April 26/2018
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani


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Bible Quotations
Do all things without murmuring and arguing, so that you may be blameless and innocent

Letter to the Philippians 02/12-19: "Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Do all things without murmuring and arguing, so that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, in which you shine like stars in the world. It is by your holding fast to the word of life that I can boast on the day of Christ that I did not run in vain or labour in vain. But even if I am being poured out as a libation over the sacrifice and the offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you and in the same way you also must be glad and rejoice with me. I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, so that I may be cheered by news of you."

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on April 25-26/18
Aoun in his address to Lebanese voters on eve of legislative elections: Free yourselves from the means of pressure and temptation/NNA/April 25/18
Hariri says 'Lebanon is one big refugee camp/Georgi Azar/Annahar April 25/18
We May Hit Russian Systems in Syria, Israel Says After Threats of 'Catastrophic Consequences/Haaretz and Reuters/April 25/18
Soaked in blood, Toronto the Good/Tarek Fatah/Toronto Sun/April 25/18
Trump and France's Macron seek new measures on Iran as deadline looms
Steve Holland, Marine Pennetier, Jeff Mason/Reuters/April 25/18
The ISIS triangle which allows militants to disappear calls for a joint operation between Iraq, Syria and the US/Hassan Hassan/The National/April 25, 2018
Iran attempting to reappear on the regional scene by co-opting elections/Sawsan Al Shaer/Al Arabiya/April 25/18
Why sanctions against Russia do not work/Shehab Al-Makahleh/Al Arabiya/April 25/18
The war on Gaza: Western Media’s misrepresentation of Palestine and Palestinians/Ramzy Baroud/Al Arabiya/April 25/18
British ambassador attests to Saudi counter-terrorism efforts in Awamiya/Salman al-Dosary/Al Arabiya/April 25/18
How Hamas Exploits the People of Gaza: Protests Clarify Their Cynical Tactics/
Dennis Ross/New York Daily News/April 25/18
Iran’s many adversaries must agree a common strategy/Sir John Jenkins/Arab News/April 25/18
Conditions must be right before Syrian refugees can return/Kerry Boyd Anderson /Arab News/April 25/18
Dr.Walid Phares: World War 3 THREAT: Iran regime's only intention is building long-range nuclear missiles/Darren Hunt/Express/April 25/18

Titles For Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on April 25-26/18
Aoun in his address to Lebanese voters on eve of legislative elections: Free yourselves from the means of pressure and temptation
Lebanon: 'Foreigners’ Residency' Could be Overturned as Aoun Cedes to Rai’s Pressure
Aoun: Electoral Law Ensures Correct Representation, Don't Vote for Those who Sell Sovereignty
Hariri says 'Lebanon is one big refugee camp
Hariri at Brussels Conference: Lebanon Turned into a Big Refugee Camp
Hariri Meets Jubeir, Officials on Sidelines of Brussels Conference
Lebanon wins Best Stand Award at Arabian Travel Market 2018
Mashnouq Says No 'Sectarian Dispute' in Beirut, Slams 'Political Velayat-e Faqih'
UK Says Lebanon Remains at the Heart of International Conferences
Franjieh Says Marada's Electoral Chances 'Excellent'
'King-of-Selfies' Hariri Launches App in Election Campaign
EU, Tueni's Office Aim at Enhancing Transparency, Good Governance
Machnouk visits Lebanese consulate in France
Bou Assi from Brussels: Repatriation of refugees an obligation, not a right
Geagea in front of Koura delegation: We undergo electoral battle for sake of all Lebanon
Hariri meets Belgian Prime Minister
Khalil signs Electoral Supervisory Committee exceptional allocations

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on April 25-26/18
We May Hit Russian Systems in Syria, Israel Says After Threats of 'Catastrophic Consequences
Trump says US wants ‘lasting’ footprint in Syria
Macron Vows Iran Will 'Never' Possess Nuclear Weapons
Iran's President Says No Changes, Additions to Nuclear Deal
UN Worried Donor States Could Decrease Aid Pledges to Syrians
Israeli minister Lieberman heads to US to discuss Iran ‘expansion’
EU leader Mogherini says current Iran nuclear deal should be kept
International Conference in Paris on Combating Terrorist Financing
Donors Pledge $4.4 Billion for Syria, Well Short of Target
Bahrain presents new evidence against three men who spied for Qatar
Kuwait expels Philippines envoy amid tensions over domestic workers
Egypt says three soldiers, 30 extremists killed in restive Sinai
Palestinian Presidency: Any Suspicious Ideas to Circumvent Arab Initiative Are Futile Attempts
Palestinian journalist shot at Gaza protest dies of wounds
Algeria sentences Liberian to death over espionage for Israel
Green light for crown prince-led Saudi privatization program
Latest Lebanese Related News published on April 25-26/18
Aoun in his address to Lebanese voters on eve of legislative elections: Free yourselves from the means of pressure and temptation
NNA/April 25/18/
In his address to the Lebanese on the eve of the legislative elections, President of the Republic, Michel Aoun, said:
"To the Lebanese men and women, in Lebanon and abroad,
You will be invited to vote in a few days, nine years after the last elections, during which Lebanon has seen major events including the scourge of terrorism that has hit the Middle East. Our country, by its strength, was able to combat terrorism, remained intact, and regained its security and stability.
After the presidential elections, it was normal to adopt a new law for the legislative elections, as promised in my inaugural speech. This new electoral law guarantees the fairest representation to all the components of the Lebanese people, be it the majority or the minority, and also grants, for the first time, the right to vote to the Lebanese diaspora wherever it may be.
In addition to the effective representation, this law determines the political choice through the closed list. Through this choice, it is now possible for the voter to show his personal appreciation of the candidates in the selected list by giving his preferential vote to the candidate he deems the best.
However, the reverse of the medal, as pointed out by almost all observers, is a conflict that has emerged between members of the same list to obtain the preferential vote.
However, this fact is not attributable to the law per se, but rather to the candidates themselves. Indeed, the law is the framework that gives voters the freedom of choice, while the conflict is due to the lack of cooperation between members of the same list or to the fact that they are still not used to be part of a positive competition.
Another downside that has emerged recently is the decline of the political discourse, and the most dangerous is that it is currently moving towards feeding fanaticism.
To the candidates,
Political ambition is a project and a right for those who are competent and able to exercise the public service and to address the people to convince them that they have also adopted a right that is theirs. However, avoid addressing instincts, move away from sectarian mobilization and instigation to violence. Address the brains of the voters and not their instincts. Indeed, incitement to sectarianism is the first step towards sedition. Do not ignite it in order to win a seat in the Parliament.
To the citizens,
In all cases, it is up to you to assume the first responsibility. Freedom is a responsibility,the same applies for the choice.
Free yourselves from the means of pressure and temptation that corrupt the conscience. The curtain of the polling booth exists for this purpose, and behind it stands a free man. Make sure your vote is a pledge of trust and a true delegation of power, followed by real accountability. Indeed, your role does not end at the polls, but it will start from there. The success of governance requires a true partnership between the people and their representatives and also involves a real accountability should they make mistakes or fail to fulfill your trust. Do not relinquish your role which is consecrated and enhanced in the new electoral law.
Some values in life are free, such as love, trust and freedom of conscience, which cannot be bought or sold. If these values lose their gratuity and become a merchandise for sale, hence love would become prostitution, as well as trust and conscience.
Let your vote in the elections be free and express your confidence in those for whom you vote.
Do not vote for those who pay or offer money because those who buy you will eventually sell you and those who sell the citizen will sell the country just as easily.
Do not vote for those who pay because you will not be able to hold them accountable if they make mistakes in the future.
Do not vote for those who pay and show you generosity, and remember that charity is not occasional and should not only take place during elections.
Do not vote for those who have sold and sell sovereignty on every occasion.
Do not vote for those who have turned your rights into services that they monopolize and use to blackmail you if necessary.
Do not be false witnesses and do not settle for less than the truth to keep aclear conscience.
Do not believe those who overwhelm you with promises that go beyond reality and possibility because they will not keep their promises. Remember that election promises are only binding for those who believe them.
Beware of those who launch campaigns based on the negative aspects of others and who only resort in their political speeches to defamation, slander and rumor without really having a concrete project to showcase.
Avoid, or even refuse and reject those who foment feelings of sectarianism and fanaticism because they undermine the stability of the country.
Remember the journey of the candidates, past and present.
Think about your future and that of your children.
Put the country's general interest above vested interests.
Appeal to your conscience, then choose, and cast your vote in the ballot box.
To the youth and to those of you who vote for the very first time,
You represent the future of Lebanon. Do not be neutral. Do not be indifferent to what is happening around you. The expected change will only happen through you. As much as you want to stay out of politics, the politicsimposes itself on you and affects the course of your life. Be proactive and take decisions so that your role is not limited to delivering results and bearing the burden of consequences. Elections are the first step to raising your voice. Participate massively so that your voice can be heard.
To the Lebanese diaspora,
You are the depth of Lebanon in the world. For the first time in Lebanon, an electoral law has been enacted granting you the right to participate in the elections from where you are. Be attached to this right. Let your participation express your attachment to and connection with your native country andshow your sincere willingness to contribute to making changes in your country.
To the Lebanese,
The first step towards the disintegration of societies is abandoning values, turning a blind eye to mistakes and accepting them. I fear that our society will become a society where corruption is a habit to which we adapt, where bribery becomes justified and accepted, where lies become allowed and well-founded…
I pin high hopes that you will be up to this responsibility and therefore that you choose according to the values on which we were raised, with a pure conscience and a free will.
Democracy reforms itself and the electoral process is the way. Today, every voice gainsmore value and effectiveness. What remains is that you exercise your right to choose and do not cede it. Election is a national duty and the only way to change in a democracy.
It is an act of presence, dear Lebanese, so do not obliterate yourselves."
Lebanon: 'Foreigners’ Residency' Could be Overturned as Aoun Cedes to Rai’s Pressure
Beirut - Nazeer Rida/Asharq Al Awsat/April 25/18/Lebanese President Michel Aoun responded on Tuesday to the growing wave of opposition to Article 49 of the State Budget Law, which stipulates the granting of residency to every Arab or foreigner who buys a housing unit in Lebanon. Aoun sent a letter to Parliament, asking it to reconsider the article, before agreeing with Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri to put the issue on hold, pending a decision by the Constitutional Council on the motion filed by ten deputies, led by the head of Kataeb Party, MP Sami Gemayel. Article 49 stipulates that any foreigner, who purchases a property worth at least $300,000, would receive a residency along with his family. The residency would remain valid as long as the foreigner retains ownership of the property. The article sparked a wave of opposing reactions, including by Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rai, who voiced the Lebanese people’s concerns over the repercussions of such law, calling for its abolition. He also underlined the need to amend and suspend the law on the ownership of foreigners, “as the number of such people now exceeds half the population of Lebanon.”Despite an attempt by the head of the Finance and Budget parliamentary committee, MP Ibrahim Kanaan, to calm down the fears of the resettlement of displaced Syrians in Lebanon, saying that “the residency of foreigners in Lebanon does not allow them to have the Lebanese nationality”, the Maronite Patriarch remained firm in his position, putting great pressure on the officials to reconsider the law. In remarks to Asharq Al-Awsat, Former Minister Salim al-Sayegh, who is close to the head of the Kataeb Party, said that the budget law “includes several constitutional violations, but the most important is Article 49, which affects the Lebanese identity and the issue of land purchase.”“This article needs a broader discussion and cannot pass through the budget law,” he added.
Aoun: Electoral Law Ensures Correct Representation, Don't Vote for Those who Sell Sovereignty
Naharnet/April 25/18/The new electoral law ensures the “most correct representation for all the components of the Lebanese people,” President Michel Aoun said on Wednesday. “Political ambition is legitimate and a right for each one of you but avoid inciting sentiments and steer clear of religious and sectarian agitation,” Aoun added, addressing parliamentary candidates, in an address to the nation. “Do not vote for those who pay you or offer you money, because those who buy you will later sell you,” the president went on to say, in a message to voters. “Do not vote for those who sold sovereignty and those who sell it on every occasion,” Aoun said. And addressing Lebanese expats, who will be allowed to vote outside Lebanon for the first time in the country's history, the president added: “Cling to your right to vote and let your participation reflect how much you are attached to your homeland.”The new electoral law replaces a majoritarian system with a proportional one and allows Lebanese expatriates to vote abroad for the first time. Some 82,000 expats have registered to do so.
Hariri says 'Lebanon is one big refugee camp'
Georgi Azar/Annahar April 25/18
Addressing the international community at the 'Supporting the future of Syria and the region' donor conference in Brussels, Hariri voiced his concern at the possibility of his country slipping into turmoil as a result of economic hardship of the displaced Syrian population. BEIRUT: Prime Minister Saad Hariri urged Wednesday the international community to renew their support for Lebanon and other host countries in their efforts to cope with the influx of Syrian refugees, telling those gathered that "worsening economic conditions can lead to political and social unrest." Addressing the international community at the 'Supporting the future of Syria and the region' donor conference in Brussels, Hariri voiced his concern at the possibility of his country slipping into turmoil as a result of the economic hardship of the displaced Syrian population.
"The threat is real," he said.
Lebanon is currently hosting over 1.5 million Syrian refugees as a bloody civil war continues to ravage neighboring Syria, with Hariri describing Lebanon as "one big refugee camp." Yet he maintained that Lebanon has shown solidarity with those affected while putting forth their due diligence to alleviate their plight in line with "the commitments of Brussels I."The Lebanese premier assured representatives of the 80 countries gathered that Lebanon has put in place policies to soften the economic burden of refugees, such as "waiving residency fees" while making it easier to register marriages and children born in Lebanon. Hariri then outlined his government's vision to weather the crisis, telling donors that Lebanon needs USD 100 million per annum in order to implement the necessary infrastructure, water, and waste management projects, as well as SMEs that would provide displaced Syrians with proper employment. Touching on the Palestinian population residing in Lebanon, which "reminds us that Lebanon has been at the forefront of the war against terrorism," Hariri appealed to the international community to cover a "USD 100 million funding gap needed to complete the reconstruction project of the Nahr el-Bared Palestinian refugee camp."The Syrian war entered its 8th year, as President Bashar Assad's forces backed by Russia and Iran continue in their quest to regain control over the country's vast territory. EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said the three have a “special responsibility” to establish a cease-fire and to press Syrian President Bashar Assad to return to the negotiating table. Britain’s State Minister for the Middle East, Alistair Burt, agreed that Syria’s needs are enormous. “This is the world’s greatest protection crisis. If you look at what’s happened and what’s been done to people — breaches of humanitarian laws, the weakening of multilateral norms that we have seen for a long time — it’s all focusing on Syria,” he said. “We all know that what we do on a humanitarian basis is only the sticking plaster on the wound. You’ve got to address the wound itself. So we hope that the seriousness of the conflict and the damage that it’s done might be used to further encourage the various parties to get going again.”Meanwhile, U.N. Syria envoy Staffan De Mistura has warned that the northern, rebel-held province of Idlib could become Syria’s newest humanitarian crisis area. - With AP.

