April 29/2018
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani


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Bible Quotations
If we are being afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation

Second Letter to the Corinthians 01/01-07: “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, To the church of God that is in Corinth, including all the saints throughout Achaia: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all consolation, who consoles us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to console those who are in any affliction with the consolation with which we ourselves are consoled by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are abundant for us, so also our consolation is abundant through Christ. If we are being afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation; if we are being consoled, it is for your consolation, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we are also suffering. Our hope for you is unshaken; for we know that as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our consolation.”

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on April 28-29/18
Opinion How Hezbollah Will Use Foreign Fighters to Conquer Lebanon/David Daoud/Haaretz/April 28/18
Europe: Safeguard Values or Disappear/Giulio Meotti/Gatestone Institute/April 28/18
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
The IDF's eyes on Syria: the new MMS system forewarning of Iranian retaliation/Yoav Zitun/Ynetnews/April 28/18
Trump, Macron and Merkel Have an Opportunity in Iran's Crisis/Eli Lake/Bloomberg View/April 28/18
The Logical Next Step for Europe's Integration/Ferdinando Giugliano/Bloomberg View/April 28/18

Titles For Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on April 28-29/18
EU Election Observers on Site for Historic Expat Vote
Second Round of Diaspora Vote Kicks off Around the World
Sami Gemayel Denies Vote Transfer Deals, Says Each Ballot Will Count
Aoun Protests Brussels Conference Statement on Refugees
First Phase of Lebanon’s Polls Kicks Off in 6 Arab States
Mashnouq: Voting Facilitated for Elderly, Persons with Disabilities
Jumblat Says Tense Rhetoric 'Must Stop'
Report: Complaints Reported as Lebanese Expats Cast Ballots
U.S. Says Won’t Interfere in Lebanese Expats Right to Vote
Palestinian Vies for Imaginary Seat in Lebanon Parliament
Berri Fires Back at Bassil, Says He 'Won't Remain Silent Anymore'

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on April 28-29/18
Canada to participate in initiative to counter North Korea’s maritime sanctions evasion
Merkel Supports Curbing Iran’s Nuclear Ambitions, Considers Deal Not Sufficient
Iran Says US 'Unqualified' to Play Role in Korean Detente
Saudi-Led Strike 'Kills Dozens' of Yemen Rebels in New Blow
US Secretary of State Arrives in Saudi Arabia
Arab Coalition: Saudi Arabia Downs 4 Houthi Missiles
Russia Stresses Political Solution to Resolve Syria Crisis
Western Countries Link Syria’s ‘Marshall Plan’ with Political Settlement
Palestinian Teen Succumbs to Injuries after Israeli Fire on Gaza Border
Egypt’s Sisi: Sinai Operation against Terrorists to End as Soon as Possible
Armenian Ruling Party Will Not Nominate Candidate for PM
Suicide Bomber Kills Army Officers in Somalia
Two ISIS Women Land in Germany after Release from Iraqi Prisons
Iraqi Shi’ite Blocs Await Sistani’s Final Stance from Elections
Libya: Sarraj Government Signs Security Agreements with US
Turkey Speaks of Move with US in Manbij
Latest Lebanese Related News published on April 28-29/18
EU Election Observers on Site for Historic Expat Vote Sunday 29th April 2018
As Lebanese expatriates in Europe head to the polls Sunday to participate for the first time from abroad in Lebanon’s parliamentary elections, EU Election Observation Mission personnel will join them to monitor the historic vote. Giving more than 82,000 registered Lebanese voters abroad the opportunity to take part in the elections was one of the key recommendations made by the EU EOM after the last parliamentary elections were held in 2009, deputy chief observer Jose Antonio De Gabriel told The Daily Star in a recent interview.
The expat vote started in six countries in the Arab world Friday and will continue on the 29th in Europe, Australia and the U.S., among others. Election Day in Lebanon is May 6. “For the first time in the EU missions, we are going to observe the out-of-country voting. Why? We think it’s very important,” De Gabriel said. “As controversial as [the expat vote] is ... we cannot forget the fact that there is a huge Lebanese diaspora which has not cut links with the country ... so they are an important force,” De Gabriel noted.

Second Round of Diaspora Vote Kicks off Around the World Sunday 29th April 2018
The second round of the expats vote has kicked off, as 70,355 Lebanese nationals in Europe, Australia, Africa and the Americas will cast their ballots exactly one week before polls open at home in the general elections.
It is the first time that Lebanese nationals are allowed to vote from abroad. 82,970 expats registered to vote in Lebanese embassies and consulates in 40 countries around the world. They make up 2.2% of the total number of eligible voters in the first parliamentary elections in nine years.
The first polls opened in Australia on Saturday midnight Beirut time, and the voting round will last until Monday, when polling stations on the West Coast of the United States close.
Polling stations will be open between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. local time in each country.
Below are the countries where polling stations have been established and the number of registered expats in each:
- Australia: 11,826
- Canada: 11,443
- United States: 9,999
- Germany: 8,357
- France: 8,342
- Cote D'Ivoire: 2,345
- Brazil: 2,113
- Sweden: 1,910
- United Kingdom: 1,824
- Venezuela: 1,497
- Nigeria: 1,263
- Belgium: 1,053
- Paraguay: 924
- Switzerland: 889
- Italy: 729
- Guinea: 439
- Senegal: 400
- Argentina: 392
- Spain: 376
- Ghana: 375
- Mexico: 351
- Congo: 341
- Colombia: 325
- South Africa: 312
- Armenia: 311
- Guadeloupe: 276
- Romania: 270
- Sierra Leone: 260
- Greece: 256
- Gabon: 251
- Denmark: 250
- Netherlands: 228
- Benin: 217
- Liberia: 211
Observers from the EU Observation Mission (EOM) will be monitoring the electoral process abroad in 10 European countries.
"For the first time in the EU missions, we are going to observe the out-of-country voting. Why? We think it’s very important,” Jose Antonio De Gabriel, deputy chief observer of the EOM, told The Daily Star newspaper.
"What I can tell you is that we will be extremely careful in the observation in the packaging procedures of the envelopes where they’re carried, where the votes are transported, because there are a series of safeguards that have to be implemented in order to minimize or to avoid the risk of manipulation during the transport [from the overseas polling station to Lebanon,” he added.
Expats in six Arab countries already voted on Friday, with a voter turnout that reached 65.7 percent.
Below is a breakdown of the number of registered expat voters according to sects and electoral districts:
- Christians: 44,504 voters
28,524 Maronites
7,613 Greek Orthodox
4,998 Roman Catholic
2,166 Armenian Orthodox
396 Armenian Catholic
807 Syriac
780 Other sects
- Muslims: 37,441 voters
19,100 Shiites
13,724 Sunnis
4,617 Druze
245 Other sects
Bekaa: 8,272 voters
South Lebanon: 10,458 voters
North Lebanon: 17,207 voters
Nabatiyeh: 8,739 voters
Baalbeck-Hermel: 2,874 voters
Beirut: 10,401 voters
Mount Lebanon: 21,325 voters
Akkar: 3,694 voters
According to the new electoral law, polling boxes will be sealed with red wax before being shipped to Lebanon via DHL. They will be kept at the Central Bank and opened once the elections end in Lebanon on May 6.
An operations room was established at the Foreign Ministry, with giant screens broadcasting live from each of the polling stations in each country.
The Ministry has also set up a hotline for expat voters who can contact the following three numbers, either through regular calls or over WhatsApp:

