February 17/2018
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani


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Bible Quotations
Woe to you, destroyer, When you stop destroying, you will be destroyed
Isaiah 33/01-24: " Woe to you, destroyer, you who have not been destroyed! Woe to you, betrayer, you who have not been betrayed! When you stop destroying, you will be destroyed; when you stop betraying, you will be betrayed.  Lord, be gracious to us; we long for you.
Be our strength every morning, our salvation in time of distress. At the uproar of your army, the peoples flee; when you rise up, the nations scatter. Your plunder, O nations, is harvested as by young locusts; like a swarm of locusts people pounce on it. The Lord is exalted, for he dwells on high; he will fill Zion with his justice and righteousness. He will be the sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge; the fear of the Lord is the key to this treasure. Look, their brave men cry aloud in the streets; the envoys of peace weep bitterly. The highways are deserted, no travelers are on the roads. The treaty is broken, its witnesses are despised, no one is respected. The land dries up and wastes away, Lebanon is ashamed and withers; Sharon is like the Arabah, and Bashan and Carmel drop their leaves.  “Now will I arise,” says the Lord. “Now will I be exalted;  now will I be lifted up. You conceive chaff, you give birth to straw; your breath is a fire that consumes you. The peoples will be burned to ashes; like cut thorn bushes they will be set ablaze.”  You who are far away, hear what I have done; you who are near, acknowledge my power!  The sinners in Zion are terrified; trembling grips the godless: “Who of us can dwell with the consuming fire? Who of us can dwell with everlasting burning?”  Those who walk righteously and speak what is right, who reject gain from extortion and keep their hands from accepting bribes, who stop their ears against plots of murder and shut their eyes against contemplating evil— they are the ones who will dwell on the heights, whose refuge will be the mountain fortress. Their bread will be supplied, and water will not fail them.  Your eyes will see the king in his beauty and view a land that stretches afar. In your thoughts you will ponder the former terror: “Where is that chief officer? Where is the one who took the revenue? Where is the officer in charge of the towers?” You will see those arrogant people no more, people whose speech is obscure, whose language is strange and incomprehensible. Look on Zion, the city of our festivals; your eyes will see Jerusalem, a peaceful abode, a tent that will not be moved;  its stakes will never be pulled up, nor any of its ropes broken. There the Lord will be our Mighty One. It will be like a place of broad rivers and streams. No galley with oars will ride them, no mighty ship will sail them. For the Lord is our judge, the Lord is our lawgiver,  the Lord is our king; it is he who will save us. Your rigging hangs loose: The mast is not held secure, the sail is not spread. Then an abundance of spoils will be divided and even the lame will carry off plunder. No one living in Zion will say, “I am ill”; and the sins of those who dwell there will be forgiven."

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on February 16-17/18
Tillerson offers new dispute resolution proposals: Aoun/Joseph Haboush| The Daily Star/February 16/18
Letters from Home: Hezbollah Mothers and the Culture of Martyrdom/Kendall Bianchi/Combating Terrorism Centre/February 2018/
Iran: The Challenges of History with an Attitude/Amir Taheri/Asharq Al Awsat/February 16/18
Syria: Looking For Ways Out Of The Maze/Amir Taheri/Asharq Al-Awsat/February 16/18/
Islamic Anti-Semitism in France: Toward Ethnic Cleansing/Guy Millière/Gatestone Institute/February 16/18
European Officials: Apologists for Arab-Islamic Repression, Terrorism/Giulio Meotti/Gatestone Institute/February 16/18
Question: "Is there meaning in tragedy?"/ 16/18
Omani Minister Visits Jerusalem/Abdulrahman Al-Rashed/Arab News/February 16/18

Titles For Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on February 16-17/18
Nasrallah Tells State It Has Hizbullah Support in 'Gas Battle', Warns of U.S. 'Devils'
Tillerson offers new dispute resolution proposals: Aoun
Marcel Ghanem Released Pending Indictment in Defamation Case
Lebanon speaker: US proposal on Lebanon-Israel disputed waters “unacceptable”
Lebanese-American Optimism on Solution to Border Dispute with Israel
Haley: ‘When Iran and Hezbollah Move in, Instability Follows’
Government Remains Silent as Hezbollah Expands Its Private Telecommunications Network
Aoun: Refugee Crisis Solution More Urgent than Ever
Report: Aoun Warns of Failed Efforts to Solve Electricity Crisis
Lebanese Man, Wife Killed in Turkey, Child Missing
Letters from Home: Hezbollah Mothers and the Culture of Martyrdom

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on February 16-17/18
Netanyahu Tells UN Chief: Golan Will Remain Israel's Forever
Trump Says 'No Collusion' after Russians Indicted for Election Meddling
Israel Graft Case Turns Spotlight on Netanyahu Family
Turkey, US to 'Work Together' in Syria after Crisis
U.S. Indicts 13 Russians for Election Interference
US: It’s Time for Security Council to Act on Iran
France Says Iran's Missile Program Must Be Put 'Under Surveillance'
Ahmadinejad Criticizes Khamenei's Positions on the Judiciary
Syrian Opposition to Asharq Al-Awsat: US Considering Strike on Regime in Response to Use of Chemical Weapons
Abbas Calls for International Conference to Save Peace Process

Latest Lebanese Related News published on February 16-17/18
Nasrallah Tells State It Has Hizbullah Support in 'Gas Battle', Warns of U.S. 'Devils'
Naharnet/February 16/18/Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah on Friday warned the Lebanese state that the U.S. “is not an honest mediator” in the dispute with Israel over offshore gas drilling rights, urging it to show “strength” and “courage.”“It seems that the entire region has entered the oil and gas battle,” Nasrallah said in an annual televised speech commemorating Hizbullah's slain leaders Ragheb Harb, Abbas al-Moussawi and Imad Mughniyeh. “The Americans did not withdraw from eastern Syria because the most important oil and gas fields are present there... The Americans are overseeing the oil and gas battle,” Nasrallah charged. Noting that the offshore oil and gas reserves could be Lebanon's “only hope for economic relief” and “salvation,” Nasrallah said “the unified official and popular stance is the most important factor to win this battle.”
“The Lebanese must not allow the devils to sow discord among them, and by devils I mean the Americans,” Hizbullah's leader added, referring to visits to Lebanon by U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Assistant Secretary of State David Satterfield.
“State officials and institutions must rise to the level of confidence and responsibility regarding this critical file and they must show courage. The state should approach this file from a position of strength. Showing weakness would spell the end of the battle,” Nasrallah warned. Pointing out that “the Americans know that Lebanon's only strength in this oil and gas battle is the resistance,” Hizbullah's leader warned Lebanese officials that “the Americans are not honest mediators, especially when the other party is the Israeli entity.”
“The state must deal with the U.S. mediator as being Israel's lawyer,” he cautioned.
And in Hizbullah's strongest warning to Israel since the beginning of the latest gas row, Nasrallah threatened that “should the Higher Defense Council decide that Israel's offshore oil installations should cease to operate,” Hizbullah “can disable them within hours.”
“Can anyone deny the presence of expansionist Israeli ambitions and threats against Lebanon?” Nasrallah added. On the possibility of war, Hizbullah's leader said Lebanon “must remain vigilant and alert.” “I'm not saying that we're heading to a war but vigilance is needed. What prevents Israel from waging a war is its inability to confirm in advance that it would emerge victorious,” Nasrallah noted. Details of the U.S. mediation over offshore gas and oil rights are yet to be unveiled but Tillerson was in Lebanon on Thursday and the issue topped his agenda. Satterfield was on Friday holding talks with Lebanese officials over the matter. The dispute dates back years but recently resurfaced when Lebanon invited companies to bid for drilling in areas near Israel's maritime border. Commenting on the downing of an Israeli F-16 warplane during raids in Syria, Nasrallah announced that “Syria can defend itself,” describing the development as “a major military achievement.”“The situation from now on will not be the same and Israel is no longer operating freely,” Nasrallah noted. “Claims that the Israeli warplane was shot down by the Russians or the Iranians are empty claims. The decision to down the plane was taken by the Syrian leadership and President Bashar al-Assad,” Hizbullah's leader stressed. Turning to Lebanon and the upcoming elections, Nasrallah emphasized that “Iran does not interfere in anything in Lebanon.”“Iran does not try to impose presidents and premiers on Lebanon, unlike other countries... Iran does not detain a Lebanese premier,” Nasrallah added, referring to Prime Minister Saad Hariri's shock resignation from Saudi Arabia in November that was later rescinded. Describing the new electoral law that is based on proportional representation as “one of the most important achievements in the country,” Nasrallah noted that “this law takes us to calm elections that do not stir strife in the country.” “There will be no sharp rift and the elections won't be between two camps – March 8 and March 14 – but rather between several political forces that will form mixed lists,” Hizbullah's leader said. “Hizbullah is not seeking the parliamentary majority in Lebanon,” he added. And responding to Hariri's announcement on Thursday that al-Mustaqbal Movement's electoral battle “will be against Hizbullah,” Nasrallah said: “We had never thought of allying with al-Mustaqbal and our electoral battle is not targeted against anyone.”

Tillerson offers new dispute resolution proposals: Aoun
Joseph Haboush| The Daily Star/February 16/18
BEIRUT: U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson Thursday presented new ideas for a solution to the border dispute between Lebanon and Israel after a previous proposal was roundly rejected by Lebanese officials. Tillerson landed at Rafik Hariri International Airport at around 10 a.m. and met with President Michel Aoun, Speaker Nabih Berri and Prime Minister Saad Hariri before departing around 4 p.m.
His visit comes at a time when Israel has increased its rhetoric against Lebanon over claims to potential oil and gas reserves in the Mediterranean Sea and begun construction on a cement wall along the border with Lebanon.
Despite the top U.S. diplomat focusing aggressively on Hezbollah – a key ally of Aoun – in his meeting with the president, Aoun said new suggestions for an agreement over Lebanon’s disputed territories were put forth.
“Tillerson [understood] our position and there are several proposals that will be discussed,” Aoun told a Cabinet meeting Thursday.
The original proposal was previously presented to Lebanese leaders by acting U.S. Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs David Satterfield last week, and was based on the “Hoff Line.” In 2011, U.S. diplomat Frederick Hoff reportedly proposed for Lebanon to acquire 550 square kilometers of the disputed 860 square kilometers that Lebanon insists is part of its maritime border, and abandon the remaining part to Israel.
Satterfield will meet with Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, Friday at 11:30 a.m., according to a statement from Bassil’s office.
“We informed the American side of Lebanon’s stance regarding the cement wall and the maritime borders,” Aoun told ministers.
During the meeting between Aoun and Tillerson, which was marred by reports that the diplomat was made to wait before the president showed up, the president voiced Lebanon’s commitment to its “internationally recognized borders.”
Aoun voiced his rejection of Israeli claims to parts of the Exclusive Economic Zone in Lebanon’s waters. “He [Aoun] said he would exert all efforts to reach a solution in regards to the land and maritime borders, calling on the U.S., United Nations and international community to play a role in this,” a statement from Aoun’s office said. The president also confirmed Lebanon’s commitment to calm along its southern border and said Lebanon was not seeking a war with anyone.
Tillerson reiterated the U.S. support for Lebanese state institutions, “especially the Lebanese Army, and for a strong, stable and prosperous Lebanon.”
He also confirmed that his country would take part in upcoming international conferences aimed at garnering support for Lebanon’s economy, security apparatuses and infrastructure.
During his meeting with Hariri, the prime minister also called on the U.S. to participate in the conferences. “His visit is a clear testimony of the United States’ commitment to Lebanon’s political and economic stability and the security of my country,” Hariri said during a joint news conference with Tillerson, from the Grand Serail. Aoun, at the beginning of the Cabinet session, said Lebanon’s stance was a result of the unified position agreed upon at a meeting held in Baabda earlier this week between the president, speaker and prime minister.
Tillerson continued discussions on the recent dispute over Lebanon’s right to explore its potential offshore oil reserves and the controversial border wall with Hariri. During the news conference, Hariri said he stressed Lebanon’s right to “explore, exploit and develop our natural resources in our territorial waters.”
But the prime minister said Lebanon was adamant on abiding by U.N. Security Council Resolutions 1701 and 2373 and that Lebanon wants a permanent cease-fire, “but Israel’s daily violations of our sovereignty hinder that process, as does Israel’s escalating rhetoric – this needs to stop.”
Hariri echoed Aoun’s comments on the southern border, saying that it is the calmest border in the Middle East “and I asked Secretary Tillerson to help keep it that way.”
In an indirect response to reports over the previous proposal by the U.S. for the maritime dispute, Tillerson said: “We have asked no one to give up anything; we are rather looking for a solution.”
He said no guarantees could be given to Lebanon that Israel would respect a solution, if reached. Responding to a question from The Daily Star, he said, “The U.S. is not in a position to guarantee anything for another sovereign country, what we are here to do though is to be constructive in finding solutions to a final border agreement along the Blue Line.”
According to the secretary of state, ongoing discussions have been constructive, while the U.S. is urging the “Israelis to also be constructive in these discussions.
“Let’s get the border agreed first and then people can think about if they need a security wall or not, at that point.”
Speaking of hopes for the current talks to lead to a mutually agreed border, Tillerson suggested they could help yield a final resolution.
During the news conference, Tillerson suggested the Lebanese people and communities were resilient in the face of “efforts to drag Lebanon into such conflicts, to terrorism and violent extremism, to economic strains.”
But Tillerson’s tone toward the “terrorist organization” Hezbollah noticeably altered over 24 hours. Speaking from Jordan Wednesday, he said that it was necessary to realize that Hezbollah is part of the political process in Lebanon. From Beirut, however, he was quick to say the U.S. does not “see nor do we accept any distinction between its political and its military arms.”
Separately, Tillerson visited Berri’s Ain al-Tineh residence to follow up on the latest developments. A statement from Berri’s office said the speaker brought up the daily infringements by Israeli jets on Lebanon’s sovereignty.
Meetings with the three leaders also touched on the recent decision by the U.S. to cut aid to UNRWA – the U.N. relief agency for Palestinian refugees – and the importance of reaching a political solution in Syria.
As for the reported six minutes Tillerson waited before meeting Aoun, the president’s office released a statement saying all protocol was followed during the visit. “No [protocol mistakes] took place in this regard, and all that was circulated has no basis for truth,” it read. It said Tillerson, in his signing of the visitors’ guest book at Baabda Palace, noted the warm welcome he received. – Additional reporting by Ghinwa Obeid and Hassan Lakkis

