February 23/2018
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani


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Bible Quotations
Your rulers are rebels, partners with thieves; they all love bribes and chase after gifts. They do not defend the cause of the fatherless; the widow’s case does not come before them.
Isaiah 01/02-31: " Hear me, you heavens! Listen, earth! For the Lord has spoken: “I reared children and brought them up, but they have rebelled against me. The ox knows its master, the donkey its owner’s manger, but Israel does not know, my people do not understand.” Woe to the sinful nation, a people whose guilt is great, a brood of evildoers, children given to corruption! They have forsaken the Lord; they have spurned the Holy One of Israel and turned their backs on him. Why should you be beaten anymore? Why do you persist in rebellion? Your whole head is injured, your whole heart afflicted. From the sole of your foot to the top of your head there is no soundness— only wounds and welts and open sores, not cleansed or bandaged or soothed with olive oil. Your country is desolate, your cities burned with fire; your fields are being stripped by foreigners right before you, laid waste as when overthrown by strangers. Daughter Zion is left like a shelter in a vineyard, like a hut in a cucumber field, like a city under siege. Unless the Lord Almighty had left us some survivors, we would have become like Sodom, we would have been like Gomorrah. Hear the word of the Lord, you rulers of Sodom; listen to the instruction of our God, you people of Gomorrah! “The multitude of your sacrifices—what are they to me?” says the Lord. “I have more than enough of burnt offerings, of rams and the fat of fattened animals; I have no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats. When you come to appear before me, who has asked this of you, this trampling of my courts? Stop bringing meaningless offerings! Your incense is detestable to me. New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations—I cannot bear your worthless assemblies. Your New Moon feasts and your appointed festivals I hate with all my being. They have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them. When you spread out your hands in prayer, I hide my eyes from you; even when you offer many prayers, I am not listening. Your hands are full of blood! Wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight; stop doing wrong. Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow. “Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the good things of the land; but if you resist and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword.” For the mouth of the Lord has spoken. See how the faithful city has become a prostitute! She once was full of justice; righteousness used to dwell in her— but now murderers! Your silver has become dross, your choice wine is diluted with water. Your rulers are rebels, partners with thieves; they all love bribes and chase after gifts. They do not defend the cause of the fatherless; the widow’s case does not come before them. Therefore the Lord, the Lord Almighty, the Mighty One of Israel, declares: “Ah! I will vent my wrath on my foes and avenge myself on my enemies. I will turn my hand against you; I will thoroughly purge away your dross and remove all your impurities. I will restore your leaders as in days of old, your rulers as at the beginning. Afterward you will be called the City of Righteousness, the Faithful City.” Zion will be delivered with justice, her penitent ones with righteousness. But rebels and sinners will both be broken, and those who forsake the Lord will perish. “You will be ashamed because of the sacred oaks in which you have delighted; you will be disgraced because of the gardens that you have chosen. You will be like an oak with fading leaves, like a garden without water. he mighty man will become tinder and his work a spark; both will burn together, with no one to quench the fire.”
Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on February 22-23/18
The Next Israel-Hezbollah War Won’t Be an Accident/Nicholas Noe/Tablet/February 22/18
The Machines Are Taking Over Space/Faye Flam/Bloomberg View/February 22/18/
The Nation and Patriotism Dialogues/Abdulrahman Al-Rashed/Asharq Al-Awsat/February 22/18/
Europe: The Rapid Spread of Dhimmitude/Judith Bergman/Gatestone Institute/February 22/18
Hamas: Turkey's Longtime Love/Burak Bekdil/Gatestone Institute/February 22/18
How Iran Continues To Profit From The Syrian War/Dr. Majid Rafizadeh/Arab News/February 23/18

Titles For Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on February 22-23/18
ISF Liberates Kidnapped Syrian Girl
Aoun winds up official visit to Armenia, hails bilateral ties
Aoun Meets Senior Armenian Officials, Says Lebanon Adheres to its Border
Aoun calls on expats in Armenia to vote
Satterfield in Ain el-Tineh, Meets Berri
Geagea Urges 'Military Intervention' to Stop Ghouta 'Massacre'
Lebanon: Hariri Appeases Fears over Security Turmoil
UK Home Secretary Stresses 'Commitment to a Strong and Stable Lebanon'
Hariri Vows to Finalize State Budget Next Week
Shiite Street Displeased with Amal, Hezbollah Candidates for Elections
Army: Lebanon renewed during Ras Naqoura meeting adherence to sovereignty, maritime borders and oil resources
Army Commander meets EU Parliament delegation
Geagea meets MP Tohme over electoral issues
Hariri receives Cameroon presidential candidate
Lassen meets families of Syrian refugees in Beqaa
Lebanon receives promises from Iraq on key issues
EU Ambassador Meets Syrian Refugee Families in Bekaa
Japan provides endoscopy, X ray units to Al NADWAH dispensary in Aley
Tony Franjieh Says Doesn't Want to be a Minister
The Next Israel-Hezbollah War Won’t Be an Accident

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on February 22-23/18
U.N. Bid for Syria Ceasefire Falters as Russia Says No Deal
Russia Says 'No Agreement' at U.N. on Syria Ceasefire
Russia Tested 'Over 200 New Weapons' in Syria
Five-Day Assault on Syria's Eastern Ghouta Kills More than 400
Russia Says Fighters Rejected Offer to Evacuate from Ghouta
Protest in Istanbul against Bloodshed in Syria's E. Ghouta
UAE Concerned over Eastern Ghouta Violence, Calls for ‘Immediate Truce’
Saudi Arabia Calls for Stopping Eastern Ghouta Violence
Trump Considers Arming Teachers amid Lobbying Efforts on Gun Rights
Byzantine Church Discovered in Heart of Tunisian Desert
Iraqi Criticism of Iran's Adoption of Saddam's Execution
Ahmadinejad Calls for Early Presidential, Parliamentary Elections
Man Blows Himself Up after Hurling Grenade into U.S. Embassy in Montenegro
Egypt Court Sentences 21 to Death for Planning Attacks
400 kilograms of cocaine found in Russian embassy in Argentina
Seven soldiers, 71 militants killed in Egypt Sinai operation
Latest Lebanese Related News published on February 22-23/18
ISF Liberates Kidnapped Syrian Girl
Naharnet/February 22/18/Agents from the Intelligence Branch of the Internal Security Forces on Thursday managed to liberate a Syrian toddler girl who was kidnapped in the morning from the Bekaa town of Barelias. An ISF statement said the two captors were arrested in a “special operation” and that no ransom was paid. The child, Saleha Ali al-Kattouh, had been nabbed from outside her house in Barelias. In a phone interview with the National News Agency, her father said the captors had asked for a $250,000 ransom in a phone call from a Lebanese number. “They used a silver SUV,” the father added. The seven-year-old girl was abducted as she was getting into the school bus along with her two brothers. Her father owns a clothes shop in Barelias.
Aoun winds up official visit to Armenia, hails bilateral ties
Thu 22 Feb 2018/NNA - President of the Republic, Michel Aoun, on Thursday hailed the Lebanese and Armenian peoples' ties as deeply rooted in history, saying the Armenians in Lebanon constitute an inseparable part of the Lebanese people.
"Armenians in Lebanon are not a community but rather an inseparable part of the Lebanese people," President Aoun said during the official dinner banquet hosted by Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan in his honor during his official visit to Armenia.  The dinner banquet was attended by the Armenian House Speaker and Prime Minister, in addition to scores of Armenian officials and diplomatic figures. Aoun heaped praise on the positive role played by the Armenians in Lebanon notably in its economic, cultural and political horizons, saying the combination of cultures is always a source of wealth for Lebanon's pluralistic society. Aoun also stressed that failure to acknowledge past massacres has prompted the perpetration of massacres of the present. President Sargsyan, for his part, lauded the wide-ranging bilateral ties between Lebanon and Armenia, and deemed such relations as all-inclusive and genuinely friendly. "The bonds of Armenian-Lebanese friendship stretch between Antelias and Burj Hammoud and Anjar, far-reaching to the heart of the capital Yerevan," Sargsyan said, expressing gratitude to the brotherly Lebanon for standing by Armenia in the tragic moments of its history and embracing the sons of the Armenian nation who survived the genocide. In the wake of the dinner banquet, President Aoun moved to Yerevan's Zvartnots Airport, winding up his official visit to Armenia.
Aoun Meets Senior Armenian Officials, Says Lebanon Adheres to its Border
Naharnet/February 22/18/President Michel Aoun held talks on Thursday with Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan at the presidential palace in Yerevan, Aoun's media office said. A closed door meeting was first held between the two men followed by a meeting between the Lebanese and Armenian delegations, the media office added. “Lebanon adheres to its land and maritime border and to its right to defend it by all legitimate means. We count on our international friendships to help us counter the (Israeli) threats,” said Aoun in a joint press conference with Sargsyan. Aoun said he had "constructive" talks with his Armenian counterpart and announced the signing of several agreements “that serve the interests of both Lebanon and Armenia.”On the crisis of Syrian refugees, Aoun said both have stressed “the need to work towards reaching an international agreement to secure their return to safe areas in their country.”President Aoun later met with the Armenian Parliament Speaker Ara Babloyan and Prime Minister Karen Karapetyan. “President Aoun's visit will open the door to more investments between Lebanon and Armenia,” said Karapetyan. Aoun has however assured that Lebanon is willing to strengthen economic relations with Armenia saying he will “coordinate with the Lebanese PM (Saad Hariri) to complete cooperation agreements during Karapetyan's visit to Lebanon on March 12 and 13.”Aoun began an official visit to Armenia on Wednesday following a similar visit to Iraq. He began his talks in Yerevan by meeting Catholicos Karekin II -- the Catholicos of All Armenians and the supreme head of the Armenian Apostolic Church. He also visited the Armenian Genocide memorial complex and wrote a statement in its visitors' book. In the evening, Aoun met with the Lebanese expat community in Armenia. The president's visit to Armenia follows a trip to Iraq in which he met with President Fuad Massum and Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.
Aoun calls on expats in Armenia to vote
The Daily Star/ February 22/18 /BEIRUT: President Michel Aoun called on Lebanese expatriates to take part in the upcoming parliamentary elections as he arrived in Armenia Wednesday on an official visit. “Meeting with Lebanese during my foreign visits has become a tradition I enjoy and the size of the Lebanese diaspora in the world reaffirms what I said before about Lebanon being a global country,” Aoun told expats in Armenia according to a statement from his office. Aoun added: “Lebanon is enriched by you, and the Lebanese of Armenian origin made a positive impact in Lebanon on various levels including economic, political and cultural.” The president also spoke of his historic relationship with Lebanese of Armenian origins. “It dates back to my days of study and to the [Lebanese] Army where we were brothers in arms and in politics,” Aoun said, adding that “we sit beside one another and form one bloc together.”
Speaking of the upcoming parliamentary elections Aoun called on Lebanese to vote, “either in Lebanon or in Armenia if you have registered within the deadline.”Aoun left Iraq Wednesday midday for Armenia, arriving in Yerevan for a two-day official visit. He visited the Armenian Genocide memorial at Church of Our Lady of Etchmiadzin where he placed a ceremonial wreath and held a minute of silence. Afterward, he took a tour of the museum dedicated to the genocide, where he was given a medal. “What I have seen in this museum, recounting the history of the Armenian people and the brutal massacre, prompts me to emphasize that justice needs to be achieved,” Aoun said. “We know about Armenia and its Christian history, for it is the first country to proclaim itself a Christian nation, despite the Roman oppression at the time,” he said. Prior to his visit to Armenia, Aoun met with Iraqi Speaker of Parliament Salim al-Jabouri and former Iraqi Vice President Iyad Allawi in Baghdad early Wednesday as part of an official visit to Iraq.
During his meeting with Allawi, Aoun called for strengthening bilateral cooperation and resolving outstanding issues between Iraq and Lebanon, and facilitating the work of Lebanese and Iraqi businessmen. “The friendship between Iraq and Lebanon precedes other interests,” Aoun was quoted saying in a statement from his media office. “We have learned many things from Lebanon, such as democracy, coexistence, [how to] safeguard freedom ... and Iraq must return the favor, starting with the refugees Lebanon has taken in,” Allawi said at the meeting, which was attended by various Iraqi ministers. While meeting with Jabouri, Aoun drew a parallel between the two countries’ experiences with political strife. He said Lebanon has gone through “harsh experiences,” but “we succeeded in overcoming them after ... defending the homeland, despite political differences,” a statement from his office quoted him as saying. “We hope that the brotherly Iraqi people will overcome all difficulties and start again to build their state,” he said. Jabouri also noted that Iraq and Lebanon face similar challenges, including the fight against terrorist organizations, the statement said. The two reportedly agreed to coordinate in the fight against terrorism and the pursuit of “criminal” organizations, in addition to committing to the “common pursuit of stability in the region.”Jabouri acknowledged the efforts of both countries to “consolidate principles of peaceful coexistence and grant rights to all [parts of the population] and minorities.”
Aoun and Jabouri discussed facilitating the movement of citizens between the countries because it would reflect “positively on economic development and activation of the tourism sector and aviation.”On the sidelines of the Iraq visit Wednesday, Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk – who accompanied Aoun – met his Iraqi counterpart Qasim al-Araji in Baghdad and discussed security coordination between the countries, a tweet from Machnouk’s official account said. They also discussed preparations for an Arab interior ministers conference in Algeria next month.
Satterfield in Ain el-Tineh, Meets Berri
Associated Press/Naharnet/February 22/18/U.S. Acting Assistant Secretary of State David Satterfield, mediating a dispute between Lebanon and Israel over offshore gas drilling rights, held talks with Speaker Nabih Berri in Ain el-Tineh on Thursday, LBCI said. Ain el-Tineh sources told LBCI that “Lebanon will not waiver its oil rights. All the Americans have is the Hoff Line suggestion and the Israeli's are trying their best to circumvent the situation.”A statement issued by Berri's press office said "there was nothing new in today's meeting.""The Speaker's stance has not changed," the statement added.
Satterfield has also been holding talks with Lebanese officials on the subject. On Wednesday he met with Prime Minister Saad Hariri and Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil. Berri had emphasized Wednesday that Lebanon will not allow Israel to seize control of parts of its offshore oil and gas fields. “Lebanon's stance is unified and coherent in terms of defending our sovereignty, oil resources and maritime and territorial borders,” Berri said during his weekly meeting with lawmakers. The U.S. official was in occupied Palestine before he flew to Beirut for oil dispute talks. The dispute dates back years but recently resurfaced when Lebanon invited companies to bid for exploratory offshore drilling next year along the countries' maritime border. Israel claims Lebanon will be drilling partly in areas owned by Israel. Lebanon and Israel are technically at war, and quarrel over their land borders. Lebanon is protesting a wall Israel is building along the cessation of hostilities line, following Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000. It says the border wall may jut into Lebanese territories.