Hariri at Brussels Conference: Lebanon Turned into a Big Refugee Camp
Naharnet/April 25/18/At the inaugural session of the Brussels II Conference on Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region Wednesday, Prime Minister Saad Hariri pointed out that the situation in Lebanon is worsening as it hosts around 1.5 displaced Syrians, saying the country has turned into a big camp for refugees. “It is of paramount importance that the International community continues to work with Lebanon to help it deal with the challenges associated with the severe and unprecedented Syrians displaced crisis, whether through humanitarian assistance or through development projects that would help improve the livelihoods of the displaced and host communities,” said Hariri.“The tragedy of the Syrian people continues for the eighth year, and Lebanon continues to show exceptional hospitality, generosity and solidarity with the displaced Syrians, at a time when the capacities of the host communities and government infrastructure and services, are being overstretched and exhausted,” he said. He noted that in spite of “all our combined efforts, conditions have deteriorated. Lebanon continues to be a big refugees camp,” adding that “tensions between the Syrian displaced and host communities have increased, partly because of competition over scarce resources and jobs, and partly because the host communities have seen their economic and social conditions worsen due to the crisis.”
Pointing to government facilitations for refugees, Hariri said: “The government of Lebanon waived the residency fee for the displaced thereby allowing them to renew their legal stay while easing the financial burden. The government also adopted important measures to facilitate the birth registration of displaced children born in Lebanon. It made easy the registration of a marriage if only one spouse has legal residency. Most recently, displaced children who turned 15 years old in Lebanon and are not in possession of a Syrian ID or passport, have been authorized to present a civil extract to secure legal residency.”
“Progress was made in the education sector where a 13% increase in the overall enrollment of displaced children in formal education with a total of 221,000 children enrolled in public schools, 68,000 in private and subsidized schools, and 93,000 enrolled in non-formal education programs,” said Hariri.
The Ministry of Public Health, together with its national and international partners, has made major progress to ensure that affordable healthcare is provided to the displaced. “Moreover, at the Rome II conference, international partners demonstrated strong support, commitment and contribution to the strengthening of the Lebanese military and security institutions, thereby underscoring Lebanon’s role as an important player in the stability of the region.
“We just returned from Paris, where the Government of Lebanon presented a comprehensive vision for stability and sustainable long-term growth and job creation, based on the basic premises I presented to you in Brussels I. The success of CEDRE reaffirms the commitment of our international partners to Lebanon's economic stability and prosperity. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all our friends in the international community for their generous support and for mobilizing enough funds to secure the financing of phase I of the government's capital investment program,” said the Premier.
Hariri added that despite all the progress and the achievements over the past years, Lebanon continues to face challenges. The worsening economic and social conditions could result in increasing social discontent, which could lead to unrest and violence and threaten the country’s security and political stability.
“It is of paramount importance that we continue working together to reverse adverse trends, whether through humanitarian assistance or through development projects that would help improve the livelihoods of the displaced and host communities,” he stressed.
Listing Lebanon’s priorities, Hariri said: “First, the Lebanon Country Response Plan should be appropriately funded. Our appeal for 2018 is around 2.7 USD billions with disbursements to date reaching 11% only. Second, multiyear commitments should be secured to ensure sustainability of multi-year projects like RACE II. Third, support to host communities should be increased to a least USD 100 million per year. Fourth, support the development of the Lebanese social protection system. Fifth, support the National Strategic Framework for Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET), to promote a system that provides youth and workers with the competences and skills they need to access decent work, and allow businesses to recruit the workforce they need for their growth. He concluded: “Lastly, I ask your support for the reconstruction of the Nahr el Bared camp for the Palestinian refugees. This camp reminds us that Lebanon has been at the forefront of the war against terrorism since the very start. Again, I call upon you to support Lebanon in this daunting task. This is a collective responsibility. We hope and pray for a speedy settlement of the tragedy of the Syrian people.
Hariri Meets Jubeir, Officials on Sidelines of Brussels Conference
Naharnet/April 25/18/On the sidelines of his participation in the Brussels II Conference on Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region, Prime Minister Saad Hariri met on Wednesday with Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir where talks focused on bilateral relations between the two countries, the Premier’s media office said. Hariri also held talks with German Foreign Minister, Haiku Mas, Liechtenstein Foreign Minister Aurelia Frick and the Acting US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Satterfield. Before the launch of the conference, Hariri also met with the EU Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn.
Lebanon wins Best Stand Award at Arabian Travel Market 2018
The Daily Star/April 25/18/BEIRUT: President Michel Aoun Wednesday congratulated Tourism Minister Avedis Guidanian on Lebanon’s exhibition stand being awarded at the annual Arabian Travel Market event in Dubai. The Best Stand Design was awarded based on Lebanon’s “creative design that made the best use of available space and attracted a high level of visitor traffic,” a statement from the Arabian Travel Market team said Thursday. “I was very impressed, the stand really stood out and presented a welcoming and homely feature. The stand featured a huge front door, with a staircase which led to a well-laid out meeting space. It was a subtle, yet intelligent, way to showcase the country,” panelist judge Pippa Jacks was quoted by ATM as saying. Aoun received Guidanian at Baabda Palace to congratulate him on “the ministry’s achievement at the Dubai exhibition,” and stressed on the role of the tourism sector in reviving Lebanon’s economy “in the coming season ... as Lebanon’s [current internal] stability helps to achieve this,” a statement from the presidency said. Guidanian in turn briefed Aoun on Lebanon’s participation at the event. The two also discussed preparations for Visit Lebanon 2018 - the first international tourism and travel forum organized by the Tourism Ministry, to take place on May 10 and 11.

Mashnouq Says No 'Sectarian Dispute' in Beirut, Slams 'Political Velayat-e Faqih'

Naharnet/April 25/18/Interior Minister and Beirut parliamentary candidate Nouhad al-Mashnouq stressed Wednesday that “there is no sectarian dispute in Beirut.”“The dispute is political par excellence and it has nothing to do with religion whatsoever,” Mashnouq added during electoral campaign meetings in the capital. “Some regions have been affected by imported sectarianism but Beirut has been the least affected, because it is the capital of culture, the seat of the state and the place where all people work and meet,” the minister explained. He noted that the rivalry is “between two political projects, not between two sects.”“We do not have a problem with the religious velayat-e faqih, which is a personal issue that does not concern us, whereas the political velayat-e faqih contradicts with the idea of the national State, which brings together citizens whose loyalty should be only to their State,” Mashnouq added, referring to Shiite Iran's form of Islamic governance which is endorsed by Lebanon's Hizbullah. The minister pointed out that the “fiery rhetoric” of Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah in his recent electoral speeches is “aimed at creating a one-third veto power in parliament in order to implement his political project through parliamentary polls and ballot boxes, after he failed to do so through politics in the period between May 7, 2008 and today.”

UK Says Lebanon Remains at the Heart of International Conferences
Naharnet/April 25/18/With the world’s focus once again on the Syria crisis, the Brussels conference, less than a month after CEDRE, is “another opportunity to demonstrate our resolve and unwavering commitment to support Lebanon, host communities and Syrian refugees, to cope with the ongoing Syria crisis,” a British minister said on Wednesday. Speaking at the Brussels Conference on ‘Supporting the Future of Syria and the region’, the UK's International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt paid tribute to “the sacrifice and contribution of Lebanon’s profound humanity in hosting the highest concentration of refugees anywhere in the world,” urging donors to make more multi-year pledges, the British embassy in Beirut said in a statement. Mordaunt announced £450 million of development and humanitarian support for 2018 for Syria and the region, bringing the UK’s total contribution to date to the Syria crisis to £2.46bn, the UK's “largest ever response” to a single humanitarian crisis. The Secretary thanked Lebanon and its people for “their generosity in hosting large number of refugees.” In her statement as co-chair of a session on human capital investment in the region, she said: “The progress we have made since the London Syria Conference in 2016 to ensure every child in the region has access to a quality education is a reason for hope even in the most trying of circumstances… In Lebanon, the public education system has doubled in size since the start of conflict, and as a result, more than 356,000 Syrian children are now receiving an education.”“However, there are nearly 690,000 children in the region without access to any education. And we need to work together to reach these children or we risk creating a ‘Lost Generation.’… Currently, the region has one of the highest rates of youth unemployment and lowest rates of female labor market participation. By helping host countries invest and improve their education systems we can help young men and women transform their economies and spur economic growth across the region,” Mordaunt added.
“But as we do so, we must ensure that all our efforts also include refugees and the most vulnerable. That includes working and undocumented children, girls and children with disabilities. We must ensure that every child in the region has equal access to a quality education and the opportunity to fulfill their potential so we can create the economies of tomorrow, and a future of peace and prosperity,” the Secretary went on to say.
On the sideline of the conference, British Minister of State for the Middle East Alistair Burt met with Minister of Education and Higher Education Marwan Hamadeh and accompanying delegation.
Burt thanked Lebanon for “the scale of generosity in continuing to host refugees,” flagging that “UK support to Lebanon on education quality reforms on teaching, learning and inclusion will continue so that every child fulfills their potential,” the embassy said. “The Conference on ‘Supporting the future of Syria and the region’ has built on the momentum of CEDRE conference. Now, the Government of Lebanon will be implementing reforms and swiftly approving financed infrastructure projects to attract further international public and private sector investment to boost job creation and public service delivery for the benefit of all those in Lebanon,” the embassy added. “The £40 million package of UK support to the Lebanese economy – announced at CEDRE - will create jobs and improve infrastructure to boost economic development, showcasing the UK’s support to ambitious economic reforms by the Government of Lebanon,” it said. At CEDRE, the UK also committed to providing a further £20 million as the Government of Lebanon “makes further progress delivering the reforms which are key for successful infrastructure projects, and for economic recovery,” the embassy added.