Marcel Ghanem Released Pending Indictment in Defamation Case
Naharnet/February 16/18/First investigative judge in Mount Lebanon, Nicola Mansour, on Friday interrogated prominent TV talk show host Marcel Ghanem and allowed him to leave pending indictment, as his attorney MP Boutros Harb said the indictment will be issued in a “couple of hours or days.”“The judge decided to leave Ghanem after he signed a residency guarantee document... We will continue to consider the judiciary independent and... What happened today in the meeting was good," said Harb. Ghanem appeared before Mansour for a hearing session in connection with a controversial episode of his Kalam Ennas show. The session began as prominent figures rallied outside the Baabda Justice Palace in solidarity with him. Prominent figures rallied outside the Justice Palace in support of Ghanem, including Minister of Public Works Youssef Fenianos, MP Ghazi Aridi, former MP Fares Soaid, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation Pierre Daher, Media Commissioner of the Progressive Socialist Party Rami Rayes and media figure May Chediac. "The prosecution, which is not based on legal reasoning, is sheer political and represents a challenge to the freedom of the media,” Harb said before the hearing began. "We have not resorted to appeal because we saw it better to face the truth. We are betting that the judiciary will be fair to Ghanem and will restore our democratic system, oppression free," the MP assured. A subpoena had been issued on December 14 for Ghanem to appear before the judiciary. Ghanem is accused of hosting Saudi journalists who branded the Lebanese president and parliament speaker as "terrorists" during one of his show's episodes. The move came at a time when tensions were very high between Lebanon and Saudi Arabia over the resignation of Prime Minister Saad Hariri, announced from the Saudi capital Riyadh.

Lebanon speaker: US proposal on Lebanon-Israel disputed waters “unacceptable”
Arab News/February 16/18/BEIRUT: Lebanon’s Parliament speaker told a senior US diplomat on Friday that his country rejects current American proposals over the disputed marine border with Israel.
Nabih Berri made the statement after meeting acting Assistant US Secretary of State David Satterfield to discuss the offshore oil-rich Block 9.
But Lebanon appeared to have returned to its hard line over the proposal made in 2013 by a US diplomat that would give Lebanon around two thirds and Israel around one-third of the triangular area of around 860 square km. “What is proposed is unacceptable,” Berri said, referring to the Frederick Hof naval line.When asked about what was raised in the meeting, Ali Hamdan, an advisor to Berri, told Arab News: “We prefer to remain silent about the ideas put forward. Hof plan is unacceptable.” Satterfield later visited Prime Minister Saad Hariri and held another meeting with Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil.
Lebanese Foreign Ministry sources told Arab News that “what is being said about a US proposal to share the disputed block is inaccurate, and the issue is far more complicated.” The sources added that “the American side is trying to crystallize a new proposal regarding the area in which Israel claims to have rights.”The source said that as well as rejecting the Hof line Lebanon still adheres to its claim to all the sovereign, oil and gas rights of the area, but said the government was keeping an “open mind” to the US ideas being worked on. The US company Noble Energy discovered in 2009 large oil and gas reserves in the eastern basin of the Mediterranean in the territorial waters of Syria, Lebanon, Cyprus and Israel. The area was divided into blocks.
Block 9 is located in the south and its next to the border of the Israeli territorial waters. Lebanon sent documents and maps proving its ownership of the area to the UN but Israel continued to dispute the boundary. In Dec. 2017, Lebanon granted licenses for the exploration of oil in Blocks 4 and 9 for the French company Total, Italian ENI, and the Russian Novatek. This angered Israel due to the sensitivity of the location of this block. In 2012, Frederick Hof pledged that the US administration would convince Israel of the temporary solution that would not hinder the interest of the Israeli and Lebanese sides in starting to explore their gas and oil resources. In 2013, the US sent US Assistant Secretary of State for Energy Amos Hochstein to Lebanon to try to work out a formula for a compromise. Hochstein proposed drawing a provisional blue maritime line keeping the disputed area along this line from the Lebanese and Israeli sides outside the exploration operations until a final demarcation agreement is reached.  In the meantime, investment in other undisputed areas could start within the context of the mutually agreed Blue Line understanding. Hof gave another American proposal offering Lebanon 500 square km and Israel 360 square km. Lebanon agreed to take the 500 square km but refused to give up the 360 square km to Israel. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said on Thursday that the US must accept Lebanon’s demands over the border disputes with Israel and vowed it was ready to act against Israel if necessary, Reuters reported.
“The state must have a strong and firm position,” the leader of the Iran-backed movement said. Satterfield had arrived in Beirut as part of the delegation traveling with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on his regional tour. But the diplomat stayed on after Tillerson left to work on a resolution to the dispute.
Satterfield, a former ambassador to Lebanon, was expected to travel to Israel for further talks. Official sources told Arab News that Satterfield may return to Lebanon a second time after visiting Israel “if he carries constructive proposals.”

Lebanese-American Optimism on Solution to Border Dispute with Israel
Beirut - Asharq Al-Awsat/February 16/18/Secretary of State Rex Tillerson ended on Thursday his several hour visit to Beirut, which was limited to discussing Lebanon’s unresolved maritime border dispute with Israel. Tillerson did not take any decisive stance regarding his country’s mediation over so-called Block 9 which has started with a proposal made by Acting US Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs David Satterfield last week. His initiative is based on a previous American proposal. Known as the “Hoff Line,” the proposal calls for Lebanon to acquire 550 square kilometers of the disputed 860 square kilometers that Lebanon insists is part of its maritime border, and abandon the remaining part to Israel. Israeli-Lebanese tensions have spiked in recent months because of Israeli plans to build a wall at the border, and because of Lebanon's decision to begin exploring for oil and gas in Block 9 in disputed waters. During their talks with Tillerson, Lebanese leaders reiterated their rejection of Israeli assaults on Lebanese sovereignty. “We had very good discussions in all of our meetings today, this is an extremely important issue to Lebanon, it is important to Israel as well to come to some agreement so that private companies can go to work offshore and determine what in fact might be available in terms of natural resource development and how to get started in moving forward,” the US official said following talks with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri at the Grand Serail. “We had a good exchange over our lunch meeting thinking about creative ideas on how to wreck the stalemate and move forward, so we will continue to be very engaged with both parties. We have asked no one to give up anything, we are rather looking for a solution,” said Tillerson. He also expressed optimism that negotiations would lead to a final settlement if both sides were consensual. President Michel Aoun earlier told Tillerson that Lebanon was committed to preserving calm on its southern border and urged Washington to play an "effective role" to help resolve Beirut's land and maritime disputes with Israel. Aoun urged the US to "work on preventing Israel from continuing its assaults on Lebanese sovereignty" by land and sea. He said Lebanon was holding onto its internationally recognized borders, and rejected Israeli claims over parts of its Exclusive Economic Zone.  During his short visit to Beirut, Tillerson also held talks with Speaker Nabih Berri.

Haley: ‘When Iran and Hezbollah Move in, Instability Follows’
Asharq Al-Awsat/February 16/18/US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley has lashed out at Iran and its proxies in the Middle East, accusing the Syrian regime of becoming a front for Tehran to advance its “dangerous” regional agenda. “When we look out across the Middle East, we know one thing for certain. When Iran and Hezbollah move in, instability always follows,” Haley told the Security Council on Wednesday. “The Assad regime has become a front for Iran, Hezbollah, and their allies to advance the irresponsible and dangerous agenda for the Middle East,” she said. “Hezbollah” has sent its members to fight alongside troops loyal to Bashar Assad. Last week was one of the bloodiest in the nearly seven-year-old conflict as Syrian regime forces, backed by Russia and Iran, bombarded two of the last major rebel areas: Eastern Ghouta near Damascus and the northwestern province of Idlib. “When we see the Assad regime starving civilians in eastern Ghouta or pummeling schools and hospitals in Idlib, we see advisers from Iran and Hezbollah helping direct those atrocities,” Haley said. The diplomat also told the Council that Russia was supposed to guarantee adherence to the de-escalation zones and the removal of all chemical weapons from its ally Syria. "Instead we to see the Assad regime continue to bomb, starve and yes, gas, civilians," Haley said. "Russia can push the regime to commit to seeking a real peace in Syria ... now is the time for Russia to use that leverage." Russian UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia pushed back on Haley's remarks, saying the Syrian political process should be free from "external pressure." He also called on the United States to "exert their influence" on Syrian opposition fighters to ensure they cease hostilities.

Government Remains Silent as Hezbollah Expands Its Private Telecommunications Network
Beirut - Youssef Diab/Asharq Al-Awsat/February 16/18/Reports published on Thursday revealed that Lebanon’s “Hezbollah” party is building its private telecommunications system in the Rmeileh area, in Mount Lebanon, located at the northern entrance of the southern city of Sidon.
The “Janoubiya” news website reported that Rmeileh residents were “surprised last week by the presence of a technical team extending telephone cables, and using mines dug by the Energy and Water Ministry in the mentioned town.” According to the residents, members of the team admitted they were from Hezbollah, to later discover that the team was working in the absence of any role from the Interior Ministry. Sources told Janoubiya that “a leading figure from Hezbollah had telephoned Rmeileh mayor and informed him that the cables must be built without any obstruction.”The sources said the team was still working at the location. “They already opened sewage canals and only needed to extend the cables,” the sources said. According to Janoubiya, Rmeileh residents and the municipality cannot prevent the Hezbollah work, especially that the Energy Ministry is informed about what is happening in the town and have even ordered the resumption of work, after it was previously put on hold. “Officers from the Information Branch and the Lebanese Army intelligence already visited the location and had taken pictures,” the website wrote, adding that Rmeileh residents are currently waiting for both security branches to interfere, particularly that the digging is considered an infringement on public properties. General Khaled Hamade, Director of Research & Strategic Studies Center told Asharq Al-Awsat that such activities were part of developing Hezbollah’s military infrastructure and would contribute in isolating the party’s supporters from the state.For his part, Lokman Slim, a political activist and co-director at UMAM Documentation & Research told Asharq Al-Awsat that the party’s activities in Rmeileh were nothing but a small sample of a larger and hidden telecommunications system extended by Hezbollah in the south, the Beqaa and the southern suburbs of Beirut.”

Aoun: Refugee Crisis Solution More Urgent than Ever
Naharnet/February 16/18/President Michel Aoun on Friday called for an urgent solution to Lebanon's Syrian refugee crisis. “The refugees definitely want to return to their country to live in it in dignity instead of staying in encampments and gatherings,” Aoun said in a speech at a conference for the Rotary International organization at Beirut's Phoenicia Hotel. “You are an organization that is active internationally with a presence in more than 200 countries and we hope you will carry our voice and suffering and the voice and suffering of the refugees,” the president said. “The refugee crisis burden has become exhausting for us and for the refugees themselves and the need for a solution has become more urgent than ever,” Aoun urged. Lebanon, a country of four million, hosts around a million Syrians who have sought refuge from the war raging in their neighboring homeland since 2011.
Many live in informal tented settlements in the country's east and struggle to stay warm in the winter.

Report: Aoun Warns of Failed Efforts to Solve Electricity Crisis

Naharnet/February 16/18/President Michel Aoun's warnings of prolonged failure to address Lebanon's long-standing electricity crisis means the country “could plunge into severe power rationing that could impact everything in Lebanon,” al-Joumhouria daily reported on Friday. Ministerial sources told the daily that Aoun has sounded the alarm and stressed the need to find a quick solution for the country's suffering which “means soon there shall be severe power shortage that will affect the Lebanese and various aspects of everyday life.”During the Cabinet meeting on Thursday Aoun said “we need direct and timely solution to the electricity dilemma.”Referring to failed tenders to lease power generating ships, he added: “Last time, the tender has failed and I do not know the reason, meanwhile the cost of electricity production is rising. I don't want to hear anymore speeches or remarks, I want solutions otherwise I will go out to the media and frankly say that the government is incapable of addressing the electricity file.”For his part, Energy Minister Cesar Abi Khalil stressed “the need to take a decision in order to solve the problem. Everyone knows the solution which we presented to the ministerial committee,” the daily quoted him as saying. Last October, the Tenders Department said that three companies bidding to provide electricity failed to secure the necessary conditions. The Tenders Department has reportedly criticized the book of conditions of leasing electricity barges, pointing out that the tender deal has “major gaps and lacks competition.”

Lebanese Man, Wife Killed in Turkey, Child Missing
Naharnet/February 16/18/A Lebanese man and his Syrian wife have been killed in Turkey's Istanbul while their son has gone missing, Lebanon's National News Agency reported on Friday. The agency said the crime occurred overnight Thursday in Istanbul's Arnavutkoy area. “The couple, Lebanese expat Mohammed Mahmoud Bashir and his Syrian wife Nisrine Kreidi, were strangled to death and their bodies were found on the side of the road in an Istanbul neighborhood,” NNA said. It said the wife was in her first month of pregnancy and that Turkish police has announced that the couple's 10-year-old child is missing. According to NNA, the man hailed from the southern town of Beit Leef. “Police has arrested two Syrian men suspected of carrying out the murder for theft,” the agency added. It said the couple had a household linen business in Istanbul.

