G7 ministerial meeting: Building a more peaceful and secure world
USA Senate panel narrowly recommends Pompeo as US diplomatic chief
Parliamentary Secretary Alghabra to attend Brussels conference on Syria
Macron Arrives in U.S., Iran and Trade to Top Talks
Huthi Political Leader Killed in Saudi-Led Coalition Raid
Armenia Celebrates as Veteran Leader Quits amid Protests
Syria Security Chief Refuses to Appear in Lebanon's Military Court
IS Threatens Iraq Polling Stations ahead of Vote
Yemen Forces Clash with Jihadists after Red Cross Worker Killed
Palestinian Dies of Wounds, Bringing Gaza Toll to 40
Images Released of Suspects in Palestinian Assassination
Egypt Fight against IS Threatens Humanitarian Crisis, Says HRW
It's a Boy for UK Royals
Tennessee Shooter Arrested after Manhunt
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.

Is this real or is it surreal, or both?
Dr.Walid Phares/Face Book/April 23/18
I couldn't believe my eyes and ears when I watched this video showing the head of municipalities of Kesrawan Jwan Hbeish offering the "Keys of Kesrawan" to Mr Hassan Nasrallah the Secretary General of Iran-backed Hezbollah, on US and Arab terror lists. Mr Hbeish is offering keys for Hezbollah to enter Kesrwan? Is he a new Moqadem Salem who "offered the keys of Jebbet Bsharre to the Mameluks in the 13th century, before they destroyed it and burned it. He is not the first modern day "Moqadem Salem" in Lebanon, but this an outrageous act which will not be without consequences...
This note is not about Lebanon's legislative elections which I have no horse in nor am I interested in per se. This is an act of facilitation to Hezbollah spread in what was immune territory even 28 years after the Syrian invasion. This is a matter of national security.
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.
French FM to visit Lebanon after elections
The Daily Star/Apr. 23, 2018/BEIRUT: French Ambassador to Lebanon Bruno Foucher said in a meeting Monday with President Michel Aoun that France’s Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian is planning to visit Lebanon after the May 6 parliamentary elections, according to a statement from the presidency.
While in Lebanon, Le Drian plans to oversee the post-elections situation as well as the implementation of various reforms that is expected to follow. Foucher's comments came in a meeting with Aoun at Baabda Palace, where the two discussed the outcomes of the CEDRE conference that was held in Paris earlier this month, and the mechanisms that the international community will use to follow up on implementing agreements made there. Lebanon received pledges of over $11 billion in soft loans and grants from the international community at CEDRE, a "success" Foucher attributed to Lebanon’s determination to enact the fiscal and administrative reforms that were a condition to attract the funds. Foucher additionally confirmed that French President Emmanuel Macron's announced visit was still on. Although the final date has not been decided on, the ambassador reiterated previous remarks that the visit - initially scheduled for first half of April, and later cancelled in March - will be rescheduled.

Nasrallah: Kesrouan outrage ‘petty’
Sabine Darrous/The Daily Star/April 24/18
BEIRUT: The keys to Kesrouan-Jbeil will always remain in the hands of President Michel Aoun and Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai, Hezbollah’s leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah said one day after a controversial key-giving ceremony took place. “Any suggestion that we want demographic change in any area is oppressive and petty, not based on evidence and aims to provoke,” Nasrallah said during a televised speech Monday, addressing residents of Kesrouan-Jbeil.
Nasrallah’s comments came a day after head of the Kesrouan Municipalities’ Union Juan Hobeich came under fire for presenting a ceremonial “key to Kesrouan” to Hussein Zeaiter, who is running for the district’s sole Shiite seat and who accepted the key on behalf of Hezbollah’s secretary-general.
The ceremony was meant as a “symbolic [act] that expresses mutual respect, but people turned it into an elections story,” Nasrallah said. The Hezbollah leader added that his party seeks a “true partnership between the Muslims and Christians.”
“Some political forces subsist on sectarian strife instead of bringing people together,” he said.
A controversy over Hobeich presenting an award to Nasrallah took a new turn Monday with the interior minister requesting that Mount Lebanon’s governor summon Hobeich for questioning.
The Central News Agency reported that the summons request came due to fears that Hobeich’s actions “could provoke sectarian bickering and lead to internal strife.”
A video circulated Sunday showed Hobeich handing Hassan Zeaiter, Hezbollah’s candidate in Kesrouan-Jbeil, a ceremonial key to the district at a local municipal ceremony held in the district’s Shiite-majority village of Al-Mouaisara.
The move sparked a wave of angry reactions from Kesrouan politicians and opposition parties.
Hobeich, a close ally of President Michel Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement, said he was not aware of what award he was presenting.
He said he was “surprised” to find out that a shield Al-Mouaisara Mayor Zuheir Amro had asked him to award the Shiite leader was in fact “a key to Kesrouan.”
In a statement issued Monday, Amro said the shield was a “symbolic key that reflects the relations of love and openness among partisans.”
“As part of its gratitude, the municipality wished to offer an honorary shield to Hezbollah’s Secretary-General Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah through the head of Kesrouan Municipalities’ Union, who denied his knowledge about it,” the statement read.
Amro acknowledged that the incident caused “confusion” among municipality members, adding that the local authority will take responsibility for the controversy.
“The municipality is responsible for any confusion that took place and we ask all parties to abstain from exaggerating the story and inflicting harm on any side,” the statement said.
“Al-Mouaisara is an integral part of the Kesrouan-Jbeil district and the doors of this village will remain open to [Hezbollah’s leader] and to any other dignified person in this country,” it added.
But Hobeich insisted that he was unaware of the nature of the shield and dismissed the outcry as part of “elections bickering.”
“As soon as I finished my speech, I was asked by the mayor to hand in an honorary shield to ... Nasrallah,” he told The Daily Star.
“I was surprised to find that the shield was in fact a key of Kesrouan,” he added.
Asked why he did not decline to present the award when he discovered the key, he said, “I did not make any reaction [unbefitting the due] respect for the place and dignitaries.”
Hobeich stressed that Amro had “made a mistake” by not revealing the nature of the shield.
“He doesn’t have the right to come forward with such a thing without my approval or the consent of the Kesrouan Municipalities’ Union,” he said.
However, a Hezbollah source argued that Hobeich was indeed aware he was awarding the key to Nasrallah and said that the party “fully understands the sensitive situation that [Hobeich] was put into.”
The source also questioned why Hobeich waited an entire day to issue his statement and the denial when he could have reacted to it instantly, saying he had been “pressured” to do so by the wave of criticism in the media.
Former MP Fares Soueid also said that Hobeich knew about the shield and denounced the entire issue “in form and in content.”
Soueid, a former MP of Kesrouan-Jbeil district and a staunch critic of Hezbollah, decried what he described as an accumulation of incidents that led to “handing the country to Hezbollah without any real opposition,” in reference to the alliance between FPM and the Shiite party.
Ziad Hawat, a Lebanese Forces candidate in Jbeil, said “Kesrouan keys are not a private property and they cannot be granted or handed out ... The real keys are people’s dignity.”
Shawki Daccash, a Lebanese Forces candidate in Kesrouan, criticized Hobeich’s actions during the episode and slammed the mayor for “exploiting the confidence of the people he represents” and said that Kesrouan will remain in the hands of its people.
“We do not accept, under any excuse, that [Kesrouan] be given to any party, especially Hezbollah, which does not relate in its ideology, connections or actions to Kesrouan’s people in any way,” Daccash said.

Nasrallah: 'Keserwan Key' Remains with President Aoun, Patriarch al-Rahi
Naharnet/April 23/18/ The “key of Keserwan and Jbeil” remains with President Michel Aoun and Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi, Hizbullah's chief said Monday, in remarks aimed at containing a storm of controversy sparked by the handing over of a symbolic 'key of Keserwan' to a Hizbullah parliamentary candidate. “Anything that stirs (sectarian) sentiments must be addressed,” Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said in a televised address on the elections in the Keserwan-Jbeil district. Keserwan municipal union head “Juan Hbeish's symbolic move reflects mutual respect between people... but some parties have resorted to electoral overbidding,” Nasrallah said. “Today I tell the people of Jbeil and Keserwan that the key of Keserwan and Jbeil remains with President Michel Aoun, and in Bkirki with Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi,” Hizbullah's leader added.
Hbeish's handing over of the symbolic key to Sheikh Hussein Zoaiter, Hizbullah's parliamentary candidate for Keserwan-Jbeil, has drawn a huge wave of criticism. The Central News Agency reported Monday that Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq has summoned Hbeish to hear his testimony regarding “a step that incited sectarian sentiments and could have led to strife in light of the reactions that followed, which were about to spiral out of control.” Separately, Nasrallah reiterated that the concept of a “leading sect” or “leading party” in Lebanon has “ended.”“We must be always governed by the principle of partnership and cooperation,” Nasrallah stressed. “We want true partnership between Muslims and Christians and we want Christians to have a strong presence in state institutions,” he added. He emphasized that claims that Hizbullah is seeking demographic changes are “ridiculous and incendiary.”As for his party's controversial arsenal of weapons, Nasrallah lamented that there are continuous attempts to “scare people of the resistance's weapons.”“But so far experience has proved that the resistance's arms alongside the army and the people are the basis of security and stability in Lebanon amid the regional blaze,” Nasrallah added. “The weapons that they are scaring people of were responsible for liberating the country and protecting the country's security alongside the army. These weapons have created a balance of deterrence with the enemy and protected the country in the confrontation against takfiri terrorism on the northern and eastern borders,” Nasrallah boasted. He added: “I stress to all Lebanese, especially Christians, that the resistance is a main factor in Lebanon's security.”

Electoral Supervisory Committee Says ‘No Power over Political Candidates’
Naharnet/April 23/18/The Electoral Supervisory Committee acknowledged on Monday that the powers entrusted to it do not include powers over candidates from the political class. “The authority given to the electoral supervisory committee do not include powers over political candidates,” head of the committee, ex-Judge Nadim Abdul Malak told reporters during a press conference. Abdul Malak also stressed that “jurisdictions given to the committee were not curtailed. You are making this committee claim much bigger responsibility than that entrusted by law,” he told reporters incessantly asking about the committee’s lack of response towards the “misuse of government powers and resources.”He assured that the committee practices its tasks “independently and in coordination with the interior minister.”The conference came after Head of the Lebanese Handicapped Union, Silvana al-Laqqis, a supervisory committee member announced her resignation over the weekend, citing “restrictions preventing the committee from practicing its role as a supervisory body.”The Electoral Supervisory Committee conference comes amid reports that some “government” candidates are misusing positions and government resources to serve electoral campaigns. However, Abdul Malak said the committee “is documenting everything happening, and will be ready to present them before the Constitutional Council shall it be asked to do so.”Some 16 ministers, out of Lebanon’s 30 member Cabinet are running in the parliamentary elections, including Prime Minister Saad Hariri. Lebanese electoral law only approved in 2017, does not ban ministers from running for Parliament.

