April 28/2018
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani


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Bible Quotations
Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing

Luke 10/38-42: "Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me. ’But the Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.’

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on April 27-28/18
Tanios the revolutionary/Dr.Walid Phares/April 27/18
Mattis: Iran-Israel clash is close, but US military focus shifts out of Syria to Iraq/DebkaFile/April 27/18
Ambassador Danon warns UN Security Council of Iran's entrenchment in Syria/Itamar Eichner/Ynetnews/April 27/18
Have Trump and Macron learned to use each other/David Ignatius/The Washington Post/April 27/18
Human Rights: Other Views - Part I/Denis MacEoin/Gatestone Institute/April 27/18
Our Region, our Collective Memory, and Ghassan Al-Imam/Eyad Abu Shakra/Asharq Al Awsat/April 27/18
Lessons of the Afgantsy for the Syrians/Amir Taheri/Asharq Al Awsat/April 27/18
Iran is Not the Gulf Countries’ Problem/Abdulrahman Al-Rashed/Asharq Al Awsat/April 27/18
EU lobbies Trump to disregard realities in Iran/Hamid Bahrami/Al Arabiya/April 27/18
The future of Qatar after Hamad bin Khalifa/Mohammed Al Shaikh/Al Arabiya/April 27/18
Jerusalem and Muslim-Christian relations/Radwan al-Sayed/Al Arabiya/April 27/18
The soft power of Mohamed Salah/Salman al-Dosary/Al Arabiya/April 27/18
The Tired Lies of Taqiyya/Raymond Ibrahim/FrontPage Magazine/April 27/18
France prioritizing business over peace with Iran deals/Dr. Majid Rafizadeh/Arab News/April 27/18

Titles For Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on April 26-27/18
Tanios the revolutionary...
Lebanese Parliamentary Elections Kick off in Six Arab Countries
Europe Demands Tougher Control of 'Political Money' During Lebanon Polls
Aoun, Berri, Bassil slam U.N., EU statement on Syrian refugees
Zgharta's Kayssar Mouawad Withdraws from Electoral Race
Hariri from Tripoli: Settlements for Sake of People, Not Political Gains
EU, U.N. Deny Refugee 'Naturalization' Claims after Lebanon Uproar
General Aoun: Army equidistant from all parties and candidates
Bassil Vows to Grant Citizenship to Lebanese Descendants in Diaspora
Electoral Violations Reported in Lebanese Expat Vote
Shorter: Women on Municipalities Show that Society Benefits from Full Participation of Women
Electoral Violation Sparks Tension Between LADE and Foreign Ministry
Sayegh: Budget Clause Made Naturalization Threat Very Real
Eid: Voters Must Seize Opportunity to Make a Change

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on April 27-28/18
Koreas Committed to ‘Complete Denuclearization," Agree to Resume Family Reunions
North, South Korea Seek Peace, Denuclearization in Historic Summit
Revolutionary Guards Arrest British-Iranian Academic
Washington Expects ‘Re-Energized’ Campaign Against ISIS
Trump Says Americans Should be 'Very Proud' of 'Historic' Koreas Summit
Trump declares in tweet: ‘KOREAN WAR TO END’
Pompeo to visit Riyadh and other cities; Iran deal will be significant agenda
New U.S. Envoy Pompeo Tackles NATO on Spending, Russia
US would ‘probably regret’ lack of holding force in Syria, says Mattis
Syria Regime Advances against IS in South Damascus
Syria Regime Bombardment Kills 17 Civilians in South Damascus
Saudi Arabia Downs Yemeni Rebel Missile
Saudi ambassador to US: Hard to see a path to a trustworthy dialogue with Iran
Bahrain’s King Commutes Death Sentences of 4 Terrorists
Bahrain’s Foreign Ministry Describes US Rights Report as Unfair
Israeli army kills 3 Palestinians, injures 300 in Gaza border protests
Manila 'Displeased' about Kuwait’s Expulsion of its Ambassador, Requests Explanation
Astronomers Spot a Massive Collision 12.4 Billion Light Years Away
Iraqi PM in Erbil for First Time Since Referendum Crisis
Tunisian Women Hit Campaign Trail as Equals to Men
Romania President Seeks PM Resignation over Israel Embassy Row
Knife Attacker Kills 7 Children, Wounds 19 in China
Statement by Canada’s Foreign Minister following Inter-Korean Summit
Mattis: Iran-Israel clash is close, but US military focus shifts out of Syria to Iraq
Ambassador Danon warns UN Security Council of Iran's entrenchment in Syria
Latest Lebanese Related News published on April 26-27/18
Tanios the revolutionary...
Dr.Walid Phares/April 27/18
Tanios Shahin Saadeh al-Rayfouni (also spelled Tanios Chahine Saadé Al Rayfouné) given name also spelled Taniyus or Tanius) (1815–1895) was a Maronite muleteer and peasant leader from Mount Lebanon.
He led a popular revolt against the ruling class in Kesrouan and across the mountain. He rebelled against the "lords," or the feudal zaims, known also as "Mqata3jiyye" who were installed since the Mameluks after the battle of 1305. More important he established what was known briefly as "The Democratic Republic in Mount Lebanon." Cited by Kamal Salibi, Boutros Daou and local narrators. He was joined later by a son of lords, but rebel as well, the famous Youssef Beik Karam, the commander in chief of the "Republic" and leader of the following uprising against the Ottomans. Tanios and Youssef are certainly missed this century...
Lessons from History

Lebanese Parliamentary Elections Kick off in Six Arab Countries
Beirut -Asharq Al-Awsat/Friday, 27 April, 2018/The first phase of the parliamentary elections in Lebanon began on Friday with the participation of expatriates in six Arab countries: Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar and the Sultanate of Oman; and will continue throughout the day until 11:00 pm Lebanon time. In a statement, the Foreign Ministry presented the details of the operation, noting that the second phase of the elections would be held on Sunday in 33 countries, in addition to the island of Guadeloupe. The voting will begin at midnight on Saturday-Sunday in Australia and ends at 8:00 am Monday, Lebanon time, after the closing of the ballot boxes at 10:00 pm on the West Coast of the United States. The statement added that the ministry would broadcast the overseas voting process live throughout the expat voting period, from all of the polling stations across the world, via an operation room it has established at the ministry, to allow local and international media to follow developments in real time. The current electoral law allows, for the first time, Lebanese voters in foreign countries to vote in the parliamentary elections. Over 82,970 voters have registered in 40 countries on 6 continents, with 96 centers with 232 polling stations.

Europe Demands Tougher Control of 'Political Money' During Lebanon Polls
Beirut - Nazeer Rida/Friday, 27 April, 2018/Deputy Chief Observer of the EU Election Observation Mission, José Antonio de Gabriel told Asharq Al-Awsat on Thursday that his team is studying means to place tougher control measures on the use of political money during the May 6 parliamentary polls in Lebanon. “If pursued seriously, those measures would help establish a common ground for all candidates, regardless of their financial outcomes,” de Gabriel said. Asked about claims of attempts to buy votes in the north of Lebanon and in Beirut, he said: “We are informed about claims to buy votes. We are paying attention to candidates who pledge to offer social and health services, or jobs. We are checking those claims on the ground.” Three weeks ago, the European Union Election Observation Mission deployed 24 long-term observers to 12 different locations in Lebanon, to begin their efforts to support credible, transparent and inclusive parliamentary elections.
The team is led by Spanish MEP Elena Valencia.
The Deputy Chief Observer asserted that his team was studying means to “monitor the electoral campaigns in Lebanon” in line with the “right to secret ballot.”Asked whether the team had already documented any violations of the Lebanese electoral law, de Gabriel said, “Our observers will tell us if they hear any claims linked to the presence of violations.”He added that the team could not present its final report on the progress of the electoral process before Election Day.  “This is part of our mission. We need to place a comprehensive image and we can’t intervene at any phase of the electoral process,” he said. According to de Gabriel, the observers also need to measure the gravity of any violation, if existing, and to investigate its purposes.
Aoun, Berri, Bassil slam U.N., EU statement on Syrian refugees
Joseph Haboush/The Daily Star/April 27/ 2018/BEIRUT: President Michel Aoun, Speaker Nabih Berri and Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil criticized the United Nations and European Union Thursday after the international bodies released a joint statement using unprecedented language regarding Syrian refugees in Lebanon. The statement published on the EU website “stressed the need to ensure that any evacuation of civilians must be safe, informed, temporary, voluntary in nature and a solution of last resort including the destination of their choice, the right to return and the choice to stay, as per IHL [international humanitarian law].”Aoun said the statement posed a threat to the country due to its allusion to settling Syrian refugees in Lebanon. That refugees should have the “choice to stay” in Lebanon marked a shift in the position of the international bodies, which previously acknowledged the country was hosting displaced Syrians on a temporary basis. “I declare my rejection to the statement issued by the [EU and U.N.], including what was stated on ‘voluntary return,’ ‘temporary return,’ ‘choice to stay,’ and ‘integration in the labor market,’ and other words that contradict the sovereignty and laws of the Lebanese state,” a statement released by the presidency quoted Aoun as saying. The president described the statement as an infringement of Lebanese sovereignty and contrary to its Constitution, which refuses the resettlement of any refugees on Lebanese territory.
“Lebanon is committed to the political solution in Syria and the return of the refugees cannot be linked to this solution,” Aoun said, in an apparent reference to where the joint statement claimed that conditions for returns, “as defined by the UNHCR and according to international refugee law standards, are not yet fulfilled.”Aoun voiced his belief that the only solution to the Syria crisis was the safe and dignified return of Syrian refugees to “the possible areas inside Syria ... as there are many areas [there] that are safe,” and called for the international community to remember that Lebanon is dealing with the refugee crisis based on “brotherly ties and humanitarian obligation.”
Speaker Nabih Berri also released a statement Thursday evening “completely rejecting” the EU-U.N. statement, in his name and that of the Parliament, saying it “divides the Syrian people and land.”Earlier in the day, Bassil had launched a scathing attack on the international community saying, “no one can give [Lebanon] lessons” on dealing with the refugee crisis, “because all of them combined have not carried the burden the way we have.”Speaking after a Cabinet session at the presidential palace, Bassil specifically called out the EU and the U.N. over the statement. “Lebanon had nothing to do with [this statement],” he said, adding that the international community is “relaxed and comfortable because no one is confronting them.”Lebanon has hosted the largest number of refugees per capita since the influx of Syrians fleeing the conflict in their country that started in 2011. The latest UNHCR figure puts the number of those registered just under 1 million, but government officials claim the actual figure is 1.5 million. The population increase has strained Lebanon’s already struggling services and infrastructure. Since Aoun’s election, the government has been divided over the method of how refugees should return – whether through direct contact with the Syrian government or coordination with the U.N. However, Bassil appealed for Lebanon to unite in rejection of any attempts to resettle refugees on Lebanese soil. Bassil went on to say that “every time Lebanon gets close to its [breaking point] in regards to the refugees,” the international community holds another donor conference “to garner money that we don’t even get,” in an effort to keep refugees inside the country.
But he was quick to reject any criticism that claimed the Lebanese do not care about the safe return of refugees. “We have accepted the refugees with open arms and because we lived [through our own] war, we know what it means and know how to deal with it.” Bassil added that criticism of Lebanon’s policies toward refugees was unfair. “Go see in Europe how they’re dealing with refugees, how they’re pretty much kicking them out,” he said. “All we are requesting from the international community is to stop encouraging Syrians to stay in Lebanon and preventing them from returning to Syria.”
Bassil said that if the international community wants to help, “they can sit with us and organize the respectful and safe return for Syrian refugees.”The international community believes refugees have nothing to return to, he said, so “their policy is for them to remain in Lebanon as they [the international community] are refusing [to accept] that there are safe zones in Syria.”Last week, UNHCR released a statement criticizing the return of some 500 Syrian refugees to their homeland from Lebanon. “UNHCR went crazy and released a statement to scare them [the refugees]. Where is the international community taking us? What do they want ... sectarian strife?” Bassil said. “Lebanon deserves a Nobel Peace Prize. [The international community] is essentially telling people that they can’t rebuild their homes,” he said.
Zgharta's Kayssar Mouawad Withdraws from Electoral Race
Naharnet/April 27/18/Parliamentary candidate Kayssar Mouawad announced Friday his withdrawal from the electoral race in the third north Lebanon electoral district. “I announce my withdrawal from the Pulse of Strong Republic list in the North's third district, seeing as victory in Zgharta is not among the list's priorities,” Mouawad said at a press conference. “We no longer tell friends and allies from political rivals,” he lamented.Under the new electoral law, which is based on closed lists of candidates, any electoral alliance has the right to replace candidates who withdraw from the race after the official registration of the lists. North Lebanon's third electoral district contains the majority Christian administrative districts of Bsharri, Zgharta, Koura and Batroun. Mouawad withdrew from a list formed by the Lebanese Forces, the Kataeb Party, the Democratic Left Movement and independents. The Free Patriotic Movement and the Marada Movement have formed rival lists.

Hariri from Tripoli: Settlements for Sake of People, Not Political Gains
Naharnet/April 27/18/Prime Minister Saad Hariri, the leader of al-Mustaqbal Movement, carried out an electoral tour in Tripoli on Friday, nine days before the May 6 parliamentary elections. Hariri kicked off his tour by meeting Labor Minister and Tripoli MP Mohammed Kabbara, in the presence of MP Samir al-Jisr, Tripoli parliamentary candidate Dima Jamali, el-Mina municipal chief Abdul Qader Alameddine and a number of Tripolitan businessmen and families. Hariri later visited Tripoli's Dar al-Iftaa, the city's Sunni Muslim religious authority, where he met with Mufti of Tripoli and North Sheikh Malek al-Shaar and a number of Dar al-Fatwa clerics. “To me, being here in Tripoli is like being home. I have always considered Tripoli and the North to be my home, because Rafik Hariri had always cherished this region,” Hariri said. “For the past year and a half, we worked for the sake of the people and not for ourselves. We made initiatives for their sake and not for ourselves, we made settlements for their sake and not for political gains,” the premier stressed, referring to his political settlement with President Michel Aoun and Hizbullah.