Franjieh Says Marada's Electoral Chances 'Excellent'
Naharnet/April 25/18/Marada Movement chief MP Suleiman Franjieh announced Wednesday that his political movement's chances in the upcoming parliamentary elections will be “excellent.”“I reassure you that the situation is excellent,” Franjieh said during a meeting with cadres and electoral campaign employees in Bnashii. In an apparent jab at the Lebanese Forces and the Free Patriotic Movement, Franjieh added: “We did not kill, displace or abandon our people. We sacrificed our blood with them and did not act like others who fled or emigrated.”Criticizing those “who are claiming to defend Christians today,” the northern leader said “they are the reason behind the loss of some rights and privileges and their policies are behind the current situation.”“They accuse us over the issue of Syrian tutelage because they have failed to find theft, displacement or blood in our files,” Franjieh added. As for the elections, the Marada chief said: “We are optimistic and, God willing, we will have a significant bloc. We have allies and friends in several districts and we support them.”“Surveys are reflecting a positive outcome for us and our friends and we will have MPs from Marada and its allies and friends across Lebanon,” Franjieh added.

'King-of-Selfies' Hariri Launches App in Election Campaign
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 25/18/Prime Minister Saad Hariri has launched an app to share selfies with his supporters as he campaigns for re-election in the country's first parliamentary polls in almost a decade. Long a fan of selfies, Hariri, 48, called on his social media followers to use the app to share photos in which he appears by their side. The app launch comes ahead of the elections on May 6, with many among the country's almost 600 candidates seeking to woo young Lebanese on social media. Hariri leads al-Mustaqbal Movement, which is fielding 37 candidates including himself in the first legislative polls since 2009. The premier has taken selfies with a wide range of supporters and even world leaders over the years. One taken this month showed him looking relaxed and reclining in Paris with Morocco's King Mohammed VI and Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Once they have downloaded the new app, Hariri fans can admire a collection of amateur portraits starring the prime minister, grinning with his slicked-back hair amid his supporters. They can also add their own photos with the leader. At a recent rally, he promised a group of 6,000 women to take a selfie with each of them if he won. The publicity stunt, captured in a video that was shared widely, sparked criticism in a country that has faced a series of political dramas in recent years and is struggling to avoid an economic crisis. "A selfie to a background of debts," mocked one user on Facebook, alluding to rapidly raising debts in the world's third most indebted country, according to the International Monetary Fund. But an enthralled follower wrote: "May God protect you, king of selfies."In November, Hariri announced his resignation in a surprise televised address from Saudi Arabia that sent tremors through Lebanon.
Weeks later, following consultations with the various political groups in Lebanon, Hariri announced he was withdrawing it.

EU, Tueni's Office Aim at Enhancing Transparency, Good Governance
Naharnet/April 25/18/The European Union's Technical Assistance and Information Exchange instrument (TAIEX) and the Office of the Minister of State for Combating Corruption organised Wednesday a joint workshop aiming at sharing knowledge and experiences to fight corruption, strengthen rule of law and promote good governance in Lebanon, a press release said. The workshop was inaugurated by Minister of State for Combating Corruption Nicolas Tueni, in the presence of Rein Nieland representing the EU Delegation, Eleonora Sconci from TAIEX and European experts from different EU Member States. Also present from Lebanon were representatives from the Office of the Minister of State for Combating Corruption, Electoral Supervisory Commission, Court of Auditors, Central Inspection and the civil society. "This workshop is a way to share with the Office of the Minister of State for Combating Corruption and the Lebanese citizens the different European institutional and legal structures on preventing corruption, and more specifically on enhancing transparency", said Rein Nieland. "Lebanon can certainly benefit from these experiences, especially in light of the upcoming elections, take the most suitable ones and adapt them to the Lebanese context", he added. The EU is currently cooperating with the Office of the Minister of State for Combating Corruption on strengthening the role and capacities of the different bodies entrusted by law to fight corruption. The EU project also aims at enhancing the role of the civil society in raising awareness on citizens' rights and promoting transparency, good governance and accountability. The fight against corruption and the need to build stronger and more efficient institutions are important priorities for Lebanon to move forward with its reform agenda.

Machnouk visits Lebanese consulate in France
Wed 25 Apr 2018/NNA - Interior and Municipalities Minister, Nouhad Machnouk, on Wednesday morning paid an inspection visit to the Lebanese Consulate in France, in the presence of Lebanese Ambassador Rami Adwan and Embassy staff. The visit comes hours before expatriates head to the polls for parliamentary elections. Minister Machnouk checked preparations for the voting process which is due tomorrow morning. Machnouk underlined that electoral preparations are duly arranged in accordance with set norms, ruling out the possibility of any administrative or technical error or any defect relating to the integrity or transparency of the elections abroad. Machnouk stressed that the Ministry shall not be lenient towards any violation or flaw related to the application of the electoral law, neither at home nor abroad. Machnouk is currently in Paris to partake in the international conference "Cooperation to Combat Terrorist Financing."

Bou Assi from Brussels: Repatriation of refugees an obligation, not a right
Wed 25 Apr 2018/NNA - Minister of Social Affairs, Pierre Bou Assi, said on Wednesday that Lebanon, as well as neighborhood countries or perhaps more, have carried the heavy burden of the influx of Syrian refugees, with all the inflicted economic and social repercussions of such a displacement, particularly on infrastructure. In an interview with Radio Monte Carlo while in Brussels to partake in the conference to support the future of Syria and the region, the Minister stressed that the return of Syrian refugees to Syria is an obligation, not a right. He said statistics must be made on the number of refugees so as to pave the way for their return. The Minister recalled having urged, since 2017, support for infrastructure in Lebanon that is most affected by the large number of refugees. He noted, however, that expectations of higher economic growth were not correct. "We had received support amounting at $30 to $40 million, at a time when this support must be at least by $100 million," Bou Assi argued, noting that he had submitted such a request during the conference. On the sidelines of the Brussels conference, Minister Bou Assi met with UN High Commissioner for Refugee, Filippo Grandi.

Geagea in front of Koura delegation: We undergo electoral battle for sake of all Lebanon
Wed 25 Apr 2018/NNA - Lebanese Forces (LF) leader, Samir Geagea, said on Wednesday that his party undergoes the electoral battle for the sake of a better Lebanon. Geagea was speaking during his meeting with a delegation of the northern town of Koura, in the presence of MP Fadi Karam. "Koura can only have a Lebanese identity: those who claim that these elections will manifest the identity of Lebanon are making a grave mistake, because the identity of Lebanon does not need to be proven," he said. Geagea stressed before the delegation that the LF is undergoing the electoral battle for the sake of Lebanon as a whole, saying the Lebanese deserve a real, efficient state that they aspire for. Geagea also called on voters to cast their ballots in favor of LF electoral lists in all Lebanon, in order to help the country end its existing crisis.

Hariri meets Belgian Prime Minister
Wed 25 Apr 2018/NNA - The Prime Minister of Belgium, Charles Michel, received this afternoon the President of the Council of Ministers Saad Hariri at the premiership headquarters, in the presence of the Lebanese Ambassador to Belgium Fadi Hajj Ali and Hariri's Chief of Staff Nader Hariri.
Earlier, Hariri met at the European Commission headquarters with the Japanese foreign Minister Taro Kono.

Khalil signs Electoral Supervisory Committee exceptional allocations
Wed 25 Apr 2018/NNA - Finance Minister, Ali Hassan Khalil, on Wednesday signed the exceptional allocations for the Electoral Supervisory Committee in full, due to the absence of a financial and administrative system for this committee.

Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on April 25-26/18
We May Hit Russian Systems in Syria, Israel Says After Threats of 'Catastrophic Consequencesإسرائيل تهدد بضرب انظمة الدفاع الروسية في سوريا عقب تهديدها بعواقب كارثية
Haaretz and Reuters/April 25/18
Russia to send advanced S-300 anti-aircraft missiles to Assad, officials said Monday, warning Israel not to attack the new air defense systems
Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Tuesday that Israel may strike the Russian-made S-300 anti-aircraft defense systems in Syria if they are used against Israel.
"One thing should be clear - if someone fires on our planes, we will destroy them," Lieberman said in an interview with the Israeli website Ynet. "What's important to us is that the weapons defense systems that the Russians transfer to Syria are not used against us. If they are used against us, we will act against them. Lieberman's comments come a day after senior Russian officials told the Kommersant newspaper that Russia is expected to provide the Bashar Assad regime with S-300 anti-aircraft defense systems soon. If Israel attacks the new air defense systems, then it will suffer “catastrophic consequences,” the officials said. The S-300 PMU-2 “Favourite” version of the anti-aircraft systems will be provided to the Syrians for free and very soon, the Kommersant reported. Lieberman said that the S-300 are already being operated on Syrian soil, though they are only being used by the Russians and not being employed against Israel. Lieberman added that Israel will not allow an Iranian foothold in Syria, saying that this is the principle guiding Israel. "If someone fires on us, we will respond. Let there be no doubt, it doesn't matter what system - S-300, S-700 or something else. Russian air defense systems have, in fact, been deployed in Syria for years. Syria's air defenses are Russian made, and Israel has struck them several times, lately - after the downing of its F-16 jet in February. The Wall Street Journal revealed that Israeli military targeted a Russian-made Tor advanced air-defense system after Iran deployed it to the T4 base in Syria earlier this month. In addition, Russia has deployed their own S-400 systems to protect its soldiers deployed in Latakia. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Monday that Russia had not yet decided whether it would deliver advanced S-300 missile systems to Syria, but would not make a secret of the matter if it took such a decision, the TASS news agency reported.  "We'll have to wait to see what specific decisions the Russian leadership and representatives of Syria will take," TASS cited Lavrov as saying on Monday during a visit to Beijing. "There is probably no secret about this and it can all be announced (if a decision is taken)," Lavrov added.  The Kommersant reported that experts believed Israel would react negatively to the development and might bomb the area where the missile systems would be deployed.

Trump says US wants ‘lasting’ footprint in Syria
AFP, WashingtonWednesday, 25 April 2018/US President Donald Trump on Tuesday appeared to dial back a promise to withdraw US troops from Syria immediately, saying it was important to not allow Iranian influence to grow in the country. Stating that troops would be coming home soon, Trump nonetheless said that the United States wanted to “leave a strong and lasting footprint” in the country. “We don’t want to give Iran open season to the Mediterranean,” Trump told a joint press conference with his visiting French counterpart Emmanuel Macron. “We’re going to be coming home relatively soon. We finished at least almost our work with respect to ISIS in Syria, ISIS in Iraq, and we have done a job that nobody has been able to do.”“But with that being said, I do want to come home, but I want to come home also with having accomplished what we have to accomplish.”

Macron Vows Iran Will 'Never' Possess Nuclear Weapons
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 25/18/French President Emmanuel Macron told the U.S. Congress Wednesday that Iran will "never" be allowed to develop atomic weapons, as the fate of a landmark 2015 nuclear accord with Tehran hangs in the balance. "Our objective is clear," Macron told lawmakers on the final day of a state visit during which he and President Donald Trump called for a broader "deal" that would also limit Iran's ballistic missile program and support for militant groups across the Middle East. "Iran shall never possess any nuclear weapons. Not now. Not in five years. Not in 10 years. Never," Macron said.

Iran's President Says No Changes, Additions to Nuclear Deal
Associated PressAgence France Presse/Naharnet/April 25/18/Iran's president has ruled out any changes or additions to the 2015 nuclear deal, in response to French efforts to convince U.S. President Donald Trump to stick with the landmark agreement. French President Emmanuel Macron suggested during a state visit to Washington this week that there could be a way to move toward a "new agreement" that would address Trump's concerns. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Wednesday that he had spoken to Macron at length, and "told him explicitly that we will not add anything to the deal or remove anything from it, even one sentence. The nuclear deal is the nuclear deal." He suggested Macron has no right to amend an agreement signed by seven nations, referring to the U.S., Russia, China, Britain, France, Germany and Iran.

UN Worried Donor States Could Decrease Aid Pledges to Syrians
Brussels, Moscow - Abdullah Mustafa, Raed Jaber/Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 25 April, 2018/The United Nations warned that some donor states could decrease their aid pledges to Syrians, adding that in 2018, the agency had only received quarter the sum it had requested for humanitarian work in Syria.
The EU and UN begun Tuesday a two-day conference in Brussels to gather fresh aid pledges for Syria. In 2017, EU diplomats said the gathering pledged 5.6 billion euros in aids to the war-torn country. This year, UN Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs Mark Lowcock warned there is a lack of funding for the necessary aid projects, which are being fulfilled from less than 23 percent. He said that out of the needed 3.5 billion dollars, only 800 million were available. The UN official also said that resources for work inside Syria and with refugees in neighboring countries were "desperately short.”Separately, Russian sources said that the Russian Army had noticed increased American military activity in Syria, including the presence of US reconnaissance aircrafts overflying above Syria to search for S-300 positions, which Washington believes Moscow had already offered to Damascus.
Russia's military stated Tuesday that Russian air defenses at Hmeimim airbase in Syria had intercepted and destroyed several unidentified objects targeting the base. "On April 24, the airspace monitoring facilities at Russia's Hmeimim airbase detected a group of small-size unidentified airborne targets approaching the base," an airbase spokesperson said in a statement. "All targets were destroyed by air defense means deployed at the base,” he added. Meanwhile, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman warned Tuesday that if Syria uses Russian-made air defense missiles against Israel, Israel will strike back. "What's important to us is that the defensive weapons the Russians are giving Syria won't be used against us," Lieberman told Ynet news. Russia’s daily Kommersant newspaper reported earlier on Monday that Russia might start supplying the anti-aircraft missile systems to Syria in the near future.