Report: Heated Electioneering, Disturbances as Lebanon Gears for Elections
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 23/18/Parliament hopefuls, political parties and state figures running in the country’s upcoming general elections have “rallied capabilities and means” for their electoral campaigns, amid complaints some are reportedly “exploiting” the government's resources and “harnessing” some of the security and administrative services, al-Joumhouria daily reported Monday. The past 48 hours have witnessed “heated” electioneering around different Lebanese regions, with signs of escalating “verbal rhetoric,” where more and more fights and disturbances were reported in the run-up to the May 6 ballot. Two weeks before the elections kick off, several incidents were reported, some of which with the aim of pressuring voters, said the daily. In Akkar’s town of Ballaneh, a group of youth blocked the international highway with burning tyres in protest at a planned electoral visit by Ex-minister and Tripoli parliamentary candidate Maj. Gen. Ashraf Rifi to the town. The visit triggered tension between al-Mustaqbal Movement supporters (of PM Saad Hariri) and Rifi’s. Stone-throwing and commotion between the two groups were recorded, reported the daily. In the South, anti-Hizbullah journalist and parliamentary candidate Ali al-Amin was physically assaulted Sunday in his southern hometown Shaqra at the hands of Hizbullah supporters. 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.” In the Choueifat region, armed clashes erupted between supporters of two rival political parties in the town. The situation was contained later on. Lebanon will stage its frst legislative elections in nine years on the basis on a complex proportional representation electoral system, replacing a majoritarian winner-takes-all system.

Makhzoumi Campaign Office Vandalized in Beirut
Naharnet/April 23/18/An electoral campaign office belonging to parliamentary candidate Fouad Makhzoumi was attacked on Monday. The assailants trashed the office and smashed its doors in Beirut's Qasqas area, in an attack that comes two weeks ahead of the May 6 parliamentary elections. The capital has witnessed several similar incidents and clashes in recent weeks as the electoral battle heats up. Makhzoumi's press office condemned the attack and called for “engaging in the electoral battle in a civilized and democratic way.”It also called on the Interior Ministry to “perform its role in protecting the electoral juncture,” emphasizing that “such practices do not represent Beirut's residents.”Accordingly, the office called on all parties to “exercise restraint and shun provocations, especially as the date of elections nears.”A prominent businessman and the founder of the National Dialogue Party, Makhzoumi is a leading candidate in Beirut's second district. His list is competing against eight other alliances, most notably al-Mustaqbal Movement's list.

Mikati rows with crowd at rally in Qalamoun
The Daily Star/April. 23/18/BEIRUT: Former Prime Minister Najib Mikati received a cool welcome from Future Movement supporters during his visit to the northern town of Qalamoun Sunday. Mikati, an opponent of Prime Minister Saad Hariri, was met with shouts of “Saad, Saad, Saad” from Future supporters and crowds waving the movement’s blue flag when he arrived in the town. Apparently infuriated by the hostile reaction, Mikati told the crowd: “Let Saad Hariri release Nizar Zakka.” Zakka, a Lebanese national and permanent resident of the U.S., has been detained in Iran since 2015. He was arrested after traveling to Iran to attend a state-sponsored conference in Tehran.

Jumblat ‘Sponsors’ Reconciliation Ending 2007 Ziads’ Murder Case
Naharnet/April 23/18/Progressive Socialist Party leader, MP Walid Jumblat “sponsored” a reconciliation with Hizbullah party, ending an 11-year conflict over the retaliatory kidnapping and killing case of Ziad Ghandour and Ziad Qabalan, months after Adnan Shamas (Hizbullah supporter) was killed, the National News Agency reported.Jumblat had met Sunday evening with Hizbullah Coordination and Liaison Officer Wafiq Safa, AMAL security official Ahmed Baalbaki in the presence of MP Ghazi Aridi, said NNA. Members and dignitaries from the Shamas family also were present, alongside parents of Qabalan, and Ghandour and legal practitioners. According to NNA, a reconciliation was reached and all legal charges related to the case were dropped. Jumblat extended his gratitude to Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah and AMAL chief Speaker Nabih Berri. He hailed their keenness on “consolidating national unity,” assuring that a new page has been turned.

Report: Lebanese Ambassador ‘Urges French Condemnation’ of Syria Strikes
Naharnet/April 23/18/Lebanese ambassador to France, Rami Adwan, has reportedly “met with French Socialist Party member, Boris Fallu,” asking him to “launch a campaign against the Western strikes on Syria,” in which France participated, An Nahar daily reported on Monday. Quoting an unnamed French source who spoke on condition of anonymity, the daily said that Adwan has allegedly “met with Fallu asking him to launch a campaign denouncing Western strikes” against regime targets in Syria. “The source denounced the ambassador's efforts to incite French figures and parties, in order to form opposition to a sovereign presidential action,” said An Nahar. “It is still unclear whether the incident would affect relations between Baabda and the Elysse, mainly that the ambassador is administratively linked to the foreign ministry and presidential palace. He was appointed in his current post as part of the Free Patriotic Movement’s share,” concluded the daily. On April 14, the United States, France and Britain fired missiles meant as a response to what the trio of nations said was evidence Damascus had used chemical weapons a week earlier.

Lebanon's Hariri to Follow Up on Nizar Zakka Case

Beirut- Asharq Al Awsat/Monday, 23 April, 2018/Nizar Zakka, a Lebanese detainee currently held in Iran, is in “very bad health,” his family members said in a statement presented to Prime Minister Saad Hariri Monday. PM Hariri received a delegation from the town of Kalamoun, headed by the President of the Municipality Talal Dankar, in the presence of the sister of the Lebanese citizen detained in Iran Nizar Zakka, Maha Zakka. “We learned that Nizar suffers from difficult health conditions, so we are afraid that his health will deteriorate and that he will return to us dead," read the statement, which Zakka's sister, Maha, read to Hariri. "He has been thrown in Evin Prison without committing any offense.” Zakka recounted how her family lost contact with her brother who was kidnapped after went to Iran on an official invitation to participate in a conference. "Even the Lebanese ambassador to Iran is not in contact with him," she complained, calling on President Aoun and Premier Hariri to do what they can to help bring back Nizar safely from Iran. After the meeting, Dankar said: “We discussed with Prime Minister Hariri the case of the son of Kalamoun Nizar Zakka, who has been detained for more than two and a half years and is suffering from a difficult and unclear health situation. What we heard from Premier Hariri assured us regarding his detailed follow up on this issue. He told us he will inform us soon about the latest developments in this case and we hoped that this file would end with his safe return.” Zakka was arrested after traveling to Iran to attend a state-sponsored conference in the capital, Tehran, in 2015. At the time of his arrest, he was the secretary-general of IJMA3, an Arab communications organization, and had received an official invitation to visit Iran.
Machnouk Asks Mount Lebanon Governor to Summon Hobeich over Key Bestowment 23rd April 2018/Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk on Monday asked Mount Lebanon governor to summon Juan Hobeich to hear what he has to say about granting the Key to Keserwan to Hezbollah candidate, Al-Markazia agency reported. Jounieh Municipality head and president of the Union of Keserwan Ftouh Municipalities, Juan Hobeich, on Saturday offered Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah the Key to the City, in a first-of-its-kind move. The Key to the City was handed to Hezbollah candidate in Jbeil, Hussein Zeaiter. Hobeich claimed that he was intending to offer Hezbollah leader a honorary shield, but that he got surprised to see that it was made in the form of a key.

Sami Gemayel Blames Presidential Settlement for Keserwan Key Bestowment 23rd April 2018/Kataeb leader Samy Gemayel on Sunday commented on the bestowment of the Key to the City of Keserwan to Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah, blaming the political settlement that has been ruling the country over the past two years for that. "The settlement which was sealed before the presidential election marked the begininng of the bestowment of Lebanon's keys to Hezbollah," Gemayel said during a meeting with Kataeb partisans in Fanar. "Handing over the keys of Keserwan to Hezbollah is the result of the wider surrender entailed by the presidential deal," he added.

Kataeb Party: Electoral Warning Signs Must Be Taken Seriously 23rd April 2018/The Lebanese Kataeb party on Monday warned of the security chaos that is prevailing in several districts a few days before the parliamentary elections, holding the ruling authority responsible for the repercussions of providing a cover to the assailants. In a statement issued following its weekly meeting, the Kataeb's politburo accused the ruling authority of using all its power to muzzle anyone who tries to express his opinion in certain areas, like it happened last week with the Kataeb activist Elias Haddad who was arrested for distributing leaflets criticizing the performance of MP Ibrahim Kanaan. "One the other hand, this same authority has failed to pursue the assailants who attacked journalist and candidate Ali Al-Almine," it added, noting that non-state arms are being used to dash democracy and suppress the freedom of expression. The party condemned the "disgraceful" violations being committed by several candidates and political groups, deeming the resignation of Sylvana Lakkis from the Elections Supervisory Committee, as well as the scandals being unveiled constantly in the media, as warning signs that must be taken seriously. The politburo, therefore, stressed the need to take all of the emerging signs into consideration "before the polls turn into a gateway to subjugation, bullying, authoritarianism, suppression and the destruction of state institutions." The party reiterated that the upcoming polls serve as a chance to make the much-aspired change, urging the Lebanese to seize this opportunity and cast their ballots.

Lakkis Says She Will Not Back Down on Resignation 23rd April 2018/Resigned member of the Elections Supervisory Committee Sylvana Lakkis on Monday stressed that she will not back down on her decision, saying that the reasons that drove her to resign are still valid. Last week, Lakkis announced her resignation, saying that she has not been able to honor the oath she had taken when assuming her duties. "After I was appointed as a member of the Elections Supervisory Committee, I took the oath to fulfill my duties with full sincerity, impartiality, loyalty and independence while making sure to fully abide by the elections-related laws and regulations," she said in a news conference held to clarify the reasons behind her decision. Al-Lakkis is the chair of the Arab forum for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (AFRPD) and the regional representative of Disabled People International (DPI). "Months after my appointment, I have found it impossible for me to fulfill my duties as requires by the oath I took," she added. "I found that it is my duty to submit my resignation so that I wouldn't become a false witness on the committee's inability to accomplish its tasks.""Given that the practices we are witnessing have taken a course that is different from the one I was aspiring for, it has become my duty to step down and break the silence that we, as members of the committee, are required to adhere to," she said.

Nohra: Lebanese Yearning for Rescue Project and Change 23rd April 2018/Kataeb Candidate for the Maronite seat in Jezzine, Joseph Nohra, on Monday said that the Lebanese are yearning for a rescue project and a real pulse of change, calling on them to refuse any sort of electoral bribe. "The money used in the services provided by some candidates is initially yours. They are trying to humiliate you. You should express your rejection of all forms of abuse of power," he said in an interview on Voice of Lebanon radio station. Nohra noted that electoral campaigns are marred by violations, condemning the attack on journalist and candidate Ali Al-Amine. Nohra stressed that the Kataeb party has a platform that addresses all life aspects in the region, pledging to work on implementing the 131 steps mentioned in it. He also vowed to work on establishing a Lebanese University branch as well as a public hospital in Jezzine, adding that the Sidon port should be developed in a bid to create job opportunities for the youth hailing from the area. Nohra called on the expats to make the right choice and vote with a clear conscience, urging the voters in Lebanon not to get influenced by all forms of pressure.