EU, U.N. Deny Refugee 'Naturalization' Claims after Lebanon Uproar
Naharnet/April 27/18/Responding to an outcry in Lebanon over a statement issued during the Brussels conference on Syria, the EU Delegation to Lebanon and the U.N. Resident Coordinator Office in Lebanon reiterated Friday that “there has been no change in the position of the international community” regarding the presence of Syrian refugees in Lebanon. “The EU and the U.N. view the presence of Syrian refugees in Lebanon as temporary. Solutions being sought for refugees are outside Lebanon. Moreover, participation in the labor market can only take place in accordance with Lebanese law,” they said in a statement. “Lebanese media on 26 April 2018 noted a paragraph in the co-chairs declaration of the Conference which expressed 'the need to ensure that any evacuation of civilians must be safe, informed, temporary, voluntary in nature and a solution of last resort including the destination of their choice, the right to return and the choice to stay, as per international humanitarian law.' This paragraph relates to the situation of populations affected by the conflict within Syria, it does not pertain to Lebanon and does not relate to refugees,” the EU and the U.N. said in a joint statement.
They also emphasized that they “remain fully engaged, in a spirit of partnership, in supporting Lebanon to address the challenges and will continue to provide substantial support.” President Michel Aoun, Speaker Nabih Berri and Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil had on Thursday issued stern warnings over the Brussels statement. Aoun said the statement contained a call for “veiled naturalization” as Berri warned that it reflected intentions to “naturalize” Syrian refugees in Lebanon and to “fragment” Syria. Bassil for his part said the international community “must stop encouraging Syrians to stay in Lebanon.” “What's new today is the call for a voluntary and temporary return while giving them the choice to stay in Lebanon,” the minister warned. Aoun meanwhile said he especially rejects the terms “voluntary repatriation”, “temporary” evacuation, “the choice to stay” and “integration into labor markets”.
The declaration of the co-chairs of the Brussels conference -- the U.N. and the EU – said “particular concerns were noted over the escalation of fighting and dramatic humanitarian situation still faced by civilians in many parts of Syria.”“The Conference stressed the need to ensure that any evacuation of civilians must be safe, informed, temporary, voluntary in nature and a solution of last resort including the destination of their choice, the right to return and the choice to stay,” the statement added in the same paragraph, apparently referring to the evacuation of civilians inside Syria.
“Participants agreed that present conditions are not conducive for voluntary repatriation in safety and dignity. Significant risks remain for civilians across the country as the situation remains characterized by continued fighting and displacement, with 2.6 million people displaced in 2017 alone,” the statement added.
“Conditions for returns, as defined by the UNHCR and according to international refugee law standards, are not yet fulfilled. Any organized return should be voluntary and in safety and dignity,” it said.
General Aoun: Army equidistant from all parties and candidates
Fri 27 Apr 2018/NNA - The Lebanese army stands at an equal distant from the various parties and candidates to the parliamentary elections, and it is only concerned with the preservation of security and stability, army chief General Joseph Aoun said during a meeting with the military command's officers on Friday. "The internal situation is excellent, thanks to the efforts of the army and the security apparatuses," General Aoun said."The army stands at an equal distant from parties and candidates; the military institution is only concerned with preserving stability and security before and after the elections, uncovering terror rings, and facing the Israeli enemy threats," he added.

Bassil Vows to Grant Citizenship to Lebanese Descendants in Diaspora
Naharnet/April 27/18/Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil on Friday pledged to press for granting citizenship to millions of Lebanese descendants who are scattered across the world, as expats began voting abroad for the first time in Lebanon's history.
“This is a battle that we have started and it will not stop until every Lebanese abroad regains their citizenship and political right to vote,” said Bassil after expat polling stations opened in six Arab countries – Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kuwait, Qatar, Egypt and Oman. Describing expat voting as “very important,” Bassil added: “This is a course that will eventually lead every Lebanese to know that they have a role and a say in the political decision.”“This moment is important because Lebanese outside Lebanon are regaining Lebanon and their Lebanese identity and this is the main issue while the rest is electoral details that we are following up,” the minister went on to say. “There are 82,970 Lebanese (expat) voters and some of them have flocked from remote regions to cast their votes. There might be shortcomings but I promise them that there will be more polling stations in the next elections,” Bassil added.
As for the technical procedures, the minister said “the State has signed a contract with the DHL Express mail company, which will be fully responsible for the ballot boxes after receiving them and transporting them to the (Beirut) airport, where they will be received by a team from the ministries of interior and foreign affairs ahead of transferring them to the central bank.”“How can some claim that the boxes might be tampered with when every envelope will be sealed with red wax and placed in a sealed plastic box, which will also be placed inside a sackcloth sealed with red wax,” Bassil added.

Electoral Violations Reported in Lebanese Expat Vote
Naharnet/April 27/18/Several electoral violations were reported as the voting of Lebanese expats got underway in six Arab countries on Friday. A monitor from the Lebanese Association for Democratic Elections (LADE) said that in the Saudi city of Jeddah, officials thwarted attempts by some voters to use cellphones behind voting booths to take footage of their ballots during the voting process. “The aforementioned voters decided not to cast their ballots after their attempts were foiled,” the monitor said, noting that cellphones were later taken away from all voters participating in the electoral process. In Oman's Muscat, “a security camera was present behind the voting booth,” the LADE monitor said. “The ministry was informed and the issue was resolved,” she added. LBCI television meanwhile reported that in Dubai, some voters objected after their ballot envelopes were not sealed.
The TV network said the official in charge of the polling station told the objecting voters that the new electoral law does not stipulate the sealing of envelopes and that a box containing all envelopes would be sealed with red wax ahead of being sent to Lebanon.

Shorter: Women on Municipalities Show that Society Benefits from Full Participation of Women
Naharnet/April 27/18/As part of his “ongoing engagement for greater representation of women in all walks of life,” British Ambassador to Lebanon Hugo Shorter met a group of women municipality members to hear about their successes representing their community in local government, the British embassy said on Friday. The municipal members from Tyre, Arsal, Chouf and Shiyah shared their experiences of working to improve public services in their area and deliver benefits to the community. Shorter asked the women about their experiences of running for office as women, and what added value they felt women could bring. Some of the women spoke about challenges they faced due to negative attitudes, but Randa Ibrahim Abou Saleh from Tyre Municipality said, “I haven’t had problems, I’ve been supported by the President of the Municipality, Deputy President, and all the members.” Shorter also asked them about how they saw opportunities for women in the upcoming elections, and whether they saw municipality work as good preparation for parliament. And in particular, he asked about their successes as municipal members. “I did a great job, and that’s why they proposed me for a second mandate,” said Rita Tawil of Shiyah Municipality. “But I’m against the quota – I want women to prove themselves for themselves, not to be pushed by men.”Randa Ibrahim Abou Saleh from Tyre said that, as head of the Women and Child Committee, she was “working to strengthen the role of women in society, improve their self-confidence, and help women to realize their potential, as well as working to benefit children.”And Amal Takieddine of Chouf Municipality, who supported a quota for women, said that, “As women, we prove ourselves as highly committed and qualified, for a better tomorrow. My main priority is empowering and motivating youth and women.”Rima Kronbie, the Deputy Head of Arsal municipality said she was also against the quota because “women can prove their qualifications. In my role I am networking with everyone, including security services, and because of my background I understand and know about the people’s concerns… I encourage all women to run for municipalities and parliament.”“It was an inspiration to meet women municipality members today,” Shorter said after the meeting. ‘Selima Dergham was the first woman to head a municipality in Lebanon back in 1963, and Mirna Bustani was the first woman elected to parliament in 1963. Women today are continuing their tradition of contributing to their community and their nation. Around the world it has been shown that societies and economies succeed when women are able to participate fully, and the women I met today are the living evidence of that,” the ambassador added. “That’s why I welcome the campaign, which we’ve seen across the country, to bring more Lebanese women into public office. I’m also proud that the British Embassy has been supporting projects helping to raise the visibility of women parliamentary candidates from across the political spectrum and equip them, through training, with the tools they need to succeed,” Shorter went on to say.
Electoral Violation Sparks Tension Between LADE and Foreign Ministry 27th April 2018/The Lebanese Association for Democratic Elections (LADE) has registered several violations in the electoral process being carried out in six Arab countries where Lebanese expats are casting their ballots for the first time in Lebanon's history.Below are the violations mentioned in a statement issued by LADE earlier in the day: In Doha, voters complained that a surveillance camera had been placed above the voting booth. This issue was resolved by the consul who ordered that the camera's lens be covered after discussing the matter with the operations room at the Foreign Ministry. In Abu Dhabi, the expired passport of a voter hailing from Akkar was renewed on the spot.In Dubai, the names of three expats were manually added to the voters' list, with the approval of the party's delegates who are present, after they had not been found enlisted. Their names, however, were seen mentioned in the voters' list hanged on the entrance door to the polling station. Later, the Foreign Ministry's Secretary-General Hani Chemaitly said that these claims had been investigated and turned out to be false. “Their job is to monitor the elections, but it seems that we will have to monitor them," he said. According to LADE's statement, the group's observer in Dubai was forced to send a voice message denying that said violation had taken place, adding that it found out that the three names were actually added in handwriting to the voters' lists with the delegates, not with the official ones provided by the Foreign Ministry. In Dubai, a voter was banned from voting after he had been caught taking a picture of the ballot paper behind the voting booth. The same violation was also recorded in Jeddah were several voters did not abide by the polling station officer's request to hand over their mobile phones before entering the voting booth. Some turned out to be having two phones as they handed kept one with them to capture a photo of the ballot paper. In Kuwait, over 5 Lebanese nationals, who registered online for the vote, did not find their names mentioned on the voters list.

Sayegh: Budget Clause Made Naturalization Threat Very Real 27th April 2018/Kataeb's Deputy-President Salim Sayegh on Friday called on the Lebanese expats to vote for anyone who would stand again naturalization schemes, saying that the statement issued following the Brussels Conference is nothing but the global version of the Article 49 which was included in the budget law. "Why didn't the government discuss the Brussels statement in its session yesterday? How did Lebanese officials take part in the conference without reading the draft statement beforehand?" he asked in an interview on Voice of Lebanon radio station. Sayegh noted that the EU statement is seeking to settle the refugees in the hosting countries, just like the Article 49 of the budget law sought to improve the living conditions of the Syrians by enabling them to get the Lebanese residency once they buy an apartment in the country. "Naturalization has become a real threat after it had been implicitly introduced into Lebanon's budget law and shored up by a statement issued by the international community."

Eid: Voters Must Seize Opportunity to Make a Change 27th April 2018/Kataeb candidate for the Maronite seat in the Chouf-Aley district, Joseph Eid, stressed that it is the first time that the party nominates a contender to run for the polls in Chouf, voicing optimism over the election results on May 6. Speaking to the Kataeb website, Eid pledged to work on implementing administrative decentralization as a top priority for him if elected as lawmaker, saying that a paramount importance will be accorded to securing the basic needs for the Chouf residents, i.e. electricity, water, etc.
Eid stressed that he will keep seeking the people's feedback on his work, adding that no one must evade accountability. The Kataeb candidate urged voters to seize the opportunity to make a change before Lebanon collapses, calling on them to elect competent and honorable people who work for the country's interest, not their own.
Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on April 27-28/18
Koreas Committed to ‘Complete Denuclearization," Agree to Resume Family Reunions
Asharq Al-Awsat/Friday, 27 April, 2018/The leaders of North and South Korea agreed in a historic summit on Friday to rid their peninsula of nuclear weapons but failed to provide any new specific measures how to achieve that. A joint statement issued after the talks between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in said the two Koreas confirmed their goal of achieving "a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula through complete denuclearization."North Korea has placed its nukes up for negotiations. It has previously used the term "denuclearization" to say it can disarm only when the United States withdraws its 28,500 troops in South Korea. The statement didn't say what other specific disarmament steps North Korea would take after its leader crossed over to the southern side of the world's most heavily armed border. The two leaders talked privately for more than 20 minutes, sitting on chairs at a blue bridge inside the border truce village of Panmunjom where Moon hosted Kim for the summit. They agreed to open a permanent communication office in the North Korean town of Kaesong and resume temporary reunions between relatives separated by the 1950-53 Korean War. Kim and Moon Jae-in said that the Koreas will seek to expand civilian exchanges and pursue joint sports and cultural events. The family reunions are expected to take place around Aug. 15, an anniversary for both Koreas celebrating their peninsula's liberation from Japanese colonial rule after the end of World War II. The Koreas plan to hold high-level talks and other negotiations to fulfill the agreements made at the summit. They also said they will jointly push for talks with the United State and also potentially China to officially end the Korean War. Earlier, the two leaders poured a mixture of soil and water from both countries onto a pine tree they planted at the truce village as a symbol of peace. Kim and Moon also unveiled a stone plaque placed next to the tree that was engraved with a message saying "Peace and Prosperity Are Planted.”The meeting between Moon and Kim was just the third summit between the rivals since the Korean War. It also marked the first time that a North Korean leader crossed into the South since the signing of the war armistice in 1953.
North, South Korea Seek Peace, Denuclearization in Historic Summit
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 27/18/The leaders of North and South Korea agreed to pursue a permanent peace treaty and the complete denuclearization of their divided peninsula at a historic summit Friday laden with symbolism. The North's leader Kim Jong Un and the South's President Moon Jae-in embraced after signing what they called the Panmunjom Declaration, following a day that began with an emotional handshake over the Military Demarcation Line that splits their countries. The pair issued a statement confirming their "common goal of realizing, through complete denuclearisation, a nuclear-free Korean peninsula." They agreed they would this year seek a permanent end to the Korean War, 65 years after hostilities ended in an armistice rather than a peace treaty. Moon would visit Pyongyang in "the fall", the two leaders said, also pledging to hold "regular meetings and direct telephone conversations."But Kim did not mention denuclearization and analysts warned that while the summit was a good first step, similar promises had been made before and much remained to be done to resolve the issue of the North's atomic arsenal. In coming weeks Kim is due to hold a much-anticipated meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump -- who has demanded Pyongyang give up its weapons -- that will be crucial in shaping progress.
Trump hailed the Korea summit as historic but warned "only time will tell".
He implicitly claimed credit for the meeting, tweeting: "KOREAN WAR TO END! The United States, and all of its GREAT people, should be very proud of what is now taking place in Korea!" The Panmunjom Declaration capped an extraordinary day unthinkable only months ago, as the nuclear-armed North carried out a series of missile launches and its sixth atomic blast, earning itself new sets of U.N. Security Council sanctions. Kim and Trump had traded personal insults and threats of war, sending tensions soaring before Moon seized on the Winter Olympics to try to broker dialogue, beginning a dizzying whirl of diplomacy that led to Friday's meeting in the Demilitarized Zone.
- 'Heart-wrenching division' -
Kim said he was "filled with emotion" after stepping over the concrete blocks that mark the border, making him the first Northern leader to set foot in the South since the Korean War ceasefire in 1953. At his impromptu invitation, the two men briefly crossed hand-in-hand into the North before beginning the summit, only the third of its kind.The truce village of Panmunjom was the "symbol of heart-wrenching division", Kim said afterwards, but if it became "a symbol of peace, the North and South that have one blood, one language, one history and one culture, will return to becoming one."
He pledged the two Koreas would ensure they did not "repeat the unfortunate history in which past inter-Korea agreements... fizzled out after beginning." In the declaration, the two sides said they would seek meetings this year with the U.S. and possibly China -- both of them parties to the 1953 ceasefire -- "with a view to declaring an end to the war, turning the armistice into a peace treaty, and establishing a permanent and solid peace regime."But agreeing a treaty to formally close the conflict will be complicated -- both Seoul and Pyongyang claim sovereignty over the whole of the Korean peninsula.
The two previous Korean summits in 2000 and 2007, both of them in Pyongyang, also ended with displays of affection and similar pledges, but the agreements ultimately came to naught.
'First step'-
Moon welcomed the North's announcement of a moratorium on nuclear testing and long-range missile launches as "very significant", calling it "an important step towards complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula."But how much progress was made on the nuclear issue remained unclear. Pyongyang has always insisted it needs nuclear weapons to defend itself against a U.S. invasion, and its past references to denuclearization of the "Korean peninsula" have been code for the removal of U.S. troops from the South and the end of its nuclear umbrella over its security ally -- prospects unthinkable in Washington.
The North is demanding still unspecified security guarantees to discuss its arsenal, while Washington is pressing it to give up its weapons in a complete, verifiable and irreversible way. Affirming a commitment to "denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula"was "not new", said MIT political science professor Vipin Narang, "historic summit notwithstanding." But he added: "Reaffirming it is better than not reaffirming it." Paul Haenle of the Carnegie-Tsinghua Center in Beijing said it was "really just the first step in broader diplomatic efforts.""Similar to a game of chess, this move opens up a series of possible developments but in many ways, the hard work really begins now."
Tree planting
Before signing the declaration, Moon and Kim held a symbolic tree planting ceremony near the demarcation line. The soil came from Mount Paektu, on the North's border with China, and Mount Halla, on the South's southern island of Jeju.
It was a far cry from the last time the South Korean leader was on duty for a tree-related event in the DMZ, in 1976, when he had a supporting role in a monumental U.S. and South Korean show of force after Northern soldiers killed two U.S. officers trying to prune a poplar. After the planting, Kim and Moon spoke alone for more than half an hour in an open-air tete-a-tete, the younger North Korean leader nodding and listening attentively to the former special forces soldier -- who has long advocated dialogue.