Sami Gemayel Denies Vote Transfer Deals, Says Each Ballot Will Count 29th April 2018
Kataeb leader Samy Gemayel on Saturday urged voters to help the party carry on its fight against corruption and achieve the change that everyone is aspiring for, vowing to pursue the dream of a better country.
"We fought and won several battles because we are armed with the truth. We need you to stand by our side to achieve a greater victory on May 6," Gemayel said in an address to the Lebanese at home and abroad, eight days before the first general elections in nine years.
"It is time that you make it clear to all politicians that they cannot evade accountability," he stressed in an interview on MTV. "I hope that you will make the right choice."
"You know the truth as you have seen our performance throughout the past nine years. You know that we refused to be part of the political settlement that has been governing the country over the past two years. We have always counted on you, not on power and posts."
"We will carry on with the same momentum as we will not let go of our dream of a better Lebanon," Gemayel vowed, stressing the need for politicians who don't fear to speak the truth.
"We will cooperate with anyone who shares with us the same aspirations, and work hand in hand to establish a transparent political life in Lebanon and to introduce a political performance that is different from the one we have witnessed over the past years."
Gemayel renewed his call for a public debate with the heads of political parties, saying he's ready to address all issues with them and put forth all the solutions that he has for the country's problems.
Gemayel deemed the parliamentary elections as crucial as they will determine the way the country will be governed over the next four years, saying that they will allow the Lebanese to make their judgment after 9 years and to seek a better future.
“I ask the Lebanese to vote with a clear conscience, away from blind political affiliations and all forms of pressure,” Gemayel said.
“The voters must base their choice on their assessment of the performance of each political party throughout the past years. I hope that the Lebanese would grant us their trust if they found our performance and stances to be convincing so far,” he added.
The Kataeb chief stressed that the party has managed to introduce a new approach in Lebanon's political life by making a difference with just five lawmakers, saying that the country needs a new pulse and free lawmakers who do not accept any settlement that jeopardizes the country.
Gemayel noted that the Kataeb party has chosen to isolate itself alongside the people given that there is a wide rift between the Lebanese and the ruling authority, stressing that its goal is to get as many free and honorable people into the Parliament.
Gemayel pointed out that some of the political forces which got involved in the settlement that preceded the presidential election are now disappointment as they ended up being excluded from the deal, adding that the party is not part of the current government because it simply refused to be part of the deal.
"We won't ever accept anything that puts the country at stake,” he affirmed.
“The problem is that the ruling authority is dealing with all issues based on a reckless and irresponsible approach; the waste crisis is a clear example."
The Kataeb chief stressed that the party's presence in the executive authority would be effective if there are political partners that they can work with, saying that, otherwise, its presence would be worthless given that it will get isolated.
“The scandals we have uncovered so far would have toppled a government in any other developed and civilized country,” he said, taking pride in the achievements accomplished by the Kataeb party in terms of thwarting the dubious power barges project and suspending the Article 49 of the budget law.
“One minister told me that the government is now thinking twice before making any decision in anticipation of the opposition's reaction,” he said.
“Our political rivals are hoping that the size of the Kataeb's political bloc would diminish following the elections. It is up to the Lebanese to decide on that,” he noted. “I believe that each Lebanese citizen has the right to hold politicians to account.”
Gemayel affirmed that all the candidates who are running on the Kataeb's electoral lists have pledged to commit to the party's 131-point platform, saying that the Kataeb’s electoral alliances do not contradict with any of the party's constants and viewpoints.
“We have set out a joint political agreement with our electoral partners so as to determine the guidelines based on which we are allying,” he said. "The party has selected its candidates based on three main criteria: competence, ethics, and commitment to the Kataeb's anti-corruption fight as well as the struggle for Lebanon's sovereignty."
“We suggested to the Lebanese Forces that we form an opposition front and run together in all districts nationwide. However, the LF party chose to stick to its alliance with the Future Movement in certain districts and to keep its centrist alignment,” he noted.
Gemayel cautioned against rumors aimed at undermining the Kataeb's winning chances in Metn and Batroun, stressing that each vote will count on May 6.
"Beware of the rumors saying that my win is guaranteed and that there's no need to vote for the list that I am part of. This is part of a malicious campaign aimed at preventing people from voting to the 'Pulse of Metn' list,” he warned.
“Vote for the 'Pulse of Metn' list so as to raise its electoral quotient and, therefore, help it win as much seats as possible,” he added addressing the voters in Metn.
Gemayel also refuted claims that there is an agreement to transfer the Kataeb's preferential votes to the Lebanese Forces party's candidate in Batroun, demanding an official and public stance denying these allegations.
"I hope that the Lebanese Forces party would openly deny claims that the Kataeb's preferential votes would go for the LF candidate Fadi Saad in Batroun; these are destructive rumors,” he pointed out.
Gemayel criticized the flaws that marred the first round of the diaspora vote on Friday, deeming the failure to transfer the ballot boxes on the same day as "shameful".
On another note, the Kataeb leader deemed the Article 49 of the 2018 budget law as "dangerous" as it paves way for naturalization, saying that he was relieved by the Constitutional Council's decision to suspend the clause.
“We proved that five lawmakers can achieve a lot of things,” he said.
“The real question we are asking regarding the Article 49 is the following: how did the parliamentary blocs approve said clause?" he wondered. "They either didn't read it or turned a blind eye to it."
“No one, even the President of the Republic, agrees with MP Ibrahim Kanaan on his stance regarding this article. I was surprised to hear the Free Patriotic Movement ministers defending this budget clause.”
Gemayel stressed that the statement issued following the Brussels Conference is a global version of the Article 49 which allows Syrian refugees to settle in Lebanon, saying that his problem is not with the acquisition of real estate by foreigners, but rather with granting a permanent residency to the Syrians who would eventually stay in Lebanon and never return to their country.
“Instead of making it easier for the Lebanese youth to acquire properties in their country, the ruling authority has decided to grant more facilities to foreign nationals, notably Syrian refugees,” he said.
Aoun Protests Brussels Conference Statement on Refugees
Beirut - Nazeer Rida/Asharq Al Awsat/April 28/18
Lebanese President Michel Aoun has underlined “Lebanon’s rejection of several expressions included in the statement issued jointly by the United Nations and the European Union following the Brussels Conference.” “Those expressions are ambiguous and they contradict the directions of the Lebanese State, which holds onto the safe return of the displaced Syrians to their country, especially to the war-free and secure zones,” Aoun said on Friday. A joint statement by the UN and the EU during the international conference held in Brussels under the title, “Support for the Future of Syria and the Region”, sparked a wave of protests in Lebanon, as it included expressions such as “voluntary return”, “temporary return”, “the will to stay” and “the engagement in the labor market”. The Lebanese president said that such statements were contrary to the country’s sovereignty and laws. “Lebanon, as it highly values the UN and EU efforts in helping the country in many fields, was taken aback by their statement in terms of providing job opportunities for the displaced,” Aoun said, during his meeting with British Ambassador Hugo Shorter. The UN and EU local missions in Lebanon said in a joint statement Friday that there has been no change in their position on Syrian refugees in Lebanon. The missions stressed that the European Union and the United Nations “consider the presence of Syrian refugees in Lebanon as temporary,” pointing out that the “solutions sought for refugees are outside Lebanon,” and that participation in the labor market “can be done exclusively in accordance with the Lebanese law.” In remarks to Asharq Al-Awsat, Lebanese Minister of State for the Displaced Moeen al-Merehbi said that there has been a misunderstanding on Article 16 of the statement, which “is only related to the Syrian internal situation and not to Lebanon.”
Article 16 of the Declaration of the Co-Chairmen of the Conference stated that the conference noted particular concerns over the escalation of the fighting and the tragic humanitarian situation facing civilians in many areas of Syria. With regards to the controversial article, the EU mission in Lebanon stated that this clause concerns the situation of the population affected by the conflict inside Syria and was not linked to Lebanon and the refugees. Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil said on Thursday that what happened at the Brussels conference could not be tolerated, and called on the international community “to stop encouraging the Syrians to stay in Lebanon and not to return to Syria.”Merehbi responded to Bassil’s remarks, stressing that the foreign minister “tried to promote fallacies.” “Two documents were presented in Brussels, one of which has nothing to do with Lebanon, and the second is linked to the partnership between the Lebanese government, the European Union and the United Nations,” Merehbi said.
First Phase of Lebanon’s Polls Kicks Off in 6 Arab States
Beirut - Paula Astih/Asharq Al-Awsat/Saturday, 28 April, 2018/Thousands of Lebanese expats cast on Friday their votes in 6 Arab states for the first time in the history of parliamentary elections, based on a new proportional representation law allowing some 82,000 registered expatriates to vote in 39 countries. A second phase of voting will be held on Sunday in 33 countries, in addition to the island of Guadeloupe. The voting begins 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. By 6:00 pm on Friday, more than 6,000 out of 12,611 registered Lebanese expatriates had voted in six Arab countries: Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar and the Sultanate of Oman. About 70,000 Lebanese are registered to vote on Sunday in other countries. The voter turnout of the Lebanese expats in Arab countries reached some 54.4 percent, with the highest attendance scored in Muscat (70 percent), the National News Agency correspondent reported on Friday. On Friday, during an inspection tour at the Foreign Ministry in Beirut to closely follow up on the expats' vote, President Michel Aoun said: "I believe that what happened today is honorable, and I congratulate those who worked on giving the expatriates their voice.”In the May 6 polls, 917 candidates are running on 77 lists. For his part, Lebanese Forces party leader Samir Geagea said: "We are proud of the expat vote. It is the fruit of a 10-year struggle.”Dozens of local and foreign media outlets covered the Election Day on Friday from the Foreign Ministry in Beirut and the 6 Arab countries where Lebanese cast their votes. Omar Kabboul, the executive director of the Lebanese Association for Democratic Elections (LADE), told Ashraq Al-Awsat on Friday that some violations were registered during the voting process. Kabboul said the most important violations were committed by local media outlets that did not stop the electoral publicity 43 hours before the start of elections on Friday.

Mashnouq: Voting Facilitated for Elderly, Persons with Disabilities
Naharnet/April 29/18/Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq said several steps have been taken to ensure and facilitate the voting process for people with special needs, adding that measures have been taken against a committee that failed to fulfill tasks entrusted to it in that regard, the National News Agency reported on Saturday. “Administrative measures have been taken against a committee, tasked with facilitating the voting process for people with special needs, for failing to fulfill its tasks,” said Mashnouq. He announced that the voting process for elderly individuals and people with disabilities will be facilitated on May 6. "Quick solutions were developed. First, is to secure some polling stations on the ground floor. Second, to provide assistance from the civil defense elements in all centers. Third, is to allow a person from the same electoral district to provide assistance to the blind to be able to vote. Fourth, is to allow the cars of the elderly, people with disabilities and the blind to enter the campus of the polling stations,” said the interior minister.
Lebanon will stage its legislative elections in May, the first in nine years, based on a complex representation system.

Jumblat Says Tense Rhetoric 'Must Stop'
Naharnet/April 29/18/Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat described the Lebanese expats voting as “good”, as he urged political parties running in the upcoming May parliamentary elections to stop “tense rhetoric,” al-Joumhouria daily reported on Saturday. On Lebanese expats voting, which took place in six Arab countries on Friday, Jumblat said: “It’s a good indicator because in the end these expats have come to be able to cast their votes.” Jumblat expressed resentment with what he described as “tense rhetoric” between the competing political parties and parliamentary hopefuls, as the country braces for its legislative elections on May 6. “It is only spreading tension in the country on the eve of the elections. I hope this is put to an end after the elections, and after the formation of a new government. Unification of the country is a shared responsibility of all,” he added.
Regarding suggestions calling on all parties to engage in constructive dialogue after the elections, Jumblat said: “I have always preached for dialogue. It is the only way for any solution. Ending these (tense) atmospheres is much needed.”

