January 28/2018
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations
There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus
Galatians 03/01-26: "1You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard?  Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh? Have you experienced so much in vain—if it really was in vain?  So again I ask, does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you by the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard?  So also Abraham “believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham.  Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.” So those who rely on faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith. For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.” Clearly no one who relies on the law is justified before God, because “the righteous will live by faith.” The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, it says, “The person who does these things will live by them.” Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.” He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit. Brothers and sisters, let me take an example from everyday life. Just as no one can set aside or add to a human covenant that has been duly established, so it is in this case. 16 The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. Scripture does not say “and to seeds,” meaning many people, but “and to your seed,”meaning one person, who is Christ. What I mean is this: The law, introduced 430 years later, does not set aside the covenant previously established by God and thus do away with the promise. For if the inheritance depends on the law, then it no longer depends on the promise; but God in his grace gave it to Abraham through a promise. Why, then, was the law given at all? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come. The law was given through angels and entrusted to a mediator. A mediator, however, implies more than one party; but God is one. Is the law, therefore, opposed to the promises of God? Absolutely not! For if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law. But Scripture has locked up everything under the control of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe. Before the coming of this faith, we were held in custody under the law, locked up until the faith that was to come would be revealed.  So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith. Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian. So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith,  for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise."

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on January 27-28/18
Question: "Why are there so many religions? Do all religions lead to God?"/ 27/18/
We’re as Close to Doomsday Today as we Were during the Cold War/Lawrence Krauss and Robert Rosner/The Washington Post/January 27/18
Afrin: The Thorn in Turkey’s Side/Nazeer Rida/Asharq AlAwsat/January 27/18
The Islamization of Germany in 2017: Part II/Soeren Kern/Gatestone Institute./January 27/18
Cuba: End Of An Era/YOSSI MEKELBERG/Arab News/January 27/18
Why Iran Is Silent On Trump’s New Mideast Strategy/CAMELIA ENTEKHABIFARD/Arab News/January 27/18
Egypt Needs An Election That Is Fair For All/MOHAMMED NOSSEIR/Arab News/January 27/18
When will Iran’s threats be countered once and for all/Dr. Khaled M. Batarfi/Al Arabiya/January 27/18
The reality of Trump’s conflict with the media/Mamdouh AlMuhaini/Al Arabiya/January 27/18

Titles For Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on January 27-28/18
Media Bickering Shakes Aoun-Nasrallah Alliance
Aoun: Ties are Excellent with Kuwait, Lebanon Focused on Economic Situation
Report: Bassil Insists on Holding Abidjan Conference, AMAL Wants it 'Canceled'
Fenianos: Bassil Waging the Elections with Campaign Slogans
ISF Arrests Suspect on Terror Charges
Aoun to Kuwaiti Television: Excellent brotherly relations with Kuwait
Jumblatt from Ain elTineh: Berri is a historical cornerstone of the Taef
Berri meets Al Raissy: Resistance fate determined by field not negotiations
Kanaan: What is happening with Berri is not an attempt to break anyone, but rather to invoke the constitution and institutions
Mikati to go to polls with sportsmanship competition, bowing to citizens' decision
Arslan: We want our share as a founding historical sect in Lebanon
Khreiss: Ready for elections at all levels, committed to serving our people in good and bad times
Zahra: Contacts underway in preparation for the elections
Husseini, Gemayel meet
ISF arrests Lebanese on terror charges

Titles For
Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on January 27-28/18
US Homeland Security Adviser Says Trump Backs Demands of Iranian People
US House Speaker: Iranian Threats to Regional Countries Will Be Met with Sanctions
Revolutionary Guards Clash with ISIS in Western Iran
Jordan King: Saudi Arabia Draws Red Lines for Iran’s Regional Activities
Scores Killed, Wounded in Kabul Ambulance Blast
Tillerson Insists Russia to Blame for Syria Chemical Attacks
US Tells Ankara Will Stop Arming Syrian Kurd Militia, Says Turkey
Syria Opposition to Boycott Russian Peace Talks
Saudi Billionaire Prince Al-Waleed Released as Graft Probe Winds Down
Aide to Barred Egypt Presidential Challenger Stabbed
Kurds in Germany Protest Turkish Syria Offensive
Drone Strike Kills 7 Qaida Suspects in Yemen

Latest Lebanese Related News published on January 27-28/18
Media Bickering Shakes Aoun-Nasrallah Alliance
Beirut - Youssef Diab/Asharq AlAwsat/January 27/18
A 12-year strategic alliance between President Michel Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement and Hassan Nasrallah’s “Hezbollah” is under threat. Counter-accusations on social media websites reached their climax on Friday when the two sides exchanged insults, all the way to launching accusations of betrayal. In an attempt to contain the repercussions of such developments, Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil, who is Aoun’s son-in-law, said on Friday that the memorandum of understanding between the two parties “will remain a strategic need for the protection of the country,” adding that all “small tricks could not defeat it.”Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, member of the Change and Reform parliamentary bloc MP Ziad Aswad said that Bassil had a new way in managing FPM's affairs. However, the MP added: “Our alliance with Hezbollah is built on huge objectives, mainly the protection of the country and limiting tension. This understanding had protected the country during past crises.”A war of words between the two parties emerged lately after FPM-owned OTV television channel criticized Nasrallah’s comments in which the Hezbollah secretary general lashed out at the Lebanese government for allowing cinemas to screen Steven Spielberg’s film “The Post” despite calls for a ban because of the director’s links to Israel. Observers close to Hezbollah said on Friday that “the current disputes between the two sides remain objective, and would not lead to the collapse of the strategic alliance.”Separately, a dispute between FPM and Amal movement, Hezbollah’s ally, exploded into a direct war of words between Bassil and Amal’s representative in the government Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil. While Bassil stressed on Friday that “partnership would safeguard equality in the country,” Khalil responded by saying that the Constitution remained the nation's prime guarantee. "The constitution is not a mere point of view, and the law is also not subject to interpretation,” he added.

Aoun: Ties are Excellent with Kuwait, Lebanon Focused on Economic Situation

Naharnet/January 27/18/President Michel Aoun emphasized on Saturday that Lebanon has “excellent brotherly” ties with Kuwait stressing keenness on improving them further. “Lebanon-Kuwait ties are brotherly and in excellent condition. We are working on making them even better,” Aoun told Kuwait's state-television in an interview. On the other hand, the President stressed that Lebanon has made a number of achievement and focuses currently on its economic concerns. He pointed out that the parliamentary elections will be staged in May based on the new proportional representation electoral system. Addressing Lebanese expats living and working in Kuwait, he said: “Be loyal to Kuwait for it has embraced you.”

Report: Bassil Insists on Holding Abidjan Conference, AMAL Wants it 'Canceled'
Naharnet/January 27/18/A dispute between AMAL Movement and the Free Patriotic Movement over a seniority decree enlarged and impacted the February Lebanese Diaspora Energy conference for Africa organized by FPM head, Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil, al-Akhbar daily reported on Saturday. The daily said the row between FPM founder, President Michel Aoun, and AMAL head Speaker Nabih Berri impacted Lebanon's community and expatriates mainly “southern expats,” (mostly Shiite) living in the African continent who are supposed to attend the meeting. AMAL (a party associated with Lebanon's Shia community) has reportedly signaled to the community's officials in Ivory Coast to boycott the meeting that will be held in Abidjan on February the 2nd and 3rd under Bassil's sponsorship. The bulk of the Lebanese community, the vast majority of whom descend from South Lebanon, have responded to the request. Meanwhile many businessmen and officials said they will attend, according to the daily. The division has “hit the button of sectarian and regional divisions,” said al-Akhbar, "but that did not stop the two sides from nurturing it through mutual viciousness and mobilization of their tools for the upcoming parliamentary battle.”On the other hand, the daily quoted official sources who said that Bassil “insists on holding the conference even if only one guest attends.”The seniority decree broke out between Aoun and Berri after the president and premier Saad Hariri signed a decree granting one-year seniority to a number of officers. Berri and Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil have insisted that the decree should have also carried the finance minister's signature.

Fenianos: Bassil Waging the Elections with Campaign Slogans
Naharnet/January 27/18/Public Works and Transportation Minister Youssef Fenianos criticized Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil's reactions after a ministerial panel turned down his vote law amendment proposal, saying the Minister is running his parliamentary campaign elections with “slogans,” al-Joumhouria daily reported on Saturday. “Bassil (who is also head of the Free Patriotic Movement) is waging his elections with slogans. Through the suggestions (amendments) he makes he is trying to picture a team that supports reforms and another against them. Even if he is told that his proposals are technically inapplicable, he accuses them of being against reforms. He refuses to take into account any observation made by any team,” Fenianos told the daily.“The issue has been settled at the ministerial panel tasked with studying the implementation of the new electoral law, there is no time left to introduce any amendments,” he stressed. Fenianos also said that Bassil “gives consideration only to what he wants,” pointing out that even when Bassil's (ally) Hizbullah tells him it is incapable of monitoring the voting process of expatriates outside Lebanon, he tells them “you approved before, why change your mind now?” On Friday, Bassil said that he “has been defeated for the third time,” as a ministerial panel tasked with studying the implementation of the new electoral law said there is no time left to introduce any amendments.“I have been defeated for the third time, and the Lebanese have lost the reforms with me,” said Bassil after the meeting. “I lost in the face of a political decision to halt the reforms and the Lebanese have lost with me. This is a loss for the freedom of voters,” Bassil added. The panel had met to discuss Bassil's proposal to extend the voting deadline for Lebanese immigrants living abroad.

ISF Arrests Suspect on Terror Charges

Naharnet/January 27/18/The Internal Security Forces Directorate nabbed a suspect in the eastern Bekaa town of Majdal Anjar over links to the Islamic State terrorist group, the ISF said in a statement on Saturday. “After thorough monitoring, the ISF Information Department arrested on 22/1/2018 a Lebanese national identified by his initials as R.A in Majdal Anjar neighborhood,” said the statement. “The suspect is wanted for several arrest warrants over terror, fraudulence, arms trade and smuggling of foreigners,” it added. “Upon interrogation, the defendant admitted that he had assisted a terrorist's infiltration from Syria to Lebanon and was identified as M.N.A. The latter was charged by the Islamic State terror group to carry out bombing operations in Lebanon,” it added. He also confessed to smuggling:100 wireless devices to fighters in Syria, and individuals from Syria to Lebanon. Legal proceedings were taken against him.

Aoun to Kuwaiti Television: Excellent brotherly relations with Kuwait

Sat 27 Jan 2018/NNA - President of the Republic Michel Aoun stressed Saturday on the "excellent Lebanese-Kuwaiti brotherly ties", pointing to the ongoing effort to improve said relations that was evident in his cordial visit to Kuwait. "We shared common opinions and perspectives over various hour issues, a similarity of views reflecting conviction and not a mere compliment," Aoun asserted, speaking in an interview to the Kuwaiti Television on the sidelines of his visit to Kuwait. The President commended the remarkable attributes of Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Subbah Al Ahmad Al Jaber Al Subbah, praising his humanitarian achievements which are "worthy of a Nobel Prize for peace, especially in his efforts to purify the Arab climates." President Aoun outlined some of the achievements made during the first year of his term, especially concerning stability and security, the adoption of the oil extraction decree and a new vote law for the upcoming legislative elections in May 2018. He revealed that the main concern today is the economic situation which has been affected by the three successive crises, namely the international recession, the closure of roads between Lebanon and Arab countries and the massive Syrian displacement. The President called on Lebanese expatriates to "remain faithful and show gratitude to Kuwait for embracing them with employment opportunities." On his visit to Kuwait and his official talks, the President described the meetings as "open and touching on many issues." "The visit was cordial and we discussed all regional issues, and our views were identical especially regarding terrorism, against which we share the same approach," Aoun added. "As Kuwaitis and Lebanese, we call for peace and tolerance among all humans," he noted. "There is a potential for strengthening cooperation in many fields between our two countries, including the cultural and educational sectors, in addition to trade, economic, development and other fields, which would further boost our bilateral relations," Aoun underscored.

Jumblatt from Ain elTineh: Berri is a historical cornerstone of the Taef
Sat 27 Jan 2018/NNA - "House Speaker Nabih Berri is a basic, historic cornerstone of the Taef Agreement," said Democratic Gathering Chief, MP Walid Jumblatt, on emerging from his meeting with Speaker Berri in Ain el-Tineh this evening. The meeting was devoted to tackling latest hour issues, in the presence of MP Wael Abu Faour and Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil. "We have to focus and pay attention to the fundamental issue of concern, namely the financial and economic situation...Today, as you know, the price of oil is on the rise; hence, the deficit bill will increase. For this reason, some outstanding problems must be resolved," stated Jumblatt. Over his alliances in the upcoming parliamentary elections, Jumblatt said, "Our alliance with House Speaker Berri has been finalized, but with others we have not yet decided." Questioned about whom he was referring to by the "others", Jumblatt said, "There are the Free Patriotic Movement, the Lebanese Forces, the Kataeb, the Democratic Party and the Liberals. Dori Chamoun has blamed me for forgetting the one forgets the Liberals...and there is also Al-Jamaa Al-Islamiya." "We have to consult with everyone. The Democratic Gathering's room in the elections is small, and it is not present in all of Lebanon. We have the Shouf, Aley, Beirut and Baabda as well," explained Jumblatt. Asked about his decision regarding Baabda, Jumblatt said, "We have not decided yet. As I said, we are still deliberating." Over the Baabda-Ain el-Tineh crises, the Democratic Gathering Chief stated that "there is no crisis, but there is a main platform. In the end, we must remember that Speaker Berri is a cornerstone and historic part of the Taef, and we must also remind others of the Taef Agreement, of the need to develop and not to abolish it." Asked about the fate of Speaker Berri's initiative regarding the officers' decree, Jumblatt said, "It has been lost!"