Israeli minister Lieberman heads to US to discuss Iran ‘expansion’
AFP, Jerusalem/Wednesday, 25 April 2018/Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman is travelling to the United States for talks Wednesday on countering Iran’s “expansion” across the Middle East, especially in Syria, his office said. During his visit, Lieberman will meet Defense Secretary James Mattis, National Security Adviser John Bolton and members of the Senate, the Israeli foreign ministry said in a statement. “Discussions will focus on the close security coordination between Israeli and American defense establishments against negative developments resulting from Iranian expansion in the Middle East, with an emphasis on Syria and additional mutual security concerns,” it added. The visit comes ahead of a May 12 deadline US President Donald Trump has set to decide on the fate of a nuclear deal with Iran.
Nuclear deal
Trump has derided the deal as a capitulation to Tehran, saying it is no longer in the US’s interest to maintain the sanctions relief granted to Iran by his predecessor Barack Obama in return for controls on its nuclear program. During a visit to Washington on Tuesday, French President Emmanuel Macron called jointly with Trump for a new nuclear deal with Iran. Trump’s European allies have repeatedly tried to persuade him not to walk away from the 2015 deal, which gave Iran massive sanctions relief and the guarantee of a civilian nuclear program in return for curbs on programs that could be used to develop an atomic weapon.

EU leader Mogherini says current Iran nuclear deal should be kept
AP, Brussels Wednesday, 25 April 2018/EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini says the current deal with Iran is working effectively to keep Tehran from developing nuclear weapons and should be preserved for the future.
Mogherini spoke after US President Trump again showed dissatisfaction with the international agreement during a news conference with French President Emmanuel Macron, highlighting a trans-Atlantic rift on the issue. Macron said the current deal should not be ripped apart without a clear path to the future, and said after talks with Trump that there could be a way to move to a “new agreement,” building on the one in place. Mogherini, speaking in Brussels, said that “on what can happen in the future we will see in the future. But there is one deal, existing, it is working, It needs to be preserved.”
International Conference in Paris on Combating Terrorist Financing
Paris - Michel Abou Najm/Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 25 April, 2018/Paris will host on Wednesday an international conference on combating the financing of ISIS, al-Qaeda and their affiliates under the slogan of “No Money For Terror.” Initiated by French President Emmanuel Macron, who will deliver a speech during the conference, the two-day discussions scheduled at the headquarters of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development in Paris, will bring together over 450 international experts on combating terrorism and its financing. Elysee Palace sources said Macron wants to assume a leading role in the fight against financing of terrorist groups. French ministers have invited their counterparts from some 70 states, and the leaders of almost 20 international and regional organizations and specialized agencies. French ministers will lead separate round-table discussions, during which they will invite their counterparts to come up with concrete solutions. Paris invited all Arab states excluding Syria. The French capital also eliminated Iran from the list of invitees. “Iran is not an easy partner. We did not want to invite a party that can constitute an element of confusion and disruption,” official French sources told Asharq Al-Awsat, in reference to the current dispute between Gulf Cooperation Council states and Tehran. Another reason for shunning Iran is Washington’s sanctions against the country's continued development of its ballistic missile program and its support for terrorism. The states and organizations invited to the conference will be asked to endorse the “Paris Declaration,” which will encourage participating countries to improve their domestic mechanisms in order to more effectively collect, exchange and process financial intelligence. The participants will also share their analyses of future risks, so that they can plan ahead. Sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that Macron might take the recommendations from the Paris Declaration to the United Nations to garner international legitimacy.
Donors Pledge $4.4 Billion for Syria, Well Short of Target
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 25/18/International donors on Wednesday pledged $4.4 billion in aid for 2018 for civilians caught up in the Syrian civil war -- well short of what the U.N. says is needed for humanitarian work in Syria and neighboring countries. The sum committed at a two-day conference in Brussels was less than half of the $9 billion the United Nations says is needed this year to help those in need inside Syria and living as refugees in neighboring countries. The head of the U.N. aid agency UNOCHA called the $4.4 billion "a good start" but Oxfam slammed the international response as "tragically inadequate.""My best guess is that by the end of the day we will have heard pledges for 2018 of $4.4 billion," Mark Lowcock, the head of UNOCHA, told a news conference. The EU's aid commissioner Christos Stylianides said later that pledges of a further $3.4 billion for 2019 and after were made at the conference, attended by more than 80 countries, aid groups and agencies. Britain announced 450 million pounds ($630 million, 515 million euros) for 2018 and another 300 million pounds for 2019, while Germany said it would donate more than a billion euros and the EU pledged some 560 million euros.
But several major donors including the United States have not yet confirmed their pledges, Lowcock said, because of ongoing internal budget wrangling.
'Tragically inadequate'
Lowcock earlier told AFP he hoped to see $8 billion pledged on Wednesday, warning that funds were "desperately short" and some programs may need to be cut if money was not found. The figure was also far short of the $6 billion pledged at last year's Brussels gathering, and aid group Oxfam said governments had not done enough. "The response of the world's richest countries to the conflict remains tragically inadequate -- insufficient aid, not enough help for refugees and no meaningful peace process," Oxfam's Shaheen Chugtai said. David Beasley, head of the U.N.'s World Food Program, warned that without proper funding he would be forced to start cutting rations "to just barely keep people alive". Some 6.1 million people are now internally displaced in Syria, more than five million have fled the country and 13 million including six million children are in need of aid, according to the U.N.
More than 700,000 people have been displaced since the start of this year alone as Assad has stepped up his offensive against rebel forces, intensifying the humanitarian crisis. U.N. Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura warned that the military campaign would lead only to a Pyrrhic victory for the regime.
"History has shown us that what that can lead to is permanent guerrilla movements, instability, the inability for reconstruction and above all the risk that Daesh will take advantage to return," he said. Daesh is another name for the Islamic State group.
Struggling peace talks
Europe hoped to use the conference to reinvigorate the faltering U.N.-led peace process in Geneva, but it was not clear how effective the push was. EU diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini urged Moscow and Tehran, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's key supporters, to help bring him to the negotiating table, saying they had a duty to help wind down the war, now in its eighth year. "We need in particular Russia, Iran to exercise pressure on Damascus so that it accepts to sit at the table under U.N. auspices," Mogherini said as she arrived for the gathering, the seventh of its kind. Damascus has shunned the Geneva talks and Russia, Iran and Turkey launched a rival process in the Kazakh capital Astana last year. Moscow was represented at the conference by its ambassador to the EU Vladimir Chizhov, who gave a scathing assessment of the event in his address to the other delegates. "I am perplexed by the format of today’s meeting that does not include official representatives of the Syrian government," he said, according to a text released by the Russian embassy. He accused countries maintaining sanctions on Syria -- which includes all 28 EU members and the United States -- of "suffocating the Syrian people."

Bahrain presents new evidence against three men who spied for Qatar
Staff writer, Al Arabiya EnglishWednesday, 25 April 2018/Bahrain’s public prosecution has announced new evidence against three suspects they say spied for Qatar. The verdict in the case against Ali Salman Ali Ahmed, Hassan Ali Jumaa Sultan and Ali Mehdi Ali Al Aswad is set to be announced on June 21, Bahrain’s state news agency BNA reported. They three men have been accused of treason and collaborating with Qatar and of committing “hostile acts against Bahrain with the intention to overthrow the political system”, Bahraini public prosecutor Osama Al Oufi was quoted as saying. The suspects are also facing charges of passing defense secrets to a foreign country, accepting money from a foreign country for providing it with military secrets and information about the internal situation if the country, spreading tendentious rumors and fallacies abroad to weaken the Kingdom’s economy and undermine its prestige.

Kuwait expels Philippines envoy amid tensions over domestic workers
Al Arabiya English and agenciesWednesday, 25 April 2018/Kuwait has formally asked the Philippines ambassador to leave the country within a week and has also summoned its own envoy back from Manila. An official source at Kuwait’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that the ministry summoned on Friday ambassador of the Philippines to Kuwait and handed him two protest notes, Kuwait News Agency (KUNA) reported. The source stated that the two protest notes are related to recent remarks of several Filipino officials which entailed serious offences against the State of Kuwait and the actions made by some Philippine embassy's employees in violation of the diplomatic norms governing the relations of the two countries as per the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. The source expressed regret over such practices which could harm friendly relations between the two countries. The Philippines on Tuesday formally apologized to Kuwait for actions the latter viewed as violation of its sovereignty after the southeast Asian nation’s embassy “rescued” several overseas workers from employers’ homes, the foreign secretary said. Kuwait had protested over the “rescue” of Philippine citizens working as domestic help, summoned the Philippine ambassador to demand an explanation and arrested two embassy staff who were involved in Saturday’s incidents.

Egypt says three soldiers, 30 extremists killed in restive Sinai
AFP, CairoWednesday, 25 April 2018/Three soldiers and 30 extremists have been killed in the past week in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula where the military is battling ISIS, the army said Wednesday. Around 200 extremists and at least 33 government troops have now been killed since the launch of a major offensive against the extremists on February 9 dubbed “Sinai 2018,” according to official figures. They include Nasser Abu Zaqul, “the central Sinai commander of the terrorist group,” according to the army which announced his death last week. More than 170 suspected jihadists have been arrested. Egypt has been hit by significant militant attacks in recent years, especially after the army toppled Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in 2013 following mass protests against his government. Extremists have killed hundreds of soldiers, policemen and civilians, mainly in the North Sinai but also elsewhere in Egypt. In November, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi gave three months for his security forces to re-establish control in Sinai, a deadline since extended.

Palestinian Presidency: Any Suspicious Ideas to Circumvent Arab Initiative Are Futile Attempts
Ramallah - Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 25 April, 2018/The Palestinian President’s Spokesman, Nabil Abu Rudeina, said that attempts to promote suspicious ideas by any side “under vague slogans or indefinite stances” would be worthless. In a statement published by Palestine’s official news agency, Abu Rudeina said: “We tell those who try to circumvent the Arab Peace Initiative and the resolutions of international legitimacy, by proposing vague proposals or slogans, that these attempts will be doomed to failure; because no one will accept them.”The spokesman went on to say: “Without the establishment of an independent Palestinian State with East Jerusalem as its capital on the 1967 borders and the adoption of a just solution to the refugee issue… all temporary solutions and vague ideas will expire, and any regional or international proposals that do not meet the legitimate rights of our Palestinian people will not see the light and will have no legitimacy.”“We reiterate that any false and unclear ideas will be futile attempts, and will lead the region and the world to more tension and instability,” he stressed. Abu Rudeina’s statement came amid reports about the imminent launch of the US peace plan known as the “Deal of the Century”, and other information about transitional solutions that might include confederations or even the adoption of the one-state solution, in the wake of US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, a move that the Palestinians strongly rejected.
Palestinians say they reject Trump’s peace plan in advance, as long as he does not back down from his decision on Jerusalem. On the other hand, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas presented a peace plan, which was adopted at the Dhahran Summit in Saudi Arabia, and is based on freezing the decision on Jerusalem and holding an international conference in mid-2018, to produce a multilateral international mechanism to promote the peace process, on the basis of the Arab Peace Initiative and the recognition of a Palestinian State on the 1967 borders. However, the plan remained a proposal for failing to receive the approval of the US and Israel.

Palestinian journalist shot at Gaza protest dies of wounds
AFP, Gaza/Wednesday, 25 April 2018/A Palestinian journalist shot two weeks ago by Israeli forces on the Gaza border has died, Israeli and Palestinian sources said Wednesday, the second journalist killed in a month of unrest. Ahmed Abu Hussein, 25, was shot on April 13 while covering protests along the Gaza border for a local radio station. The Gaza health ministry announced he had died after receiving treatment inside Israel, which the Sheba hospital near Tel Aviv confirmed. His brother Diaa told AFP they were preparing to transfer the body to Gaza for the funeral. Also, on Monday, a Palestinian wounded by Israeli gunfire in the Gaza Strip has died said the Hamas-controlled territory’s health ministry.
Bullet wounds
Abdullah Shamali, 20, died overnight of “bullet wounds to his belly” sustained on Friday in Rafah, near the enclave’s border with Israel, a ministry spokesman said. Shamali was one of five Palestinian demonstrators, including a 15-year-old, killed or fatally wounded in Gaza on Friday. His death brings to 39 the toll from Israeli fire since the start of “March of Return” protests on March 30. 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.
Live ammunition
Israeli forces have responded with live ammunition, wounding hundreds in addition to those killed. The Israeli army says its forces only open fire in self-defense 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.