Letters from Home: Hezbollah Mothers and the Culture of Martyrdom
By: Kendall Bianchi/Combating Terrorism Centre
February 2018/Volume 11,Issue 02
Abstract: Hezbollah’s culture of martyrdom has helped sustain the organization’s manpower needs since the organization’s founding. A critical question, however, is how the group communicates this narrative to its base, especially given recent challenges to the group’s legitimacy as a result of its intervention in Syria. The ‘Party of God’s’ online content reveals that it does so in part by using the mothers of martyred fighters to promote the culture of martyrdom. Mothers possess unique access in society due to their ability to shape the minds of the next generation. As a result, Hezbollah uses their voices to amplify its propaganda in a way that resonates with the group’s following. Signs of tension between the party and these women, however, could pose challenges to this strategy in the future.
In March 2017, an article on Hezbollah’s online media outlet Arabipress featured a poem by the Egyptian poet Hafez Ibrahim (b. 1872) that opens with the line, “Our mothers are like our schools; pampering them means securing our future.”1 Seven months earlier, the same website posted a music video in which a young man crooned, “For you, my mother,” sentimentally dramatizing their close relationship and her reaction to his eventual martyrdom.2 Frequently, Hezbollah’s media also quotes a song by the renowned Lebanese musician Marcel Khalife to honor the mothers of its martyrs: “ajmal al omahat” (the most beautiful mother).3 These items are not simply rhetorical devices; they also serve a strategic purpose. Hezbollah uses the mothers of its fallen fighters to sustain a culture of martyrdom that provides it with a self-replenishing pool of fighters, a critical function throughout the group’s history but especially today.
Since late 2012, Hezbollah’s founding principle of resistance to Israel has been eclipsed by its intervention in Syria on behalf of the regime of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. Mounting casualties and increasing resentment4 among the group’s base in Lebanon have, to some extent, challenged the pervasive culture of martyrdom that sustains its manpower. This is where the mothers of martyrs come in. In order to retain control over the martyrdom narrative, Hezbollah uses these mothers to relay stories that promote both self-sacrifice and the sacrificing of one’s children to the resistance. As the opening examples illustrate, the cooptation of popular refrains are meant to capitalize on a deeply held local value: the importance of mothers in building a society. Mothers, therefore, represent a crucial demographic for Hezbollah, serving as a bridge between the party leadership and the community from which it draws its fighters. In order to convince these women to sacrifice their sons, the party shrewdly uses the voices of those who have already done so. Signs of tension between the group and the mothers of its martyrs, however, could call into question the viability of this strategy in the long term.
The Culture of Martyrdom
Throughout the first three decades of Hezbollah’s existence, its role in the “axis of resistance” against Israel imbued it with legitimacy, attracting ideologically motivated fighters to its cause. Equally important in this respect, however, was the group’s culture of self-sacrifice that regarded martyrdom as a blessing. Whereas the resistance and self-sacrifice narratives no doubt became intertwined and fed off of each other, Hezbollah’s concept of martyrdom also took on a life of its own, independent of political slogans against Israel. Martyrdom has always occupied a sacred space in the Shi`a religious tradition, dating back to the martyrdom of the Prophet’s grandson Husayn in the seventh-century Battle of Karbala. But the Shi`a cleric Imam Musa al-Sadr, the founder of Lebanon’s Amal movement, helped transform it into a tool of recruitment. Throughout the 1970s, al-Sadr encouraged his followers to draw inspiration from martyrdom, in the hope that each instance would unleash a flood of revolutionary zeal and thereby strengthen his forces.5 Hezbollah, founded by a stream of Amal defectors with Iranian assistance in the early 1980s, capitalized upon this culture—holding public funerals and plastering images of its martyrs across towns to reap the highest possible reward from each casualty incurred in its resistance to Israel. The strategy resonated among the group’s base. “Nobody here wants war,” said one Lebanese man at a Hezbollah funeral in the town of Barachit in 2006. “[But] for each martyr that [has died], there will be a thousand more like them.”6
The culture of martyrdom persists, but contemporary developments threaten its potency. First, despite Hezbollah’s public branding as the defender of Lebanon’s Shi`a community, the group’s de facto prioritization of the Syria fight over that against Israel has evidently cheapened the cause for which martyrs are dying.7 Second, payments to martyrs’ families have reportedly been cut due to rising war budgets, a step that threatens to provoke discontent.8 Third, Hezbollah’s combat fatalities over almost five years in Syria exceed those sustained over the 18 years from its founding in 1982 until Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000.9 The group is suffering significant casualties, and for a cause that many are questioning. Indeed, the party seems to be concerned that as martyrs accumulate, they may begin to alienate more followers than they galvanize. Public funerals have become less frequent in the present day, for example, suggesting that party leadership no longer views celebrations of martyrdom to be as useful as they once were. Experts also estimate that the group has only acknowledged about half of its actual combat deaths in Syria—even actively covering up the causes of death in some cases, according to some reports.10 Against this backdrop, Hezbollah’s ability to control the narrative surrounding martyrdom is more critical—and maybe more vulnerable—than ever.
The Martyr’s Mother as Spokeswoman
Perhaps the most compelling way to promote the culture of martyrdom is through an endorsement by the martyr himself. Indeed, this happens to an extent in ‘last will’ videos recorded by fighters and released after their death in battle. But the martyr, of course, can no longer speak, so his family—and his mother in particular—represents his next-best spokesperson.
The benefit of using mothers as a mouthpiece is both spiritual and practical. On a spiritual level, a mother thanking God for her son’s martyrdom constitutes a powerful image, given the universal nature of maternal love and the instinct to protect one’s children from danger. Accordingly, Hezbollah uses mothers to propagate the martyrdom narrative in an emotionally resonant fashion. On a practical level, the martyr’s mother serves as a crucial intermediary between party officials and other women who might be willing to sacrifice sons to the cause. Hezbollah’s ability to reach out to these other women is critical because they will educate the next generation of fighters, hopefully (from Hezbollah’s point of view) instilling within them the values of self-sacrifice and martyrdom.
Mothers are also important players when their sons reach military age. Some stories11 on Hezbollah websites have made mention of young men requesting their mother’s written permission before leaving to wage jihad in Syria—suggesting that the mother often has at least some say in the matter, even if in practice the party may not require parental consent (or heed parental objections) before sending fighters to Syria. A mother’s blessing may also help relieve a son’s guilt at leaving his family, a critical element of strategic messaging given that many of these young men repeatedly ask their families to forgive them in ‘last will’ videos.12 Moreover, given the new trend of recruiting young and unmarried fighters, the mother’s opinion likely weighs particularly heavily in the minds of these younger recruits.13
Endorsement in written form is useful to Hezbollah not only to persuade potential fighters, but also as an insurance policy in case of martyrdom. A mother who has willingly surrendered her child is less likely to publicly blame the party for his death, as has happened in cases in which permission was allegedly not granted.14 It is for these reasons that Hezbollah’s propaganda has in recent years targeted women as much as the fighters themselves, if not more.
Hezbollah circulates a variety of materials, including purported letters from mothers to their martyred sons, personal narratives, voice recordings, and even documentaries featuring interviews with martyr families with a special focus on the mother. Virtually all of these mothers relay similar narratives. For them, the martyrdom of a son is a blessing that brings the entire family closer to God and Ahl al-Bayt (the Prophet Muhammad’s family), strengthening their resolve to sacrifice more to the resistance.a
Crafting the Martyrdom Narrative
The process of celebrating martyrdom begins before death, with Hezbollah online content depicting women encouraging their sons to sacrifice themselves in battle. Arabipress, for example, published a news item in 2014 under the title “Mother of a Hezbollah Fighter in Syria: ‘God, Please Grant My Son Martyrdom, Please God!’”15 Another article, written in Hezbollah’s Arabipress in 2015, contains screenshots (see photos) of a conversation between a woman and her son who was at the time deployed to Syria by Hezbollah, in shock that he remains alive while his comrade has just been killed next to him in Syria. “Maybe Mahdi was ready for martyrdom before you … my dear, remain on your path, and stay strong like I taught you … May God not deny you martyrdom,” she wrote.16
After death, the mothers of dead fighters may express grief but ultimately treat martyrdom as a happy occasion, according to the script set by Hezbollah. Pro-Hezbollah press frequently publishes articles and videos that portray women thanking God for their son’s martyrdom—including one in October 2017 in which the mother of the martyr Ali Zaitar appears to kneel over her son’s burial site: “God has given me more than I deserve,” she repeats.17
Another important element of the mother’s narrative is the idea that sacrificing children brings one closer to God and Ahl al-Bayt. One mother in 2014 described feeling as though she had finally answered Imam Husayn’s call when she sent her son to Syria.b After his martyrdom, she went even further, announcing, “I feel as though I have passed God’s test.”18 Here, the historical Shi`a narrative is also key. The mothers frequently conflate current wars with early Islamic history, particularly the seventh-century Battle of Karbala. “Listen to me: you are in Karbala, with the Imam Husayn,” said one mother to her jihadi son in a voice recording published in April 2016. “Forget this world; everything will be gone one day. Just focus on Husayn, Karbala, and what happened there!”19 For these mothers, their sons who wage jihad very literally walk in the footsteps of the men killed in Karbala—and they themselves in the paths of Husayn’s mother, Fatima, and his sister Zainab (often referred to as Sayyida Zainab), women of Ahl al-Bayt who both sacrificed sons in the battle.
After a fighter’s martyrdom, the Hezbollah narrative emphasizes his enduring presence in his family’s life and beyond. In one interview, a woman claims of her martyred son, “He didn’t leave me … He is still among us. I smell his scent, I feel his presence, and he talks to me and makes me laugh.”20 Another example is found in a letter written in 1995 from the mother of a Bosnian ‘martyr’ to the mother of a Lebanese Hezbollah ‘martyr’ killed in Bosnia. Hezbollah’s Arabipress published an Arabic translation of the letter in March 2016: “These martyrs are the candles of our youth, the price of our freedom and resolve as Muslims … We all remember [your son] with great joy, and we can never forget him.”21 Given mounting Hezbollah casualties in Syria, the letter’s implication seemed timely and deliberate—that even those martyrs who die far from their homeland live on for years after their death.
Perhaps the most critical part of the narrative involves the notion that martyrdom should strengthen the resolve of others to sacrifice even more to the cause. After all, Hezbollah’s ability to replenish its ranks depends largely upon the degree to which one man’s sacrifice inspires others to follow in his path. Pledges to do so are common in the mothers’ narratives. One woman, in a short documentary film, claimed that after the martyrdom of her first son, Mahdi Yaghi, she hoped her other son, Ali, would also die a martyr’s death.22 Her wish was granted when Ali was killed in Syria in June 2017.23 In another conversation around the same time with the mother of Mustafa Badreddine, a senior Hezbollah official killed in 2016, the interviewer asks what she would tell her son a year after his martyrdom. “Your siblings, your grandchildren … all of us remain steadfast on your path,” she responds, “and we will not leave it until every last one of us is martyred, with God’s permission.”24
In these ways, the mother’s words are used to motivate young men and other mothers to make sacrifices for Hezbollah’s cause. The message resonates. In one particularly powerful and inflammatory video posted in August 2017, the mother of Hezbollah ‘martyr’ Mahdi Khadr bellows into a megaphone before a large crowd of men: “Raise your heads!” she orders, a phrase often invoked by Arab leaders to garner support and boost morale among the marginalized. She then directs them to repeat after her, with pride and honor: “At your service, Zainab!” The crowd obeys her command, erupting with boisterous chants in response.25
An article, written in Hezbollah’s Arabipress in 2015, contains screenshots of a conversation between a woman and her son fighting with Hezbollah in Syria, in shock that he remains alive while his comrade has just been killed next to him in Syria. “Maybe Mahdi was ready for martyrdom before you … my dear, remain on your path, and stay strong like I taught you … May God not deny you martyrdom,” she wrote.
Promoting the Narrative: Carrots and Sticks
While these narratives are likely authentic to a decent extent, Hezbollah appears to stage-manage them to ensure both uniformity and conformity. The group seems to rely upon an inner circle of families it trusts to toe the party line. In many cases, the same families appear repeatedly in Hezbollah’s media—in letters, interviews, and documentaries—whereas other families are not even granted the “privilege” of a published martyrdom announcement. The group also regularly features the families of its most prominent martyrs—including Badreddine and Imad Mughniyeh, the Hezbollah commander assassinated in 2008. The latter serves the extra purpose of demonstrating that if families of such stature have sacrificed their sons, anyone should be willing to do so.c The ‘martyrdom’ of Hassan Nasrallah’s son Hadi in 1997 has, in itself, become a talking point. “O, Sayyid [Hassan], you sacrificed a martyr as well, my brother,” wailed one mother as she addressed Nasrallah from beside her son’s coffin in early 2017.26 Another, in September 2016, proclaimed in an article, “I am the mother of a martyr … our sacrifices pale in comparison to [Hassan’s]!”27
This is not the only method Hezbollah employs to ensure adherence to the party line. Reports28 have emerged of party officials planted at public funerals to ensure proper comportment and to boost morale, as well as repeated visits by party members to the families of its martyrs.29 Hezbollah’s web content, moreover, shames those who react with excessive grief to a loved one’s martyrdom—as always, using the mother as an example. “Mohammad shouldn’t be cried over … no, no, no … Mohammad deserves for people to be happy for him because he reached heaven!” yells one woman in response to mourners weeping over her son’s coffin.30 Another mother, shown hugging her son’s corpse, holds back tears while repeating to herself that she won’t cry to avoid him seeing her upset.31 An additional way Hezbollah pressures mothers is by using the voices of their martyred sons. In a ‘last will’ video, the martyr Mahdi Yaghi tells his mother—in an obviously scripted segment—not to be sad when he is martyred and to try to behave in the way Fatima and Zainab once did.32 The speech is likely canned, as martyrs reading from scripts in other videos express the same sentiments toward their own mothers—including the martyr Hassan Ahmad Kanaan in a video published in 2014. “Do not be sad when you hear the news of my martyrdom, but rather hold on to the patience of Sayyida Zainab, peace be upon her.”33 These videos are also used to court mothers emotionally through what appear to be spontaneous words, such as a segment of Yaghi’s video when he is quietly prompted twice by the cameraman to speak to his mother.
In addition to emotional pressure and financial inducements, Hezbollah encourages sacrifice by granting the mothers of martyrs a unique symbolic status within the party. As mentioned previously, Hezbollah’s media draws frequent parallels between the mothers of martyrs and Sayyida Zainab, the sister of Imam Husayn revered by Shi`a Muslims for her bravery and sacrifices in the Battle of Karbala. Zainab’s rising status in Hezbollah doctrine—protecting her shrine in Damascus has served as a central justification for involvement in Syria34—has only rendered these comparisons more poignant and effective. Such parallels therefore lionize the sacrifices of Hezbollah women, signaling that a son’s martyrdom will earn them eternal glory in the eyes of God. Hierarchies of sacrifice are also present within the party’s propaganda, with the mothers of martyrs at the top. A Mother’s Dayd special from Hezbollah’s media outlet al-Manar, for example, featured the mother of a wounded fighter who offered her own disclaimer at the end, arguing that Mother’s Day should be dedicated fully to the mothers of martyrs for they are the ones who have sacrificed the most.35
Signs of Trouble
Outside Hezbollah’s own carefully curated media, some mothers have begun to question the group’s justification for the Syria intervention and its narrative of martyrdom. These accounts have appeared in both traditional and social media. In May 2015, a Twitter user under the handle “Um al Hasan” (mother of Hasan) tweeted, “Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah, I want my son back from Qalamoun. It is enough that one already died.”36 Fourteen minutes later, the same user tweeted again under the Arabic hashtag “we want our sons.”37 Although the hashtag has also been used frequently as a rallying cry for Palestinian martyr families against Israel, a number of other users followed Um al Hasan’s example, tweeting the hashtag to protest Hezbollah’s involvement in Syria.
Rumors of discontentment among mothers have also appeared in Lebanese traditional media, despite Hezbollah’s known efforts to intimidate reporters. For instance, the news outlet Al Mustaqbal reported in the spring of 2016 that a number of mothers of Hezbollah fighters killed in Syria had refused to welcome delegations of party members on Mother’s Day.38 In June 2016, the website quoted the mother of a martyred fighter addressing Hassan Nasrallah: “Why, Sayyid [Hassan]? This was not what we agreed to. We agreed that my son would learn religion and fight Israel … What is there for us in Syria? My son’s blood is on your hands.”39 In another article published by Al Joumhouria, the mother of a Syria casualty dared to ask the ultimate question more explicitly: “Did my son truly die a martyr’s death?”40
Admittedly, these reports appear largely in anti-Hezbollah Lebanese media, but even if they are not reliable across the board, their very existence may threaten the party’s legitimacy by raising doubts in its followers’ minds. Hezbollah’s culture of martyrdom relies on the mothers of martyrs to promote martyrdom wholeheartedly as the ultimate form of religious devotion; it does not allow for debate over what constitutes a martyr’s death. The breaking of taboos on these questions therefore elevates concern among party leaders about growing disillusionment among its rank and file. If this discontentment further takes hold and affects actual decision-making, it would not be the first time a group of mothers in the region had influenced military decisions through grassroots activity. Perhaps ironically, Israel’s “Four Mothers” movement, which decried what many Israeli soldiers’ mothers saw as the squandering of young lives in an unnecessary war in Lebanon, helped prompt the IDF’s withdrawal from the country in 2000.41
While signs of tension between Hezbollah and its community of mothers is undoubtedly a source of anxiety among its leadership, the severity of these concerns will depend largely upon the trajectory of the Syrian war and the party’s role in it. If combat fatalities continue unabated, the internal challenges described here could grow in importance and eventually overshadow the additional problem of Hezbollah’s loss of legitimacy in the eyes of many Arabs across the region. However, reports of discontent have been appearing on an occasional basis for several years and without much apparent change to Hezbollah’s ability to carry on the fight in Syria.
For now, the party seems to be managing this trend. Hezbollah also holds a subtler psychological advantage. For many of these families, blindly accepting the narrative of martyrdom may be less emotionally wrenching than questioning whether a child’s death was worth the pain. Until more families are ready to face such difficult questions, Hezbollah may continue to capitalize on the cult of martyrdom to the detriment of Lebanon’s Shi`a community. CTC
**Kendall Bianchi’s research focuses on security issues in the Middle East. She was previously a research assistant in the Military and Security Studies Program at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Before this, she studied Arabic in Jordan on a NSEP Boren Scholarship and in Morocco on a U.S. Department of State Critical Language Scholarship. Her work has also appeared in Foreign Affairs and on the Washington Institute’s Fikra Forum.
Substantive Notes
[a] These observations are based on the author’s review of Hezbollah propaganda materials posted online by the group.
[b] The martyrdom of Husayn ibn Ali, a grandson of the Prophet Mohammed, at the Battle of Karbala in 680 A.D. is central to Shi`a identity. Husayn is revered by Shi`a Muslims.
[c] These observations are based on the author’s review of Hezbollah propaganda materials posted online by the group.
[d] Most Arab countries celebrate Mother’s Day in March.
[e] These tweets were observed by the author.
[1] Qasem Istanbuli, “Our mothers are like schools,” Arabipress, March 8, 2017.
[2] Mahmoud Shahin, “For you, my mother – a message from a member of the resistance to his mother,” music video posted to Arabipress, August 29, 2016.
[3] See, for example, “The most beautiful mother: Listen to what the mother of the martyr Ali Hassan Ibrahim said,” Arabipress, October 10, 2016. See also “The most beautiful mother … The mother of the martyr Mohammad Jaafar Dagher talks about her son,” Arabipress, May 21, 2014.
[4] Jesse Rosenfeld, “Hezbollah Fighters Are Fed Up With Fighting Syria’s War,” Daily Beast, December 30, 2015.
[5] Fouad Ibrahim, “Al-Shahada: a Centre of the Shiite System of Belief,” in Madawi al-Rasheed and Marat Shterin eds., Dying for Faith: Religiously Motivated Violence in the Contemporary World (London: I.B. Taurus & Co Ltd, 2009), p. 118.
[6] Scott Peterson, “Funerals in Lebanon’s south foster culture of martyrdom,” Christian Science Monitor, August 21, 2006.
[7] Bassem Mroue and Zeina Karam, “Hezbollah finds fighting in Syria less popular than battling Israel,” Times of Israel, July 12, 2016.
[8] Hanin Ghaddar, “Hezbollah’s Women Aren’t Happy,” Tablet Magazine, October 12, 2016.
[9] “Hizbollah’s Syria Conundrum,” Report No. 175, International Crisis Group, March 14, 2017.
[10] Rabia Haddad, “Top Secret Casualties of Hezbollah,” Al Modon, April 20, 2015. See also Leila Fadel, “Cemetery for Hezbollah Martyrs Continues to Grow,” NPR, October 12, 2012.
[11] “The story of the martyr Abbas Alama between him and his mother,” Arabipress, June 6, 2017.
[12] For example, see “Last will of the martyr Mahdi Mohammad Yaghi – full (serious and unprompted),” YouTube, September 20, 2013. See also “In video: the martyr Qasem Shamkha through his will: forgive me,” Arabipress, November 7, 2016.
[13] Ghaddar.
[14] Suha Jafal, “About the mother of the victim Yaser Ali Shahla, who rebelled against Hezbollah officials,” Al Janoubia, July 31, 2015.
[15] “Mother of a Hezbollah fighter in Syria: ‘O God, please grant my son martyrdom, O God’,” Arabipress, April 10, 2014.
[16] “In pictures: conversation between the martyr Ali Abbas Ismael and his mother after the martyrdom of his friend, the martyr Mahdi Fakhreddine,” Arabipress, June 13, 2015.
[17] “This is what the mother of martyr Ali Zaitar said,” Arabipress, October 3, 2017.
[18] “The story of the martyr Zulfiqar Azzadin, in the words of his mother,” Arabipress, August 7, 2014.
[19] “In sound: Mother of a fighter in Aleppo sends him a voice recording … urging him toward Jihad and patience,” Arabipress, April 16, 2016.
[20] “Mother of the martyr Mohammad Ali Asad Bakri: My son before his martyrdom visited the Zainab shrine and told me he had asked her to have patience with me,” Arabipress, May 19, 2016.
[21] “Special: letter from the mother of a Bosnian martyr to the mother of the martyr Ramzi Mahdi in Lebanon, 1995,” Arabipress, March 7, 2016.
[22] “New, unique documentary about the Prince of Martyrs, the martyr Mahdi Yaghi,” Arabipress, July 9, 2017 (filmed at an earlier date). See 21:40.
[23] “Town of Asira/Baalbak presents the Zainabi martyr Ali Mohammad Hussein Yaghi,” Arabipress, June 3, 2017.
[24] “Mother of Jihadi Commander in her first recollection: rest easy, my dear, my son,” Al Manar, May 10, 2017.
[25] “Watch what the mother of martyr Mahdi Khadr said,” Arabipress, August 6, 2017.
[26] “In video: this is what the mother of the martyr Mohammad Basam Murad said to Sayyid Nasrallah,” Arabipress, January 31, 2017.
[27] “Letter from mother of the martyr Alaa Mustafa Aladdin ‘Jawad’ to Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah,” Arabipress, September 12, 2016.
[28] Fatima Hawhaw, “Shia oppositionists topple barrier of fear on Facebook,” Al Mustaqbal, June 5, 2013.
[29] Ghaddar.
[30] “This is what the mother of the martyr Mohammad Jouni said,” Arabipress, June 13, 2015.
[31] “The most beautiful mother: Listen to what the mother of the martyr Ali Hassan Ibrahim said.”
[32] See “Last will of the martyr Mahdi Mohammad Yaghi – full (serious and unprompted),” YouTube, September 20, 2013.
[33] “Will of the martyr Hassan Ahmad Kanaan (Malaak) – full version,” YouTube, March 24, 2014.
[34] Jean Aziz, “Hezbollah Leader Defends His Party’s Involvement in Syria,” Al-Monitor, May 2, 2013.
[35] “Mothers of the injured and the gift that keeps on giving,” Al Manar, March 21, 2017.
[36] @Umalhasan70, “#Hezbollah O Sayyid #Hasan_Nasrullah, for your sake, I want my son. Bring him back to me from Qalamoun. One was killed, and that’s enough. Have mercy on our kids, some of them are very sick. I ask you by the soul of your martyred son,” Twitter, May 9, 2015.
[37] @Umalhasan70, “#Dahieh We beg you, bring back our kids from #Qalamoun. One martyr is enough. #Hezbollah #Mustaqbal #we_want_our_kids,” Twitter, May 9, 2015.
[38] “It is said that …,” Al Mustaqbal Issue 5676, March 23, 2016, p. 2.
[39] “33 Hezbollah fighters killed in Damascus suburbs; Their mothers say to Nasrallah, ‘this is not what we agreed upon,’” Al Mustaqbal Issue 5759, June 20, 2016, p. 3.
[40] Ali Husseini, “Mother of a fighter in Hezbollah: Is my son a martyr?” Al Mustaqbal, October 10, 2012.
[41] Deborah Sontag, “Israel Honors Mothers of Lebanon Withdrawal,” New York Times, June 3, 2000.
Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on February 16-17/18
Netanyahu Tells UN Chief: Golan Will Remain Israel's Forever
Noa Landau (Munich)/Haaretz/Feb 16, 2018/Reiterating past comments, Netanyahu added that Israel would act against any Iranian attempt to build bases in Syria
MUNICH - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met Friday with Antonio Guterres, the head of the UN, and told him that the Golan Heights would remain in Israel's hands forever. Meeting at the Munich Security Conference, Netanyahu told the UN secretary general that Israel would not allow Iran to establish a military presence in Syria. Reiterating past comments, Netanyahu added that Israel would act against any Iranian attempt to build bases in Syria. Netanyahu also thanked Guterres for holding an informal UN Security Council session on Israelis held by Hamas together with the remains of Israeli soldiers killed during fighting in Gaza and said that there must be additional action on this issue. Netanyahu has made similar comments regarding the Golan in the past. Last year, Netanyahu asked U.S. President Donald Trump to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, territory Israel seized from Syria in the 1967 Six Day War. Israel made a similar request to the Obama administration in 2015, but it was rejected, diplomats said at the time. Most of the world considers the Golan, a high plateau between northeastern Israel and southwestern Syria, to be occupied by Israel, which annexed the territory in 1981 in a move not recognized internationally. At the beginning of this month, Netanyahu paid a rare visit to the occupied Golan Heights, peering across the nearby border into Syria and warning Israel’s enemies not to “test” its resolve. Last week anti-aircraft fire downed an Israeli warplane returning from a bombing raid on Iran-backed positions in Syria in what was the most serious confrontations yet between Israel and Iranian-backed forces based across the border. The F-16, one of at least eight Israeli planes dispatched in response to what Israel said was an Iranian drone’s incursion into its airspace earlier in the day, was hit by a Syrian anti-aircraft missile and crashed in northern Israel, an Israeli official told Reuters. Both pilots ejected and were injured, one critically. Israel then launched a second and more intensive air raid, hitting what it said were 12 Iranian and Syrian targets in Syria, including Syrian air defense systems. Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah group said the downing of the plane marked the “start of a new strategic phase” that would limit Israel’s ability to enter Syrian airspace. Iran’s involvement in Syria in support of President Bashar Assad in a nearly 7-year-old civil war - including the deployment of Iran-backed forces near the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights - has alarmed Israel, which has said it would counter any threat.
Reuters contributed background to this report
Trump Says 'No Collusion' after Russians Indicted for Election Meddling
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/February 16/18/U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday held up the indictment of 13 Russians -- and no Americans -- for meddling in the 2016 election as vindication that his campaign team did not collude with Moscow. "Russia started their anti-U.S. campaign in 2014, long before I announced that I would run for president," Trump tweeted, pointing to details of the indictment as evidence of his name being cleared. "The results of the election were not impacted. The Trump campaign did nothing wrong - no collusion!"

