February 26/2018
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani


The Bulletin's Link on the lccc Site 


News Bulletin Achieves Since 2006
Click Here to enter the LCCC Arabic/English news bulletins Achieves since 2006


Bible Quotations
I lay in Zion a stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall, and the one who believes in him will never be put to shame
Romans 09/29-33: "What then shall we say? That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith; but the people of Israel, who pursued the law as the way of righteousness, have not attained their goal. Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone. As it is written: “See, I lay in Zion a stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall, and the one who believes in him will never be put to shame."

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on February 25-26/18
The horrors unfolding in Syria expose the so-called guarantors of peace/Raghida Dergham/February 25/2018
The Small-Rocket Revolution/Adam Minter/Bloomberg/February 25/18
Fukuyama: This is how Iran will explode/Nadim Koteich/February 25/18/
Agriculture in humanitarian response saves livelihoods and lives/José Graziano da Silva/Al Arabiya/February 25/18
Forgiveness: The fate of extremists/Mansour Alnogaidan/Al Arabiya/February 25/18
One less app for the rich, few more for the poor/Ehtesham Shahid/Al Arabiya/February 25/18
The possibility of a soft coup in the United States/Ahmad al-Farraj/Al Arabiya/February 25/18

Titles For Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on February 25-26/18

Lebanon: Some March 14 Figures Insist to Face Hezbollah's 'Statelet Project'
Hariri Receives Phone Call from UK Foreign Secretary
Al-Rahi, Daryan in Vienna for Dialogue Conference Held by King Abdullah Center
Lebanese Young Man Killed in Canada's Halifax
Saudi Envoy with Message from King to Meet Aoun Monday
Ain el-Hilweh Camp Rocked by Grenade
Beirut, Manila Say Both Suspects in Kuwait Murder of Filipina Held
Hariri, Johnson discuss latest developments, preparations for Rome, Paris Conferences
Pharaon: Alliances in Beirut's First District not finalized
Tueni meets with Iraqi Central Bank Governor
Hobeish: Image of alliances will be crystallized early next week
Foreign Ministry: Investigations continue in the killing of Hassan Kheireddine in Halifax

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on February 25-26/18
Pope says Syria being 'martyred', urges humanitarian aid for Ghouta
Jerusalem's Church of the Holy Sepulchre shut in land policy protest
Heavy Clashes on Edges of Syria's Ghouta despite U.N. Truce Resolution
Syrian Kurd Leader Arrested in Prague on Turkish Warrant
Monitor: Syrian Regime Bombs Eastern Ghouta Despite Humanitarian TruceIran Says Attacks on 'Terrorists' in Syria's Ghouta Will Carry On
Turkey Hails Syria Ceasefire, Says 'Terror Fight' to Continue
Jubeir: European Union Understands Necessity that Qatar Changes its Policies
France: Two Terror Attack Plots Thwarted in 2018
Saudi Oil Minister Hopes OPEC will Ease Output Curbs in 2019
India, Pakistan Exchange Artillery Fire
Police Report Explosion in English City as Major Incident
Berlin, Paris Urge Moscow to Press Damascus for 'Immediate' Ceasefire
N. Korea Slams Latest U.S. Sanctions as 'Act of War'
Latest Lebanese Related News published on February 25-26/18
Lebanon: Some March 14 Figures Insist to Face Hezbollah's 'Statelet Project'
Beirut - Youssef Diab/Asharq Al Awsat/February 25/18/On the eve of Lebanon’s 2018 parliamentary elections, the slogan of “facing the arms of Hezbollah,” remained absent from the electoral campaigns of leading March 14 powers, including the Future Movement and the Lebanese Forces.
Since the withdrawal of Syrian regime forces from Lebanon in the spring of 2005, following the assassination of Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, March 14 forces were always attached to a slogan decrying the arms of “Hezbollah.”Observers say that a deal reached ahead of Michel Aoun’s election as President, affected the rhetoric of some anti-Hezbollah forces, which previously opposed the party’s concept of “statelet.” However, some March 14 figures, not part of the deal that brought Aoun president, decided to continue the anti-Hezbollah arms campaign. One of those figures is March 14 Secretary-General and former MP Fares Soueid, who criticized on Saturday an agreement reached with Hezbollah to elect Michel Aoun president, followed by a deal concerning the current cabinet lineup and the electoral law. Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, Soueid said while the deal acknowledged “that Hezbollah keeps its arms and makes decisions related to politics and to war and peace in Lebanon, it only granted parliamentary seats to the other team.”Another March 14 official, journalist Nawfal Daou, who is also running for the parliamentary elections in Lebanon’s Keserouan electoral constituency, told Asharq Al-Awsat that the March 14 bloc is still attached to its principles and slogans. “However, part of this team preferred to enter the deal that was based on gaining leading positions and ministerial portfolios, in exchange of giving up sovereign policy decisions.”Member of the Future Movement politburo Shazha al-Assad responded to those accusations that indirectly touched Prime Minister Saad Hariri. “The issue of the illegal arms is a red line. We will not accept it,” she told Asharq Al-Awsat, recalling the last speech delivered by Hariri, who said that his party would not make any alliances with Hezbollah in the upcoming elections.

Hariri Receives Phone Call from UK Foreign Secretary
Naharnet/February 25/18/Prime Minister Saad Hariri received a phone call at noon Sunday from British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, the premier's office said. Talks tackled "the bilateral relations and the regional developments as well as the ongoing preparations for the Rome conference for supporting the army and security forces and the CEDRE conference in Paris for backing investment in Lebanon," Hariri's office said. The prime minister thanked Johnson for "the aid that Britain is offering Lebanon in the fields of security and economy and for its humanitarian assistance that is aimed at confronting the burden of the Syrian refugee crisis."

Al-Rahi, Daryan in Vienna for Dialogue Conference Held by King Abdullah Center

Naharnet/February 25/18/Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi, Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Latif Daryan and representatives of Lebanon's religious communities arrived Sunday in Vienna to take part in a religious dialogue conference. The conference is organized by the King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz International Center for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue (KAICIID), an inter-governmental organization that promotes inter-religious dialogue to prevent and resolve conflict. KAICIID was opened in 2012 by Saudi Arabia, Austria and Spain, following an initiative by the late King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. The Holy See is a founding observer. The Lebanese participants were welcomed at the airport by Lebanese Ambassador Ibrahim Assaf, Lebanese consul Jean Mrad, general president of the Congregation of the Lebanese Maronite Missionaries Father Malek Bou Tanous, the head of the Maronite Mission of Vienna Father Michel Harb, a number of Lebanese expats and organizers from the conference.