Geagea Urges 'Military Intervention' to Stop Ghouta 'Massacre'
Naharnet/February 22/18/Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea on Thursday called on the international community to “intervene militarily to stop the massacre against civilians” in Syria's Eastern Ghouta region. “What's happening in Eastern Ghouta is a hallmark of shame for the entire humanity. No matter what the reasons, excuses or alibis may be, nothing justifies the premeditated mass killing of innocent civilians with all types of heavy weapons,” Geagea said in a written statement. “No terrorism has worse and more terrible outcome than what is currently happening in Eastern Ghouta,” Geagea added. “Statements are of no use in similar situations and crying and wailing will not save a single child. The only solutions in such cases is for the international community to intervene militarily to stop the massacre that is being committed against civilians in Eastern Ghouta,” the LF leader urged. The Syrian regime launched the deadly aerial campaign on Damascus' rebel-held Eastern Ghouta region on February 18, with daily bombardments since then turning it into what the U.N. chief has described as "hell on Earth." The enclave, controlled by Islamists and besieged by government forces for five years, was already subjected to a ferocious five-day air assault this month that left around 250 civilians dead and hundreds wounded. The new round of strikes by the regime of President Bashar al-Assad has killed more than 360 civilians and wounded 1,700 others since Sunday.

Lebanon: Hariri Appeases Fears over Security Turmoil

Beirut - Asharq Al-Awsat/February 22/18/Prime Minister Saad Hariri has said that Lebanon is safe from security turmoil and that all political leaders agree on preventing internal instability. In remarks to a delegation of traders who visited him at the Center House in Beirut, Hariri stressed on Wednesday the importance of political and security stability to achieve economic prosperity. He said the government intends to take a number of steps in this regard, including opening up to the world, from the Arab countries to Europe, Africa, America and even China, adopting the policy of open skies and allowing citizens from certain countries to enter Lebanon without a visa. Referring to the Paris 4 donor conference set for April 6, Hariri said: "We are excited about the Ceder conference.” “The government prepared a series of development projects to be presented at the conference, in the fields of electricity, water, telecommunications, roads, public transportation, airport and other projects that benefit the country, provide jobs opportunities for the youth and create economic growth." "People are thirsty for change,” Hariri told his visitors. So “the lists of the Future movement in the coming elections will include a special representation of youth and women.” “But our electoral alliances are still under discussion, and we will do what is in the interest of our people, the Future movement and the areas we represent, regardless of our political alliances,” Hariri added. Hariri pointed out that the budget of 2018 carries a lot of incentives for different sectors, and no new taxes. On the same issue, Speaker Nabih Berri reiterated on Wednesday the importance of the cabinet’s adoption of the state budget and its swift referral to the parliament for approval. He warned that international donor conferences would be severely impacted if the legislature fails to approve the budget by March 5.
UK Home Secretary Stresses 'Commitment to a Strong and Stable Lebanon'
Naharnet/February 22/18/UK Home Secretary Amber Rudd has stressed “commitment to a strong and stable Lebanon,” in a statement issued following her visit to Lebanon on February 19. It was the Cabinet Minister’s first visit to the country since assuming her post in 2016. Rudd met Interior Minister Nouhad al-Machnouq and discussed the two countries’ “strong bilateral relations,” the British embassy said in a statement. This follows a visit by Machnouq to the UK to meet the former Home Secretary, Theresa May, in 2016. The one-day visit was an opportunity to “see firsthand how the UK’s Ł628 million in assistance to Lebanon is helping the country maintain security and stability and supporting local communities coping with the Syrian refugee crisis,” the embassy said. The visit follows on previous visits by the Middle East Minister Alistair Burt, the Security Minister Ben Wallace and former Secretary of State for International Development. The UK Home Secretary visited an Informal Tented Settlement in the Bekaa Valley where she met refugee families and spoke to U.N. agencies supporting the UK’s work on resettling 20,000 of the most vulnerable refugees of the Syria conflict to the UK by 2020. According to the embassy's statement, the UK’s resettlement schemes offer a safe and legal route to the UK for the most vulnerable refugees. “We purposefully target those in greatest need of assistance, including people requiring urgent medical treatment, survivors of violence and torture and women and children at risk. Over half of those resettled to the UK have been children,” the embassy said. On her return to London after her visit, the Home Secretary said: “I was very pleased to visit Lebanon for the first time, a country that has shown enormous generosity in hosting refugees since the beginning of the conflict in Syria in 2011.”“Lebanon’s security and stability is very much the UK’s security and stability, and our support to Lebanon with over Ł600m of assistance since 2011 is a testament of that. The UK’s partnership, friendship and commitment to Lebanon is as strong as it has ever been, and I am proud that my government is standing shoulder to shoulder with Lebanon at this time,” Rudd said. She said she held a constructive meeting with Minister Mashnouq in which they discussed a range of issues, and “what more we can do to further strengthen our countries’ bilateral relationship.”“We discussed Lebanon’s participation in Rome II conference on 15 March and the important role of the Internal security Forces. I am proud that the UK is one of Lebanon’s most significant partners on security, contributing over Ł84 million to the ISF (Internal Security Forces) and LAF (Lebanese Armed Forces) since 2011, and that we are working together to improve human rights. We also reviewed our strong counter terrorism relations,” the Home Secretary added. She said she also recognized “the Minister’s work in preparing for the upcoming elections, which will reaffirm Lebanese citizens’ democratic rights, and hopefully see increased female representation in the Lebanese Parliament.”
Hariri Vows to Finalize State Budget Next Week
Naharnet/February 22/18/Prime Minister Saad Hariri on Thursday vowed to finalize the 2018 state budget next week. “I will work on finalizing the state budget next week,” Hariri told MTV after a meeting for a ministerial committee tasked with studying the draft state budget. Speaking after the meeting, Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil said “most of the draft state budget's clauses have been finalized, including some reformist clauses and the discussions will be resumed on Monday.”“Should the political forces and their representatives in the committee shoulder their responsibilities towards slashing the budget's figures in order to lower the deficit a bit, this will be very important,” Khalil added. He also denied discussing any new taxes.

Shiite Street Displeased with Amal, Hezbollah Candidates for Elections
Asharq Al-Awsat/February 22/18/A large section of the Shiite Hezbollah-Amal duo supporters has not yet overcome the shock of the nominations to the parliamentary elections, which were announced earlier this week by Speaker Nabih Berri and Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah. This time, the two Shiite leaders chose to prioritize their parties’ interests over those of electoral districts and constituencies, causing a state of resentment and opposition among voters over a number of candidates. The greatest anger was recorded in Jbeil, which forms with Keserouan one electoral constituency. The district has one Shiite seat out of the eight electoral seats, and the number of Shiite voters registered in the circle is 18 thousand compared to 143 thousand Maronite voters. The choice of Hezbollah of a candidate from outside the region, specifically from the Bekaa, sparked a wave of resentment among the Shiite families of Jbeil, who were competing to see one of their members nominated by the party. However, heated tension between these families and the unprecedented level of competition have led Hezbollah to nominate Hussein Zeaiter - who is not from Jbeil - but runs the party’s political affairs in Mount Lebanon and the North, hence, is in contact with all the families of the region. This has prompted a group of Jbeil residents to carry out a symbolic sit-in a few days ago and hint at the possibility of forming an electoral list that would face the candidates of Hezbollah and its ally, the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM). The same resentment is seen in the Western Bekaa-Rashaya district, where Amal Movement decided to nominate Mohammed Nasrallah, from South Lebanon, to the only Shiite seat in the constituency. This has ignited protests against the failure to nominate one of the Shiite figures from the region, but these objections, according to sources close to the matter “can be absorbed and overcome in the coming weeks, unlike the situation in Jbeil.”On Monday, Hezbollah announced the nomination of 13 candidates, including six new figures, while Amal Movement nominated 16, including 4 new figures. The duo will reveal at a later stage the names of allies to fight the electoral battle on their lists.

Army: Lebanon renewed during Ras Naqoura meeting adherence to sovereignty, maritime borders and oil resources
Thu 22 Feb 2018/NNA - Lebanon renewed during the Ras Naqoura tripartite meeting adherence to its sovereignty over its territories, maritime borders and oil wealth, rejecting all attempts by the Israeli enemy to tamper with these rights, army command said in a communiqué on Thursday. The Ras Naqoura tripartite meeting was held this morning chaired by UNIFIL Commander, General Michael Beary, to discuss issues related to land and maritime borders between Lebanon and the occupied Palestine, as well as the implementation of UN Resolution #1701. The Lebanese army delegation was led by Major General Malek Chamas. The Lebanese delegation underlined the army's firm stance in the face of any Israeli attack on Lebanon's rights, communiqué added. The Lebanese side also shed light on the Israeli enemy's recurrent violations of Lebanon's land, air and maritime, calling for an immediate halt of these violations. Major General Beary, for his part, stressed the need for strict adherence to the implementation of Resolution 1701 clauses and the arrangements for coordination and liaison, stressing that maintaining stability is the responsibility of all sides. General Beary also voiced UNIFIL's readiness to help solve border problems, communiqué concluded.

Army Commander meets EU Parliament delegation
Thu 22 Feb 2018/NNA - Army commander, General Joseph Aoun, on Thursday received at his Yarze office a delegation from the European Parliament, led by MP Udo Vought. On the other hand, General Aoun met with the Assistant Government Commissioner to the Military Tribunal, Judge Claude Ghanem, and Elie Maalouf. The army commander then received a delegation of the Holy Spirit University of Kaslik, led by Dr Lara Wakim, with talks reportedly touching on a range of matters.

Geagea meets MP Tohme over electoral issues

Thu 22 Feb 2018/NNA - Lebanese Forces (LF) leader Samir on Thursday met at his Meerab residence with "Democratic Gathering" MP Neemeh Tohmeh, as part of continuing electoral consultations between the LF and the Progressive Socialist Party.
On emerging, MP Tohme gave no statement to media representatives.

Hariri receives Cameroon presidential candidate
Thu 22 Feb 2018/NNA - The President of the Council of Ministers Saad Hariri received this evening at the "Center House" the candidate for the Presidential elections in Cameroon, barrister Akere Muna heading a delegation. After the meeting, Akere Muna said: "The relations between the Lebanese residing in Africa and the countries they are living in must be upgraded to an institutional level. As a Presidential candidate in my country, we must find ways to raise this relationship to this level, especially with the challenges that Lebanon faces at this stage."Earlier, Hariri chaired at the Grand Serail the meeting of the Ministerial Committee tasked with studying the draft budget. The meeting was attended by Deputy Prime Minister Ghassan Hasbani, Ministers Ali Hasan Khalil, Michel Pharaon, Mohamed Fneich, Jamal Jarrah, Raed Khoury, Ayman Choucair and Youssef Fenianos and the Secretary General of the Council of Ministers Fouad Fleifel. After the meeting, Minister Khalil said: "We completed most of the items of the budget draft, including some of the reform related items and we will continue the discussions with numbers on Monday." He added: "If the political forces and the representatives of the committee bear their responsibility and if we work on decreasing the numbers to be able to reduce the deficit, this will be very important." He said: "New taxes were not discussed, contrary to what was said today, and the issue that was raised during the meeting had to do with increasing the electricity tariff when it would be supplied 24 hours a day. There are no numbers from outside the draft and all expenses should be from within the budget."