Israel Graft Case Turns Spotlight on Netanyahu Family
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/February 16/18/Israeli police accusations this week against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu involving fancy cigars, champagne and jewellery have revived older stories of alleged misbehaviour by the premier and some family members. The accusations were the most serious against Netanyahu during his long tenure in power, but they follow a series of stories about him and his family that have captured public attention.To name a few: the family dog biting a lawmaker, allegations that the premier's wife falsified housekeeping expenses and the broadcast of a recording of their eldest son drunk outside a strip club. Netanyahu, who has repeatedly proclaimed his innocence, says the attention paid to his family has been grossly unfair, and calls many of the stories obvious attempts to discredit him. Tamar Hermann, an expert on public opinion at the Israel Democracy Institute think tank, said Netanyahu supporters would certainly agree.
But for others, she said, "it's like having a neighbour whose domestic scene makes you look at it and say, 'God forbid! I hope it won't infect my home.'"In recommending that Netanyahu be indicted, police said he and "members of his household" were given cigars, champagne and jewellery worth about one million shekels (229,000 euros, $283,000) by Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan and Australian billionaire James Packer.
'Expensive jewellery' -Netanyahu is alleged to have tried to help Milchan in return, including by promoting his business interests in Israel. While the police document recommended that Netanyahu be charged with bribery, fraud and breach of public trust, it made no mention by name of his wife Sara or their son Yair, who also live in the heavily guarded official residence in central Jerusalem. But dozens of reports since police first interrogated the prime minister in January 2017 state that Sara Netanyahu was aware of certain gifts, with some allegedly delivered at her request. Haaretz daily referred to "an expensive piece of jewellery requested by Sara Netanyahu as a birthday gift" from Milchan, and said Packer gave Yair free air tickets and paid for hotel rooms. Yair Netanyahu is one of Netanyahu's three children from three marriages. He has a daughter, Noa, from first wife Miriam and a younger son, Avner, with Sara. In a separate case, Sara Netanyahu also faces a possible trial over alleged misuse of public funds, which she denies. The allegations announced last year are that she and an aide falsely declared there were no cooks available at the prime minister's official residence and they ordered from outside caterers at public expense.
The cost amounted to 359,000 shekels, the justice ministry said in a statement in September.
- Regular target -A former butler has also accused her of pocketing cash from deposit refunds for empty bottles returned from the official residence between 2009 and 2013, money that should have gone to the treasury. In 2013, Netanyahu reimbursed the state $1,000 but the butler has said the figure should have been six times higher. In February 2016, a court awarded 170,000 shekels in damages to a former housekeeper who accused the couple of repeated workplace abuse. The Netanyahus have dismissed the allegations, widely circulated in local media, as a smear campaign. Yair Netanyahu, 26, is a regular target of the family's critics as a grown man living in the premier's residence despite having no official role. Last August, left-wing think tank Molad published "Five things you didn't know about heir to the throne Yair Netanyahu", slamming his lifestyle, particularly the cost to the taxpayer of his round-the-clock protection and government car with driver. That perk backfired last month when a driver's recording of Yair outside a strip club drunkenly boasting to a friend about his father's role in a natural gas deal by his government was widely broadcast. Yair is heard speaking with the son of Kobi Maimon, a stakeholder in a company that owns a share in Israel's offshore Tamar gas field.
- 'Strippergate' -"My dad arranged $20 billion for your dad -- you can give me 400 shekels," he says. The audio clip also includes talk of strippers, leading Haaretz to dub the affair "Strippergate". Yair said he was joking in the audio, said to be from 2015, and acknowledged he had been "under the influence of alcohol". It was not the first time he drew media fire. In September, Yair raised eyebrows with a bizarre Facebook post suggesting there was a conspiracy against his family. The post included a series of anti-Semitic images. Before that there was what the Jerusalem Post called "Dog poop-gate" in which a neighbour of the Netanyahus complained that she had seen Yair walking the family mixed-breed dog Kaiya and failing to bag its leavings. She wrote on Facebook that when she challenged Netanyahu to clean up after the animal, he made an obscene gesture with his middle finger.
Yair then posted emojis showing a pile of dung and the finger gesture. Kaiya, adopted from a shelter, first made headlines of her own in 2015 when she bit an Israeli lawmaker and the husband of a cabinet minister during a reception at the Netanyahu residence.
Turkey, US to 'Work Together' in Syria after Crisis
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/February 16/18/Turkey and United States on Friday agreed to work together in Syria after weeks of tensions over Ankara's latest cross-border operation that raised fears of a military confrontation between the two NATO allies. US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu said after talks in Ankara that the two sides would set up working groups to solve key issues that have bedevilled relations. They gave few details on how this could be achieved, but indicated that solving a dispute over the control of the flashpoint town of Manbij was a priority. "We are not going to act alone any longer, not US doing one thing, Turkey doing another," Tillerson said after the talks. "We will work together... we have good mechanisms on how we can achieve this, there is a lot of work to be done," he added. Cavusoglu said Turkey and the US were agreed on the need to normalise relations. He said that ties were at a "critical phase" and vowed to create "mechanisms" to discuss the issues that were causing problems. A prime task of Tillerson on his trip to Ankara is to allay Turkish anger over US policy in Syria, a dispute which has ignited the biggest crisis in bilateral ties since the 2003 Iraq war. Washington has warned that Turkey's operation against the People's Protection Units (YPG) Kurdish militia in the Afrin region of Syria risks distracting from the fight against jihadists. Tillerson called on Ankara to "show restraint in its operation" while insisting that Turkey and the United States "share the same objectives in Syria". Tillerson the day earlier held over three hours of talks with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, with presidential sources saying the Turkish leader "openly" laid out Turkey's expectations and priorities. In a hugely unusual break from protocol, the only other official present at Tillerson's meeting with Erdogan at the presidential palace was Cavusoglu who also acted as translator, US sources said.
- 'Solve Manbij' -Analysts say the level of tension was similar to 2003 when Turkey refused to let US troops operate from its territory for the Iraq war, or even the aftermath of Ankara's invasion of Cyprus in 1974. Turkey's operation against the YPG, which Ankara blacklists as a terror group, has seen Turkish troops fighting a militia which is closely allied with the US in the battle against Islamic State (IS) group jihadists. For Ankara, the YPG is a branch of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which is blacklisted as a terror outfit by the US and the EU.
Erdogan this month upped the ante by warning US troops to leave Manbij, a YPG-held town east of Afrin, raising fears of a clash between the allies. The United States has a military presence in Manbij. He even warned that the US risked being dealt an "Ottoman slap" in Syria -- a backhand thwack which, according to legend, could kill an opponent at a stroke. But Tillerson added that Turkey and the United States had to solve the tensions surrounding Manbij as a "priority". "Manbij is going to be given priority in our joint working effort," he said. The town was once held by IS before they were pushed out by Kurdish militia and Tillerson said it was vital it did not fall again into jihadist hands. In a joint statement, Washington and Ankara agreed they would "decisively stand against all attempts to create faits accomplis and demographic changes within Syria" as part of their commitment to the preservation of Syria's territorial integrity.  Detained US citizens -The squabble over Syria is, however, just one of a litany of issues burdening Turkey-US relations. Ties were damaged after the failed coup of 2016 with Turkey stung by a perceived lack of US solidarity and angered by Washington's refusal to extradite Fethullah Gulen, a Pennsylvania-based cleric accused of ordering the putsch. Tillerson has also urged the release of Turkish citizens who have been caught up in the post-coup crackdown. Last week, NASA scientist Serkan Golge, a dual national, was jailed for seven-and-a-half years for being a member of Gulen's movement. US pastor Andrew Brunson, who ran a church in Izmir, has been held on similar charges since October 2016.