Berri meets Al Raissy: Resistance fate determined by field not negotiations
Sat 27 Jan 2018/NNA - House Speaker Nabih Berri met Saturday at Ain el-Tineh with Iranian Scholars Council Member, Imam Reza Holy Shine Representative, Al Sayyid Ibrahim Raissy, accompanied by Iranian Ambassador to Lebanon Mohammad Fathali, with talks centering on local and regional developments. "The fate and future of the Resistance is determined by the field, not by negotiation tables and agreements like Camp David, Oslo, Sharm El Sheikh and the likes of it...Resistance fighters in Palestine, Gaza and Lebanon are the ones who will decide their future," stressed Al Raissy on emerging. He described relations between Iran and Lebanon at various levels as "good and distinctive," affirming the need to "strengthen relations between the Islamic countries." "The axis of resistance today includes Iran and Lebanon and some other countries and forces in the region, and this is another factor in the strengthening of bilateral relations. The support of Lebanon as a first row resistance country is a duty of all Muslims, and the Iranian Republic believes it is its duty to stand by Lebanon in all fields," the Iranian official underscored. "During our meeting with Speaker Berri, we stressed on the unity of the Islamic nation, and the need to strengthen the axis of resistance in the face of the basic enemy, and that is the Zionist entity," Al Raissy concluded.

Kanaan: What is happening with Berri is not an attempt to break anyone, but rather to invoke the constitution and institutions
Sat 27 Jan 2018/NNA - "Change and Reform" Parliamentary Bloc Secretary, MP Ibrahim Kanaan, stressed Saturday that "what is going on with House Speaker Nabih Berri is not a process of breaking anyone but rather of invoking the constitution and institutions." "I am ready to play any reconciliatory role with Ain el-Tineh on the basis of constructive political work, and legal, constitutional foundations to reach achievements," said Kanaan, responding to a question during an interview with "New TV" Channel today. On the upcoming parliamentary elections, Kanaan asserted that they are bound to take place as scheduled, saying, "We will face any obstacle that blocks the elections. We, as a free national movement, are in the stage of deliberation with political parties on alliances." "The Free Patriotic Movement's alliances are determined by the Party's leadership," Kanaan explained, noting, "We are a widely-spread Movement in Lebanon and currently in the process of negotiating with everyone." "We call for the transfer of the 2018 draft budget law with reforms, which has become a domestic and international demand, during the first week of February at the latest," said Kanaan, urging the government to hold daily meetings to finalize the annual budget.

Mikati to go to polls with sportsmanship competition, bowing to citizens' decision

Sat 27 Jan 2018/NNA - Former Prime Minister Najib Mikati stressed Saturday that he will run in the upcoming parliamentary elections in a sportsmanship competition spirit, and will bow to the decision of the people in said elections. "We are working on the basis that the legislative elections will take place next May, and we will engage in them with all seriousness and sportsmanship competition, with building a strong and fully sovereign state as our leading headline," asserted Mikati, speaking during a ceremony organized by members of "Al-Azem Trade Merchants" in Tripoli. "I have raised the slogan of serving Tripoli and the North, and all of Lebanon, and I hope all fellow candidates would work within this context, competing for the service of our city...Let the people decide and I will bow before their decision, whatever it may be," Mikati added. "We will not fail to exercise our right to vote freely, and to elect whoever we see fit for the city of Tripoli, in light of his achievements and contribution to supporting its people," he went on to assert. "As for the electoral list, we are a one family in Minieh, Dinnieh, Akkar and Tripoli. Our goal is to form a single bloc concerned with the North and its development, each within his area of competence and expertise," explained Mikati. In this connection, he called on the government to "clarify how the counting of votes will take place in the parliamentary elections," hoping that "it would be electronic and transparent, without taking too long to issue the results."
Over the prevailing economic situation, Mikati deemed it as "urgently requiring serious government action to stimulate the economy, which can only be achieved by giving incentives to setting-up projects outside the capital." As for the waste management crisis, Mikati considered that "the time has come to find scientific and healthy solutions to this problem, in cooperation with municipalities and all state departments and bodies concerned, so as to lift the heavy burden off citizens' shoulders."

Arslan: We want our share as a founding historical sect in Lebanon
Sat 27 Jan 2018/NNA - Lebanese Democratic Party Chief, Displaced Minister Talal Arslan, Saturday, urged President Michel Aoun and House Speaker Nabih Berri to "resolve the issue of minorities' representation in the country in a proper and worthy manner, and in line with their calls for national partnership."
Arslan stressed in an issued statement on preserving the Druze Sect's share, being a profound contributor and historical component of Lebanon's foundation. He concluded by urging MP Walid Jumblatt to "call on all Druze ministers and members of parliament to put an end to this masquerade, and to lead the way before all Christian and Islamic communities whose rights are being lost, uniting together in their clear demand for the consolidation of partnership in both word and deed."

Khreiss: Ready for elections at all levels, committed to serving our people in good and bad times
Sat 27 Jan 2018/NNA - "Development and Liberation" Parliamentary Bloc Member, MP Ali Khreiss, declared Saturday that "We are fully prepared for the legislative elections at the logistics, popular and administrative levels, for we consider that said elections are pivotal and would determine the country's political course in the next phase." "For the first time in the history of Lebanon, an electoral law that adopts the relativity rule with preferential votes is applied," Khreiss added, speaking after his meeting with popular delegations from the South region who visited him at his Tyre office today. He disclosed that House Speaker Nabih Berri and Amal Movement would announce the candidates expected to run in the parliamentary elections. "Amal Movement's existence is not temporary but rather permanent," stressed Khreiss, vowing to remain "committed to serving the people in both good and bad times."

Zahra: Contacts underway in preparation for the elections

Sat 27 Jan 2018/NNA - "Contacts have been initiated by all sides in the country to keep up with preparations for the upcoming parliamentary elections," said MP Antoine Zahra in an interview to "Voice of Lebanon" Radio Station on Saturday.

Husseini, Gemayel meet
Sat 27 Jan 2018/NNA - Former House Speaker Hussein Husseiny met this Saturday with Kataeb leader MP Sami Gemayel, with whom he reviewed the latest developments in Lebanon and the region. Discussions also touched on the joint efforts to construct a civil state capable of safeguarding public liberties, as well as the means of enforcing laws and the Constitution to consolidate national unity and coexistence.

ISF arrests Lebanese on terror charges
Sat 27 Jan 2018/NNA - The Directorate General of Internal Security Forces issued a communiqué saying that "In the framework of preventive security operations, and the serious monitoring of terrorist activities which constitute a real threat to Lebanon, the ISF Information Division, on 27/1/2018, arrested in Majdel Anjar in Eastern Bekaa a Lebanese born in 1979." "The suspect is wanted for several arrest warrants over terror, fraudulence, arms trade and smuggling of foreigners," the communiqué added. After interrogation, the arrestee admitted to smuggling a Syrian terrorist into the Lebanese territories. He also confessed to "smuggling a total number of 100 wireless devices in favor of Syrian fighters, and individuals from Syria to Lebanon." "The detainee was referred to the competent court," the communiqué concluded.

Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on January 27-28/18
US Homeland Security Adviser Says Trump Backs Demands of Iranian People
Davos - Najlaa Habriri/Asharq Al-Awsat/January 27/18/US Homeland Security Adviser to President Donald Trump Tom Bossert said on Thursday that Washington’s commander in chief is in full support of the demands made by the Iranian people against wasting national funds on an agenda focused on destabilizing the region.Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, Bossert confirmed that Iran’s behavior spurs deep concerns and destabilizes the region. He called on Tehran to stop supporting terrorism and wasting its money on destabilizing activities in other countries rather than paying attention to its citizens.
On the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Bosset said that the Iranian people have taken to the streets against Tehran’s policies, and that Trump is siding with the people not the regime. In another context, Bossert said in a press conference that he held meetings with officials from the Middle East and the West, and discussed the Turkish military operations in northwestern Syria. Trump's homeland security adviser suggested that Turkish troops "remove themselves" from Afrin, saying Ankara "ought to be mindful of the potential for escalation” as its troops move into Syria and Afrin.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has threatened to send Turkish troops further east along the Syrian side of the Turkish border, targeting Kurdish-held areas where US personnel are stationed. It would be a "terrible outcome" if Turkish troops clashed with "the proxy forces that we have all been relying on to defeat ISIS, especially if there are US advisers in the region," Bossert said.
"There could be grave consequences to any miscalculation and escalation," AP cited the White House staffer as saying.

US House Speaker: Iranian Threats to Regional Countries Will Be Met with Sanctions
Asharq Al-Awsat/January 27/18/
Iran's threats to regional states, supplying Houthis with rockets, which are being fired at Saudi Arabia and its actions in Yemen and Syria will be met with more sanctions, US House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan said. imilar to that of the UAE and Saudi Arabia in regards to the Iranian threats to regional stability, and he stressed the compatibility of Washington's visions with Abu Dhabi and Riyadh on the need to root out the sources of terrorism. “We are focused on the Iranian threat. This is existential threat to you, this is an existential threat to Saudi Arabia. And I want you to know that we see this issue the same way you do,” the top Republican in the US House of Representatives said. Speaking at the Emirates Diplomatic Academy on Thursday, Ryan said the United States is taking concrete steps to rein in Iran expansion, including stopping them from establishing "Hezbollah" like organizations in the region, posing an existential threat to the UAE and Saudi Arabia. Ryan said protests in Iran shows the regime has turned segments of Iranian society against them. “Iran's regime is losing its hold on population,” he said, adding that Congress "will not remain silent about the plight of the Iranian people."The Speaker of the US House of Representatives cited the resolution the House has taken early this month to support the Iranian demonstrations. He said the United States stands with the Iranian people and their pursuit of justice, freedom and opportunity. Ryan said the Islamic Republic was seeking to expand its influence in the region at the expense of staunch US allies like the UAE and Saudi Arabia and needed to be constrained by sanctions.“Look at their violations of missile testing, look at what they’re doing in the region, look at what they’re doing in Syria, look at what they’re doing in Yemen,” Ryan said. “There’s more that we can do from the economic side. We have the tools we can use along with our allies ... that’s the discussion we’re having about tightening up sanctions and trying to get Europe involved in that,” he added. "The Iranians now have more than 49 million smartphones, which shows that they are beginning to understand what is going on around them in various world countries." He noted that the Iranian government is interested in financing terrorism abroad rather than achieving development for its people. Ryan stressed his country's interest in protecting national security, establishing peace and preventing Iran from destabilizing the region and the world. He expressed hope that the United States will have allies and partners in the region and the world, such as the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt, who share the same vision with the USA regarding different issues.

Revolutionary Guards Clash with ISIS in Western Iran
Asharq Al-Awsat/January 27/18/
Clashes erupted on Saturday between the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and members of the ISIS terrorist group in western Iran, reported Sepah News, the official news site of the Guards. It added the 21 members of ISIS were arrested.
There was no mention of the number of people killed or wounded in the clash.The terrorists had crossed Iran’s western border and were placed under surveillance before the Guards attacked them on Saturday morning, said Sepah News. Armed Kurdish parties have not yet commented on the reports of the clash. The remote mountainous majority-Kurdish areas near the borders of Iraq and Turkey are the scene of occasional clashes between Iranian forces and ISIS-linked fighters and Kurdish separatists.In June 2017, ISIS attacked the Iranian parliament in Tehran and the mausoleum of the Islamic Republic’s founder Ruhollah Khomeini, killing at least 18 and wounding dozens.

Jordan King: Saudi Arabia Draws Red Lines for Iran’s Regional Activities
Davos - Najlaa Habriri/Asharq Al-Awsat/January 27/18/
Jordan’s King Abdullah II said on Thursday that Saudi Arabia was assuming a positive role in the Middle East and was drawing “red lines” for Iran’s worrying activities. During a discussion session with CNN’s Fareed Zakaria at the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting in Davos, King Abdullah stressed that King Salman bin Abdulaziz was leading an unprecedented proactive Saudi role in the Middle East. As for Iranian interference in Arab affairs, he said: “The Saudi policy is to say: the red lines are here.” King Abdullah pointed to Tehran’s meddling in a number of Arab countries, warning of its exploitation of militias and its use of religion in regional conflicts. He added that Saudi Arabia was not the only country concerned about Iran’s destabilizing activities, but also all states in the region, “especially after we saw the repercussions of these policies in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Lebanon.”The Jordanian monarch said he did not believe that Iran would change its foreign policy, which was adopted decades ago. “We believe in Jordan that dialogue is the best way to solve problems, but the policy of Iran poses major challenges in Syria, Lebanon and Yemen,” he noted, emphasizing his concern about the future of Lebanon, which has suffered significantly during the past decades. “We do not want these (Iranian) trends to create new problems inside Lebanon,” he stated. On Jerusalem, the Jordanian monarch said that the Palestinians no longer see the United States as a fair mediator after Washington announced its decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and to transfer its embassy to it. In this regard, he reiterated his commitment to resolve the issue of Jerusalem within the framework of a comprehensive solution between Israelis and Palestinians. “The hiccup at the moment is, out of tremendous frustration; the Palestinians don’t feel the United States is an honest broker, but in the same time, they are reaching out to the Europeans, and I think, to me, that is a signal that they do want peace,” King Abdullah said. “We cannot have a peace process… without the role of the United States,” he said, adding: “None of us know what the [US] plan is.”King Abdullah underlined the importance of Jerusalem for all religions and its central role among Muslims, Christians and Jews. He pointed out that Jerusalem should be viewed as a “city of hope” that brings people together.