Lassen meets families of Syrian refugees in Beqaa
Thu 22 Feb 2018/NNA - EU Ambassador Christina Lassen visited today the Beqaa to meet with Syrian refugee families benefiting from EU assistance. The visit was organised by the EU's humanitarian aid department, ECHO, together with the World Food Programme and International Rescue Committee.
In a press release by the EU Media Commission in Beirut, it said: "In the town of Qab Elias, families of Syrian refugees shared their grievances, needs and daily challenges with Ambassador Lassen. Their testimonies shed light on the harsh and abrupt disruption in their lives, caused by their displacement from Syria. "In Syria, we suffered a lot when the war broke. We were internally displaced, travelling from village to village for six months before making it to Lebanon," Ali said. He added: "The assistance carries us until the middle of the month, then we cover the rest of our expenses by taking out debts."
Several families described how EU assistance has significantly improved their living conditions. "With our multi-purpose cash, we are able to buy more food, as well as cover our electricity, heating gas, and pay for a bit of our rent," one family said. "Now we can buy fresh produce from the weekly farmers' market, which is much cheaper than a supermarket," it added. The EU's humanitarian aid, through ECHO, has reached around 750,000 Syrian refugees in Lebanon. The EU has been providing cash assistance, non-formal education and shelter - including water, hygiene and sanitation - to improve the conditions of the families most affected by the displacement. The EU has partnered with the World Food Programme to provide cash assistance to vulnerable Syrian refugees in Lebanon. The cash assistance gives the families the choice to spend it on their food, health, education, shelter and other needs.
The EU is also working with the International Rescue Committee to help Syrian refugees with advice and legal assistance through its protection programme, for example to victims of violence. "What I have seen today reminded me of the extremely difficult situation the refugees are facing since seven years, in particular now in the middle of the winter season," Ambassador Lassen said. "We are here today to say that there are people seeking refuge in Lebanon who have lost almost everything and that there are the Lebanese who are hosting them and showing incredible hospitality and generosity," Ambassador Lassen said. Ambassador Lassen reaffirmed the EU's commitment to support refugees and Lebanon pointing out that the EU has delivered since 2012 more than €1.1 billion to address the needs of both Lebanese citizens and Syrian refugees affected by the crisis. The EU is providing, as part of its response, long-term support for the Lebanese people as well as for Lebanon's infrastructure such as schools, hospitals, water and waste."

Lebanon receives promises from Iraq on key issues
MEM/February 22, 2018/Lebanese President Michel Aoun has received promises from the Iraqi government on four key issues, an anonymous official in Baghdad has confirmed to Al-Araby Al-Jadeed. The agreements were reached during a meeting between Aoun and Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar Al-Abadi on Wednesday evening. They include facilitating Lebanese investments in Iraq; the exchange of wanted terrorists; an agreement on security and intelligence cooperation; and the formation of a committee to solve the issue of Lebanese individuals who already have money in Iraq, estimated at a staggering $8 billion.“There are thousands of Lebanese who had investments and funds in Iraqi banks from before the American occupation, and their cases are still pending with the Central Bank of Iraq and the Iraqi Ministry of Planning,” the source explained. He added that an Iraqi ministerial delegation will visit Beirut in the coming weeks to follow-up on the agreements reached between Aoun and Al-Abadi. On Wednesday, President Aoun also met with the Speaker of the Iraqi Parliament, Salim Al-Jubouri. “The meeting focused on a number of issues, including the fight against terrorism and corruption, bilateral relations and investments in Iraq,” the Speaker’s office said.

EU Ambassador Meets Syrian Refugee Families in Bekaa
Naharnet/February 22/18/EU Ambassador to Lebanon Christina Lassen visited Thursday the Bekaa region to meet with Syrian refugee families benefiting from EU assistance. The visit was organized by the EU's humanitarian aid department, ECHO, together with the World Food Program and International Rescue Committee, a statement issued by the EU Delegation to Lebanon said. In the town of Qab Elias, Syrian refugee families shared their grievances, needs and daily challenges with Ambassador Lassen. Their testimonies shed light on “the harsh and abrupt disruption in their lives, caused by their displacement from Syria,” the EU Delegation said. "In Syria, we suffered a lot when the war broke. We were internally displaced, traveling from village to village for six months before making it to Lebanon," Ali said. He added: "The assistance carries us until the middle of the month, then we cover the rest of our expenses by taking out debts."Several families described how EU assistance has “significantly” improved their living conditions. "With our multi-purpose cash, we are able to buy more food, as well as cover our electricity, heating gas, and pay for a bit of our rent," one family said. "Now we can buy fresh produce from the weekly farmers' market, which is much cheaper than a supermarket," it added. The EU's humanitarian aid, through ECHO, has reached around 750,000 Syrian refugees in Lebanon. The EU has been providing cash assistance, non-formal education and shelter – including water, hygiene and sanitation – to improve the conditions of the families most affected by the displacement. The EU has partnered with the World Food Program to provide cash assistance to vulnerable Syrian refugees in Lebanon. The cash assistance gives the families the choice to spend it on their food, health, education, shelter and other needs. The EU is also working with the International Rescue Committee to help Syrian refugees with advice and legal assistance through its protection program, for example to victims of violence. "What I have seen today reminded me of the extremely difficult situation the refugees are facing since seven years, in particular now in the middle of the winter season," Ambassador Lassen said. "We are here today to say that there are people seeking refuge in Lebanon who have lost almost everything and that there are the Lebanese who are hosting them and showing incredible hospitality and generosity," Lassen added. Moreover, Lassen reaffirmed the EU's commitment to support refugees and Lebanon, pointing out that the EU has delivered since 2012 more than €1.1 billion to address the needs of both Lebanese citizens and Syrian refugees affected by the crisis. The EU Delegation statement noted that the EU is providing, as part of its response, long-term support for the Lebanese people as well as for Lebanon's infrastructure such as schools, hospitals, water and waste.

Japan provides endoscopy, X ray units to Al NADWAH dispensary in Aley
Thu 22 Feb 2018/NNA - In a press release by the Embassy of Japan in Lebanon, it said: "The Embassy provided an endoscopy and portable X-ray units to Al NADWAH dispensary in Aley, in order to enhance the quality of medical services in the area. On February 22 2018, Matahiro Yamaguchi, Ambassador of Japan to Lebanon, visited the dispensary in Qmatiye in Aley to celebrate the completion of the project implemented by Al NADWAH Cultural and Social Club. The advanced equipment were funded by the Government of Japan in cooperaion with FUJIFILM, a leading Japanese company in the healthcare sector, through the public-private partnership scheme of the Grant Assistance of Grass-roots Human Security Program (PPP-GGP). During the ceremony, Ambassador Yamaguchi praised Al NADWAH’s efforts and FUJIFILM’s contribution in the project. Additionally, H.E highlighted Japan’s strong commitments to assist the local communities and Syrian refugees. Meanwhile, Hussein Jaafar, President of Al NADWAH, expressed his deep appreciation for the Japanese support to the organization and Lebanese people.
With the endoscopy and portable X-ray units, around 3,425 residents in the area will receive improved medical services."

Tony Franjieh Says Doesn't Want to be a Minister
Naharnet/February 22/18/Tony Franjieh, the son of Marada Movement chief MP Suleiman Franjieh who will replace him in the upcoming parliamentary race, announced Thursday that he not seeking to become a minister in the next government. “I'm not obliged with my father's political alliances but I'm convinced of them at the beginning of my political journey. I believe that these friendships serve the country's interest,” Franjieh said in his first ever TV interview, aired by LBCI television. Noting that civil war was “painful for Christians and all Lebanese,” Franjieh lamented that the “most painful” chapter was the inter-Christian conflict. Turning to the present, Franjieh admitted that Marada's experience with Free Patriotic Movement chief Jebran Bassil “has not been successful.” “As for communication with the Lebanese Forces, it is taking place through joint political committees,” he added. “Prime Minister Saad Hariri is making political sacrifices for the sake of the country,” Franjieh went on to say. He also emphasized that he is not hoping to become a minister. “I'm a parliamentary candidate and I don't want a ministry,” he said.Franjieh added: “My family will not take decisions against the country's interest and should I do that, I would be contradicting with my entire history.”