Saade Says He's Running for Polls to Continue What He Started 23rd April 2018/Kataeb candidate for the Maronite seat in Batroun, Samer Saade, on Sunday said that he is running for the polls not to retain his parliamentary seat, but to carry on his fight for a better country. Saade dismissed claims about under-the-table deals being sealed ahead of the elections, stressing that the Kataeb party's history proves that it had never opted for settlements.

Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on April 23-24/18
9 dead, 16 injured after pedestrians struck by van during attack in Toronto
By Nick Westoll, Jessica Patton and David Shum/Global News/April 23/18
Toronto police say nine people have died and 16 are injured after multiple pedestrians were struck by a white van in Toronto Monday afternoon.
Police said the incident happened around 1:30 p.m. in the area of Yonge Street and Finch Avenue.
“Reports were that a white van mounted the curb, drove down the sidewalk at southbound Yonge, south of Finch, and struck eight to 10 people possibly, the numbers aren’t confirmed yet,” Toronto police spokesperson Gary Long told Global News.Global News observed multiple bodies covered with blankets. The extent of the injuries is unknown.In a statement from Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, 10 patients were brought to the hospital. Two of the victims died at hospital, five are in critical condition, two are in serious condition and one is listed in fair condition. Officials said the hospital’s emergency room has been locked down as a precaution.
A video posted on Twitter appears to show a standoff between the male suspect and police just before he was arrested.
The suspect appears to come out of the white van with an object in his hands pointed towards a police officer in the street. In the video, the officer could be heard shouting “get down on the ground now.” The officer walked toward the man, who dropped the object and turned around with his hands in the air. It is unclear what the object was that the suspect was holding. He was subsequently taken into custody.Barry Mather, a delivery driver from Bolton, told Global News Radio 640 Toronto’s Kelly Cutrara that he saw a “banged up” white van while he was making a delivery on Bogert Avenue, near Yonge and Sheppard.
“I was coming out of my van and I’d look and I’d hear this scraping and grinding noise and there’s this white Ryder van coming towards me so I had to jump out of the way.”
Nick Sanka told Global News he was studying in an area Starbucks when he saw a truck “just running through.”“I get up, and by the time I come here, I saw someone with blood trailing…”
Sanka said the van was “definitely speeding” and that the driver appeared to be in control.“He did seem to have control over what he was doing … so it wasn’t some sort of impairment where he was swerving,” he said.
“He just [drove] straight through – and he managed to make a perfect turn at that corner as well.”Mayor John Tory said he has spoken with Chief Mark Saunders and other city officials and is on his way to the scene.
“There has been a very tragic incident at Yonge Street and Finch Avenue,” Tory said. “My thoughts are with those affected by this incident and the frontline responders who are working to help those injured.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau issued a brief statement Monday afternoon in response to the incident.
“We’re just learning about the situation in Toronto now. Our hearts go out to anyone affected,” he said.
“Obviously we’re going to have more to learn and more to say in the coming hours.”Federal Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale commended the response by emergency crews.
“Grateful for the brave and professional response of @TorontoPolice and other first responders to the horrific attack at Yonge and Finch,” he tweeted.
“Canadians are appalled at what happened. The victims and their families have our deepest condolences.”
Global News confirmed Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Vance was briefed on the incident unfolding in Toronto. A strategic advisory alert has gone out to military commanders across the country.
remier Kathleen Wynne said in a post on Twitter that the province is also monitoring the situation and working with the City of Toronto and the federal government. “My thoughts are with everyone affected,” she said. “Thank you to the first responders caring for victims and witnesses.”
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the rental company of the van driven by the suspect said the company is aware of the incident.
“We are saddened by this tragic event, and our deepest sympathies go out to those impacted,” Claudia Panfil, vice president of corporate communications for Ryder System, Inc., told Global News in a statement.
“We take the safety and security related to the use of our entire fleet very seriously and we are cooperating fully with authorities.”
The Toronto Transit Commission has shut down subway service between Sheppard and Finch stations due to the police investigation.
Officials said there will be no shuttle buses operating.
— With files from Kerri Breen, Amanda Connolly and Stewart Bell

G7 ministerial meeting: Building a more peaceful and secure world
Canada.April 23/18
This ministerial meeting is co-chaired by the Honourable Chrystia Freeland, Minister of Foreign Affairs; and the Honourable Ralph Goodale, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness.
Joint statement of foreign and security ministers
Under the theme of “building a more peaceful and secure world,” the foreign and security ministers of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States of America, and the European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, together with European Commissioners in charge of Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship and the Security Union, met jointly in Toronto on April 23, 2018. We discussed collective efforts towards reinforcing democracy by addressing destabilizing behaviour, including interference in countries’ democratic systems, including through digital technologies and unacceptable actions.
Among other issues, we discussed Russia and emphasized the need to protect and promote a rules-based international order. We also looked at how best to manage the risks associated with foreign terrorist fighters, and associated travellers. It was noted that special attention must be given to the challenges associated with returning family members, including women and youth. We issued “Toronto Commitments” on defending democracy and managing foreign terrorist fighters and associated travellers.
Defending democracy – Addressing foreign threats
Managing foreign terrorist fighters and associated travellers
G7 foreign ministers joint communiqué
G7 foreign ministers gathered in Toronto on April 22 and 23, 2018, to exchange views and coordinate action with respect to building a more peaceful and secure world. Bound together by respect for human rights, fundamental freedoms, democracy and the rule of law, they discussed four broad themes: (1) a rules-based international order, (2) non-proliferation and disarmament, (3) transnational threats to security and (4) conflict prevention and support for United Nations efforts and reform. The ministers reaffirmed their belief in open economies, open societies and open governments where diversity is respected and inclusion is valued and embraced.
Read G7 foreign ministers joint communiqué
The Co-chairs set the agenda of the ministerial meeting and deliver a summary of the discussions. The Honourable Chrystia Freeland, Minister of Foreign Affairs will chair the discussion sessions on foreign affairs with her G7 counterparts. The Honourable Ralph Goodale, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness will chair the discussions sessions on security with his G7 counterparts. Ministers will co-chair a joint session on April 23rd .

USA Senate panel narrowly recommends Pompeo as US diplomatic chief
AFP/April 24, 2018/He is expected to be fully confirmed this week/Republican Senator Rand Paul's last-minute vote flip gave him the narrow edge
WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump’s pick for secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, narrowly won approval from a Senate panel Monday and is expected to be confirmed by the full chamber this week.
A last-minute vote flip by Republican Senator Rand Paul, who for weeks had expressed opposition to Pompeo over his stance on the Iraq war and surveillance issues, gave Pompeo a narrow edge — and avoided what would have been an embarrassing setback as the president seeks to install his top diplomat.“We’ll report him to the floor in a positive manner,” committee chairman Senator Bob Corker said, following a vote that saw high tension over the absence of one lawmaker, and a changed vote from “no” to “present” by one Democrat in order to favorably report Pompeo’s nomination.
Parliamentary Secretary Alghabra to attend Brussels conference on Syria
April 23, 2018 - Ottawa, Ontario - Global Affairs Canada
Omar Alghabra, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, today announced he will participate in the Conference on Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region in Brussels, Belgium, on April 24 and 25, 2018.
The focus of the conference is to support a lasting political solution to the Syrian conflict, mobilize international assistance for Syrians, enhance support and improve conditions for the protection of civilians, as well as ensure access for humanitarian workers in Syria.
In addition to attending plenary sessions, Parliamentary Secretary Alghabra will meet with representatives of Syrian civil society organizations and with United Nations officials. He will also participate in a panel discussion on support to Syrian-led women’s organizations and the inclusion, empowerment and leadership of Syrian women.
Canada reiterates its condemnation—in the strongest possible terms—of the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons in eastern Ghouta on April 7, and further reiterates its support for the decision by the United States, the United Kingdom and France to degrade the Assad regime’s ability to launch chemical weapons attacks against its own people.
“Now, more than ever, a peace process is needed. Our goal must be comprehensive and representative negotiations undertaken in good faith. Wherever we can help UN Special Envoy [Staffan] de Mistura and others acting in good faith and in respect of international law, we will.”
- Omar Alghabra, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Macron Arrives in U.S., Iran and Trade to Top Talks
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 23/18/French President Emmanuel Macron began a pomp-filled three-day state visit to Washington on Monday, a test of whether his studied bonhomie with President Donald Trump can save the Iran nuclear deal and avoid a trans-Atlantic trade war. Macron will get the full red carpet treatment -- payback for wooing Trump with military parades and a dazzling Eiffel Tower dinner in Paris last July. The French leader arrived at Andrews Air Force Base outside Washington and was due to make a few welcome remarks to the press. Symbolically, he will roll into the White House from Lafayette Square -- named after the storied French general who fought in America's war for independence -- beneath dozens of fluttering tricolor French flags and a full U.S. military color guard. The pageantry -- designed to underscore Trump and Macron's "friendship" -- comes in stark contrast to the bare-bones one-day working visit of German Chancellor Angela Merkel later in the week. But beyond the 21-gun salutes and dinners of lamb and "Burnt Cipollini Soubise" lurks high political danger for the 40-year-old French leader. Trump is deeply unpopular in France and Macron, like other world leaders -- from Japan's Shinzo Abe to Britain's Theresa May -- is under growing pressure to show voters the benefits of his courtship with the 71-year-old Republican. Looming over a joint outing to George Washington's Mount Vernon estate on Monday evening, and working meetings and a state dinner on Tuesday, are two May deadlines that have the potential to wreck already fragile trans-Atlantic relations.
War 'against everybody... doesn't work'
Biting trade sanctions on European steel and aluminum will enter into force on May 1 unless Trump agrees to sign a waiver. If he refuses, there are fears of a fully fledged trade war. Meanwhile, France and other European nations are battling to save a complex nuclear deal with Iran, which Trump will scuttle if he refuses to waive sanctions against Tehran by a May 12 deadline. Iran says it is ready to relaunch its nuclear program -- which the West suspects is designed to produce a bomb -- if Trump kills the deal. European officials say Trump's demand to reopen the deal are impossible, and are scrambling to address his concerns on Tehran's missile testing, inspections and the regime's behavior in the region. There is growing frustration in European capitals that Trump's stubbornness over the Obama-era agreement is diverting attention away from other pressing issues. In an interview broadcast on the eve of his arrival, Macron went on Trump's favorite television channel, Fox News, to make his pitch. "If you make war against everybody," Macron said, "trade war against Europe, war in Syria, war against Iran – come on -- it doesn't work. You need allies. We are the allies."Macron will also be keen to temper Trump's instinct to precipitously pull the U.S. military out of Syria, amid cooperation in fighting the Islamic State group and coordinated strikes on chemical weapons installations operated by Damascus. "I think the U.S. role is very important to play," he said. "Why? I will be very blunt. The day we will have finished this war against ISIS, if we leave, definitely and totally, even from a political point of view, we will leave the floor to the Iranian regime, Bashar al-Assad and these guys."'Now - we will work together' In public, both countries are keen to emphasize their historic relationship -- recalling that France was the first ally of American revolutionaries fighting for independence. Macron will bring with him an oak sapling to be planted at the White House as a symbol of friendship. It comes from near the site of the Battle of Belleau Woods in northern France, where 2,000 U.S. Marines perished at the end of World War I. On a personal level, despite sharp differences in political background, age and lifestyle, the presidents seem to have struck up a bond as fellow outsiders who outwitted the establishment to gain power. "We have a very special relationship because both of us are probably the maverick of the systems on both sides," Macron told Fox News. Trump himself told Macron their "friendship" was "unbreakable" during his trip to Paris last year. When asked about their first encounter -- a much-scrutinized six-second handshake during a NATO summit in May -- Macron acknowledged it had was a "very direct, lucid moment" that had set the tone between them. "And a very friendly moment," he added. "It was to say now, we will work together." On Wednesday, the centrist leader will demonstrate his English-language skills -- a rarity for a French president -- in an address to a joint session of Congress.