Lebanese Young Man Killed in Canada's Halifax
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/February 25/18/Lebanon's Foreign Ministry on Sunday expressed "regret and deep sorrow" over the murder of Lebanese young man Hassan Ali Kheireddine in the Canadian region of Halifax. "Minister Jebran Bassil has instructed the Lebanese embassy in Canada to follow up on the case in order to unveil the details of this horrible crime and the motives behind it," the ministry said in a statement. Offering condolences to the victim's family and the sons of the Bekaa town of Majdaloun, the ministry urged media outlets to "seek accuracy in publishing news related to this murder and not to fabricate stories and scenarios that may have nothing to do with its real motives.""Await the outcome of the investigations, which are still underway, out of respect for the feelings of the victim's family," the ministry said. It also noted that "the Lebanese embassy in Ottawa and the honorary consulate in Halifax are following up on the case with the relevant authorities." "They are in constant contact with the mother of the victim and have utilized all their capabilities to help unveil the truth and speed up the transfer of the body to Lebanon," the ministry added.

Saudi Envoy with Message from King to Meet Aoun Monday
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/February 25/18/A Saudi envoy carrying a message from King Salman bin Abdul Aziz will arrive in Beirut on Monday, media reports said. "Saudi envoy Nizar al-Aloula will arrive in the Lebanese capital tomorrow, carrying a message from Saudi monarch Salman bin Abdul Aziz to President Michel Aoun, who is expected to meet him in the afternoon," a Presidency source told Saudi daily al-Hayat in remarks published Sunday. Official sources said al-Aloula will also meet with Prime Minister Saad Hariri on Monday while his talks with Speaker Nabih Berri are scheduled for Tuesday.
"The Saudi embassy in Beirut has also scheduled meetings for a number of Lebanese ministers and leaders with the envoy, who will stay in Lebanon for several days," the sources added. Ties between Lebanon and Saudi Arabia were strained in the wake of Hariri's November resignation from Riyadh which he has since rescinded. The kingdom was widely seen as having orchestrated the botched move as part of its regional feud with Iran and its Lebanese ally Hizbullah. Monday's visit comes amid preparations by the Lebanese political forces for the May parliamentary elections.

Ain el-Hilweh Camp Rocked by Grenade
Naharnet/February 25/18/An unknown individual hurled a hand grenade Sunday in the Palestinian refugee camp of Ain el-Hilweh in south Lebanon, the National News Agency said. NNA said the incident in the camp's al-Ras al-Ahmar neighborhood did not cause any casualties. The camp has been the scene of numerous armed clashes in recent years. By long-standing convention, the Lebanese Army does not enter Palestinian refugee camps, where security is managed by joint committees of Palestinian factions. Ain el-Hilweh is an impoverished, overcrowded camp near the coastal city of Sidon, and is home to some 61,000 Palestinians, including 6,000 who have fled the war in Syria.

Beirut, Manila Say Both Suspects in Kuwait Murder of Filipina Held

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/February 25/18/The employers of a Filipina maid found dead in a freezer in Kuwait were both arrested in the Syrian capital Damascus, Lebanese and Philippine officials have said. Syrian authorities surrendered Nader Essam Assaf to Beirut on Friday because of his Lebanese citizenship but his Syrian wife Mona remains in custody in Damascus, a Lebanese judicial official said. The murder of Joanna Demafelis sparked outrage in the Philippines and prompted President Rodrigo Duterte to impose a departure ban on Filipinos planning to work in Kuwait. The 29-year-old's body, which allegedly showed signs of torture, was found earlier this month inside a freezer in the abandoned apartment unit of the detained couple. The two suspects have been the subject of an Interpol manhunt since Demafelis' body was found more than a year after her family reported her missing.
"The couple were arrested in Damascus. They were the subject of an Interpol red notice and the Syrian authorities handed the husband over to Lebanese custody on Friday morning," the official said. "Syria kept custody of the wife because she is a Syrian national," he added.
"Lebanon has asked Kuwait to pass on the husband's police record."The official said that after leaving Kuwait, the couple had made a very brief stopover in Lebanon before traveling on to neighboring Syria. The Philippines' foreign affairs department also confirmed the second arrest in a statement late Saturday.
"With the two suspects now in custody, (Philippine authorities) will follow President Duterte's instructions to vigorously pursue justice for Demafelis," foreign affairs secretary Alan Cayetano said. Duterte has vowed to bring justice to Demafelis' family, lashing out at Gulf state Kuwait and alleging Arab employers routinely rape Filipina workers, force them to work 21 hours a day and feed them scraps. Kuwait has said it is investigating reported deaths and abuses, and insisted there were only a small number considering that there are more than 250,000 Filipinos working in the emirate. Duterte this week sent a team of labor officials to Kuwait to seek greater protection for migrant workers.

Hariri, Johnson discuss latest developments, preparations for Rome, Paris Conferences
Sun 25 Feb 2018/NNA - Prime Minister Saad Hariri received Sunday a phone call from British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson, during which both men deliberated over bilateral relations, recent developments in the region and current preparations for the Rome Conference in support of the Lebanese Army and security forces and the Cedar Conference in Paris to support investment in Lebanon. Hariri thanked Johnson for "Britain's assistance to Lebanon in the fields of security and economy, and its humanitarian aids to cope with the burdens of the Syrian displacement."

Pharaon: Alliances in Beirut's First District not finalized
Sun 25 Feb 2018/NNA - State Minister for Planning Michel Pharaon confirmed in a statement on Sunday that "the parliamentary elections will take place on time despite all talk about the possibility of war on our borders," adding that alliances in Beirut's first district have not yet been finalized.
Pharaon disclosed that the electoral list to be formed with both the Lebanese Forces and Kataeb Parties would be based on the constants and principles of March 14. He added that contacts are underway with the various constituents of March 14, especially the Lebanese Forces and Future Movement, while contacts with the remaining political forces fall within the context of the general debate in the country. "The new electoral law allows some candidates to win through their supporters' votes, regardless of the electoral alliances," explained Pharaon. "The results of the upcoming elections should be accepted as they come out, since the democratic process in Lebanon is essential," he added. Over the State's annual budget, Pharaon deemed that its endorsement is an obvious matter, noting, however, that the current stage we are in is due to the State budget's absence for more than 10 years and the failure to implement the visions and reforms that were agreed upon during the Paris-3 Conference. Consequently, he called herein for "addressing the political causes that led over the past years to the accumulation of public debts," while warning of "the critical financial situation because of the disruption of all investments since 2012."
Pharaon also called for the activation of the law that was passed on September 8 last year regarding the partnership between the public and private sectors, as a first step before going to the Cedar Conference in Paris.

Tueni meets with Iraqi Central Bank Governor
Sun 25 Feb 2018/NNA - Minister Ncoula Tueni concluded Saturday his visit to Baghdad by meeting with the Governor of the Central Bank of Iraq, Ali al-Aallak, with talks centering on the release of the Lebanese funds still held in Erbil's Central Bank since 2003. Both men deliberated extensively on the subject, whereby Tueni asked al-Aallak to intervene to resolve this dossier the soonest possible for the interest of both the Lebanese and Iraqi economies.