Revolutionary Guards Arrest British-Iranian Academic
London - Asharq Al-Awsat/Friday, 27 April, 2018/Iranian media confirmed on Thursday that Abbas Edalat, a British-Iranian scientist and peace campaigner, has been detained for his alleged role in an "infiltration network" after the UK had said earlier it was "urgently seeking information" from Iran following reports of the academic's arrest. Edalat was detained on April 15, according to the New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI). CHRI said Edalat was arrested by the Revolutionary Guards and that he had refused to post bail on Wednesday, arguing that he was innocent and should be released unconditionally. The group said Edalat's home in Tehran had been raided and his computer was confiscated, as well as CDs and notebooks. "Recently, members of an infiltration network affiliated to Britain have been arrested," an unnamed source told the Fars news agency, according to Agence France Presse. The Fars report named Edalat, a professor of computer science and mathematics at Imperial College in London. He founded the Campaign Against Sanctions and Military Intervention in Iran, which describes itself as "an independent campaign organization with the purpose of opposing sanctions, foreign state interference and military intervention in Iran". "We are urgently seeking information from the Iranian authorities following reports of the arrest of a British-Iranian dual national," a UK Foreign Office spokeswoman said. In the past years, many dual nationals have been arrested in Iran. The most high-profile British case is that of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a Thomson Reuters Foundation employee who was arrested two years ago and is serving a five-year sentence for participating in anti-regime protests in 2009. She denies the charges. Another Imperial College scientist, Kaveh Madani, was forced to leave Iran and quit his job as deputy head of the government's environment agency earlier this month following pressure from hardliners. He later said he had been placed under unauthorized surveillance from the moment he returned to Iran in September.

Washington Expects ‘Re-Energized’ Campaign Against ISIS
Paris - Washington - Michel Abou Najm and Asharq Al-Awsat/Friday, 27 April, 2018/Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on Thursday that US troops would be key in a "re-energized" campaign against ISIS remnants in Syria, adding that the United States was not preparing to pull its forces from the war-torn country. “We’re continuing the fight, and we’re going to expand it with more regional support,” he said. "You'll see a re-energized effort against the middle Euphrates River Valley in the days ahead," Mattis added. The Defense Secretary also confirmed to senior lawmakers in Washington that French forces had deployed in Syria two weeks ago. US President Donald Trump on Tuesday appeared to temper his position to withdraw troops from Syria soon by voicing a desire to leave a "strong and lasting footprint."Currently, there are about 2,000 US troops in Syria, most of them commandos. Meanwhile, there has been a race between a meeting of the five countries known as the “Small Group” in Paris and a tripartite meeting expected in Moscow on Saturday. The Paris meeting brought together representatives from France, US, Britain, Saudi Arabia and Jordan, discussing a “unified vision” on Syria.
According to the French vision, it is important to “benefit from the new opportunity” that surfaced after the West sent a “strong message” to Moscow, calling on Russia to engage in a new political process in Syria, led by UN Envoy Staffan de Mistura.
For its part, Moscow said that Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov would meet with his Turkish and Iranian counterparts in Moscow on Saturday to discuss Syria and Iran’s nuclear file. Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said: “Naturally, there will be an exchange of views on current regional and international issues.”
Trump Says Americans Should be 'Very Proud' of 'Historic' Koreas Summit
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 27/18/U.S. President Donald Trump hailed Friday's Korea summit as historic but warned that "only time will tell." "After a furious year of missile launches and Nuclear testing, a historic meeting between North and South Korea is now taking place," Trump tweeted after the leaders of North and South Korea agreed to pursue a permanent peace and the complete denuclearization of the divided peninsula. "Good things are happening, but only time will tell!" added Trump, who is scheduled to meet in weeks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. In a second tweet, Trump wrote: "KOREAN WAR TO END! The United States, and all of its GREAT people, should be very proud of what is now taking place in Korea!" The summit between the two Koreas was the highest-level encounter yet in a whirlwind of nuclear diplomacy, and intended to pave the way for the much-anticipated encounter between Kim and Trump. Last year Pyongyang carried out its sixth nuclear test, by far its most powerful to date, and launched missiles capable of reaching the U.S. mainland. Its actions sent tensions soaring as Kim and Trump traded personal insults and threats of war.

Trump declares in tweet: ‘KOREAN WAR TO END’

Washington, APFriday, 27 April 2018/President Donald Trump is tweeting “KOREAN WAR TO END” after a historic meeting between the leaders of North Korea and South Korea.Trump is responding to the meeting of North Korea’s Kim Jong Un with South Korean President Moon Jae-in in South Korea. They pledged in a joint statement to rid their peninsula of nuclear weapons - but didn’t identify any specific new measures to achieve that. Trump is expected to meet with Kim in late May or June. In a separate tweet sent minutes earlier, Trump said “good things are happening, but only time will tell.”

Pompeo to visit Riyadh and other cities; Iran deal will be significant agenda
Al Arabiya English, WashingtonFriday, 27 April 2018/New U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo plans to travel to Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Israel over the weekend after a stop in Brussels for a NATO meeting, the State Department said on Thursday. "No other secretary in recent history has gone on a trip as quickly as he has,” department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters. Pompeo was confirmed by the Senate on Thursday and sworn in shortly afterward. The State Department said no secretary of state had ever traveled abroad so soon after being confirmed. Originally, Deputy Secretary John Sullivan, who had been filling in as secretary since Tillerson departed, had planned to make the trip. With Pompeo’s confirmation imminent, the plane was held on the tarmac until Pompeo could arrive and swap in, according to AP. In Brussels, Pompeo will attend a NATO foreign ministers summit and meet with the top diplomats from Turkey and Italy. (What if Pompeo’s appointment is also about EU, not just Iran?) Pompeo planned to keep up pressure on NATO’s European members, particularly Germany, to live up to their past pledges to boost their defense spending. From there, the State Department said Pompeo planned to fly to the Middle East for stops in Saudi Arabia, Israel and Jordan, where the future of the Iran deal and the conflict in Syria will be significant agenda items.(Will Pompeo beat the drums of war against Iran?) Pompeo will arrive in the region ahead of a series of events that could potentially plunge it into deeper disarray, including the Iran deal decision and the relocation of the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
New U.S. Envoy Pompeo Tackles NATO on Spending, Russia
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 27/18/President Donald Trump's brand new Secretary of State Mike Pompeo came to NATO on Friday to hammer home one of his boss's oldest themes -- demanding that other members pay their way -- as the allies sought a common front against Russia. There was broad agreement in Brussels on the need find ways to counter Russia's adoption of "hybrid warfare" techniques -- subversion, propaganda, cyber warfare -- to undermine the West without triggering a full NATO military response. But divides remain on spending commitments, with Germany in particular holding out against the large military spending increases demanded by Trump, and on how to balance a stern response to Moscow with keeping open a door to dialogue. Welcoming former CIA chief Pompeo to the NATO headquarters less than 24 hours after the top U.S. diplomat was sworn in, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg spoke of the need to adapt the 29-member Western alliance "to a more demanding security environment."Noting that the talks were the first NATO ministerial meeting since Russian agents allegedly used a nerve agent to poison a double agent in the English town of Salisbury, Britain's Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson summarized the dilemma. "How do you deal with a military environment in which attacks come below the threshold of the Article 5 commitment to mutual support but do demand a common response?" he asked, referring to the alliance's mutual self-defense pact.
Stoltenberg said much of the alliance's military expansion in the Baltic was geared towards countering hybrid threats, and ministers discussed how to do more, but concrete proposals are not expected before July's NATO summit. "As we prepare for the summit we wil look at how we further strengthen our ability to respond to those threats which don’t trigger Article 5 but at the same time are a challenge to NATO allies," Stoltenberg said. Pompeo's U.S. delegation came out satisfied with the discussion on Russia. "There was consensus on Russian aggression, the scale of Russian aggression and this being a problem that requires a response," a senior State Department official told reporters after the session.
Money talk
But Pompeo brought a second, tougher message on the need for other member states to increase their military spending and thus reduce the burden placed on the alliance's biggest member. Some allies, most notably wealthy Germany, are reluctant to meet a commitment made at a NATO summit in Wales in September 2014 to spend at least two percent of their GDP on defense. Trump has repeatedly declared this to be tantamount to countries not paying their dues, and Pompeo carried this message to Brussels as his predecessor Rex Tillerson had done. But, as he arrived, Germany's new Foreign Minister Heiko Maas stressed the contribution Berlin was making to humanitarian work in Syria and to Iraq. "Germany plays a very important role," Maas said. Before the talks began, U.S. diplomats had singled out Germany -- which spends only 1.24 percent of its large GDP on defense -- for criticism.
After the first session, the U.S. official was more guarded. "There was a consensus by all countries to deliver their plans, including those who have not yet done so," he said. Luxembourg's veteran Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn told AFP Pompeo had got his point across without causing upset.
"Mike Pompeo of course insisted on the need for burden-sharing, but he did it without aggression," Asselborn told AFP. "On the contrary he was attentive, he listened and took part in all the discussions."As the ministers meet in Brussels, German Chancellor Angela Merkel will be in Washington for a much-anticipated meeting with Trump, hard on the heels of French President Emmanuel Macron's triumphant three-day state visit. France and Britain took part in a recent US-led punishment strike against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's chemical arsenal, but Germany has not joined recent missions and Merkel's meeting will be less warm than Macron's.
Troops for Iraq
Stoltenberg will say a few words to mark the end of the final meeting of ministers in the historic North Atlantic Council room where Article 5 was invoked for the first and only time, after the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States.
Ministers will also debate plans to expand NATO's training mission in Iraq. Details will be confirmed at the summit in July, but Stoltenberg said it would involve several hundred personnel. After his time in Brussels, Pompeo will head to the Middle East, with stops in Israel, Jordan and Saudi Arabia -- countries chosen to reflect what his spokeswoman called "importance as key allies and partners in the region.

US would ‘probably regret’ lack of holding force in Syria, says Mattis
Reuters, WashingtonFriday, 27 April 2018/US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on Thursday the United States would “probably regret” not keeping a holding force in Syria to ensure that ISIS militants did not re-emerge, the latest sign that a total US withdrawal was unlikely. US President Donald Trump on Tuesday said he wants to withdraw American troops from Syria relatively soon but also appeared to temper that position by voicing a desire to leave a “strong and lasting footprint.” A footprint, in military-speak, usually refers to a US troop presence. Mattis did not offer any clear indication of how long US troops would remain in Syria or hint at future troop levels, stressing the ongoing mission to train local forces to combat ISIS. “We have to create local forces that can keep the pressure on any attempt by ISIS to try to (re-emerge),” Mattis told a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, using an acronym for ISIS. When asked whether it would be risky to have local holding partners without US forces, Mattis said: “I am confident that we would probably regret it.”
Longer term US effort
The Pentagon and State Department have held that a longer term US effort will be needed to ensure a lasting defeat of ISIS. The group seized large swathes of Syria and Iraq but has gradually lost its territory since the United States and its allies started a military offensive in 2014. Some of the harshest critics of a potential withdrawal from Syria come from Trump’s own Republican party, which blasted President Barack Obama when he withdrew US from Iraq in 2011. Iraqi forces began to unravel and eventually collapsed in the face of ISIS's advance into the country in 2014. “We learned that the Iraqi forces weren't capable of providing security inside the country and that gave the enemy an opportunity to resurge, that is where really ISIS had the space to grow,” US Marine General Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the hearing. US airstrikes, troops and US-backed Syrian militias have dealt heavy blows to ISIS in Syria but the group still holds pockets of territory and is widely expected to revert to guerrilla tactics if the last remnants of its once self-styled “caliphate” are captured. Mattis said he expected a “re-energized” effort against ISIS militants in eastern Syria in the coming days.
“You'll see a re-energized effort against the middle Euphrates River Valley in the days ahead and against the rest of the geographic caliphate,” Mattis added.
Syria Regime Advances against IS in South Damascus
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 27/18/Syrian regime forces on Friday advanced against Islamic State group jihadists in the south of Damascus, state media said, after more than a week of bombardment on the area. "Army units backed by the air force and artillery have advanced on numerous axes" in southern Damascus, including the district of Hajar al-Aswad, "after breaking through terrorist defenses," state news agency SANA said. The advance "inflicted great human and material losses" on the jihadists, it said. Syrian state television said the army was advancing towards Route 30 in Hajar al-Aswad. Regime forces have pounded southern districts of Damascus since April 19, after IS refused an evacuation deal for the region. The areas under regime fire include the neighborhoods of Hajar al-Aswad and Qadam as well as the adjacent Palestinian camp of Yarmuk. IS has held parts of Hajar al-Aswad and Yarmuk since 2015 and seized Qadam last month. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said pro-government forces took control of "buildings and streets in Hajar al-Aswad and Qadam after attacking the districts at dawn."Regime forces were locked in violent clashes with IS fighters on Friday morning, the Britain-based monitor said. Heavy air strikes and shelling had targeted Yarmuk and the edges of Hajjar al-Aswad and Qadam since the early morning. At least 74 regime personnel and 59 IS fighters have been killed in eight days of fighting, the monitor said. In that same period, at least 19 civilians have also been killed in regime bombardment of the area including in Yarmuk, it said. Yarmuk and the surroundings are now IS's largest urban redoubt in Syria or neighboring Iraq. The jihadists have lost much of the territory they once controlled in both countries since they declared a cross-border caliphate there in 2014.
Yarmuk was once home to around 160,000 people, but today just a few hundred people remain, the United Nations' agency for Palestinian refugees has said. President Bashar al-Assad's regime set its sights on the south of the capital after reconquering a major rebel bastion east of Damascus earlier this month.
Eastern Ghouta fell after a blistering air and ground assault and Russia-backed evacuation deals that saw tens of thousands of people bussed out to northern Syria. More than 350,000 people have been killed and millions displaced since Syria's war started in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government protests.
Syria Regime Bombardment Kills 17 Civilians in South Damascus
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 27/18/Syrian regime air strikes and shelling killed 17 civilians including seven children on Friday in the Palestinian camp of Yarmuk in southern Damascus, a Britain-based monitor said. Regime forces have pounded southern districts of the capital since April 19 to try to expel the Islamic State group from the area, after the jihadists refused to leave under an evacuation deal. That bombardment intensified on Friday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor said, as regime forces advanced against IS inside the districts. "Army units backed by the air force and artillery have advanced on numerous axes" in southern Damascus, including the district of Hajar al-Aswad, "after breaking through terrorist defenses," state news agency SANA said. The advance "inflicted great human and material losses" on the jihadists, it said. Syrian state television said the army has seized control of buildings and a "network of trenches and tunnels" from IS in Hajar al-Aswad. In the adjacent neighborhood of Qadam, two children were killed in "mortar rounds fired by terrorist groups," it said. The Observatory said pro-government forces took control of "buildings and streets in Hajar al-Aswad and Qadam after attacking the districts at dawn." Regime forces were locked in violent clashes with IS fighters on Friday morning, the monitor said. Heavy air strikes and shelling had targeted Yarmuk and the edges of Hajar al-Aswad and Qadam since the early morning. IS has held parts of Hajar al-Aswad and Yarmuk since 2015 and seized Qadam last month. At least 74 regime personnel and 59 IS fighters have been killed in eight days of fighting in southern Damascus, the monitor said. The latest civilian deaths bring to 36 the number of non-fighters killed in regime bombardment in that same period, it said. Yarmuk and the surroundings are now IS's largest urban redoubt in Syria or neighboring Iraq. The jihadists have lost much of the territory they once controlled in both countries since they declared a cross-border caliphate there in 2014. Yarmuk was once home to around 160,000 people, but today just a few hundred people remain, the United Nations' agency for Palestinian refugees has said. President Bashar al-Assad's regime set its sights on the south of the capital after reconquering a major rebel bastion east of Damascus earlier this month. Eastern Ghouta fell after a blistering air and ground assault and Russia-backed evacuation deals that saw tens of thousands of people bussed out to northern Syria. More than 350,000 people have been killed and millions displaced since Syria's war started in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government protests.
Saudi Arabia Downs Yemeni Rebel Missile
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 27/18/Saudi Arabia's air defenses on Friday intercepted a missile fired by Yemeni rebels, days after the insurgents' second-in-command was killed in an air raid by Riyadh and its allies. The missile, the latest in a series of similar attacks, was heading towards the kingdom's southern coastal city of Jizan, state-run Al-Ekhbariya television said. Saudi Arabia launched a military coalition in 2015 to battle the Huthi rebels in its southern neighbor and restore the internationally-recognized Yemeni government to power. The Huthis control Yemen's capital, Sanaa, as well as much of Yemen's north and the key Hodeida port on the country's western coastline. Riyadh on Wednesday confirmed it was behind an air strike on the Yemeni capital that killed Saleh al-Sammad, president of the Huthis' Supreme Political Council, on April 19. The rebels will hold a public funeral for Sammad in Sanaa on Saturday. Nearly 10,000 people have been killed since the Saudi-led alliance joined the Yemen conflict, triggering what the United Nations has called the world's worst humanitarian crisis. Yemen now stands at the brink of famine. The alliance imposed a total blockade on Yemen's ports earlier this year in retaliation for the rebel missile attacks. The blockade has since been partially lifted, but access to the impoverished country remains limited. In March, an Egyptian laborer became the first known fatality in a rebel missile attack on Saudi Arabia. The kingdom accuses its rival Iran of smuggling missiles to the Huthis. Tehran denies the charge.