Algeria sentences Liberian to death over espionage for Israel
Staff writer, Al Arabiya EnglishWednesday, 25 April 2018/An Algerian criminal court has awarded death penalty to a Lebanese-born Liberian national over a case of spying for Israel. The court also sentenced six individuals from Guinea and Mali to 10 years in jail in the same case. A legal source said on Tuesday that the “Ghardaïa court south of Algeria has condemned seven individuals of different African nationalities on a case related to espionage for Israel.”“The main accused Elm al-Deen Faisal, a Liberian national, earned death penalty, while six others were sentenced to 10-year imprisonment. Each one of them will also pay an $8,000 fine,” the source added. The seven defendants were arrested in an Algerian police operation in the city of Ghardaïa, 600 kilometers south of Algiers, in January 2015. They were found with documents and communications equipment, which prosecutors said were related to spying for Israel. The defendants’ lawyers claimed that “the evidence is inadequate and incoherent, therefore charges cannot be made based on a delicate and sensitive issue such as espionage.”

Green light for crown prince-led Saudi privatization program
Arab News/April 25/18/The Privatization Program is one of 12 key elements of the Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030
The program is aimed at increasing job opportunities for Saudi nationals
RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Council of Economic and Development Affairs on Tuesday approved the Privatization Program that is one of 12 key elements of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030. The program is aimed at increasing job opportunities for Saudi nationals, attracting the latest technologies and innovations, and supporting economic development. It encourages both local and foreign investment in order to enhance the role of the private sector, with government entities adopting a regulatory and supervisory role. The aim is to increase the private sector’s contribution to GDP from 40 percent to 65 percent by 2030. The program will aim to reach its objectives through encouraging the private sector to invest in establishing new schools, universities and health centers, while the government pursues its organizational and supervisory role in health and education. The privatization program aims to benefit from previous success stories, with the private sector’s collaboration in the development of infrastructure, and its involvement on a large scale in sectors such as energy, water, transport, telecommunications, petrochemicals and finance. The program sets out a series of objectives in three areas: Developing a general legal framework for policies related to privatization; establishing organizational foundations and dedicated institutions to execute the policies; and setting a timescale for their delivery. The Council of Economic and Development Affairs is headed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on April 25-26/18
Soaked in blood, Toronto the Good
Tarek Fatah/Toronto Sun/April 25/18
“Shoot me, shoot me, kill me,” Alek Minassian is heard yelling at a Toronto Police Officer as he holds an object in his hand aimed at the cop, twice mimicking the drawing of a pistol from a non-existent holster.
The man who is now charged with killing 10 pedestrians and attempting to kill 13 others is lucky he was facing one of Toronto’s Finest, who had every reason to shoot but had the courage and wisdom to put his own life in danger for the better good of the community.
“Kill me,” Minassian dares the police. “I have a gun in my pocket.” Unmoved by his threat, the officer shouts back, “Get down or you’ll be shot!” And within seconds the alleged killer is taken into custody.
Clearly the man who had just created mayhem in Toronto was mentally unstable. His defence may argue in future that he’s not responsible for his actions.
Les Perreaux reporting in The Globe and Mail on Tuesday reveals Alek Minassian suffered from a form of autism called Asperger syndrome.
As millions of Canadians waited anxiously for the names of the casualties and the identity of the terrorist, all Canadian networks behaved like Izvestia and Pravda during the Cold War.
It was only after CBS News first identified Alek Minassian as the suspect that we learned who had struck horror on our lovely city.
This was just one of the issues that caused vigorous debate on social media in Canada. How was it that CBS News was able to identify the name and past record of Alek Minassian, but CBC News could not?
Is it possible journalists north of the border have become so terrified of being called racist or right-wing that they would rather compromise their professional standards than face harassment by left-wing trolls? Trolls who it seemed were in mass communal prayers hoping the killer would turn out to be a White Male Christian.
One reporter from a Canadian network who tweeted eyewitnesses as identifying the killer being of “Middle Eastern” appearance met a ferocious backlash by the now familiar alliance of the left and Islamists. He quickly deleted his tweet and went into hibernation from then on.
On a personal level, when I posted a CP24 interview of an eye-witness saying, “the suspect was of a darker colour, I would say Middle Eastern,” all hell broke loose.
Among the barrage of allegations that I was a racist (not the eye-witness), one fellow tweeted:
“Both father and daughter should be locked up. F—— hate mongers.” With me, he was attacking my daughter CBC host Natasha Fatah who too had tweeted multiple eye witnesses saying the attacker looked “Middle Eastern” and another who said he was “white.”
The fact that Minassian did turn out to be Middle Eastern — from the Armenian diaspora that lives in Iran, Lebanon, Syria — was of little interest to those hell bent on harassing Natasha.
They were busy putting their own spin on the tragedy — outward sorrow, but barely concealed inner joy at the fact jihadis would not have to undergo scrutiny.
From now on, Nice, London, Stockholm, Berlin and New York mass murders by rented vans will not be associated with Islamic terrorism.
Suddenly Islamist charities got a chance to become mainstream. CanadaZakat, a subsidiary of the DawaNet, and Islamic Relief were being discussed in positive terms by CBC News without any scrutiny.
Unfortunately, truth is the new hate in Canada. The country where, as Rosie DiManno of the Toronto Star put it, “… not a single elected official, not a senior cop, allowed the word “terrorism” to cross their lips.”

Trump and France's Macron seek new measures on Iran as deadline looms
Steve Holland, Marine Pennetier, Jeff Mason/WASHINGTON (Reuters)/April 25/18
U.S. President Donald Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron pledged on Tuesday to seek stronger measures to contain Iran, but Trump refrained from committing to staying in a 2015 nuclear deal and threatened Tehran with retaliation if it restarted its nuclear program. At a news conference with Macron, the U.S. president kept up his blistering rhetoric against the nuclear accord between Iran and world powers that he says does not address Tehran’s rising influence in the Middle East or its ballistic missile program. He called it insane, terrible and ridiculous.
“This is a deal with decayed foundations,” Trump said. “It’s a bad deal. It’s falling down.”With a May 12 deadline looming for Trump to decide on restoring U.S. economic sanctions on Tehran, Macron said he spoke to Trump about a “new deal” in which the United States and Europe would tackle the outstanding concerns about Iran beyond its nuclear program.
Macron is using a three-day state visit to the United States as a high-stakes bid to salvage the Iran nuclear deal, which many in the West see as the best hope of preventing Iran from getting a nuclear bomb and heading off a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. Under Macron’s proposal, the United States and Europe would agree to block any Iranian nuclear activity until 2025 and beyond, address Iran’s ballistic missile program and generate conditions for a political solution to contain Iran in Yemen, Syria, Iraq and Lebanon.
It was unclear whether Macron made substantial progress in his efforts to prevent Trump from pulling out of the 2015 deal, and Trump stressed there would be repercussions should Iran restart its nuclear program.
“If Iran threatens us in any way, they will pay a price like few countries have ever paid,” Trump said.
But Trump said: “We will have a great shot at doing a much bigger, ‘maybe deal, maybe not’ deal.” The French believe progress had been made.
“What was important and new this morning was that President Trump was OK with putting on the table, with France, the idea of a new agreement that should be proposed to, and worked on with, the Iranians,” a French official said.
It was unclear what that would mean for the fate of the 2015 accord and whether the other countries that signed it, such as China and Russia, would agree to new measures against Iran.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel was expected to also make a case for the accord during a lower-key visit to the White House on Friday.
A source familiar with the internal debate at the White House said one option under discussion was giving Europe more time to toughen the terms of the current Iran deal.
Iran has said it will ramp up its nuclear program if the deal collapses and a senior Iranian official said Tehran might quit a treaty designed to stop the spread of nuclear weapons if Trump scrapped the agreement.
Trump and Macron have developed a strong relationship at a time when many European leaders have kept a certain distance from Trump.
“On both sides of the ocean some two years ago, very few would have bet on us being here together today,” Macron told Trump in a toast at a glittering state dinner, Trump’s first since he took office in January 2017.
“I got to know you. You got to know me. We both know that none of us easily changes his mind,” Macron said with a smile.
Trump, 71, and Macron, 40, were remarkably chummy through the day, repeatedly shaking and grabbing each other’s hands, exchanging kisses on the cheek and slapping each other’s backs.
At one point in the Oval Office, Trump brushed what he said was dandruff from Macron’s jacket, saying: “We have to make him perfect - he is perfect.”
Macron hopes to leverage their friendship into progress on not only Iran but exempting Europe from steel tariffs, and protecting the 2016 Paris climate accord. Their talks also covered the U.S. presence in Syria weeks after the United States, France and Britain launched air strikes in retaliation for a chemical weapons attack blamed on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Trump wants to withdraw U.S. forces from Syria, believing Islamic State militants are largely defeated, but Macron and other allies argue they should stay to ensure militants do not resurface and to block Iran from strengthening its foothold.
Trump made clear troops would not be withdrawn imminently.
“We want to come home. We’ll be coming home. But we want to leave a strong and lasting footprint,” Trump said.
The two leaders also discussed European calls for exemptions from Trump’s plan for 25 percent tariffs on steel imports.
Later on Tuesday, Trump hosted Macron at a formal candlelit dinner featuring spring lamb and New Orleans-style jambalaya before a performance by the Washington National Opera.
More than 1,200 fragrant branches of cherry blossom filled the hall.
First lady Melania Trump drew attention with a wide-brimmed white hat worn to welcome the Macrons. At the state dinner, she wore a black Chantilly lace Chanel haute couture gown, while Brigitte Macron wore Louis Vuitton.
Chief executives in the room included Tim Cook of Apple, Marillyn Hewson of Lockheed Martin, Fred Smith of FedEx and Ginni Rometty of IBM.
Media mogul Rupert Murdoch attended, as did private equity executives Henry Kravis of KKR, David Rubenstein, co-founder of Carlyle Group, and Blackstone Group’s Stephen Schwarzman.
Writing by Steve Holland; Additional reporting by Roberta Rampton, Doina Chiacu, Makini Brice and Lesley Wroughton; Editing by Alistair Bell and Peter Cooney
Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