Scores Killed, Wounded in Kabul Ambulance Blast

London/Asharq Al-Awsat/January 27/18/
A bomb hidden in an ambulance killed at least 40 people and wounded about 140 at an Afghan police checkpoint in an area of Kabul near foreign embassies and government buildings, officials said. "The suicide bomber used an ambulance to pass through the checkpoints. He passed through the first checkpoint saying he was taking a patient to Jamuriate hospital and at the second checkpoint he was recognized and blew his explosive-laden car," AFP quoted interior ministry deputy spokesman Nasrat Rahimi as saying. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the blast.
“It is a massacre,” said Dejan Panic, coordinator in Afghanistan for the Italian aid group Emergency, which runs a nearby trauma hospital. In a message on Twitter, the group said more than 50 wounded had been brought in to that hospital alone.Health ministry spokesman Wahid Majroh said at least 40 people were killed and 140 wounded in the blast, which blew up in a crowded street in a busy part of the city at lunchtime. Saturday is a working day in Afghanistan. Buildings hundreds of meters away were shaken by the force of the explosion, which left torn bodies strewn on the street nearby amid rubble and debris. In chaotic scenes at the Jamuriate hospital, which is the nearest medical facility to the blast, overwhelmed doctors and nurses rushed to treat dozens of wounded lying in the corridors. Outside civilians walked through debris-covered streets carrying wounded people on their backs as paramedics loaded several bodies at a time into ambulances to take them to medical facilities around the city. The explosion comes exactly a week after Taliban militants stormed a luxury hotel in Kabul, killing at least 22 people, the majority foreigners. A security alert issued to foreigners on Saturday morning warned that the Islamic State group, which has terrorized the city in recent months, was planning "to conduct aggressive attacks" on supermarkets, shops and hotels frequented by foreigners. The latest attack will add pressure on President Ashraf Ghani and his US allies, who have expressed growing confidence that a new more aggressive military strategy has succeeded in driving Taliban insurgents back from major provincial centers. The United States has stepped up its assistance to Afghan security forces and increased its air strikes against the Taliban and other militant groups, aiming to break a stalemate and force the insurgents to the negotiating table. However, the Taliban have dismissed suggestions that they have been weakened by the new strategy and the latest attacks have demonstrated that their capacity to mount deadly, high- profile attacks remains undiminished.

Tillerson Insists Russia to Blame for Syria Chemical Attacks
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/January 27/18/US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Saturday said he stands by his claim that Russia bears responsibility for recent chemical attacks in Syria, despite strong denials from Moscow.
"These are just unacceptable deployments of chemicals in ways that violate all conventions which Russia itself has signed up for. It violates agreements that Russia undertook to be responsible for identifying and eliminating the chemical weapons inside of Syria," Tillerson said during a visit to Warsaw.
"The chemical weapons are clearly there, they're being used against civilian populations -- and the most vulnerable are children -- inside of Syria," Tillerson told reporters, in a joint press conference with Polish Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz. "So we are holding Russia responsible for addressing this. They are (Syrian President Bashar al-) Assad's ally. They are members of those conventions and they made commitments. They need to deliver on those commitments." Tillerson first made the accusations on Tuesday, as diplomats from 29 countries met in Paris to push for sanctions and criminal charges against the perpetrators of the chemical attacks in Syria. Russia and China have blocked Western-backed efforts at the UN to impose sanctions on Damascus over their use. On Wednesday, Russia lashed out at Tillerson for having "hastily accused the Syrian -- as they call it -- 'regime' for the attack in Eastern Ghouta," adding "now they are trying to drag Russia into this as well."Damascus has been repeatedly accused of using chemical weapons, with the United Nations among those blaming government forces for an April 2017 sarin gas attack on the opposition-held village of Khan Sheikhun that left scores dead.
There have been at least 130 separate chemical weapons attacks in Syria since 2012, according to French estimates, with the Islamic State group also accused of using mustard gas in Syria and Iraq. Next week, Moscow will hold negotiations in the Russian city of Sochi aimed at ending Syria's civil war.

US Tells Ankara Will Stop Arming Syrian Kurd Militia, Says Turkey
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/January 27/18/The US has reiterated a pledge to Turkey to stop arming a Syrian Kurdish militia that Ankara is fighting, the Turkish presidency said Saturday, after the allies' ties were strained by Turkey's offensive in Syria. The Turkish presidency said US National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster "confirmed" to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's spokesman Ibrahim Kalin in a phone call late Friday that Washington would "not give weapons to the YPG" militia. Turkey launched its operation "Olive Branch" on January 20 against the Syrian Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) militia, supporting Syrian opposition fighters with ground troops and air strikes. Relations between NATO allies Ankara and Washington have been further strained by the offensive, with Washington urging restraint and fearing an impact on the fight against the Islamic State (IS) extremist group. One of the issues marring relations between the two countries was the US supplying the YPG -- which has spearheaded the anti-jihadist fight -- with arms since last year in battles against IS. During Friday's call, the officials cited Turkey's "legitimate security concerns" and agreed to coordinate closely in order to prevent misunderstandings, the presidency said in a statement. The call came just days after Washington and Ankara bitterly contested each other's accounts of a telephone conversation between Erdogan and US President Donald Trump. A White House statement said Trump urged Turkey to "limit its military actions", but a Turkish official said this was not an accurate reflection of the leaders' call. In addition, Turkish officials said in November that Trump had promised to stop supplying arms to the YPG.Ankara says the YPG is a "terrorist" offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which is proscribed as a terror group by Ankara and its Western allies. The PKK has waged an over three-decade insurgency against the Turkish state, which has resulted in about 40,000 people being killed since the 1980s. But the YPG has been working closely with Washington against IS in Syria as part of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
With the support of the US-led coalition's air power and special forces, the SDF led the battle last year against IS during which the jihadists lost their de facto capital of Raqa.

Syria Opposition to Boycott Russian Peace Talks
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/January 27/18/Syria's main opposition group on Friday said it would boycott Russian peace talks next week in a major blow to Moscow's diplomatic efforts towards resolving the brutal seven-year conflict. "Russia has not succeeded in promoting its conference," the opposition Syrian Negotiations Commission (SNC) said on its Twitter account. "The SNC has decided not to participate at Sochi after marathon negotiations with the UN and representatives of countries involved in Syria." Dozens of rebel groups had already refused to join the talks in the Black Sea resort next Monday and Tuesday organised by the Syrian regime's powerful ally Moscow, and the question of whether the main opposition would attend has overshadowed two days of separate UN-backed peace talks in Vienna. Those talks stretched late into Friday night, with both regime officials and the SNC meeting separately with UN Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura -- who did not strike an especially optimistic tone after the gruelling negotiations. As with eight previous rounds of failed UN-backed talks in Geneva, there was no sign that the warring sides had met face to face at discussions intended to lay the groundwork for a new post-war constitution. De Mistura, speaking to reporters early Saturday, admitted there had been a disheartening lack of progress up until now in finding a solution for a war that has killed more than 340,000 people. "I share the immense frustration of millions of Syrians inside and outside the country at the lack of a political settlement to date," he said. - Russian ambitions -With some 1,600 people invited to Sochi, the UN itself has yet to decide whether it will attend, de Mistura said, adding that this decision is being left to UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres. De Mistura stressed the legitimacy of the UN-led talks over Russia's parallel peace push, however, saying firmly that a political transition for Syria "is to be reached in the UN-led Geneva process"."I hope that the forthcoming Syrian national dialogue congress in Sochi will contribute to a revived and credible intra-Syrian process under the UN in Geneva," he added.
Ahead of an SNC press conference on Saturday morning there was little detail about why the opposition had ultimately decided to boycott Sochi, though spokesman Yahya al-Aridi earlier described the talks in Vienna as "tough".Western powers have viewed the Russian peace initiative -- which is also backed by Turkey and Iran -- with suspicion, worrying that Moscow is seeking to undermine the UN-backed talks with an ultimate view to carving out a settlement that strengthens its ally, President Bashar al-Assad.
'Black comedy' -Haid Haid, a consulting research fellow at Chatham House think-tank, said Russia's long-term strategic interests were at play in Sochi. "They want to present themselves as peace brokers, not only in Syria but in the Middle East in general, a role traditionally carried out by the Americans," Haid told AFP. "For the Russians to take this role, they have to do what the Americans were not able to do" -- find a solution in Syria, he said. The Vienna talks were also marked by anger from the regime over a leaked set of political proposals from the United States, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Britain and France that would involve strengthening the role of Syria's prime minister -- at the expense of Assad's authority. Top government negotiator Bashar al-Jaafari told reporters it was "tantamount to a black comedy" that these countries were seeking to shape Syria's political future, as Arabic and English versions of the document circulated online. "All of them have participated in the bloodshed of the Syrian people," he said of the five nations, blasting the US as the country "that created ISIS" and adding that Saudi Arabia was anything but a "beacon of freedom in the east".

Saudi Billionaire Prince Al-Waleed Released as Graft Probe Winds Down
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/January 27/18/Billionaire Saudi Prince Al-Waleed was released on Saturday after nearly three months in detention, a business associate told AFP, as a sweeping anti-corruption campaign targeting the kingdom's elite winds down. Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal, dubbed the Warren Buffett of Saudi Arabia, was the most high-profile detainee among 350 suspects rounded up since November 4, including business tycoons and ministers, who were held in Riyadh's luxury Ritz-Carlton hotel. The terms of his release were unclear but the government had previously said that most detainees agreed on financial settlements in exchange for their freedom."He (Prince Al-Waleed) is out," the associate said, requesting anonymity as he was not authorised to speak to the media.The Saudi information ministry did not respond to AFP's requests for comment. Prince Al-Waleed is the latest in a series of high-profile detainees to be freed from the hotel, as the campaign launched by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman draws to a close.Authorities on Friday released media mogul Waleed al-Ibrahim, owner of influential Arab satellite network MBC. Ibrahim held a family gathering at his residence after his release, three MBC employees told AFP on condition of anonymity. The staff also received an official e-mail congratulating them on his freedom. The Financial Times reported earlier Friday that authorities had ordered Ibrahim to hand over his controlling stake in MBC to secure his release.
Authorities have so far not commented on his case. Another high-profile detainee, former National Guard chief Prince Miteb bin Abdullah, was released recently following his "settlement" with authorities which reportedly exceeded $1 billion. The government said most of those detained agreed monetary settlements in exchange for their freedom, which could earn state coffers about $100 billion. Most detainees agreed on financial settlements in "cash, real estate and other assets", Saudi-owned Al Arabiya television reported last week. The windfall will help the government finance a package announced by King Salman this month to help citizens cope with the rising cost of living, Finance Minister Mohammed al-Jadaan told Al Arabiya in Davos on Wednesday. Crown Prince Mohammed, the 32-year-old son of the king, has spearheaded the unprecedented crackdown on corruption among members of the government and royal family, as he consolidates his grip on power in the kingdom. Some critics have labelled the campaign a shakedown, but authorities insist the purge targeted endemic corruption as Saudi Arabia seeks to diversify its oil-dependent economy. The Ritz-Carlton is set to reopen for business next month, sources at the hotel have said. Its website lists rooms as available from February 14.

Aide to Barred Egypt Presidential Challenger Stabbed
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/January 27/18/Assailants on Saturday stabbed and seriously wounded Egypt's former anti-corruption chief who was also a top aide to a barred candidate for a March presidential election, his lawyer said. Ali Taha said that Hisham Geneina was attacked by three men who "stabbed him in the face and beat him, breaking his legs," near his Cairo home. He was admitted to hospital for treatment. Geneina was sacked by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi as head of the Central Auditing Authority in 2016 after he was accused of exaggerating the cost of corruption. On Saturday he was on his way to a court hearing to contest his dismissal. A security source, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed Geneina had been wounded but said it happened during "a dispute with three young men following a car accident". Geneina was top campaign aide to Sami Anan, a former armed forces chief of staff who this month announced he intended to stand against Sisi in the March election. Anan's challenge was swiftly crushed, however, when the army accused him on Tuesday of forgery and other crimes linked to his registration as a candidate. Sisi looks set to sweep to a second term after most of his serious challengers either ruled themselves out or were sentenced to time in prison. Anan campaign team member, Hazem Hosny, said the attack on Genina was "politically motivated" -- a claim rejected by the security source. Following the accusations made by the army, Anan was summoned by the military prosecutor and since then his family and lawyers have had no new of his whereabouts, Hosny said. He is "the victim of a forced disappearance". Geneina's lawyer said he had been barred from seeing his client in hospital.