Saudi ambassador to US: Hard to see a path to a trustworthy dialogue with Iran
Al Arabiya English, Dubai/Friday, 27 April 2018/The Saudi ambassador to the United States, Prince Khalid bin Salman, responded to Iran's continuing denial, through its foreign minister Javad Zarif, of its involvement in supplying the Houthi militias with missiles. He emphasized that the denial is another occasion to proof that the dialogue and building confidence with the Iranian regime, is very difficult. He said in a tweet “this is a constant with the Iranian regime; when faced with evidence of their destabilizing and illegal activities they react with denials and accusations of fabrication. It’s hard for us to see a path to a trustworthy dialogue with such behavior.” Prince Khalid was commenting on Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif interview, in which he claimed that the recovered missile fragments presented by the US as a proof against his country, was “little more than cheese puffs.” Zarif, in an Associated Press interview, said that one such logo was from the Standard Institute of Iran, which he said regulates consumer goods - not weapons. The United States stood by its claims, pointing out that the evidence Haley presented went . “The evidence in the Iranian Materiel Display is not fabricated,” said Defense Department spokeswoman Laura Seal. She said the U.S. had shown the evidence to 65 countries, allowing the world to “assess the evidence for themselves.”Some of the fragments Haley presented mplicate Iran’s military industry more directly, including some with the logos of Shahid Bakeri Industrial Group and Shaheed Hemat Industries Group, Iranian defense entities under U.S. sanctions. Others had what Haley called “Iranian missile fingerprints,” such as short-range ballistic missiles that lacked large stabilizer fins - a feature she said only Iran’s Qiam missiles have. Haley’s office responded to Zarif’s comments by calling the evidence of illegal Iranian weapons shipments “overwhelming and beyond dispute.”“The fact that the Iranian regime insists on lying about that only highlights its lack of trustworthiness on every international agreement it is party to,” the U.S. Mission to the U.N. said. Prince Khalid's comments came after Saudi Arabia's UN envoy Abdullah al-Muallami, on Thursday, called on the UN Security Council "to take a firm stand on Iran's aggressive practices." "Iran continues to support the armed militias in Yemen and Syria," he said in a speech to the Security Council in New York on the situation in the Middle East. "Iran is exerting its flagrant interference in the Arab countries, spreading and financing terrorism, and is the first supporter of Hezbollah, which controls Lebanon and carries out terrorist operations in Syria," he said. "Tehran supports the Houthi militias with weapons and missiles that target Saudi Arabia," he said, referring to expert reports that the missiles that hit Saudi Arabia were made by Iran.

Bahrain’s King Commutes Death Sentences of 4 Terrorists
Asharq Al-Awsat/Friday, 27 April, 2018/Bahrain's King Hamad bin Isa al Khalifa has commuted death sentences, handed down to four Bahrainis by a military court on terrorism charges, to life in prison, state news agency BNA reported on Thursday.
BNA said the King reduced the sentences confirmed by a military appeals court the previous day. The four convicts are Mubarak Adel Mubarak Mohanna, Fadhil Alsayed Abbas Hasan Radhi, Alsayed Alawi Hussain Alawi Hussain, and Mohammed Abdulhassan Ahmed Al Mitghawi, Chief of Military Judiciary Dr. Major-General Yousef Rashid Flaifel said. In December, the military court sentenced six men to death after they were convicted on charges of forming a terrorist cell and plotting to assassinate a military official.

Bahrain’s Foreign Ministry Describes US Rights Report as Unfair
Manama - Obaid al-Suhaymi/Asharq Al-Awsat/Friday, 27 April, 2018/The Bahraini Foreign Ministry expressed its regret on Thursday over a report issued by the US Department of State on Human Rights in 2017, describing it as unfair, and stressing Bahrain’s commitment to rights and freedoms. “The report does not reflect the reality of human rights in the Kingdom of Bahrain, neither the efforts nor successive achievements made by the Kingdom thanks to the reform approach adopted by the King,” Ambassador Abdullah Al Dosari, Assistant Foreign Minister of Bahrain told Asharq Al-Awsat. In a statement, the Bahraini ministry expressed its disappointment over the report’s false information on human rights in Bahrain as well as its disregard of the progress made by the Kingdom in promoting and protecting human rights. “The report harms the impartiality and independence of Bahrain’s longstanding judiciary and includes the names of persons convicted in criminal cases, calling them political or human rights activists, despite the fact that they were convicted of crimes punishable by law and sat for a series of trials that offered all litigation guarantees, including the right to defense and independent judiciary,” Dosari stated. “The ministry hopes that in the future such reports will be more fair and informed, and will obtain information from credible sources, institutions and stakeholders to be neutral and non-selective,” the ministry’s statement read.

Israeli army kills 3 Palestinians, injures 300 in Gaza border protests
AFP/April 27, 2018
Fifty people were injured by gunfire or teargas inhalation, Gaza’s health ministry said.
Marchers are demanding the right to return to their homes seized by Israel in 1948.
GAZA CITY: Three Palestinians were shot dead Friday as thousands demonstrated along the border between Gaza and Israel for a fifth consecutive week of rallies dubbed the 'Great March of Return'. More than 300 other people were hospitalised for gunshot wounds and tear gas inhalation, Gaza's health authority said. Forty-four Palestinians have now been killed by Israeli fire since major protests began on March 30, with hundreds more wounded. No Israelis have been hurt. Palestinians again gathered at five sites near the border fence, though numbers were down on previous weeks.
Dozens of young men burned tires and threw stones a few hundreds meters from the border, with Israeli soldiers occasionally firing at them. More than 300 Palestinians were injured by gunfire or teargas inhalation, Gaza’s health ministry said. A 22-year-old freelance photographer was among those shot, the ministry said. Forty-one Palestinians have been killed since the demonstrations began on March 30, with hundreds more injured. Marchers are demanding the right to return to their homes seized by Israel in 1948. Israel says that allowing the refugees in would mean the end of the Jewish state, and accuses Gaza’s rulers Hamas of using the protests as a pretext for violence. Demonstrations are expected to spike again in the lead up to May 14, when the United States is expected to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The decision has infuriated Palestinians, who see the annexed eastern half of the holy city as the capital of their future state. Israel has rejected calls for an independent inquiry into the deaths along Gaza’s border, with the army saying its troops only use live ammunition as a last resort.

Manila 'Displeased' about Kuwait’s Expulsion of its Ambassador, Requests Explanation

Manama - Mirza al-Khoueildi/Asharq Al-Awsat/Friday, 27 April, 2018/The Philippine Government asked Kuwait on Thursday for clarification on the expulsion of its ambassador, expressing “annoyance” and “displeasure” with the Kuwaiti move.
While Harry Roque, official spokesman for Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, expressed the hope that this development “will not lead to further deterioration in the bilateral relations between the two countries,” the Philippine foreign ministry said on Thursday it has sent an official letter to the embassy of Kuwait, expressing its surprise and displeasure over the expulsion of its ambassador. “The department [foreign ministry] served a diplomatic note to the Embassy of Kuwait conveying its strong surprise and great displeasure over the declaration of Ambassador Renato Pedro Villa as persona non grata,” the ministry said in a statement. The Philippine foreign minister demanded in the diplomatic note, the Kuwaiti government to explain “the continued detention of four Filipinos hired by the Philippine embassy and the issuance of arrest warrants against three diplomatic personnel.”Manila said its embassy had hired three of the detained Filipino nationals for rescue operations that have angered Kuwait and have been seen as a “violation to Kuwait’s sovereignty and laws.”The Philippine ambassador to Kuwait, Renato Pedro Villa, admitted during a press statement the presence of a Filipino team that has been conducting “rescue” operations of Filipino maids in Kuwait for more than a month. However, Philippine officials confirmed that their Foreign Ministry was sending reinforcements to its embassy in Kuwait, consisting of seven teams to rescue domestic workers in Kuwait. The Kuwaiti authorities detained three drivers, who drove the embassy cars in the so-called rescue operations. Kuwait regarded such behavior by the embassy as a violation to its sovereignty. Tensions rose earlier this year following the murder of maid Joanna Demafelis, prompting Duterte to ban Filipina workers from deploying to Kuwait for work. A Lebanese man and his Syrian wife were found guilty in the murder. A widely circulated video on social media, published by the Philippine Foreign Ministry last week, showed a woman fleeing a house before taking a car waiting for her. Another clip showed someone running from a place that looked like a construction site before jumping into a black car.
The Kuwaiti government asked the Philippine ambassador on Wednesday to leave the country within a week and summoned its ambassador from Manila for consultations. The Philippine foreign minister issued an official apology to Kuwait for the harm caused by the revealing of an emergency team that belongs to the embassy, which was smuggling Filipino workers from the homes of their Kuwaiti employers on suspicion of violating their rights.

Astronomers Spot a Massive Collision 12.4 Billion Light Years Away
London - Asharq Al-Awsat/Friday, 27 April, 2018/Astronomers have detected the early stages of a colossal cosmic collision, observing a pile-up of 14 galaxies 90 percent of the way across the observable universe in a discovery that upends assumptions about the early history of the cosmos.
Researchers said on Wednesday the galactic mega-merger observed 12.4 billion light-years away from Earth occurred 1.4 billion years after the Big Bang that gave rise to the universe. Astronomers call the object a galactic protocluster, a precursor to the type of enormous galaxy clusters that are the largest-known objects in today’s universe, Reuters reported. It marked the first time scientists observed the birth of a galaxy cluster, with at least 14 galaxies crammed into an area only about four times the size of our average-sized Milky Way galaxy. A protocluster as massive as the one observed here, designated as SPT2349-56, should not have existed at that time, according to current notions of the early universe. Scientists had figured this could not happen until several billion of years later. “We were staggered by the implications,” said astrophysicist Scott Chapman of Dalhousie University in Canada. “Yes, conventional wisdom was that clusters take a lot longer to build up and assemble. SPT2349 shows us it happened much more rapidly and explosively than simulations or theory suggested,” according to Reuters.
Galaxy clusters can have thousands of galaxies bound together by gravity that can boast total masses a quadrillion larger than our sun, with immense amounts of the enigmatic material called dark matter, gigantic black holes and super-heated gas.
SPT2349’s mass is about 10 trillion times larger than our sun.

Iraqi PM in Erbil for First Time Since Referendum Crisis
Erbil, Iraq - Asharq Al-Awsat/Friday, 27 April, 2018/Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi visited on Thursday Erbil, his first trip to the capital of the Kurdistan after the autonomous region voted in a popular poll in September for independence from Iraq, a step Baghdad deemed unconstitutional. Nechirvan Barzani, the premier of Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) received the PM at Erbil International Airport. Abadi said, “Today, we are under the tent of Iraq.” The PM is in Erbil to campaign for his Nasr (Victory) Alliance, telling supporters that a Kurdish-Arab brotherhood is permanent and will persist.
“The heroes of the Peshmerga and the Iraqi army confronted ISIS together and shared the suffering to achieve victory. Today we absolutely need this unity,” he said. This is the first meeting in Erbil between the Iraqi and Kurdish leaders since Abadi's declaration of the liberation of Mosul from ISIS in July 2017.
Abadi said, "We don't differentiate between a citizen and another. This is our approach, ethics and standing policy.”The Iraqi PM arrived in Erbil from Sulaymaniyah, the Kurdish region’s second largest city, which he visited Wednesday also as part of his electoral campaign. Abadi is hoping to win another term as prime minister at the head of the Victory Alliance following May’s parliamentary polls. He plans to later visit the oil-rich province of Kirkuk.Since early this week, Abadi visited several provinces, including Anbar and Nineveh, where he stopped in the city of Mosul and the Joint Operations Command. Meanwhile, Masrour Barzani, head of the Kurdistan Region Security Council and a senior member of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) lashed out on Thursday at the Iraqi government and Kurdish candidates who are allying with it. “How can those who opposed the referendum defend our rights in Baghdad,” he asked. Barzani told an audience of young supporters in Erbil on Thursday the Kurdistan Region never wished to fight with other parties in Iraq.

Tunisian Women Hit Campaign Trail as Equals to Men
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 27/18/Tunisian women "have the chance to act", says Ines Boussetta, as she hits the campaign trail in northern Tebourba, listening attentively to the problems of the rural region's inhabitants. Boussetta is one of hundreds of Tunisian women heading party lists in May 6 municipal polls -- and for the first time, women will be on an equal footing with men, thanks to a new electoral law. "I have faced many criticisms and commentaries, like 'you are too young,' 'you don't have political experience,' 'how can a woman lead a council?'" Boussetta, a candidate for the ruling Nida Tounes party, tells AFP. But "women today have the chance to act, to have an opinion that counts," she added. Around 100 party lists have been rejected for failing to meet a strict requirement for the candidacy of men and women to alternate in the municipal polls, the first since mass protests forced dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali from power in 2011. Boussetta says she was attracted by Nida Tounes because its founder, Tunisia's 91-year-old President Beji Caid Essebsi, has sought to promote the role of women and young people.
The head of state's 2014 election triumph was "thanks to women," says the former health volunteer.
'New political generation
The North African country's 2014 constitution has been praised as a key milestone, paving the way for greater equality. A law on violence against women, passed last year, came into force in January. "A new political generation is in the process of appearing," says Torkia Chebbi, vice-president of the League of Tunisian voters, a group set up in 2011 to promote female participation in political life. Fifty-two percent of Tunisia's 5.3 million voters are under the age of 35. Women now sit at the top of more than a quarter of the 2,074 party lists. Many of the female candidates first dipped their toes into politics with the fall of Ben Ali through their work in civil society, Chebbi tells AFP. But "without the law on parity, we would never have achieved such a figure, because attitudes continue to favor men," says Chebbi. The key parties, Nida Tounes and its junior coalition partner the Islamist Ennahda party, were found to have fulfilled the new gender requirement.
'Women don't have experience'
For Boussetta, who moves onto her next campaign stop in a modest black car, her experience working in the health sector makes improving infrastructure a big priority. Many have placed their confidence in her "because she is young and sensitive to the needs of the region", she says. Boussetta's family have a long history in Tebourba, where fresh street protests erupted in January this year against the high cost of living, unemployment and corruption. And there is a yearning for change at the local level. With the fall of Ben Ali seven years ago, municipalities collapsed. While replaced by temporary councils, these are widely perceived as having failed to respond to communities' needs. There is hope that the upcoming elections could help improve daily life in the country, cleaning up public spaces, attracting new investment, and helping to develop marginalized regions."Tunisian women don't have experience," acknowledges Simone Susskind, a Belgian gender politics specialist who recently ran a workshop on female leadership. "But they have to start somewhere."