U.S. Indicts 13 Russians for Election Interference
Agence France Presse/Naharnet 16/18/U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller on Friday indicted 13 Russian nationals and three companies accused of running a secret campaign to tilt the 2016 presidential election. The unsealed indictment details a stunning operation that began in 2014 and aimed to sow social division inside the United States, influence U.S. politics "including the presidential election of 2016." Mueller alleges the campaign -- under the direction of Yevgeny Prigozhin, a close ally of Vladimir Putin -- by mid-2016 became focused on boosting Donald Trump and demeaning his rivals. It allegedly involved "hundreds" of people working in shifts and with a budget of millions of dollars. According to the indictment, the group posed as U.S. citizens on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram and posted content that reached "significant numbers" of Americans. The group was allegedly in contact with "unwitting" members of the Trump campaign, but had a broader "strategic goal to sow discord in the U.S. political system."It provided content that was retweeted by both the president's sons Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr as well as other top campaign officials and members of Trump's inner circle. "There is no allegation in this indictment that any American was a knowing participant in this illegal activity," said Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosensten. He added that there was also no judgment on whether the campaign "altered the outcome."The allegations are a double-edged sword for Trump, who has repeatedly dismissed claims of Russian interference as "fake news" and a "hoax" designed to take away from his election victory. On one hand they confirm Russia interference, but they seem to exonerate his staff from suspicions they knowingly colluded with this portion of Moscow's election activities. Four Trump campaign officials, including his campaign manager Paul Manafort and his national security advisor Michael Flynn have already been indicted as part of Mueller's broader investigation. Trump has publicly mulled firing the former FBI director and has repeatedly sought to influence his investigation through public warnings. The White House said that Trump had been briefed on the findings and it expected to issue a statement later in the day.
None of the 13 individuals are in U.S. custody.
Troll farm
The group was said to be based in Putin's home town of Saint Petersburg, but some of the accused traveled to the United States for political intelligence gathering. Stops included Nevada, California, New Mexico, Colorado, Illinois, Michigan -- a pivotal state in the election -- Louisiana, Texas, Georgia and New York. An unnamed Texas-based American political operative is said to have instructed them to focus on so-called "purple states" which swing between Republican and Democratic control. The group organized pro-Trump rallies in Florida and New York, but much of its work was focused on producing material that was damaging to the Democrat Hillary Clinton and to Trump's Republican rivals Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio. Aside from Trump, the group is said to have supported Green presidential candidate Jill Stein and Clinton's Democratic rival Bernie Sanders. Two of the firms are said to have Russian government contracts. Known as Putin's "chef," Prigozhin runs a company that works for the Kremlin to cater at receptions. He has been photographed with the Russian president. His Concord group is already under U.S. sanction.  In carrying out the influence campaign, Prigozhin's group is accused of buying US social security numbers and bank account numbers. In a separate filling Mueller indicted an American named as Ricardo Pinedo for selling such items.

US: It’s Time for Security Council to Act on Iran
Asharq Al-Awsat/February 16/18/US Ambassador Nikki Haley reiterated on Thursday that it was "time for the Security Council to act" following the release of a report by UN experts concluding that Iran had violated the arms embargo on Yemen. The report found that Tehran had failed to block supplies to Yemen's Houthi insurgents of ballistic missiles that were fired at Saudi Arabia. "This report highlights what we've been saying for months: Iran has been illegally transferring weapons in violation of multiple Security Council resolutions," Haley said in a statement. The ambassador added that "the world cannot continue to allow these blatant violations to go unanswered" and that Tehran must face "consequences." "It's time for the Security Council to act."Diplomats said the Iranian violations are likely to be addressed in a draft resolution renewing sanctions on Yemen that the council is set to adopt later this month. It remains unclear however if Russia will back any move that punishes Iran.

France Says Iran's Missile Program Must Be Put 'Under Surveillance'
Asharq Al-Awsat/February 16/18/Iran’s ballistic missile program must be placed under international surveillance, French President Emmanuel Macron said, in an bid to get tougher on Tehran while preserving the nuclear deal that US President Donald Trump has threatened to scrap.
With the 2015 deal, aimed at stopping Iran developing nuclear weapons, put in jeopardy by Trump, Britain, France and Germany are working on a plan to satisfy him by a May deadline to address Iran’s ballistic missile tests and its regional influence.
Macron said France, one of the signatories to the nuclear deal, wanted to preserve it as nothing better had been offered. However, he said the use of Iranian-linked missiles in Yemen and Syria needed to be addressed because they were a security problem for French allies. “I want a new cycle of negotiations with regional parties and the permanent members of the Security Council, like we did for the nuclear deal, but widening it to regional countries so that we can reduce and eradicate this insecurity,” Macron told reporters, according to Reuters. “And we need to put Iran under surveillance over its ballistic missiles. It’s indispensable for the security of the region and so we need a mechanism of sanctions and control adapted to that,” he added. Citing Iranian influence in Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen, Macron said Tehran’s foreign policy “can sometimes be a factor of destabilisation and we need to have a dialogue with the Iranian regime.”He added: “I think all forms of military solution to this situation are an error." Macron, whose foreign minister travels to Tehran on March 4, said he wanted to organize a meeting of the main players in the Syrian crisis.
“I want that we have in the coming weeks a meeting on Syria that eradicates the ballistic activities in Syria that puts in danger all the regional powers,” he said, without elaborating.