Huthi Political Leader Killed in Saudi-Led Coalition Raid
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 23/18/The political leader of Yemen's Huthi rebels, Saleh al-Sammad, was killed last week in an air strike by the Saudi-led coalition, the Iran-allied rebels said on Monday. Sammad, head of the Huthis' supreme political council, was "martyred" in the eastern province of Hodeida on Thursday, the rebels said in a statement published on the Huthi-run Saba news agency.His death comes as a big blow to the Shiite rebels who since March 2015 have been fighting pro-government forces backed by a military coalition led by Saudi Arabia. At the beginning of April, Sammad dubbed 2018 "the year of ballistic excellence", referring to missiles the rebels have fired across the border. Since November, the Huthis have launched several ballistic missiles at neighboring Saudi Arabia, which have been intercepted by anti-aircraft defense. The Huthis' supreme leader Abdel Malek al-Huthi rarely appears in public.

Armenia Celebrates as Veteran Leader Quits amid Protests
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 23/18/Armenia's veteran leader Serzh Sarkisian resigned on Monday after mass protests against his election as prime minister with sweeping powers, sparking celebrations across the impoverished country. Last week Sarkisian was elected prime minister by lawmakers after serving a decade as president, triggering political turmoil in the Moscow-allied nation of 2.9 million people. The opposition said the move was designed to extend his chokehold on power under a new parliamentary system of government. Tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets of the capital Yerevan in recent days. The 63-year-old Sarkisian -- who earlier refused to step down -- stunned the country Monday by saying he was in the wrong and resigning. His announcement came shortly after the release of protest leader Pashinyan who had been detained by police on Sunday. "I am leaving the post of the country's leader," pro-Moscow Sarkisian was quoted as saying in a statement by his office. "Nikol Pashinyan was right. I was wrong." Sarkisian implied that there were several ways to resolve the crisis and that he could have used force to break up protests but chose not do to it.
"This is not in my nature," he added. Sarkisian quit after a number of serving and former soldiers joined the protests.
'People won'
Armenians cheered the resignation, dancing, hugging each other and setting off fireworks. "The people won!" shouted supporters of Pashinyan as some people waved national flags and others tooted car horns, on the 11th day of demonstrations. Spontaneous street parties broke out as tens of thousands took to the streets. Many flocked to stores to buy wine and raise a toast to the country's future. "You have won, the proud citizens of Armenia!" Pashinyan, the 42-year-old leader of the Civil Contract Party, wrote on Facebook."And no one will be able to take this victory away from you. I congratulate you, the victorious people."First Vice Premier Karen Karapetyan has been appointed acting head of government. Sarkisian remained the country's top leader even after he transitioned to the post of prime minister following constitutional amendments approved in 2015, which transferred powers from the presidency to the premiership. Sarkisian, a shrewd former military officer, was first elected president of the impoverished, Moscow-allied country in 2008. He also held the office of prime minister from 2007 to 2008. After the 2008 presidential vote, 10 people died in clashes between police and supporters of the defeated opposition candidate. The Kremlin said it was closely watching the political crisis in Armenia -- which hosts a Russian military base -- but would not interfere.
'New life'
Sarkisian's peaceful departure after a decade in power has been hailed as unprecedented. "For the first time ever the people forced the head of state to resign," said 46-year-old Arman Sarkisian (no relation to Serzh Sarkisian)."This has never happened before. From now on those who will replace him will think twice before taking decisions." Gohar Badalyan, a 21-year-old student, added: "A new life is beginning today." Sarkisian had earlier refused to go and on Sunday stormed out of televised talks with Pashinyan, accusing him of "blackmail." Over the past days, thousands of opposition supporters held rallies against Sarkisian, denouncing his failure to fight poverty, corruption and the influence of oligarchs. They blocked roads and marched arm-in-arm holding Armenian flags, with students and a group of serving soldiers joining the protests. A number of uniformed former soldiers and veterans who fought in Nagorny Karabakh -- a breakaway region seized by Armenian separatists after the collapse of the Soviet Union -- also joined the demonstrations.
Despite the festive mood, many in Armenia acknowledged on Monday that the country still faced huge uncertainty. Andranik Serobyan, a teacher, said the "hardest part is ahead". "Who will be the prime minister? Who will be the country's leader? We will have to live through all of this."
Kremlin 'observing'
In Moscow, President Vladimir Putin's spokesman -- who spoke to reporters before Sarkisian resigned -- said that Russia was carefully watching events in Armenia, which has retained close ties to its former Soviet master.
"We are very attentively observing what is happening in Armenia," President Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, calling the South Caucasus country "extremely important" for Russia. Peskov dismissed a question on whether Russia would interfere in the crisis -- which he called "exclusively an internal affair" -- as "absolutely inappropriate."

Syria Security Chief Refuses to Appear in Lebanon's Military Court
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 23/18/Syrian security services chief Ali Mamluk has refused to appear before a military tribunal in Lebanon to face terror-related charges, a court source told the AFP news agency Monday. Mamluk, a member of President Bashar al-Assad's inner circle, was accused in 2013 by Lebanon's government of "attempting to murder politicians and other citizens, and carrying out terrorist acts." The charge is linked to a case that saw Lebanon's former information minister Michel Samaha sentenced to 13 years in prison after he was caught transporting explosives from Syria for use in attacks in Lebanon. Samaha admitted early on in his trial that he was plotting the attacks with Mamluk's help. Since 2013, Lebanon has had an arrest warrant out for Mamluk, 72, and has been serving subpoenas to Syria in his name, but it was unclear if he was receiving them. Monday's hearing marked a rare acknowledgment of an attempted delivery. "During a hearing by the military court on Monday, the subpoena returned (from Damascus) without the accused's signature," the source told AFP. "But it included a note saying the accused would only agree to appear in court in front of a commission made up entirely of major generals," said the court source, speaking on condition of anonymity. Without Mamluk's signature, the subpoena could not be considered successfully delivered by the court, which set a new hearing for October 29. Mamluk has rarely traveled outside of Syria -- or even appeared publicly -- since the conflict in his country erupted in March 2011. He was appointed as the head of national security in 2012 after a major explosion in Damascus killed four top security officials. Another legal source told AFP it would be impossible to honor Mamluk's request to appear before a special military court. "It would require a special law, and there aren't seven major generals in Lebanon. Only the heads of security agencies have that title," the source said.

IS Threatens Iraq Polling Stations ahead of Vote
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 23/18/The Islamic State group has threatened to attack Iraqi polling stations and voters during parliamentary elections next month. In a message posted to the Telegram messaging app on Sunday, IS spokesman Abu Hassan al-Muhajir called on Sunni Iraqis to boycott the May 12 polls, the first since Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared victory over the jihadists in December. "Oh Sunnis... we know that the government of Rafida (a pejorative Arabic term for Shiites) is on the verge of what they call elections," he said. "Our judgment will apply to those who call for them and participate in them... The voting centers and those in them are targets for our swords, so stay away from them and do not walk nearby." Sunni extremist groups have long targeted Shiites, a majority in Iraq.Jihadist groups in Iraq have targeted every election since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that deposed Saddam Hussein and paved the way for Shiites to dominate every government since.

Yemen Forces Clash with Jihadists after Red Cross Worker Killed

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 23/18/Five pro-government soldiers were killed and 19 wounded in clashes with jihadists in Yemen's southern city of Taez on Monday after the killing of an aid worker with the International Committee of the Red Cross, medics said. It was unknown if there were any casualties among the jihadists. Fighting in the city's Jahmaliah district came after the governor of Taez launched an operation against jihadists he suspected were behind the murder of the ICRC employee over the weekend. Jahmaliah is controlled by pro-government forces but there is a jihadist presence in the area, a police officer told AFP. A large portion of Yemen's third city Taez is held by pro-government fighters, but the entrances to the city are controlled by Huthi rebels. Fierce clashes broke out after the operation was launched on Monday morning, according to the officer, who was unable to provide further details. On Sunday, Taez governor Amin Ahmad Mahmud, loyal to President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi, created a special force of police and army units tasked with battling jihadists he believes killed the ICRC employee on Saturday.
The Lebanese aid worker, Hanna Lahoud, was shot in Taez by unidentified assailants. In March, Yemen entered its fourth year of war between the Iran-backed Huthi rebels and pro-government forces backed by a Saudi-led military coalition. Nearly 10,000 people have been killed in the conflict, which has triggered what the United Nations has called the world's worst humanitarian crisis. Sunni jihadists, including from Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group, have taken advantage of the chaos to expand their influence in parts of Yemen, particularly in the south.

Palestinian Dies of Wounds, Bringing Gaza Toll to 40

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 23/18/Two Palestinians wounded in clashes with Israel were pronounced dead Monday, a Gaza official said, bringing the toll from Israeli fire since March 30 to 40. A spokesman for the Hamas-controlled territory's health ministry named the latest fatalities as Tahrir Wahada, 18, and Abdullah Shamali, 20. Wahada was shot in the head in a clash east of Khan Yunis on April 6, and Shamali died of "bullet wounds to his belly" sustained on Friday, according to the spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra. Most of the 40 Palestinians killed by Israel since the start of "March of Return" protests on March 30 were shot by snipers on the border, while a few others were killed by Israeli artillery or air strikes. Tens of thousands of Palestinians in the coastal enclave, wedged between Israel, Egypt and the Mediterranean, have gathered at the border on consecutive Fridays to call for Palestinian refugees to be allowed to return to their former homes now inside Israel. Some protestors have launched stones or burning tires at Israeli soldiers. Israeli forces have responded with live ammunition, wounding hundreds in addition to those killed. The Israeli army says its fores only open fire in self-defence or to stop protestors attempting to breach the barrier separating the territory from Israel. More than 440 demonstrators suffered bullet wounds or gas inhalation on Friday, rescuers said. Israel has drawn harsh criticism from rights groups along with calls for investigations by the United Nations or the European Union. Israel has for more than a decade imposed a crippling blockade on Gaza, fighting three wars with Islamist movement Hamas since 2008.