The Next Israel-Hezbollah War Won’t Be an Accident الحرب المقبلة بين حزب الله وإسرائيل لن تكون عرضية
Nicholas Noe/Tablet/February 22/18
Non-military options that might prevent an ‘Israel-Resistance Axis War’ are waning
U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres is worried that an all-out war between Hezbollah and Israel may soon engulf the Middle East, even though neither party wants to fight. “Sometimes a spark is enough to unleash this kind of conflict,” Guterres warned on Sunday. But how, exactly? Ben Hubbard, Isabel Kershner and Anne Barnard of The New York Times were quick to echo and explain. “[T]he more entrenched Iran’s allies become, the greater the pressure Israeli leaders could face to launch a strike—and the greater the chances that a miscalculation or mistake by either side could provoke new hostilities,” they reasoned.
The U.N. chief and the Times reporters could find ample support in their notions of Middle Eastern causality in the most recent report of the International Crisis Group (ICG), which warned that a regional war that “no one wants” could be only “a miscalculation away.” The idea that a war between Hezbollah and Israel would be an accident—the result of a “mistake” or “miscalculation” rather than a considered choice—is repeatedly made throughout ICG’s latest report, and arguably stands as the organization’s core claim from which all its analyses and recommendations flow. As Joost Hiltermann, program director for the Middle East and North Africa at ICG, explained further in his own comments on the report, “The real [emphasis added] risk here is that of a miscommunication or accident being a trigger of a conflict across their border.”
I should note here that the ICG generally does excellent work. When I first arrived in Lebanon in February 2004—and for several years thereafter—the ICG’s periodic reports on the Levant were invaluable for my understanding of the nature of the various conflicts within and between Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Israel, and Palestine. Two of the most enriching aspects were the historical reviews that customarily undergirded each report as well as the critical expositions of the ideological bases of the conflicts. The reader was usually treated in both the main text and the footnotes to an analysis of, say, Hezbollah’s ideological origins, its historical fluctuations, and its current positioning. This sort of treatment ran throughout ICG’s work and, as such, provided a particularly strong analytical foundation for their brand of bold, conflict mitigation and peace-building recommendations.
Fast forward to ICG’s latest report last week warning of a potentially climactic clash in the Levant, titled “Israel, Hezbollah and Iran: Preventing Another War,” and much of the historical and ideological frameworks that are evidently lubricating what is now routinely described as an “inevitable” regional conflict are largely absent. One is therefore left with a present-day set of disembodied “actors” that could simply “miscalculate” and therefore “inadvertently” spark a descent into wide-ranging violence. As for why this all may happen, little guidance is provided beyond the matter-of-fact statement that the crossing any of several (apparently shifting) “redlines” will likely trigger some kind of military action.
ICG’s extremely stripped-down policy recommendations for preventing the “next war” (Europe and European pressure are not even mentioned) are equally hobbled. No systematic historical or ideological basis is provided as to why, for example: “Israel [would] acquiesce in foreign forces remaining in the rest of Syria pending a deal on the country’s future;” why Russia might want to or be able to constrain its vital allies Iran and Hezbollah; or why Iran and Hezbollah themselves might submit to ICG’s key recommendation of “halt[ing] [their] construction of precision missile facilities and [their] military infrastructure in Syria,” much less in Lebanon where, incredibly, no recommendations are forthcoming despite ICG’s estimation that this effort restarted as of early 2018? Indeed, the only justification for why any of the powers involved might take up ICG’s recommendations seems to be, simply, that “everyone stands to lose from an intensification of the Syrian war.”
As we know from so many past conflicts, however, this brand of “balance of terror” argument can easily crumble as a result of underestimation or mistakes as well as—crucially—plainly irrational decision-making, perceived ideological necessity and/or rational calculations (defined by any one of the sides gauging their long-term interests or moral thresholds). Perhaps not surprisingly then, the different parties to the conflict have invested considerable resources in parroting the first part of the analysis since they are, without exception, eager to absolve themselves of any moral or political responsibility for their choices going forward. After all, as ICG uncritically quotes one Hezbollah official (along with several Israeli and Iranian officials along similar lines), nobody “wants war” so, presumably, no one will be guilty for kicking it off; everyone’s hands will have been “forced” by someone else’s mistakes or outright malignity.
But now is not the time to explore why or to what extent the head of the United Nations, the Times’ Middle East desk, and the world’s premier conflict mitigation group have all gone down this particular road. Given the unprecedented military engagements this month over the skies of Syria, Lebanon, and Israel, the pace leading up to what should properly be termed the first Israel-“Resistance Axis” War has quickened considerably, adding urgency to the central task of better understanding what is happening and then proposing policies commensurate with the extreme level of danger that the region, Europe and perhaps the international system as a whole now faces.
Beyond the moral deficiency of accepting the “accidental war” thesis as a necessary and predictive one, at least two other problems present themselves.
First, as ICG itself points out in its report, Hezbollah, Iran and its allies are quietly and deliberately building up their military power while Israel is quite openly and deliberately calculating a variety of self-proclaimed “pre-emptive” attack strategies across Lebanon and Syria (perhaps even including Iran) in the hopes of stopping something deemed existential: the significant degradation of its Qualitative Military Edge (QME). Should one of the Israeli attack scenarios come to pass in Lebanon specifically—for example, a more limited strike that Israel has now effectively promised against “precision weapons facilities”—a broader war would be enormously difficult for any of the sides to resist. This is because contrary to ICG’s claim that Hezbollah has generally “signaled that the consequences of such a strike [in Lebanon] are unpredictable”—ICG incorrectly extrapolates comments concerning Syria by one Hezbollah official to include Lebanon—the secretary general of the Party, Hassan Nasrallah, has actually repeatedly made clear that Israeli attacks in Lebanon would warrant commensurate counterattacks into Israel, including from Lebanon. He has even specifically said, “If you bomb our factories, we will bomb your factories.” Israeli leaders, on balance, seem to implicitly understand that this sequence of events would very likely mean an all-out confrontation because, as but one indication, there have been no substantial military strikes in Lebanon even as Israel has conducted “thousands of missions” in Syria and has repeatedly cited the “unacceptable” danger that the alleged Hezbollah weapons program in Lebanon represents.
ICG, however, asserts that the Israeli “military establishment assesses it could [engage in a limited strike in Lebanon] without provoking an all-out confrontation.” This kind of broad supposition, when combined with the faulty extrapolation from the one Hezbollah official above, allows ICG and many others to claim that a terrible war might “perhaps” arrive as the result of “miscalculation” rather than deliberate, well-acknowledged actions and reactions by the various sides. Unfortunately for the prospects of stability, ICG’s confident assumption is not only contradicted by a multitude of Hezbollah’s statements and the lack of Israeli action in Lebanon to this point, it is also undermined by the official fighting posture of both the State of Israel and Hezbollah.
Inexplicably, however, ICG fails even to mention, much less discuss, either the Dahiye or Tel Aviv Doctrines, despite the fact that the former was largely devised by the current IDF chief of staff and calls for “apply[ing] disproportionate force” in the event of a substantial attack from Lebanon. Because Hezbollah’s doctrine calls for hitting Israel as hard as Lebanon is hit, i.e., by bringing down factories or buildings if Israel does so, both actors have publicly locked themselves into what Israeli officials have termed “the proverbial kindergarten” scenario: A substantial attack on “precision missile factories” in Lebanon, one that would do the stated job of seriously degrading a core Hezbollah capability, will lead to counter-strikes against Israeli military bases and factories. To expect that a kindergarten, or anything, for that matter, equal to the impact of killing a large number of school children, doesn’t then get hit either deliberately or mistakenly—and therefore activates the full extent of both Doctrines—is betting along the lines of Lottery odds. Which is to say, a wholly irrational calculation. In fact, this is precisely why the overwhelming majority of public analysis concerning both doctrines has repeatedly emphasized that the 12 years of relative “quiet” along the Lebanon-Israel border has largely been determined by a frank private recognition among the different sides that meaningful strikes in Lebanon by Israel (or the reverse) inexorably leads to full war.
There is, in short, no “bloody nose,” “mowing the grass,” or “Little Pines” (as in the original “limited” 1982 Israeli invasion plan for Lebanon) strategy when it comes to a “pre-emptive” attack by Israel that would adequately degrade its enemies’ power in Lebanon. Nevertheless, and even though the combatants appear to be quite cognizant of this, the main sides are evidently and consciously continuing to move further and further down a path they all say publicly they “don’t want.”
The central problem here—beyond the severe problem that all of this is leading to a massive war—is that by not at least exploring the history and meaning of the combatants’ own fighting postures and their own discourses over the years, whilst suggesting that the Israeli military as a whole unambiguously assesses that a limited strike could in fact work, ICG dramatically undermines its own stated purpose of raising the alarm about precisely how dangerous the situation has become. After all, if an underestimation or “miscalculation” of Hezbollah’s response to a “limited” attack in Lebanon is the primary deficiency—and nobody “wants war” in any case—then one can safely assume that strictly construed rationality is preponderant among the different sides. As such, all the potential combatants just need to better understand each other’s positions, move a bit farther away from each other, accept some face-saving but hollow “reconciliations” in Syria and reduce their force projection in order to avert a major war (i.e., ICG’s core recommendations).
But the situation has moved well beyond strictly construed rationality. Although there is a slim chance of some field mistake or false flag setting off a war, the far more powerful reason leading to disaster needs to be said clearly and as loudly as possible: Hezbollah, Iran and their allies are consciously and progressively choosing to degrade Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge to a point where Israel will have to choose between a “pre-emptive” strike leading to a wide-scale war or one of several non-war options at least some Israelis believe are available to it.
Which leads to the second problem with the “miscalculation” formula posed by ICG and so many others: A tendency to diminish the irrational, ideological drivers that are arguably at the heart of the current march towards war. As ICG sees it, “today, none of the parties can soberly contemplate the prospect of a conflict that would be uncontrolled, unprecedented and unscripted.” But what if several of the parties are, in fact, “soberly” planning for and taking steps that will very likely lead to all-out war, as described above, even as they ready their constituencies to blame the other side for forcing a “war of no choice”? And what if the different sides even desire a climatic confrontation for moral, religious or even long-term strategic reasons and are willing to take an ends-justifies-the-means approach when it comes to the morality of their own actions? Indeed, what if some of the sides think they could actually weather such a war as their enemies likely fade away? These are all crucial questions to examine for anyone invested in peace-building since they further raise the urgency of the matter at hand whilst also precipitating a cry for more radical actions by the actors involved and the international community in general.
As a first exercise in this regard, by just analyzing public statements from Hezbollah over the decades and especially statements by Nasrallah, numerous indications emerge that the Party’s discourse is guided by pragmatism, rationality and (on some occasions) Iranian strategic interests but also by a messianic faith in its moral and religious mission. Indeed, as Nasrallah imagined it almost exactly eight years ago, this inherent contradiction is at the heart of the entire “Resistance” project and a key aspect influencing its posture towards conflict with its primary enemy, Israel:
In the last war we told you that if you hit Beirut we would hit Tel Aviv. We do not want war; we do not want anyone in Lebanon to start theorizing about the war-and-peace decision. We do not want war, not because we are afraid, and not because we are cowards or weak. We crave war but we do not want it. We do not want it but we crave it. [Applause] But we told you that if you launch a war, and if you hit the Suburb the next time round, we will hit Tel Aviv [Applause].
By incessantly building up its military power and securing both Syria and Lebanon (not to mention an even wider strategic depth beyond both), Hezbollah has said that it knows it is steadily degrading Israel’s vital QME. In the party’s view, this is a combined moral, religious, Arab and national duty. If this “deterrence equation,” as Nasrallah puts it, leads to a terrible war—one that the Party justifies on the basis of both rational considerations as well as a deep “craving”—then so be it. Ultimately, it will be Israel’s fault since, as Nasrallah has also explained on numerous occasions, the Party and its allies have said that they are presenting the Israelis with a “peace” option, albeit one that the current Israeli body politic will not possibly accept. Accede to a diminished balance of power with the “Resistance Axis,” Nasrallah has suggested, while radically scaling back your negotiating demands with the Palestinians and the Arab states so you can reduce your overall threat via a final settlement, or choose to pre-emptively attack us.
This is, in effect, the “peace plan” that Nasrallah has been deftly “encouraging” Arab states—and Israel, at least rhetorically—to pursue for more than a decade as a way to stave off the climactic war he says his party both “craves” and doesn’t “want”:
How can these [Arab] states secure a just and honorable settlement between quotes,” he once asked? ”Does the Israeli recognize them in the first place? I tell you: The Israelis today view the Resistance and the resistance men in Lebanon with great respect. As for all those lowly ones, they are not worth anything. Even the Arab [Peace Plan] calls for a stand. It calls for men and power. If you can’t use power, you can at least threaten with it. The talk that we are weak will not do. … Realistic political behavior [says:] first convince the Israelis of the need to have a just and comprehensive peace before asking the resistance movement to lay down its arms… Even those who have opted for a settlement have a need for this resistance. Indeed, we want them [the Arab states] to benefit from the resistance.
Of course, Nasrallah and Hezbollah know that there is little chance of the Israelis changing the hardware and software of their negotiating position on the moribund peace process, much less accepting a greatly strengthened “Resistance Axis” in the process (whether they should or not is a different matter). So, as Hezbollah and its allies continue to pursue a military buildup, rather than a pause or a reduction in their strength, all the parties knowingly move forward to war, albeit with Nasrallah in the quite advantageous position of forcing Israel to decide if it will be the one to attack first.
As if all that wasn’t enough, there is an additional powerful element that hampers a reversal of course by any of the parties: The prospect of total victory. “In the next war we will triumph,” Nasrallah has repeatedly promised, “and change the features of the region” decisively, including ending the Jewish state of Israel and realizing one democratic state of Palestine (in his preferred, though exceedingly vague formulation over the decades, some number of Jewish “settlers” would have to emigrate).
Can he and the Party actually believe this? In fact, the answer is yes and not just for seemingly messianic reasons. Nasrallah (and quite a few “Resistance Axis” officials) have consistently laid out what they believe to be a “reasonable” path to winning. It recognizes the power of the Dahiye Doctrine and recognizes that Lebanon will likely be turned into a proverbial parking lot as a result of its implementation (Syria is already partially destroyed). But in the next war, Hezbollah will be joined by tens of thousands of skilled fighters (if not more) from around the wider Middle East (especially regional Shia militias). The full power and depth of Iran, Syria and Gaza, at least, will also stand together on a vast “Resistance Axis” frontline enveloping tiny Israel. Perhaps most importantly, however, the imbalance in either side’s ability to bear war and intense pain will ultimately push the “Resistance Axis” to victory. “Our adversaries,” Nasrallah once explained, “cannot comprehend that this battle has entered a totally different stage. This new stage’s motive, title, and incentive are the belief in God, trust in God, content in God, dependence on God, and hope to win God’s reward whatever the worldly results were. In such cases,” he added, in an uncanny parallel to the threat that lies at the heart of Israel’s nuclear program, “the ability to bear calamities and to stand the loss of the beloved, the dear, the children, money and wealth becomes something else.”
In this scenario then, Lebanon would certainly lie in ruins as per the Dahiye Doctrine. But Israel will also be severely damaged, enough, “Resistance Axis” officials seem to think, that a massive emigration would ensue. In the wreckage—supposedly—the region would eventually recalibrate itself, perhaps even, Hezbollah certainly hopes, toward some kind of a system akin to that which the party doctrinally adheres: the guardianship of the jurisprudent, i.e., a clerically guided republic. As Nasrallah put it last month in a TV interview: “I said to the mujahedeen of the resistance: Prepare yourselves for a day when you may be asked by the command of the resistance to enter the Galilee or to liberate it. As for what lies beyond the Galilee, it is connected to the general idea. … Regardless of the number of missiles we possess, trust me: You do not need 100,000-200,000 missiles to defeat the Israeli enemy. This is what terrifies the Israelis. They themselves say this. The Israelis themselves say: ‘Hezbollah does not need 100,000 missiles. If Hezbollah has several dozen accurate missiles, and if it selects its targets accurately, it will inflict a great catastrophe upon us.’ ”
When it comes to the Israeli side, too, the ideological factors involved—beyond the possible “miscalculations” of strictly rational actors—should not be underestimated either. Nor should the widespread public discourse confidently predicting victory given certain structural advantages Israel would seem to have, including its three-layered Iron Dome, its overwhelming firepower and this unique moment of strong U.S. and Sunni Arab state backing for it.
Indeed, as on the ‘Resistance Axis” side, all of these aspects need to be fully interrogated by those who have demonstrated a deep understanding of the different lines of thought among Israeli decision-makers and the Israeli body politic over the decades. As but one small example complicating ICG’s claim that nobody in Israel desires a new war, Thomas Rick’s wrote recently for Foreign Policy that, “conversations with Israelis these days tend to end up in one place: casus belli. Specifically, the casus belli—the one that will spark the next war in Lebanon.” Israel, he writes further, “isn’t necessarily trying to avoid this war, however ugly it promises to be. Indeed, Israelis generally agree the clash is unavoidable and possibly opportune…”
Analyses like this would seem to lend credence to the widely held sense over the past 12 years that there is a barely latent desire on both sides of the border for a “climactic round” given that the end of the last Israel-Hezbollah war in August 2006 was frustratingly indecisive (for Israel) and perceived as just the beginning of a much anticipated final victory (by Hezbollah). What role might a strong desire to significantly hurt Hezbollah (and Iran) play in tipping Israel towards launching pre-emptive strikes in Lebanon rather than pursuing non-military options? What role, for that matter, does Zionism and the history of the State of Israel play in maintaining Israel’s iron belief in an enduring QME advantage over its enemies? ICG itself recommends that Israel essentially live with the bolstered presence of Iranian and Hezbollah forces in Syria (it leaves out any recommendations for how Israel should deal with the crucial issue of Hezbollah’s allegedly re-started precision weapons program in Lebanon). But how might it be possible—in terms of pure rationality, political self-interest or ideological path dependency—for Israel to change its position on its own QME and accept such a recommendation? And if it should affect a major strategic and ideological shift when it comes to Syria (in exchange for some carrots there), should it also accept the same kind of bargain in Lebanon (and what bargain exactly?) where the danger of sparking an all-out war is most evident?
By not raising or answering these questions—in effect, ignoring the deliberateness of each side’s march to war and then dispensing with a rigorous analysis of the substantial ideological and historical dimensions of enmity—ICG not only undercuts the impact of its warning to the international community, it also fails to provide a basis for understanding why any of the sides might agree to its recommendations. Indeed, as mentioned above, the only rationale we are treated to in their latest report is the hope that all of the potential combatants might somehow come to their senses and realize that “everyone stands to lose” if the current trajectory holds. But, as we have also seen, there is much in the public domain from the two opposed sides that suggests they each think they will be perfectly capable of bearing the pain of an all-out war which they may partially desire anyway. One side might even emerge as a decisive winner for years, if not decades, to come as both Hezbollah and Israeli officials have specifically predicted.
All of which should prompt peace-building organizations, diplomats and potentially affected citizens to hold the combatants rigorously to account for the choices that they are making right now whilst, perhaps most importantly, demanding a far more expansive discussion about all of the waning nonmilitary options that might prevent the “Israel-Resistance Axis War” from coming to pass.

Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on February 22-23/18
U.N. Bid for Syria Ceasefire Falters as Russia Says No Deal
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/February 22/18/After two weeks of negotiations, Russia on Thursday told the U.N. Security Council that there was still no agreement on a 30-day ceasefire in Syria, dimming hopes of international action to halt the carnage in Eastern Ghouta. During a council meeting called by Russia, Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia presented a new raft of amendments to a draft resolution that would allow deliveries of humanitarian aid and medical evacuations during the pause. Negotiations on the draft presented by Sweden and Kuwait on February 9 have dragged on as hundreds of Syrians have died in a fierce government air campaign in the rebel-held enclave of Eastern Ghouta. Nebenzia told the council that Sweden and Kuwait had requested a vote on the draft resolution even though they are "fully aware there is no agreement on it."The Security Council needs to reach a "feasible" agreement on a ceasefire and not take a decision that would be "severed from reality," said Nebenzia. UN diplomats resumed talks in a last-ditch bid to avoid a Russian veto and a vote at the council was now considered for Friday. "We are trying to find a way forward," Swedish Ambassador Olof Skoog said after the meeting, adding that he was "leaning towards a vote" on Friday. The United States, France and Britain called for a quick vote to address the acute crisis on the ground. "The United States is ready to vote on this resolution right here and right now," said U.S. diplomat Kelley Currie. "The assault from the regime is relentless, and the suffering is overwhelming."Outside U.N. headquarters in New York, a coalition of aid groups put up three billboards, inspired by the film "Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri" that said "500,000 dead in Syria. And still no action? How come Security Council?"
Hell on earth
More than 400 people have been killed in the five-day assault by the government on Eastern Ghouta, where UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said 400,000 Syrians are living in "hell on earth."In his address to the council, Nebenzia cited concerns over enforcing the ceasefire and questioned the feasibility of quickly launching a major aid operation to reach civilians and lift sieges. He accused supporters of the ceasefire of seeking to create "a scandal in order to step up pressure on the Syrian government and taint the Russian government."The draft resolution would pave the way for the truce to go into effect 72 hours after the adoption of the measure and for aid deliveries and medical evacuations to begin 48 hours after that. It demands the immediate lifting of all sieges including in Eastern Ghouta, Yarmouk, Foua and Kefraya and orders all sides to "cease depriving civilians of food and medicine indispensable to their survival."In a concession to Russia, the draft was amended during tough-going negotiations last week to specify that the ceasefire does not apply to the Islamic State group or al-Qaida. That would allow the Syrian government offensive to continue against al-Qaida-linked jihadists in Idlib, the last province in Syria outside the control of Damascus. French Ambassador Francois Delattre warned that failure to act to help Eastern Ghouta would result in a devastating loss of credibility for the Security Council and could mean "the death knell of the United Nations."More than 340,000 people have been killed and millions driven from the homes in the war, which next month enters its eighth year with no end in sight. More than 13.1 million Syrians are in need of humanitarian aid, of whom 2.9 million live in besieged and hard-to-reach areas.
Russia Says 'No Agreement' at U.N. on Syria Ceasefire
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/February 22/18/Russia on Thursday said there was no agreement at the U.N. Security Council on a 30-day ceasefire for Syria to allow deliveries of humanitarian aid and medical evacuations. Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia presented amendments to a draft resolution now under negotiation for nearly two weeks as the Syrian government pressed on with a fierce offensive in rebel-held Eastern Ghouta.

Russia Tested 'Over 200 New Weapons' in Syria
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/February 22/18/Russia has tested over 200 new types of arms in Syria during its campaign in support of President Bashar al-Assad, a senior lawmaker said Thursday, as Moscow was accused of taking part in air strikes against rebel-held Eastern Ghouta. "As we helped the brotherly Syrian people, we tested over 200 new types of weapons," said Vladimir Shamanov, a former commander of Russia's airborne troops who now serves as head of the Russian Duma's defense committee. "It's not an accident that today they are coming to us from many directions to purchase our weapons, including countries that are not our allies," he said. "Today our military-industrial complex made our army look in a way we can be proud of," he said. Russia, a close ally of the Syrian government in the protracted multi-front war, has been accused of indiscriminate bombing throughout the conflict causing massive casualties. The latest criticism focuses on the air strikes against the enclave of Eastern Ghouta, where more than 350 civilians have been killed in five days, but the Kremlin denied involvement in the regime-led assault. Shamanov's remarks also come amid reports that Russia has deployed its Su-57 stealth fighter prototype in Syria, where two such planes were reportedly spotted Wednesday. Photos of the fifth generation jet, allegedly over Syria, were re-posted by various state media Thursday. A source in the defense ministry confirmed to RBK news agency that the two planes were sent to the Hmeimim base "for a test in real conditions." Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov declined to comment on the reported deployment of Su-57.

Five-Day Assault on Syria's Eastern Ghouta Kills More than 400
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/February 22/18/Fresh bombardment on Eastern Ghouta killed dozens Thursday, bringing the number of dead civilians in a five-day assault by the Syrian government to more than 400. Mounting calls for a humanitarian truce in one of the bloodiest episodes of Syria's seven-year conflict went unheeded as 46 more people were killed by air strikes and rocket fire. Diplomats were working on securing Russian support for a U.N. Security Council resolution demanding a month-long ceasefire in the enclave which the world body's chief Antonio Guterres described as "hell on earth" but no date was scheduled yet. People huddled in basements as government forces pounded the besieged enclave with rockets and bombs, turning towns into fields of ruins and even hitting hospitals. Aid group Doctors Without Borders said 13 of the facilities it supports in Eastern Ghouta were damaged or destroyed in three days, leaving remaining staff with very little to save the hundreds of wounded brought to them every day. In the hospital mortuary in Douma, the main town in the enclave just east of Damascus, bodies wrapped in white shrouds were already lining up on the floor, two of them children.
Nowhere safe
"Five days of air strikes and intense artillery fire by the regime and its Russian ally have killed 403 civilians, including 95 children," said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Morning rain appeared to initially keep warplanes away on Thursday but the sky cleared by midday and jets, some of them Russian according to the Observatory, soon returned. Russia has so far denied direct involvement in the assault on Ghouta but the pro-government Syrian newspaper al-Watan reported on Thursday that Russian warplanes and advisers had joined the battle. Regime and allied forces have been massing around the enclave, in which an estimated 400,000 people live, ahead of a likely ground offensive to flush out holdout Islamist and jihadist groups. "We are 14 women and children living in a room that is 10 feet wide, with no toilet and nowhere to wash," said 53-year-old Umm Abdo, who joined a large group in the basement of a school in Arbin. The brief respite provided by the rain on Thursday encouraged some residents to venture out of their basements and shelters, to buy food, check on their property or inquire about their relatives and neighbors. In the town of Hammuriyeh, a queue had formed outside a shop as starving residents tried to stock up but another rocket sowed panic and sent everybody back to their shelters. In Douma, a young boy tried to peddle lighters on the street but rocket fire quickly forced him to scamper back to cover.
An AFP correspondent saw rescuers known as the "White Helmets" forced to stop their efforts to retrieve a wounded woman from the rubble of a collapsed home when air strikes resumed. When they ventured back to the site, the woman was dead. The indiscriminate bombardment and the strikes on medical facilities sparked global outrage but few concrete options emerged to stop the bloodletting. "The killing of children, the destruction of hospitals -- all that amounts to a massacre that must be condemned and which must be countered with a clear no," said German Chancellor Angela Merkel. The aid community voiced its frustration as the world appeared once again powerless to stop a conflict that has left almost 350,000 dead in seven years and caused destruction rarely seen since World War II.
Humanitarian agencies are "sickened that no matter how many times they've raised the alarm, taken the step of speaking out, called on the Security Council to do something, the violence and brutality will sink to new lows," said the Syria INGO Regional Forum. Talks for a deal between the regime and the armed groups controlling Ghouta appear to have stalled. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said during a press conference in Belgrade that jihadist fighters in Ghouta had rejected an evacuation deal. "A few days ago, our military in Syria suggested to the fighters that they withdraw peacefully from Eastern Ghouta, like the evacuation of fighters and their families that was organized in East Aleppo," he said. The head of the defense committee in Russia's lower house of parliament said Thursday that more than 200 news types of weapons were tested as part of his country's military support to the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. "It's not an accident that today they are coming to us from many directions to purchase our weapons, including countries that are not our allies," he said.

Russia Says Fighters Rejected Offer to Evacuate from Ghouta
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/February 22/18/Moscow on Thursday said fighters in Syria's rebel-held enclave of Eastern Ghouta had rejected Russia's offer to evacuate peacefully and were using civilians there as human shields. The U.S., rights groups and pro-government Syrian press have said Russia is taking part in air strikes that have killed more than 350 people in the enclave over five days, but Moscow has denied the claims. "A few days ago, our military in Syria suggested to the fighters that they withdraw peacefully from Eastern Ghouta, like the evacuation of fighters and their families that was organized in East Aleppo," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said during a press conference in Belgrade. "The al-Nusra Front and its allies categorically rejected this proposal and continue to shell the city from their positions, using the civilian population of Eastern Ghouta as a human shield," he said. Lavrov added that Russia was ready to consider a U.N. Security Council draft resolution demanding a 30-day ceasefire in Syria as long as it did not include the Islamic State jihadist group or the al-Nusra Front, al-Qaida's one-time Syria affiliate. Regime and allied forces have been massing around Eastern Ghouta, in which an estimated 400,000 people live, ahead of a likely ground offensive to flush out holdout Islamist and jihadist groups. Talks for a deal between the regime and the armed groups controlling Ghouta appear to have stalled. The Russian military has fought a campaign for over two years in Syria, launched in September 2015 in support of Assad, helping to turn around the multi-front war.
Protest in Istanbul against Bloodshed in Syria's E. Ghouta
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/February 22/18/Over 200 people on Thursday protested outside the Russian consulate in Istanbul against the deadly assault on Syria's rebel-held enclave of Eastern Ghouta. More than 350 civilians have been killed in the five-day-old blitz by the Syrian regime led by President Bashar al-Assad in the rebel-held enclave near Damascus. Regime supporter Russia has been accused of taking part in air strikes but the Kremlin denied involvement, on Wednesday calling the accusations "groundless."The demonstrators, most of them Syrians, chanted slogans against Damascus as well as Moscow and another regime supporter, Iran, an AFP correspondent said. Others held placards saying "Russians, you are killing Ghouta's children, but history records" and "Children are dying of hunger in under-siege Eastern Ghouta." Protesters called on the major powers to bring pressure to bear to "end the bloodbath". Over three million Syrian refugees live in Turkey including nearly 540,000 in Istanbul after fleeing the conflict which began with anti-government protests in 2011. Now a multi-front war, Russia entered in September 2015, sending planes to back the Assad regime and turning the military situation around in Damascus's favor. Turkey, which has supported Syrian rebels in the conflict, has been working closely with Moscow and Tehran on a process to bring peace to Syria, despite occasional tensions. Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin on Wednesday said Turkey condemned the attacks and "urged the Syrian regime to immediately put an end" to them. "It is a crime against humanity. That is to say, killing innocent people in East Ghouta is unacceptable whatever the reason is," Kalin said.

UAE Concerned over Eastern Ghouta Violence, Calls for ‘Immediate Truce’
Asharq Al-Awsat/February 22/18/The United Arab Emirates called on Thursday for an end to the violence in Eastern Ghouta that lies on the outskirts of the Syrian capital Damascus. The Emirati foreign ministry expressed concern at the escalation of violence and called for an "immediate truce" to halt the bloodshed and protect civilians.The ministry also called for allowing humanitarian and medical aid to civilians. It reiterated that only a political solution can resolve the Syrian crisis. The statement appealed to all parties to activate the UN’s Geneva-based political process.

Saudi Arabia Calls for Stopping Eastern Ghouta Violence

Asharq Al-Awsat/February 22/18/Saudi Arabia stressed on Thursday the importance of stopping the violence in the Syrian regime's deadly assault on Eastern Ghouta on the outskirts of Damascus. "We stress the need for the Syrian regime to stop the violence, to allow in humanitarian aid, and to take seriously the path of a political solution to the crisis," the Saudi foreign ministry said. "We are concerned over the continuation of Syrian regime attacks on Eastern Ghouta and the impact on civilians there," an official source at the ministry said.The official urged Damascus to pursue a political solution by adhering to UN Security Council resolution 2254, which calls for a nationwide ceasefire and a political transition.

Trump Considers Arming Teachers amid Lobbying Efforts on Gun Rights
Asharq Al-Awsat/February 22/US President Donald Trump suggested arming teachers as students galvanized by the deadly mass shooting at a Florida high school confronted lawmakers on Wednesday with demands to restrict sales of assault rifles. Trump made his suggestion as he faced broken voices, tears and demands for action at a White House meeting Wednesday with survivors of the gun rampage that killed 17 people at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Trump also promised "very strong" background checks on gun owners during the poignant "listening session," in which he heard first-hand accounts from bereaved parents and friends, and schoolchildren who narrowly escaped with their own lives. But his proposal to arm educators received a cool response from a teacher who survived the shooting as well as the local sheriff at a town hall meeting in Florida.
Also Justin Gruber, a 15-year-old Stoneman Douglas student, said "there needs to be significant change in this country because this has to never happen again." "People should be able to feel that when they go to school they can be safe," Gruber said. The unprecedented lobbying effort by groups of teenagers and parents at the White House and at the Florida statehouse in Tallahassee played out as fellow students staged classroom walkouts and rallies in cities across the country. Students are planning a march on Washington on March 24, with sister rallies planned across the country. The attack at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14 was the second-deadliest shooting at a US public school. It has revived the long-running US debate over gun rights. Investigators said the assault was carried out by 19-year-old former Stoneman Douglas student Nikolas Cruz, who purchased an AR-15-style assault weapon nearly a year ago. "The laws of the country have failed," Stoneman Douglas student Laurenzo Prado said, referring to a Florida law that allows people as young as 18 to buy assault weapons. Lawmakers in Tallahassee said they would consider raising the age limit to 21 although the state Senate opted on Wednesday not to take up a gun control measure. Trump directed the Justice Department on Tuesday to work on a regulation that would effectively ban bump stocks. Last October, a retired real estate investor used multiple assault rifles equipped with bump stocks to kill 58 people at a Las Vegas outdoor concert, the deadliest attack by a single gunman in US history. Bump stocks have not played a prominent role in other recent US mass shootings.