Kurds in Germany Protest Turkish Syria Offensive
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/January 27/18/Hundreds of Kurds took to the streets of Cologne on Saturday in protest over Turkey's offensive in northern Syria, as German officials warned against tensions between the country's huge Kurdish and Turkish communities. The protest, which organisers expect will see up to 20,000 participants, came a week after Turkish special forces and allied Syrian rebels launched an assault targeting Kurdish militia the People's Protection Units (YPG) in northern Syria. "Freedom for Kurdistan" and "Shame on you, Europe!" read some of the protesters' placards in the western German city. As the protest got under way, police put the number of demonstrators at 1,000, while an AFP journalist put the figure at several thousand. Germany is home to some one million Kurds and three million people of Turkish origin. Scuffles have erupted between members of the two communities since Turkey launched its "Olive Branch" campaign, with several Turkish mosques in Germany hit by acts of vandalism. According to Cologne police chief Uwe Jacob, the "risks of conflict (at the protest) are considerable". "Turkey has launched a war of aggression that breaches international law," Kurdish community co-leader Mehmet Tanriverdi told regional newspaper Heilbronner Stimme Saturday.The protest was organised by NAV-DEM, a Kurdish association deemed close to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which is blacklisted by Ankara and its Western allies

Drone Strike Kills 7 Qaida Suspects in Yemen
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/January 27/18/A drone strike early Saturday killed seven suspected Al-Qaida militants in southern Yemen, a security official said.The US military is the only force known to operate armed drones over Yemen. The official said the strike happened after midnight and targeted a car in Shabwa province. "All seven passengers, who were Al-Qaida members, were killed," said the security source. The United States considers the Yemen-based Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula to be the radical group's most dangerous branch. A long-running drone war against AQAP has intensified since US President Donald Trump took office in January 2017. AQAP has flourished in the chaos of the country's civil war, which pits the Saudi-backed government against Shiite Huthi rebels.

Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on January 27-28/18
Question: "Why are there so many religions? Do all religions lead to God?" 27/18/
Answer: The existence of so many religions and the claim that all religions lead to God without question confuses many who are earnestly seeking the truth about God, with the end result sometimes being that some despair of ever reaching the absolute truth on the subject. Or they end up embracing the universalist claim that all religions lead to God. Of course, skeptics also point to the existence of so many religions as proof that either you cannot know God or that God simply does not exist.
Romans 1:19-21 contains the biblical explanation for why there are so many religions. The truth of God is seen and known by every human being because God has made it so. Instead of accepting the truth about God and submitting to it, most human beings reject it and seek their own way to understand God. But this leads not to enlightenment regarding God, but to futility of thinking. Here is where we find the basis of the “many religions.”
Many people do not want to believe in a God who demands righteousness and morality, so they invent a God who makes no such requirements. Many people do not want to believe in a God who declares it impossible for people to earn their own way to heaven. So they invent a God who accepts people into heaven if they have completed certain steps, followed certain rules, and/or obeyed certain laws, at least to the best of their ability. Many people do not want a relationship with a God who is sovereign and omnipotent. So they imagine God as being more of a mystical force than a personal and sovereign ruler.
The existence of so many religions is not an argument against God's existence or an argument that truth about God is not clear. Rather, the existence of so many religions is demonstration of humanity's rejection of the one true God. Mankind has replaced Him with gods that are more to their liking. This is a dangerous enterprise. The desire to recreate God in our own image comes from the sin nature within us—a nature that will eventually “reap destruction” (Galatians 6:7-8).
Do all religions lead to God? No. All people—religious or otherwise—will stand before God some day (Hebrews 9:27), but religious affiliation is not what determines your eternal destiny. Only faith in Jesus Christ will save. “Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life” (1 John 5:12). It’s as simple as that. Only Christianity—faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ—leads to God’s forgiveness and eternal life. No one comes to the Father except through the Son (John 14:6). It does make a difference what you believe. The decision to embrace the truth about Jesus Christ is important. Eternity is an awfully long time to be wrong.

We’re as Close to Doomsday Today as we Were during the Cold War
Lawrence Krauss and Robert Rosner/The Washington Post/January 27/18 11:00
The Science and Security Board for the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists assesses that the world is not only more dangerous than it was a year ago; it is as threatening as it has been since World War II. In fact, the Doomsday Clock is as close to midnight today as it was in 1953, when Cold War fears perhaps reached their highest levels.
Days after Donald Trump took the oath of office, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists reset the Doomsday Clock to 2½ minutes to midnight, in part because of destabilizing comments from America’s new commander in chief. One year later, the Chicago-based group is moving the clock forward again by 30 seconds, because of the failure of President Trump and other world leaders to deal with looming threats of nuclear war and climate change.
To call the world nuclear situation dire is to understate the danger — and its immediacy. North Korea’s nuclear weapons program appeared to make remarkable progress in 2017, increasing risks for itself, other countries in the region and the United States.
The failure in 2017 to secure a temporary freeze on North Korea’s nuclear development was unsurprising to observers of the downward spiral of rhetoric between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. But North Korea’s developing nuclear program will reverberate not just in the Asia-Pacific, as neighboring countries review their security options, but also more widely, as all countries consider the costs and benefits of the international framework of nonproliferation treaties and agreements.
Global nuclear risks were compounded by US-Russia relations that now feature more conflict than cooperation. The United States and Russia remained at odds, continuing military exercises along the borders of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, undermining the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, upgrading their nuclear arsenals and eschewing arms-control negotiations.
Tensions over the South China Sea have increased. Pakistan and India have continued to build larger arsenals of nuclear weapons. And in the Middle East, uncertainty about continued US support for the landmark Iranian nuclear deal adds to a bleak picture. A related danger is the rise of cyberthreats targeting national infrastructure, including power grids, water supplies and military systems.
On climate change, the danger may seem less immediate than the risk of nuclear annihilation, but avoiding catastrophic temperature increases in the long run requires urgent attention now. Global carbon dioxide emissions have not yet begun the sustained decline toward zero that must occur if we are to avoid ever-greater warming. Nations will have to significantly decrease their greenhouse-gas emissions to manage even the climate risk accepted in the Paris accord. So far, the global response has fallen far short of this challenge.
The US administration’s decision essentially to turn a blind eye to climate change transpired against a backdrop of a worsening climate, including powerful hurricanes in the Caribbean and other parts of North America and extreme heat in Australia, South America, Asia, Europe and California. The Arctic ice cap achieved its smallest-ever winter maximum in 2017. Last week, data from 2017 demonstrated a continued trend of exceptional global warmth.
We believe that the perilous world security situation described here would, in itself, justify moving the minute hand of the Doomsday Clock closer to midnight. But there also is a real threat posed by a fundamental breakdown in the international order that has been dangerously exacerbated by recent US actions. In 2017, the United States backed away from its long-standing leadership role in the world, reducing its commitment to seek common ground and undermining the overall effort toward solving pressing global governance challenges. Neither allies nor adversaries have been able to reliably predict US actions or discern between sincere US pronouncements and mere rhetoric.
Allies have needed reassurance about American intentions more than ever. Instead, they have been forced to negotiate a thicket of conflicting policy statements from an administration weakened in its cadre of foreign policy professionals and suffering from turnover in senior leadership. The administration has failed to develop, coordinate and communicate a coherent nuclear policy. This inconsistency constitutes a major challenge for deterrence, alliance management and global stability.
We hope this resetting of the clock will be interpreted exactly as it is meant: an urgent warning of global danger. The time for world leaders to address looming nuclear danger and the march of climate change is long past. The time for the citizens of the world to demand such action is now. It is time to rewind the Doomsday Clock.

Afrin: The Thorn in Turkey’s Side
Nazeer Rida/Asharq AlAwsat/January 27/18
Turkey’s Operation Olive Branch in Afrin is more than just about expelling Kurdish militias, which Ankara deems as “terrorist”, from its borders with Syria. In reality, the operation will serve to consolidate Turkish military presence in northern Syria ahead of forming a “safe zone” 30 kilometers into Syrian territory.
This will allow Ankara to tighten its grip, through the help of Syrian allies, on the northern part of the country that lies between the Idlib province and west of the Euphrates River. This was implied when Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu announced that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had informed US President Donald Trump that there was a need to withdraw American troops from Syria’s Manbij.
Amid the American silence and ineffective Syrian regime statements, the operation reveals Russian-Turkish agreements to allow Ankara to go ahead with its offensive. This operation threatens the Kurdish dream of establishing a “federal state” in northern Syria and places obstacles ahead of the negotiations over a political solution in Syria, which Moscow wants the Kurds to be a part of.
Ankara had threatened a year ago to launch a military operation against the Afrin enclave in the northwestern most part of Syria and it stayed true to its word, kicking it off a week ago, under the name Olive Branch. It said that the operation was aimed at “cementing security and stability on our borders and in the region. It is aimed at eliminating the terrorists of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), Democratic Union Party, Kurdish People’s Protection Units and ISIS in the city of Afrin and saving the people in the region from the oppression of the terrorists.”
The city of Afrin itself has not been targeted by the Turkish strikes, making it a destination for refugees from the border villages, which have so far been the main focus of attacks.
The Turkish operation appears limited exclusively against Kurdish militias that control the city and its countryside. Afrin is one of three regions that are part of the Kurdish vision of the “Democratic Federation of Northern Syria”, which they had declared in the past. It includes the al-Jazeera province that includes the al-Hasakeh region and the countrysides of the al-Raqqa province, the Ain al-Arab (Kobane) province that the militias expanded to include Manbij, 70 kilometers north of Aleppo city, and the Afrin province.
In order to prevent the three provinces from being connected to each other, Turkey launched in August 2016 the Euphrates Shield Operation in which it was able to cut through to the city of al-Bab, 30 kms north of Aleppo. This way, it was able to bar the Kurdish separatists from linking their three provinces together and obstruct their dream of establishing the federal state, which is known as Rojava.
Since then, Turkey has been determined to eliminate the Kurds from Afrin because it views them as an extension of the PKK, which Ankara labels as terrorist. It also has its sights set on Manbij and its countryside, leading observers to believe that it is seeking to control the regions extending from the Idlib province’s eastern borders with Turkey in northwest Syria and the western banks of the Euphrates in northern Aleppo.
Attack on Manbij
Turkish statements do not indicate that the battle in Afrin will end with its forces seizing control of the city. They instead reveal that Ankara will widen its operations towards Manbij, where the US has military bases.
An informed source told Asharq Al-Awsat that the Kurds’ American allies assured them that the Turkish forces will not attack Manbij. This is seen as a clear sign that Washington was not ready to abandon it, while Ankara’s statements on this issue can be interpreted as “intimidation.”
Political solution efforts thwarted
The most significant repercussions of the Afrin operation so far is that it thwarted efforts to reach a political solution in Syria with the participation of the separatist Kurds. The Americans want the Kurds to take part in the talks despite Turkish objections. After their participation in the Geneva talks became complicated, Russian officials announced before the Olive Branch Operation that the Kurds will be part of the Syrian national dialogue congress scheduled for Sochi next week. Their attendance has been put in doubt however after the Kurds accused the Russians of granting Ankara cover for their military operation.
A high-ranking Kurdish source told Asharq Al-Awsat that in wake of the Afrin operation, the Kurds refuse to take part in the Sochi talks.
“We will not head to Sochi under the bombardment. Turkey is attacking us under Russian cover and support, so how can we head to a conference that Ankara is attending and which has been called for by Russia?” he wondered.
Dr. Hisham Jaber, head of the Middle East Center for Studies and Political Research in Beirut, said that the Afrin military offensive “undoubtedly obstructed the Sochi talks.” The Turks no doubt do not want the Sochi path either.
Turkish-Kurdish conflict
Meanwhile, despite Turkey’s repeated assertions that the Afrin operation was linked to its national security, the separatist Kurds view the offensive from a different angle. They see that it is part of “Turkey’s enmity towards the Kurds.”
Head of the Kurdish Center for Studies Nawwaf Khalil told Asharq Al-Awsat that Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party is not only antagonizing the PKK and Democratic Union Party in Syria, but it is antagonizing all Kurds. He noted that Ankara’s opposition to the Iraqi Kurds’ secession from Iraq revealed its view of all Kurds in the region.
Turkey is not taking into account the 500,000 refugees that have fled to Afrin from other parts of Syria during the war, he continued. “We will prove that we are capable of defending ourselves, even if everyone abandoned us.”
Afrin in exchange for Idlib
The Kurds believe that the Operation Olive Branch revealed a possible deal between Russia and the Syrian regime on one side and Turkey on the other to trade Afrin for the Idlib region.
Experts said that Russia is seeking a solution in Idlib that sees the regime reimpose its control, which gave Turkey the green light to enter Afrin that will act as a “consolation prize” instead of Idlib. “Turkey has grown tired of the Idlib file, which has become a burden on it. It will not however abandon it without getting anything in return. This is why it is leaning towards trading it for Afrin.”