Images Released of Suspects in Palestinian Assassination

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 23/18/Malaysian police Monday released computer-generated images of two men suspected of assassinating a Palestinian scientist in a drive-by shooting in Kuala Lumpur, as they stepped up a hunt for the pair.
Fadi Mohammad al-Batsh, 35, was struck down in a hail of bullets by motorbike-riding attackers Saturday as he walked to a mosque for dawn prayers. The family of Batsh, a member of Islamist militant group Hamas who was said to be a rocket-making expert, has accused Israel's Mossad spy agency of carrying out the killing but Israel has denied the claims. Kuala Lumpur police released photofits of the two suspects, who were seen waiting in the area where Batsh lived before the killing. The pictures show two light-skinned men, both with goatee beards, one of whom was wearing glasses and a white and black helmet. They also released images of two motorcycles, a BMW and a Kawasaki. Only one motorbike was believed to have been used in the assassination and police believe it could have been either of the models. Mazlan Lazim, Kuala Lumpur police chief, told AFP a hunt had been launched for the pair. "All exit points (out of the country) have been alerted and told that the two suspects must be arrested," he said. Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said at the weekend the suspects were believed to be European and to have ties with a foreign intelligence agency. The scientist's widow, Enas al-Batsh, spent two hours at the hospital holding his body Monday. Abdul Rahim Shehab, a friend of the scientist's, said the Palestinian representative in Malaysia was making arrangements for his body to be sent back home for burial. "Fadi's parents want his body to be buried in Gaza," he said. Mossad is believed to have assassinated Palestinian militants and scientists in the past, but rarely confirms such operations. Batsh's expertise in making weapons could have made him a target -- militants in Hamas-ruled Gaza regularly fire rockets at southern Israel, usually without causing casualties. But Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman Sunday denied claims of the Jewish state's involvement, suggesting instead that it was a "settling of accounts" between factions of a terror group. Batsh was married with three young children and had lived in Malaysia for 10 years. It was the second high-profile killing of a foreigner in Malaysia in just over a year. In February 2017 assassins smeared the banned VX nerve agent on the face of Kim Jong Nam, the estranged half-brother of North Korea's leader, at Kuala Lumpur International Airport, killing him within minutes.

Egypt Fight against IS Threatens Humanitarian Crisis, Says HRW

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 23/18/Egypt's military operations against an affiliate of the Islamic State group in North Sinai is threatening to spark a humanitarian crisis, Human Rights Watch said on Monday. The offensive launched on February 9 "has left up to 420,000 residents in four northeastern cities in urgent need of humanitarian aid," said the New York-based organisation. The campaign "has included imposing severe restrictions on the movement of people and goods in almost all of" North Sinai, HRW said in a report. "Residents say they have experienced sharply diminished supplies of available food, medicine, cooking gas, and other essential commercial goods."The authorities conducting the campaign, dubbed "Sinai 2018", have also banned the sale of gasoline for cars in the area "and cut telecommunication services for several days at a time," the report said. Human Rights Watch also said authorities had "cut water and electricity almost entirely in the most eastern areas of North Sinai, including Rafah and Sheikh Zuwayed.""A counterterrorism operation that imperils the flow of essential goods to hundreds of thousands of civilians is unlawful and unlikely to stem violence," said Sarah Leah Whitson, the organisation's Middle East and North Africa director. "The Egyptian army's actions border on collective punishment," she added. Since the launch of the offensive, the military has distributed images of forces providing humanitarian assistance to people living in the area. According to the military, residents support the campaign and many have come forward with useful information to help the authorities neutralise the jihadists. Security forces have stepped up efforts to quell attacks by an Egyptian jihadist group that later declared allegiance to IS since Islamist president Mohamed Morsi was deposed in 2013. Morsi was forced out by the military, following mass protests against him. The group has killed hundreds of soldiers, policemen and civilians, mainly in its North Sinai stronghold but also elsewhere in Egypt. More than 100 jihadists and at least 30 soldiers have been killed in the ongoing operation, according to army figures.

It's a Boy for UK Royals
London- Asharq Al Awsat/Monday, 23 April, 2018/The Duchess of Cambridge, wife of Britain's Prince William, has given birth to a boy at a hospital in London on Monday, the third child for the British royal couple and now fifth in line to the throne. Kensington Palace said the baby was born at 1001 GMT and weighs 8 lbs 7oz (3.8 kg). William was present for the birth at St Mary’s Hospital in west London where their other two children, George and Charlotte, were also born, it added. "The Queen, The Duke of Edinburgh, The Prince of Wales, The Duchess of Cornwall, Prince Harry and members of both families have been informed and are delighted with the news," Kensington Palace said in a statement on Twitter. “Her Royal Highness and her child are both doing well.”The duchess' pregnancy was announced in September. At the time, she was said to be suffering from hyperemesis gravidarum, which involves nausea and vomiting more severe than the typical morning sickness many women suffer during early pregnancy. The duchess was affected by the same condition during her two previous pregnancies. As her symptoms eased she returned to public engagements, making appearances alongside William, Harry and his fiancee, Meghan Markle. The new prince is Queen Elizabeth’s sixth great-grandchild and will follow siblings George, 4, two-year-old sister Charlotte, their father William, and grandfather and heir Prince Charles in line to the British throne.
A 2013 change to the law means the boy will not supplant his older sister Charlotte in the order of succession. Previously younger males would take precedence over older female siblings.“That would in fact be the first time that has ever happened,” royal historian Hugo Vickers said. William’s younger brother Harry, who marries US actress Meghan Markle next month, falls to sixth on the list. Kensington Palace said the name of the new royal would be announced in due course. Bookmakers have made Albert, Arthur, Jack and Fred the favorite names for a boy. In keeping with tradition, the official announcement of the birth will be made by placing a notice on an easel in the forecourt of the queen’s London home, Buckingham Palace. “My warmest congratulations to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on the birth of their baby boy,” Prime Minister Theresa May said. “I wish them great happiness for the future.”William and Kate met as students at St Andrews University in Scotland. They got married in a pageant-packed ceremony at Westminster Abbey in April 2011 and have since become well-known across the global stage. The couple now live at Kensington Palace and last year William gave up his day job as an air ambulance pilot to concentrate full time on royal duties on behalf of his grandmother, having faced some criticism from British newspapers who dubbed him “workshy Wills”. He has been determined to play a hands-on role in bringing up his children while also protecting their privacy, an issue close to his heart after the death of his mother, Princess Diana, in a 1997 Paris car crash as her limousine sped away from chasing paparazzi.
The British royals are rarely out of the media glare, but the baby arrives at a time when the Windsors have particularly been in the limelight. On Saturday William joined the queen and other senior royals, with the exception of Kate, as the monarch celebrated her 92nd birthday at a televised concert. The queen also played a prominent role at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in London last week, where it was announced that Charles would succeed her as head of the network of mainly former British colonies. William and Kate’s wedding and the birth of Prince George, who is destined to be a future king, generated a worldwide media frenzy. While interest in their third child has been more muted, large numbers of photographers and broadcasters massed outside the hospital, along with some dedicated royal fans. John Loughrey, 63, from south London, who was wearing a Union Jack onesie and hat and holding a baby doll adorned with a crown, said he had been camped outside the hospital for 15 days. “We’ve been coming out doing this for 21 years. We were here for George and Charlotte and we’ll be there for the royal wedding too,” he said, referring to Harry and Meghan.

Tennessee Shooter Arrested after Manhunt
Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 23 April, 2018/Police in the US state of Tennessee arrested on Monday the gunman behind the killing of four people at a Waffle House in the city of Nashville over the weekend. Authorities had mounted a massive manhunt for 29-year-old Travis Reinking, after the Sunday morning attacks. They said that he was arrested on Monday afternoon, but did not disclose details. More than 100 Nashville police officers had been going door-to-door and searching wooded areas, joined by dozens of agents with the FBI, the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and troopers with the Tennessee Highway Patrol. Police said he had stolen a BMW days before the attack. The car was quickly recovered, but authorities did not immediately link it to Reinking. Reinking, described as a white man with brown hair, opened fire with an AR-15 in the Waffle House parking lot and then stormed the restaurant shortly after 3 a.m. Sunday, police say. Four people were killed and four others were injured before a quick-thinking customer wrestled the assault weapon away, preventing more bloodshed. Reinking then disappeared, police said. Police identified the victims. Slain outside the restaurant in Nashville’s Antioch neighborhood shortly before 3:30 a.m. were Waffle House employee Taurean C. Sanderlin, 29, and patron Joe R. Perez, 20, police said. Inside, the shooter killed patrons DeEbony Groves, 21, and Akilah Dasilva, 23. Two wounded patrons, Shanita Waggoner, 21, and Sharita Henderson, 24, were being treated at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, listed in critical condition early on Monday. Others were cut by shattered glass.
One diner, James Shaw Jr., 29, was grazed by a bullet as he hid near a restroom before he wrestled the rifle from the gunman, police said. Police credited his action with saving lives. At a news conference, Shaw said he was no hero, adding: “I just wanted to live.”Shaw recalled how when he and a friend were at the Waffle House when they heard a crash, which he initially thought was plates breaking. He then saw the gunman, who was dressed in a green jacket and nothing else, open fire. When Shaw moved toward the bathroom, the shooter followed him, making him feel trapped. “I distinctly remember thinking that he is going to have to work for this kill,” he said. Shaw said that when he saw the gunman pause to reload, he saw his opportunity and snatched the gun, which he said was hot to the touch, and threw it away. He sported a bandage over his right hand where he was burned grabbing the barrel. “I didn’t care. It was life or death at that time,” Shaw said at the news conference. Metropolitan Nashville Police Field Capt. Daniel Newbern said that the suspect faces multiple murder charges. Police disclosed no known motive for the attack by Reinking, who was naked except for a green jacket when he got out of his pickup truck and started shooting. Police reports from Illinois portrayed Reinking as a disturbed man with paranoid delusions, and one who liked firearms. The reports were among multiple past red flags about the suspect, who had just recently moved to Nashville from Morton, Illinois. Reinking was arrested by agents with the US Secret Service back in July after he crossed a restricted area near the White House, officials said. He was detained after refusing to leave, saying he wanted to meet President Donald Trump.In August, after the White House incident, Reinking told police in Tazewell County, Illinois, that he wanted to file a report about 20 to 30 people tapping into his computer and phone. He also complained that people were "barking like dogs" outside his residence, according to a report. He agreed to go to a local hospital for an evaluation after repeatedly resisting the request, the report said.

Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on April 23-24/18
Palestinians: New Twist on an Old Lie
Bassam Tawil/Gatestone Institute/April
Zomlot informed his Jewish audience, in English, what he would never dare say in Arabic -- that the Palestinians will one day recognize the Jewish connection to Jerusalem. If Zomlot made such a statement in his native Arabic language, he would be denounced as a traitor -- if he were very lucky. If he were less lucky, he would end up in a hospital or morgue.Zomlot knows that he can always deny (in Arabic) what he said in English. Denial of Jewish history in Jerusalem and the existence of the Jewish Temple has always been a central component of the Palestinian narrative and ideology.
Palestinians, like members of all societies, disagree on many things. Nevertheless, when it comes to the historical connection between Jews and Jerusalem, Palestinians manage to unite in lies: Palestinian political leaders, academics and religious leaders have long promoted the false narrative that Jerusalem was, and remains, an Arab and Islamic city.
We are currently witnessing a new twist on this old lie. It seems that some Palestinians are now trying to deceive the world into believing that they do, indeed, recognize the Jewish people's historic connection to Jerusalem.
The problem is that Palestinian officials tell their people one thing in Arabic and the rest of the world another thing in English. One of these con artists is Husam Zomlot, the head of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) diplomatic mission in Washington.
Zomlot appears to grasp that the Palestinian denial of the Jewish people's connection to Jerusalem is something that needs to be hidden from the international community, especially Jews living in the US, Canada and elsewhere around the world. He understands that this Palestinian denial is problematic, especially for left-wing Jewish organizations such as J Street.
In keeping with the Palestinian tradition of double-talk, Zomlot informed his Jewish audience, in English, what he would never dare say in Arabic -- that the Palestinians will one day recognize the Jewish connection to Jerusalem.
Addressing the annual conference of J Street on April 16, the PLO envoy said that Palestinians would "celebrate the Jewish connection to Jerusalem" once a Palestinian state was established with East Jerusalem as its capital.
"Once a state of Palestine is established, once that state has East Jerusalem as its capital, that city will not only recognize the Jewish connection, but we will celebrate the Jewish connection to Jerusalem," Zomlot said.
These are nice words to hear from the mouth of a senior representative of the PLO -- which Palestinians themselves often refer to as the Professional Liars Organization. But would this PLO representative ever dare to make such a statement in front of a Palestinian or Arab audience? The answer, bluntly, is No.
If Zomlot made such a statement in his native Arabic language, he would be denounced as a traitor -- if he were very lucky. If he were less lucky, he would end up in a hospital or morgue.
Just as Zomlot was lying to his Jewish audience, Palestinians in the Gaza Strip were chanting the famous battle cry: "We will march toward Jerusalem, we will sacrifice millions of martyrs."
So, while the PLO representative is promising to celebrate the Jewish connection to Jerusalem, his people are promising to march on the city and kill as many Jews as possible in order to liberate it from the Jewish "occupiers."
Zomlot knows that he can always deny (in Arabic) what he said in English. This tactic is also not new to the Palestinian political landscape.
The PLO envoy is only following a venerable Palestinian tradition of hypocrisy, not to mention, at times, deceit. The organization he represents has a long record of denying any Jewish link not only to Jerusalem, but to the entire Holy Land. For the Palestinians, there is no such thing as a Western Wall, which is holy to Jews because of its connection to the Temple Mount. This is the Al-Buraq Wall, where they believe Prophet Mohammed tied Al-Buraq, the winged riding animal upon which he rode during the Night of Ascension (Mi'raj).
Jamal Muhaisen, a senior official with the "moderate" ruling Fatah faction in the West Bank, summed up the Palestinian position towards this Jewish holy site: "So far, none of the archeologists, not [even] the Israeli ones, have proved the existence of a single remnant of the Israeli side in the places claimed to be theirs." Here it is worth noting that the 1930 Wailing Wall Commission, which was appointed by the British government with the approval of the League of Nations, concluded that the Western Wall had served as a Jewish holy site long before it became a Muslim waqf (an inalienable religious endowment in Islamic law). Muhaisen is not the only Palestinian official to deny the Jewish people's connection to the Western Wall. In the past few years, the Palestinian mufti of Jerusalem, Sheikh Mohammed Hussein, has repeatedly claimed that the Western Wall belongs to Muslims alone.
On April 12, the mufti issued a fatwa (Islamic religious opinion) prohibiting anyone from giving up Jerusalem to Jews:
"It is prohibited to give up or sell any part of Jerusalem and the land of Palestine to the [Israeli Jewish] enemy. Jerusalem is part of the public Islamic properties. Selling or giving up any part of it and any part of Palestine is illegitimate and considered an act of treason. Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa Mosque are Islamic waqf until doomsday. They can't be sold or given away as a gift or passed by inheritance. Jerusalem is Islamic territory, and it will remain so, and it will be liberated by the Arab and Muslim heroes from the profanity of the occupiers as [the Muslim warrior] Salah Ad-Din Al-Ayoubi liberated it from the profanity of the Crusaders."
In a speech before the Jerusalem Islamic International Conference in Ramallah earlier this month, Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas similarly repeated the Palestinian position that denies any connection between Jews and Jerusalem.
In almost all his speeches during the past few decades, Abbas has talked about Islamic and Christian links to Jerusalem, while deliberately omitting any Jewish connection to the city. He has also repeatedly accused Israel of working towards "altering" the Arab and Islamic identity of Jerusalem. According to Abbas, Israel is seeking to "Judaize" the city by undermining its status as an Arab and Islamic city.
"Jerusalem is our political and spiritual capital, and we need to support its Arab and Islamic identity," Abbas said in his speech before the conference in Ramallah. "Jerusalem is the eternal capital of Palestine. It has been so, still is and shall remain so."
One might wonder what Zomlot has to say about such statements made by Abbas and other senior Palestinian officials in which they essentially deny any Jewish connection to Jerusalem. Would he tell us that these statements do not reflect the position of the Palestinians? Would he tell us that Mahmoud Abbas and his mufti are liars, and that they do not actually mean what they say?
Less than 24 hours after Zomlot offered his outright lie to J Street, yet another senior Palestinian official, Jibril Rajoub, unequivocally denied any Jewish connection to Jerusalem.
"Jerusalem is an Arab, Islamic and Christian city," Rajoub declared in a speech in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan. That is an important statement from a top Palestinian official who is being touted as a possible successor to Mahmoud Abbas: it deliberately omits the mention of any Jewish connection to Jerusalem.
The Palestinian leadership is again trying to trick the international community, particularly gullible Jews who have good intentions. Such individuals would do well to listen to what these folks say in Arabic to their own people. Failing to do so means that the real -- and deadly -- position of the Palestinians will remain hidden behind a smokescreen of soothing double-talk.
*Bassam Tawil is a Muslim based in the Middle East.
© 2018 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

Turkey: Is Erdogan's "Magic Spell" Beginning to Pale?
Pinar Tremblay/Gatestone Institute/April
Research conducted in March by 50 teachers from the Imam Hatip schools revealed that students are moving away from Islam.
"[Mosques] no longer serve people, but rather serve as a source of income for certain people." – Young imam, later fired.
Another cause of upset on the part of many religious Muslims is the content of the Diyanet-prepared Friday sermons, which frequently advocates violent jihad.
What is clearly on the rise, however, is great disappointment in the Erdogan government's version of Islam, especially when accompanied by corrupt politics and a deteriorating justice system.
For decades, prominent Islamist figures would rarely criticize Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and when they did, it would be directed at his policies, rather than his personality. That trust seems beginning to change.
On March 26, for instance, Temel Karamollaoglu, the head of the tiny but increasingly influential Saadet (Felicity) party, railed against Erdogan and the members of the public "under his spell." Karamollaoglu's repeated reference to Erdogan as having performed "magic" on the Turkish people is significant. Accusing the leader of the ruling Islamist party of violating Islam, which bans sorcery and witchcraft, goes against the grain of the prevailing culture of unconditional loyalty and obedience. In fact, the 76-year-old Karamollaoglu has been a devoted follower of the political Islamic ideology of dawa (religious outreach) and a former supporter of both Erdogan and his Justice and Development (AKP) Party. Today, outspoken in his opposition, he says that his movement is the only one "that can stop the polarization in Turkey because we can sit down and speak with everyone, accepting our differences. Ours can be a platform of social democrats, nationalists, Kurdish voters and those who previously supported the AKP but are now disillusioned."
The question is whether he can reach Erdogan's dedicated voter base, most of who are ideologically and religiously conservative. There is reason to believe that he might. Turkish Islamists are no longer politically uniform -- especially women and young people, whose waning support for the AKP was apparent during the April 2017 presidential referendum. To attract both sectors, Erdogan promised to lower the age at which a person can run for parliament and to grant lavish subsidies to housewives. These vows, however, appear to be insufficient to keep the people under his "spell."
In the education system, for instance. Erdogan has long promised his supporters that he would cultivate a "pious generation", and invested heavily in religious Imam Hatip schools. His younger son, Bilal, even referred to the students attending these schools as "Erdogan's generation." Yet, it turns out that the children enrolled in these institutions have been failing miserably on all standard academic tests.
Research conducted in March by 50 teachers from the Imam Hatip schools revealed that students are moving away from Islam in favor of a more general deism. The report generated a heated debate. While some secular groups doubt its findings, many feel vindicated by them.
The greatest debate going on, however, is taking place within the conservative sector of Turkish society, highlighting a schism among Islamists. Children from AKP-loyal families, as well as intellectuals and activists, are apparently questioning the touted morals of their elders. In a recent op-ed, hijabi-feminist Berrin Sonmez attacked what she called the "hypocritical piety" of Erdogan and the AKP elites. Sonmez and others have been criticizing Erdogan for his one-man rule, claiming that it runs counter to Islamic values and culture.
On March 22, when Turks celebrated the candle vigil night of mirac kandili, pro-government journalist Nevzat Cicek shared photos on social media of a major mosque in Istanbul that was completely empty. In his tweet, he referred to previous crowded ceremonies and asked: "Have the people moved from religion this much?"
As of 2017, there were 90,000 mosques in Turkey, led by government-employed imams. These mosques have experienced a notable decrease in attendance, particularly among young and middle-aged men. Some of those who continue to frequent the mosques are doing so less for religious reasons than for networking and job-seeking. In addition, more and more mosques have begun requesting hefty contributions from their congregants, while imams are coaxed by the state to collect donations after each sermon. One young imam who publicly complained about this practice -- he said that mosques "no longer serve people, but rather serve as a source of income for certain people" -- was promptly removed from his position.
Another cause of upset on the part of many religious Muslims is the content of the Diyanet-prepared Friday sermons, which frequently advocates violent jihad.
Does this mean that a majority of the Turkish public is really abandoning religion in general and Islam in particular? The alternatives are hardly widespread trends, particularly among young people from religious families. What is clearly on the rise, however, is great disappointment in the Erdogan government's version of Islam, especially when accompanied by corrupt politics and a deteriorating justice system. Religious orders not associated with the Diyanet are beginning to attract more practitioners. While Diyanet and government officials make headlines for their lavish spending and luxurious lifestyles, outside religious orders are presenting a more righteous way of life.
As Diyanet mosques function as pseudo-AKP headquarters across Turkey and abroad, the alternative religious orders pose a significant threat to Erdogan's standing and power. It is no wonder, then, that he recently lashed out at them and asked the Diyanet to "update" Islam. Coming under fire from Islamist scholars not at all keen on "updating Islam," Erdogan and his advisers immediately backpedaled. Instead, they are now figuring out how not to lose young people to deism and atheism, and to cause them to rally around Erdogan's version of Islam.
This is most likely why Metin Kulunk, a lawmaker from AKP and a staunch Erdogan advocate, told the press that "deism is the biggest potential threat against our country, unless we take precautions."
It is safe to assume that Erdogan will engage in similar fearmongering as he begins to prepare for the next general election in November 2019.
By the time Turks go to the polls next year -- if elections are not held earlier -- he will certainly possess the best possible platform for his propaganda. Currently, a pro-AKP group is in the process of purchasing the Dogan Media Company, which controls many of Turkey's key newspapers, networks and Internet sites. Will devout Muslims, who still believe in Islam but have lost their faith in Erdogan and the AKP, manage to break his "spell"?
Pinar Tremblay is a columnist for Al-Monitor's Turkey Pulse and Turkish news outlet T24.
© 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.