Ahmadinejad Criticizes Khamenei's Positions on the Judiciary
London- Adil al Salmi/Asharq Al-Awsat/February 16/18/In less than a week, for the second time, former Iranian president and member of the Expediency Council, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, harshly criticized senior officials with "absolute powers" who "despise" Iranian people. He implicitly criticized Ali Khamenei for "failing to respond" to questions on the judiciary. He also referred to the current political debate after "suicide" allegations of environmentalist Kavous Seyed Emami in Evin Prison, stressing that "people do not believe those claims" and criticizing "unjustified arrests".
Seyed-Emami was a defendant in a spying case and had committed suicide because of the weight of evidence against him, an Iranian news agency reported on Sunday. Ahmadinejad headed his team of advisers to the Iranian court in Tehran on Wednesday morning to support his executive assistant Hamid Bakai during his fourth appearance in court within two months. According to "Dolat Bahar" website, authorities prevented Ahmadinejad from attending the trial, after which he stood at the court's door to deliver a brief speech on current situations in Iran, criticizing mismanagement, especially that of the Iranian judiciary.
He said no governmental body was responding to complaints against the judiciary, including Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. He wondered which official institution would be accepted and trusted by Iranian people. Ahmadinejad promised the current situation would end for the benefit of the Iranian people, stressing that "injustice will not last anywhere in the world.""We want to complain about the judiciary, whom should we refer to? There is no place accepted and trusted by the people, " Ahmadinejad added. The head of the judiciary is the most prominent official chosen by the Iranian leader in accordance with his constitutional powers. Ahmadinejad's criticism of the judiciary chief has been repeatedly interpreted as criticism of Khamenei's policies. So far, Khamenei has not addressed the dispute between Ahmadinejad and judiciary chief, Sadiq Larijani, but in December, he blamed former officials who turned into dissidents after they were heads of state in Iran. A week ago, Ahmadinejad said in a statement posted on his website that brothers Ali and Sadiq Larijani, presiding the judiciary and the parliament, are seeking to attain the positions of supreme leader and president. Ahmadinejad repeated in his last speech that Iranians had staged a revolution "in order to speak freely in defense of their rights, with the regime and governmental bodies defending the people's right." He added that the 1979 revolution was for justice, and people's rights, indicating that it did not occur in order for some to have more than what they need, while others can't have the simplest necessities. Meanwhile, Ahmadinejad's aide Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei tweeted on his account: "On the eve of the 40th anniversary of the Iranian revolution, the prisons are clean, safe and comfortable, to an extent that if anyone went there, they would be happy. There is no difference between being a drug addict or a spy." Mashaei also published an article on "Dolat Bahar" criticizing the judiciary's stance on the case of Seyed-Emami.
He said: "The judiciary is accused of murder unless proven otherwise."
MP Fatemeh Zolghadr stated that Abbas Jafari-Dolatabadi, Tehran’s public prosecutor, ordered the arrest of Emami. She added: "Emami committed suicide after he asked to postpone an investigation session in prison."Dolatabadi announced that Seyed-Emami had been arrested for espionage, which meant that Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) was responsible for his detention in Evin prison. He added that Emami was arrested because he was linked to a CIA officer who also stayed at his home. He accused him of spying on Iran's missile program. “These individuals have been collecting classified information about the country’s strategic areas under the guise of carrying out scientific and environmental projects,” Dolatabadi said. The Canadian government said on Tuesday it was “seriously concerned” with the circumstances surrounding the death of Emami who is an Iranian-Canadian dual citizen.
“We are seriously concerned by the situation surrounding the detention and death of Mr. Seyed-Emami,” Canada’s foreign minister, Chrystia Freeland, said in a statement. “We expect the Government of Iran to provide information and answers into the circumstances surrounding this tragedy. We will continue to use every means at Canada’s disposal to seek further information," she added. Seyed-Emami was the managing director of the Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation, an organization aimed at protecting Iran’s rare animals, and a US-trained scholar in sociology. Iranian President's Special Assistant for Citizens' Rights Affairs Shahindokht Molaverdi announced that Rouhani had ordered a full report on recent incidents in Iranian prisons. She reiterated that all citizens have the right to a fair trial, according to ISNA.

Syrian Opposition to Asharq Al-Awsat: US Considering Strike on Regime in Response to Use of Chemical Weapons
Asharq Al-Awsat/February 16/18/US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (L) and Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi attend a news conference in Amman, Jordan, Wednesday. (Reuters/Muhammad Hamed) Amman, Paris, New York- Mohammed Al-Daama, Michel Abou Najem and Ali Barda
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told members of the Syrian High Negotiations Committee (HNC), headed by Nasr al-Hariri during a meeting in Amman on Wednesday that Washington was “considering options to pressure the regime, including an action in response to the use of chemical weapons,” Syrian sources told Asharq Al-Awsat. Tillerson, in a press statement from Jordan, expressed Washington’s concern over reports of the repeated use of chemical weapons in Syria. He noted that the international community did not have “a good mechanism now to deal with these reports,” but “the administration of President (Donald) Trump looks seriously” at the issue. On Tuesday, French President Emmanuel Macron warned that his country was prepared to launch strikes against the Syrian regime if evidence revealed that it had carried out chemical weapons attacks against civilians. "We will strike the place where these launches are made or where they are organized," Macron told the presidential press corps. "But today our services have not established proof that proscribed chemical weapons have been used against civilian populations," he added. "As soon as such proof is established, I will do what I said," Macron warned, while adding that "the priority is the fight against the terrorists". Regarding the Syrian regime itself, either during or after the conflict; "it will be answerable to international justice," he added. Macron also called for an international meeting on Syria, in the region if possible. In a telephone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin last week, Macron said he was “worried about indications suggesting the possible use of chlorine on several occasions against the civilian population in Syria these last few weeks.” Senior French sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that Paris “has the military means” to carry out its threats, through the use of missiles launched by submarines or aircraft, remotely and without the need to fly over Syrian territory to avoid collision with the Syrian air defense system. However, a military development of this caliber “requires political will, and we do not know if that will is available to President Macron,” the sources added.

Abbas Calls for International Conference to Save Peace Process
Asharq Al-Awsat/February 16/18/Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called for holding an international peace conference to save the political process in the region. During his meeting with Oman’s Foreign Minister Yusuf Bin Alawi in Ramallah, Abbas said: “We want this conference to lead to the establishment of a new multilateral international mechanism based on the resolutions of the international legitimacy, in order to save the political process and achieve peace in our region.”Abbas accused the United States of putting the entire political process in an impasse because of its decision to consider Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and its support for Israeli occupation practices against the defenseless Palestinian people. Abbas’ demand for an international peace conference came a few days after his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin to discuss the same matter. He hopes that Moscow will launch an international peace conference, or push towards this direction as a possible alternative to the United States’ mediating role. Palestinian Prime Minister Rami al-Hamdallah said on Thursday that Abbas’ demand enjoyed broad Palestinian support. “This mechanism must act in accordance with international legitimacy and guarantee the end of the occupation and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders,” he said. The PA cut ties with the US administration following Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The Palestinians declared that the US Administration has lost its eligibility as a mediator and sponsor of the peace process and rejected any meetings with US officials, accusing the country of turning into an official sponsor of Israel. Member of the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), Hanan Ashrawi, said on Thursday that the US Administration encouraged Israel to “continue its flagrant violations, and total disregard for international law,” in a manner that constituted “an obvious breach of the peace process and the principle of a two-state solution.”

Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on February 16-17/18
Iran: The Challenges of History with an Attitude
Amir Taheri/Asharq Al Awsat/February 16/18
Iran A Modern History/By Abbas Amanat
Throughout the history of writing history, that is to say since Herodotus put pen to paper, Iran has always attracted and at the same time repelled those who for a variety of reasons took an interest in its complex character as a major actor in world events over millennia. Often, the interaction of that fascination and rejection made it difficult if not impossible to construct an objective narrative of the Iranian story. As a result, Iran was, and, as the author of this hefty oeuvre professor Abbas Amanat admits remains subject to a method of scrutiny that he labels “history with an attitude.” In practice, this means that those who write about Iran also write about themselves at least in the sense of how their generation or contemporary scholarship views historic events.
Let’s say it at the outset that thanks to the easy flow of its prose, Amanat’s book, focusing on Iran’s history from the establishment of the Safavid Dynasty in 1501 to the present day, is a delight to read especially for the general reader. The use of the term “modern”, however, injects some ambiguity as Amanat himself admits. Did Iran enter the modern world with the Safavids? More importantly, perhaps, are we sure Iran has entered the modern world which means different things to different people. A fruit of the Enlightenment, the concept of modernity is based on the linear vision of human history as a progressive continuum from a low point to higher and higher ones.
Amanat does not involve himself in the complexities of the question of modernity.
However, he implies that the modern world started with the emergence of the so-called “Gunpowder Empires”, new actors in history using the WMD of the day to expand through warfare. Since Iran under the Safavids became an early victim of “Gunpowder Empire” in the shape of the Ottomans under Sultan Salim, one could argue that it entered the modern times, especially since the Safavids ended up acquiring and deploying modern artillery.
Later, under the Qajars, who succeeded the Safavids after the long and bloody parenthesis of two more dynasties, continued Iran’s incursion into modernity with a number of physical and institutional reforms. Under the Pahlavis, who succeeded the Qajars, the pace of modernization accelerated with emphasis on turning Iran into a Western-style nation-state and, perhaps, a model for the entire Persianate cultural sphere.
Amanat’s narrative follows the predominant view of Western, and to some extent even Soviet, scholars of Iranian history in the past five centuries. Thus his book has the added interest of telling the reader how modern scholarship, dominated by Western academics and researchers, sees Iran. The advantage of that method is its genius for rationalization and simplification.
For example, we are told that the Safavid Dynasty, founded the young warrior Ismail, introduced Shiism to Iran and imposed it as a religion of the state by the sword. This means ignoring the fact that Shiism, in its many different versions, had always had a presence in Iran half a millennium before the Safavids.
One might also wonder how Shiite the Safavids actually were?
They produced no theological text on the subject and were obliged to import their clerics from the Shiite parts of Lebanon. The native Iranian Shiite clergy, especially in cities such as Shiraz and Isfahan, did not share Shah Ismail’s peculiar vision.
In any case, one might ask whether or not Shiism was nothing but an ideological prop for Ismail? Shah Ismail liked to call himself Kay-Khosrow, after the Iranian pre-Islamic mythological king who remains the perfect model of kingship in the Persianate sphere even today. The founder of the Safavids did not name his sons after any of the Shiite “saints” Ali, Hassan and Hussein. His son and successor was named Tahmasp, after another pre-Islamic mythological prince and warrior. Ismail’s favorite son’s name was Alqas which means “revenge.” Three of the 12 Safavid kings were named Abbas, after the Prophet’s uncle and the ancestor of Abbasid who became mortal enemies of Ali and his descendants. Only the very last of the Safavids on the throne in Isfahan was called Sultan Hussein.
Shah Ismail was proud of his Christian mother Martha, a Byzantine beauty, who refused to convert to Islam let alone Shiism.
Amanat repeats some of the old chestnuts in circulation about the Safavids, notably the claim that the Qizilbash (Red Cap), Ismail’s elite troops, boiled the corpses of Ottoman soldiers and devoured them while getting drunk.
The standard Western scholars’ view of the Safavids, masterfully expressed by Amanat, ignores Iran’s schizophrenia, a nation that does not feel comfortable with Islam but is, at the same time, reluctant, to abandon it. The fact that Islam, in its different versions, has been used in dynastic wars, and is today used by the Khomeinist movement, in the political arena, cannot hide the fact that religion has and still is used as an instrument of political power rather than the other way round.
The Safavids’ praetorian guards, the Qizil Bash, spoke Turkish while the king’s mullahs, imported from Lebanon, spoke Arabic. Thus the two pillars of the new state couldn’t directly communicate with the kings subjects.
The Western academia’s shortcut of “Iran became Shiite under Safavids” does not tell the whole story.
Amanat’s account of the Iranian story under the Qajars also suffers from received ideas that are hard to dispel.
The image of Qajars as a corrupt, retrograde and ultimately incompetent dynasty makes it difficult to study the impact of historic events, notably the rise of European imperialist powers, beyond their control. However, Amanat’s account has at least one welcome feature as it depicts the ups and downs of religious and political dissent in the Qajar era. Of special interest is Amanat’s account of the rise of the Babi movement and the formation of the Bahai faith and the repression meted out by the Qajars, an issue traditionally avoided by Western historians of Iran.
When we come to the Pahlavi era, Amanat tries, at times heroically, to veer away from the received ideas that have become shibboleths for many Western scholars writing about Iran. Conscious of the danger that he might be ostracized by the academic establishment that regards the Pahlavis with disdain, he raises his head from the parapet occasionally to assert that the two Pahlavis shahs did some good for Iran.
He writes: “In the Pahlavi era the Iranian population had improved in every generation [physically, hygienically, and medically, from the frail, malnourished and diseased population at the turn of the century- visible in many photographs of the period- to a relatively healthy, sanitary, and better nourished people.” Wow!
Amanat also debunks, albeit gingerly, the claim by anti-Shah Marxist and Islamist guerrillas that his regime killed “tens of thousands” of their followers. He states that the total number of Fedayeen of People executed or killed in armed action against security forces was 198 while the People’s Combatants lost 15. The killing of “tens of thousands” was to come much later, under Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
Equally gingerly, Amanat sets aside the standard claim in Western academia that whatever the Shah did was in accordance with the wishes of the Western powers. He writes: “By mid-1960s neither the United States nor Britain could hold sway over his conduct.”
In his guerrilla style attempt at escaping from received ideas concerning Iran’s recent history, Amanat hits a big hurdle in the shape of the August 1953 events that led to the end of Muhammad Mussadeq’s two-year tenure as Prime Minister. The standard narrative in Western academia is that Mussadeq’s dismissal by the Shah was a coup d’etat plotted by the CIA and carried out by the Shah and his supporters in the military. Anyone who deviates from that narrative is branded a revisionist, almost as bad as Holocaust deniers, and ostracized in scholarly circles.
So, what should Amanat do?
Well, he describes the whole thing as “the working draft of a Grahame Greene novel”, a tongue-in-cheek way of questioning the received idea without incurring the wrath of tis peddlers in the academic spheres.
Amanat then has recourse to numerous qualifiers to indicate that he doesn’t quite share the standard narrative of the Mussadeq saga.
For example he writes: That the Shah, having dismissed Mussadeq “was, perhaps, preparing for abdication and permanent exile, perhaps in the United States where he might have bought a ranch.”
Amanat also dares to criticize Mussadeq. He writes: “His disturbing autocratic conduct may be seen as a conundrum between conservativism, liberalism and radial populism.” Perhaps! In any case, Mussadeq, seen by Amanat, wasn’t the liberal democrat overthrown by earth-devouring American Imperialism.
Yet, to ensure himself against attacks by the received-ideas wolf-pack, Amanat repeats the standard narrative at top speed, a regrettable diversion in an otherwise fair account of the events. During his 37 years as sovereign, the Shah appointed and dismissed 23 prime ministers, including Mussadeq twice.
Should we regard every one of those dismissals as a coup d’état? And why didn’t Mussadeq himself ever claim that he had been victim of a coup d’état? The reason was that Mussadeq, French-educated as he was, knew that the French term meant the violent change of a nation’s regime, head of state and constitution, none of which had happened in Iran.
Mussadeq’s dismissal may have been politically bad and morally wrong. But whatever it was, it wasn’t a coup d’état. Nor did the CIA would have been able to exert such a major influence on Iranian politics.
Amanat is refreshingly balanced in his account of the Khomeinist revolution and the record of the Islamic Republic in the past three decades. In a cool tone he relates the mass executions, the seizure of hostages and the fomenting of terror and oppression that have become key features of the Khomeinist system. At the same time, however, he notes that the Khomeinist regime has provided Iran with a measure of stability rare in today’s turbulent Middle East. To be sure, critics might claim that the stability which Amanat talks about may be stagnation or the calm of a graveyard.
One big mistake Amanat makes is his assertion that the Khomeinist revolution has brought the “Shiite clerical establishment to power.” This is certainly not the case. Khomeini was never one of the “top four ayatollahs of the time”, as Amanat asserts. Until he seized power, Khomeini was in the third-tier of the top Shiite hierarchy. To distinguish himself from the traditional hierarchy, he invented the title of Imam for himself to. In 1978, the Shiite clergy numbered around 250,000 of whom a small number took part in the revolution. Even today, none of the mullahs in senior positions in the regime can be counted among the top echelon of the clerical hierarchy.
Amanat's history with an attitude is a welcome contribution, although in some cases, attitude adjustment might improve things.