The Islamization of Germany in 2017: Part II

Soeren Kern/Gatestone Institute./January 27, 2018
"We must expect further attacks by individuals or terror groups. Islamist terrorism is the biggest challenge facing the BfV and we see it as one of the biggest threats facing the internal security of Germany." — Hans-Georg Maaßen, President of Germany's BfV domestic intelligence agency.
Nearly half (45%) of all crime suspects in Berlin in 2016 were migrants, according to official statistics published by the Berliner Morgenpost.
Thieves broke into an immigration office in the Moabit district of Berlin and stole up to 20,000 blank passports and other immigration documents as well as official stamps and seals.
Around 30,000 rejected asylum seekers have disappeared and the government has no idea where they are, according to Bild.
"One cannot kill millions of Jews so you can bring millions of their worst enemies in their place." — German fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld.
The following is a chronological survey of some of the main stories about Islam and Islamism in Germany during the second half of 2017. Part 1 of this series can be found here.
JULY 2017
July 4. Germany's BfV domestic intelligence agency warned that Salafism is the "fastest-growing Islamic movement in Germany." Its annual report revealed that the number of Salafists in Germany jumped to 9,700 in 2016, up from 8,350 in 2015; 7,000 in 2014; 5,500 in 2013; 4,500 in 2012; and 3,800 in 2011. BfV President Hans-Georg Maaßen said that Germany should brace for further jihadist attacks given growing numbers of potential Islamist militants: "We must expect further attacks by individuals or terror groups. Islamist terrorism is the biggest challenge facing the BfV and we see it as one of the biggest threats facing the internal security of Germany."
July 5. Saleh A., Mahood B. and Hamza C., appeared in court on charges of plotting suicide bombings in Düsseldorf's historic old town. The attack, using explosive vests, was to be financed with money extorted from the Vatican.
July 8. A hundred Islamists are now openly enforcing Sharia law on the streets of Berlin, according to local police. The self-appointed morality police involve Salafists from Chechnya, a predominantly Sunni Muslim region in Russia. The vigilantes are using threats of violence to discourage Chechen migrants from integrating into German society; they are also promoting the establishment of a parallel Islamic legal system in Germany. German authorities appear unable to stop them.
July 9. Up to 300,000 migrants from Syria and Iraq were poised to arrive in Germany on so-called family reunification visas, according to Die Welt.
July 12. A report by the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), the federal government's central institution for monitoring and preventing diseases, confirmed an across-the-board increase in disease since 2015, when Germany took in an unprecedented number of migrants. The Infectious Disease Epidemiology Annual Report — which provides data on the status of more than 50 infectious diseases in Germany during 2016 — offered the first glimpse into the public health consequences of the massive influx of migrants in late 2015.
July 15. Migrants sexually assaulted several women at a folk festival in Schorndorf. When police tried to arrest the perpetrators, hundreds of migrants, many armed with knives, came to their defense. Police were required to call in for back-up from across the region to restore order. "The violence against police officers was frightening," police spokesman Ronald Krötz said.
July 16. Three teenagers "phenotypically of North African origin" assaulted a 39-year-old man on a tram in Berlin because he was wearing a wooden cross.
July 17. Mohammed A., a 27-year-old Lebanese man serving a three-and-a-half-year sentence at a Berlin prison for armed robbery, vowed to carry out jihadist attacks upon his release, according to an analysis of his mobile phone. The threats came to light after police seized the phone during a raid on his prison cell. The man, who was radicalized in prison, was found to have maintained extensive contacts with Islamists across Germany.
July 17. A 26-year-old migrant from Sudan sexually assaulted a 12-year-old girl from Serbia at a refugee shelter in Braunschweig. More than a hundred Serbians attempted to deliver street justice before police intervened.
July 19. German media failed honestly to report the migration crisis, according to a 200-page study by the Otto Brenner Foundation. German newspapers, rather than being objective critics of the government's open-door migration policy, actively advocated for such a policy and sought to silence critics of mass migration by accusing them of xenophobia. "A large segment of the media misjudged their professional role and neglected the enlightening function of their media," the report said.
July 20. Germany's court system was on the verge of collapse due to the massive number of cases challenging asylum decisions, according to Robert Seegmüller, head of the Association of German Administrative Law Judges. Around 250,000 asylum decisions are being challenged in the courts. "The situation is dramatic for administrative courts," he said. "We are now completely stretched to our limits. The administrative court system cannot endure such a figure in the long run. At some point, everything will collapse."
July 23. Germany's Central Council of Jews accused the government of not doing enough to combat rising anti-Semitism. "In some districts in major cities, I would advise people against identifying themselves as Jews," council president Josef Schuster said in an interview with the Bild am Sonntag. "Experience has shown that openly wearing a skullcap or a necklace with the Star of David is enough to attract verbal or physical threats. Anti-Semitic prejudices are especially widespread among Muslim students."
July 24. The Federal Constitutional Court (Bundesverfassungsgericht) ruled that the deportation of so-called Gefährder, potentially dangerous persons, even if they have not been convicted of a crime, is constitutional. The case was brought by an Algerian national who arrived in Germany in 2003. In March 2017, Bremen's interior minister deemed him to be a "dangerous person" potentially planning a jihadist attack. The Algerian claimed that the deportation order against him was unconstitutional. The court ruled that he could be deported provided that the Algerian government would protect his human rights.
July 25. A 39-year-old migrant sexually assaulted an 11-year-old girl on a subway train in Stuttgart. The suspect was detained and released. A "southern-looking" (südländisch Aussehen) sexually assaulted a 30-year-old woman in Stuttgart-Untertürkheim. A 19-year-old Syrian asylum seeker sexually assaulted a 29-year-old woman on a bus in Neu-Ulm.
July 26. Sven Lau, a 35-year-old convert to Islam from Mönchengladbach, was sentenced to five-and-a-half years in prison for helping to fund and equip jihadists in Syria. The charges against Lau dated back to 2013, when he recruited two Salafists living in Germany to join an Islamic State-linked jihadist group in Syria. Lau gained notoriety in 2014, when he founded the "Sharia Police." Members of the group patrolled streets in Wuppertal in a bid to enforce sharia law there.
July 27. A 31-year-old Somali was arrested for attempting to rape a 21-year-old woman in Kassel. He was detained by two passersby who held him until police arrived. An "Indian-looking" (vermutlich indischer Herkunft) man sexually assaulted a 17-year-old girl at the central railway station in Tübingen. A 46-year-old father at an amusement park in Leipzig with his family was stabbed and seriously injured by a group of Afghan youths.
July 28. A 52-year-old German citizen of Algerian origin stabbed to death his 39-year-old ex-wife and her four-year-old son in Teningen. The woman had a restraining order against the man after a failed marriage.
July 28. Ahmad A., a 28-year-old Palestinian failed asylum seeker, stabbed seven people, one fatally, at a supermarket in Hamburg. The suspect, carrying a 20-cm (8-inch) kitchen knife, shouted "Allahu Akbar" ("Allah is the Greatest") and said that he hoped to die as a martyr, but he survived. Hamburg Interior Minister Andy Grote said the suspect "was known as an Islamist but not a jihadist." He also said the suspect had "psychological" issues.
July 29. Three North African migrants ambushed, assaulted and robbed a couple at a park in central Stuttgart.
July 30. A 34-year-old Iraqi-Kurdish asylum seeker armed with an M16 machine gun, at a night club in Konstanz, opened fire, killing one and seriously injuring three others. The attacker, known to local authorities for previous offenses, was shot and killed by police, who attributed the incident to a family dispute.
July 31. German Muslims established a self-styled biker gang — modelled on the Hells Angels — aimed at protecting fellow Muslims from the "ever-growing hatred of Islam." The emergence of the group, whose members apparently aspired to open chapters in cities and towns across Germany, alarmed German authorities, who have warned against the growing threat of vigilantism in the country.
August 1. A poll for Bild am Sonntag found that climate change was the most important issue for German voters ahead of the September 24 elections: 71% said their top personal concern was climate change; 63% said Islamic terrorism and 45% said the migration crisis.
August 2. The Federal Criminal Police Office (Bundeskriminalamt, BKA) reported 36,755 attacks against German police in 2016 — or an average of 100 per day, a significant increase over previous years. The epicenter of the problem in 2016 was North Rhine-Westphalia (8,929 incidents), the state with the largest migrant population, followed by: Bavaria (4,930); Baden-Württemberg (4,355); Berlin (3,154); Lower Saxony (3,030); Hesse (1,870); Saxony (1,573); Rhineland-Palatinate (1,537); Hamburg (1,339); Thüringen (1,228); Schleswig-Holstein (1,237); Brandenburg (1,009); Saxony-Anhalt (899); Mecklenburg-Vorpommern (658); Saarland (521); and Bremen (486).
August 8. Prosecutors in Saarbrücken launched an investigation into Laleh Hadjimohamadvali, an Iranian-born candidate for German parliament, after she said at a campaign rally that Islam is "worse than the plague."
August 11. Hassan A., a 38-year-old Syrian refugee in Saarbrücken, was sentenced to two years in prison for attempting to defraud the Islamic State of €180,000 ($221,000). The man had tried to persuade what he believed to be Islamic State operatives to send him money to purchase camouflage vehicles to be used in jihadist attacks. The court determined that the man had "neither the capability nor the will" to carry out attacks and wanted to keep the money, which was never sent, for himself.
August 11. A 37-year-old Afghan in Leipzig stabbed to death his 34-year-old wife, who was pregnant with their third child. The couple's two children were present during the murder.
August 16. The State Parliament of Lower Saxony approved a law banning full-face Islamic veils in public schools. The law was approved by all parties in parliament following complaints that a growing number of female students were wearing niqabs, full face veils, in Lower Saxony schools. Local Muslim organizations criticized the law as "populist" and "counterproductive." Proponents of the law viewed it as a first step toward achieving a nationwide ban.
August 18. Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan called on Turks in Germany to vote against all the major parties in the September 24 general elections. "I am calling on all my countrymen in Germany: the Christian Democrats, SDP, the Green Party are all enemies of Turkey. Support those political parties who are not enemies of Turkey," Erdogan said in Istanbul, urging ethnic Turks in Germany to "teach a lesson" to those parties.
August 22. In an interview with Bild, Chancellor Angela Merkel answered critics of her desire to continue in power by saying that the longer she rules, the better she gets: "I've decided to run for another four years and believe that the mix of experience and curiosity and joy that I have could make the next four years good ones."
August 23. At least 469 people — more than one a day — were stabbed in Bremen in 2016, according to official documents obtained by Bild. Another 165 knife attacks were registered in nearby Bremerhaven, a 75% increase since 2014. Migrants, according to Bild, were found responsible for most of the violence.
August 27. In an interview with Die Welt, Chancellor Angela Merkel was asked if she had any regrets about her decision to allow more than a million mostly male Muslims into Germany. "All of the important decisions I made in 2015 I would make again," she said.
August 29. A poll for Bild found that the majority of Germans reject the idea of refugees bringing additional family members Germany: 58% percent of those surveyed rejected refugee family reunifications; 42% supported it.
September 2. German authorities were hunting for dozens of members of Jabhat al-Nusra, one of the most violent jihadist groups in Syria, who entered Germany disguised as refugees. The men, all former members of Liwa Owais al-Qorani, a rebel group destroyed by the Islamic State in 2014, are believed to have massacred hundreds of Syrians, both soldiers and civilians. German police reportedly identified around 25 of the jihadists and apprehended some of them, but dozens more are believed to be hiding in cities and towns across Germany.
September 6. A woman wearing a niqab physically assaulted a 40-year-old saleswoman at a fashion boutique in Berlin-Neukölln. The woman apparently was angry that the store was selling lingerie next to Islamic headscarves. The attacker remains at large.
September 9. Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière called on the European Union to standardize the welfare benefits for asylum seekers: "It cannot be that the standards are so different between Romania, Finland, Portugal or Germany. Germany is the country where most want to live, because our procedural and reception conditions are generous compared to other European countries, and because the benefits paid to refugees are quite high compared to other EU countries. This is part of the pull factor (Sogeffekts) to Germany."
September 12. A 23-year-old Afghan convert to Christianity was assaulted at a subway station in Berlin-Neukölln by two passersby who objected to his wearing a cross.
September 16. Two Afghan migrants, aged 27 and 17, raped a 16-year-old girl near a migrant shelter in Munich.
September 21. In Cologne, hundreds of rush-hour trains were delayed after a 29-year-old Iranian migrant climbed onto the Hohenzollern Bridge during rush hour in to protest the rejection of his asylum application.
September 22. Nearly half (45%) of all crime suspects in Berlin in 2016 were migrants, according to official statistics published by the Berliner Morgenpost. Migrants were responsible for 90% of purse snatchings, 85% of heroin-related crimes and 80% of car thefts.
September 22. A parliamentary report found that Chancellor Angela Merkel should not have opened German borders to mass migration in September 2015 without first seeking approval from parliament.
September 22. The German parliament approved a ban on face coverings for drivers. The new rules include a ban not only on burqas and niqabs, but to any facial covering, including, for instance, carnival masks and face-obscuring hoods. Lawmakers said the measure was necessary to "ensure that a driver's identity can be determined," including by automatic cameras installed to catch speeders. The legislation stipulates a fine of €60 ($72) for individuals who partially or fully cover their face while behind the wheel. The Central Council of Muslims in Germany criticized the new law, calling it "politics of symbolism."
September 24. Chancellor Angela Merkel won a fourth term in office, but her center-right CDU/CSU alliance won only 33% of the vote, its worst electoral result in nearly 70 years. Merkel's main challenger, Martin Schulz and his center-left SPD, won 20.5%, the party's worst-ever showing. The real winner of the German election was the Alternative for Germany (AfD), an upstart party that harnessed widespread anger over Merkel's decision to allow into the country more than a million mostly Muslim migrants from Africa, Asia and the Middle East. The AfD won around 13% of the vote to become the country's third-largest party. It was followed by the classical liberal Free Democrats (FDP) with 10.7%, the far-left Linke party with 9.2% and the environmentalist Greens with 8.9%.
September 26. The trial began in Celle of Abu Walaa, a 33-year-old Iraqi, charged with being the chief recruiter in Germany for the Islamic State. He faced charges of belonging to a foreign terrorist organization and funding terrorism. The trial is set to end in January 2018.
October 1. The Network Enforcement Act (Netzwerkdurchsetzungsgesetz, NetzDG) — also known as the Facebook law — entered into force. The measure requires social media platforms with more than two million users to remove "blatantly illegal" hate speech within 24 hours, and less obviously illegal content within seven days, or face fines of up to €50 million ($58 million). Critics argue that the definition of hate speech is ambiguous and subjective and that the new law is a threat to online free speech. The German government plans to apply the law even more widely — including to content on social media networks of any size, according to Der Spiegel.
October 2. Germany's partial ban on face coverings "must be expanded" to include a full ban on the burqa in public, said Andreas Scheuer, the secretary general of the Christian Social Union (CSU), the Bavarian sister party to Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU). "A ban is possible and necessary," he said a day after a burqa ban went into effect in neighboring Austria. "We will not give up our identity, we are ready to fight for it, the burqa does not belong to Germany," he said. The deputy chairman of the CDU/CSU parliamentary group, Stephan Harbarth, said that the partial ban "goes to the limit" of what is constitutionally possible: "I fear that a more far-reaching ban would not be compatible with the Basic Law."
October 3. Beatrix von Storch, the deputy leader of the anti-immigration party, Alternative for Germany (AfD), said that political Islam has no place in Germany. "Islam does not belong to Germany," she told the BBC. "We are in favor of religious freedom of course, but Islam is claiming political power, and this is what we oppose."
October 3. Approximately 1,000 mosques in Germany opened their doors to visitors as part of the 20th annual "Day of Open Mosques." The event, which has been held since 1997 on Germany's national holiday, the Day of German Unity, was conducted under the slogan "Good Neighborhood - Better Society," and aimed at creating transparency and reducing prejudice.
October 4. A 47-year-old migrant from Kazakhstan at a refugee shelter in Eggenfelden castrated a 28-year-old Ukrainian migrant, who bled to death at the scene. It later emerged that the Kazakh man had been raped by the Ukrainian man, who was aided and abetted by a group of migrants from Chechnya. The case drew attention to runaway crime in German refugee shelters.
October 5. The German government plans to cut project funding for the Turkish Islamic organization DITIB by around 80% next year, according to the Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger. The Interior Ministry appropriated €297,500 ($345,000) for 2018, compared to €1.47 million for 2017, and €3.27 million for 2016. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been accused of using DITIB — part of Turkey's Directorate of Religious Affairs, to control over 900 mosques in Germany — to prevent Turkish immigrants from integrating into German society.
October 7. Roughly 60 migrant teenagers attacked each other and police at the 70th annual Harvest Festival in Fellbach. Police described the youths as "exclusively German citizens with a migration background and other migrants." The youths were said to be engaged in "turf wars."
October 8. Chancellor Angela Merkel agreed to cap the number of refugees Germany accepts each year to 200,000. The move was a concession to her conservative Bavarian allies ahead of coalition talks to form a new government. The refugee-cap deal was also interpreted as extending an olive branch to the more than one million Christian Democrats who have defected to the anti-immigration Alternative for Germany (AfD) party in anger over Merkel's open-door migration policy.
On October 8, German Chancellor Angela Merkel agreed to cap the number of refugees Germany accepts each year to 200,000. Pictured: Merkel in December 2014. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
October 9. Thieves broke into an immigration office in the Moabit district of Berlin and stole up to 20,000 blank passports and other immigration documents as well as official stamps and seals.
October 9. An off-the-cuff proposal by Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière to introduce Muslim public holidays sparked a furious debate over the role of Islam in Germany. Speaking at a campaign rally for state elections in Lower Saxony, de Maizière, a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU), said that federal states with large Muslim populations should be allowed to celebrate Muslim public holidays. De Maizière's statement, apparently aimed at enticing Muslim voters, prompted a furious backlash from his own party and political allies, who are still reeling from the CDU's poor results in the general election on September 24.
October 11. The Interior Ministry of Lower Saxony approved a temporary ban on additional refugees from settling in Salzgitter, a city with a high rate of immigration. The immigration restriction, the first of its kind in Germany, is to be reviewed annually.
October 12. A 28-year-old migrant from Nigeria was sentenced to 13 years in prison for stabbing to death a 22-year-old assistant at a refugee shelter in Ahaus near Münster. According to the prosecutor, the two had been in a romantic relationship, and when the woman ended it, the Nigerian, in a jealous rage, stabbed her 21 times. Criminal charges were reduced, however, from murder to manslaughter because the court could not decide if the killing was premeditated.
October 12. An official inquiry into the jihadist attack on a Christmas market in Berlin in December 2016 concluded that the attack could have been prevented, according to Der Spiegel. The 72-page report described the performance of police and prosecutors as "poor," "inadequate," "belated," "flawed" and "unprofessional." It also noted that the Berlin Attorney General's Office missed repeated opportunities to arrest Anis Amri, a failed asylum seeker from Tunisia, in the months before he carried out his attack.
October 12. Hezbollah combatants have entered Germany disguised as refugees from the Middle East, according to a German intelligence report reviewed by The Jerusalem Post. The report also showed increased membership for Hezbollah and Hamas in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia. Around 950 Hezbollah operatives are active in Germany, according to German intelligence.
October 13. An entire wing of a hospital in Bonn was closed after an outbreak of scabies. The area was cleaned and disinfected and sick patients were sent to an isolation ward. The number of people diagnosed with scabies in North Rhine-Westphalia jumped by nearly 3,000% between 2013 and 2016, according to local health officials.
October 14. The trial began in Oldenburg of a 37-year-old migrant from Iraq accused of stabbing his wife, the mother of his five children, who were in the house at the time of the attack. According to the indictment, the Iraqi is said to have murdered his wife in May 2017, by stabbing her at least nine times to restore the "family honor" after he believed she was having an affair with another man. The woman had, in fact, been attending German language courses.