The ISIS triangle which allows militants to disappear calls for a joint operation between Iraq, Syria and the US
Hassan Hassan/The National/April 25, 2018
The critical point where the river, deserts and Syrian-Iraq border meet is being exploited by lurking sleeper cells, writes Hassan Hassan
A delicate security triangle is forming along the Syrian-Iraqi borders. Operational lines of separation have prevented the United States, Iraq and Syria from joining forces with its Russia and Iranian allies to fight ISIS. But new complications have forced a fresh dynamic that effectively enables the US to target ISIS outside its established jurisdiction by proxy, through the Iraqis.
The new dynamic, while still nascent, is a product of improvised arrangements between Washington and Moscow to prevent aerial collision and to demarcate areas of operation during the fight against the extremist group. The two sides agreed to have the Euphrates river as the “deconflict” line, despite obvious flaws more apparent now than a few months ago.
ISIS has already started to exploit these flaws and gaps, forcing presumed rivals to engage in backdoor measures to address emerging problems.
This turn of events began in March after Kurdish fighters in Syria shifted their focus to the Turkish operation in Afrin away from the war against ISIS and while the Syrian regime started to focus on rebel strongholds near Damascus. The US-led coalition then announced an “operational pause” in the remaining villages still under ISIS control east of the Euphrates. The villages, around five in total, are part of the administrative region of Abu Kamal near the Syrian-Iraqi borders, where the regime controls the other side of the river.
In a conversation in mid-March, American officials told me of an awkward situation along the western side of the river, specifically in the villages situated between the regime-held city of Abu Kamal and the Iraqi city of Al Qaim. The Syrian regime claimed to have liberated those small villages in November with the help of Iranian-backed militias. But according to American officials, that was not the case.
Since the US was not allowed to strike against ISIS in supposedly regime-held areas, the situation allowed the militants to operate with impunity in that area. ISIS fighters moved freely along and across the river. Similarly, the operational pause allowed ISIS into the non-liberated villages east of the river to refocus its attacks on the regime side. According to residents from Deir Ezzor at the time, ISIS fighters would cross the river and connect with other members operating in the Syrian Desert west of Abu Kamal, a possible factor in recent successful attacks by ISIS, deep in regime areas near Palmyra.
Not long after the US officials expressed their growing concerns about ISIS's presence near the borders, Baghdad announced it would conduct attacks against the group inside Syria. “The real danger is the presence of ISIS in Syria,” Haider Al Abadi, the Iraqi Prime Minister, said in a press conference this month. “We heard that they got rid of ISIS. Lies.”
The statement was in response to US concerns about ISIS activities outside its operational purview. Iraq was able to use its friendly ties with the Syrian regime and Iran to target ISIS in regime-held areas.
“The majority of the support that the coalition provided was intelligence support on the target,” colonel Ryan Dillon, the anti-ISIS coalition’s spokesman, said, referring to an Iraqi strike against ISIS headquarters inside Syria. “We also provided some other assets in the air nearby that were also a part of the support package. But it really was the Iraqis who planned this all the way through. It was their commitment and their coordination with their neighbours in the Syrian government, before they conducted these strikes.”
Mr Al Abadi referred to these pockets, in which ISIS still operates despite regime claims, as “deserted” by Syria. For this reason, he said, his government found it vital to take the fight against ISIS to Syria. He said while his armed forces control all the borderline from the Iraqi side, ISIS individuals still manage to cross it to conduct attacks inside the country either through border gaps or bribery.
Such de facto three-way operations are poised to continue, if not intensify. As I wrote last week, ISIS is pushing its sleeper cells to become active again. The push appears to be part of a broader effort to rekindle its insurgency after the loss of territory and comes at the backdrop of increased attacks in much of Iraq and Syria. The effort to reignite the insurgency culminated with a fiery speech on Sunday by the group’s spokesman, Abu Al Hassan Al Muhajir, the first by one of its senior leaders since September, urging members to intensify their campaign.
Using the river as a deconflict line is likely to remain a nuisance for the US, Iraq and the pro-Syrian camp. ISIS has a history of using rivers and areas adjacent to them as hideouts and for mobility, even when the US was heavily present inside Iraq after 2007. The villages that the US complained about in regime areas contain, more than the rest of Abu Kamal, lush river reeds and palm orchards that make it easier for militants to hide and survive.
Another factor that might complicate the situation for ISIS enemies is that in Abu Kamal specifically, the river passes through the Syrian-Iraqi borders. At that confluence point, three items favourable to ISIS converge: the river, the Syrian and Anbar deserts and the borders.
Ideally, this area should have been controlled by a force or a group of forces that closely work with each other, as one senior US official conceded. Instead, different countries that supposedly operate under different jurisdictions control different parts of a critical terrain. In this context, ISIS will no doubt find gaps, as it already has, that cannot be plugged by tactical strikes on occasions.
A few months ago, such a complexity was not anticipated. Each side was racing to carve out areas of control as they battled ISIS. They rushed to agree on demarcated lines to avoid accidents. But the latest developments only demonstrate, once again, that the US-led coalition is still improvising as it goes – hardly a reassuring sign for a lasting defeat of ISIS.
Hassan Hassan is co-author of the New York Times bestseller ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror and a senior fellow at the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy, Washington DC

Iran attempting to reappear on the regional scene by co-opting elections
Sawsan Al Shaer/Al Arabiya/April 25/18
This year’s Lebanese, Iraqi and even Bahraini elections may offer space for Iranian interference once again.
With upcoming elections in Bahrain, the emergence of a new line of candidates linked to dissolved political parties, which were either serving Iran’s agenda or following Iran, looms as these groups plan to reappear on the scene again.
Bahrain elections
Parliamentary members and the Shura Council are preparing to vote on a law seeking to prevent members of dissolved associations and those who have been sentenced to final verdicts from getting on the ballot box. Therefore, thee associations backed by Iran are working to prepare a new line of candidates in order to return to the political scene.
What is noticeable is that the faces of those who were not politically burned do not have the acumen or experience to enter the political scene on their own. The associations are thus trying to introduce their names by asking known writers or famous accounts on social media to rake up debates with them so they emerge victorious during these fabricated conflicts, hence becoming popular in a few months to compete in the electoral race. What is important to them is that their names are mentioned by playing up their opposition credentials on social media, especially now after the Bahrainis have forgotten these associations.
Bahrain has been considered a success story in its ability to confront Iranian violations both on the political and security levels. Bahrain has on its own rejected anything and anyone that has links with Iran and exposed them.
We strongly welcome strong voices and bold political activists, and we also welcome institutionalizing the political arena and the establishment of new associations that criticize the executive authority and have the capability and bravery to monitor it via constitutional tools and within the established framework of freedom. However, followers of Iran or the followers of Iran’s followers have no place in our political arena.
Thank God, Bahrain has been considered a success story in its ability to confront Iranian violations both on the political and security levels. Bahrain has on its own rejected anything and anyone that has links with Iran and exposed them.
Bahrain has also prohibited the presence of armed militias that would threaten us, blackmail us and force us to submit to certain parties which are mere political proxies for Iran.
Hezbollah’s threat to candidates
Bahrain is one of the countries whose people courageously stood with their leaders and the political regime thus preventing a disaster, which Lebanon and Iraq suffer from today due to the presence of political parties which serve Iran within their legislative institutions. These political parties are imposed on Lebanon and Iraq via their militias whose only concern is to harness their countries’ resources to serve Iran.
Look at what’s happening in Lebanon these days ahead of the elections and what will happen in Iraq after few weeks. Lebanese Shiite candidates who run for the elections in a district where Hezbollah has imposed its authority through the power of its arms confront threats that may go as far as death threats.
Two days ago, Shiite candidate Ali al-Amin, who is running against a Hezbollah candidate, appeared in a video showing his bruised face. Amin, who also suffered from a broken tooth, was trying to catch breath as he talked and explained how Hezbollah’s ‘thugs’ had beaten him up to frighten him and force him to withdraw from the elections.
The video was published by Hezbollah dissident Rami Ollaik, who is also running for the elections in a district that has been dominated by Hezbollah for years. This is indeed a dirty war led by Iran against the Lebanese people. Iran’s servants are thus imposing their will on the Lebanese people via bullying, beatings, intimidation and threats. This is Hezbollah’s approach to guarantee that its candidates win seats in the legislative authority against the people’s will, so it can later harness Lebanese resources and exploit Lebanon’s geographic location to serve Iranian interests.
Iran’s legalized swindling of Iraq
The scene will be repeated in Iraq next month, with its preparations starting right now. Pro-Iranian parties are imposing themselves on the Iraqis by the force of militias whom Iran armed. The legislative institution is also harnessing Iraq’s resources to serve Iran by passing trade contracts and agreements that exhaust Iraqi resources based on unfair conditions and in favor of Tehran. Such agreements have been signed and voted on by the Iraqi parliament. An example is the energy contracts, wherein Iran sells gas to Iraq at double the price. Meanwhile, the Iraqi market is packed with Iranian food products and Iraqi farmers have complained of unfair competition. The balance of trade between Iraq and Iran is in Iran’s favor as Iraqi imports from Iran amount to $6 billion, while Iraqi exports to Iran are no more than $60 million a year. Iran is doing the same in Yemen where Houthis control Yemeni decision-making via the power of their arms which are smuggled to them by Tehran.
This is how Iran uses its servants and those affiliated with them to serve its agenda and turn a whole country into a follower that serves its interests. Groups that help Iran fulfill these goals have nothing to do with national privileges and are not concerned in any reform or development within their country where nothing but destruction and corruption reign as it is now evident in Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen and Syria. Bahrain, which has confronted previous Iranian schemes and where Iranian dreams collapsed, is capable of identifying and exposing the new Iranian attempt at subjugation.

Why sanctions against Russia do not work?
Shehab Al-Makahleh/Al Arabiya/April 25/18
Economic and financial sanctions have become a major policy tool nowadays against countries that are deemed militarily powerful. Thus, any use of military force would lead to regional or world war such as in the case of North Korea and Russia.
The targeted sanctions aim to cripple the regimes that do not abide by international laws. The United States has managed to turn many of these sanctions into international ones by using its influence at the UN Security Council. Will these sanctions on Russia be effective? The answer would be disappointing for many as this will not change Putin or his regime and will not weaken his hold on power. The proof is the March 2018 elections which he won. At present, a debate is going on within NATO on whether these measures work or not or whether they should be upgraded or cancelled. All depends on the target country and its potential. In the case of the Russian Federation, it has been under tough measures since 2014; however, Moscow has not given up and is still competing with the West in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Europe to protect its national security. On March 15, the Trump administration imposed sanctions on individuals and companies whom special counsel Robert Mueller reported as agents of American presidential election meddling. Then, the US expelled 60 Russian diplomats and ordered the closure of the Russian consulate in Seattle. Donald Trump has promised before he was elected to improve relations with Russia; however, bilateral relations under his reign are at their lowest point since Cold War not only with Russia but also with the EU members.
The targeted sanctions have affected the Russian economy to some extent; however, the mega deals between Russia and China have compensated for the big losses
Smart sanctions
Historically speaking, sanctions against Russia have taken various forms, starting from diplomatic expulsions, to freezing trade and economic relations. Such measures are reckoned both strategic and punitive measures. The other type of sanctions is “smart” sanctions to undermine the Russian government, mainly President Putin from within, by targeting his elites and influential businessmen to demise the whole economy in order to stir a rebellion against the leadership similar to the case of former Yugoslavia. To assess the impact, one should start with the restrictions in place which include amongst others: asset freezing, visa bans, diplomat expulsion, and penalties against Russian major oil and gas companies and officials. The EU has suspended loans offered by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) to Russia at preferential economic development rates. The European states and the US also imposed ban on trading bonds and equity as well as related other brokering services for products. Russian energy companies, including Rosneft and Gazprom, are under American sanctions. The list also entails three Russian defence companies and a number of Russian state-owned banks. The banning also includes specific technologies which are used for energy projects to explore for oil and gas in the Arctic deep-water. The question is: Have these sanctions been effective enough to change Russia’s conduct and attitude?
The China factor
The targeted sanctions have affected the Russian economy to some extent; however, the mega deals between Russia and China have compensated for the big losses incurred due to these sanctions as both have signed a $400 billion gas deal in May 2014. Thus, the impact varies from province to another in Russia and from sector to another as well. Those in Siberia have been less affected as they have started depending on their own natural resources to produce their daily needs instead of importing most of their goods from Europe. However, the major cities such as Moscow and Saint Petersburg have been affected mostly because of inflation and due to low exchange rate of the Ruble against major world currencies. Yet, this has not affected Russian government’s behavior and could not coerce President Putin to listen to western calls and demands to change his approach towards international issues.
What has curbed sanctions from being crippling is that the level of nationalism in Russia, or the “Russian soul” and identity have been quite much more effective to counter sanctions. High degrees of nationalism have contributed to the ineptitude of these sanctions. It is apparent that national sentiment aligns with Russian government goals. Sanctions effect has been reversed in a way or another as nationalism has hiked because of sanctions, affecting the EU states which export many products to Russia. The nationalist sentiment has been behind people’s blame and suffer, not because of Russian government and leadership, but because of external forces. This has driven people to band together as they share the same enemies, threats and identity.
It is true sanctions incurred discomfort and suffering in Russia. However, the Russian Dusha (Soul) has solidified public backing to their government regardless of who is the leader. What makes sanctions almost fail is that Russia is the biggest country in the world and it has huge natural resources.
This has driven its citizens to depend on their potentials to produce their agricultural products instead of importing them from the EU, mainly Germany, Italy and France. In addition, Russians started to rehabilitate their old Soviet factories which have been active in the 1980s and then stopped production since the demise of the union. To sum up, Russian know that there is an upper limit to actions the West in general and the US in particular would take. The suffering of the Russian citizens will not last long as Putinism remains a phenomenon and Russian soul is back to the country’s body with hiking sentiment of nationalism. Sanctions are effective on some countries but they are less effective on others as in the case of Russia.