Romania President Seeks PM Resignation over Israel Embassy Row

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 27/18/Romania's President Klaus Iohannis called Friday for the resignation of Prime Minister Viorica Dancila amid a row sparked by the possible move of the country's embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. "Mrs Dancila is not up to the job of prime minister of Romania and as a result the government is becoming a liability for Romania. That is why I am publicly calling for Mrs Dancila's resignation," Iohannis said in a short statement. Iohannis pointed to a secret memorandum adopted by the government last week with the aim of moving the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
He is opposed to the move and says he was not informed beforehand. "This was a big error, because in foreign policy, if we're talking about secret documents, the president should have been consulted," Iohannis said. Iohannis has no constitutional power to sack the prime minister, who would have to be removed by parliament. Dancila is the third prime minister in less than a year after power struggles within the ruling Social Democrat party (PSD) saw her two predecessors ousted. The spat over the embassy is the latest in a serious of clashes between Iohannis, who is from the center-right, and the left-wing government.
If the embassy move went ahead, Romania would be the first EU country to follow the lead of U.S. President Donald Trump, who in December controversially recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital. However, on a two-day visit to Israel this week following the surprise embassy announcement, Dancila said that at this stage she did not have "support of all parties as we would wish" to carry out the move.

Knife Attacker Kills 7 Children, Wounds 19 in China

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 27/18/A knife-wielding man killed seven middle school children and injured 19 others as they returned home in northern China on Friday, authorities said. The suspect was detained and the injured children were receiving treatment, the propaganda department of Mizhi County in Shaanxi province said on its official social media account without providing further details.

Statement by Canada’s Foreign Minister following Inter-Korean Summit
April 27, 2018 - Ottawa, Ontario - Global Affairs Canada
The Honourable Chrystia Freeland, Minister of Foreign Affairs, today issued the following statement:
“Canada is encouraged by the high-level dialogue undertaken today between North Korea and South Korea. We recognize that resolving issues on the Korean Peninsula requires continued engagement and believe a diplomatic solution on the Korean Peninsula is essential and possible.
“As discussed at the G7 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Toronto earlier this week, as well as during my recent bilateral meetings in Japan and South Korea, the situation on the Korean Peninsula is not just a regional issue, but a question of international peace and security.
“Diplomatic engagement is crucial to resolving long-standing tensions on the Korean Peninsula. To that end, we also call on North Korea to demonstrate concrete action toward completely, verifiably and irreversibly dismantling its weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programs.
“Canada hopes that these talks will form a foundation for meaningful progress toward peace and stability in the region, and a more positive future for all people on the Korean Peninsula, particularly North Koreans, who have suffered for too long.”
Mattis: Iran-Israel clash is close, but US military focus shifts out of Syria to Iraq
DebkaFile/April 27/18
The US will relocate its military operations to Iraq and the Mediterranean, after drawing down its troops in Syria, Defense Secretary James Mattis disclosed to Congress on Thursday, April 26. His comments were enigmatic: “Right now we are not withdrawing US troops from Syria,” Mattis said. “You’ll see increased operations on the Iraqi side of the border and the French just reinforced us in Syria with special forces here in the last two weeks. This is an ongoing fight right now,” he said.
But what did he mean?
US sources explain that while Washington is committed to fighting Islamic State terrorists, a US troop presence in Syria is not essential and the war can be fought from outside, e.g., Iraq.
Russian or Syrian sources understand him to mean that the US Is going to “expand the fight in Syria.” The British understand the defense secretary to be suggesting that he expects the US to “probably regret not keeping a holding force in Syria,” The French had no comment on Mattis’ remark about their boosted presence in Syria. The truth is that their president Emmanuel Macron leaned over backwards to make his state visit with President Trump this week a success, even if it meant ramping up French military involvement in Syria as a potential replacement for the US contingent that Trump is determined to withdraw.
The Israelis have made every effort to persuade the Americans to stay put in Syria. Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman traveled to Washington this week, two days after Gen. Joseph Votel, head of the US Central Command, visited Israel. Lieberman’s trip was found necessary since the US general declined to address the US exit plan’s military and strategic damage to Israel’s security. It was Lieberman’s task to bring home to the administration that the moment American troops leave Syria, Israel was threatened with a military confrontation with Iran and Hizballah. At his meetings with Secretary Mattis and national security adviser John Bolton, he asked the administration to consider holding off on the troop withdrawal for now.
There was no official word on the outcome of the Mattis-Lieberman interview on Thursday. But its content was reflected in comments Mattis made to the Senate Armed Forces Committee later that day. He said he believes a military confrontation between Israel and Iran in Syria is becoming increasingly likely. “I can see how it might start, but I am not sure when or where. I think it’s very likely in Syria, because Iran continues to do its proxy work there through Hizballah.” He then added: Israel “will not wait to see those missiles in the air and we hope Iran would pull back.” He flatly accused Iran of not only expanding and strengthening its presence in Syria but also “bringing advanced weapons for Hizballah through Syria.”These comments had a sequel. On Friday, Pentagon officials disclosed that US satellites, surveillance aircraft, drones and ships had stepped up operations to monitor the movement of suspected Iranian anti-air and ballistic missiles inside Syria “due to rising concerns they could be used to strike Israel in the coming days.”The US defense secretary had evidently bought Lieberman’s presentation, but his reaction disappointed Israel, DEBKAfile’s military sources report. He took with the utmost seriousness a possible Iranian or Hizballah attack on Israel in the coming days, but reacted by ordering the USS Harry S. Truman Carrier cruising opposite Syria to stay alert for this eventuality. The Trump administration clearly means to stay in the arena but is sticking to the decision to draw down the US troop presence in Syria, whatever may happen, while moving the center of US military operations instead to Iraq and the Mediterranean Sea.

Ambassador Danon warns UN Security Council of Iran's entrenchment in Syria
Itamar Eichner/Ynetnews/April 27/18
Iran controls a military base in Syria used to recruit and indoctrinate militants for terror activities in the Middle East, says Israel's ambassador to the UN, adding Iran commands over 80,000 Shi’a fighters in the war-torn country.
Israel's ambassador to the United Nations, Danny Danon, revealed to the representatives of the member states of the UN Security Council Thursday an aerial photograph of an Iranian base in Syria, which serves as a recruitment base for the fighters stationed in the area.
"What you can see here is Iran’s central induction and recruitment center in Syria," he said, holding up an aerial picture of the Iranian training base. "There are over 80,000 Shi’a militants in Syria under Iranian control. It is at this base, just over five miles from Damascus, where they are trained to commit acts of terror in Syria and across the region."During his address, Danon also mentioned the coming announcement by the US on the Iran nuclear deal, set to take place in two weeks, and called on member states to support the US in its expected decision to demand amendments to the deal, under threat of pulling out of it and returning sanctions on Iran. "All the signatories of this agreement must now make a choice: Do you support these necessary changes? Or, will you choose to enable the Iranian regime that supports terror and is attempting to take over the Middle East?" Danon demanded.
"Israel has a clear policy since the Begin government—we will not allow any regime that wants to destroy us to arm itself with nuclear weapons. Period," he stressed.  Segueing from the tyrannical regime in Iran to that in Gaza, Danon blasted Hamas for the weekly violent protests at the border with Israel, echoing US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley's assertion that the terror organization "uses women and children as human shields while they hide behind them, hoping that they will be hurt and even die.""This is the essence of evil," he continued. "For the Palestinian leadership any death is an opportunity to manipulate public opinion. Danon then affirmed that "Israel has a responsibility to protect its sovereignty and we are working to minimize the number of casualties," but made clear that Israel "will not apologize for defending" itself, casting the full brunt of responsibility for those killed in the border riots on Hamas.

Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on April 27-28/18
Have Trump and Macron learned to use each other?
David Ignatius/The Washington Post/April 27/18
President Trump shares a toast with French President Emmanuel Macron at the White House on April 24 in Washington. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)
At times during President Emmanuel Macron’s visit to the United States this week, he may have seemed like President Trump’s French poodle. But by the end, it was clear that this dog has teeth — and is tugging at the leash of the man who thinks he’s the master.
The French newspaper Le Monde captured the ambiguity with an editorial Thursday headlined: “A double-edged visit.” Macron’s touchy-feely encounter with Trump Monday and Tuesday was “gesture,” the paper argued, but the baseline was in Macron’s speech to a joint meeting of Congress on Wednesday that was “on the edge of brutality” in its critique of Trump’s policies. Le Figaro put it more gently in a headline Thursday: “Macron seduces Congress.”
Macron emerges from his Washington trip as a clever, somewhat devious French counterpoint to Trump — a flatterer, manipulator and charmer. Most of all, Macron is an opportunist who sees a way, at a moment when Britain is down and Germany mute, to put France at the center of European diplomacy for the first time in many decades.
I asked Macron at a small gathering of journalists Wednesday afternoon whether he truly found the mercurial Trump a trustworthy partner. “Yes, I trust him very much,” he answered, “because I want him to move” to be a protector of multilateralism and Western values. In other words, Macron trusts Trump to the extent he thinks he can maneuver him. Even some of Macron’s French diplomatic colleagues are skeptical that this new “entente cordiale” will end happily. Most people come away from Trump’s embrace tarnished by the encounter. During this visit, Macron’s stature was both diminished (by Trump’s domineering over-familiarity) and enhanced (by Macron’s undeniably charismatic public performances). Macron already seems to have lost his battle to persuade Trump to remain within the Iran nuclear deal. His “bet” is that Trump will announce May 12 that he’s withdrawing from the pact. Macron is focusing on what comes next. He told us he accomplished two main things with Trump: getting his support for continued U.S. “involvement” in stabilizing Syria; and encouraging his “openness to a new comprehensive deal” on Iran — a “bigger deal,” in Trump’s words, that would replace the “terrible” deal President Barack Obama signed and would last longer, cover ballistic-missile testing and address Iran’s regional behavior.
Macron is coaxing Trump toward a very big idea. He’s talking about a grand bargain that would draw in all the major players — Russia, Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the United States — to create a regional security architecture that would start with an agreement to revive Syria. This isn’t a new idea; diplomats have been exploring versions of it ever since the Syrian civil war began in 2011. And it has a kind of inevitability; when the Syrian war ends, it will surely be through some such formula.
But who can take on such a daunting project? Here’s where the weird synergy of Trump and Macron is interesting. A Middle East grand bargain is exactly the kind of “big deal” that Trump dreams of doing. Yet to get anywhere, he needs a smart, smooth-talking but unthreatening helper. Enter Macron.
The French president told us he sees his role as an “honest broker,” facilitating U.S. diplomacy with Russia, Turkey and Iran. On his flight to Washington, he telephoned Russian President Vladimir Putin. After he left, he planned to call Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. Macron said he understands that Trump’s style is to bargain aggressively and that Trump thinks this bellicose approach has worked with North Korea. Macron seems to imagine himself out on the edge of the cliff with the Great Disrupter, after Trump guts the Iran deal, helping him avoid disaster.
Listening to Macron spin his strategy, I was reminded of another smart, manipulative man whose diplomacy rescued a European status-quo power in decline: Count Metternich of Austria, who crafted the Congress of Vienna of 1814-1815, which stabilized Europe for nearly a century.
Henry Kissinger unforgettably described Metternich in “A World Restored,” his 1957 book based on his Harvard University doctoral dissertation: “His genius was instrumental, not creative; he excelled at manipulation, not construction.” Metternich was a man who “preferred the subtle manœuvre to the frontal attack” and sometimes “confused policy with intrigue.” Does that sound like anyone who visited Washington this week?
Macron told us that he sees himself as a man like Trump, because both are “mavericks” within their systems. He might have added that both men are also users, and that, amid the cringeworthy kisses and hand-holding, they may have found a way to use each other.