October 14. A mass brawl at a migrant shelter in Dortmund resulted in the stabbing of a 28-year-old migrant. When police attempted to arrest the 19-year-old suspect, they were attacked by a mob of more than 40 migrants. Police used dogs to restore order.
October 16. An 18-year-old Algerian, in Germany illegally, randomly drew a knife on a 65-year-old man in a wheelchair at the central railway station in Mönchengladbach.
October 18. Hans-Georg Maaßen, the head of Germany's BfV domestic intelligence agency, warned that a new generation of junior jihadists posed a long-term threat to Germany. "We see the danger that children of jihadists indoctrinated in Islamism will return from combat zones to Germany," he said. At least 950 German jihadists have traveled to Syria and Iraq to join the Islamic State as of October 2017, according to the BfV. Of those, most are under 30 years of age; one-fifth are women; one-third have returned to Germany, and around 150 have been killed on the battlefield. German intelligence is currently monitoring 80 returnees.
October 22. The German justice is overwhelmed with terrorist proceedings, according to Welt am Sonntag, which reported that the Federal Prosecutor's Office opened more than 900 terrorism cases during the first nine months of 2017. Of those cases, more than 800 involved Islamists. "Given the backlog, we need significantly more staff at both the prosecutor's office and the courts," said Wolfgang Kubicki of the Free Democrats (FDP). "If Islamists are not German nationals, deportation should be compulsory and enforced."
October 22. About 80 Turkish Germans in the Bavarian town of Waldkraiburg called for local authorities to do more to protect them from violent attacks by asylum seekers. The protest came amid a spate of clashes in the town between Turks and newcomers from Africa and the Middle East. Turkish protesters said they were no longer safe on streets or in parks and threatened to take matters into their own hands if police failed to deport criminal migrants.
October 23. A court in Frankfurt ruled that Haikel S., a 36-year-old jihadist from Tunisia, cannot be deported because Tunisian authorities failed to promise that the man would not be jailed for the rest of his life. Haikel S. was arrested in February 2017 for allegedly planning a jihadist attack in Germany on behalf of the Islamic State. He is also wanted in Tunisia on terrorism charges.
October 24. The anti-immigration party, Alternative for Germany (AfD), vowed a "new era" as it made its debut at the first sitting of Germany's newly elected parliament. The AfD's parliamentary group chief, Bernd Baumann, said: "Take note: the old Bundestag has been voted out. The people have decided, a new era begins now. From this hour on, the issues will be renegotiated — not your maneuvers and tricks on parliamentary business but the euro, massive debt, enormous immigration numbers, open borders and brutal criminality in our streets."
October 24. Violent crime, including murder, rape and physical assault, is running rampant in German asylum shelters, according to an intelligence report leaked to the newspaper, Bild. German authorities, who seem unwilling to stem the rising tide of violence, justified their failure to inform the public about the scale of the problem by citing the privacy rights of the criminal offenders.
October 24. Authorities in Hamburg paid €2.4 million ($2.8 million) during the past 12 months for a mostly disused deportation shelter, according to the Hamburger Morgenpost. Only 84 migrants were deported from Hamburg during the past year, at a cost to taxpayers of around €28,500 ($33,000) per migrant.
October 25. Germany deported 14 rejected Afghan asylum seekers. Eleven of the deportees had criminal records for acts that included manslaughter, causing grievous bodily harm, sexual abuse of children, fraud and theft, according to interior ministry spokeswoman Annegret Korff. Greens MP Claudia Roth called on the government to stop the deportations. She argued that Afghanistan is unsafe for returnees: "Expulsions to Afghanistan clearly violate our responsibility to provide humanitarian protection."
October 28. More than 50 migrants from Africa and the Middle East attacked each other with knives and other weapons at the train station in Unna. Police from across North Rhine-Westphalia were deployed to restore order.
October 28. A migrant verbally assaulted a Roman Catholic priest at a supermarket in Werl. He grabbed the priest's shopping cart and shoved it back and forth while shouting, "You unbeliever! You pig!" The priest called police, who told him that he was responsible for his own personal safety.
October 29. Police in Spain arrested a fugitive 33-year-old Pakistani migrant, accused by authorities in Hamburg of murdering his two-year-old daughter by cutting her throat. Police say the murder was an act of revenge against his German wife, who had reported him for spousal abuse, and refused to withdraw the charges. The Pakistani man's asylum application was rejected in 2011; he should have been deported in 2012, but was allowed to stay.
October 31. Yamen A., a 19-year-old Syrian migrant who described himself as a "soldier of the caliphate," was arrested in Schwerin and charged with planning a jihadist attack aimed at killing "as many people as possible." It later emerged that German authorities granted him refugee status and a three year residency permit without ever interviewing him in person.
November 1. Hundreds of male migrants were questioned and more than 30 detained on Halloween in Cologne. At least three women were sexually assaulted. Police said that most of the suspects were of Arab or North African descent.
November 2. Around 30,000 rejected asylum seekers have disappeared and the government has no idea where they are, according to Bild.
November 3. The traditional Christmas market in Berlin was protected by walls of concrete barriers to prevent a repeat of the 2016 jihadist attack in which 12 people were killed and more than 50 injured.
November 6. Germany's Constitutional Court rejected a lawsuit by Muslim parents who wanted their son to be exempt from the religious teachings at a publicly funded Catholic school in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia. According to the court, the boy's parents did not make a strong enough argument for the judges to consider the case.
November 9. More than 200 churches were damaged in Bavaria in 2017, according to The European. Most of the vandalism was attributed to Muslim immigrants. Professor Friedrich Wilhelm Graf said that while attacks on religious symbols have always existed, "the climate has undoubtedly become more aggressive."
November 10. A 23-year-old Syrian man was arrested for raping a pony at a popular children's zoo in Berlin's Görlitzer Park. The incident, which occurred in broad daylight, was witnessed by a babysitter, who photographed the man and called police.
November 11. A 28-year-old Kazakh-German held a 31-year-old clerk at a youth welfare office in Pfaffenhofen hostage at knifepoint for more than five hours. He said he disagreed with the results of a custody battle, in which his one-year-old daughter would be sent to a foster home.
November 13. Sex and drug crimes in Berlin's Alexanderplatz nearly doubled during the first six months of 2017, compared to the same period in 2016, according to police statistics published by Die Welt.
November 13. The Upper Administrative Court in Münster denied a request by two Muslim associations to introduce religious lessons in schools in North Rhine-Westphalia. The court ruled that the Central Council of Muslims in Germany (ZMD) and the Islamrat ("Islam council") did not fulfill all of the criteria of a religious association as defined by the German constitution, and therefore could not claim the same privileges that the Protestant and Catholic churches have in Germany.
November 14. German fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld criticized Chancellor Angela Merkel for opening Germany to "millions" of migrants. On French television, he said:
"One cannot — even if there are decades between them — kill millions of Jews so you can bring millions of their worst enemies in their place. I know someone in Germany who took in a young Syrian and after four days said, 'The greatest thing Germany invented was the Holocaust.'"
November 15. In Gießen, a 29-year-old Kosovar and a 19-year-old Albanian drew a knife on an undercover detective who caught them shoplifting. Police said the Kosovar was wanted on an outstanding arrest warrant. Two "southern-looking" men (südosteuropäisch Aussehen) drew a knife on two children at a school playground in Gießen and took their lunch money.
November 16. Frankfurt politician Rainer Rahn was sued for inciting racial hatred after he made "derogatory" comments about migrants. During a parliamentary debate, Rahn criticized the federal migration commissioner, Aydan Özoguz, for her statement that a specific German culture apart from the language could not be identified because it had always been influenced by external influences and immigration. Rahn responded that the results of migration could be "read in the paper every day." He then read about 30 headlines from different newspapers and magazines about actual or probable crimes of Muslim migrants. "We do not want to read such headlines in the newspaper any longer," he said. Rahn was sued by Martin Kliehm of the far-left Die Linke party.
November 16. Members of the Jewish community in Bochum announced that they will no longer wear skullcaps in public because of attacks on them by Muslim youths.
November 19. Six Syrian jihadists posing as asylum seekers were arrested during police raids on eight homes in Kassel, Hanover, Essen and Leipzig. The men were said to have been plotting to attack a Christmas market in Germany on behalf of the Islamic State.
November 23. The German government reportedly wants to bring back the children of German jihadists who fought in Syria, according the Süddeutsche Zeitung. At least six children — including babies — are currently in detention centers in Iraq. Previously, German intelligence chief Hans-Georg Maaßen warned of the risks arising from older jihadist children: "We see the danger that children of jihadists are indoctrinated. If they return, we could see a new generation of jihadists."
December 3. The Interior Ministry offered to pay migrants €3,000 ($3,700) per family or €1,000 ($1,200) per individual to encourage voluntary departures. Between January and October 2017, only 26,000 rejected asylum seekers left Germany of their own free will.
December 5. An appeals court in Munich acquitted journalist and Islam critic Michael Stürzenberger of all charges over comments in which he called Islam a "fascist ideology." In August, the Munich District Court sentenced him to six months' probation for "insulting religious communities." The original sentence prohibited Stürzenberger from publicly criticizing Islam for the next 3.5 years and ordered him to be imprisoned for six months if he did. The appeals court ruled that his comments are protected by the freedom of expression.
December 7. In response to a parliamentary inquiry, the Federal Public Prosecutor's Office revealed that it had initiated 1,119 terrorism investigations in 2017. Of these, 959 were related to Islamic terrorism, of which 234 involved the Islamic State.
December 8. A court in Freiburg heard that Hussein Khavari, an Afghan man who claimed he was 17 years old to be granted asylum in Germany, is actually 33 years old. The revelation came from Khavari's father, who provided testimony by telephone. Hussein Khavari is accused of raping and strangling Maria Ladenburger, a 19-year-old medical student, in Freiburg, in October 2016. After his arrest, it emerged that he had been arrested and sentenced to ten years for attempted murder in Greece in 2013 before coming to Germany seeking refuge in 2015 as an "unaccompanied minor." Ladenburger, whose father is a senior legal adviser to the European Commission in Brussels, worked in her spare time as a volunteer at migrant shelters in Freiburg.
December 10. The head of Germany's BfV domestic intelligence agency, Hans-Georg Maaßen, said that the number of Salafists in Germany had "risen to an all-time high." There were now 10,800 Salafists in Germany, compared to 9,700 in December 2016. Maaßen also said Islamists from the North Caucasus region represented a major threat to security in Germany, with some 500 extremists from republics such as Chechnya, Dagestan and Ingushetia now thought to be living in the country. "The affinity for violence, martial arts and weaponry held by many Islamists from the North Caucasus calls for attention from German security authorities," he said.
December 10. A 47-year-old Senegalese migrant was arrested after he repeatedly spat on the food of patrons at a burger restaurant at the central railway station in Dortmund. When police arrived, he greeted them with a "Hitler salute." Police said he was known to them for previous offenses.
December 12. Two Palestinian supporters of the Islamic State were arrested in Salzgitter. Mahmoud Abu S. and Ahmad Abu S. were said to have promoted jihadist propaganda on the internet. They were charged with support of a foreign terrorist group.
December 13. Anti-Semitism among Muslim migrants is rampant and requires urgent attention, according to a study commissioned by the American Jewish Committee's Ramer Institute for German-Jewish Relations in Berlin.
December 14. Managers of the Vahrenwalder Bad, a public swimming pool in Hanover, are facing a growing number of problems involving Muslim women, according to Die Welt. "Women go into the water in street clothes, have a picnic on the edge of the pool, dye their hair in the bathroom and leave behind considerable rubbish," the paper reported. "Pool employees are threatened by husbands and brothers. Yes, it's all about Muslim women," city spokeswoman Ulrike Serbent said. "The women come from a different culture. We are working on effective measures."
December 15. President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said that Muslim immigrants in Germany must reject anti-Semitism. He said it was a "non-negotiable" condition for living in Germany: "There are things which are part of Germany. And one of these is our responsibility for our past: the lessons of two World Wars, the lessons from the Holocaust, the responsibility for Israel's security, the rejection of any form of racism and anti-Semitism. For this responsibility, no line can be drawn under the past for later generations — and no exceptions be made for immigrants. It is non-negotiable — for all who live in Germany and want to live here!"
December 15. Linda W., a 16-year-old German convert to Islam who ran away from home and married a Chechen jihadist in Istanbul, said in a television interview that joining the Islamic State was a "dumb idea" which "completely ruined my life." Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said that the girl, who was not in combat and whose husband died on the battlefield, is currently being held in a Baghdad prison and that the Iraqi judiciary will determine whether she will face the death penalty. It remained unclear whether German authorities would request her extradition.
December 18. Approximately half of the 720 people who are classified as "dangerous Islamists" do not pose an immediate threat, according to the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA), which used a "novel analysis system" to determine which Islamists pose the greatest threat. The objective is to help police and intelligence agencies better focus limited resources. The National Chairman of the GdP police union, Oliver Malchow, said that complete monitoring of all Islamists is impossible: "First, this interferes with privacy rights, and second, the police use around 24 officers for a 24-hour observation, so there is a lack of capacity."
December 19. A 19-year-old Afghan migrant tried to drown his 17-year-old German girlfriend in a river in Berlin after a relationship dispute. He himself could not swim. Unconscious, he was revived by paramedics who pulled him from the river. The woman survived.
December 20. A school in Lüneburg postponed a Christmas party after a Muslim student complained that singing Christmas carols during school was incompatible with Islam. The school's decision to reschedule the event as a non-compulsory after-school activity generated "a flood of hate mail and even threats against school management and school board."
December 26. The head of German domestic intelligence in North Rhine-Westphalia, Burkhard Freier, said that women were taking the lead in creating parallel societies in Germany, partly because many charismatic male leaders of the Salafist movement are in prison. "In North Rhine-Westphalia, we have a so-called sister network with 40 women in view," he said. "The men have realized that women can network much better and therefore are much more able to connect the Salafist scene and keep it alive. The women are now ideology producers. This makes Salafism a family affair, it begins to create something that is much harder to liquidate, namely Salafist society."
December 31. New Year's Eve celebrations in Berlin included "safe zones" for women for the first time in the city's history. The zones were aimed at preventing mobs of male migrants from sexually assaulting German women. Police Commissioner Rainer Wendt said the zones sent a "devastating" message that there are zones of security and zones of insecurity. From Wendt's point of view, this means the end of equal rights, freedom of movement and self-determination. Women should have a right to be safe everywhere.
*Soeren Kern is a Senior Fellow at the New York-based Gatestone Institute.
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Cuba: End Of An Era?
YOSSI MEKELBERG/Arab News/January 27/18
For almost six decades, Cuba has been an iconic place of courage, stamina and standing up for one’s beliefs while defying a superpower, despite having to endure a punishing US embargo because of this. It might not be the socialist paradise that the leaders of the 1959 revolution promised, but they still built a society with a strong commitment to social justice. Cuba is a fascinating place, full of contradictions. In all my visits there, including one with my students earlier this month, I have found it difficult not to admire its people’s perseverance in the face of adversity. So many of them live in poverty, but it never hampers their eternal optimism, even happiness, expressed through their music, art, and the endless positivity that they never fail to project.
Yet one would be mistaken to interpret this optimism as satisfaction with their current situation. More and more Cubans are expressing their desire for change. They complain Cuban-style, which is more of a grumble than complaint. They are proud of being Cubans, and would not like others to think ill of their country. Nevertheless, they long for more opportunities to improve their economic situation and standard of living, and to have more say in the changes that the country is going through. But they do not want to see a reversal of the revolution and what it has achieved for them. This is Cuba’s and the Cubans’ conundrum. Cuba will witness a momentous event, at least symbolically, this April when 86-year-old President Raul Castro will pass the torch to his Vice President Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez. Well, almost. Castro is not in a hurry to relinquish power altogether. Even when he ceases to be president, he will still retain the all-powerful position of general secretary of the Communist Party.
In addition, Castro was selected earlier this week as a candidate for Cuba’s National Assembly of People’s Power by the Segundo Frente municipality in Santiago de Cuba. Once again the symbolism is clear, as Santiago de Cuba is the cradle of the revolution.
Changes are evident across the island, albeit mainly in the capital Havana. Cubans are demonstrating their entrepreneurial character by starting private businesses, increasingly in partnership with foreign investors. The tourism industry, which is a major source of hard currency, is booming.
But this creates one of the most striking distortions in the Cuban economy, which leads to a tremendous loss of human talent for work in this sector, or in any job that involves contact with foreigners. Cuba runs two currencies in parallel: The CUP, which is the peso that ordinary Cubans use, and the convertible peso, or CUC, used by foreign visitors, which is worth roughly $1.
Since 80 percent of the workforce is employed by the government and earns about the same, many Cubans, including highly educated ones, opt for employment in shops, hotels and restaurants, or as tourist guides, as long as they are paid or tipped in CUCs.
Cuba is a highly educated nation with extremely high levels of literacy. For example, it produces more doctors per capita than any other country. Not only does it send its doctors to work in the developing world, but it trains, free of charge, doctors from those countries most in need of such practitioners.
But as much as the old guard tries to maintain the spirit and values of the revolution, the younger generation of Cubans, though they love the free health system, free education and guaranteed (though modest) housing, nevertheless also longs for Western-style consumerism. Unfortunately, they do not always make the connection between the introduction of free-market capitalism and the high price that is attached to it.
The country will witness a momentous event, at least symbolically, this April when 86-year-old President Raul Castro will pass the torch to his Vice President Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez.
No discussion on the situation in Cuba would be complete without examining its relations with the US. Toward the end of the Obama administration, diplomatic relations were at long last resumed.
Through executive orders, then-President Barack Obama managed to weaken the embargo, although he was unable to end it, as that power is in the hands of the US Congress. But changes were quickly seen, with American tourists flocking to explore the country, and those fabulous vintage cars that at home they could only see in museums.
This development seems to have been brought to a near standstill through President Donald Trump’s recent attempts to reverse his country’s improving relations with the island. During his election campaign, he promised the Cuban community in the US, most of whom live in Florida and are sworn enemies of the Castros, that he would undo Obama’s rapprochement policies. Already, Cubans who want to travel to the US can no longer apply for visas in Havana. They must travel to Mexico or Columbia to do this, which makes it a very expensive trip and one beyond the means of most. This development has been particularly harmful to the business and academic collaborations that had just started budding. Cuba has embarked on a journey of change. There is a realization that the current situation is unsustainable. The world in which the Cuban revolution was conceived and born is no more. But there are no easy options. To liberalize the economy too quickly might reverse the island to the state it was in under former President Fulgencio Batista before 1959: Subservient to US business and political interests.
Too slow a change will risk a growing malaise not only among the young, but also among wider segments in society. It remains, therefore, for Cubans to develop a model of change that serves them best, by maintaining the values of the revolution, but without stifling the resourcefulness of the Cuban people that will take them truly into the 21st century.
• Yossi Mekelberg is professor of international relations at Regent’s University London, where he is head of the International Relations and Social Sciences Program. He is also an associate fellow of the MENA Program at Chatham House. He is a regular contributor to the international written and electronic media.
Twitter: @YMekelberg