Hobeish: Image of alliances will be crystallized early next week
Sun 25 Feb 2018/NNA - MP Hadi Hobeish disclosed in a press conference on Sunday that electoral alliances are nearing completion and contacts are in full swing, adding that "the final touches are underway between the Future Movement and the Free Patriotic Movement in Akkar." "Deliberations with the Lebanese Forces are at their preliminary stage so far, and the image of alliances will be crystallized at the beginning of next week," Hobeish noted. "It remains up to Prime Minister Saad Hariri to announce the names of candidates and alliances," he added. Hobeish denied recent rumors about his role in the formation of electoral lists in Akkar District, saying, "I am one of a large number of deputies and cadres of the Future Movement who are being consulted. Decision in this respect remains exclusively up to PM Hariri."

Foreign Ministry: Investigations continue in the killing of Hassan Kheireddine in Halifax
Sun 25 Feb 2018/NNA - In a statement by the Foreign Affairs and Expatriates Ministry on Sunday, it expressed its deep sorrow and regret for the murder of the young Lebanese national from the Southern town of Majdaloun, Hassan Ali Kheireddine, in the Canadian city of Halifax, extending its deepest condolences to the family of the deceased. "Minister Gebran Bassil gave his instructions to the Lebanese Embassy in Canada to follow up on the case, in order to find out the details and reasons behind this heinous crime," the statement indicated. The Ministry also called on the media to be more vigilant and accurate when circulating news about the crime, pending the outcome of the investigations, out of respect for the feelings of the deceased's family. "The Lebanese Embassy in Ottawa and the Honorary Consulate in Halifax are following up with the authorities concerned, placing all their potential efforts to help reveal the truth and expedite the transfer of the deceased's body to Lebanon," the Foreign Ministry statement concluded.

Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on February 25-26/18
Pope says Syria being 'martyred', urges humanitarian aid for Ghouta
Sun 25 Feb 2018/NNA - Pope Francis on Sunday said Syria was being “martyred” by continued attacks killing civilians in the eastern Ghouta district, calling for an immediate end to violence and access to humanitarian aid.
“All this is inhuman,” Francis told tens of thousands of people in St. Peter’s Square for his weekly blessing. He spoke hours after the United Nations adopted a resolution demanding a 30-day truce across Syria to allow aid access and medical evacuation. “In these days my thoughts have often been taken up by the beloved and martyred Syria,” he said, noting there had been thousands of civilian victims of violence that had not spared even hospitals. “You can’t fight evil with another evil,” he said, asking his listeners to join together in a moment of silent prayer. Francis called for an immediate end to the violence so food and medicine can get in and the sick and wounded can leave. --- Reuters

Jerusalem's Church of the Holy Sepulchre shut in land policy protest
Sun 25 Feb 2018/NNA - Church leaders closed Jerusalem's Church of the Holy Sepulchre on Sunday in protest against Israeli taxation and land policy affecting church property. Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox and Armenian church leaders said the holy site, where many Christians believe Jesus was crucified and buried, would be closed until further notice. A statement by the leaders accused Israel of a "systematic and unprecedented attack against Christians in the Holy Land" in pursuing a new tax policy and a proposed land appropriation law. --- Reuters
Heavy Clashes on Edges of Syria's Ghouta despite U.N. Truce Resolution
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/February 25/18/Syrian regime forces were engaged in heavy fighting with rebels in southern areas of the opposition enclave of Eastern Ghouta on Sunday, a monitor said, the day after a U.N. call for a ceasefire. The clashes on the edges of Eastern Ghouta killed at least 13 members of pro-regime forces and six fighters from the Jaish al-Islam rebel group, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Syrian Kurd Leader Arrested in Prague on Turkish Warrant
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/February 25/18/One of the most prominent leaders of Syria's Kurdish community has been arrested in Prague on a Turkish warrant, local political parties said Sunday. Saleh Muslim, the former co-chair of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), was arrested late on Saturday in the Czech capital, according to a statement by
Monitor: Syrian Regime Bombs Eastern Ghouta Despite Humanitarian Truce
Asharq Al Awsat/February 25/18/Despite that UN Security Council-approved an immediate ceasefire in Syria on Saturday, the regime has reportedly carried out fresh airstrikes in eastern Ghouta, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported. Director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights Rami Abdulrahman said: "Air raids resumed at 7.30 am with two raids targeting a region in the suburbs of Duma."More than 500 civilians have been killed in regime raids in the past week. Assad's ally Iran said Sunday the attacks would continue on Damascus suburbs held by "terrorists."The United Nations called on Tuesday for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Syria of at least a month as heavy air strikes were reported to have killed dozens. UN Security Council unanimously approved late on Saturday the resolution demanding a 30-day ceasefire across Syria to allow the delivery of humanitarian aid.The decision excluded targeting terrorist groups.
Iran Says Attacks on 'Terrorists' in Syria's Ghouta Will Carry On
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/February 25/18/Iran's army chief-of-staff said Sunday the U.N. Security Council resolution demanding a ceasefire in Syria does not cover "terrorist groups" in Eastern Ghouta and they would continue to be targeted by the Syrian military. "We respect this resolution which is an international decision... and the Syrian government respects it as well," said Mohammad Bagheri, according to the official IRNA news agency. "But the zones on the periphery of Damascus which are in the hands of al-Nusra and other terrorist groups are not covered by the ceasefire and the offensives and clearing operations by the Syrian army will continue."The Security Council on Saturday adopted a resolution calling for a 30-day ceasefire in Syria "without delay," to allow for aid deliveries and medical evacuations. But heavy clashes broke out in southern areas of the opposition enclave of Eastern Ghouta on Sunday, a monitor said. "The Western camp and terrorist supporters insisted on establishing a ceasefire but... Russia and Iran sought to limit this resolution so that terrorist groups like al-Nusra are exempted and the war can continue against them," said Bagheri. "Syrian territory must be cleared of terrorist groups over the coming months so that Syrians can live peacefully," he said.

Turkey Hails Syria Ceasefire, Says 'Terror Fight' to Continue
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/February 25/18/Turkey on Sunday welcomed the unanimous demand by the U.N. Security Council for a 30-day ceasefire in Syria but insisted that its own operations against groups deemed by Ankara to be terror organisations would continue.With support from the Damascus regime's ally Russia, the Security Council Saturday adopted a resolution on the ceasefire to allow for aid delivery as concern rises over the humanitarian situation in the rebel enclave of Eastern Ghouta. "We welcome the resolution adopted by the U.N. Security Council in response to the worsening humanitarian situation all across Syria, in particular in Eastern Ghouta," the foreign ministry said in a statement. But it added that Turkey "will remain resolute in fighting against the terrorist organizations that threaten the territorial integrity and political unity of Syria." Ankara last month launched a military operation against the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) militia in the western enclave of Afrin in northern Syria. The operation has raised tensions with Washington, which works closely with the YPG in the fight against jihadists in Syria. But Turkey sees the YPG as the Syrian branch of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which for over three decades has waged an insurgency against the Turkish state and is banned by Turkey, the U.S. and the European Union as a terror group. A top Turkish official was quoted as saying by the NTV channel that the U.N. Security Council demand would have no effect on the operation against the YPG in Afrin. "As the operation that Turkey is waging is an operation against terror, this decision will have no impact on that operation," said the official, who was not named. The YPG however said in a statement it was prepared to halt all military operations -- except those against Islamic State jihadists -- "while reserving the right to retaliate... in case of any aggression by the Turkish army."It said that the ceasefire demand applied to Afrin and it was ready assist the entry of any humanitarian aid into the region.