Human Rights: Other Views - Part I
Denis MacEoin/Gatestone Institute/April 27/18
The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHCR) itself has become a prime motivator and enforcer of the rejection of human rights.
The other charters of human rights are to be found exclusively in the Muslim world. Anything that falls within Islamic shari'a law is a human right; anything that does not fall within shari'a is not a human right.
"For us the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is nothing but a collection of mumbo-jumbo by disciples of Satan". — 'Ali Khamene'i, Iran's current Supreme Leader.
"The underlying thesis in all the Islamic human rights schemes is that the rights afforded in international law are too generous and only become acceptable when they are subjected to Islamic restrictions". — Ann Elizabeth Mayer, Islam and Human Rights: Tradition and Politics.
The history of human rights, albeit fragmented, is a long and often honourable expression of religious and civic endeavour. The scriptures of most religions refer to the ways in which we should treat our fellow man, from the Bible in antiquity to the broadly liberal Baha'i scriptures written in Persian and Arabic in the late nineteenth century. Religious precepts have served to protect human beings from arbitrary mistreatment in Hinduism, Buddhism, and other faiths.
Modern human rights declarations and legislation developed in a secular context, above all as an expression of democratic values, and informed by Judaeo-Christian ethics. The earliest formulations of secular human rights legislation are to be found in the 1789 French Declaration on the Rights of Man and the Citizen and the 1791 US Constitution, the first 10 amendments of which form the Bill of Rights.
It was not until after the Second World War, however, that an even wider formulation of human rights came into being. Like the French and American declarations, these fresh formulas had much to do with the notion of individual rights: rights that were lodged in the political and legislative strategies of modern democratic states. Prior to that, rights tended to be located in communities, with individuals being subject to the laws and pressures of the tribe – as in the limitation of rights for Jews and Christians within Muslim societies, or for Jews in Europe, notably in ghettoes. This new construction of rights -- through religious or ethnic identity -- has, for some decades now, found expression in democratic states in "multiculturalism".
The Swiss academic Elham Manea has identified this new denial of individual human rights as "essentialist multiculturalism", in her book Women and Shari'a Law.[1] This "Essentialist Multiculturalism" is defined by the notion that individuals must be understood through their culture, not as independent citizens.
According to Manea: I use essentialist to describe this paradigm because of the prism through which it sees the world. It:
Insists that a group of people have inherent unchanging characteristics because of their very religion or culture.
Ignores that any group is constructed through various political, social and religious factors.
Maintains that a person is first and foremost a religious entity and part of another religious whole.
Fails to see the complex different layers of identity
Fails to see the dynamic nature of culture, religion, society and, certainly identity.
Fears imposing what it perceives as 'Western' values on the 'other' and legitimizes in the process grave human rights violations. Because it considers international standards of human rights to be 'Western' Values not applicable to other societies or groups living in Western societies, it ingeniously plays to the hand of authoritarian governments and Islamic fundamentalists, who use similar discourse to legitimise their shameful record of human rights violations.
Ignores the developments and struggles taking place in Islamic countries to change family laws that discriminate against women and children; to demand states that are representative of all their citizens, and to insist on respect of freedom of expression, freedom of/from religion, and separation of religion and state. Because it considers these demands as universalistic, it dismisses them as not authentic enough. In other words, it designates itself as the arbitrator on who should speak on behalf of 'Muslims'; and 'Minorities'. [Manea, pp. 9-10]
The last one seems to mean that because these attributes apply to all people, they cannot be authentic enough for specific communities.
Manea's reference to "international standards of human rights" is particularly pertinent to democracy, a system through which it has been possible to extend rights to all individuals. The abolition of slavery, the extension of suffrage to women, and the entire civil rights movement all represent landmarks in the path towards universal rights.
The main document of that movement is, many of us might agree, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, an international instrument created to spread the democratic values of individualism to the world as a whole. Adopted by the United Nations at the end of 1948 and expanded as the International Bill of Human Rights, the UDHR has brought into existence a raft of organizations and legislation working to enforce the rights to which it claims all people are entitled. Of those organizations, the most influential is the UN Human Rights Council, a 47-member inter-governmental body that includes, or has included among its member states, some of the countries that most abuse human rights.
Although the UNHRC may have done much to improve the situation for some human rights internationally, something perverse has taken place. The UNHCR itself has also become a prime motivator and enforcer of the rejection of human rights -- not only for many individuals, such as children being trained to be terrorists, but also for a single country, Israel. Much of that animus seems to have originated in the Arab and wider Muslim worlds. This is surely odd if we consider that Israel has one of the best human rights records and -- while not giving Russia, China, North Korea or Cuba a pass -- that many Arab and Muslim states (Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Pakistan among others) have been among the most conspicuous violators.
Over the years, however, it is Israel -- not the dictatorships or fundamentalist regimes around it -- that has been singled out for criticism by the UN Human Rights Council and the UN General Assembly. In its 70th session, 2015-2016, the UN General Assembly passed a single resolutions each condemning the human rights situation in Iran, Syria and North Korea. Alongside these, it passed no fewer than 20 resolutions singling out Israel.
What are a few reasons for this disparity? If one takes the admirable resolution on human rights abuses in Iran, one can see there were 76 votes in favour, but a larger figure for the combined 'no' and 'abstain' votes: 103 in total. The 'yes' votes tended to come from Western nations such as the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland and Italy; the 'no' votes, were from majority Sunni Muslim countries or ones (such as India) with large Muslim minorities; fifteen abstentions were from Muslim majority states, including several (such as Saudi Arabia), which consider Iran their enemy.
Now take one of the resolutions directed against Israel. Resolution 70/141 , on "The right of the Palestinian people to self-determination", received far more plenary votes than the single one directed against Iran (177 as against 76). Many of these came from the EU, but it is important to note that one of the countries that proposed it was Egypt, "On behalf of the States Members of the United Nations that are members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation" -- that is to say, a bloc of 57, just under one third of the overall "yes" vote, and backed by such stalwarts of human rights as North Korea, Cuba, Venezuela, and "the state of Palestine".
This outcome is far from coincidental. Behind that bloc vote (and its many supporters) lurks the uncomfortable fact that there are several quite different charters of human rights in the world.
The other charters of human rights are to be found exclusively in the Muslim world. Some are presented in national constitutions such as those of Iran or Afghanistan; others in official documents that reflect a trans-national Islamic identity, expressing the principles of the umma, the international body of all Muslims construed as a unified community. On the surface, most of these charters appear to endorse much the same raft of human rights as the International Bill. In reality, however, they do not. On close examination, they do exactly the opposite -- and for a very simple reason. Every single right they claim to offer (in imitation of the wording of the UDHR and its companion charters) is made subject to the provisions of Islamic shari'a law. Anything that falls within shari'a is a human right; anything that does not fall within shari'a is not a human right. This provision makes a world of difference.
Professor Ann Elizabeth Mayer's classic study, Islam and Human Rights: Tradition and Politics, is a painstaking study of the many Islamic Human Rights charters, in both English translations and Arabic or Persian originals. They expose serious concerns about the impact of Islam and Islamic law in both the Muslim world and increasingly in the West. The contradictions she has found between original texts on the other, is invaluable.
Mayer examines seven major Islamic declarations, including: The Universal Islamic Declaration of Human Rights (UIDHR, 1981)
The Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam (1993)
Again and again, claims that Islamic values support Western human rights standards are contradicted by the texts and statements of Muslim jurists and diplomats. Here, for example, is a statement by the former Iranian representative to the United Nations, Sa'id Raja'i-Khorasani, presented before the UN General Assembly on December 7, 1984:
The new political order [in Iran] was... in full accordance and harmony with the deepest moral and religious convictions of the people and therefore most representative of the traditional, cultural, moral and religious beliefs of Iranian society. It recognized no authority... apart from Islamic law... conventions, declarations or decisions of international organizations, which were contrary to Islam, had no validity in the Islamic Republic of Iran.... The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which represented secular understanding of the Judaeo-Christian tradition, could not be implemented by Muslims and did not accord with the system of values recognized by the Islamic Republic of Iran; his country would therefore not hesitate to violate its provisions. (Emphasis added.)[2]
Reza Afshari, a professor of history at Pace University, New York, has documented
"how the Islamic Republic of Iran has used cultural and religious relativism to circumvent the UN Human Rights Council's attempts to inspect and report on the regime's human rights abuses, including the harassment, imprisonment, and torture of journalists and activists; and the repression of religious minorities, sexual minorities, and women. Iran has regularly denied and countered the accusations of by United Nations human rights monitors by defending its acts as authentic 'cultural practices'".
According to the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, "What they [Westerners] call human rights is nothing but a collection of corrupt rules worked out by Zionists to destroy all true religions".[3] Iran's current Supreme Leader, 'Ali Khamene'i, while serving as president of the republic, was even stronger in his refutation of human rights:
"When we want to find out what is right and what is wrong, we do not go to the United Nations; we go to the Holy Koran. For us the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is nothing but a collection of mumbo-jumbo by disciples of Satan". [4]
Strong words indeed, words that harbor no illusions about the gulf between radical Islamic values and those of the Judaeo-Christian West.
Even the more formal statements on Islamic human rights bear clear signs of this same disinclination to accept Western values. The Universal Islamic Declaration of Human Rights, for example, says much the same thing in more moderate language, first in its foreword:
Islam gave to mankind an ideal code of human rights fourteen centuries ago. These rights aim at conferring honor and dignity on mankind and eliminating exploitation, oppression and injustice.
Human rights in Islam are firmly rooted in the belief that God, and God alone, is the Law Giver and the Source of all human rights. Due to their Divine origin, no ruler, government, assembly or authority can curtail or violate in any way the human rights conferred by God, nor can they be surrendered.
These rights are not those conferred by the UDHR, but rights sanctioned by Islamic law. In the preamble, we are told that "by virtue of their Divine source and sanction these rights can neither be curtailed, abrogated or disregarded by authorities, assemblies or other institutions, nor can they be surrendered or alienated" --no trace of democracy, debate, rational planning, secular tolerance, or human rights there.
The overriding sanctity of Islamic law is reinforced by other charters and statements from individuals. For example, the Pakistani strongman, General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq, who came to power in 1977 through a coup d'état and served as that country's president from 1978 until his death ten years later, imposed shari'a law on the country. He asserted the supremacy of Islamic law thus:
[In Islam] there are no 'human rights' or 'freedoms' admissible to man in the sense in which modern man's thought, belief, and practice understand them: in essence, the believer owes obligation or duties to God if only because he is called upon to obey the Divine Law and such Human Rights as he is made to acknowledge seem to stem from his primary duty to obey God.[5]
Restrictions on the behaviour of individuals, including non-Muslims, are characteristic of Islamic rights charters. According to Mayer:
The underlying thesis in all the Islamic human rights schemes is that the rights afforded in international law are too generous and only become acceptable when they are subjected to Islamic restrictions. Curiously, there is no explicit articulation of the thesis that international law has granted people excessive rights. Because invoking Islam either to eliminate or to narrow rights is such a central and distinctive feature of Islamic human rights schemes, it is also curious that exactly what these Islamic restrictions on rights entail is not precisely delineated. [Mayer, p. 69]
Just how do these restrictions work? Here are some statements from the Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam, issued by the member states of the Islamic Conference:
Article 6: Woman is equal to man in human dignity, and has rights to enjoy as well as duties to perform...
Article 8: Every human being has the right to enjoy his legal capacity...
Article 11 A: Human beings are born free, and no-one has the right to enslave, humiliate, oppress or exploit them...
Article 18 A: Everyone shall have the right to live in security for himself, his religion, his dependants, his honor and his property.
Article 19 A: All individuals are equal before the law, without distinction between the ruler and the ruled.
On the surface, these and many other passages from the Cairo Declaration seem entirely consistent with the UDHR. Unfortunately, a second look shows quite the opposite. One only need look at the final two articles in Cairo: 24 and 25:
Article 24: All the rights and freedoms stipulated in this Declaration are subject to the Islamic Shari'ah.
Article 25: The Islamic Shari'ah is the only source of reference for the explanation or clarification of any of the articles of this Declaration
In Part Two, we shall examine just how this double human rights system impacts on the West.
Dr. Denis MacEoin is a former university lecturer in Islamic Studies and a Distinguished Senior Fellow in the Gatestone Institute.
[1] Her approach is echoed by Dutch political scientist Machteld Zee in another study Choosing Sharia? Multiculturalism, Islamic Fundamentalism, & Sharia Councils [The Hague, 2016]
[2] UN General Assembly. Thirty-Ninth Session. Third Committee. Sixty-fifth meeting, held on Friday, December 7, 1984, New York A/C.3/39/SR.65
[3] Cited Mayer, p. 36
[4] Quoted, Edward Mortimer, 'Islam and Human Rights', Index on Censorship, 12, October, 1983, p.5.
[5] Cited A. K. Brohi, 'Islam and Human Rights', PLD Lahore, 28, 1976, p. 151.
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Our Region, our Collective Memory, and Ghassan Al-Imam

Eyad Abu Shakra/Asharq Al Awsat/April 27/18
A few days ago, Asharq Al-Awsat lost Ghassan Al-Imam, one of its most brilliant opinion writers. The late veteran Syrian journalist and writer lived through a fascinating period of the Middle East history, documented it, and commented on it with exceptional lucidity, precision, and rare encyclopedic knowledge. He was one of the foremost authorities who through the years honed my interest in Syrian affairs, and I was very fortunate to have read his articles for almost three decades.
On the other hand, although I never met Mr. Al-Imam personally in Paris where he was living in exile, we talked more than once, and on every occasion, Syria was the main issue of discussion. I recall that once I read an article of his in which he mentioned “The Military Committee”, which practically re-founded the Baath Party, after being dissolved by the founding Secretary General Michel Aflaq in the aftermath of announcing the union between Egypt and Syria in 1958. Going through the mentioned article, I felt I needed to go through what Mr. Al-Imam had written about Ahmad Al-Mir, one of the prominent members of the “Committee”; and indeed, we had a most enjoyable short journey in Syria’s history.
Ghassan Al-Imam and people like him are sourly missed these days, not only for being most capable of explaining their positions courageously, logically in a brilliant and intuitive way, but also because they are a part of a gradually disappearing political memory. It is disappearing for good, in a time we never needed most, to learn, consider and draw conclusions.
This is what I felt during my college years, when I majored in Politics and history, and was studying the political history of Iraq under the exceptional Professor Hanna Batatu. Those days, I missed my late father more than ever, as he knew Iraq well, as a result of living there for ten years, and was a keen witness of momentous events that shook the country between 1931 and 1941. I really wished then he was with me, answering my queries about personalities, events, and trends in a society he liked and interacted with.
The same happened when I began studying Syria under another brilliant academic, Professor Yusuf Ibish. He was a Damascene who loved every inch of Damascus; and whether in Beirut or later in London where he spent his last years, he made me feel that Syria was a part of me. Initially, I was introduced to Syria’s political history when I read “The Memoirs of Khaled Al-Azm”. I was simply carried away with those memoirs of one of Syria’s greatest politicians. Later on, Ghassan Al-Imam complemented what had already taken root in me about the collective memory of this great country that we may be about to lose.
Talking about loss, I owe my deep interest in Palestine to three people. Two of them my former professors, Walid Al-Khalidi (may God bless him with health) and the late Mahmud Zayid; the third was the great researcher Mustafa Murad Al-Dabbagh, who single-handedly authored the huge encyclopedic book “Biladuna Filastin”.
What I meant to say from the above is that memory is the third most important thing that links us to our home countries after the land and the identity; and one of our worst ongoing disasters is not just our lack of memory, but also our inability to realize how detrimental losing it can be.
A few days ago, I was in touch with a very dear relative living in Lebanon. Among the issues we discussed was the political situation, in particular, the parliamentary elections scheduled for May 6.
This very dear relative belongs to a much younger generation, who know a lot more than I do about current and futuristic innovations, while I claim to know about the past much more than what he knows. Of course, this is natural, as he is a young man who is looking for a future that I hope is long and fruitful, unlike me who cannot hope much from the future.
Thus, it was logical that we both discovered through and after our discussion they we read the political situation differently. We disagreed on how the scene would change, on the qualities (or lack of it) of political players, and the threats facing Lebanon, where from the threats came, who was or were responsible for them, and what was the best way to overcome them.
Lebanon’s younger generation, like every younger generation all over the world, is honest, well-meaning and looking forward to future without ills it regards are crucial and embarking now on solving problems that cannot wait. And through the debate with my relative – who is a social activist – I remembered the famous saying: “If a person is not a liberal when he is twenty, he has no heart; if he is not a conservative when he is forty, he has no head.”
I simply found out that we were talking two different languages, not only because my young relative’s memory was limited, but also because in his honest and eager push for change he was unwittingly underestimating strategic threats. He was keen – like his fellow social activists – to eradicate corruption, sectarianism, political feudalism, nepotism and improve public services. On my part, I feel that no honorable person should disagree with that; however, the “civic society” activists, in spite their beautiful idealism, do not want to remember the past, hesitate in acknowledging the truth about the present, which makes their theories about the future pretty doubtful.
One has to accept, that Lebanon is no “normal” case. It is not really an “‘independent” or “sovereign” country, nor is it a free “democracy” that is capable of defending itself. Indeed, it is not a political entity that has been able to develop an encompassing non-sectarian political culture.
In a sectarian country like Lebanon, the elections are conducted under a nonsensical, perplexing and contradictory electoral law, that through adopting “proportional representation” does not allow for broadly based programs, and through providing a single “preferential vote” fails to dilute sectarianism. Hence, due to such an electoral law – described by former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora as “unconstitutional” – there has been a bonanza of short-term, tactical and spiteful “alliances” between heterogeneous groups who are running together in one place and facing one another in others!
Furthermore, the election fever conceals a huge strategic anomaly that cannot be dealt with merely by idealism and wishful thinking.
Today in Lebanon, there is a partisan armed militia, which acts outside state control, an acute sectarian polarization whereby extremists in each sect benefit from the extremists in other sects, and a divisive regional climate that is exacerbating internal divergence and facilitating foreign hegemony.
This is the reality, while all other issues – as far as I can remember – are just details!