Why Iran Is Silent On Trump’s New Mideast Strategy
The US has not been much involved in Syria since the civil war began in 2011. Mainly, it has left the road clear for Russia and its allies, Iran and Turkey, to invest politically and militarily, while the US concentrated on combating Daesh.
Now, with the war in Syria almost at an end and a different administration in Washington, the US has seen the importance of its presence, and wants to dismantle the Russian, Iranian and Turkish peace process in Astana, Kazakhstan, which is taking place in parallel with UN-sponsored talks in Geneva.
The US wants to bring peace initiatives back under UN supervision, so that Washington can monitor the process and play a role in events when the war is over and Daesh has been comprehensively defeated. This would mean that Iran and Russia could no longer shape the regional political climate based on their own interests. Iran’s leaders have so far expressed no opinion on the new US strategy for the Middle East, although Washington has openly declared that its major aim is to counter Iran’s malign influence in the region. US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was clear and unequivocal: US troops will not leave Syria, and there is an open-ended commitment to pave the way for the departure of Bashar Assad and to block Iran’s ambitions.
The Tehran regime is desperate to save the nuclear deal, because it may be all that is keeping the clerics in power. The reason for the silence from Tehran is that US President Donald Trump will make a final decision in May on US participation in the 2015 agreement to curb Iran’s nuclear program in return for lifting economic sanctions, and any Iranian challenge to his Middle East strategy could directly affect that decision. Preserving the nuclear deal is crucial for the regime in Tehran. It is their savior, and its economic benefits could calm angry Iranians, who took to the streets this month in widespread protests demanding the toppling of the regime. Iran has shown itself capable of using militias as proxies to serve its interests in the region, from Hezbollah’s role in Syria to the Popular Mobilization Forces in Iraq — formed to confront terrorists, and then cleverly absorbed into the national army to preserve their legality. If Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps is looking to form another militia in Syria to support its long-term regional strategy, it may have to recalculate — as the powers confronting Iran’s leaders include not only their own people, who resent the expense, but now also the US. Tehran’s actions over the next three months, before Trump announces his decision, will be interesting to observe.  Iranians are upset and angry about the regime’s spending on sectarian wars in Syria and elsewhere in the region while they are mired in poverty. How much longer will they tolerate this regime’s oppression?
If living conditions in Iran do not improve in the short term, there is every possibility of further uprisings. Meanwhile, the US has made its strategy clear, and Iran’s options are to change its behavior or continue with its regional meddling and face the consequences.
Iran’s political and economic system is fragile. Public frustration with the economic situation is growing, as is dissatisfaction with government corruption.
Iran at the moment is a pressure cooker. Trump’s decision on the nuclear deal could blow the lid off.
• Camelia Entekhabifard is an Iranian-American journalist, political commentator and author of “Camelia: Save Yourself By Telling the Truth” (Seven Stories Press, 2008).
Twitter: @CameliaFard