The Energy Revolution has Already Begun
David Von Drehle/The Washington Post/April 23/18
Between the science-denying trolls who say climate change is a hoax and the we’re-all-doomed Cassandras who picture the last human remnant escaping to Mars, there is an exciting frontier. It’s populated by people too busy making progress to indulge in political shouting matches.
Likely for the first time in history, a human society (ours!) has broken the linkage between sustained economic growth and greater consumption of energy. An iron law, burn more to make more, has been erased. In its place, the United States — by far the world’s leading energy consumer — has chalked up a near-record nine consecutive years of economic growth while keeping its total consumption of energy flat. Or take a longer view: In 1990, according to the US Energy Information Agency, the equivalent of more than 9,000 BTUs of energy was consumed for each real dollar of growth in the US economy. Last year, a real dollar of growth consumed fewer than 6,000 BTUs. The agency projects consumption will fall to about 3,000 BTUs per buck of growth by 2050. Carbon dioxide emissions (the most abundant of the greenhouse gases) per dollar of growth have been falling since 2008.
What does this tell us? That change is not just possible, it’s real. Your Energy Star appliances, LED lightbulbs, aluminum vehicles and weatherstripping are not merely symbolic efforts. They are part of an efficiency revolution at home, at work and on the road that’s producing meaningful results without disrupting our way of life. We’re also seeing significant shifts in the sources of our energy. Coal consumption is sharply down; cleaner natural gas is surging. But the steepest angle of growth is in the renewable energy sectors (though they admittedly started at a much smaller base). Wind is projected to exceed water in electricity generation within the next year. Imagine that. In the 20th century, water power, source of about 7.5 percent of US electricity, modernized the Tennessee Valley, turned darkness to dawn in the Pacific Northwest and gave the Nevada desert its garish neon Vegas glow. Now, in the space of a single generation, windmills will overtake dams. Solar power is also trending briskly upward as panels improve and prices drop. The next billion people to escape poverty around the world may be powered up the economic ladder by solar cells rather than oil or coal. If progress continues in battery storage technology, as it surely will, solar energy will play a larger role in juicing the world’s homes and industry — as it already does in heavily subsidized China. But while the arrows are pointed in the right direction for energy consumption and energy mix, we’re still destined to emit many billions of tons of carbon dioxide over the coming decades if not generations. The essential challenge on the other side of the equation is to find ways to capture and safely store those gases.
Here, too, the news is promising.
Perhaps, like me, you were too distracted by a tempestuous presidential campaign to notice a scientific breakthrough announced in 2015 and patented the following year. At Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico, a team led by the esteemed inventor Jeff Brinker came up with a highly efficient, durable and low-cost technology for scrubbing carbon dioxide from power plant emissions. A thin membrane (the inventors call it a “memzyme” in honor of the microscopic enzymes engineered on its surface) isolates carbon dioxide molecules and rapidly sucks them from the surrounding plume. This reusable, non-toxic technology easily outperforms government goals for carbon scrubbers, and does so at a fraction of the cost of previous devices, according to Brinker and his colleagues.  Even better, scientists in Norway may have found a good way to store the captured carbon. At a conference in Vienna last summer, a team from the University of Bergen unveiled a promising advance in high-pressure oil and gas extraction. Rather than “fracking” underground rock formations to free trapped fuels, the scientists successfully injected carbon dioxide into core samples to force out trapped oil, leaving the carbon dioxide locked in its place. The new process “increased recoverable oil by an order of magnitude compared with fracking, and at the same time reduced the carbon footprint by associated CO2 storage,” the team summed up. Fracking has been a game-changer for the US economy, offering cheaper, cleaner fuel and the prospect of energy independence. But this process could be even better, if the Norwegian experiment can be proved in field tests. No more chemically contaminated water, no more fractured rocks and related earthquakes. Furthermore, by creating a lucrative market for large supplies of carbon dioxide, the new technology could drive rapid commercialization of “memzyme” scrubbers. Congress can goose this progress by creating a revenue-neutral tax on carbon dioxide emissions and steering the proceeds into further research and incentives for investment. But don’t hold your breath. It will be enough for now if the government simply sticks with policies already in place. Because clearly, they’re working.

When the Writer Apologizes
Ghassan Charbel/Asharq Al Awsat/April 23/18
The story began in September 2015, when waves of Syrian refugees poured into Germany and I went to collect some of the accounts of newcomers, especially those who risked their lives using the “death boats” to reach Europe.
The scenes were painful and the stories agonizing.
I did not find a better title for the first episode of my investigation other than what a young man who came on the dangerous boat trip told me, as he seemed very relieved having succeeded in resigning from his homeland and its horrors.
I asked him about his condition and he replied: “Excellent. Three meals a day, sleep without fear, no Baath no ISIS.” I wrote that the Syrians, who used to believe their country was a key player in the region, are now discovering that it has become an arena for interventions and militias.
As soon as I published my article, my phone rang. The caller said: “My brother Ghassan. You don’t know the magnitude of the pain that you have caused me today, and you certainly understand the difficulty of being a Syrian these days, and at the same time, to be a journalist who has been observing for years that the policy of oppression is accumulating the factors of explosion.”
The caller was Journalist and Writer Ghassan Imam. He said that the Syrian man’s delight in finding three meals at a shelter in Germany had broken his heart.
He said that the Syrians were subjected to unprecedented humiliation both on their land and in the tents and shelters they throw themselves and their families into, despite the noble feelings of the host countries.
He expressed his fear that the developments in Syria would be more severe than the country can withstand and that wars on its territory would end not only with the most terrible humanitarian disaster after World War II but also with the destruction of its unity and the manipulation of its identity.
“I did not call you just because I suffered as I read the stories of the fugitives from Syrian hell. I also contacted you for professional reasons. As a Syrian, I liked the fact that the editor-in-chief of a leading newspaper would go personally to interview the refugees, while the prevailing mentality today is to assign one of the newspaper’s writers with that task. Newspapers are the memory of peoples. Their news and investigations provide the historian with data upon which he could rely after reviewing and verifying it. We will not have a sophisticated Arab press if the aspirations of journalists are limited to conveying answers to officials, whatever the size of their positions.”
I was moved by the telephone call of Ghassan Imam, who belongs to an older generation than mine. A generation that we read in the beginning of our press work; that we agreed and disagreed with, but learned a lot from.
I remembered that conversation when I was informed days ago during my travel that the heart of Ghassan Imam betrayed him a few months after he stopped writing.
More than a year ago, I returned to Asharq Al-Awsat and Ghassan Imam hurried to contact me. But fate decided that the period of deepening dialogue and affection would be painful for the writer, who enriched the opinion pages in this newspaper for decades.
There are details that Ghassan Imam’s readers have the right to know. In the last months of 2017, he called me. He said he was tired and had cancer and wanted to stop writing. I felt confused. But I was afraid to encourage him to do so for my concerns over him. I knew he was living alone with his papers, pencils, woes and memories. When a sick writer says he wants to stop writing, it means he wants to dedicate his time to waiting for the end.
I told him that it was not right for a writer to resign. I told him that as a reader of his articles and not as the editor-in-chief of the newspaper, I am asking him to go on. After the discussion, he agreed to carry on.
In the first week of this year he sent his last article. He called and said: “For me, writing has become torture that I can no longer endure. I do not hide that I have entered the last chapter.” I interrupted him trying to take the conversation to another direction. But he insisted. “This is my last article,” he said. “I hope you take appropriate administrative measures for this situation.”
My response was that Asharq Al-Awsat’s relationship with its writers was never a captive of administrative procedures. And that the newspaper was proud of those who lit up its pages and that the loyalty bond between them was more important than the terms of a work contract.
I did not have a choice but to accept his request to stop writing. I asked him to visit his readers when his health conditions permit. He replied: “It seems that I have only a few months to live. In any case, Asharq Al-Awsat has always been my home, my window and my honor. I have only written about my conviction in my long battle against injustice and domination. I might have sometimes exaggerated. And perhaps I have hurt someone unintentionally. I have not intend to harm anyone, but injustice was long and cruel.”
Ghassan Imam was the son of a generation that committed great dreams. Dreams for his country, his nation and his profession. Dreams of justice and freedom together… which are very difficult to achieve in the republics of fear, anxiety and cruelty. Like all the sons of his generation, he saw his dreams crumble and whenever he tried to take shelter in a castle, the latter was uprooted by the winds.
He wrote to express his criticism and discontent. We understood through his articles the difficult Arab struggle, especially in the 1950s and 1960s; the thorny relations between Baathists and Nasserites; and the deadly relations within the Baathist movement and between generals and civilians.
In his “Shells and Pearls” column, he used to write profiles on public figures with a colorful and sarcastic pen.  How difficult it is for a writer to apologize for not sending his article because the General of Darkness is attacking his heart and moving forward to cut the thread of love and light that connects him to his readers.