Jubeir: European Union Understands Necessity that Qatar Changes its Policies

Brussels - Abdullah Mustafah/Asharq Al Awsat/February 25/18/On Qatar, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Saudi Arabia Adel al-Jubeir described the issue as small if compared with the rest of region's files. He went on to say that there is a European understanding of the four states' boycotting of Qatar and the necessity that Doha changes its pro-terrorism policies. Jubeir delivered a lecture at Egmont Research Institute in Brussels, on Friday -- he hailed the fact that the kingdom is cooperating with the world countries to dry up the funding sources of terrorism and is firm in supporting countries that are fighting terrorism and extremism. Jubeir said that some countries in the region are facing great regional challenges, citing Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Libya, noting that there is a progress in the dispute file between Qatar and the four boycotting states, but the progress is still not enough, in a response to a question.
In the same context, Euronews broadcasted statements of Jubeir who said that Saudi Arabia is among the pioneering countries in fighting terrorism and extremism, and has also contributed to fighting terrorism in the United Nation (UN) and donated $110 million. He added that Saudi Arabia established the Islamic coalition to fight terrorism and extremism, consisting of 41 states. The kingdom also established Saudi Arabian Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology (ETIDAL). Responding to a question on development in the kingdom, he said that Saudi Arabia issued an ambitious vision (Saudi Vision 2030), which is based on diversifying economy, reducing dependency on oil, granting opportunities for the youths, enhancing the public sector performance and permitting additional chances to invest locally and abroad. In a related matter, President of South Africa Cyril Ramaphosa received Jubeir, on Saturday, who in his turn conveyed greetings of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

France: Two Terror Attack Plots Thwarted in 2018
Asharq Al Awsat/February 25/18/French Interior Minister Gerard Collomb said on Sunday that two terror attack plots were foiled in France since January. Collomb stated that one plot was to target a major sports center, while another aimed at the French military. Speaking on "Europe 1" radio, Collomb said: "we foiled two attacks that had not been "totally finalized;" with one of them planned to take place in the South of the country, while the other in the West. France has seen in recent years bloody terrorist attacks that killed hundreds, the most deadly was the November 2015 attack when 137 people were killed in simultaneous attacks in the capital Paris. Also on the evening of 14 July 2016, a 19 tonne cargo truck was deliberately driven into crowds of people celebrating Bastille Day on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice resulting in the deaths of 86 people and the injury of more than 400 people. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack.

Saudi Oil Minister Hopes OPEC will Ease Output Curbs in 2019
Asharq Al Awsat/February 25/18/Saudi Arabia hopes OPEC and its allies will ease production curbs next year and create a permanent framework to maintain stabilized oil markets after the current supply cut deal ends this year, oil minister Khalid al-Falih said on Saturday. Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) is reducing output by about 1.2 million barrels per day (bpd) as part of a deal with non-OPEC producers. The pact began in January 2017 and will continue until the end of 2018. Falih said OPEC and its allies were committed to bringing balance and stability to the market and that he hoped it would be possible to ease output curbs next year. “A study is taking place and once we know exactly what balancing the market will entail we will announce what is the next step. The next step may be easing of the production constraints,” he told reporters in New Delhi. Falih said OPEC was determined to translate the success of the deal to curb supply into a permanent framework with other major producers. “I think everybody has learnt, producers as well as consumers, that a market without a steering wheel is very destructive, very damaging to the interests of all,” he said. Falih described the compliance with the output cuts in January as “exceptional.” Falih said the market had absorbed rising US shale oil production, as output from countries such as Venezuela and Mexico had declined. Aramco signed a preliminary deal to invest in India’s planned 1.2 million bpd West Coast refinery. Falih said Aramco was also looking at buying stakes in existing major refiners and expansion projects in India. He did not specify the size of stake Aramco will take in the west coast refinery, but added “the more the better.” India aims to expand its refining capacity by 77 percent to about 8.8 million bpd by 2030. Falih said Saudi Arabia would also sign oil supply deals as part of the agreement to buy stakes in Indian refineries.
Last year, Saudi Arabia pledged billions of dollars of investments in projects in Indonesia and Malaysia to secure long-term oil supply deals. Indian Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan said Friday India is seeking a reasonable price for crude oil from Saudi Arabia, in a move that could help Riyadh regain top spot in supplying the world's third largest oil consumer. "Some instrument can be developed so that the pricing is suitable for both of us," Pradhan said after a meeting with Falih. In an attempt to attract Saudi investments, Pradhan stated that India offered Saudi Arabia a stake in the country’s future strategic oil reserves. "The way we have done an arrangement with ADNOC (Abu Dhabi National Oil Company) for storage facility, the same way we are discussing with (Saudi) Aramco," Pradhan said. India and Saudi Arabia also discussed investment opportunities in a proposed oil refinery on the west coast of India with a capacity of 1.2 million barrels per day and a petrochemicals project in the southern city of Kakinada, Pradhan added. Meanwhile, CNBC reported China’s top state energy company is aiming to boost its annual crude oil production in the Middle East region by 10.8 million tonnes from its key operations in Abu Dhabi, Iraq and Iran. CNPC said in a statement its Middle East operations were pumping at a total daily rate of 4.07 million barrels, without giving further details. It added that the company is set to start production at phase three of Halfaya project in Iraq in the third quarter of 2018 without giving a target production number. CNPC completed repair works at Iran’s Masjed Suleiman oil project and is set to start commercial production at the aging oilfield. The three projects will add annual output capacity by 10.8 million tonnes a year, or about 216,000 bpd.
In early last year, CNPC secured 8 percent in the giant onshore concession in Abu Dhabi operated by Abu Dhabi Company for Onshore Petroleum Operations (ADCO).

India, Pakistan Exchange Artillery Fire
Asharq Al Awsat/February 25/18/India and Pakistan have traded artillery fire in the disputed Kashmir region forcing hundreds of people to flee, police in Indian Kashmir said, raising fresh doubts about a 15-year-old ceasefire between the nuclear-armed rivals in the area. It was not clear what triggered the latest fighting on Saturday in the Uri sector on the Line of Control (LoC) that divides the mostly Muslim Himalayan region. But tension has been running high since an attack on an Indian army camp in Kashmir this month in which six soldiers were killed. India blamed Pakistan for the attack and said it would make its rival pay for the “misadventure,” according to Reuters. Police superintendent Imtiaz Hussain said artillery shells fired by the Pakistan army fell in the Uri area and hundreds of villagers had fled from their homes. Indian forces returned artillery fire, an Indian officer said, the first time the heavy guns had been used since a 2003 ceasefire along the disputed frontier. Pakistan did not comment yet.