Lessons of the Afgantsy for the Syrians
Amir Taheri/Asharq Al Awsat/April 27/18
“With the defeat of terrorist forces, the situation in (….) is stabilized, the legitimate government is in control of the country.”
Sounds familiar? No surprise.
For, this is the mantra that Russian propagandists keep repeating with reference to Syria: Assad has won!
The above statement, however, was made in 1983 about Afghanistan three years after the Red Army had invaded to prevent the fall of the “legitimate government” dominated by local Communists.
Since, contrary to the adage, history doesn’t repeat itself one should not conclude that Syria today is what Afghanistan was decades ago.
Afghanistan is almost three times larger than Syria and much more difficult terrain for military operations. At the time of the Soviet invasion, Afghanistan had the same size of population as Syria today with the difference that anti-Communist forces could draw on a vast demographic reservoir in Pashtun-majority parts of Pakistan.
Also, regardless of what Vladimir Putin may imagine, Russia isn’t the same as the USSR if only because, since the fall of the Empire, two generations of Russians have had a taste of freedom.
Taking into account those caveats, the fact remains that the Afghan experience may have something to teach Russians as Putin pursues the forlorn dream of empire in Eastern Europe, Central Asia and the Middle East.
During the 10-year war in Afghanistan, the Soviet Union committed over 600,000 troops to the war in addition to the 55,000-man army controlled by Kabul and a further 20,000 Afghan-Uzbek mercenary militia. Anxious not to take risks with the ethnic-Russian majority, Kremlin leaders looked to other Soviet republics for manpower. “Cannon fodder” was recruited in Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan. Officer cadres came from Ukraine and the Baltic states.
Today, Putin can depend on Bashar al-Assad’s 80,000-man army and an assortment of militias. Iran and the mercenaries it has recruited in Lebanon, Afghanistan and Pakistan account for a further 30,000 men.
However, Russia does not exercise the same level of control on its “allies” in Syria today than the Soviets did over their allies in Afghanistan in the 1980s.
The Afghan war claimed the lives of almost 16,000 Soviets with a further 55,000 wounded and disabled. Over a million Soviet citizens were involved in the decade-long war, accounting for the empire’s largest number of veterans since the Second World War. In time they came to be known as “Afgantsy”, providing a reservoir of recruitment for criminal gangs, ethnic rebels and black-marketers. After the fall of the USSR, many of the “Afgantsy” re-emerged in their native lands, especially Ukraine, and the Baltic states to spearhead anti-Russian movements.
There are no official figures for the cost of the Afghan adventure. Semi-official figures range from $300 to $400 billion. Contrary to common belief the Soviet Empire did not collapse because of Afghanistan. It was, as Yevgeny Primakov once put it, the mentality that led to intervention in Afghanistan that caused the empire to collapse.
“We went to Afghanistan because we believed that classical power rules did not apply to the Soviet Union,” Primakov opined.” The Soviet Union was supposed to be a special case in history, exempt from its laws.”
Is Putin making a similar mistake?
With his Soviet-KGB mindset, some believe that he may well see things the same way Soviet leaders did in the final decades of the empire. This is why he is creating his “Syriantsy” by backing a minority-based central government against the wishes of the majority of the Syrian population. He is also making the same mistake most Soviet leaders did in Afghanistan by seeing war in purely military terms.
However, the military aspect of war, the actual fighting, accounts for a small, though obviously significant, part of any war in its bigger context.
By 1988, in military terms the Soviet Union had won in Afghanistan, the last pocket of resistance, led by Ahmad Shah Massoud, confined to the Panjshir Valley. Better still, Massoud had concluded a ceasefire with the Red Army. However, when we met him in his hiding place in the darkest days of the Afghan resistance, he demonstrated his genius for analysis by insisting that a war never ends by one side declaring victory but by one side admitting defeat, and that he had no intention of doing so.
Thus, Putin’s declaration of victory in Syria, echoed by Assad like a ventriloquist’s dummy, and amplified by Kremlin-orchestrated propaganda in the West, is no better than similar claims made by the Kremlin geriatrics and their stooges in Kabul in the 1980s.
The Soviet experience in Afghanistan is not the sole example of winning a war in military terms but losing it politically.
The French had a similar experience in 1962 in Algeria and the Americans in Vietnam in 1974. In both cases, the loser lost because it pursued an impossible political agenda: trying to impose minority rule on an unwilling majority.
Putin’s case is more hopeless than that of the Soviets in Afghanistan, the French in Algeria and the Americans in Vietnam. Economically, he is in a weaker position at a time Russia has to cope with falling energy prices and toughening sanctions. In terms of manpower, he cannot draw on the far frontiers of the empire while the ethnic Russian majority is reluctant to oblige. Militarily, Russia is over- stretched with some 100,000 troops committed to Dagestan, Chechnya, Crimea, South Ossetia, Abkhazia, Moldova and Donetsk.
Moscow also maintains thousands of troops in bases in Tajikistan and Armenia to project power in Transcaucasia and Central Asia. However, in both places pro-Moscow rulers are challenged by pro-West opposition groups whose demands include the closure of Russian bases. Yerevan authorities have faced an armed revolt against attempts by pro-Moscow elements to install Serge Sarkisian, a Putin ally, as head of government.
Some cynics in Western capitals suggest that Russia should be allowed to remain stuck in Syria as long as possible so that it cannot make mischief elsewhere. Throughout the 1980s, bogged down in Afghanistan, the Soviet Empire made no new mischief anywhere in the world.
Ironically, to get out of the Syrian trap, Putin may need the help not only of the Western powers but also of the majority of Syrians. That, however, would require offering Assad’s head on a platter as the Soviets did with the hapless president, Muhammad Najiballah, in Kabul.
Asked about Najballah in 1989, Alexander Yavkovlev, the ideologue of the Politburo in Moscow, quipped: “Najib who? Ah, that one!”

Iran is Not the Gulf Countries’ Problem
Abdulrahman Al-Rashed/Asharq Al Awsat/April 27/18
The eternal conflict with Tehran is pictured as a political dispute between the Iranian regime and the Gulf countries’ governments and Israel.
No one doubts the long history of this dispute, its roots and incidents but also the Tehran’s victims which include states and countries other than the Gulf.
The majority of the Lebanese people suffered more than any Arab state for a period of time from Iran’s domination and practices which include the Syrian occupation that remained in effect within the context of the alliance between Tehran and Damascus. Hezbollah is merely like an Iranian police unit in Lebanon that carries out the “duties” for which it was established and funded.
The Syrian people are the ones who lost lives the most due to the Iranian regime as more than half a million were killed and more than 10 million have been displaced across the world. This horrific tragedy would not have happened if Iran had not engaged in the war there.
The same happened to the Iraqis as a year after the American invasion, Iran’s interferences were active on two fronts, through supporting the Sunni armed “resistance” and sponsoring terror organizations which were brought from Syria to West Iraq and through armed Shiite groups in Central and South Iraq. The Iraqis’ continuous failure is partially due to the Revolutionary Guards’ project in weakening the central authority and supporting political powers and armed organizations that reject the principle of the sovereignty of the center.
The people of Yemen are the latest victims of Iranian interferences. Tehran succeeded in toppling the Sanaa government via armed groups that were brought from north of the country to govern via arms and extremist ideology.
In all cases we cannot forget that those harmed the most by the Iranian regime are the Iranian people themselves as more than 70 million people live in a closed country that has been managed by revolutionary militias ever since the religious Khomeini revolution.
Therefore, we can say that the situation of Gulf countries is relatively better even with the presence of rebellious pockets in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait because they’re relatively small.
Lebanon will be the first to benefit - its stability; its citizens’ and foreigners’ reassurance will make it an economic center -if Hezbollah is deprived of its arms as part of an ordinary result of cutting Iran’s influence.
The situation in Syria can only be reformed by getting Qassem Soleimani and his militias out of there and by imposing a regionally and internationally supported political solution. Since Iraq is an oil-rich state, all it needs to function well is for its legislative and executive institutions to work without interferences from Tehran.
The Yemeni war will stop in one hour when Iran’s influence on the Houthi rebels comes to an end. Gaza is also a victim of Iran’s domination and it can become like Ramallah, a strip that’s fit for a proper living which is the least of hopes, if Iran’s regional influence is halted. The entire region will enjoy great relative peace. This opinion is not imaginative or based on wishes but it actually reflects the reality that dominated before the Iranian revolution erupted.
Therefore, the international community’s attempt to change the Iranian regime’s behavior and not just clip its nuclear military project is an important plan for the region and the entire world.
In order not to sell illusions, we must note that it’s a weak possibility for negotiators to get to this phase unless the American government insists to and some of the region’s governments’ and Europe’s support it.
Pressuring Iran’s regime can alter the latter’s behavior if it wants to survive. The Iranian regime is currently suffering a lot even though it’s not screaming out loud. Protests there decreased but they have not stopped, and they’ve become more organized and more dangerous than previous spontaneous protests.
They’ve taken a feature that rejects social restraints and protests against the style of the government’s management across the country. In general, the regime in Iran has exhausted itself. The more it increases its oppressive practices, the more the rejections and the protests against it.
If internal popular pressure continues against the regime and in case international pressure is exerted against it, then changing its behavior is possible; and if it resists, the entire regime will change.

EU lobbies Trump to disregard realities in Iran
Hamid Bahrami/Al Arabiya/April 27/18
With the Iran nuclear deal train fast approaching its final stop, both European powers and Iran’s regime are doing their best to preserve the deal that most Americans as well as the Iranian people believe does not live up to expectations.
US President Donald Trump described the deal, formally known as the JCPOA, as the “worst deal ever” and has set a May 12 deadline to fix its catastrophic flaws. On the other hand, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif visits the US in a last desperate effort to assist the pro-JCPOA lobbyists who naively argue that the deal “must be preserved as there are no other options”.
“It is very important for Iran to receive the benefits of the agreement”, Zarif repeated during his many interviews in the US and added that “there is no way that Iran would do a one-side implementation of it”.
A source close to the Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) told me that “our strategy is saving the JCPOA because considering the explosive situation in the country and the expensive presence in Syria, we have no chance to survive if the sanctions are re-imposed.”
Indeed, Zarif blusters and takes the carrot and stick approach playing the prisoner swap card with the US nationals currently held unjustly in Iran. But it is not President Obama who is in the White House this time around.
EU front
On the other hand, EU leaders are making a beeline to Washington one after another to try to persuade Trump to stay in the deal.
Both the French President and German Chancellor’s visits to the US means joining hands with the proponents of the JCPOA. Now, EU’s efforts will most likely be fruitless, and here is why.
The American roadmap to fix the deal is indeed straightforward:
- fix the deal’s sunset clause
- counter Tehran regime’s destructive interventions in the Middle East
- stop the missile program of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)
- stop human rights abuses in Iran
None of these demands have yet been addressed by the EU, yet its leaders persist to convince Trump to disregard realities.
In this regard, the French President Emmanuel Macron advocates the continuation of the failed policy of appeasement saying “my point is to say don’t leave now the JCPOA as long as you don’t have a better option for nuclear and let’s complete it with ballistic missile and regional containment.”
The EU has not even succeeded in ratifying an agreement among its member-states to impose some limited sanctions on Tehran for its destabilizing regional behavior.
The efforts to save the deal without incorporating measures to change Tehran’s unacceptable behavior provide the Iranian regime with the three vital tools – land, weapons and funds – to further destabilize its Arab neighbors.
While the Iranian regime rules out any possibility of reversing its missile program, one should ask how the EU wants to persuade the regime to come to the negotiating table. The most acceptable answer should be “sanctions”.
Sanctions relief
Indeed, it is naive to save the JCPOA, which provides Tehran with sanctions relief. At the same time new sanctions on the regime is likely to persuade Iranian clerics to respect international laws and UN Security Council resolutions.
Considering the recent success of the policy of pressure toward North Korea, scrapping of the deal is not only the best option but also the most effective way to deny terrorist organizations such as the IRGC and Hezbollah vital income.
As the deal’s history teaches us, the Iranian regime refused to negotiate until economic sanctions brought the theocracy to its knees.

The future of Qatar after Hamad bin Khalifa
Mohammed Al Shaikh/Al Arabiya/April 27/18
It is a generally acknowledged fact that Qatar does not have any strength or resilience factors that are worth mentioning. It’s a small state on the banks of the Gulf and it lacks the key elements of a state. It has virtually no history, a very small indigenous population and all of its culture and elements of life are derived from the fact that it shares a border with the eastern region of Saudi Arabia.
A flawed outlook
Today, Qatar is ruled by Hamad bin Khalifa, whom they call “the father Emir”. Hamad bin Khalifa, who is the father of the current Emir, controls decision-making in Qatar on both domestic and international issues. The current Emir is thus only formally in charge. Hamad bin Khalifa believes that by having a huge fortune, he can be a strong leader who makes history and who can achieve what his predecessors could not. However, Arab opportunists surrounding began to flatter and praise him in order to line up their pockets.
The people of Qatar are well aware that Hamad’s actions are imprudent and unjustified. He cannot keep walking on the path of defiance that he has put himself and his people on because Saudi Arabia and the other boycotting countries are not losing anything due to the boycott while Qatar is paying a high price as a consequence of these measures, especially that its provocative remarks made by its media against the kingdom and the boycotting countries only make matters worse and overcomplicate the issue. It’s rationally and objectively impossible for Qatar to pursue its path of stubbornness, arrogance and escalation forever. Its current position resembles that of Arab Sa'alik who rebelled against the customs of their tribes, until their tribes expelled them and disowned them so they wandered around in a desperate miserable attempt to find someone who could adopt them and support them against their tribes.
Challenge for Tamim bin Hamad
I have no doubt that Emir Tamim bin Hamad is fully aware of this truth and knows that his father is fighting a lost battle and that Qatar with its very limited geopolitical capabilities cannot alter its reality, no matter how much wealth it possesses as it’s not enough to secure victory when all you have is money. It is my belief that the current Emir is eagerly awaiting his day to be the sole ruler so that he can take control of all the authority in his hands, change the course in the right direction and fix everything that his father has destroyed. All the news emanating from Qatar, which the Qataris discuss in their private gatherings, holds Hamad bin Jassim greatly responsible for their current deplorable situation. As such, they say, the first decision to be taken by Tamim then, would be to arrest Hamad bin Jassim and try him. I have no doubt that such a courageous move will be hailed and supported by the Qataris, especially since Hamad bin Jassim is deeply despised in Qatari circles.
The menace of Muslim Brotherhood
Nevertheless, the most difficult and dangerous decision that Tamim will confront if he dominates power pertains to getting rid of the widespread Muslim Brotherhood legacy in Qatar and confronting the group’s influence and control of Qatari institutions? Over the past few decades, the Muslim Brotherhood has succeeded in infiltrating several strata of Qatari society and gained many followers and supporters. Getting rid of them and recovering the Qatari decision will confront some real difficulties that may only be settled by bloodshed.
All I want to say here is that even any genuine disappearance of the father Emir from the political field , sooner or later, will not be the end of Qatar’s dilemma, as new conflicts will erupt. It is said that the Muslim Brotherhood cadres in Qatar have already started preparing in this regard.
**Mohammed Al Shaikh is a Saudi writer with al-Jazirah newspaper. He tweets @alshaikhmhmdw.