How Trump Can Actually Reach 'Mission Accomplished' in Syria
James Stavridis/Bloomberg View/April 23/18
I understand what President Donald Trump was trying to express in his now-famous “Mission Accomplished” tweet. And in fairness, in the military we often do use that expression to convey the successful completion of a discrete tactical task.
But he should have understood the echoes of President George W. Bush’s appearance under a now-infamous banner on a carrier deck after the invasion of Iraq. That turned out to be anything but a mission accomplished. And, unfortunately, the air strikes didn't come near accomplishing the broader strategic mission ahead of us in Syria. What the strikes (conducted jointly with two other close allies, France and Britain) did do was damage the Syrian regime's chemical weapons research, production and storage facilities. They were executed flawlessly at the tactical level. But here is what it did not do: totally destroy Syria's chemical weapons stockpiles; knock out Bashar al-Assad's ability to produce more nerve agents or rebuild the capability to do so; reduce the regime's ability to transport the chemical weapons by road, rail or air; degrade or destroy the means of delivery (Syria's 250-plane air force); or knock out the government's command and control system.
All of those actions would have been permissible under international law. But the US wisely decided to conduct a more measured attack (although it was roughly double the level of last year’s strike that used only Tomahawk missiles). By opting for a relatively constrained assault, Mattis and the president chose a course of action that allows further escalation if necessary, had a minimal risk to US personnel, avoided direct confrontation with Russia or Iran, and minimized collateral damage to Syrian forces.
But the question hangs in the air like the smoke over the impact zones: What if Assad doesn’t stop? What would the next strike look like, and what are the additional risks?
Operationally, the next logical step in the ladder of escalation would include the following elements: A diplomatic campaign to enlist many more allied participants (NATO being the obvious core group, but potentially including Sunni Arab states and maybe Australia)
Prepositioning at least one and possibly two US aircraft carriers in the eastern Mediterranean or Arabian Gulf
A major cyberattack to knock out portions of the Syrian electric grid and command and control stations
An opening salvo of missiles to destroy Syrian air defenses
Manned aircraft from bases across the Middle East, Europe and the US conducting a multiday campaign with dozens of targets
Major intelligence assets -- CIA and Special Forces on the ground -- focused on the region for battle damage assessment and enabling precision targeting.
This scenario would be much riskier than what we saw last weekend for several reasons. First, it would put allied air crews in range of Syrian and Russian air defenses, potentially leading to prisoners of war and casualties. Second, it would increase the number of nations involved on the allied side, complicating operations considerably. Third, it would bring to a full halt the (very imperfect) peace negotiations underway. Fourth and most dangerously, it would probably bring the US and Russia into a direct military confrontation.
The US has a handful of strategic objectives in Syria. At the top of the list is continuing to seize territory from the so-called ISIS and reduce the terrorists' reach and threat to America. Second is to enforce the important international norm against using weapons of mass destruction. Third, the region faces a real threat from Iranian expansionism and for the US to disengage would put at risk partners.
At the humanitarian level, we should also be doing what we can, over time, to reduce the sheer human misery of Syria, where 500,000 are dead and well over 10 million have been pushed out of their homes. These are real and important strategic objectives. One hopes Assad got the message and will refrain from using chemical weapons on his own people. But, as the saying goes, hope is not a strategy. An actual strategy would see the US remain engaged in Syria with up to 5,000 troops (currently there are around 2,000 -- which is a far, far cry from the 150,000 under my command in Afghanistan just a few years ago). The allies would also push on Russia’s economic weaknesses -- Moscow doesn't have the money to rebuild Syria under Assad -- to force real negotiations, under United Nations auspices, on a diplomatic resolution. A good model is the Balkans of 20 years ago, when Russia eventually became part of the solution. The US has to find the balance in Syria between limited hard power (small numbers of ground troops, special forces, offensive cyber, long-range precision strikes) and soft power (diplomacy, economic incentives, coalition-building to share costs, strategic messaging). A pair of well-executed air strikes is a long, long way from “mission accomplished.” We’ve got more work to do in Syria.

When Trump the President Refused to Listen to Trump the Candidate
James Kirchick/The Washington Post/April 23/18
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.

Iran’s leaders to blame for currency crisis
إيران هي السؤولة عن الأزمة الحالية
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh/Arab News/April 24/18
Iran’s ruling mullahs continue to view other countries, specifically the United States, as threats to their hold on power and the expansion of their influence in the region. Nevertheless, recent developments indicate that the major threat to the Iranian regime is actually surfacing from within the country thanks to the underlying currency and economic crises.
Imagine the value of your money decreasing by almost half in the matter of a few days, and it continuing to plummet while the economy in the rest of the world is booming. That is exactly what is occurring across Iran.
Iran’s national currency, the rial, has dropped to historic lows — one US dollar, which equaled approximately 35,000 rials in November last year, now buys you nearly 62,000. Amid the crisis, Iranian officials announced that they have switched from dollars to euros for foreign trades and transactions.
In such a situation, Iranian people have panicked and many have rushed to banks to withdraw their money in order to convert it to a more stable currency, specifically the dollar. Such a sharp devaluation of the currency makes the financial situation of ordinary people much more severe and strenuous.
This issue is particularly critical because, a few months ago, many people took to the streets protesting the high prices and economic austerity they faced on a daily basis. If the underlying problem continues, this could lead to another nationwide protest. The difference is that, this time, the regime may not be capable of crushing and subduing the demonstrations.
But the Iranian regime appears not to have taken any concrete steps toward addressing the people’s grievances. The reaction to people’s panic and difficulties regarding the recent currency devaluation has been trivial or indifferent. Some Iranian officials use their classic tactic of blaming other countries, specifically the US, for the crisis, while some call it a foreign “conspiracy.” Iran’s Supreme.
Leader Ali Khamenei pointed out that “foreign enemies” are behind the “recent issues in the currency market.” He urged Etela’at (Iran’s ministry of intelligence) to foil the plot.
The Iranian regime’s financial corruption, misuse of public funds, and the widespread banking crisis are among the major reasons behind the present currency and economic crises.
However, the truth is that the Iranian leaders ought to point fingers at themselves for the crisis, as the rest of the world plays no role in Tehran’s rial crisis. In fact, one should remember that the US and other members of the P5+1 helped Tehran by lifting all four rounds of the United Nations’ economic sanctions against the regime three years ago.
Iran’s oil exports and trade with European countries have brought Tehran billions of dollars of extra revenues. The regime has come out of economic isolation. This begs the question, what are the reasons are behind the currency and economic crises?
A few months ago, an investor asked me if investing in Iran’s currency was a good move as Tehran was reentering the global market. I replied negatively due to the following reasons, which will also likely continue to contribute to the devaluation of Iran’s currency.
The first reason is financial corruption at the top and across the political spectrum, among both moderates and hardliners. Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani famously promised that he would root out “corruption in the country’s administrative and economic system.” But misuse of public funds continues on a large scale and the currency has been devaluated much more since Rouhani took office in 2013.
Secondly, Iran’s revenues are being spent on keeping Bashar Assad in power, or supporting militia and terrorist groups across the region, rather than strengthening Iran’s economy and redistributing wealth.
The third factor is related to the banking system. The regime has developed a flawed system where banks are paying one of the highest interest rates in the world — as much as 20 percent on savings accounts. To compare, the average interest rate for US banks is 0.06 percent.
At first glance, Iran’s high interest rate may look appealing. But such a system is designed to help the officials and those at the top rather than the ordinary people. People who have connections and have accumulated wealth through corruption can deposit their billions in one of the banks, such as Caspian or Sepah, and receive 20 percent interest every year while doing nothing. On the other hand, people who mostly obtain loans to buy a car, a house or pay university tuition will be required to pay back nearly the same inflated and excessive interest on their loans.
The Iranian regime’s financial corruption, misuse of public funds, and the widespread banking crisis are among the major reasons behind the present currency and economic crises. In fact, these problems are systemic and exist deep in Tehran’s economic infrastructure. The recent currency crisis is not an anomaly or an exception. The rial has plummeted continuously for the last 39 years — since the establishment of the Islamic Republic — from nearly 70 rials a dollar in 1979 to approximately 62,000 in 2018. The negative trend will most likely continue as long as the Iranian regime is in power.
• Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated Iranian-American political scientist. He is a leading expert on Iran and US foreign policy, a businessman and president of the International American Council. He serves on the boards of the Harvard International Review, the Harvard International Relations Council and the US-Middle East Chamber for Commerce and Business. Twitter: @Dr_Rafizadeh

Trump starts indirect negotiations with Iran ahead of his summit with Kim
Debka File/April 23/18
The French president, the German Chancellor and the Iranian Foreign minister are present in the US this week, all bent on saving the 2015 nuclear accord. French President Emmanuel Macron begins a state visit to Washington Monday, April 23; German Chancellor Angela Merkel is due on Friday, while Iranian foreign minister Javad Mohammed Zarif is spending the week in New York. The two European leaders will try and persuade the US president not to quit the nuclear accord, while the Iranian foreign minister is already playing hard ball through the US media.
In a word, indirect negotiations were launched this week on the future of the 2015 nuclear accord with Iran.
For an exclusive take on this unfolding story, subscribe to the coming issue of DEBKA Weekly out on Friday, April 20.
DEBKAfile’s sources report that these under-the-table negotiations are not restricted to the nuclear issue, but also touch on Iran’s interests in Syria. A month or more before his summit with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, US President Donald Trump has therefore set his feet on a negotiating track with supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, channeling it through the two European leaders and the Iranian foreign minister.
Our sources reveal that working papers were prepared for the US-European summit in Washington by a team of US, French, German and British diplomats. They are to be the agreed guidelines for a new common Western policy line on Iran, on which the four allies were hitherto at odds. The paper has four parts:
General Intent
Iran is prohibited from developing nuclear weapon after the expiry of the nuclear accord in 2025.
International watchdog IAEA inspections will be intensified on site, including the military compounds where nuclear activity is suspected, and which Tehran closed to the monitors.
Tehran’s continuation of ballistic missile development will incur fresh sanctions.
In his interviews to the US media, Foreign Minister Zarif played Iran’s opening gambits for the bargaining process. His diplomatic style is typically offensive rather than defensive. Tehran would not stand for any amendments being inserted in the original nuclear accord text, he said, and warned that his country would resume its nuclear program “at much greater speed,” if Trump withholds the next round of Iran sanctions waivers due for renewal on May 12, effectively taking the US out of the accord. Zarif also insisted that staying in the accord was not enough. The US must lift the sanctions strangling the Iranian economy. He also dismissed as “misguided” French and German efforts to pressure Tehran into curtailing its regional policies and missile program in exchange for Washington staying in the deal.
On Syria, Zarif dropped six points onto the virtual negotiating table.
An imminent military clash between Iran and Israel is not envisaged at present.
All the players in the Syrian crisis [US in particular] must stop seeking military solutions and take to the path of diplomacy.
They must all acknowledge Bashar Assad’s continued rule in Damascus
Iranian forcers must remain in Syria to fight “terrorist elements.”
Iran has no territorial or other claims on Syria. Proof? Iranian forces have never raised their national flag at any place of their deployment in the country.
The Hizballah contingents are deployed in Syria to safeguard national security [of Lebanon]. Once their mission is accomplished, they will withdraw.
It may be understood from these points that Tehran won’t object to Hizballah forces exiting Syria – but Iran is there to stay.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman referred to Iran’s latest war threats against Israel in a toast to Israel’s 70th anniversary on Sunday, April 22, at the IDF high command. Netanyahu addressed Zarif as “the foreign minister of a nation that sends armed UAVs against Israel and ballistic missiles against Saudi Arabia.” He said: “I listened to his diplomatic language and noticed the huge gap between his words and the deeds of the Revolutionary Guards, who are deploying an army for the explicit goal of destroying Israel.”
However, the upshot of these events is that Iran, whose motives are malign, is an active participant in talks that affect the future of Syria, while Israel has no role in the process.
President Macron is close to the Israeli position on Syria: He reiterates his opposition to President Trump’s determination to pull US troops out of Syria, because, he says, that “will leave the floor,” to Iran, as well as ISIS and Bashar Assad. Israel is taking no part in this argument, although the US troop withdrawal would leave its borders dangerously exposed to its arch-enemy, Iran.
Trump, for his part, is indirectly keeping the ball rolling with Tehran, while juxtaposing it with his forthcoming face to face with Kim Jong-un in May or June. He appears to calculate that if Kim agrees to US troops remaining in South Korea as part of a denuclearization deal, then Iran would appreciate that the US withdrawal from Syria is a very big concession indeed, for which Tehran ought to pay a high price.
DEBKAfile’s sources predict that Trump will come to terms with Macron and Merkel on both items at issue between them. They will find a compromise for preserving the nuclear deal with Iran and a formula on the US troop question in Syria. This formula appears to consist of taking US military strength out of Syria but remaining “beyond the horizon.”
Netanyahu and Lieberman must therefore contend first with the fallout from the US troops’ exit from Syria, before confronting Iran’s long-term presence just across its northern border.