Byzantine Church Discovered in Heart of Tunisian Desert

Tunis - Al Munji Al Saidani/Asharq Al-Awsat/February 22/18/Excavations conducted by a team from the Tunisian National Heritage Institute this month revealed that a church dating back to the Byzantine period was found in an archaeological site called Castillia. The church has been completely submerged in the sands of the Tunisian desert, specifically between the cities of Tozeur and Dougga, which preserved a big part of it. This archaeological discovery dates back to the late Roman period, between the 5th and 7th centuries AD. At the site, the team also found many ceramic items and potteries, as well as lamps discovered near the church. The archeologists also found several walls that are still under the sand, which confirms the presence of other buildings, adjacent to the church. Murad Al-Shatawi, representative of the Tunisian Heritage Institute in Tozeur said: "The church has three main compartments: a main entrance, two sub-entrances, two annexes and a circular surface. The church stretches over 140 square meters, with a 3.50 to 3.70 meters height." Bassam bin Saad, a specialist in archaeological architecture, said that the primary materials used for the construction of this archeological monument are local. He suggested that the stones were brought from the entrance to the city of Dougga. This archaeological discovery is expected to boost the Tunisian tourism sector. Researchers suggest that the archaeological site was fully submerged under the sand, which helped in preserving it.

Iraqi Criticism of Iran's Adoption of Saddam's Execution
Baghdad - Asharq Al-Awsat/February 22/18/A recent claim by an Iranian official that his country was behind the execution of former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein was met with a wave of criticism in Baghdad. Politicians have called on the government to respond to such "unacceptable interference" in their country's internal affairs. During a television interview, member of the Supreme Council for the Cultural Revolution, Rahimpour Azghadi, said five countries are under the control of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. "Iran has killed the former regime president, Saddam Hussein, after the United States sought to retain him. Our group hanged Saddam Hussein and not the Americans," he added."It is time to declare the Persian Empire in the region," Azghadi concluded. Former Iraqi MP Hasan al-Allawi said the Iraqi government must set the record straight concerning these statements. He told Asharq Al-Awsat if Iraqi officials remain silent, whether over these statements or any other, including those of Ali Akbar Velayati, they will validate Tehran's claims that it is managing Iraq’s affairs. Statements made by Iranian officials aim at informing the Iraqi public that there is no such thing as sovereignty of states. As if Iran is saying "we are the guardians of Iraq and the capabilities of this country depend on us."Allawi explained that a statement claiming Iran’s execution of Saddam Hussein will lead to confusion. He also wondered about former Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's position on such an announcement knowing that Saddam was executed during his first term and with his approval. "It is his (Maliki) responsibility to correct the course of events," he concluded. In addition, senior official of Badr Organization Karim al-Nouri told Asharq Al-Awsat that Azghadi’s statement is insulting to Iran's allies and its rivals.
"US provided protection for Saddam's trial, but the decision to execute him was purely Iraqi," Nouri reiterated. The Badr official wondered – in reference to Maliki - why officials responsible for the execution remained "silent.”"Al-Sumaria News" website also quoted top official at "Iraqi Front for National Dialogue" Haider al-Mulla as saying: "Iraq will not be part of the policy of sectarian wars that Iran seeks to create in the region in search for its alleged empire." In a statement, Mullah called on the Iraqi Foreign Ministry to take a "clear position from these transgressions that affect Iraq's sovereignty."He added that Tehran must realize that the policy of exporting the crisis will reflect on it, especially after the international community began to realize the risks of its expansionist policies on the security and stability of the region.

Ahmadinejad Calls for Early Presidential, Parliamentary Elections

London - Adil Al-Salmi/February 22/18/Former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad took advantage of recent statements made by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei to send him an open letter demanding "free and urgent" presidential and parliamentary elections without the intervention of the Guardian Council and the security and military services. On Monday, Khamenei acknowledged the regime's failure in achieving social justice, while demanding the government and officials to take serious steps to activate policies that improve economic and social conditions. Khamenei urged officials to apologize to the Iranians for delaying justice for more than three decades. Among the policies advocated by Khamenei are opening up to the East rather than the West, which implicitly supports certain policies of Ahmadinejad's former government. Ahmadinejad said in response to Khamenei's speech: “An immediate and essential need is holding quick and free elections for the presidency and the parliament, of course without the engineering of the Guardian Council and interference of military and security institutions, so the people have the right to choose." Ahmadinejad’s letter also called for “fundamental reforms” in the three branches of government - executive, legislative and judiciary, as well as the office of the Supreme Leader. The former president also called for the release of political prisoners and dismissal of judiciary chief Sadeq Larijani, whom he has accused of unfairly targeting his allies. Dolat Bahar website indicated that Ahmedinejad addressed Khamenei on Monday, moments after the religious leader delivered his speech. "Making these reforms correctly and urgently would contribute to restoring public confidence in the Iranian regime," he indicated. On Wednesday, Ahmadinejad went to Tehran court with his aides, and after being banned from entering the court, he delivered a speech in which he attacked senior officials with "absolute powers" who "despise" the Iranian people. Few days earlier, Ahmadinejad issued a statement on the anniversary of the revolution, describing the judicial chief as "one of the pillars of injustice in Iran."Ahmadinejad also implicitly criticized Khamenei, saying that the judiciary could not be held accountable even by the Supreme leader. Two days ago, Sadiq Larijani responded to Ahmadinejad's statements and accused him of "betraying the revolution.""He is attacking the judiciary, the regime and Supreme Leader after he faced judicial rulings that are not in his favor," Larijani said, advising his rival to "resort to legal means to protest judicial rulings."In April, the Guardian Council did not welcome Ahmadinejad's presidential candidacy, after the former president ignored Khamenei's warning in September 2016 asking him not to submit his candidacy. Last September, contrary to speculations, Khamenei revived Ahmadinejad's hopes of continuing his political career when he was re-elected to the Expediency Discernment Council. The 2005 and 2009 presidential elections are the most controversial in Iran. In 2005, Ahmadinejad beat former president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani in the second round. The reformist movement accused the son of Iranian Supreme Leader Mojtaba Khamenei and his associates of favoring Ahmadinejad. In 2009, supporters of reformist candidates Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi took to the streets in angry protests for eight months after candidates rejected the results. After the 2009 elections, Khamenei said Ahmadinejad's positions were closest to those of former presidents, such as Hashemi Rafsanjani and Khatami. Meanwhile, state-run Mehr news agency reported that 80 parliamentarians signed a second request to question Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. The agency quoted a member of the parliament as saying that more than 80 members signed a request to direct five new questions to the Iranian president. According to this MP, the five questions address the economy, smuggling, people's livelihoods, unemployment and the loss in the value of the Iranian Toman. This is the second request for questioning Rouhani in around two weeks after the first demand on the bankruptcy of financial institutions and the role of the Central Bank. It received the required quorum with the approval of 76 deputies. The parliament's economic committee is currently deliberating the first request, and the government must provide answers to avoid Rouhani’s interrogation.

Man Blows Himself Up after Hurling Grenade into U.S. Embassy in Montenegro
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/February 22/18/A suicide attacker blew himself up after throwing an explosive device into the U.S. embassy compound in Podgorica, the Montenegrin government said Thursday. Authorities in Podgorica have not released any theories as to the motive for the early morning attack in Montenegro, which recently joined NATO. "In front of the @USEmbassyMNE building in #Podgorica, #Montenegro an unknown person committed suicide with an explosive device. Immediately before, that person threw an explosive device," the government tweeted, saying the device was "most probably" a hand grenade. It said the attacker threw the device "into the U.S. embassy compound" from an intersection near a sports center. A U.S. State Department spokesperson confirmed "a small explosion near the U.S. Embassy compound" saying officials were "working closely with police to identify the assailant(s)."Montenegro's main daily paper Vijesti identified the attacker as a 43-year-old man born in neighboring Serbia but who was living in Podgorica. It also published a picture, apparently from his Facebook page, showing an award he won for his service in the Yugoslav army in 1999, which was signed by the late Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic. That was the year in which NATO struck Serbia to end the Kosovo war. In 2006, Montenegro declared independence and has espoused pro-Western policies ever since.
'Man's body removed'
An AFP correspondent who arrived at the site shortly after the blast did not see any damage. Police said the explosion inside the embassy's courtyard had left a crater, but that there was no other damage to the embassy’s property. On its Twitter account, the embassy said all its staff were "safe and accounted for" but it canceled all visa services for the day, although access was available for U.S. citizens "on an emergency basis."A guard at the sports center who asked not to be named said he "heard two explosions, one after another.""Police came very quickly and the body of a man was taken away," he told AFP.
New NATO member
The heavily-secured embassy building is located on the outskirts of Podgorica's city center, near the secret police headquarters and the Moraca river. Montenegro, a small Adriatic state of some 660,000 people, joined NATO last May. The decision to become a member provoked violent protests by the pro-Russian opposition in 2015. In October 2016, authorities said they had thwarted a plot by pro-Russian militants to storm parliament and oust the pro-Western government on the eve of general elections. Authorities alleged that "Russian state bodies" were involved in the conspiracy, which they said was aimed at preventing Montenegro from joining NATO. In October 2011, the U.S. embassy in Sarajevo in neighboring Bosnia was the target of a militant attack. An Islamist, Mevlid Jasarevic opened fire with an automatic rifle at the embassy building, wounding a police officer. He was also injured in the exchange of fire and arrested. Jasarevic was later sentenced to 15 years' imprisonment. According to figures published in November by a regional thinktank, a thousand people from the Western Balkans have gone to join jihadists fighting in Syria and Iraq since 2012. Twenty-three of those were from Montenegro, whose population is predominantly Orthodox Christian. Last month, a court in Montenegro for the first time sentenced one of its citizens for having fought in Syria. Hamid Beharovic, 39, was found guilty of fighting for Islamic State group between April 2015 and May 2016. He was given a six-month jail term.
Egypt Court Sentences 21 to Death for Planning Attacks
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/February 22/18/An Egyptian court sentenced on Thursday 21 people to death for planning attacks and weapons possession. Only five of the defendants sentenced to death were present at the trial, and they may appeal the ruling. The remaining 16 were tried in absentia and could get a retrial if arrested. The court also sentenced four defendants to 25 years in prison each and three to 15 years. They been accused of planning attacks and embracing "extremist ideology." Egyptian courts have sentenced hundreds to death for violence after the military toppled the divisive Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in 2013 and unleashed a crackdown on his supporters. Many have appealed and won retrials, but executions have been carried out for at least 19 people since December.

400 kilograms of cocaine found in Russian embassy in Argentina
AFP/February 23/18/BUENOS AIRES: Police have seized nearly 400 kilograms of cocaine from the Russian embassy in Buenos Aires and arrested several members of a drug trafficking gang, Argentina's security minister announced Thursday. Patricia Bullrich told a press conference that the drugs discovered in an annex of the embassy had a street value of around $50 million. "A gang of narco-criminals was trying to use the diplomatic courier service of the Russian embassy" to ship the drugs to Europe, she said. She told reporters that Russian and Argentine police had decided to mount a sting operation after the Russian ambassador informed them of the drugs find in Dec. 2016. "The cocaine was replace by flour and monitoring devices were placed to monitor delivery" of the 16 bags of the drug, Bullrich said. She said the sting had resulted in the arrest of five suspects — two in Argentina and three in Russia. The drug, of "very high purity," was destined for Russia and probably also Germany, where the suspected mastermind lives. "We believe the German police will arrest this fugitive," Bullrich said. The minister said Russian security service agents "came to Argentina on three occasions to assist in the investigation" that took more than a year. One of the two people arrested in Argentina is a naturalized Russian who was a member of the police force in Buenos Aires, said Bullrich. Investigators believe the cocaine likely originated in Colombia or Peru.

Seven soldiers, 71 militants killed in Egypt Sinai op
AFP/February 23/18/CAIRO: Seven Egyptian soldiers and 71 militants have been killed since the launch of a wide-ranging operation to quell an Daesh group affiliate in Sinai earlier this month, the military said. “As a result of the heroic combat operations by our armed heroes of the armed forces were martyred,” military spokesman Col. Tamer Rifai said at a press conference aired Thursday on state television.“71 extremists have been killed and five arrested,” he said. Rifai added that 1,852 other suspects have been rounded up in the operation that began on February 9, following an ultimatum by the President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi to end the deadly insurgency. IS attacks have killed hundreds of policemen and soldiers in the Sinai Peninsula. The group has also killed over 100 Christians in the past year and targeted tourists. Sissi ordered his security commanders to put an end to the attacks following a massacre at a northern Sinai mosque in November that killed more than 300 worshippers. IS is believed to have carried out the attack on the mosque, frequented by Sufi Muslims, but it has not claimed responsibility. The group’s Egyptian branch has used the north of the Sinai Peninsula, which borders Israel, as a staging ground for its attacks. Officials say IS has tried to move fighters to Sinai following defeats in Iraq and Syria, where it has lost most of its territory. Egypt is holding a presidential election next month, which Sissi is expected to easily win.

Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on February 22-23/18
The Machines Are Taking Over Space
Faye Flam/Bloomberg View/February 22/18/
People concerned about robots taking away jobs might want to consider where it’s already happened. Machines with varying levels of intelligence have quietly taken over the most glamorous, coveted and admirable job in the world -- space exploration.
It’s not that people can’t still be astronauts -- it’s just there aren’t nearly enough jobs for all the people with the desire and ability to do it. And in terms of gathering data, we can’t catch up to the robots, which have in recent years been plunging beneath Jupiter’s thick cloud cover and exploring the exotic moons of Saturn with their methane lakes and roiling ice geysers. At more then 11 billion miles from home, the unmanned space probe Voyager 1 has finally reached the edge of the sun’s “atmosphere” of solar wind particles and sampled true interstellar space.
Perhaps human space flight will start to take a cue from Elon Musk’s roadster now playfully speeding away on an orbit around the sun. In the future, going into space might become less of a solemn duty carried out by a hand-selected few, and more of an adventure, done both for learning and fun. This will take some attitude adjustment, given that the US has been the traditional leader in space exploration, and we are a puritanical people, deeply suspicious of fun.
Robots didn’t take over space in any sort of hostile way. It’s still the people who are doing the exploration, using technology to boldly go to places with toxic atmospheres, crushing pressure, deadly X-rays, and extreme temperatures.
We biological beings are the ones whose curiosity drives the missions. “I’ve explored Pluto and the distant reaches of the universe from the comfort of my living room,” said Tod Lauer, an astronomer with the National Optical Astronomy Observatory in Arizona. “We can make the decisions and judgments remotely. We can make new missions based on what we’ve learned.” When their missions end, robots go without question or complaint. The Cassini spacecraft collected some final data as it plunged to its demise in Saturn's atmosphere.
That said, Lauer added that it would be fun to go into space. And even more fun than going into space would be going to Mars. Getting to our neighboring planet isn’t just Elon Musk’s dream -- it’s the destination recommended by the National Academy of Sciences. In a 2014 report on the future of space flight, a panel of experts identified Mars as the most reasonable new place NASA could send humans.
The panel’s co-chair, Cornell University planetary scientist Jonathan Lunine, said they concluded that science alone isn’t quite enough to justify sending people on a Mars mission. But sending humans to Mars could give the US a chance to display leadership in peaceful international cooperation, he said, and could inspire the public. So the justification for going to Mars would combine scientific goals with “economic, political and aspirational” ones. What is “aspirational” if not a respectable term for fun and adventurous? Lunine said his panel concluded it would take another 30 years to get humans to Mars, during which time robot technology may advance in ways we can’t predict. They may be able to make the journey safer and better in ways we can’t imagine now. Meanwhile, robotic missions will help answer the big questions. Scientists are still hoping to learn more about how our solar system formed. The search for alien life continues, boosted by the surprise finding that there are seas with the potential for harboring life on Saturn’s moon Enceladus, as well as on Jupiter’s Europa. And now instead of just nine planets, we have eight planets and scores of other worlds out beyond Pluto -- Makemake, Quaoar, Sedna and Varuna, to name a few. It’s human nature to want to see what’s out there, even if we can’t go in the flesh. Commercial vehicles such as SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy, which launched the spacefaring roadster, will probably figure into the quest, said Lunine, since there’s a shortage of powerful rockets and no shortage of ideas for missions that need to be lofted far into space. Scientists have drawn up plans for potential missions to look closer at those distant moons of Jupiter and Saturn for signs of life, and there are plans for exploring Uranus and Neptune, which hold particular fascination since astronomers have found many bodies like them in other solar systems. Perhaps these missions will be long ago accomplished by the time that car is predicted to swing close enough to be visible from Earth -- roughly estimated to be around 2073. If history is any guide, we and our robots will still be exploring, launching missions to answer new questions that nobody has yet thought to ask.

The Nation and Patriotism Dialogues

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed/Asharq Al-Awsat/February 22/18/
Major General Saeed Jawdat was one of those who fought under King Faisal’s command after it succeeded in restoring southern Saudi areas. Back then, Saudi forces reached the city of Hodeidah. They left three months later following King Abdulaziz’s directions and returned to Saudi borders. Jawdat participated in many unification wars later. I selected Jawdat’s biography to cite because it sums up a lot. Jawdat was a Turkish garrison officer. When he was defeated before King Abdulaziz’s forces, he was brought before the king who ordered unchaining him and the rest of the war prisoners.
Jawdat was given the choice to return to Turkey or to join the king’s forces so he chose to join the great leader Abdulaziz. Many of Jawdat’s friends joined him while others returned home.
Jawdat thus joined the ranks of the new Saudi forces and the founder king later trusted him and assigned him to one of the highest-ranking and important jobs as a commander of the royal guard.
King Abdulaziz was an exceptional figure. He was neither narrow-minded nor intolerant. His vision was ahead of his time and more advanced than regional leaders’ plans in terms of establishing an ambitious state. He included everyone he fought and defeated in his state institutions.
King Abdulaziz founded a modern state that fits everyone as he included tribal leaders and social dignitaries in his government and councils and he also included Egyptians, Syrians, Palestinians, Iraqis, Libyans and others. He granted them the Saudi nationality, and some of them fought behind him while others served in his modern state. Saudi Arabia was a poor country that had not discovered oil yet but these men left their countries to stay in Saudi Arabia because they believed in the king and in his project. This story narrates what people who have a narrow vision and humble ambitions and who see a small country with limited resources cannot understand. They’ve recently been overwhelmed with fear that foreigners will be naturalized - although this is not true neither for those who deserve to be naturalized according to the law or based on anything else.
Fear that foreigners will take over and that the society will melt is a general concern that’s common in many countries where there are calls to eliminate others under patriotic excuses, such as in Jordan, Lebanon, Kuwait, Turkey, Britain, the US and others.
Racism is not limited to the Saudis and is actually a result of competition and high rates of unemployment. Voicing this racism has become easy via easy and liberal social media networks. A dispute between isolated and open-minded people and between worried, confident, ambitious and unambitious people thus erupted. Both categories have good intentions and want the best for themselves and for their children but they may be led by ill-intentioned people. We’ve just escaped the chains of a group that calls itself “religious awakening.” This group succeeded in promoting the idea of eliminating those who disagree with it during the past two decades after it monopolized Islam.
And now some parties who want to eliminate others in their community have emerged. There are solid facts no matter what some may wish. The state is for everyone and not just for a category of people. This is the case no matter how loud they are or how deep-rooted they become.
The state’s laws and constitution are the proper reference, and those who were granted Saudi citizenship have the same rights as their fellow Saudi citizens. Saeed Jawdat was a Kurdish-Iraqi member of Turkey’s forces, and King Abdulaziz naturalized him. He also naturalized Abdullah Al-Damluji, an Iraqi who fought with Turkish troops. Damluji was also given the choice to stay in Saudi Arabia or return home and he chose to work with King Abdulaziz, becoming a Saudi citizen. There are also Yusuf Yasin and Rashid Pharaon from Syria, Hafiz Wahba from Egypt, Khaled Al-Qarqani from Libya and many others. When King Saud assumed the throne, he kept them in their posts. It was common to see figures like Rashid Pharaon in King Faisal’s meetings and councils. Therefore, it’s not true that naturalization is a heresy and that the state was established based on some people and not others or to serve a category and not another.
Saudi Arabia has been a project for a modern and advanced state for around 90 years. Its residents included people from China, Russia, India and Britain. This is a significant characteristic that makes us proud. Categorizing people and dividing them only serve those who wish to plant ideas that weaken the society and fragment it. No one wants to put foreigners before citizens. Citizenship is a priority for almost every state and it must not mix up concepts, like naturalization and employment, and confuse them. We have a huge country, great opportunities and an ambitious leadership that cannot be summed up in debates from the past centuries.

Europe: The Rapid Spread of Dhimmitude
Judith Bergman/Gatestone Institute/February 22/18
One of the most troubling aspects of this rapidly spreading dhimmitude, is the de-facto enforcement of Islamic blasphemy laws. Local European authorities have been utilizing "hate speech" laws to prohibit criticism of Islam, even though Islam represents an idea, not a nationality or an ethnicity. The conventional purpose of most hate-speech laws is to protect people from hatred, not ideas.
The British Foreign Office, which has ignored Iranian women's desperate fight for freedom and stayed shamefully silent during the Iranian people's recent protests against Iran's regime, unbelievably handed out free headscarves to its staff. Meanwhile, at least 29 Iranian women were arrested for shedding the hijab, and were likely subjected to rape and other torture, as is common in Iranian prisons. Yet British MPs and Foreign Office employees were perversely celebrating the hijab as some sort of twisted tool of "female empowerment".
Counter-jihad measures have been obstructed by Western leaders everywhere since immediately after 9/11. President George W. Bush declared that "Islam is peace". President Obama removed all references to Islam in FBI terror training manuals that Muslims deemed offensive. New York City's current leadership threatened New Yorkers, immediately after the October terror attack in Manhattan, not to link the terror attack to Islam. UK Prime Minister Theresa May claimed that Islam is a "religion of peace".
Although Europe is not part of the Muslim world, many European authorities nevertheless seem to feel obliged to submit to Islam in more or less subtle ways. This voluntary submission appears to be unprecedented: Dhimmi, historically speaking, is the Arabic term for the conquered non-Muslim, who agrees to live as a second-rate, "tolerated" citizen, under Islamic rule, submitting to a separate, demeaning set of laws and the demands of his Islamic masters.
In Europe, submitting to the demands of Islam, in the name of "diversity" and "human rights", has also been happening voluntarily. This submission to Islam is, of course, highly ironic, as the Western concepts of "diversity" and "human rights" do not exist within the foundational texts of Islam. On the contrary, these texts denounce in the strongest – and supremacist - terms those who refuse to submit to the Islamic concept of divinity, Allah, as infidels who must either convert, pay the jizya ["protection"] tax or die.
One of the most troubling aspects of this rapidly spreading dhimmitude, is the de-facto enforcement of Islamic blasphemy laws within European jurisdictions. Local European authorities have been utilizing "hate speech" laws to prohibit criticism of Islam, even though Islam represents an idea – a religion and ideology - not a nationality or an ethnicity. The conventional purpose of most "hate-speech" laws is to protect people from hatred, not ideas. It would therefore appear that European authorities are under no legal obligation to prosecute people for criticizing Islam, especially as Islamic law, Sharia, is not part of European law; yet they do so only too willingly.
The most recent example of this kind of dhimmitude comes from Sweden, where a pensioner has been indicted for calling Islam a 'fascist' ideology on Facebook. The legal provision under which he is being charged, (Brottsbalken chapter 16, § 8,1 st), explicitly talks of "incitement" (Swedish: "hets mot folkgrupp") against groups of people defined by their 'race, skin color, national or ethnic origin, faith or sexual preference'. However, the provision does not criminalize criticism of religion, ideology or ideas, because Western democracies, back when they were genuine democracies, did not criminalize the free exchange of ideas. Dhimmitude in Europe is manifested in many other respects, as well. On World Hijab Day a yearly recurring February event founded in 2013 by a Bangladeshi immigrant to the US, Nazma Khan, "to fight discrimination against Muslim women through awareness and education", several British MPs chose to don the hijab. These included MP Anne McLaughlin and Labour's former shadow Equalities Minister Dawn Butler and MP Naseem Shah. Furthermore, the British Foreign Office, which appears to ignore Iranian women's desperate fight for freedom, and which stayed comparatively quiet during the Iranian people's recent protests against the Iranian regime[1], unbelievably handed out free headscarves to its staff. According to the Evening Standard, an email reportedly sent to staff said:
"Would you like to try on a hijab or learn why Muslim women wear the headscarf? Come along to our walk-in event. Free scarves for all those that choose to wear it for the day or part of the day. Muslim women, along with followers of many other religions, choose to wear the hijab. Many find liberation, respect and security through wearing it. #StrongInHijab. Join us for #WorldHijabDay."
Meanwhile, at least 29 Iranian women were arrested for shedding the hijab, and were likely subjected to rape and other torture, as is common in Iranian prisons. Yet British MPs and Foreign Office employees were perversely celebrating the hijab as some sort of twisted tool of "female empowerment".
The above incident is hardly surprising: Britain is rife with some of the most jarring examples of dhimmitude. Mass rapes of children by Muslim gangs in many British cities, went on for years with the knowledge of the British authorities, who did not stop these crimes for fear of appearing "racist" or "Islamophobic"
The dhimmitude is also apparent in the lengths to which British authorities will go to excuse or explain away customs that are practiced by British Muslim communities. The police commander responsible for tackling honor crimes, female genital mutilation (FGM) and forced marriage, Ivan Balchatchet, recently wrote a letter in which he said that the reason there have not yet been any convictions for FGM (which was criminalized in 1985), despite an estimate that 137,000 women and girls are affected by FGM in England and Wales, is that the crime has "many nuances". He later apologized for the statement:
"I apologise for this letter... FGM is the appalling abuse of children. It is unacceptable that there have been no successful prosecutions. Working with others, this is something that needs to change."
Similarly, according to new figures, hundreds of "honor" violence and forced marriage crimes go unpunished in London. Data shows that between 2015 and 2017, police recorded 759 "honor" crimes and 265 forced marriages in London alone -- but only 138 people were charged with offenses. Diana Nammi, executive director of the Iranian & Kurdish Women's Rights Organisation, which provides refuge for victims, said
"What makes it so alarming is that figures that we obtained through freedom of information requests show that, at the same time, since the criminalisation of forced marriage in 2014, many more people at risk than ever before are coming forward for help".
Dhimmitude, however, leads not "only" to child rape, female genital mutilation and "honor" killings, all spreading under the willfully blind eyes of national authorities, but also to the obstruction of counterterrorism efforts. In a recent interview for SVT public television, Peder Hyllengren, a researcher at the Swedish Defense College, said:
"You risk being identified as racist in a way that you have not seen in other European countries. There, this question has been as uncontroversial as the importance of combating Nazism and right wing extremism. But in Sweden it took a long time before it was acceptable to discuss jihadism in the same way that we have been discussing Nazism".
Hyllengren is being too harsh on Sweden: Counter-jihad measures have been obstructed by Western leaders everywhere since immediately after 9/11, when President George W. Bush declared that "Islam is peace". President Obama removed all references to Islam in FBI terror training manuals that Muslims deemed offensive. Theresa May claimed that Islam is a "religion of peace". New York City's current leadership threatened New Yorkers, immediately after the October terror attack in Manhattan, not to link the terror attack to Islam.
Most recently, the British government's terror watchdog and independent reviewer of terrorism legislation Max Hill QC, said that it is "fundamentally wrong" to use the phrase "Islamist terrorism" to describe attacks carried out in Britain and elsewhere. According to a report by the Evening Standard, he said that the word terrorism should not be attached "to any of the world religions" and that the term "Daesh-inspired terrorism" should be used instead. Last year, Max Hill opined that some jihadis returning from Syria and Iraq should escape prosecution as they were "naive".
In Germany, dhimmitude now runs so deep that the minister of family affairs recently suggested that sexual assaults by Muslim migrants could be prevented by inviting more Muslim migrants into the country -- the mothers and sisters of the male Muslim migrants already there. This was the German minister's answer to a question in the Bundestag about what "concrete educational and danger prevention measures" her ministry was planning to "protect and inform women and girls in the long term about the disproportionately increased physical and sexual and life threatening attacks that have taken place since 2015" by migrants. This was the minister's pathetic answer:
"... On the one hand this concerns the accommodation where the young unaccompanied refugees live. Also of course to the...yes... the macho culture from which they often come... That one does not conceal this and attempts to discuss this there, and of course influence them, this is quite obvious... We have the expert's report from Professor Pfeiffer here, which gives very precise starting points... we must work with the youth and we also know that family reunification is important... he [the professor] says it is just the same with young men whether they are from here or elsewhere, they are easier to handle when they have their mothers and sisters with them".
Europe is rife with other recent examples of dhimmitude, exhibited by countless state and commercial actors. There was the removal of a cross by the presiding judge in a German courtroom during the trial of an Afghan charged with threatening another Muslim for converting to Christianity; H&M recalling a range of socks after Muslims complained that the pattern on them resembled the word "Allah" written in Arabic upside down; a French court dropping hate crime charges from the indictment of a Muslim murder suspect, who confessed to killing his 66 year old Jewish neighbor, a woman whom he tortured, before throwing her to her death off her balcony, while shouting "Allahu Akbar". He had also reportedly called the victim's daughter "dirty Jewess" two years prior to the murder.
The list goes on. Sheikh Yussuf Qaradawi, the spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, who has said that Europe will be conquered not through the sword, but through dawa, probably could not be happier. Europe is leaping to fulfill his request.
Pictured: Women wearing Islamic niqab veils stand outside the French Embassy during a demonstration on April 11, 2011 in London, England.
*Judith Bergman is a columnist, lawyer and political analyst.
[1] Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson merely said:
"...there should be meaningful debate about the legitimate and important issues the protesters are raising and we look to the Iranian authorities to permit this... people should be able to have freedom of expression and to demonstrate peacefully within the law... We on all concerned to refrain from violence and for international obligations on human rights to be observed".
© 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.