Egypt Needs An Election That Is Fair For All
MOHAMMED NOSSEIR/Arab News/January 27/18
One of the fundamental pillars of democracy is to establish public confidence in the election mechanism. Insisting on a fictional mechanism in Egypt will drive many to distance themselves from the political sphere and incite others to consider engaging in unpleasant alternatives. Most Egyptian political observers are almost certain that President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi will be re-elected in March’s election, yet the state does not truly want to run a fully-fledged free and fair election. Moreover, according to the Egyptian Constitution, a president may not serve more than two terms totaling eight years in office, and I doubt this provision can be easily changed any time in the near future. Egypt’s true challenge does not lie in the re-election of El-Sisi per se, but in our ability to establish a presidential election system that is acceptable to all political forces and can last for many years. The manner in which the election is currently being managed works on strengthening the position of citizens who have lost hope of any genuine political reform. This segment of the population, which has been expanding, is choosing different routes: Its members are either completely distancing themselves from politics or adopting extreme views that aim at using violence to change the ruling regime. Meanwhile, the very few citizens who are still trying to push for reform through peaceful means are clearly heading toward a resounding defeat. Running a fully-fledged democratic presidential poll will probably not change the result, but it would have a substantially more beneficial and long-lasting outcome for our country. Egyptians who argue that a “make-believe” election is a temporary solution that serves our needs during the current period are running out of good arguments. They have been using the same reasoning in every election for decades. Furthermore, El-Sisi does not need this kind of artificial support, particularly in light of his supporters’ assertions concerning his widespread popularity.
To persist (as we are currently doing) in planning a tailor-made presidential election will not only raise questions about how Egypt is truly ruled; it also deters international investors from expanding their businesses into Egypt. This kind of election process does not create sufficient confidence in our governing system, which obviously affects international investors’ decisions. We are not even applying Hosni Mubarak’s old policy of empowering a few cronies (by offering them political protection) to encourage investors to expand into Egypt. The current method of managing the presidential election, with its resistance to the application of any realistic political process, is encouraging Egyptian citizens to express their frustration on social media, where they incite their acquaintances against the government. The arguments these citizens present to their followers at home, and to the international political community, usually have more merit than the viewpoint espoused by the state, which lacks all aspects of elementary wisdom about ruling a country competently. The Egyptian state believes that it can easily rule Egypt in a manner that suits its policy, driving the country toward the destination it desires, while imposing its tactics on our population of nearly 100 million inhabitants. This approach overlooks the fact that a tiny, determined percentage of this large population, working on foiling the state’s strategy, could easily constitute a solid blockade in the face of its plans. This segment would not emerge if the state ran an objective election.
Prior to blaming citizens and accusing them of working against the state, we should ask whether we have provided them with a genuine political path to pursue. Enabling only one or two candidates to compete for the presidency in a show election with a predetermined outcome makes it very difficult to convince Egyptians, and the world, that Egypt is running a free and fair election. Running a fully-fledged democratic presidential election would probably end in the same result — but it would have a substantially more beneficial and long-lasting outcome for our country.
• Mohammed Nosseir, a liberal politician from Egypt, is a strong advocate of political participation and economic freedom.
Twitter: @MohammedNosseir

When will Iran’s threats be countered once and for all?
Dr. Khaled M. Batarfi/Al Arabiya/January 27/18
When a nation, which is a founding member of the United Nations, is continuously attacked by another member via proxies, fifth columns and sleeping cells, what is the responsibility of the world community? My country has been targeted by neighboring Iran for decades. Since the establishment of the theocratic regime on the other side of the Arabian Gulf, we have been on the receiving end of all kinds of meddling in our internal affairs, support of local and foreign terrorists and the execution of terrorist attacks. When the Khomeini regime took over our eastern neighbor, Iran, it established a constitution based on exporting the so-called “Islamic” revolution to the rest of the world, starting with neighboring “Muslim” countries. The idea is to convert Sunnis to Jafari Shiites (who believe in Khomeini as the Deputy of the Absent Imam, and the new Caliph of all Muslims “Al Wali Al Faqih”).
At the same time, they encouraged Shiite minorities in other countries to follow the same “Reference” instead of their traditional references in Holy Karbala and Najaf, Iraq. In return, their Iranian Supreme Leader would help them revolt, rule their countries, and join the new Caliphate.
No time was wasted. The followers did revolt in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Iraq, Lebanon and Afghanistan, and later on in Nigeria and Yemen. They succeeded in opening the gates to direct Iranian influence, including military influence in Syria, Lebanon, Yemen and Iraq. They are still in the process of grouping, organizing and evangelizing in Syria, Egypt, Turkey, Algeria, Somalia, Indonesia and anywhere they can. Some governments, such those in Malaysia and Sudan, understood the true nature of Iranian “peaceful” political and religious activities. They eventually discovered the real goals behind such sectarianism and evangelism, and shut them down. (Does this remind you of Marxist cells?) In the Kingdom’s Eastern Province, right after the revolution of 1979, some Shiites went out in a rampage demonstration, and until today, some followers of the Shiite Caliph receive training and direction, arms and cash, to spy, recruit, sabotage and attack oil and government facilities, as well as security forces. The same has happened in Bahrain and Kuwait, as more and more terrorist cells, and arms shipments and deposits are discovered.
Since the 1980s, our diplomats and diplomatic missions from Turkey to the Philippines have been attacked by Iranian agents. Saudi citizens have been assassinated, kidnapped and threatened everywhere, even including Saudi diplomats and Shiite tourists in Iran. And our society is still targeted by incitement, drugs and arms exports by Hezbollah and Houthis.
For the last three years, Iranian short- and long-range missiles have been threatening our cities and citizens every day. In Yemen, Iranian militias trained by the Revolutionary Guards and Hezbollah, are committing war crimes against us as well as against their own people. As documented by the US, UN and the Security Council, Iranian-made and smuggled weapons of mass destruction are being used by Houthi militias in these attacks, in savage violation of Security Council resolutions.
Protecting our sovereignty
We took all legal means of protestation and went to all lengths of international law. The Gulf Cooperation Council, the Arab League, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the United Nations and the Security Council were all informed and supportive of our position. Yet, here we are, 40 years later, in the same jam, facing the same threats and dangers! So the questions that have been begging for answers for decades are: Where do we go from here, and what do we do to protect our sovereignty, unity and peace? If the world that vowed after World War II to have a zero tolerance for tyrants like Hitler and aggressors, such as Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy and Colonial Japan, is comfortable enough appeasing Iran with the nuclear deal, happy enough doing business with them, and lazy enough to provide us with no more than lip service, what are we supposed to do as a law-abiding peaceful member of the world community? Do we just keep protecting ourselves from the attacks as they come? Do we continue to believe in and support world organizations? Do we keep sending more complaints and requests for action in the hope that one day, the world community will respond?
It seems that the world will only interfere when one takes the law into one’s own hands and responds to enemies in kind. Certainly, we cannot wait for more Iranian-made ballistic missiles to rain down on our cities and towns, and Iranian terrorists to attack us on every front. If the world police do not take action, then we must take it!

The reality of Trump’s conflict with the media
Mamdouh AlMuhaini/Al Arabiya/January 27/18
It’s difficult to understand the fierce and ongoing conflict between Trump and the American media without understanding the secret motives of the two parties. Trump has raised the slogan “America First| and the media has been critical of him as he continued to lament America’s status. However, these are how things look on the outside as the real conflict has nothing to do with all this. Take the book “Fire and Fury,” in which author Michael Wolff attacked the American president, as an example. Apart from the profit made (more than 1 million copies were sold in a week), Wolff wanted to show that the president has mental health issues by citing his embarrassing behavior, careless decisions, provocative tweets and unhealthy eating habits. The aim is to collect as much evidence as possible from within the White House to get people to doubt Trump’s mental health and show that he is not capable of assuming the difficult and sensitive tasks of a president and he must therefore be expelled from office. But the accusations which Wolff marketed are nothing new as they’ve been repeatedly made by media outlets that are hostile to Trump before he even became president. This is in addition to accusations of Trump’s complicity with the Russians, which has not been proven. So, Trump has not only been complicit with the Russians but he’s also mentally unstable! This American propaganda is fueled by attempts to topple the media’s worst enemy. If it does not do so now, it will exhaust him until a democrat candidate defeats him in the 2020 elections.
Trump has deprived the media of its credibility. Their accusations did not influence Trump’s supporters at all and rather showed him as a hero as his popularity increased with every insult made against at him.
Trump repeatedly says that these journalists are dishonest and that they oppose the American people’s interests. Some observers have voiced surprise at Trump’s behavior towards the media and noted that this approach is tantamount to suicide because the media is a massive machine and it would be stupid for any politician to be hostile to it as it would destroy his image like what happened in the past with George W. Bush. This perspective is relevant but in Trump’s case it did not work as the more the media attacked him, the more popular he became. Winning the presidential elections defeated the media’s ego after it had put its entire strength into see him lose and humiliated.
‘A corrupt mafia’
A New York Times reporter had even told Hillary Clinton to make Trump suffer a humiliating defeat so no other "clown" dares nominate himself for the presidency. Trump made a smart move and stood up the media before it launched its campaign against him. He put the media within the mold of the transcendent elite and the corrupt institution that is hostile to simple men whom he supports and whom he will defend when he becomes president. He also pledged to destroy this corrupt mafia that only cares about its own interests.
Trump has deprived the media of its credibility. Their accusations did not influence Trump’s supporters at all and rather showed him as a hero as his popularity increased with every insult made against at him. Trump has practiced the same approach after he became president. The more the media attacked him, the more it served his interests. It is illogical for him to reach a truce with this hostile media or to attempt to please it when he actually benefits from it on the electoral level. This strategy proved successful for Trump during the first time he ran for elections and he may succeed again especially if he implements the promises he made during the presidential campaign, particularly the economic ones which seem at their best now. If we put accusations and insults aside, we’d realize that the conflict has nothing to do with all these allegations but it’s actually a competition over influence. There’s a personal and partisan conflict in which all legitimate and illegitimate tools are being used – a conflict that is not significant outside American borders. What matters to us in the region is relevant to answering these two questions: Do the ideas and strategies of the US president harmonize with our interests? Does the media care about these interests? The answer to these two questions is clear and is summed up in the fact that the media which supported Obama and cheered for his nuclear deal with Iran and warned him against helping the Syrians and incited him against the Gulf is the same media which is attacking Trump who has done the exact opposite of his predecessor. This is what actually matters. Apart from that, we observe the American internal situation and write about it for fun, like we’re watching an interesting football match around the clock.
This article was first published in Arabic.