Police Report Explosion in English City as Major Incident
Associated Press/Naharnet/February 25/18/Police for the English city of Leicester say they are responding to a "major incident" after receiving reports of an explosion. Leicestershire Police said on Twitter that emergency services were dealing with the incident on Hinckley Road and asked the public to stay away from the area. Leicestershire Fire and Rescue said six fire engines were responding and the incident is being treated as a search and rescue operation. Video footage from the scene showed a building that appeared engulfed in flames and a number of police cars and ambulances stationed nearby. The cause of the reported explosion has not been determined. Leicester is 177 kilometers (110 miles) north of London.
Berlin, Paris Urge Moscow to Press Damascus for 'Immediate' Ceasefire
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/February 25/18/The leaders of Germany and France urged Russia Sunday to exert "maximum pressure" on Syria for an "immediate" implementation of a U.N. ceasefire in the war-ravaged country, Berlin said. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron stressed in a telephone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin "that it is crucial that the (U.N.) resolution be implemented quickly and comprehensively," Merkel's office said in a statement. "They call on Russia in this context to exercise maximum pressure on the Syrian regime to achieve an immediate suspension of air raids and fighting."

N. Korea Slams Latest U.S. Sanctions as 'Act of War'
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/February 25/18/North Korea on Sunday slammed the latest U.S. measures against its regime as an "act of war", after U.S. President Donald Trump announced the "heaviest sanctions ever" on the nuclear-armed regime. The measures, which Washington says are aimed at forcing Pyongyang to roll back its banned nuclear and weapons programmes, target more than 50 North Korea-linked shipping companies, vessels and trade businesses. "Like we have said repeatedly, we would consider any restrictions on us as an act of war, and we will not stop the U.S. if it really has the nerves to confront us in a 'rough' manner," the North's foreign ministry said in a statement carried by the state-run KCNA news agency.

Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on February 25-26/18
The horrors unfolding in Syria expose the so-called guarantors of peace
Raghida Dergham/February 25/2018
The powers “guaranteeing” the ceasefire in Syria have been reduced to accomplices in the extermination campaign taking place in Eastern Ghouta in the south. In the north, in Afrin, those who thought they could settle the battle quickly have fallen victim to their arrogance. Russia lost the restraint it had shown earlier. Iran’s pretences have been laid bare by the carnage in Syria. Turkey seems to have struck a deal to turn a blind eye to Ghouta in return for “victory” in Afrin. These three guarantor states are now being accused by the international stakeholders of abandoning a political solution in Syria.
Four whole days had to pass before the world started waking up to the hell unleashed on those in Ghouta, with the images of bodies making their way into the media like a tableau from a bygone savage era. UN chief Antonio Guterres called for an end to the madness, which he said has turned Ghouta into a “hell on Earth”, urging an end to hostilities so that the sick and wounded “can be immediately evacuated and humanitarian aid deliveries can reach those in need”. His special envoy, Staffan de Mistura, characterised Ghouta as a second Aleppo, in reference to the siege and destruction of that city before it fell in 2016. Zeid bin Ra’ad, the UN Human Rights High Commissioner, called for an end to the “monstrous campaign of annihilation”. And poignantly, Geert Cappelaere, Unicef’s Middle East and North Africa regional director, said “No words will do justice to the children killed, their mothers, their fathers and their loved ones” in Ghouta.
In the West, Germany held Russia and Iran responsible for the massacre. A spokesperson for the German chancellor said: “One has to ask where is Russia, where is Iran, which had pledged in Astana to guarantee a ceasefire also in eastern Ghouta … Without the support of these two allies, Assad’s regime would not be where it is today.” Germany called on the Syrian regime to stop the massacre in Ghouta and allow humanitarian aid in, urging Moscow and Tehran top put pressure on Damascus to this end. France too appealed to Russia and Iran to impose a ceasefire in eastern Ghouta. For its part, the United States called for an end to the bombardment, with a spokesperson for the state department saying “Russia bears a unique responsibility for what is taking place there”.
Russia’s reaction was remarkable. Moscow denied US accusations, with Kremlin spokesperson describing them as “unfounded”. At the Security Council, the Russians were quick to pre-empt a motion by Sweden and Kuwait for a resolution on a 30-day ceasefire in Ghouta, and asked for an urgent session to allow all sides to present their understanding of the situation.
Russian obstruction was aimed at preventing the Security Council from condemning the Syrian regime’s actions and blaming Russia and Iran, as well as blocking a resolution that could halt the military momentum in Eastern Ghouta seeking to end rebel presence there, with Tehran’s support and Moscow’s blessing.
Practically speaking, what is happening is the collapse of the guarantors of the ceasefire in Ghouta, one of the de-escalation zones agreed by Russia, Iran, and Turkey. Ramzy Ezzeldin Ramzy, the Deputy Special Envoy of the Secretary-General of the UN for Syria, conveyed the body’s concerns for the political process being co-ordinated with the Russians, with the Astana track in extreme jeopardy following the escalation in Ghouta.
Yet Russia’s protestations of US double standards on humanitarian issues came with an attempt to reach some kind of exit in collaboration with regional powers led by Egypt. Indeed, Cairo has become effectively the fourth guarantor in Eastern Ghouta itself, where it had helped Russia conclude truce agreements. Egypt’s foreign ministry issued a statement calling for a truce to bring in aid and evacuate the wounded.
Egypt sees the violent escalation in Ghouta as a blow to its efforts there. Cairo believes it has a distinguished role different from Turkey and does not mind helping Moscow find an exit amid growing pressures on Russia. According to reports, some high-level co-ordination is taking place between Egypt and Russia, partially based on using the latter’s influence on the Syrian regime and Iran, in tandem with Egypt’s influence on the so-called Cairo Group of Syrian opposition factions.
But the final form of any such de-escalation will not be easy to reach. Moscow is determined to eliminate all armed groups in eastern Ghouta, having for long called on them to disarm voluntarily.
Today, the Russians believe negotiations to reach a peaceful outcome in Ghouta are a dead end, as hinted at by the Reconciliation Centre in Russia’s airbase in Hmeimim. There may be no other option but to repeat the Aleppo outcome in Ghouta, in the Russian eyes.
Moscow however is aware that the collapse of the Astana process is now a strong possibility, which would serve US long-term goals amid continued Russian-American tensions. But the Russian diplomacy will continue to attempt to walk a tightrope: it needs Egypt’s help as a guarantor in Syria’s south, is cutting deals with the second guarantor Turkey in the north, and is defending Iran’s role as a guarantor far and wide.
Not long ago, Russia seemed confident, in control of Syria’s political, military, and economic keys, and ready to distribute shares and reconstruction contracts, based on its belief the war had been settled in its favour.
Today, Russia appears anxious, confused and distracted. The Russians had thought that having a shared enemy with the Americans was enough to achieve a qualitative shift in their relations. “We’ve discovered that this assumption was wrong … and the shared enemy – ISIL – is no longer there,” said one Russian source.