Report: Complaints Reported as Lebanese Expats Cast Ballots
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 29/18/In spite of the announcements made by the “state authority” that the expat vote in Arab countries “passed smoothly” on Friday, but some “complaints” have been reported by Lebanese expats registered to take part in these elections, al-Joumhouria daily reported on Saturday. Political sources following up closely on the elections, listed some of the complaints saying names of some Lebanese who have registered to take part in the electoral process “were not included on the voters lists, and some were written by hand contrary to the law.”The sources also alleged that some voters “of specific political orientation” were “intimidated.”“More than 30 Lebanese nationals descending from an unspecified area in South Lebanon were prevented from casting their votes. They were told their names are blacklisted,” the sources told the daily. These reports have raised “condemnation” of some circles, who said “it would put the elections results in a circle of suspicion.”“We were first anxious about how the ballot boxes are going to be flown to Lebanon from various Arab capitals. We have warned it would not be safe because it can not be protected on the plane. Adding to that concern, we are now afraid of pressure on voters,” said the sources. Expatriates kicked off Lebanon's parliamentary polls by voting abroad on Friday, a first for the small country's huge diaspora. The 12,611 Lebanese voters registered in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman and Egypt will be the first to cast ballots for the 128 seats in Lebanon's parliament. The overall voter turnout was at 48.11% at 5:25 pm Beirut time according to the National News Agency. Several electoral violations were reported. 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. In Oman's Muscat, “a security camera was present behind the voting booth,” the LADE monitor said. LBCI television meanwhile reported that in Dubai, some voters objected after their ballot envelopes were not sealed.

U.S. Says Won’t Interfere in Lebanese Expats Right to Vote
Naharnet/April 29/18/As Lebanon gears for its second day of Lebanese expats voting on Sunday, the United States’ foreign ministry said the US “will not interfere in the right of Lebanese to vote,” MTV reported Saturday. “The US administration will not interfere in the Lebanese right to vote,” a US source from the US foreign ministry told the television station on condition of anonymity. MTV added that around 10,000 Lebanese expats are set to cast their votes on Sunday. On the other hand, Lebanon's Ambassador to Brazil told MTV that “preparations for the electoral process are complete. No logistic problems have been encountered, except that some passports did not arrive on time.” Expatriates will kick off the second day of Lebanon's parliamentary polls by voting abroad on Sunday, a first for the small country's huge diaspora. Expats voting took place Friday in six Arab countries including Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman and Egypt. The overall voter turnout was at 48.11% at 5:25 pm Beirut time according to the National News Agency. Voters elsewhere in the world will vote on Sunday, a week before the May 6 polling in Lebanon, which has not renewed its parliament since 2009.

Palestinian Vies for Imaginary Seat in Lebanon Parliament
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 29/18/ She has been criss-crossing her native Lebanon ahead of May 6 elections but the parliament seat she wants does not exist and she is not even eligible. Manal Kortam is a Palestinian refugee. Tens of thousands of Palestinians have lived in refugee camps across the small Middle Eastern country for decades, facing tough living conditions and barred from certain jobs. But in a country of just four million where each religious community is allocated seats in the legislative chamber, there are none for Palestinians.
In the run-up to Lebanon's first parliamentary polls in almost a decade, Kortam saw an opportunity to stand up for her Palestinian community by launching a symbolic campaign. "Somebody needed to say: 'There are people who have been in this country for 70 years but who have no place at all in public politics'," she told AFP during a visit this week to the Mar Elias camp in Beirut. "All candidates have programmes that speak of social justice and democracy," she said, dressed in a slick pair of chequered trousers and black jacket, a piercing in her eyebrow. "Implementing social justice is very important -- but not just for nationals, for all Lebanon residents," the 40-year-old from the northern city of Tripoli said. - 'We exist' -Palestinians began taking refuge in Lebanon with the creation of Israel in 1948, setting up camps that have since transformed into bustling, urban districts.
Around 174,000 Palestinian refugees live in 12 camps across the country, a one-off government census said last year. That figure was much lower than previous estimates of up to 500,000, in a country where demographics have long been a sensitive subject. The presence of Palestinians has been controversial, with many blaming them for the eruption of Lebanon's 1975-1990 civil war. "We exist," Kortam has often repeated as a hashtag on social media and slogan on her tours of Lebanon's Palestinian refugee camps. On Facebook, she poses in a series of posters that subvert the slogans of well-known political parties to draw attention to the Palestinian cause. "The pulse of the isolated people," goes one, adding an adjective to a slogan of the Kataeb (Phalange) party. Palestinians in Lebanon face a raft of restrictions from the state.
They are banned from practising a number of professions -- including those of doctor, lawyer and engineer -- and cannot buy a home outside the camps.
'Social, economic rights' -Kortam was born in Lebanon to a Palestinian father and Lebanese mother. But she does not have citizenship -- a result of a century-old law that bars women from passing on nationality, meaning that the children of Palestinian men and their Lebanese wives do not have the rights of a citizen.
The law was maintained over fears of upsetting the country's delicate sectarian balance. "I'm demanding civil, social, economic rights for Palestinian refugees," Kortam said. These include "the right to all jobs, the right to social security... and the right to own property", she said. The Palestinian camps in Lebanon are built-up and fully integrated in the urban fabric but the army is banned from going in and crime has festered. "Palestinian camps should not be isolated" from their surrounding communities but included in Lebanon's development as a whole, Kortam said.
Only "this way can we build a Palestinian... society able to liberate its land and return to it", Kortam said.Some 597 candidates are running for a seat in Lebanon's parliament, but only a few dozen have pledged to uphold human rights including refugee rights, Human Rights Watch said Thursday. Just 27 candidates and some parties running in the polls have made public commitments to strengthen human rights protections, the New York-based watchdog said. "It is deeply disappointing that none of the parties in Lebanon's current government saw fit to make strong commitments to human rights," HRW's Lama Fakih said. Kortam said she knows her task is not easy, but she had received great feedback so far. "Whether they support or oppose the campaign, just the fact that people interact with it is great," she said. "It's an awareness-raising campaign and it's normal that it raises a lot of questions."
Berri Fires Back at Bassil, Says He 'Won't Remain Silent Anymore' 28th April 2018/Shortly after Free Patriotic Movement chief Gebran Bassil stated that no one can prevent him from expressing his opinion and that "corruption and the Resistance cannot go hand in hand" during his visit to Maghdoushe on Saturday, Speaker Nabih Berri fired back at him, warning of those who are trying to dash Lebanon's message. "Some are trying to fool people. We echo President Michel Aoun's call for the Lebanese to disown and reject anyone who stirs up sectarianism and fanatism because he is tampering with the nation's stability," Berri stated in an electoral rally in Tyre. "Are the people around this person, whether they are close or distant, listening what is being said?""We want to save the country from sectarian and fake prophets who consider the nation to be a source of personal interests and a platform to partition spoils." "I kept silent for so long. Now, it is time for me not to remain silence anymore," he said. Berri stressed full commitment to the Constitution's preamble which clearly states that Lebanon is the final homeland of its people, affirming that he won't allow any naturalization scheme being introduced as a political pre-condition in international support conferences. "We will continue to support the right of the Palestinians and Syrians to return to their countries," he said.

Opinion How Hezbollah Will Use Foreign Fighters to Conquer Lebanon
ديفيد داوود/هآرتس/كيف سيستخدم حزب الله المقاتلين الأجانب لغزو لبنان
David Daoud/Haaretz/April 28/18
Hezbollah has promised that 'thousands' of foreign Shi'ite fighters will deploy to Lebanon to fight Israel in a next war. And they'll use conflict as cover to bring them into Lebanon – and they won't leave.
Tensions remain high between Israel and Iran. Tehran vows to avenge an Israeli strike killing its soldiers in Syria; Jerusalem intends to respond disproportionately to any Iranian retaliation. In the event of a direct clash leading to a larger conflagration, Hezbollah will join in and seize the opportunity to bring foreign Shi’ite fighters into Lebanon. Yet rather than using these reinforcements to defeat Israel’s army, it may be planning to entrench them in Lebanon, in effect conquering parts of the country, after a quick cease-fire ends its hostilities with Israel.
Hezbollah declared its goal of bringing Shi’ite militants to Lebanon in 2017. Hassan Nasrallah promised that “thousands, even hundreds of thousands of fighters from ... Iraq, Yemen, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan,” would battle Israel in Lebanon alongside his foot soldiers. Yemen’s Abdul-Malek al-Houthi was the first Shi’ite militia leader to pledge his fighters (and recently reiterated his promise). Others soon followed, including Sheikh Akram al-Kaabi, whose Iraqi Shi’ite al-Nujaba militia formed a “Golan Liberation Brigade” in March 2017.
Nasrallah’s threat is neither a bluff nor far-fetched. On Iran’s orders, thousands of foreign Shi’ite fighters converged on Syria to prop up the regime. Iran’s proxy militias in Iraq are fighting as a unified force, and Hezbollah and Iraqi Shi’ite fighters have deployed to Yemen to aid the Houthis. Hezbollah and Iran’s proxies could conceivably do this in Lebanon.
Nor will it be hard to bring in the fighters. Hezbollah smuggled Iranian Revolutionary Guards and Iraqi Shi’ite gunmen into south Lebanon during the 2006 war. It has spent the past few years turning Syria into a staging ground to bring in more. Hezbollah began uniting the Golan Heights and south Lebanon into a single front in early 2015. A year later it nearly completed arms smuggling tunnels linking Syria’s Zabadani to its Bekaa stronghold. Hezbollah could easily use these tunnels to move gunmen. If rumors of its training Houthi militants in the Bekaa are true, then it may already be doing so.
But Israel may not be the ultimate target. If Hezbollah’s goal remains merely surviving the next war to claim victory, these reinforcements are unnecessary. Nor could Hezbollah be planning to defeat Israel in the classic sense with these fighters. Mere numbers — even the combined forces of the Iran-led “Resistance Axis” — cannot balance the group’s military odds against Israel. Instead, Hezbollah may have a more vulnerable target in mind: war-battered Lebanon.
Israel has promised that its future conflict with Hezbollah will be a “war to end all wars,” and that it won’t spare Lebanon’s army or infrastructure. Hezbollah will likely focus on survival, leaving Lebanon and its civilians to bear the brunt of the Israeli onslaught. As Lebanon’s death toll and damages mount, without a commensurate impact on Hezbollah, international support for Israel will quickly erode. The world — particularly Saudi Arabia and France, which recently invested billions in Lebanon’s army and infrastructure — will move to bring the war to a hasty end with a UN Security Council cease-fire.
But once the dust settles, Lebanon won’t revert to the status quo ante bellum. Iran’s proxy militias won’t willingly leave, and judging by past performance the Lebanese army and the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon will be unwilling, or unable, to eject them. Dislodging thousands of Shi’ite fighters from various parts of Lebanon may even prove too daunting a task for the Israelis, even if they think it worth violating the cease-fire to do so. And so these foreign fighters will entrench in Lebanon, as they have in Iraq and Syria, multiplying Hezbollah’s numerical strength and allowing it to solidify its control over whole parts of the country. This will make Israel’s northern border exponentially more dangerous after the war than it was at its outset.
Israel needs time to defeat Hezbollah. To buy time, it must fight a smart, surgical war that spares Lebanon’s institutions and civilians. It must also demonstrably damage Hezbollah and immediately cut the smuggling routes of its Shi’ite militia allies. If Israel delivers, the international community will delay a cease-fire, allowing its campaign to continue until it achieves decisive victory. Failure, however, will let Hezbollah not only live to fight another day but also lay the groundwork for one of Israel’s greatest fears: an Iranian base on its northern border, setting the stage for an even more costly “Fourth Lebanon War.”
**David Daoud is a research analyst on Hezbollah and Lebanon at United Against Nuclear Iran.

Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on April 28-29/18
Canada to participate in initiative to counter North Korea’s maritime sanctions evasion
April 28, 2018 - Ottawa, Ontario - Global Affairs Canada
The Honourable Chrystia Freeland, Minister of Foreign Affairs, and the Honourable Harjit S. Sajjan, Minister of National Defence, today issued the following statement:
“Canada is committed to peace and security on the Korean Peninsula and believes that a diplomatic solution to the North Korea crisis is essential and possible. We welcome recent statements by North Korea announcing a reported suspension of nuclear tests and intercontinental ballistic missile launches.
“We fully support the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) sanctions regime that exerts pressure on North Korea to change course and abandon its weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programs completely, verifiably and irreversibly.
“To that end, the Government of Canada is today announcing its participation in an initiative to counter North Korea’s maritime smuggling, in particular its use of ship-to-ship transfers, in contravention of UNSC resolutions. Canada has deployed a Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) maritime patrol aircraft in the region to assist in this effort, in addition to assets being provided by the United States and the United Kingdom.
“Canada’s participation in this coordinated effort is a demonstration of the international solidarity in support of peace and security on the Korean Peninsula.”
Quick facts
During the January 2018 Vancouver Foreign Ministers’ Meeting on Security and Stability on the Korean Peninsula, Canada and other partners committed to:
work collectively and closely together, with partners in the region and globally, to ensure effective implementation of UNSC sanctions on North Korea;
share information with partners and with the UN Panel of Experts responsible for sanctions related to North Korea, in order to combat sanctions evasion; and
counter North Korea’s maritime smuggling in accordance with relevant UNSC resolutions.
The CAF have deployed a maritime patrol aircraft and approximately 40 personnel, based in Kadena, Japan, in support of this effort.
Merkel Supports Curbing Iran’s Nuclear Ambitions, Considers Deal Not Sufficient
Washington - Heba El Koudsy/Asharq Al-Awsat/Saturday, 28 April, 2018/After US President Donald Trump convinced last week his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron to question the merits of a nuclear deal signed in 2015 with Iran, it was the turn of German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday to consider the pact “not sufficient” to curb Tehran’s nuclear ambitions. Standing alongside Trump at the White House, Merkel told reporters that the so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, signed by Tehran and six world powers including Germany and the US, is “a first step that has contributed to slowing down their activities in this particular respect.” However, she stated: “We also think from a German perspective that this is not sufficient in order to see to it that Iran’s ambitions are curbed and contained.”The Chancellor, who returned to Washington after her meeting with Trump in March last year, said Europe and the US should be in lock step on this. According to Merkel, "it is most important to see that Iran, after all, is trying to insert a geopolitical influence" in Syria, Lebanon and Iraq. For his part, Trump said he discussed with Merkel "the Iranian regime that fuels violence, bloodshed and chaos all across the Middle East."Trump has threatened to tear up the 2015 agreement to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons in return for relief from international sanctions. The US President also discussed with his German guest ways to prevent Tehran from possessing nuclear weapons. He said the "murderous regime" in Iran must "not even get close to a nuclear weapon," and must end its proliferation of dangerous missiles and its support for terrorism. In Brussels, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned Friday that Trump was unlikely to remain in the nuclear pact if the accord goes unchanged. The US President also said he "may go" to Jerusalem next month to attend a ceremony celebrating the opening of the American embassy in the city.

Iran Says US 'Unqualified' to Play Role in Korean Detente

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 29/18/Iran on Saturday welcomed steps towards detente between North and South Korea but warned that the United States was unqualified to play a role since it did not "respect its commitments".The foreign ministry said the meeting between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and the South's President Moon Jae-in was "a responsible and effective step towards regional and global stability". But ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi said the "historic new page for detente on the Korean peninsula" should be worked out between the two principal parties, without the "interference of foreign countries". "Iran's experience over 40 years, in particular with regard to the nuclear deal, is that the American government is not a dignified, trustworthy actor and does not respect its international commitments," Ghasemi said in a statement. Iran signed a deal in 2015 with the United States and five other world powers, curbing its nuclear programme in exchange for sanctions relief. But Tehran argues the US has continued to block its trade with the outside world -- in breach of the deal -- and US President Donald Trump has threatened to abandon the agreement entirely when it comes up for renewal on May 12.
"As a result, (the US) is not qualified to play a role to determine the arrangements between countries, which has again been reinforced in recent years by Trump," Ghasemi said. The leaders of North and South Korea held a historic meeting along their border on Friday, vowing to pursue a peace treaty and the complete denuclearisation of their divided peninsula. In the coming weeks, Kim is due to hold a much-anticipated meeting with Trump, who has demanded Pyongyang give up its nuclear arsenal.

Saudi-Led Strike 'Kills Dozens' of Yemen Rebels in New Blow
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 29/18/A Saudi-led coalition air strike has killed dozens of Yemeni insurgents including two commanders, state media said Saturday, in another blow to the rebels following the assassination of their political chief. Yemen's Huthi rebels on Saturday staged a public funeral for Saleh al-Sammad, head of their Supreme Political Council and effectively the insurgents' second-in-command, who was killed last week in an air raid claimed by Saudi Arabia and its allies. His funeral came hours after Saudi Arabia's state-run Al-Ekhbariya television said two high-ranking insurgents were among more than 50 Huthis killed in a new strike overnight in the capital Sanaa. The rebels have been locked in a war since 2015 with a Saudi-led military alliance fighting to restore the internationally-recognised Yemeni government to power. Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya television said the strike had targeted the interior ministry in Sanaa, which is controlled by the rebels. The Huthis, backed by Saudi Arabia's regional arch-rival Iran, confirmed an overnight air strike on Sanaa but gave no details. The rebels, who hail from northern Yemen, control Sanaa and much of the country's north -- which borders Saudi Arabia -- and the key Hodeida port on the Red Sea coast. - Huthi missiles -Shortly after Sammad's funeral began, the Huthis said they had launched eight ballistic missiles into the Sunni kingdom. The coalition confirmed it had intercepted four missiles headed for the southern Saudi coastal city of Jizan, one day after the kingdom's defence forces said they had downed a missile headed for the same area. No casualties were reported in either incident. The rebels have ramped up their missile attacks on Saudi Arabia this year, although only one casualty has been reported.  Saturday's attacks came as newly-appointed US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was scheduled to land in Riyadh for meetings including talks on the Yemen conflict. Riyadh and its close ally Washington accuse Iran of arming the Huthis, which Iran denies. Tehran blames Saudi Arabia for the devastating Yemen war, which has seen millions struggle to secure food. In Sanaa, Huthi supporters lined the streets Saturday for the funeral of Sammad and six others killed in last Thursday's strike.  Rebels dressed in military fatigues marched ahead of his hearse, which included seven cars draped in the Yemeni flag and accompanied by a marching band. 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 Saudi-led coalition imposed a total blockade on Yemen's ports in November in retaliation for cross-border Huthi missile attacks on Saudi Arabia. The blockade has since been partially lifted, but access to the impoverished country remains limited.

US Secretary of State Arrives in Saudi Arabia
Asharq Al-Awsat/Saturday, 28 April, 2018/on Saturday, the first stop in a Mideast tour and his first trip abroad since his swearing-in on Thursday. Pompeo was met on the tarmac in Riyadh by a sizeable Saudi Arabian delegation, led by Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir and US Ambassador Khalid bin Salman. Besides Jubeir, he is scheduled to hold talks on Saturday with Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense. Prince Mohammed had last month embarked on an 18-day trip to the US where he met with President Donald Trump, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and several senior officials. Pompeo is due to travel to Jordan and Israel after Saudi Arabia.