Syria: Looking For Ways Out Of The Maze
Amir Taheri/Asharq Al-Awsat/February 16/18/
In Western political and diplomatic circles the received idea these days is that war in Syria has reached its end and that what one should now focus on is reconstruction.
However, like all other received ideas this one, too, is as full of holes and Swiss cheese.
The first hole is that what we have witnessed in Syria over the past seven years was not a war in any classical sense of the term. What we saw was several wars woven into each other in the context of a humanitarian disaster sharpened by rivalry among a dozen cynical powers in pursuit of contradictory goals.
In that sense, far from being at the end of anything in Syria, we may be at the beginning of a new phase in this historic tragedy. The second hole is that even if we focus on any of the parallel wars in Syria we would still find it hard to claim that we have reached the end.
To be sure, the Assad regime has been cut down in size, practically limited to a pocket of territory. However, it is still strong enough not to raise its hands in surrender.
As for the so-called ISIS or Daesh, its “caliphate” has seen its territory reduced from almost 4000 square miles to just over 2,700 square miles.
The non-Daesh Syrian armed opposition groups have also suffered major setbacks and are now cantoned in part of the Idlib province plus an archipelago of tiny possessions dotting the Syrian surface. As for Syrian Kurds, having played a complicated game through contradictory alliances, they seem likely to end up with almost nothing but deep chagrin.
In a broader context Russia, too, has been forced to face the limits of its power.
It may have secured a foothold on the Mediterranean but is fully conscious of the difficulty of protecting it against future turmoil.
In the forthcoming Russian presidential elections, we may hear President Vladimir Putin, once again a candidate for his own succession, claim, or at least hint at, some kind of victory in Syria. But, being an intelligent leader, he surely knows that no war is ever won until one side admits defeat.
Turkey is also discovering the limits of its ability to score points in Syria. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s jingoistic dash into Syrian territory may remain popular enough in Turkey for a few more months to enable him to bring forward the date of the historic elections he plans to hold and make sure he emerges victorious. But what happens after that is far from certain, except that getting involved in Syria isn’t going to be as low-cost as Erdogan pretends.
Iran’s situation is even more pitiful.
Having spent vast sums of money and lost more men, including over 400 senior officers, in this meaningless adventure, the mullahs had hoped to end up with a corridor to the Mediterranean with a contiguous passage through Iraq and Syria to Lebanon. It is now clear that they won’t get that.
Whatever presence they may build inside Syria close to Lebanon will be vulnerable to Israeli air attacks which Iran, having no air force of its own, won’t be able to counter. The Lebanese, Afghan and Pakistani mercenaries that Iran has assembled close to the Lebanese border in Syria could end up as fish in a barrel.
Israel which has just started to dip a toe in this witches’ brew may well be happy to see Syria removed as a credible threat for the foreseeable future. However, Syria under the Assad clan was never an active danger for Israel while Syria as a “non-governed territory” and a patchwork of uncontrollable groups may well become a nuisance if not an existential threat.
The trouble is that in this many-sided war no side is yet ready to raise the white flag. By just saying “no” all sides stay in the game, deadly though it is.
The Syrian situation, a tragedy that starts as a civil war and then morphs into a prolonged and multifaceted jumble of conflicts, isn’t unique. We have had similar situations in Somalia, Congo-Kinshasa and, in a sense, even Afghanistan for decades.
In all such situations, the received idea is that we are almost there, there meaning an end of conflict, but never quite reaching it. The trouble is that in such situations those involved end up getting used to a new status quo that, although not delivering what they hoped for, isn’t too costly to require dramatic withdrawal. A low intensity war could go on and on, even for ever if necessary.
So, is there an alternative to the emerging status quo?
The theoretical answer is: yes.
But to shape an alternative all sides must first admit that the “war” isn’t over and that none of them is likely to score a clear-cut victory. Even if, in a fantasy world, the whole of Syria was to be presented to any of the protagonists on a platter, none would be able to hold it together let alone benefit from it.
The question is no longer: who dances with Humpty-Dumpty? The question is: How to put this Humpty-Dumpty together again?
Nothing short of a serious international effort could recreate an entity that has ceased to exist as a nation-state. And such an effort may be possible on the basis of full inclusion of all the protagonists, used to a game of exclusion as they all are.
Putin’s idea of “de-escalation zones” may be a good start provided it is linked to the Geneva Accords and the creation of an international supervisory mechanism, not to say mandate, for a transition period aimed at paving the way for massive reconstruction financed by the global community. Similar formula produced positive results in other places such as Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo, albeit on a much smaller scale and in far less complicated situations. It is, of course, far from certain that such a formula would find support among the protagonists. But there is a glimmer of hope in the fact that, tired of an endless adventurer, almost all protagonists are beginning to look for a way out of this maze of waywardness.

Islamic Anti-Semitism in France: Toward Ethnic Cleansing
Guy Millière/Gatestone Institute/February 16/18
Graffiti on Jewish-owned homes warn the owners to "flee immediately" if they want to live. Anonymous letters with live bullets are dropped into mailboxes of Jews.
Laws meant to punish anti-Semitic threats are now used to punish those who denounce the threats. A new edition of a public school history textbook for the eighth grade states that in France it is forbidden to criticize Islam.
Those French Jews who can leave the country, leave. Most departures are hasty; many Jewish families sell their homes well below the market price. Jewish districts that once were thriving are now on the verge of extinction.
"The problem is that anti-Semitism today in France comes less from the far right than from individuals of Muslim faith or culture". — Former Prime Minister Manuel Valls.
Friday, January 12, 2018. Sarcelles. A city in the northern suburbs of Paris. A 15-year-old girl returns from high school. She wears a necklace with a star of David and a Jewish school uniform. A man attacks her with a knife, slashes her face, and runs away. She will be disfigured the rest of her life.
January 29, again in Sarcelles, an 8-year-old boy wearing a Jewish skullcap is kicked and punched by two teenagers.
A year earlier, in February, 2017, in Bondy, two young Jews wearing Jewish skullcaps were severely beaten with sticks and metal poles. One of the Jews had his fingers cut with a hacksaw.
Before that, in Marseilles, a Jewish teacher was attacked with a machete by a high school student who said he wanted to "decapitate a Jew". The teacher used the Torah he was carrying to protect himself. He survived but was seriously injured.
In France, anti-Semitic attacks have been multiplying.
Most are committed in broad daylight; Jews know they have to be street-smart. Some attackers break into Jewish homes.
In September 2017, Roger Pinto, president of Siona, a leading pro-Israel organization in France, was beaten and held for hours by people who forced open his door.
Sarah Halimi, an elderly Jewish lady, was beaten and tortured in her Paris apartment, then thrown from her balcony.
On January 18, 2018, six days after the knife attack in Sarcelles, one of the leaders of the Jewish community in Montreuil, east of Paris, was tortured all night by two men who broke open a window and assaulted him as he slept.
Graffiti on Jewish-owned homes warn the owners to "flee immediately" if they want to live. Anonymous letters with live bullets are dropped into mailboxes of Jews, and state that the next bullet will be fired into the recipient's head.
The word "Jew" is painted in capital letters on Jewish shops and restaurants. On the third anniversary of an attack on a kosher supermarket in Paris, another kosher store was torched and destroyed.
"One racist act out of three committed in France in the last two years was directed against a Jew, while Jews now represent less than 1% of the French population", noted the most recent report submitted to the French government by the Jewish Community Protection Service.
"Anti-Semitism has grown so much recently," the report added, "that acts of aggression which cause no injury are no longer reported. Most victims feel powerless and are afraid of reprisals if they file a complaint".
Those French Jews who can leave the country, leave.
Those who have not yet decided to leave or who do not have the financial means, move to safer neighborhoods.
Most departures are hasty; many Jewish families sell their homes well below the market price. Some families end up in apartments that are too small, but prefer discomfort to the risk of being mugged or killed.
The French Jewish community may still be the largest in Europe, but it is shrinking rapidly. In 2000, it was estimated at 500,000, but the number now is less than 400,000, and sinking. Jewish districts that once were thriving are now on the verge of extinction.
"What is happening is an ethnic cleansing that dare not speak its name. In few decades, there will be no Jews in France," according to Richard Abitbol, ​​president of the Confederation of French Jews and Friends of Israel.
Without the Jews of France, France would no longer be France, said Former Prime Minister Manuel Valls in 2016 . But he did not do anything.
Recently he said that he had done his best, that he could not have done more. "The problem," he said, "is that anti-Semitism today in France comes less from the far right than from individuals of the Muslim faith or culture".
He added that in France, for at least two decades, all attacks against Jews in which the perpetrator has been identified have come from Muslims, and that the most recent attacks were no exception.
Valls, however, quickly suffered the consequences of his candor. He was elbowed to the margins of political life. Muslim websites called him an " agent of the Jewish lobby" and a "racist." Former leaders of his own party, such as former Foreign Minister Roland Dumas, said that Valls' wife is a Jew and hinted that he was "under the influence".
In France, telling the truth about Islamic anti-Semitism is dangerous. For a politician, it is suicidal.
French politicians, right or left, know that political correctness reigns, and that transgressing its unwritten rules leads to being excluded from the media and effectively ostracized. They know that some words cannot be used any more in France, and that "anti-racist" organizations ensure that no one can criticize Islam.
A new edition of a public school history textbook for the eighth grade explicitly states that in France it is forbidden to criticize Islam, and quotes a court decision to back up the claim.
Politicians see that the number of Muslims in France is now so large that it is virtually impossible to win an election without the Muslim vote, and that the difference in birthrate between Muslims and non-Muslims will make that arrangement even more obligatory in years to come.
Politicians also see that the country's 600 "no-go zones" are growing; that radicalized Muslims may kill, and that violent riots can break out at any time. In France, more than 500 people were murdered or maimed by Islamic terrorists in less than four years.
Politicians also see that waves of migrants from the Middle East and Africa have created slums largely beyond the control of the police; that French prisons are on the verge of exploding, and that Jews have no electoral weight and are essentially powerless.
Politicians therefore choose inertia, denial, cowardice.
In French Muslim neighborhoods, Islamist imams denounce the "bad influence" of Jews and spread anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. French politicians stay silent.
Islamic bookstores in France sell books banned elsewhere, such as the fraudulent Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and CDs and DVDs of violent anti-Semitic speeches by radical preachers. For instance, Yussuf al-Qaradawi, the spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, who is prohibited from entering France and the US, says he regrets that Hitler did not "finish the job". French politicians stay silent.
Although synagogues in France have not been attacked since 2014, they all are guarded around the clock by armed soldiers in bulletproof vests who are protected behind sandbags, as are Jewish schools and cultural centers.
Meanwhile, laws meant to punish anti-Semitic threats are now used to punish those who denounce the threats.
Six years ago, the author Renaud Camus published Le Grand Remplacement ("The Great Replacement"), a book noting that Jews and Christians are not only being replaced by Muslims, but that they are often harassed and persecuted. He lamented the destruction of churches and described attacks on Jews as a "slow pogrom". He was condemned for "inciting hatred".
Recently, journalist Éric Zemmour observed that in Muslim neighborhoods, Muslims are now living "according to their own laws" and forcing non-Muslim people to leave. He was found guilty of "incitement" and fined.
A reporter who recently made a documentary about French Muslim neighborhoods, concluded that the Muslim Brotherhood and other radical Islamist organizations are quickly taking hold of French Muslim communities while spreading hatred towards the Jews and the West, and that they own many schools where jihad is taught .
The French government, he added, is financing these schools and is therefore complicit in sowing the seeds of a devastation that could easily go beyond the destruction of France's Jews. "The occupation of the West," he said, "will be done without war but quietly, with infiltration and subversion." No French television station has broadcast it, nor plans to. The documentary was aired only in Israel.
Anti-Israel demonstrations support terrorism. People shout, "Death to the Jews," but those people are never arrested for "hate speech".
Polls show that the unhindered dissemination of Muslim anti-Semitism and the violence that results from it has led to the rise of widespread anti-Semitism that clearly recalls dark periods of history.
A growing percentage of the French say that the Jews in France are "too numerous" and "too visible."
Reports for the Ministry of National Education reveal that expressions such as "Don't act like a Jew", intended to criticize a student who hides what he thinks, are widely used in public schools. Jewish students are more and more often the object of mockery -- and not just by students who are Muslim.
A few days ago, the comedian Laura Laune was the winner on the reality television series "France's Got Talent". Some of her jokes make fun of the fact that there were fewer Jews in the world in 1945 than in 1939. Jewish organizations protested, but in vain. Now, she appears to packed halls. The anti-Semitic comedian Dieudonné also fills the stadiums where he performs.
Recently, France's prestigious publishing house, Gallimard, asked to republish the anti-Semitic writings of Louis Ferdinand Celine, a French admirer of Nazi Germany and a strong supporter of the extermination of Europe's Jews during France's Vichy regime. French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said he was in favor of republishing it, and stressed that one cannot deny Celine's "central position in French literature." Famous Nazi-hunter Serge Klarsfeld replied that the writings that sent his parents to their deaths "must not be made available again." Gallimard postponed the publication temporarily.
A few years ago, the "duty of memory" -- what had been done to the Jews -- was the subject of many articles. Last month, on January 27, International Holocaust Remembrance Day, not a single French newspaper mentioned it.
French President Emmanuel Macron stayed silent. He published a tweet evoking "Auschwitz" and the need to "preserve peace, unity and tolerance". He did not say a word about Jews or the Holocaust. It is hard to see in France where "peace, union and tolerance" are today -- especially if you are a French Jew.
**Dr. Guy Millière, a professor at the University of Paris, is the author of 27 books on France and Europe.
© 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.