The Small-Rocket Revolution
Adam Minter/Bloomberg/February 25/18
When SpaceX's 230-foot Falcon Heavy blasted off on Feb. 6, it became a global sensation. But a much quieter launch three days earlier may turn out to be more important. That's when a 31-foot rocket known as the SS-520-5 took off from Japan's Uchinoura Space Center. It's the smallest rocket ever to place an object into Earth orbit -- and it could be a harbinger of big changes to come. For decades, getting anything into space has been risky, expensive and time-consuming. Even SpaceX commonly faces delays and accidents, and its reusable rockets can take months to press back into service. In the past few years, though, dozens of other companies have been trying to develop diminutive rockets that could reduce the cost and risk of satellite launches. If they succeed, they just might transform the space business.
Smallsats, defined as satellites weighing less than 1,100 pounds, have been around since the 1970s. They grew more practical in the 1990s, as engineers started incorporating cheap, off-the-shelf electronics, such as phone sensors, into their design. Small satellites were less expensive to launch and often more up-to-date than their bigger counterparts, which could take more than a decade to develop. Perhaps most important, smallsats could be inexpensively replaced when they failed.
Entrepreneurs quickly saw the opportunities. Shoebox-sized satellites with solar panels and cameras can now be used for reconnaissance work, weather and climate observations, disaster monitoring, and much else. As costs have fallen -- customizable smallsats go for as little as $11,000 these days -- business opportunities have expanded. Planet Labs Inc. now operates more than 200 Earth-observing smallsats for governments, agricultural companies, investment firms and others. With some 6,200 smallsats expected to launch over the next two decades, the possibilities seem almost limitless.
There's only one problem: how to get them into orbit?
At the moment, most smallsat operators buy space on rockets carrying bigger and more expensive gear. Last year, Planet Labs packed 88 smallsats onto an Indian government rocket carrying a big reconnaissance satellite. But this approach is far from ideal: It means being at the mercy of space agencies or private operators that may have different priorities (and schedules). Plus, smallsat operators may be looking to place a probe into orbit at an altitude that a given rocket can't reach.
Smaller, cheaper rockets would be one obvious solution to this problem. But small payloads also make it harder to turn a profit. SpaceX's Falcon 1 program promised smallsat launches for $6 million starting in 2006. Just three years later, the company concluded that it "could not make Falcon 1 work as a business."Yet demand for smallsats has soared since then -- and so has investment in small rocketry. Rocket Lab Inc.'s Electron rocket, which will be able to carry up to 500 pounds for as little as $4.9 million, had its first successful launch in January. Richard Branson's Virgin Orbit and Tucson-based Vector Space Systems are planning launches of competing products later this year. Meanwhile, the US. Air Force is requesting $193 million over the next five years to develop launch vehicles for smaller payloads.
At least 35 such vehicles are in the works worldwide.Many of these rockets won't get off the ground. But those that do should reduce the cost and time needed to take a satellite from idea to orbit, and allow for smaller ones to be quickly upgraded or swapped out.
For the military, that could mean the rapid replacement of a navigation satellite that's been destroyed in combat; for a commercial operator, it could be an opportunity to guarantee uninterrupted service. But perhaps most important, small rockets will allow scientists and inventors to rethink what's possible in space.

Fukuyama: This is how Iran will explode
Nadim Koteich/February 25/18/
Francis Fukuyama’s lecture at the recent World Government Summit held in Dubai covered three major perspectives.
The American political scientist of Japanese descent and director of the Center on Democracy Development and the Rule of Law at Stanford University noted that Tunisia alone can be considered a positive outcome of what is known as the Arab Spring. Major revolutions which have spawned in the wake of Arab Spring have resulted in civil wars and bloodshed particularly in Syria, Yemen, and Libya. To Fukuyama, the Tunisian model provides a golden opportunity to rise above the tumults of Arab Spring, with a real positive achievement that subscribes to minimum preconditions for the creation of a sound state and a heathy democratic political evolution. Yet, he also expressed his deep concern over the apparent incapability of the post-revolutionary system to make economic achievements. Will China replace US as global superpower? His second observation was that China will eventually succeed in replacing the US as the new world leader. It is quite odd that this view comes from the same man who once wrote the essay ‘The End of History and the Last Man’.He further notes that this shift is taking place in multiple areas, particularly after the collapse of the financial markets and the stain that has so deeply affected the reputation and status of Western liberal economic model. Fukuyama even prognosticates that the world will soon be following decrees and laws written in Beijing, rather than in London or Washington!
The third of Fukuyama’s perspectives, which I believe is the most pertinent and relevant of the three is tightly linked to the different issues and crises raging across the Middle East.
The US lecturer expects Iran to explode from within due to several factors of which the most significant are the presence a young civil educated category of people which include women and which no longer desires to conform to the ruling Iranian authority that is highly conservative in its values that are rural in their general structure.
Ahmadinejad’s emphasis of the urgent need for “people” to have the right to freely choose their representatives is tantamount to condemning the nature of the Iranian regime and Tehran’s pro forma democracy
Iran is the next domino to fall
What was unusual and remarkable about Fukuyama’s remarks was his reading of the Iranian situation and recent events in the country, which began in late 2017 and continued till the early weeks of 2018. According to him, depletion of water resources in parts of Iranian countryside — that have been drought-stricken for 14 consecutive years (thanks to global warming) — has triggered waves of migration from the countryside to neighboring Iranian cities. The growing number of the unemployed coupled with the deterioration of the infrastructure and the spread of diseases resulted in a growing wedge between the poor and the ruling authority which has been incapable of offering practical solutions, especially amid the peak of empty ideological mobilization of the society due to Iran’s wars in the region as well as its expansionist policies. Moreover, Iran’s possible explosion from within will most probably be the result of two variables affecting the situation together. This first one is related to variables in rural development, due to climate change, and their economic and social consequences as well as the growing poverty belt that has developed in the Iranian countryside. The second one is a civil variable which is due to the new generations which have begun to voice its objections since 2009, i.e. before the Arab Spring.
Given these variables, Iran’s state institutions, or rather the Khomeini revolution’s institutions, seem incapable of coming up with practical solutions to comprehend them and prevent them from acting together to affect the situation and deal a fatal blow to the regime. What’s interesting is that diverse Iranian parties have hinted at the existential threats facing the regime.
It was all in context when Iranian President Hassan Rouhani warned regime leaders of confronting the same fate as the Shah if “they do not hear the voice of the people.” Rouhani made these statements at a ceremony marking the 39th anniversary of the victory of the revolution in Iran and the fall of the Shah on February 11, 1979.
Some may view Rouhani’s warnings as representative of the leftist parties within the regime. Meanwhile, more radical warnings were voiced by the right-wing party of the Khomeini regime, particularly by former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who is the most prominent representative of this right-wing.
In a letter to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, Ahmadinejad urged holding “free” presidential and parliamentary elections in which the supreme guide does not interfere via the Guardian Council, or the security or the military apparatuses which enable Khamenei to engineer the political process and control its results within specific limits. Ahmadinejad’s emphasis of the urgent need for “people” to have the right to freely choose their representatives is tantamount to vehemently condemning the nature of the Iranian regime and Tehran's pro forma democracy. It also entails a call to redefine the supreme guide’s post within the regime and to limit his jurisdictions which have been criticized by protestors in 2009 and in 2017. Ahmadinejad’s and Rouhani’s remarks regarding the threats posed from not listing to “the Iranian people” reflect the size of the gap between the regime and the people. It’s due to this gap that Fukuyama expected that the Khomeini regime will collapse from within! Just few days ago, an Iranian commercial plane crashed because Iran has been incapable of developing and improving its fleet due to international sanctions. The incident is but a small reminder of the consequences of rupture in relations between the world and Iran. Meanwhile, a lecture held at the World Summit of Governments in Dubai discussed the growth of the aviation industry and the possibility of the creation of an aircraft that will be faster than light itself! Hence, it is not a plane that has fallen but Iran itself or rather the regime’s idea about itself that did.