Arab Coalition: Saudi Arabia Downs 4 Houthi Missiles

Asharq Al-Awsat/Saturday, 28 April, 2018/Saudi Arabia on Saturday inrcepted four ballistic missiles fired by Yemen’s Houthi militias, the Coalition to Restore Legitimacy in Yemen said. The missiles were headed towards the city of Jazan in southern Saudi Arabia, according to the Arab Coalition statement, which was carried by the state-run Saudi Press Agency (SPA). No casualties were reported, the statement added. Coalition spokesman Col. Turki al-Maliki reiterated that the attack proves Iran’s continued support to the Houthis in clear violation of UN resolutions. Saudi air defenses made a similar interception on Friday when Houthis filed a ballistic missile on the city of Najran in a deliberate act to target civilian and populated areas.

Russia Stresses Political Solution to Resolve Syria Crisis
Asharq Al-Awsat/Saturday, 28 April, 2018/Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stressed on Saturday on the need for Moscow, Ankara and Tehran to exert collective efforts for peace within the framework of the Astana talks to reach a solution to the Syrian conflict. He made his remarks after holding talks in Moscow with his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu and, later, Iran's Mohammad Javad Zarif. Russia, Turkey and Iran have been attempting to resolve the Syrian conflict at talks that started last year in Astana, Kazakhstan, in competition with a US and UN-backed Geneva initiative. Lavrov said the three countries "must help the Syrians finish cleansing their country of terrorists." Also on Saturday, Iran and Russia slammed Western strikes against the Syrian regime in response to its chemical attack on Douma on April 7. Lavrov said they "set back efforts to promote the political process" and Zarif criticized Washington's "destructive role." French President Emmanuel Macron this month suggested the air strikes had driven a wedge between Ankara and Moscow, prompting an angry denial from Cavusoglu. Alexander Shumilin, a Middle East expert at the Institute for US and Canadian Studies in Moscow, however, said the Douma fallout had "caused a crack in the alliance of three countries". Alexey Malashenko, a specialist in the Syria conflict, said the trio have a "very shaky" alliance and "there's no way they can reach an agreement" over the suspected chemical attack. The next Syria talks in Astana are meanwhile set for May 14. Eight rounds of talks under United Nations auspices in Geneva have made little headway, with the Syrian regime showing little interest.

Western Countries Link Syria’s ‘Marshall Plan’ with Political Settlement
New York - Ali Barada/Saturday, 28 April, 2018/Western contributions in Syria will remain limited to humanitarian efforts, diplomats said, stressing that there won’t be further aid unless Syria goes through political transition and holds elections resulting in regime change. In remarks to Asharq Al-Awsat, the Western diplomats also expressed strong belief in Iran’s influence having a greater toll than that of Russia’s on Bashar Assad. Western countries “will not contribute to supporting infrastructure reconstruction and long-term development in Syria, unless it sees regime change and the formation of a pluralistic government,” a Western diplomat said. The diplomat referred to vital humanitarian assistance currently being provided by European countries to neighboring states hosting displaced Syrian refugees such as Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey. Not to mention the fact that Western countries strongly support humanitarian organizations’ work inside Syria, such as the White Helmets, officially known as the Syria Civil Defense. He stressed that “advancing the political process led by the United Nations, (known as the Geneva process) and mediated by Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura, could lead to the desired goal.”Another Western diplomat said there will be no ‘Marshall Plan’ for Syria in the absence of a political settlement, adding that Western countries will not pay Russian President Vladimir Putin’s plan for Syria. The Marshall Plan, officially called the European Recovery Program, was a US plan for rebuilding the allied countries of Europe after World War II. The diplomat compared the destruction that struck Raqqa as opposed to the size of that which impacted Aleppo, where “there is an important Christian minority.” “We don’t buy into what is said about Assad being the protector of minorities in Syria,” he said. Aleppo, which has an important Christian minority, has been destroyed. “Russia's influence on Assad is not the way it used to be,” he added. “Iran's influence on Assad seems to be greater than Russian influence,” he judged. Speaking on the Syrian regime’s violation of humanitarian law, the diplomat said that Assad systematically destroyed his country, city after city, suppressing protests and oppressing demonstrators in brutal ways. “Western countries are acting on a purely humanitarian basis, he explained. “We do not want to contribute to the building of cities governed by a person who was responsible for their destruction in the first place.”“The Assad regime is not constructively engaged in the Geneva talks,” he added. The diplomat commented on the possibility of a breakthrough in the Syrian crisis, comparing what is taking place in Syria to the massacres committed during Yugoslavia’s breakup in the 1990s. Despite the destruction caused by ISIS, especially for western neighborhoods in the Iraqi city of Mosul, there is great hope beginning to appear with Arab-Kurdish reconstruction efforts, even after the referendum in Kurdistan. This has also happened before in countries which have witnessed atrocities such as Rwanda and Sierra Leone. Seeing no near end in sight to the Syria crisis, the diplomat highlighted the many tricks played by Russians and the possibility of these games lasting longer. “We have to wait a bit to see if the dust of the fighting will break, and whether a political process will emerge again in Geneva,” he said.

Palestinian Teen Succumbs to Injuries after Israeli Fire on Gaza Border

Asharq Al-Awsat/Saturday, 28 April, 2018/A 15-year-old Palestinian teenager has died of his wounds a day after being shot by Israeli forces in clashes along the Gaza border, the territory's health ministry said Saturday. Azzam Oweida was hit in the head during protests in southern Gaza on Friday, the ministry said. His death brought to four the number of people killed or fatally wounded during a fifth consecutive Friday of protests in which thousands of Gazans have gathered near the heavily-guarded border. Forty-five Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire since the start of what organizers have dubbed the Great March of Return on March 30, with more than 1,500 wounded. No Israelis have been reported hurt. In the West Bank, demonstrations were also held Friday in order to denounce the US decision to transfer its embassy to Jerusalem. Clashes erupted between Palestinians and occupation forces in Hebron after dozens of youths gathered in the Old City, burning tires and tossing stones on the soldiers. In al-Bireh, young men blocked the road with stones and burning tires, before the eruption of direct confrontations with the occupation forces that used rubber bullets and tear gas to clamp down on the protesters, leaving nine of them wounded. In Ni'lin, hundreds of Palestinians gathered at the separation wall, chanting slogans against the occupation and its practices in West Bank villages. Israeli forces responded by using tear gas, leaving 12 Palestinians, in addition to a foreign journalist, wounded. Clashes also erupted at Beita, Nablus, as Israeli forces attempted to disperse a march denouncing the occupation’s violations against Palestinians. Israeli troops carried out several arrests.

Egypt’s Sisi: Sinai Operation against Terrorists to End as Soon as Possible

Asharq Al-Awsat/Saturday, 28 April, 2018/Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi vowed on Saturday to end the military and security forces’ campaign against terrorists in northern Sinai “as soon as possible.”He also said that a social and economic development plan for the area, launched in 2014, would be completed by 2022. "All Egyptians know that their Egyptian brothers in Sinai are not responsible for the evil people," Sisi said, referring to the extremists. "We don't hold our people in Sinai responsible in any way" for the attacks carried out by the terrorists, said the president, stressing that "terrorism is present in all the republic's provinces". He thanked "every honorable Egyptian in the Sinai... this is a trying time but if we had not taken these measures (against extremists), we would be losing Sinai". More than 200 extremists and at least 33 government troops have been killed since February 9, when Egypt launched operation "Sinai 2018" against an affiliate of the ISIS terror group, according to official figures. The country has been hit by extremist attacks in recent years, especially after the ouster of president Mohamed Morsi in 2013 following mass protests against his government. Terrorists have killed hundreds of soldiers, policemen and civilians, mainly in the northern Sinai, but also elsewhere in Egypt. The latest casualties were reported on Wednesday when the army announced that three soldiers were killed in the past week in the ongoing Sinai operation. Thirty terrorists wee also killed in that same period. The extremist casualties include Nasser Abu Zaqul, "the central Sinai commander of the terrorist group," according to the army which announced his death last week. More than 170 extremists have been arrested.