European Officials: Apologists for Arab-Islamic Repression, Terrorism

Giulio Meotti/Gatestone Institute/February 16/18
European officials have been not only mute about the Iranian regime's attacks on its own people. They have also been missing "a robust defense of Western values", now under attack in Iran: freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, separation of religion and state, judicial due process.
The European Union these days is alarmed about political reforms in Poland, but totally quiet about Erdogan's "coup against civilians" in Turkey.
How is it possible that Pope Francis, the world's highest Catholic authority, does not feel any urgency to denounce the avalanche of anti-Semitism and hate coming from the Islamic authorities, but pleased them by sending a letter of support?
As these last few years of terror attacks should have proven to them, they delude themselves if they think that this deadly ideology will be kept confined to Tehran, Ramallah or Ankara.
Federica Mogherini has been busy in recent weeks, appeasing one repressive regime after another. Mogherini, the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, began with Iran. "Mogherini was mute on the popular uprising in Iran," wrote Eli Lake at Bloomberg.
"She waited six days to say anything about the demonstrations there. When she finally did, it was a mix of ingratiation and neutrality. 'In the spirit of openness and respect that is at the root of our relationship,' she said, 'we expect all concerned to refrain from violence and to guarantee freedom of expression'".
Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom, who was proud to lead "the first feminist government in the world", merely tweeted that she was "following" the demonstrations in Iran. UN Watch condemned her for being silent. A year ago, Swedish Trade Minister Ann Linde and ten other female members of the Swedish government marched in front of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani wearing hijabs. While real Iranian girls were marching to protest the mandatory hijab, Ann Linde was retweeting about laws against climate change during the severest days of Iranian repression in the streets.
All the European officials have been not only mute about the Iranian attacks on their own people. They have also been missing "a robust defense of Western values", now under attack in Iran: freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, freedom of the individual, separation of religion and state, judicial process -- all principles Iran's mullahs have battered in their fight against their own people.
Europe's officials, who in the last two years have intensified their collaboration with Turkey, have also been silent about Ankara's having officially joined of the global club of dictatorships. For the first time, Freedom House downgraded Turkey's rating to "not free" in its annual report. Freedom House blasted "the mass dismissals of state employees, the mass replacement of elected mayors with government appointees, arbitrary prosecutions of rights activists and other perceived enemies of the state".
The European Union these days is alarmed about political reforms in Poland, but totally quiet about Erdogan's "coup against civilians" in Turkey.
A day after Trump administration suspended $65 million in aid to UNRWA, the UN Agency assisting Palestinian refugees, a European country, Belgium, stepped in with an immediate disbursement of $23 million. Brussels felt the moral and political urgency generously to fund an organization that has allowed its schools to be used by Palestinian terrorists to fire rockets at Israel and its textbooks to demonize Jews; that gave jobs to Palestinian terrorists and that is accused of creating and perpetuating the Israel-Palestinian conflict?
Most of Europe's countries recently voted with the Arab and Islamic regimes at the UN to disavow Israel's and Jewish ancient ties to Jerusalem. Europe is said to be alarmed about the US and Israeli threats to retain the "status quo" in the holy city. But the same European countries had no time to condemn Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas's speech in which he called Israel "a colonial project that has nothing to do with Jews" and in which he again trafficked with Holocaust denial. Abbas, in fact, incredibly said that six million Jews preferred to be killed by the Nazis in Europe rather than leave for Israel – disregarding the comprehensive searches of houses for Jews to keep, torture and kill that was pandemic during World War II. Europe also stood silent after Iran's Supreme leader Ali Khamenei called for "Death to Israel" and Israel's "defeat". European officials dismiss the Islamists' threats to throw the Jews into the sea.
Recently in Cairo, Ahmed el-Tayeb, the Grand Imam of Al Azhar -- considered by many to be the highest Sunni Islamic authority -- organized a conference on Jerusalem, in which he attacked "Zionism". Abbas also improbably claimed there that Palestinians have been in Jerusalem "before the Jews", despite the fact that Muslims did not even exist until the seventh century, hundreds of centuries after the Jews.
Pope Francis, instead of condemning this incitement to hatred against the Jewish people, sent a letter to Imam al Tayeb thanking him for the invitation. How is it possible that the world's highest Catholic authority does not feel any urgency to denounce the avalanche of anti-Semitism and hate coming from the Islamic authorities, but pleased them by sending a letter of support? He is evidently hoping, in the words of Winston Churchill, that "the crocodile will eat him last."
How is it possible that Pope Francis, the world's highest Catholic authority, does not feel any urgency to denounce the avalanche of anti-Semitism and hate coming from the Islamic authorities, but pleased them by sending a letter of support? Pictured: Pope Francis with
The Nobel Prize for Literature, Mario Vargas Llosa, wrote:
"Postmodern civilization has politically and morally dismantled the culture of our time and this explains in great part why some of the 'monsters' that we thought we had destroyed for ever after the Second World War, such as the most extreme forms of nationalism and racism, have revived and are at large once again within the heart of the West, threatening once again its values and democratic principles".
In Europe's squares and streets, Vargas Llosa's "monsters" now are back disguised as slogans and bombs hurled mostly at Jews. Take what happened in just the last month. In Milan, Italy, people shouted "Jews, remember Khaybar, the army of Muhammad is returning" -- the Islamists' battle cry to enslave and massacre the Jews. Meanwhile firebombs were hurled at Swedish synagogues and a Jewish store in Paris was destroyed. These are the "monsters" now filling Europe's public space.
Eli Lake was right saying that Europe's officials have become the face of "appeasement". In their obsequious submission to political Islam and Islamic terrorism -- presumably in the hope of being able to prevent them -- they have become even more than that. As their bromides on the Iranian repression and their funding the Palestinian rejectionists show, Europe's officials are now the certified apologists for the Arab-Islamic culture of repression, concealment and terrorism.
As these last few years of terror attacks should have proven to them, they delude themselves if they think that this deadly ideology will be kept confined to Tehran, Ramallah or Ankara.
**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.

Question: "Is there meaning in tragedy?" 16/18
Answer: When tragedy strikes, it is common for people to ask, “What does this mean?” When we witness some disaster or mass murder, there is a natural feeling that what has happened should not have happened. This innate sense of “wrongness” is a clue to meaning in these events. When we look to find meaning in tragedy, we must have the right perspective. We need to approach the question in a way that allows for a coherent answer, and this is only possible through a Christian worldview. Because God instills meaning into every moment and event in history, through Him we can begin to find meaning in suffering. The nature of this world lends itself to tragic events. Fortunately, God speaks to us, so that we can find not only meaning, but salvation and relief from the sufferings of the world.
When studying physical motion, it is crucial to understand perspective. Speed and acceleration are only meaningful in relation to some other object; this object is the reference point. The way in which the reference point moves affects our perception. The same is true in our sense of right and wrong. For concepts of good, bad, right, wrong, or tragedy to be meaningful, they have to be anchored to a reference point that does not change or move. The only valid reference point for these issues is God. The very fact that we consider a mass murder wrong strongly supports the idea of God as the reference point for our sense of good and evil. Without God, even the events we consider the most tragic are no more meaningful than anything else. We have to understand the nature of this world and our relationship to God in order to draw any meaning at all from the things we see.
God infuses every moment and every event with meaning and gives us confidence that He understands what we are going through. When Jesus instituted communion, He tied the past, present, and future together. 1 Corinthians 11:26 says, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup (the present), you proclaim the Lord's death (the past) until He comes (the future).” God’s knowledge of all events means nothing is insignificant to Him. If God knows when a sparrow falls, He certainly knows when we face tragedy (Matthew 10:29-31). In fact, God assured us that we would face trouble in this world (John 16:33) and that He has experienced our struggles personally (Hebrews 2:14-18; Hebrews 4:15).
While we understand that God has sovereign control over all things, it is important to remember that God is not the source of tragedy. The vast majority of human suffering is caused by sin, all too often the sin of other people. For instance, a mass murder is the fault of the murderer disobeying the moral law of God (Exodus 20:13; Romans 1:18-21). When we look to find meaning in such an event, we have to understand why this world is the way it is. The hardship of this world was originally caused by mankind’s sin (Romans 5:12), which is always a matter of choice (1 Corinthians 10:13). While God is perfectly capable of stopping tragedies before they begin, sometimes He chooses not to. While we may not know why, we do know that He is perfect, just, and holy, and so is His will. Also, the suffering we experience in this world does three things. It leads us to seek God, it develops our spiritual strength, and it increases our desire for heaven (Romans 8:18-25; James 1:2-3; Titus 2:13; 1 Peter 1:7).
In the garden of Eden, God spoke to Adam and communicated in clear and direct ways, not in abstract concepts. God speaks to us today in the same way. In some ways, this is the most important meaning to be found in any tragedy. Tragic events demonstrate much of their meaning in the way we react to them. C.S. Lewis said, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” This does not mean that God causes tragedy, but that He uses our reaction to tragedy to speak to us. Tragic events remind us not only that we live in an imperfect and fallen world, but that there is a God who loves us and wants something better for us than the world has to offer.
*Recommended Resource: Is God Really in Control? Trusting God in a World of Terrorism, Tsunamis, and Personal Tragedy by Jerry Bridges

Omani Minister Visits Jerusalem
Abdulrahman Al-Rashed/Arab News/February 16/18
What is the difference between the policies of Qatar and Oman? Why do we accept Omani Foreign Minister Yusuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah’s visit to Jerusalem and his meetings with Israeli officials, but denounce similar actions by Qatar?
Yusuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah toured Jerusalem, Abu Dis and Jericho, met with officials and activists, and brought with him Omani incense for Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. This at a time when Qatari media is instigating campaigns against those thinking of making such visits or even supporting them. When we see Yusuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah in Jerusalem, we do not feel disturbed because Omani politicians and media do not contradict their own country’s policy.
But Qatar has been engaged in such diplomatic activities since 1996, while threatening any government that would dare do the same. It launched a campaign against Egypt’s government because the grand mufti visited Jerusalem, and against Dr. Mohammed Al-Issa, secretary-general of the Muslim World League, because he denounced the Holocaust. Oman has its own independent policy. In the mid-1990s, it opened a commercial Israeli office in Muscat, then closed it during the second Palestinian uprising. But Qatar pursues a hypocritical policy of double standards, trading and dealing with Israelis at all levels, but accusing Arab governments and organizations of treason for any dealings with Israeli bodies. Arab League should end the Arab boycott of the Palestinians, and take a clear stance against incitement from countries such as Qatar and Iran.
It has also formed an evil alliance with Iran, threatening regional countries via provocative policies such as supporting radical Islamist groups — including Al-Qaeda, Daesh and Al-Nusra Front — and bullying moderate forces in the Middle East.
Oman has not protested or incited. Its policies may not always be compatible with those of most countries in the region, but this is its choice, and we respect that because it respects the choices of others. Oman is being courageous in dealing directly with forces on the ground in Palestine and Israel.
“We have to encourage our Arab brothers, wherever they are, to come to Palestine,” said Yusuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah. “He who hears it is not like the one who sees. They are now required to visit the Palestinians.” Some may say he is the most experienced Arab foreign minister, and so does not need to go there to know what is happening.
But all Arab ministers should go to the occupied Palestinian territories, meet with officials and activists, and understand what is happening first-hand, instead of theorizing in air-conditioned conference rooms in Cairo and elsewhere. One of the greatest mistakes of Arab politics is to boycott the Palestinians by claiming it is a boycott of Israel. In response to the surprise of some pro-Qatar parties, it is important to distinguish between what Doha has been doing — including bullying and inciting while maintaining a strong relationship with Israel — and what Muscat has done.
There is a big difference, and the Arab League should adopt Yusuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah’s call to visit Palestine. The league should also end the Arab boycott of the Palestinians, and take a clear stance against incitement from countries such as Qatar and Iran.
• Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is a veteran columnist. He is the former general manager of Al Arabiya news channel, and former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, where this article is also published.
Twitter: @aalrashed