Jerusalem and Muslim-Christian relations
Radwan al-Sayed/Al Arabiya/April 27/18
Earlier this month, Cardinal Tauran, President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue in the Vatican, visited Riyadh where he met with King Salman bin Abdul Aziz. His visit was considered historical.
Over the past six years, despite the rising number of extremist and terrorist incidents, relations between Christians and Muslims have witnessed major breakthroughs in terms of exchanging visits with the Vatican. Pope Francis has himself paid visits to Egypt and Turkey, while Arab and Muslim religious officials have also visited the Vatican, the World Council of Churches and the Archbishop of Canterbury.
The debate over the usefulness of visiting Jerusalem is a waste of time and is no longer justified. Zionist colonies are expanding in Jerusalem and adjoining areas, while Palestinians, Muslims and Christians are being displaced against their will or by the purchase of their lands
There was a consensus to cooperate to combat extremism and terrorism, confront immigration and Islamophobia, issues facing Muslim minorities across the globe and the cohabitation between Christians and Muslims in the Arab world and other Islamic countries.
Pope Francis has taken distinctive positions on issues pertaining to violence and wars in Arab and Muslim countries and against the discrimination endured by Muslims in the West. The Pope was displeased with the position taken by US President Donald Trump on the Jerusalem issue, along with the halting of peace talks to bring justice to the Palestinian people.
Jerusalem at the center of conflict
Yet, there is quite some level of ambiguity over the question of Jerusalem itself. The Vatican has for a while now maintained that the holy sites in Jerusalem must be internationalized and taken out of the conflict between the Palestinians and the Israelis.
Arab parties have kept their silence on this issue considering that Zionists want to take control of all of Jerusalem, especially its religious sites, and that the unification of Jerusalem as an eternal capital of Israel will further harm peace between religions in Jerusalem. Still, no one saw an interest in opposing the Vatican, given the fact that the Arab parties insist that the Old City of Jerusalem is the capital of the Palestinian state, of course without excluding its holy sites.
Now that President Trump’s possible visit to Israel in mid-May has neared, the US has started negotiations with the Vatican over the possible special status of Christian holy places, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and the surrounding areas, to facilitate the final phase of colonization of Jerusalem for Israelis without the objection of the Catholic and Orthodox Christian authorities, especially since some Protestant and Evangelical authorities share closer positions with the Israeli stance.
There is a solid Arab and Islamic position regarding Jerusalem and its freedom and which insists that it is the political capital of the Palestinian Arab state. Then there is the position of the Arab Christians of Palestine and Jerusalem — currently living in Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon.
They were always against the colonization of Jerusalem by Zionists, including the holy sites. It is known that some of them opposed Trump’s statement. We also know that the former Pope of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria had banned the Copts of Egypt from visiting Jerusalem under occupation. Muslims are still disputing over whether or not to visit Jerusalem in support of its people, despite the fact that the Palestinian Authority supports such visits.
The debate over the usefulness of visiting Jerusalem is a waste of time and is no longer justified. Zionist colonies are expanding in Jerusalem and adjoining areas, while Palestinians, Muslims and Christians are being displaced against their will or by the purchase of their lands. The Palestinian people are urging for our solidarity, even if through a visit.
The Palestinians today are trying to do something beginning from Gaza. It is then unnecessary to hesitate on whether to visit Jerusalem or not under the pretext that it is occupied. The occupation aims to displace people and remove holy places. A visit by a million or two million people to Jerusalem every year will send a message to the Palestinians that we have not abandoned them.
Moral Christian influence
The numbers of Christians in Jerusalem and Palestine have decreased because of the pressure and circumstances of the occupation. Yet the Vatican has a great moral influence, just like the Christians of Palestine and the world. The same thing can be said about the Eastern Orthodox Church, whom the majority of Arab Christians belong to, and Russian and Greek political and religious positions.
There is no doubt that the Palestinian Authority should be the one to approach the Catholic and Orthodox communities, as well as the Protestant and Anglican churches that disagree with the orientations of the new Zionized evangelical institutions.
Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Morocco and Jordan and their religious authorities have great moral and political power in Arab and Islamic societies as well as in the international community. Palestinian and Arab parties should thus work together in solidarity with the Arab Christians to complement their role towards the world’s religious and political parties.
I do not know if there has been any development in terms of communication and agreement, or in terms of taking action in this regard, but the visit of Cardinal Tauran to Riyadh may have fostered this consultative spirit and the spirit of solidarity in preserving Jerusalem’s freedom, religious safety and holy places.

The soft power of Mohamed Salah
Salman al-Dosary/Al Arabiya/April 27/18
It is a generally acknowledged fact that Qatar doe
He surprised everyone as if he came from another planet. The best player in the English Premier League. The top scorer in the world’s strongest league in his return season to England. The top scorer in all five major leagues, surpassing the likes of Messi and Ronaldo.
This is how Egypt’s Mohamed Salah awed football fans in Britain and the world. He became more than just a great footballer, entertaining fans, but an example, sending indirect positive messages to all of his followers.
The Egyptian Foreign Ministry was not exaggerating when it described Mo, as he is fondly called by his avid Liverpool fans, as “a symbol of soft power in Egypt.” He has joined the ranks of Egyptian soft power icons, such as singer Umm Kulthum, writer Naguib Mahfouz, actor Omar al-Sharif and scientist Ahmed Zewail.
There is no doubt that Mohamed Salah’s actions on the football field, which have attracted millions of fans without saying a single word, are more powerful than millions of lectures, seminars, and, of course, ideological slogans.
The term “soft power” first appeared in a 1990 book, Soft Power: The Means To Success In World Politics, by American Joseph Nye. He wrote about strengthening American interests all over the globe through what he called “soft power”, and, of course, hard or military power.
An influential weapon
Soft power, he explained, is a means for success in the world of international politics. It is an influential weapon that achieves goals through attractiveness and persuasion, instead of coercion or bribes.
Nye concluded that the source of soft power in any country is its culture if this country has the minimum level of attractiveness and if it faithfully applies its policies on its internal and foreign fronts. This is how soft power turned into a major and main concept in political and social sciences.
The hard part lies in how to softly and indirectly influence others. Nye said that people have to be influenced and convinced through the ability to attract them, which will ultimately make them listen.
This is how sport is no longer just a game. Football no longer entertains millions of people around the world and ends when the match concludes. It has, for a while, been transformed into an important geo-political factor and main source of strength for nations.
Pascal Boniface, founder of the French Institute for International and Strategic Affairs, said football differs from traditional power. “Everyone fears the US politically and economically, but no one fears it in football where it does not have control.” Can anyone doubt this truth?
During an interview with CBS in 2010, former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that there are moments when music is more capable than speeches in relaying American values, regardless of how powerful this speech may be.
Indeed, soft power’s positive influence can take the shape of more than just an image. It can be a Chinese free trade market in Dubai, a Japanese restaurant in Riyadh, a Saudi film screened in New York, a painting by an Iraqi artist displayed in Paris, or an Egyptian football player, like Mo Salah, reaching new heights in the English Premier League.
These tools are more powerful than the millions of dollars worth of public relations campaigns. More important is how they should be used in uprooting extremism, which definitely cannot be achieved through security confrontations alone. Soft power, such as sports, culture and art, should be used as an effective weapon against extremist organizations.

The Tired Lies of Taqiyya
ريمون إيراهيم: أكاذيب التقية المنهكة
Raymond Ibrahim/FrontPage Magazine/April 27/18
Attempts to whitewash the Islamic doctrine of taqiyya are becoming redundantly desperate.
Consider BuzzFeed’s recent, “‘Taqiyya’: How An Obscure Islamic Concept Became An Obsession Of Anti-Muslim Activists.” It offers the same claims and defenses that have been repeatedly discredited.
After quoting Ezra Levant, founder of The Rebel Media, saying that taqiyya “means deliberate deception of infidels, to promote an Islamic goal,” BuzzFeed proceeds: “Levant was referencing a false interpretation of an obscure Islamic doctrine that has become a bedrock belief among anti-Muslim writers and activists, alt-right trolls, and even by current Trump cabinet member and former presidential candidate Ben Carson.”
Next comes the ad nauseam defense:
Mohammad Fadel, an expert on Islamic law at the University of Toronto, described taqiyya (and its many alternative spellings) as “a doctrine of prudential dissimulation” that arose from a time when Muslims were minorities in hostile societies. … “The Qur’an permitted Muslims in that situation, who were fleeing death or torture or other bad treatment, to dissemble about their true beliefs. And as long as they were faithful in their hearts, they would not be considered sinful,” Fadel told BuzzFeed News. But this idea has mushroomed, Fadel said, into a false claim that Muslims are permitted, or even commanded, to lie to non-Muslims as part of a larger project to take over Western countries and impose Sharia, or Islamic law. He said taqiyya does not allow for broad deceptions and has no connection to Sharia.
The irony here is that well over four years ago, I was involved with Ezra Levant and Mohammad Fadel in a Canadian court case revolving around the meaning of taqiyya. Then, Khurrum Awan, a lawyer, was suing Levant for defamation and $100,000, after the latter had accused him of engaging in taqiyya. (Last heard, Awan was suing his 77-year-old neighbor, a Catholic grandma, for having a “large Christian cross” in her backyard.)
During the court case, Mohammad Fadel, BuzzFeed’s go-to expert, had provided an expert report on behalf of Awan on the nature of taqiyya, making every conceivable apologia for the Muslim doctrine. He concluded his report as follows:
In no case, as far as I know, have Muslim theologians taken the position that it is generally permissible, much less obligatory, for Muslims to lie to non-Muslims, whether in matters regarding religious belief or secular practices… Although it has become a staple of right-wing Islamophobia in North America, there is no doctrinal basis in authentic Islamic teachings to support the claim, made by Ezra Levant and others … that taqiyya is anything other than an exceptional doctrine justified under circumstances of extreme duress that are simply inapplicable to Muslims living in Canada and the United States.
In response, Levant had asked me (back in 2013) to write an expert report on taqiyya, including by responding to Fadel’s claims. I did, including by closely parsing and responding to every point made by Fadel, and reached the following conclusion:
Deception—known under the broad term taqiyya—is permissible in Islam, above and beyond the limited issue of self-preservation. This assertion is not “Islamophobic”; it is true. From a legalistic point of view, and as seen especially via the concept of tawriya, as long as deceptions are technically true (“I don’t have a penny in my pocket,” only dollars), they are not even considered lies. The prophet of Islam, Muhammad—the example that Sunni Muslims especially pattern their lives after—regularly made use of deceit. In order to assassinate a poet (Ka‘b ibn Ashraf) who offended him, Muhammad permitted a Muslim to lie to the poet. Muhammad is further on record giving license to breaking oaths (“if something better” comes along) and openly lying (without even employing tawriya) to one’s wife and in war. As for the latter, which assumes a perpetual nature in the guise of the jihad against the non-Muslim in order to make Islam (and Muslims) supreme (e.g., Qur’an 8:39), deception and lies are certainly permissible.
My response apparently had the desired effect; as Levant put it in an email to me, “after receiving the report, he [Awan/plaintiff] decided to cancel calling his own expert witness [Fadel]—who happens to be a Muslim Brotherhood sympathizer. After reading your rebuttal, he decided he would rather not engage in that debate.”
And yet here again is Fadel making and BuzzFeed citing the same indefensible claims about taqiyya.
Which leads to the ultimate point of this post: to expose all the claims taqiyya’s apologists make—Fadel left no stone unturned in his attempt to whitewash the term—and how to respond them: Click on my April 12, 2014 article, “Taqiyya about Taqiyya,” where I methodically address, including by citing sources, every one of Fadel’s apologias.

France prioritizing business over peace with Iran deals
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh/Arab News/April 27/18
The international community is watching closely as the deadline approaches for US President Donald Trump to announce his decision on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), commonly known as the Iran nuclear deal. Some members of the P5+1 are pressuring the Trump administration not to scrap the nuclear agreement. Prominently, President Emmanuel Macron of France has been investing his political capital to lobby for Iran by convincing Trump that he ought to stick with the deal. Macron even made a trip to the White House to accomplish his mission.
Without a doubt, the Iranian leaders have been happy with, and welcome, any lobbying activities on behalf of Tehran. For example, Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif seized the moment and immediately supported Macron’s position on the agreement. He tweeted: “President Macron is correct in saying there’s no ‘Plan B’ on JCPOA. It’s either all or nothing.”
The key question is: Why is France so forcefully lobbying to maintain the Iranian regime’s nuclear deal? When the nuances of the economic landscape are examined closely, it becomes evident and understandable. The nuclear deal continues to bring the Iranian regime out of economic isolation and open up its huge untapped market due to the lifting of major sanctions that were previously imposed by the UN Security Council.
This has been a vital development for France. Iran’s trade with France has increased significantly since the nuclear accord, which was struck in 2015. Tehran’s trade with Paris was approximately $3.18 billion during the period from January to October 2017 — a remarkable rise of nearly 112 percent compared to the same period the previous year. In 2016, trade between the two countries was nearly $2 billion, revealing a staggering increase of roughly 300 percent in comparison to 2015. And trade between them is expected to reach $4.8 billion in 2018, according to the head of Iran’s Chamber of Commerce.
There are three major industries that France and Iran have been profiting from. The first area is the energy sector. One of the most lucrative contracts agreed after the nuclear deal was signed involved the French oil corporation Total and was worth close to $4.8 billion. Total is investing in the development of an offshore gas field in the Gulf. The deal is critical for France because Total is reaping a 50 percent profit from this investment.
The second field is linked to the aircraft sector. The Iranian regime has signed an agreement with French airline manufacturer Airbus to take delivery of more than 100 aircraft. Iran Air has already received several Airbus jets and some turboprops. The deal will bring France significant revenue, as Iranian leaders have shown a willingness to pay about $25 billion for the order. Another French company is also in talks to sell 40 medium-haul aircraft to Iran.
Not every country is benefiting from Iran’s nuclear deal like France is. But Paris must be cautious that such a short-term policy may bring about significant repercussions and unintended negative consequences in the long term.
The third field is related to the transportation industry. Thanks to the nuclear deal, the French carmaker PSA Peugeot Citroen is on the path to again be the top auto-seller in Iran, as it was prior to the sanctions era. It has signed a contract with Tehran regime’s biggest carmakers — Iran Khodro and SAIPA — to open a plant that will produce nearly 200,000 vehicles a year.
Other French carmakers have also been rushing to reap profits. For instance, Renault has reached a deal with the Iranian regime’s Industrial Development and Renovation Organization to manufacture at least 150,000 vehicles a year.
The transportation sector is not limited to automakers, since France is expanding in other fields as well. It is facilitating trade between Tehran and other Asian countries through its shipping companies. France’s CMA CGM, one of the world’s largest container shipping groups, signed an agreement with the Iranian regime during President Hassan Rouhani’s visit to Paris in January. The firm is providing services from China to Iran.
In fact, based on the changes witnessed in the volume of trade before and after the nuclear deal, France has likely been the most proactive and engaged European nation when it comes to increasing its business with the Iranian regime.
In addition, France has been taking steps to protect itself by charting a new path, which will assist Paris in bypassing the US dollar and insulating France from US Congressional laws regarding dealings with Iran. The plan is to conduct transactions through a euro system of finance and credits with no links to or involvement of US entities. This will also shield France from potential US sanctions against the Tehran regime.
Such an advantageous business relationship between France and Iran may also explain the reasons behind the improving diplomatic ties between the two countries. French ministers have visited Tehran three times since the nuclear agreement was signed, while the Iranian president’s first trip abroad after sanctions were lifted saw him visit Paris.
Not every country is benefiting from Iran’s nuclear deal like France is. By lobbying for the agreement, France is more likely prioritizing its business deals with the Iranian regime over regional stability, security and peace. It must be cautious that such a short-term policy may bring about significant repercussions and unintended negative consequences in the long term.
• Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated Iranian-American political scientist. He is a leading expert on Iran and US foreign policy, a businessman and president of the International American Council. He serves on the boards of the Harvard International Review, the Harvard International Relations Council and the US-Middle East Chamber for Commerce and Business.
Twitter: @Dr_Rafizadeh