Armenian Ruling Party Will Not Nominate Candidate for PM
Asharq Al-Awsat/Saturday, 28 April, 2018/The ruling party in Armenia announced on Saturday that it will not nominate a new candidate for the position of prime minister to replace Serzh Sarkisian, less than a week after he stepped down from his position following days of mass protests. "The Republican Party has decided not to nominate its candidate," said Eduard Sharmazanov, vice speaker of parliament and the ruling party's spokesman. "By not putting forward a candidate, we will avoid confrontation and an increase in security risks ... we are not putting anyone forward in the state's interest," he added. The party will wait until all candidates are nominated by April 30 and then decide who to back. Ex-Soviet Armenia has been in the grip of a severe political crisis for the past two weeks with the protest movement charging that Sarkisian's ruling Republican Party is clinging to power. It was not immediately clear whether the ruling party -- which has a majority of seats in parliament -- would back the head of the protest movement, Nikol Pashinyan, or another candidate. Sharmazanov said earlier he personally doubted Pashinyan was a suitable candidate for the top job. The ruling party said earlier it would announce its position on a May 1 vote to elect the country's next prime minister on Monday. The Prosperous Armenia Party, which holds 31 seats in the 105-member chamber, was expected Saturday to issue a statement on whether it would back Pashinyan. Political analysts say the party, led by wealthy businessman Gagik Tsarukyan, has expressed support for Pashinyan but some of its members say they will only back the party's leader as a candidate. Observers fear the turmoil could destabilize the Moscow-allied nation which has for decades been locked in a territorial dispute with Azerbaijan. Sarkisian resigned this week as the country's new prime minister after serving as president for a decade. Pashinyan has issued an ultimatum to the authorities, saying that he should be elected the next prime minister -- who holds the country's top job under a parliamentary system of government. He however does not have enough votes to get elected.
Moscow has urged compromise and Russian President Vladimir Putin this week spoke by phone with the interim head of government, stressing the importance of the upcoming election. On Friday, acting head of government Karen Karapetyan refused to hold talks with the protest leader, accusing him of promoting his own agenda and worsening the crisis in the poor country of 2.9 million people. Addressing supporters in his birthplace Ijevan in Armenia's bucolic north earlier Saturday, Pashinyan pledged equal rights and opportunities for all, saying the country had turned a new page after Sarkisian quit power. "Every citizen will have equal rights and opportunities," he told supporters. "From now on people will not be judged by who their acquaintances, friends and relatives are." He also said he was ready to meet with members of the ruling party to discuss a "peaceful transfer of power."He also called for more demonstrations. "All protest actions, actions of civil disobedience, should be renewed with new force. The victory of the people must be recognized," he told the rally in Ijevan. "There can be no violence." Pashinyan called on supporters to organize big demonstrations in Yerevan on May 1.
Over the past two days, the 42-year-old has received a hero's welcome in a number of towns and villages outside the capital Yerevan, driving around the landlocked South Caucasus country with his supporters in a convoy. In the small northern town of Dilijan earlier in the day, several hundred locals greeted Pashinyan, holding flags and beating drums. "We want change in Armenia and Pashinyan to be elected prime minister right away," said Arman Ovsepyan, a 43-year-old musician.
"If the Republicans refuse to leave power, we will force them to do so peacefully."

Suicide Bomber Kills Army Officers in Somalia
Asharq Al-Awsat/Saturday, 28 April, 2018/A suicide bomber blew himself up in a military camp in the Somali town of Galkayo on Saturday, killing four officers, officials said, an attack claimed by the al-Qaeda-linked Shabaab group. The camp houses a force made up of soldiers from the country's semi-autonomous regions of Puntland and Galmudug who have been integrated into the federal army under efforts to unite the fractured country. The dead included a military commander and two colonels, Galkayo's mayor, Hirsi Yusuf Barre, told Reuters. "The death toll may rise," police officer Abdirahman Haji said. Shabaab’s military operation spokesman, Abdiasis Abu Musab, said the extremist group killed five people in the attack. Since withdrawing from Mogadishu in 2011, the group has lost control of most of Somalia's cities and towns. But it still retains a strong presence in regions outside the capital.

Two ISIS Women Land in Germany after Release from Iraqi Prisons
Asharq Al-Awsat/Saturday, 28 April, 2018/Two German ISIS women with their three children have arrived in Frankfurt, after being held in a prison in the Kurdish capital Erbil. German newspaper Die Welt cited in its Friday issue reliable security circles, that the two ISIS women arrived at the Frankfurt International Airport a day earlier. German authorities allowed the two women to take their children after undergoing a DNA screening to prove maternity, the newspaper said.
The two women and their young children were transported to Germany on an Iraqi Airways flight, and were accompanied by Germany’s Federal Criminal Police. They are expected to be referred to special guidance committees.
Die Welt sources confirmed that the two women were released and that the Federal Public Prosecution failed to obtain an arrest warrant against them. However, the Supreme Court authorized federal police to search and interrogate the two women upon arrival in Frankfurt. Last year, Germany’s Attorney General Peter Frank confirmed that he had zero tolerance policy against German ISIS members who had voluntarily joined the terrorist organizations and then returned from combat zones in Syria and Iraq. However, the Federal Court rejected their request for detention because there were insufficient evidence of their support for the terrorist organization. The court distinguishes between male combat duties in ISIS and the duties of others who join but conduct activity limited to childcare and housekeeping. It considers that German penal laws do not apply to such activity. Frank challenged the court's decision in January, but federal court judges have not yet ruled on the case until the arrival of the two women to Germany. According to Die Welt’s report, there are over 80 Germans who are currently imprisoned in northern Syria and Iraq. Women prisoners have many children, some of whom were born in the war-torn countries and in captivity. So far 10 children have been repatriated to Germany after undergoing DNA analyses to prove their links to the German so-called “jihadi” women detained abroad.

Iraqi Shi’ite Blocs Await Sistani’s Final Stance from Elections
Baghdad - Hamza Mustafa/Asharq Al-Awsat/Saturday, 28 April, 2018/Shi’ite political blocs in Iraq are awaiting the final position of Ali al-Sistani to be made during a sermon next Friday when the religious figure would speak about exploiting the victories of the Popular Mobilization Forces in the fight against ISIS for electoral purposes. Parliamentary blocs have exchanged accusations about the politicization of a fatwa issued by Sistani in 2014, in which he called on Iraqis to volunteer in the fight against terror. During last Friday’s sermon, Sistani’s representative Abdul Mahdi al-Karbalai said the spiritual leader rejects exploiting the name of the PMF in the upcoming polls. Sources close to al-Sistani told Asharq Al-Awsat that during next Friday’s sermon, the religious figure is expected to have his final say about the current exchange of accusations among Shi’ite blocs concerning exploiting the name of the PMF, two weeks ahead of the May 12 elections. “It is unfortunate that some parties are using this fatwa in a way contrary to what the religious authority had called for,” Professor Haider al-Ghorabi told Asharq Al-Awsat. He added: “The fatwa did not have sectarian dimensions. It was purely patriotic as it was issued alongside a fatwa from the Sunni Dar al-Fatwa, which also spoke about the importance of defending the nation against ISIS.”

Libya: Sarraj Government Signs Security Agreements with US
Cairo - Khalid Mahmoud/Saturday, 28 April, 2018/The Government of National Accord led by Fayez al-Sarraj signed in Tripoli on Friday a number of security cooperation agreements with the United States. The deals were signed in the presence of Libyan Foreign Affairs Minister Mohamed Taha Siala. US Charge d'Affaires to Libya Stephanie Williams said the documents include a memorandum of intent for airport security and a letter of agreement to support Libyan policing, corrections and justice sector development. This coincided with intense preparations at the headquarters of Libyan National Army (LNA) Commander Khalifa Haftar to receive foreign and Arab delegations during the coming period in Ar Rajma, near the eastern city of Benghazi. The army’s press office broadcast videos of the warm reception by some locals and military leaders to Haftar on Thursday following his return from France where he had received a treatment at a hospital. Haftar, who had dropped out of public sight for a short stage, put an end to controversy regarding his health. “I want to reassure you that I am in good health,” he told senior army commanders and local elders in a televised address from the airport. He sat in the lounge where officers, deputies and tribal leaders welcomed him. “I should be addressing you standing up but I am obliged to do so while sitting,” Haftar quipped, seated in front of a bank of microphones on an ornate table. The LNA chief kept the eradication of terrorism as a priority, stressing the necessity of getting rid of extremists. Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper was informed by reliable sources that secret talks were held with high-ranking Egyptian officials on the sidelines of his two-day visit to Cairo on his way to Libya from Paris. Meanwhile, Egyptian sources expected the arrival of United Nations Special Envoy to Libya Ghassan Salame in Cairo Saturday to hold talks with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri concerning the situation in Libya.

Turkey Speaks of Move with US in Manbij

Ankara - Asharq Al-Awsat/Saturday, 28 April, 2018/Turkey will take steps together with the United States in Syria’s Manbij region, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Friday, following his meeting with new US Secretary State Mike Pompeo in Brussels. Cavusoglu made the comment to Turkish broadcasters after meeting with Pompeo, who went straight to NATO headquarters on Friday, barely 12 hours after being sworn into his job, Reuters reported. Cavusoglu also said there was no French presence in Manbij and added Turkey could evaluate “good offers” for Patriot missiles or other air defense systems from allies. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's spokesman Ibrahim Kalin has previously said that a deal with the US to reduce tensions over the Kurdish-held Manbij is "doable" but requires Washington to clear up confusion in its policy. Agence France Presse also quoted him as saying that a Turkish operation to take the Syrian city of Tal Rifaat was no longer on the agenda after Russian assurances that Kurdish fighters were no longer there. Kalin told foreign reporters in Istanbul that Turkey had proposed moving Kurdish fighters out of Manbij east of the Euphrates River and then US and Turkish forces jointly managing security. "We still believe that this is achievable and this is doable," he said, urging "concrete steps" from the American side on an issue that was "really straining relations."

Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on April 28-29/18
Europe: Safeguard Values or Disappear
المطلوب من الدول الأوروبية إما أن تحمي القيم وتسوّق لها أو هي سوف تزول وتختفي

Giulio Meotti/Gatestone Institute/April 28/18
We no longer replace our numbers; instead we rely on immigration to compensate for the shortfall in births. This immigration is for the most part Muslim; the effect of our demographic decline is, therefore, the Islamization of Europe.
The response of members of the political class, at least in Italy, is to shrug their shoulders, and say, "So what?" European elites believe that religion is private. However, most Muslims do not believe that religion is private, and some are working hard to create a state in which Islamic law is the legal foundation for everyone. The effect of this is already being felt across the European continent. We have more Islamic veils and mosques, and fewer cartoons of Mohammed.
Without the courage to insist on safeguarding our values, and passing our inheritance on to our children, we Europeans will simply disappear -- as many groups have before. With us, however, will disappear the most enlightened civilization the world has ever known.
"We have to decide if our ethnicity, if our white race, if our society continues to exist -- or if it will be wiped out." This observation was recently made by Attilio Fontana, a politician with the anti-immigrant Northern League, who is running to govern the Italy's northern region of Lombardy. Fontana's remarks sparked quite a political storm. He may not have chosen the most delicate words, but he was right in pointing out the potential suicide of Europe. Italy's problem, in fact, is not the word "race", but the empty cradles and the crowded boats which have brought in 500,000 African migrants in a relatively short time
In Milan, Italy's financial district and second-biggest city, there are more dogs than newborns. The city has literally "lost" half its births in a mere ten years. From 2006 to 2016, the number of children born in Milan has declined from 17,000 a year to fewer than 10,000. By comparison, in 1880 Milan had a population of 350,000, and that year, 10,000 children were born. Today, Milan is inhabited by 1,362,000 people with fewer than 10,000 new births. So, relatively, 138 years ago Milan had proportionately four times as many children as today. That is how Europe's indigenous population will die out.
A new report by the Dutch organization Gefira analyzes the future of the "incredibly shrinking Italian population". The number of indigenous Italians is diminishing at an astonishing rate: a quarter of a million a year. This decline is expected to accelerate:
"If the official Eurostat forecast is correct, then within 60 years or, taking into consideration the current pace of migration even sooner, 50% of Italy's inhabitants will be of African or Asian descent".
To acquire a better understanding of the demographic future of Europe, the Gefira team developed a software for demographic simulation, called Cerberus 2.0. With no immigration and the current birth rate, Cerberus 2.0 predicts that in 2080 the Italian population will be reduced to about 27 million, and in 2100 further reduced by 60% to 20 million -- the same result as Japanese statisticians predict for Japan. Despite this data, the Italian government and Eurostat expect that by 2080 there will be 53 to 60 million inhabitants in Italy. "This can only be true if the indigenous population is replenished with 25 to 30 million first-generation migrants and their offspring from Africa or Asia". That process is underway.
Gefira explains:
"German, Spanish, Norwegian, Irish and Dutch NGOs as well as the European Navy have ferried a shocking 600 thousand non-Western migrants from Libya to Italy since 2014. This has been done with the full complicity of the current Italian authorities. The grand replacement is no accident nor is it intended to be stopped. It is a well designed, devious program without the European natives having a say".
A similar scenario was also forecast by an Italian think tank. If current trends continue, according to a report by the Machiavelli Center, by 2065, first- and second-generation immigrants will exceed 22 million, or more than 40% of Italy's total population.
The statistical projections about the alarming future of the demographic decline of the indigenous European people appear irrefutable. The vice president of the European Central Bank, Viktor Constancio, called it the "demographic suicide" of Europe's aging society. The ten countries that are home to the fastest shrinking populations are all in Eastern Europe. By 2050, Bulgaria, Latvia, Moldova, Ukraine, Croatia, Lithuania, Romania, Serbia, Poland, and Hungary are likely to see their population shrink by 15% or more.
We no longer replace our numbers; instead, we rely on immigration to compensate for the shortfall in births. This immigration is for the most part Muslim; the effect of our demographic decline is therefore the Islamization of Europe. The response of the political class, at least in Italy, is to shrug their shoulders, and say, "So what?". European elites are multiculturalist and seem to think all facts are merely relative. They also believe that religion is private and that the state requires us to maintain the same level of the population as earlier. Most Muslims, however, do not believe that religion is private; some of them are working hard for a state in which Islamic law, sharia, will be the legal foundation for everyone.
The effect of this effort is already being felt across the European continent. We have more Islamic veils and mosques, and fewer cartoons of Mohammed. Italian archbishop Luigi Negri just expressed his concern over "Islam's tendency to break down the values ​​of Western civilization, especially that of the essential distinction between politics and religion" -- a key fundamental of Western rule of law.
Our failure to reproduce is not due to poverty or genetic weakness. Milan, Italy's demographic ground zero, is the country's richest city. Instead, it is due to our indolence, the advent of birth control and a loss of confidence in our Western, Judeo-Christian values.
What can be done?
Religion in the West is no longer a private matter. The values of Western civilization are now being undermined in schools, universities, the media and cultural spheres. One thing is sure: Without the courage to insist on safeguarding our values, and passing our inheritance on to our children, we Europeans will simply disappear -- as many groups have before. With us, however, will disappear the most enlightened civilization the world has ever known.
*Giulio Meotti, Cultural Editor for Il Foglio, is an Italian journalist and author.
© 2018 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

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
اولوية فرنسا التجارة وليس السلام والإتفاق النووي مع إيران

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

The IDF's eyes on Syria: the new MMS system forewarning of Iranian retaliation
عين جيش الدفاع الإسرائيلي على سوريا: نظام المراقبة والرصد الألكتروني الجديد يحذر من الانتقام الإيراني

Yoav Zitun/Ynetnews/April 28/18,7340,L-5244371,00.html
Ynet provides a special, exclusive peek at the advanced MSS, or multisensory system, deployed across Israel's northeastern frontier; as each suspicious occurrence is graded on a 1-10 scale, with a flick of their joysticks lookouts can spot rebels deep within Syrian territory down to the gun they're carrying.
The Syrian village of Al-Ahmadiyah sits on the road between New Quneitra—one of the last symbols of the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad remaining in the Golan—and the southern part of the Golan Heights, which is controlled by the rebels.
The road can be clearly seen from the top of the Israeli Hermonit outpost, at the slopes of which is the verdant Valley of Tears. Soldiers stationed in the Syrian army positions that surround Quneitra occasionally open machinegun fire at rebel vehicles going south, toward the villages Assad is planning to retake.
Only three months ago, assisted by helicopters dropping incendiary barrels, was Assad's army able to conquer the region surrounding the town of Beit Jann in the Syrian Hermon—merely several kilometers away from the Israeli side of the mountain. Assad's current objective in the Syrian Golan Heights is to cut off the supply route passing through the aforementioned road.
The echoes of a mortar bomb meeting its target can still be heard on occasion, drowning out the bucolic sounds of the western (Israeli) portion of the region. Observation from the Hermonit outpost is an easy one even without binoculars and offers a full view of the mushroom cloud appearing immediately thereafter, before it dissipates in the Heights' winds. Soon, however, the echoes of explosions may no longer be confined to the Syrian side of the border. An Iranian revenge attack for the strike on drone base the Islamic republic built near Homs—and which is attributed to Israel—may take the form of an antitank strike on IDF forces or a heavy barrage of rockets near the border.
The soldiers tasked with recognizing such a strike and warning against it are the lookouts of the Golan Division. To carry out this momentous task, they have been outfitted with the most sophisticated of "weapons": a multisensory system (MSS), of which Ynet has been cleared to provide the first glimpse.
The MSS is comprised of a series of poles affixed with state of the art radars and advanced cameras capable of shooting in both day and nighttime conditions, allowing the operation room's lookouts to scan and observe not only the Golan across the border, but also deep within Syria—and all with a flick of their joysticks.
Deployment of the army's first MSS in the Syrian Golan was not coincidental. Hezbollah made a play for precisely that region four years ago but was thwarted by offensive actions—both overt and covert—attributed to the IDF. Since then, the war-torn country's various rebels groups—from the Islamic State through the successors of Al-Qaeda and the Free Syrian Army—have overtaken most of the strip of land near the border Syria shares with Israel.
While Assad is growing ever bolder in light of his impending Russian-assisted victory in the civil war, the Syrian Golan has still been rather low on his priorities list. While regime forces have even succeeded in overtaking the Syrian Hermon ridge in the past few months, they have yet to begin a significant maneuver southward, to the Heights' plains. According to one IDF estimate, Assad's significant move to reconquer the Syrian Golan will be carried out either simultaneously or after he retakes the large community of Daraa near Jordan, which is also not far from the tri-border area with Israel.
Radars throughout the sector
Either way, the Israeli intelligence hold on the ground is becoming more and more tenuous. Dozens of armed groups the IDF has never encountered before, each armed with a different ideology that is not exactly Zionist, have staked their claim several hundreds of meters from the border. These groups are joined by the regime's own militias, Iranian "advisers" and routine security officers from Assad's army, with no one on the Israeli side being able to surmise what relations with any of them will look like once the war comes to its inevitable conclusion.
Commander of the Eagle Battalion 595 Lt.-Col. Nir Megidish, overseeing combat intelligence collection for the Bashan Division that has been tasked with defending the sector, said, "You can see tanks and APCs driving near the border fence and have to distinguish at a moment's notice who's a suspect and who isn't, who's about to point a barrel at you and who won't attack."
Megidish has become one of the region's most tenured field officers, and has marked his fourth year in this sensitive role. Prior postings saw him taking part in creating the battalion that collects intelligence as to the goings-on in Syria in real-time.
He added, "With all of the chaos in Gaza right now, they mostly have to deal with Hamas while the Galilee Division mostly faces Hezbollah. Here you have rebels armed with tanks positioning near the border with Israeli families hiking and Israeli farmers tilling their lands mere hundreds of meters away."
"Calm has been maintained in the past three years just when the rebels controlled most of the border," he remarked. Senior IDF officials have been speaking about the moment the Syrian civil war trickles to Israel for the past five years, most likely in the form of a large-scale terrorist attack carried by a group infiltrating across the border.
The army's biggest fear is the Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade, which has since changed its name to Khalid ibn al-Walid Army. the group is affiliated with the Islamic State and controls the southern Syrian Golan Heights. Terror attacks were noted on the border from the war's outset, however, with combat soldiers wounded by the detonation of explosive devices and, in another instance, the death of an Israeli teen hit by an antitank rocket. The feared "mega-attack" has yet to take place, nonetheless, and tasked with blocking it are Lt.-Col. Megidish's orders to the MSS's lookouts—and to that end the army seems to have undergone a technological revolution of sorts.
"The fence has been wired with different kinds of radars and the most advanced cameras," Megidish continued. "The MSS technology allows us to translate our operational priorities list—which we predetermine, who or what to track—into tasklist the lookout on duty receives." "There are long stretches here on the Hermon without a fence acting as barrier due to the difficult topography, which makes control that much more challenging," the IDF official stated.
Lookouts can pick up combatants from kilometers away
The MSS enables to rank every suspicious spotting—such as any irregular movements—on a scale of one to ten, in accordance with a list of automatic criteria including intelligence alerts, the sector's history, distance from the fence and the type of object that triggered movement (vehicles, people or animals). The system is so smart, in fact, it can recreate the path a Syrian vehicle took near the village of Hader, for instance, which ended up attracting the lookout's attention. The lookouts' keyboards are cutting-edge and tiny, and their joysticks are also smoother to control. A lookout constantly jumps from one point to another—examining a Syrian outpost and then zooming in on an Assad poster on the wall of a regime soldier's booth, with a tarp covering an armored vehicle not far away.
Flanking the lookout is the selector, who delves into suspicious points to decipher any irregular movements. The MSS allows them to complete actions in seconds—direct tanks, aircraft and precise fire. "The cameras we have here allow lookouts to pinpoint not only a combatant on the roof of a building several kilometers away, but also note exactly the kind of gun he's armed with," Megidish concluded.
Six months ago, the sector came to the brink of combustion, with Majdal Shamas residents demanding to prevent a rebel-directed slaughter of their brethren residing in the Syrian-Druze town of Hader near the border. The IDF, and the elders of the village of the slopes of the Hermon, feared violent riots that will trickle into Syria. Materials documented and collected in the new observation operations rooms and then forwarded to Northern Command and heads of the Druze community helped ameliorate tensions. The lookouts' documentation showed rebels have not yet overtaken the town's outskirts, and the IDF's warnings of intervening to defend the Syrian-Druze sufficed to end the crisis without further escalation.
Motivation of the soldiers stationed as lookouts runs high, their commanders said, and it appears the IDF is going to great lengths to leave behind past imbroglios such as disobeying orders, abandoning bases and multiple complaints by lookouts due to the harsh conditions. Lessons, it appears, were learned: each lookout's shift lasts only four hours, after which she rests for eight, while some lookouts remain on standby. Their residential complex, erected near the operations room, does not strike one as military barracks. Rooms are spacious and attractive, each outfitted with a shower and bathroom, like any hotel accommodation, as well as personal lighting fixtures and outlets near the beds and personal lockers for each soldier.
Also on offer is a special menu, made up of dishes created to the soldiers' own specifications. Rice crackers will even be purchased, for the first time in the army's history, at the lookouts' behest. The army, it is evident, will go the extra mile for these soldiers, busy keeping Israel's northern frontier secure.