Hamas: Turkey's Longtime Love
Burak Bekdil/Gatestone Institute/February 22/18
Erdogan's ideological love affair with Hamas is obligatory for all Islamists in this part of the world, and they do not tend to forget it. In February, a deported Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) board member, Sami al-Arian, denounced the United States as "our enemy."
For Turkey's Islamist leaders, Hamas is not a tactical alliance or a geopolitical necessity for the country. It is an age-old feature of political Islam capturing not just minds but hearts.
Despite the nominal 'normalization' of diplomatic relations between Turkey and Israel, Ankara is still fully supporting a terrorist organization -- one that Washington, among others, lists as terrorist. The Shin Bet's report, the Istanbul conference and its contents, the official Turkish support for that conference and Turkish Foreign Ministry's explicit support of Hamas make new evidence that Turkey insists on siding ideologically with a terrorist organization -- ironically at a time when Erdogan claims Turkish troops are fighting terrorists in Syria.
In 2014, Turkey hosted Salah al-Arouri, a Hamas commander whom the Palestinian Authority had accused of planning multiple attacks against Israeli targets. At that time, the newspaper Israel Hayom called Turkey's important guest "an infamous arch-terrorist believed to be responsible for dozens of attacks against Israelis".
In August 2014, speaking at the World Conference of Islamic Sages in Turkey, Arouri admitted that Hamas had instigated the "heroic action carried out by the al-Qassam Brigades [the military wing of Hamas], which captured three settlers in Hebron." The "heroic action" consisted of Hamas operatives kidnapping and murdering three teenage boys, an incident that triggered the spiral of violence that led to the 50-day war in Gaza.
In December 2014, a Hamas leader confirmed that his organization was using NATO member Turkey as a refuge for logistics, training and planning terrorist attacks. The same month, then-Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu hosted the chief at that time of Hamas's political bureau, Khaled Mashaal, at a high-profile party congress in Konya, Central Turkey. Taking the stage at the event, Mashaal congratulated the Turkish people "for having [President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan and Davutoglu." His remarks were received passionately, with thunderous applause, the waving of Palestinian flags and thousands of party fans shouting, "Down with Israel!".
In June 2016, Jonathan Schanzer forcefully reminded the public that although Arouri had been expelled from his safe base in Istanbul, "many other senior Hamas officials remain there [a]nd their ejection from Turkey appears to be at the heart of Israel's demands as rapprochement talks near completion." Schanzer named half a dozen or so Hamas militants enjoying refuge in Turkey. These included Mahmoud Attoun, who had been found guilty of kidnapping and murdering a 29-year-old Israeli. Also enjoying safe haven in Turkey were three members of the Izzedine al-Qassam brigades. Ten Hamas figures were believed to be in Turkey, Schanzer said:
"There are a handful more that can be easily identified in the Arabic and Turkish press, and nearly all of them maintain profiles on Facebook and Twitter, where they regularly post updates on their lives in Turkey."
Stubbornly ignoring Hamas's violent past --and present -- Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has claimed more than once that Hamas is not a terrorist group but a legitimate political party. He has also repeatedly described Hamas militants as "freedom fighters". In November 2016, Erdogan said again that he did not view Hamas as a terrorist organization; he called it instead a "political movement born from [a] national resurrection," and mentioned that he meets with Hamas "all the time".
Erdogan's ideological love affair with Hamas is obligatory for all Islamists in this part of the world, and they do not tend to forget it. In February, a deported Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) board member, Sami al-Arian, denounced the United States as "our enemy." The venue was an Istanbul conference sponsored by Diyanet, Turkey's powerful religious affairs authority. Diyanet's president and Turkey's top cleric Ali Erbas, an Erdogan loyalist, said:
"Diyanet is with the suffering Palestinian Muslims who have been serving as the guardians of al-Aqsa for years despite any kind of invasion and violence, and will continue to be by their side and provide any kind of support for them."
Arian, meanwhile, is the founder of a charity called the Islamic Committee for Palestine and raises money for PIJ. It was only too normal that Diyanet sponsored an event featuring hatred of the U.S. and Israel while promoting the "Palestinian cause."
Recently, the U.S. government declared Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh a "specially designated global terrorist" and imposed a raft of sanctions against him. Immediately afterwards, the Turkish Foreign Ministry condemned the U.S. for this decision. Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that the timing of Washington's decision was "suspicious". Apparently, the Turkish love affair with Hamas is not only about nice words.
Israel's Shin Bet security service has announced that a Turkish law professor was deported and that an Israeli Arab was facing indictment over involvement in a Hamas effort to funnel money for terrorism to the West Bank and Gaza via Turkey. According to Shin Bet, both men were recruited by a Hamas operative who was deported from the West Bank after Israel released him from prison in 2011 as part of the deal to ensure the release of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.
Enter Arouri -- again. The Hamas recruiter, according to Shin Bet, was one of the chiefs of Hamas's West Bank Command, headed by Arouri, until recently Turkey's very important guest. The Hamas West Bank Command's mission is to plan and fund acts of terror in the West Bank.
The Shin Bet also accused Turkey of aiding Hamas's military build-up by means of a Turkish company called SADAT, a security services and training specialist. SADAT's owner, Adnan Tanriverdi, is a retired Turkish general who is now one of Erdogan's chief advisors.
SADAT has come under accusations that it may secretly be training armed pro-Erdogan militias in Turkey as well as jihadist fighters in Syria, allegations which Tanriverdi denies. The Turkish law professor, however, who was deported from Israel, told his interrogators that SADAT does send money and arms to Hamas. Unsurprisingly, Tanriverdi is another pro-Hamas Islamist. In a 2009 speech, before he was Erdogan's chief advisor, he said:
"To defeat Israel, the country must be forced into defensive warfare, all of its forces must be engaged and the war must be prolonged. "What should Turkey do? The resistance units in Gaza should be supported by anti-tank and low-altitude anti-aircraft weapons.
"Turkey, Iran, Syria, the Iraqi Resistance Organization and Palestine should form the nucleus of a defense structure. Within this context the formation of an Islamic rapid reaction force consisting of an amphibious brigade, an armored brigade and an airborne brigade should be encouraged".
For Turkey's Islamist leaders, Hamas is not a tactical alliance or a geopolitical necessity for the country. It is an age-old feature of political Islam capturing not just minds but hearts.
Pictured: Palestinians, waving Hamas flags, hold a rally in support of Recep Tayyip Erdogan (then Turkey's Prime Minister) on January 30, 2009, in Gaza City. (Photo by Abid Katib/Getty Images)
*Burak Bekdil, one of Turkey's leading journalists, was recently fired from Turkey's leading newspaper after 29 years, for writing what was taking place in Turkey for Gatestone. He is a Fellow at the Middle East Forum.
© 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.

How Iran Continues To Profit From The Syrian War

Dr. Majid Rafizadeh/Arab News/February 23/18
Since the uprising in Syria in March 2011, the Iranian regime has spent approximately $100 billion, roughly between $15 and $20 billion a year, to keep the Syrian regime in power. Some scholars and policy analysts argue that the Islamic Republic is losing politically, bleeding financially, and gaining nothing when it comes to the Syrian conflict.
While it is accurate to argue that the Iranian regime is hemorrhaging billions of dollars on the Syrian regime, Iranian leaders’ calculated measures and policies are, in fact, making Tehran profit from the conflict in both the short and long term. Tehran’s political opportunism in Syria is serving the Iranian regime ideologically, economically, geopolitically and strategically.
Economically speaking, Tehran’s trade with Damascus, specifically exports, has significantly increased during the war, as regional and international sanctions on the Syrian regime have made it more dependent on Iran for its merchandise and commodities.
Tehran is also reaping the benefits of long-term business deals in various Syrian sectors, such as energy and mining. It has signed lucrative contracts to provide electricity, obtained a license to become a major mobile phone service operator, which will allow Iran to keep communications in Syria under surveillance, and has received thousands of hectares of land from the Syrian regime for farming or setting up oil and gas terminals.
While Syrian law does not allow foreign citizens to buy or own real estate, Damascus appears to have made an exception for the Iranian regime. Iran is increasingly buying up Syrian real estate and land, giving Tehran a considerable amount of power over its neighbor in the long term. These investments appear to be done not only with Bashar Assad, but also with many Shiite militia groups. Portions of the real estate are located near Shiite religious sites, such as the Sayyidah Zaynab and Ruqayyah shrines in Damascus.
Tehran is also reportedly changing the demographics, for instance by repopulating some areas with Shiite families from Hezbollah and other militia groups in an attempt to consolidate its influence in Syria for the long term, as well as to bolster Assad’s rule.
Ideologically speaking, the Iranian regime is more forcefully and easily exporting its revolutionary principles via its non-military and military presence in Syria. The Islamic Azad University is planning on opening new branches in Syria, while Tehran has been building Shiite mosques and investing in expanding Shiite shrines across Syria.
Despite the high costs involved, Tehran’s political opportunism is serving the Iranian regime ideologically, economically, geopolitically and strategically.
Strategically and geopolitically speaking, the Iranian regime has strengthened its coalition of Shiite forces and militias, some of which invaded Syria from Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Lebanon. Many of the Shiite militias in Syria have already become the bedrock of Syria’s socio-political and socio-economic infrastructures.
By having military bases and personnel in Syria, it is also less costly for the Iranian regime to manufacture and export weapons to its proxies in Syria’s neighboring countries, such as Hezbollah in Lebanon.
Thanks to the Syrian conflict, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and its special operations unit known as the Quds Force are also enjoying a military presence close to the border of a major rival — Israel. This helps Tehran to tip the regional balance of power in its favor. The IRGC is also establishing a permanent military base in the south of Damascus and has significant control over some Syrian airports.
It is also worth noting that, by keeping Assad in power, the Iranian regime is projecting its influence and military capabilities to the world. By depicting itself as a significant player in determining the direction and destiny of the Syrian war, Tehran is showing off its supremacy and pre-eminence in the region.
So, while it is accurate that the Iranian regime is hemorrhaging billions of dollars on Assad, it is reaping greater rewards now than it did prior to the conflict. The conflict has made Assad more vulnerable and he is willing to submit to Iran’s demands and pressure in order to stay in power. Iran’s regime is managing to benefit militarily, geopolitically, economically, ideologically and strategically in the short term and, more importantly, in the long term — regardless of whether Assad stays in power or not.
• Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated Iranian-American political scientist. He is a leading expert on Iran and US foreign policy, a businessman and president of the International American Council. He serves on the boards of the Harvard International Review, the Harvard International Relations Council and the US-Middle East Chamber for Commerce and Business. Twitter: @Dr_Rafizadeh