Agriculture in humanitarian response saves livelihoods and lives
José Graziano da Silva/Al Arabiya/February 25/18
Last year, the Food and Agriculture Organization announced a rise in the number of hungry people in the world after decades of progress in eliminating hunger. This year’s analysis indicates there will be another increase in the number of people under the risk of famine.
This means we, collectively, have not been effective enough in our response to humanitarian crises - despite enormous efforts. To improve results, we need to better combine humanitarian assistance with development actions on the ground.
To save lives, we need to save livelihoods. This is the message I am taking to the inaugural Riyadh International Humanitarian Forum in Riyadh this week. Agriculture and local food production cannot be afterthoughts. Investing in agriculture not only saves lives and protects livelihoods, but it lays the foundations for recovery and resilience building.
José Graziano da Silva, Director-General of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization
When a pastoralist family loses their herd during a humanitarian crisis, they also lose their hope. They are without any productive activity and they are quickly unable to feed themselves. Their livelihood must be protected in order to save their lives.
In fact, up to 80 percent of those at risk of severe hunger during a crisis rely on crops, fishing, livestock and forests for their survival. Despite advocacy efforts, the agriculture sector is often neglected in humanitarian appeals yet it is a direct way to protect rural people from the worst ravages of a hunger emergency.
Even in the midst of a crisis, agricultural production continues. A 2017 FAO assessment of the impact of conflict on agriculture in Syria shows that despite six years of violence, 75 percent of rural families continue to produce their own food. In 2016, South Sudan’s smallholders produced almost one million tonnes of cereals despite intensifying conflict that forced many from their fields during harvest.
Investing in the resilience of agricultural sectors is also very cost-effective. During the 2017 main planting season in northeastern Nigeria, with just $20 million, FAO enabled one million people to produce enough food to meet their needs for the next six months, easing pressure on the entire humanitarian system well into 2018. Each kit cost just $86 per family. In Somalia, where livestock is vital to survival for many, treatments costing just $0.40 can protect an animal that would cost $40 to replace.
With greater demand for limited resources, we must also be more innovative in how we respond to increasingly protracted crises.
FAO has recently partnered with the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs to explore how, when and where multi-year funding can have the greatest effect in the humanitarian context. More flexible funding allows agencies to prioritize the most urgent needs. In this regard, let me acknowledge the recent pledge of $1 billion by the Saudi-led coalition in support of the 2018 Humanitarian Response Plan for Yemen. We welcome the decision to allocate these funds according to need, with a significant amount dedicated to addressing the growing prevalence of severe hunger.
After decades of progress towards eradicating hunger, now is the time to renew the commitment to the Sustainable Development Goal of Zero Hunger.
What is absolutely clear is that business as usual is not an option. Agriculture and local food production cannot be afterthoughts. Investing in agriculture not only saves lives and protects livelihoods, but it lays the foundations for recovery and resilience building.
We must change the nature of humanitarian assistance to grow the seeds of Zero Hunger.

Forgiveness: The fate of extremists
Mansour Alnogaidan/Al Arabiya/February 25/18
In 1993, London-based daily Al-Hayat published a photograph of two Arabs who had apparently participated in civil war in the Balkans in the aftermath of Yugoslavia’s collapse. In a pose that has since become chillingly familiar, the two men stood brandishing their rifles in front of a prisoner. One of the fighters was a Saudi veteran of the Afghan war, and the other a member of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group. Both had once found lodging in the infamous “Peshawar Hostel” — a pit stop in Pakistan for the so-called “Afghan Arabs” en route to Afghanistan, financed by Osama bin Laden. The latter of the two, during his stay at the hostel, had memorably joined other North African fighters in attacking a Saudi preacher whose humor they found offensive. As to the Saudi fighter, he belonged to the upper middle class of merchants who emigrated from the rural areas to Riyadh during the 1960s. He was sentimental, tender, bold, generous, and sensitive — but had not completed his education. In heated discussions, he would grow aggressive. He did not like what he heard about the so-called “Mujahideen” and their intentions. Like thousands of other Saudis, he was influenced by the ideological current of the “Brotherhood Jihad” which was sponsored by the Islamic Relief Worldwide organization in the early 1980s. His father’s repeated attempts to interest his son in a business career failed. This is not to say that his father was saddened by his son’s ideas. To the contrary, he sometimes praised his son for his convictions.
The extremist impulse remains alluring for those former jihadists who indulge a range of overlapping emotions: hatred, indignation, remorse, justification, a longing for the old calling
Provoking suspicion
Since 1994 — 24 years and counting — the young man has ceased to provoke suspicion. He has lived a good life, fathered several children, and indeed entered the private sector to run a continually expanding business. Over time, he had distanced himself from the jihadist groups. Nonetheless, in 1996 he found himself in the crosshairs of a security investigation following terrorist incidents in the kingdom. Two of his former comrades had given testimony falsely implicating him in the plot. As a result, he was detained for one year — during which authorities subjected him to severe cruelty — but released after proven innocent. The man was fortunate to have his name removed from the travel blacklist, and his journeys abroad enabled him to appreciate the value of life even more while further prospering in his career as a businessman. There was another key factor behind his “relative modernity”: His relatives who had also been sympathetic to jihadist causes for nearly two decades had themselves departed the extremist realm by the late 1990s. None of their children, including the man in question, had gone on to join the madness of jihadist recruitment in the first decade of the 21st century, during which the kingdom was a primary target. Not long ago, during a moment of peace and serenity, our friend confessed that he had never killed any “human.” In coming to terms with his violent past, he had manifested the power of forgiveness: He had forgiven his former comrades for radicalizing him and forgiven himself for succumbing to them. He even forgave the two men whose lies had caused his imprisonment in 1996. Now a man in his fifties, he is a loving father, a devoted husband, and a businessman who derives pleasure from his circle of friends and cherishes his time on earth.
Enduring prison
In June 2005, a police officer was killed in front of his own home in Mecca. The assailants issued a statement to the effect that the attack was revenge for the torture their jihadist brethren had endured in prison. But in Riyadh, 800 kilometers and a moral universe away, the hero of our story, himself a former detainee, was deeply saddened when he heard about the killing. This remarkable man was rescued from terrorism — but like hundreds of other Saudis, he remains stuck in a web of affiliations that might “flip him” to the dark side at any given moment. The line between dark and light is blurred.
The extremist impulse remains alluring for those former jihadists who indulge a range of overlapping emotions: hatred, indignation, remorse, justification, a longing for the old calling. What will help and protect these individuals from themselves, and others from them? At this stage, monitoring and stringent laws remain necessary to check their potential relapse.