The war on Gaza: Western Media’s misrepresentation of Palestine and Palestinians
Ramzy Baroud/Al Arabiya/April 25/18
Western media’s relationship with the subject of Palestine and Israel, and the ongoing turmoil, violence and seemingly perpetual conflict, has been marred by inaccuracies, strange perceptions and incongruities.
It is true that the verdict on Western media’s success or failures in conveying an accurate account of the situation in Palestine and Israel is, ultimately, subjective. Even Israelis who support the occupation of Palestine and the rightwing policies of their government often complain of media bias.
However, we can say with certainty that Western corporate mainstream media is failing, not because of the pro-Israel attitude held by most Americans – and to a lesser degree of Europeans – but because of their sheer ignorance of the uncontested facts thereof.
For example, an IRmep poll fielded by Google Consumer Surveys, concluded two years ago that majority of Americans are under the misconception that Palestinians occupy Israeli land, instead of the other way around.
This devastating lack of knowledge, considering the amount of time spent discussing Israel on US television channels and in newspapers, is indicative of a horrific failure. It has created the kind of intellectual vacuum that allowed such twisted ideas as ‘Palestinian mothers hate their children’ to perpetuate for far too long. Alas, the above line was in fact a media staple in major American TV networks during the Second Palestinian Intifada between 2000-2005. Such dark judgement was not founded in any rational claim to support it, but on Zionist ideals of the past.
The idea originated in a statement attributed to Israeli Prime Minister, Golda Meir, who allegedly said that “Peace will come when the Arabs will love their children more than they hate us.” Regardless of the authenticity of the statement, many of Israel’s supporters have indeed eternalized the notion and perpetuated its racist undertone ever since. Unfair media coverage is not fueled by the simplistic notion of “clever Israel, imprudent Arabs”. Western media is actively involved in shielding Israel and enhancing its diminishing brand, while painstakingly demolishing the image of Israel’s enemies
Moral crisis
The moral crisis is compounded when US media uses such heinous logic as a point of departure in the way they frame their understanding, and subsequently their readers’ perceptions of the unlawful Israeli occupation of Palestine,’ and of the brutal ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people which began 70 years ago and has continued to date. But can all of this be archived under the one-size-fits-all’ notion of ‘media bias’? Hardly. The term ‘media bias’ does not do justice to the western corporate media’s relationship with Israel and Palestine. The relationship is, indeed, far more profound than mere partiality. It is not ignorance, either. It is a calculated and long-term campaign, aimed at guarding Israel and demonizing Palestinians. The current biased coverage of Gaza’s popular protests indicates that the media’s position aims at suppressing the truth on Palestine, at any cost and by any means.
Political symbiosis, cultural affinity, Hollywood, and the far-reaching influence of pro-Israel and Zionist groups within the political and media circles, are some of the explanations many of us have offered as to why Israel is often viewed with sympathetic eyes, and Palestinians and Arabs condemned.
But such explanations should hardly suffice. Nowadays, there are numerous media outlets that are trying to offset some of the imbalance, many of them emanating from the Middle East, but also other parts of the world. Palestinian and Arab journalists, intellectuals and cultural representatives are more present on a global stage than ever before and are more than capable of facing off, if not defeating, the pro-Israeli media discourse.
However, they are largely invisible to western media; it is the Israeli spokesperson who continues to occupy the center stage, speaking, shouting, theorizing and demonizing as he pleases. It is, then, not a matter of media ignorance, but policy.
Even before March 30, when scores of Palestinians in Gaza were killed and thousands wounded, the US and British media, for example, should have, at least, questioned why hundreds of Israeli snipers and army tanks were ordered to deploy at the Gaza border to face-off Palestinian protesters.
Instead, the media referred to ‘clashes’ between Gaza youth and Israeli snipers as if they are equal forces in an equivalent battle. The maxim that official Israeli propaganda or ‘hasbara’ is too savvy no longer suffices. In fact, this is hardly true. Where is the ingenuity in the way the Israeli army explained the killing of unarmed Palestinians in Gaza? “Yesterday we saw 30,000 people,” the Israeli army tweeted on March 31. “We arrived prepared and with precise reinforcements. Nothing was carried out uncontrolled; everything was accurate and measured, and we know where every bullet landed.”
If that is not bad enough, Israel’s ultra-nationalist Minister of Defense, Avigdor Lieberman, followed that self-indictment by declaring that there are “no innocent people in Gaza”, thus legitimizing the targeting of any Gazan within the besieged Strip.
Unfair media coverage is not fueled by the simplistic notion of “clever Israel, imprudent Arabs”. Western media is actively involved in shielding Israel and enhancing its diminishing brand, while painstakingly demolishing the image of Israel’s enemies.
Take, for example, Israel’s unfounded propaganda that Yasser Murtaja, the Gaza journalist who was killed in cold blood by an Israeli sniper while covering the Great March of Return protests at the Gaza border, was a member of Hamas.
First, ‘unnamed officials’ in Israel claimed that Yasser is ‘a member of the Hamas security apparatus.’ Then, Lieberman offered more (fabricated) details that Yasser was on Hamas’ payroll since 2011 and ‘held a rank similar to a captain.’ Many journalists took these statements and ran with them, fuelling a false media view.
It turned out that, according to the US State Department, Yasser’s start-up media company in Gaza had actually received a small grant from USAID, which subjected Yasser’s company to a rigorous vetting process. Furthermore, a report by the International Federation of Journalists claimed that Yasser was actually detained and beaten by the Gaza police in 2015, and that Israel’s Defense Minister is engineering a cover-up.
Judging by this, Israel’s media apparatus is as erratic and self-defeating as North Korea’s; but this is hardly the image conveyed by western media, because it insists on placing Israel on a moral pedestal while misrepresenting Palestinians, regardless of the circumstances.
Media spin will continue to provide Israel with the needed margins to carry out its violent policies against the Palestinian people, with no moral accountability. It will remain loyal to Israel, creating a buffer between the truth and its audiences.
It is incumbent on us to expose this sinister relationship and hold mainstream media accountable for covering up Israel’s crimes, as well as Israel, for committing and perpetuating these crimes in the first place.

British ambassador attests to Saudi counter-terrorism efforts in Awamiya
Salman al-Dosary/Al Arabiya/April 25/18
The years between 2011 and 2018 have witnessed the spark of terrorism in Awamiya village, east of Saudi Arabia, where crimes, drug trafficking, arms selling, killing, acts of terrorism and intimidation were carried out.
Later on, Iran’s foreign intervention led to the rise of “activists,” “human rights activists” and human rights organizations, yet Saudi government alone was capable of imposing security and stability for its citizens, confronting all campaigns of distortion and falsification, calling things by their proper names, gradually imposing the same logic and validating the premise of the state that it declared from the beginning. It proved that what happened had nothing to do with rights or duties.
What happened from the beginning was not related to people’s demands, but to terrorism.
Of course, with time and the return of tranquility to the village many positions have changed. Governments, organizations and international organizations were initially deceived and swept away by a wave of confusion as all those who raised arms against the state were seen as if they were practicing their rights even if they were terrorists.
Last Thursday, the British government attested to Saudi Arabia’s efforts in fighting terrorism. British Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Simon Collis published a video on his Twitter account saying that Saudi authorities defeated terrorists in Awamiya village.
“This is the place where Saudi authorities defeated terrorists and where they have begun to rebuild the community,” Collis said. “There have been problems in the past, but now there is a drive to renew the community based on the return of security to Awamiya,” Collis added.
What the Arab world witnessed during the Arab Spring created a state of Western enthusiasm and support, innocent and malignant, in order to spread this “spring” to all those who took up arms against the state
Development project
This official British talk came during the ambassador’s visit to a development project implemented in the center of the village that would transform it into a tourist attraction.
Perhaps the most significant part of Collis’s statement is that it proved what the Saudi government has said and been doing since the first day about seven years ago. The government said back then that the incidents that took place were neither protests nor “Arab spring” demonstrations as they were promoted at the time.
In fact, they were a riot during which civilians and residents were killed and wounded. The incident included attacks on judges, diplomats, banks, shops and security headquarters and sought to destabilize security and stability in the region.
The story was not in the position of the state, and with it the vast majority of the citizens of the town, in the face of tampering, riot and terrorism; it is the role of States and their duties to provide security for their citizens.
However, the real issue was the chaos that accompanied the riot, supported by states, organizations and international organizations, and caused to prolong terrorist acts promoted as “demonstrations” for citizens and “legitimate claims.”
Years have passed and the Kingdom has succeeded in proving its credibility, supported by testimonies from officials, showing that what happened was terrorism.
There is no doubt that what the Arab world witnessed during the Arab Spring created a state of Western enthusiasm and support, innocent and malignant, in order to spread this “spring” to all those who took up arms against the state.
It did not matter whether it was a regime that killed its people, like that of Muammar Gaddafi and Bashar al-Assad, or a stable and secure country that protected its citizens from criminals and saboteurs, as in Saudi Arabia.
And today, after the skies have cleared and the Kingdom has proved its credibility against the flood of allegations and accusations, will the countries and parties proven wrong apologize for supporting a terrorism disguised in an “Arab Spring”?!

How Hamas Exploits the People of Gaza: Protests Clarify Their Cynical Tactics
Dennis Ross/New York Daily News/April 25/18
It is time to create a stark public choice for Hamas: stop escalating tensions, and important rebuilding work will begin.
Hamas has never put the people of Gaza first. Hamas rejects Israel’s existence and treats all of the land as an Islamic trust. The Palestinian people are instruments in the struggle to reclaim it. For the struggle, for the cause, the people can be sacrificed.
Why else would Hamas build tunnels to protect its weapons and its fighters but not its people during conflict with Israel? Why else, when Gazans desperately needed reconstruction, would its leaders divert short supplies of cement, electric wiring, and iron away from badly needed housing construction to build the tunnels?
Why else would it store, deploy, and fire its rockets in or next to schools, mosques, and hospitals? In conflicts with Israel, Hamas seeks to maximize Palestinian civilian casualties—preferably women and children. That brings international opprobrium on Israel and makes it harder to engage in its self-defense.
Recent mass marches on the border fence with Israel are a case in point. The Hamas leadership in Gaza announced that starting March 30 and continuing every Friday until what they call Nakba (catastrophe) day, demonstrations at the Israel border fence would take place. The symbolism was lined up perfectly for mobilizing public passions.
But, of course, that was not the real story. Life in Gaza is terrible, and Israel is not to blame: There are four hours a day of electricity, insufficient to power sewage treatment plants. Roughly 96% of the water is undrinkable. Unemployment runs close to 50%, medicines in the hospitals are consistently in short supply, and people cannot leave and feel imprisoned. With little money to pay for anything, trucks from Israel carrying material goods and humanitarian supplies are down from 1,000 a day to less than 200.
True, Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, has deepened the economic deprivation by no longer paying Israel to provide electricity to Gaza and cutting payments to former PA employees there. His purpose was to pressure Hamas, and he did—so much so that Yahya Sinwar, Hamas’ leader in Gaza—sought to hand governing responsibility back to the PA. While reconciliation talks resumed, Abbas saw them as a trap because Hamas refused to disband its Qassam brigades or disarm its fighters—and with the recent assassination attempt on the PA’s prime minister, Rami Hamdallah, he is threatening further economic sanctions on Hamas.
For the Hamas leadership, with popular dissatisfaction growing, the only thing to be done was divert attention to Israel and, thereby, pressure Abbas, who cannot appear indifferent to Palestinians being killed by Israelis. As one European diplomat told me, Hamas leaders acknowledge privately that Abbas is the source of their current difficulties, but shifting the focus to Israel is a proven, if cynical, tactic.
Hamas knows that the world will see Palestinian casualties and tie them to the wretched conditions in Gaza—conditions that are blamed on Israel’s blockade of the Strip. Of course, it is Israel and Egypt that control what can go into and out of Gaza. Unlike Israel, Egypt keeps its border closed to the movement of people and goods into and out of Gaza except on rare occasions. Hamas leaders have little interest in breaching the Egyptian border, knowing the casualties would be high and the international response minimal.
The risk now is escalation and another conflict between Hamas and Israel, leaving Gaza even more devastated. With its leaders believing they have little to lose, just one thing could change the Hamas calculus: the prospect of real change on the ground in Gaza.
The Trump administration needs to translate its recent pledging conference for projects in Gaza into a plan of action and a public challenge. Since it lacks credibility with Palestinians, it would be smart to get Europeans and Arabs to issue a joint public statement declaring that they are ready, immediately, to implement projects on electricity generation, water and sewage treatment, and reconstruction, provided there is no risk of escalation with Israel. No one is going to fund infrastructure projects that will be destroyed in another conflict.
It is time to create a stark public choice for Hamas: stop escalating tensions, and important rebuilding work will begin. Hamas leaders may treat the Palestinian public as pawns, but they are not indifferent to public pressure. It is time to create it.
**Dennis Ross is the counselor and William Davidson Distinguished Fellow at The Washington Institute.