Trump, Macron and Merkel Have an Opportunity in Iran's Crisis
Eli Lake/Bloomberg View/April 28/18
Those who want to kill the Iran nuclear deal, and those who want to fix it, may both overlook that there's a strong third option: keep its fate in limbo.
May 12 is the deadline for US President Donald Trump to decide whether to re-impose crippling sanctions, which were lifted by the deal that was intended to provide transparency into and temporary limits on Iran's nuclear development.
French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel will press Trump more to hold off. Iran's foreign minister, Javad Zarif, went on CBS to threaten that Iran had "unpleasant" options should Trump impose the sanctions. Even HBO late-night host John Oliver has gotten in on the act. His program will take out ads this week on Fox News asking the president to remain in the nuclear bargain that was forged by Barack Obama. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said recently that his preference is to strengthen, and not end, the nuclear deal.
That bargain is no doubt important. There are however more pressing matters than the fate of the nuclear deal -- namely the fate of the Iranian regime. Any consideration of abrogating or maintaining the deal should include how the actions would affect the regime and the pro-democracy resistance.
It's an easy story to miss, but since late December when protests broke out throughout the country, Iran's ruling clerics have faced a cascade of crises that pose the most serious threat to the regime's legitimacy since the 1979 revolution.
Let's start with the currency crisis. There is already a run on Iran's banks. The Iranian rial has lost a third of its value in 2018 compared to the US dollar. One dollar is worth around 60,000 rials on the black market in Iran today. Compare that to when the current president, Hassan Rouhani, took power in 2013 -- when the dollar was worth 36,000 rials. That was before Obama offered Iran any sanctions relief, when Iran's government was fast running out of cash reserves.
There is also an ecological crisis in Iran. As Reuters reported last month, several protests have erupted throughout the country because of an ongoing drought and government's botched response. Farmers are being driven off their land. The regime has started arresting environmental activists. The state is running television commercials urging the conservation of drinking water.
Finally, there is a foreign policy crisis. One of the catalysts for the first round of mass demonstrations in December and January was a leak of the official budget. It showed that billions of dollars were funneled to Iran's military and Revolutionary Guard Corps, currently waging hot wars in Syria and Yemen, while Iran's youth unemployment rate continued to rise. This is one reason many of the demonstrators today chant slogans that proclaim Iran should focus on its problems at home and not on sowing mischief abroad.
All of these factors have stoked the embers of the protests that began nearly five months ago. They also explain why the regime has not been able to quiet the demonstrations the way it did in 2009 following rigged presidential elections, by arresting and "disappearing" the urban elites who took to the streets.
This time around the protests have spread to different strata of Iranian society. Alireza Nader, a former Iran specialist for the RAND Corporation, notes that even former insiders like the onetime president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad are predicting an end to the current regime. His electoral larceny in 2009 prompted the last uprising.
Nader this week translated on his Twitter feed Ahmadinejad's words to supporters, recorded by BBC's Persian Service at a recent rally. He said the current regime acts "in a way as if they'll be around forever. They have no news of what's happening. There's not ground below their feet. Events in Iran will soon transform the whole world."
Nader told me this week that he does not think Ahmadinejad has had a change of heart. Rather, "he is now positioning himself because he knows there will be a major upheaval and he doesn't want to be a guy who gets lynched."
And he's not alone. Geneive Abdo wrote for Bloomberg last month that there is now lively debate and protest over the detention of Ayatollah Hussein Shirazi, a prominent cleric who has challenged the divine authority of Iran's supreme leader, Ali Khamenei. As I reported this month, Iran's Nobel laureate and human rights lawyer Shirin Ebadi, along with other activists, are now calling for indigenous regime change through a UN-monitored referendum that would eliminate Khamenei's position of supreme leader altogether.

The Logical Next Step for Europe's Integration

Ferdinando Giugliano/Bloomberg View/April 28/18
For the past year, euro-zone leaders have vowed to take steps to complete Europe's monetary union. The 19 countries share a single currency and a central bank, but they still lack all the necessary mechanisms to deal with major imbalances and shocks. While some members would like to have more fiscal transfers and a common safety net for the banks, others worry about subsidizing laggards and encouraging moral hazard.
The European Council at the end of June is widely seen as the last opportunity for some time to agree on an agenda of reforms. Afterwards, politicians will start to campaign ahead of the elections for the European Parliament next spring. With euroskeptic forces on the rise across the currency union, mainstream parties will have little appetite for negotiations over institutional reform in the run-up to the vote.
Political leaders won't say what would count as a success in June. But I would argue that the real test is whether the euro zone agrees to a roadmap for common deposit insurance. This would show that European governments are willing to go further in supporting each other in the event of a crisis.
The creation of joint deposit insurance has been on the agenda at least since European leaders agreed to transfer responsibility for banking policy from national to EU level in 2012. This project -- referred to as Europe's "banking union" -- is formed of three pillars: the joint supervision of significant banks, a framework to wind down failing lenders, and the creation of a European pot of money to guarantee deposits of up to 100,000 euros ($122,000). While the euro zone has taken the first two steps, the third has proven elusive. Germany and other low-debt countries such as the Netherlands fear they could be on the hook for troubles in banks in weaker member states.
These concerns are largely misplaced. Germany and the Netherlands have had their own recent history of severe banking crises. Joint deposit insurance would benefit them as much as Italy or Spain. A common safety net would also reassure all depositors that they will see their money back in case of a crisis; that helps reduce the risk of bank runs in all euro-zone countries.
So far, the holdouts aren't buying that argument. The European Commission had put forward an ambitious proposal for a European Deposit Insurance Scheme (EDIS), but then had to water it down significantly in the hope of reaching some consensus.
Leaders are discussing others ways to deepen monetary union ahead of the June summit too. There is talk of providing a backstop to the Single Resolution Fund (SRF), the pot of money used to wind down banks in crisis. At the moment, this is capped at 55 billion euros, an amount which will only be reached gradually. A meaningful backstop would see, for example, the SRF able to take money from the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), the much larger euro-zone rescue fund. The EU would then have significant firepower to deal with a large bank in crisis (though, in the case of a very large lender such as Deutsche Bank, there would remain concerns over the impact of a failure on the rest of the financial system). Another idea is to turn the ESM into a more flexible institution, which is capable of lending money to countries without them committing to fiscal adjustment and a full set of structural reforms.
Neither proposal will make or break the June summit. Any changes to the ESM will likely be a relabeling exercise. And leaders already agreed to the idea of strengthening the SRF a long time ago. In any case, its role in providing additional risk-sharing between governments is limited because the fund can only intervene after equity and bond investors have suffered hefty losses through a process called "burden-sharing."
A roadmap to common deposit insurance is therefore the sign investors need to be convinced that the euro zone is serious about deeper integration. This does not have to happen at once. As Mario Centeno, president of the Eurogroup of finance ministers, said at the spring meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank in Washington last week, deposit insurance could initially exist alongside national funds, for example through a mechanism of co-insurance. European money would be called upon only when the national funds are depleted.
It is also possible to mitigate the risks that countries abuse this safety net.