One less app for the rich, few more for the poor
Ehtesham Shahid/Al Arabiya/February 25/18
While we breeze past most big airports these days, quick retrieval of luggage still remains a major irritant. In order to calm down a restless co-passenger, during one such wait recently, I whispered into his ear: “don’t worry, you will find an app for this soon”. Unimpressed by my intervention, he quipped: “if apps could make all the difference the world would be a far better place to live.”Despite his lack of interest in the subject, I am reasonably certain that some smart cookie would have got his head around such a thing in some part of the globe already. Whenever that happens, it will definitely soothe the nerves of a lot of travelers and indeed further enhance the efficiency of air travel.
For luxury, or needy?
Here’s the more relevant question though: Do we really need more and more apps such as these?It seems, far too many technological advancements today are geared toward enhancing luxury and not enough to tackle real problems facing the really needy.While one cannot take moral positions on something that’s for general good, even if it benefits the same group of people, it is also time sensitize innovators to look beyond their backyard. No matter how much we love our pets, for instance, a dog walking app should not take precedence over a life-saving drug, especially when 800-million people worldwide suffer from hunger. While one cannot take moral positions on something that’s for general good, even if it benefits the same group of people, it is also time sensitize innovators to look beyond their backyard
Experts largely admit that very little innovation has taken place in agriculture. And those that happen don’t necessarily go in the right direction. So while agriculture’s share of global GDP has shrunk to just 3 percent – one-third of its contribution just decades ago – we seem obsessed with 3D printing and genetic modification of food, when millions of daily wage workers go without work. Disruptive technologies may be game-changers for agriculture in the coming decades but at the moment the world needs to feed the hungry with food grown by unemployed farmers.
Today we have apps that distinguish authentic Louis Vuitton bag from a well-made fake one. You can date a millionaire using an app and even monitor a private island.
We seem more willing to add to this list instead of going down the value chain and help the underprivileged. Some would say we need both but that’s the fence-sitters argument anyway.
Not entirely ignored
Indeed, there are apps that make charity easier. There are apps through which you can help refugees, even fund treatment of those who can’t afford to pay basic medical bills. There is an app that helps you perform “good deeds” and earn “karma points”.
But most of them are like going green – to look good. It is easier said than done though considering apps for the poor are unlikely to be commercially viable in today’s business environment. Businesses – even governments – would be reluctant to invest in them as long as there are options of guaranteed returns.
Then comes the question of availability of resources. A soil testing kit can really help a poor farmer but can s/he afford it, without institutional support? Does s/he get access to the same technology and afford gadgets and connectivity as we get in cities?
Unequal world
No matter how much Wired magazine’s Kevin Kelly talks about the rich subsidizing technology for the “have later” category, the fact is this isn’t a level-playing field, especially when you look at it in terms of the digital divide. And it isn’t getting any better.
When Arianna Huffington talks about bringing humanity to technology – and rightly so – she primarily means technology swamped urban dwellers who need to take a break from their gadgets. When she calls for a Third Women’s Revolution, she refers to office-goers with preventable stress-related healthcare issues rather than women who toil in the farms.
Innovation is indeed throwing up unique solutions at us today. But is it benefitting the really needy? Shouldn’t we think before downloading another app for luxury?

The possibility of a soft coup in the United States

Ahmad al-Farraj/Al Arabiya/February 25/18
I have already said it many times, but I believe that American democracy is based on a process of selection. This does not, in any way, disgrace the longstanding institutional system of the United States, which is considered as a beacon of light in the world.
The Constitution has been written by what they call the Founding Fathers; a group of thinkers led by George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and John Adams, who were the leaders of the revolution against the English occupation. Although feudalistic, they were first rate politicians who founded what became the greatest global power. They wrote a unique and immortal constitution, so how can one say that the American democracy is based on selection?
The two-party jinx
The presidency of this unique empire cannot, in practice, operate outside the framework of the two parties, The Republican Party and The Democratic Party. Our prominent politician of Arab origin, Ralph Nader, is a living example that an independent stands no chance. It is an unknown fact that in the past, hundreds of candidates representing different parties competed for the White House, but we have only heard about the Democratic Party candidate Hillary Clinton and Republican candidate Donald Trump. This is another facet of American democracy and the coverage of its free media, which would require many articles to decipher and understand.
It is possible to win the presidency even if the candidate does not get the majority of votes
In short, what is happening in America is that the two main parties present a group of candidates, and they compete against each other to choose the party’s main candidate. This means that the American citizen does not elect the person he wants, but elects the best of the available options. Millions of American people were not supporters of any of the presidential candidates in the last elections (Hillary and Trump). This is also true for all the other American elections over the past two centuries — a truth widely accepted by most Americans.
President without majority votes
The important point here is that the candidate who wins the majority of the votes of a state wins all the electoral points of that state, meaning that it is possible to win the presidency even if the candidate does not get the majority of votes. This happened in the last elections when Donald Trump won the presidency, even though his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton was the real winner with majority of votes of the American people. In addition, the vote that decide who wins the presidency is actually the Electoral College vote, not the votes of the general public. Their number is currently only 538 people, and they vote after a month and a half of the general elections. Even though they always vote in accordance with the general election results, they can practically and legally, conduct a soft coup and vote for whoever they want. For instance, members of the Electoral College in the last elections could have voted for Hillary Clinton rather than Trump, and although this has not happened throughout American history; there isn't anything legally binding to ensure this doesn't happen. Did the founding fathers deliberately leave this loop hole which allows for the possibility of a soft coup, in anticipation of something unexpected?! And can we then claim that American democracy is based on the principle of selection?