Iran’s many adversaries must agree a common strategy
Sir John Jenkins/Arab News/April 25/18
United States President Donald Trump must decide by May 12 whether to continue to waive economic sanctions against Iran — a call that has to be made every 120 days and that will ultimately determine the fate of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. Each time we approach this point, there is speculation about the president’s intentions. This time it is more feverish than ever.
There have been reports that American, British, French and German officials (the US plus the EU3 in JCPOA terms) are engaged in intense negotiations to agree a new package of measures designed to meet Trump’s concerns about the deal without fracturing it. But there is also a new and perhaps more hawkish national security team in Washington, with John Bolton and Mike Pompeo replacing H.R. McMaster and Rex Tillerson as National Security Advisor and Secretary of State respectively. And recent events in Syria and Yemen have highlighted again the dangers of an expansionary Iranian role in the region and its apparently continued ability to provide a supportive environment (with Russia) for the use of chemical weapons, establish military bases, and develop and spread ballistic and naval missile technologies, which are used to threaten its neighbors and international shipping.
What should we make of all this?
The first step is to acknowledge the imperfections of the JCPOA. I highly recommend the 2016 Washington Quarterly account of the final negotiations by the former French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, one of the key participants. Among other things, he describes the skillful manipulation of some of the key actors by the Iranians — and the apparent willingness of those actors to be played. Jay Solomon’s “The Iran Wars” and Mark Landler’s “Alter Egos” provide further contextual detail of the evolving relationship between the US and Iran that conditioned the final shape of the deal.
In practice, it gave the Iranians a way to partially reintegrate, on their terms, into the global economy and in particular into global financial and energy networks in return for promises to abandon, freeze or suspend elements of their nuclear program for a specified number of years. It essentially bought the international community time. It also watered down existing UN restrictions on Iranian ballistic missile development. And it said nothing about Iran’s non-nuclear activities in the region, which most of its neighbors and indeed Western policymakers regarded as malign and destructive.
Could we have got a better deal? At various points before 2016, yes. Iran felt under huge pressure in 2003 and again when it was effectively denied access to the international banking system — through the blocking of SWIFT — after 2012. But it also exploited US policy failures in Iraq, the Obama administration’s determination to cut its losses in the region more widely, its apparent aim to secure a deal with Iran on almost any terms, and ambiguity among Washington’s regional partners about whether the nuclear deal should or should not address other issues of relevance to them.
The West put so much energy into JCPOA that it neglected Iran's malign and destructive non-nuclear activities.
The question has always been about how any nuclear deal fits into wider US, Western or Arab strategy in the Middle East. As far back as 2008, I remember remarking to British ministers that the ultimate issue was how we shaped, contained and deterred Iran’s expansionist ambitions over the long term: A nuclear deal was only one component of this. And the problem has long been that we put so much energy into securing such a deal that we collectively neglected Iran’s non-nuclear activities, which, in my view, represent the real threat to the stability of the region.
The problem now is that we still have no collective policy understanding of how we manage these threats. And the clock is ticking. Iran has not — as some wishful thinkers insisted in 2016 — used sanctions relief to improve the state of its domestic economy; something Iranians have been quick to notice and one reason why the rial is under such pressure at the moment. It has instead doubled down on Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Lebanon, in all of which its position has, if anything, improved since 2016. Meanwhile, Trump says he wants to withdraw US forces from the region. And there is no collective willingness so far to push back materially against the growing Iranian garrisoning of Syria; its transfer of weapons to the Houthis; its quiet but forceful cultivation of Iraqi and indeed Syrian Kurds; and the continued strengthening of its position in Iraq more generally, where it now has a far greater range of clients than in 2011, when I left in disgust after Nouri Al-Maliki, with Iranian support, had been allowed to hijack the 2010 elections.
The only regional state actors that are evidently doing something serious to push back against Iranian expansionism are Israel in southern Syria (where, as I have consistently said, war is coming — and it may already be here), and Saudi Arabia and the UAE in Yemen. But all three countries need help. On their own in separate theaters they will not be able to fully contain or constrain Iran, which operates across the greater Levant, into Central Asia and down through the Gulf and the Indian Ocean into the Red Sea. Iran also benefits from the truly global political, terror and criminal networks of Hezbollah, which operates throughout the Middle East, in West Africa, South America, Australia, Europe and into North America itself.
That is the real challenge, not the nuclear deal. The issue with the latter is how we use the time — effectively some 15 years from the point of signature — we have been given. In my view, any abrogation, abandonment or undermining of the deal would only serve Iranian goals. They would use it to drive wedges between the signatories — the US, the EU3, China and Russia — and to gain international sympathy. It would also have an impact on negotiations with North Korea.
The real policy challenge is to agree a common strategy of renewed pressure on and containment of Iran in areas where it matters. These include the rigorous enforcement of inspections and snap-back sanctions; denying Iran the ability to establish permanent forward bases in Syria; supporting the emergence after the May elections of a truly independent and capable government in Iraq, with the aim of ending corruption and sectarian mobilization; and reaching an agreement to end the war in Yemen that binds all the combatants into a genuinely national system of governance, addresses Southern grievances, constrains the Houthis, and excludes illegitimate Iranian activity. The strategy must also confront provocative Iranian activity in the Gulf and its support for subversion in Bahrain, and target those figures, many associated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and Hezbollah, who act as the spearhead for most of these efforts.
This will require old-fashioned diplomacy, judicious use of military force, training and equipment, a willingness to establish and use escalation dominance (highly effective in the Gulf, as we saw in the 1980s), more explicit security guarantees, better intelligence coordination, a renewed effort to use targeted financial sanctions against those with clear links to terrorism, crime and weapons smuggling, and, above all, a willingness to convene, plan and coordinate in a sustained and resilient manner.
If we combined this with an effort to offer genuine reformists within Iran appropriately conditioned support for economic development and to communicate more effectively to the millions of Iranians who have shown by their protests their dissatisfaction with their government that a better way is on offer, then it would begin to look as if we had a plan.
**Sir John Jenkins is a senior fellow at Policy Exchange. Until December 2017, he was Corresponding Director (Middle East) at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), based in Manama, Bahrain and was a Senior Fellow at Yale University’s Jackson Institute for Global Affairs. He was the British ambassador to Saudi Arabia until January 2015.

Conditions must be right before Syrian refugees can return
Kerry Boyd Anderson /Arab News/April 25/18
The EU and UN this week led a two-day conference of countries in Brussels designed to support “the future of Syria and the region,” including pledging assistance for Syrian refugees who have fled to neighboring countries. While such aid is badly needed, longer-term efforts to end the civil war and create conditions for refugees to return are also essential.
As the states that have taken in the most refugees struggle to cope with the logistical, fiscal, economic, social and political effects of absorbing so many Syrians, conditions for refugees in those countries are becoming increasingly difficult. This is especially true in Lebanon, where political leaders have started to call for Syrian refugees to return to their country. In March, for example, Lebanese President Michel Aoun reportedly called on the international community to help return refugees to “safe areas” in Syria even without a political resolution to the war. Upcoming Lebanese elections in May are increasing political incentives for anti-refugee rhetoric, while pressures for refugees to return to Syria are also increasing in Turkey and Jordan.
As of April 12, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees has registered more than 5.6 million Syrian refugees — 63 percent of whom are in Turkey, 18 percent in Lebanon and 12 percent in Jordan. However, the actual number of refugees in these countries is much higher, as many are not formally registered with the UN. These host countries have very real challenges in managing the huge numbers of Syrian refugees they have received, and international support has been insufficient. It is understandable that leaders and communities in these countries would be anxious for Syrians to go home.
However, calls for Syrian refugees to return to their country are premature. Many areas remain profoundly insecure. While some politicians have called for Syrian refugees to return to “de-escalation zones,” such zones offer questionable security, with multiple reports of attacks within them. Anecdotally, there have been cases of refugees who returned to Syria and died in the conflict or otherwise regretted their decision.
Furthermore, the Assad regime’s policies of intentional population displacement and recent regulations regarding property claims reduce the ability of refugees to return to their areas of origin. The even larger number of internally displaced people within Syria complicates any plans for those outside the country to return. The lack of the most basic economic opportunities, housing and services in general makes it difficult for refugees to go home, even when considering the deeply challenging circumstances many refugees face in their host countries.
A political resolution to Syria conflict and stable security are essential conditions to persuading refugees to voluntarily return.
In formulating plans for refugees’ futures, it is important to consider what the refugees themselves view as the basic conditions under which they would voluntarily return to their country. On April 16, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace’s Middle East Center published a significant study looking at how Syrian refugees in Lebanon and Jordan perceive the Syrian conflict and what they would require in order to return home.
The Carnegie study finds that most refugees in Lebanon and Jordan are not currently willing to return to Syria. A majority want to go home but only if they and their families would be safe. Most were reluctant to leave Syria in the first place and believed that their exile would last “only a few months.” However, today, as a group, they are pessimistic about the possibility of a voluntary return any time soon.
Most of the refugees that the Carnegie researchers interviewed opposed the Assad regime, and a majority of those say they would refuse to return to Syria as long as Bashar Assad remains in power. There is a complete lack of trust, and they have no confidence that they would be spared persecution or a renewal of conflict. While a “small number of anti-regime refugees indicated that they were resigned to the possibility of Assad’s presence” and would return if there were sufficient economic opportunities, most said they would not. Complicating matters, the study finds that the minority of refugees who were pro-regime said they would refuse to return unless Assad remained in power, meaning the two groups have directly conflicting preconditions.
The study finds that security and safety were the clear priority for most refugees. “Most focus group participants indicated that they would not go back unless political conditions were favorable, even if there were available jobs, services, and housing,” the study notes. Many refugees expressed a willingness to return and rebuild even without sufficient economic conditions, as long as safety was guaranteed.
Many refugees want to go back specifically to their places of origin within Syria. The Assad regime’s efforts to change the sectarian make-up of some parts of the country and its policies for refugees returning home and reclaiming property — such as requiring formal legal documents that many refugees lack and, according to media reports, destroying property records — further complicate potential returns. Additionally, many refugees no longer have a home to return to, as large amounts of housing have been destroyed in many areas.
Refugees’ concerns matter for many reasons, in addition to basic humanitarian interests. Governments that want refugees to go home — and countries, especially in Europe, that do not want future refugee flows — need to understand that a political resolution to the conflict and stable security are essential conditions to persuading Syrian refugees to voluntarily return. Without this, creating so-called safe zones or even providing more jobs and services inside Syria will be insufficient. If refugees are forced to return before the situation is safe, then neighboring states that might choose to deport refugees now will lay a foundation for instability and new refugee flows in the future.
**Kerry Boyd Anderson is a writer and political risk consultant with more than 14 years’ experience as a professional analyst of international security issues and Middle East political and business risks. Her previous positions include deputy director for advisory with Oxford Analytica and managing editor of Arms Control Today. Twitter: @KBAresearch
Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News' point-of-view

Dr.Walid Phares:
World War 3 THREAT: Iran regime's only intention is building long-range nuclear missiles
Darren Hunt/Express/April 25/18
Dr.Walid Phares: One area is the issue of the long-range missiles that the Iranian’s are developing and Mr Trump argues that no regime will develop these missiles, really ICBM type, without having the intention of equipping them with weapons of mass destruction or nuclear capabilities.
IRAN’S only intention is to continue building long-range missiles which have a "capability of carrying weapons of mass destruction", a former Donald Trump former foreign policy advisor has claimed.
President Donald Trump has been critical of the Iran deal and warned Iran will face “bigger problems than they have ever had before” if Tehran decides to restart its nuclear programme.
Tensions in the Middle East have sparked World War 3 fears after Tehran vowed to ramp up its nuclear programme if the agreement collapses.
A decision to extend or cancel the Iran deal will be taken before May 12, which curbs Iran’s nuclear programme in exchange for a stay on economic sanctions.
Donald Trump’s former foreign policy adviser Walid Phares warned the President would say the actions Iran has taken have not been defensive.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Mr Phares said: “One area is the issue of the long-range missiles that the Iranian’s are developing and Mr Trump argues that no regime will develop these missiles, really ICBM type, without having the intention of equipping them with weapons of mass destruction or nuclear capabilities.
“Defence purposes would be anti-aircraft missiles, even long-range missiles or issiles that would be shot or fired across the border.
“But the missiles that they have developed really reaches Europe, North Africa, parts of India. That is not defensive in the view of the Trump team.”
When asked about the prospect of Iran walking away from the deal if the US pulled out, Mr Phares said: “It is less likely Iran would abandon a process that is getting them dozens and dozens of billions of dollars. Of course, they will have to make that statement.
“Of course, they will continue to trade with their European, Chinese and Russian partners around the world. I don’t think the Iranians will go as far as cancelling the agreement… that is what I think the Trump team are counting on.”
Mr Macron, along with Theresa May and Angela Merkel, has urged the US to honour its commitment to the deal.
But Donald Trump has hit out at what he describes as the pact’s “terrible flaws”.
Speaking today, he described the accord as “insane”, adding it was “a terrible deal that should have never been made”.
But after meeting with the French leader, Mr Trump suggested the Iran deal could survive.