March 03/2018
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani


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Bible Quotations
The Lord provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights
Jonah 01/01-17:"The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai:  “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.” But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord. Then the Lord sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up.  All the sailors were afraid and each cried out to his own god. And they threw the cargo into the sea to lighten the ship. But Jonah had gone below deck, where he lay down and fell into a deep sleep.  The captain went to him and said, “How can you sleep? Get up and call on your god! Maybe he will take notice of us so that we will not perish.” Then the sailors said to each other, “Come, let us cast lots to find out who is responsible for this calamity.” They cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah. 8 So they asked him, “Tell us, who is responsible for making all this trouble for us? What kind of work do you do? Where do you come from? What is your country? From what people are you?” He answered, “I am a Hebrew and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.” This terrified them and they asked, “What have you done?” (They knew he was running away from the Lord, because he had already told them so.) The sea was getting rougher and rougher. So they asked him, “What should we do to you to make the sea calm down for us?” “Pick me up and throw me into the sea,” he replied, “and it will become calm. I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you.” Instead, the men did their best to row back to land. But they could not, for the sea grew even wilder than before. 14 Then they cried out to the Lord, “Please, Lord, do not let us die for taking this man’s life. Do not hold us accountable for killing an innocent man, for you, Lord, have done as you pleased.”  Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm.  At this the men greatly feared the Lord, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows to him. Now the Lord provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.
Question: "What do I need to do to hear, 'Well done, good and faithful servant' when I arrive in heaven?"
Answer: In Jesus’ parable of the talents, the Lord tells of two faithful servants who used what they had been given to increase the master’s wealth. When the master returned from a long absence, he rewarded his two faithful servants and said to each of them, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!” (Matthew 25:21, 23). Every Christian longs to hear those words from Jesus’ lips someday in heaven.
We are saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8–9), but we are saved “to do good works” (Ephesians 2:10). Jesus spoke of laying up treasures in heaven (Matthew 6:20), and His parable of the talents hints at various rewards for those who faithfully serve Him in this world.
To hear those words, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” from Jesus, first make sure you are saved. The unbelieving will never hear those words, for “without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6). And recognize that Jesus is not only your Savior; He is also your Lord (see Luke 6:46). “Serve the LORD with gladness!” (Psalm 100:2, ESV).
Here are some ideas on ways you can serve the Lord:
1. Share the gospel. The Lord Jesus desires us to make disciples, teaching others of the nature and character of God and sharing the meaning of His death and resurrection (Matthew 28:18–20).
2. Help the disadvantaged. In the story of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19–31, the rich man is condemned because he doesn’t help Lazarus and because he trusts in his wealth too much. Don’t put self-gratification before the needs of others. First John 3:17 says, “If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?”
3. Forgive others of their offenses. This isn’t the same as reconciliation or trust, but it means you renounce vengeance. The Lord Jesus modeled forgiveness: “When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to [the Father] who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:23).
4. View your position of authority as an opportunity to help the people under you, and view your position of subservience as an opportunity to submit to your authority, just as Jesus submitted to the Father’s authority. Either way, you can be Christlike, because Jesus was both master and servant to different people. “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2).
5. Seek to know the character of God better through church fellowship, listening to sermons, studying the Bible, praying, and chronicling how He seems to have been involved in your life.
6. Recognize that every advantageous position you’re in is because of God, the Source of every blessing: “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights” (James 1:17).
7. Be willing to be unpopular, displaying rare courage like the Good Samaritan in Jesus’ parable (Luke 10:30–37). Do what the Bible says is right, always. “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29, ESV).
8. In introspective moral judgment (evaluating your own character), look at the character of Jesus as a measure rather than rationalize your questionable actions and attitudes. Show humility.
It all comes down to this: love God more than anything, and love others sincerely (Mark 12:30–31). At the judgment seat of Christ, those who are faithful to the Lord who saved them will hear those words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” No true servant of the Lord could ask for more.
Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on March 02-03/18
Working with Hezbollah: The Elephant in US-Lebanon Policy/Owen Kirby/The Hill/March 02/18
The Hariri drama and Saudi Arabia/Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya/March 02/18
The Legal Case for Striking North Korea First/John R. Bolton/Gatestone Institute/March 02/18
How the Left Became its Own Worst Enemy - Part II/Denis MacEoin/Gatestone Institute/March 02/18
Palestinians: The "Ugly Crime" of a School Curriculum/Bassam Tawil/Gatestone Institute/March 02/18
Trump the Deal-maker and the Middle East/Amir Taheri/Asharq Al Awsat/March 02/18
The prospect of Turkish-Greek flare-up over Cyprus gas/Huda al-Husseini/Al Arabiya/March 02/18
Interfaith conference: Opportunities for dialogue and challenges of conflict/Fahad Suleiman Shoqiran/Al Arabiya/March 02/18
Greater Damascus: The Final Touches on the New Demographic Map/Eyad Abu Shakra/Asharq Al Awsat/March 02/18
Why Europe's Google Rulings Don't Benefit Consumers/Leonid Bershidsky/Bloomberg/March 02/18
The Pakistani State's Official Fatwa Against Jihad Is Bogus, Deceptive, And Meaningless; The World Will Be Better Without It/Tufail Ahmad/MEMRI/March 02/18
Kuwait’s homegrown priest celebrates Bible and bedouin culture/AFP/ِArab Times/March 02/2018
Why Iranian regime should face justice over Syria/Dr. Majid Rafizadeh/Arab News/March 02/18

Titles For Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on March 02-03/18
Saint Youhana Maroun
President Michel Aoun unveils a statue of Emir Majid Arsalan in Khaldeh.
French President Postpones Visit to Lebanon
Mashnouq Says Itani Innocent as al-Hajj Questioned over 'Fabricating' Case
SF Major Arrested over Suspected Links to Itani's Case
Sami Gemayel Calls for Comprehensive Healthcare System Away from Favoritism
Employees Threatened With Job Loss in Bid to Silence Kataeb
ISF Arrests 'Dangerous' Drug Dealer in Mount Lebanon
Man Found Dead in Tabarja
Army commander meets head of Supreme Disciplinary Board
Gen. Aoun: Army Ready to Confront Any Israeli Border Encroachment Attempt
Families of prisoners cut off Riyaq road demanding amnesty be approved quickly
Bou Assi, Chinese Ambassador sign aid protocol
Khoury at Pierre Sadeq's awards' ceremony: Pierre Sadeq inspiring, resourceful man
Landmine explosion in Abbasieh, shepherd survives
Geagea during dinner banquet in honor of LF Ministers: Vote for candidates capable of building strong state
Sami Gemayel, Souaid tackle latest electoral developments
Jreissati: Army and resistance maintain full readiness to defend Lebanon's rights
Working with Hezbollah: The Elephant in US-Lebanon Policy
The Hariri drama and Saudi Arabia

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on March 02-03/18

UN: War crimes being committed in Syria’s Ghouta must be prosecuted
At least 17 dead as Turkish jets attack pro-government forces in Afrin
Syrian government forces advance in east Ghouta assault
UNICEF: Aid convoy for 180,000 Syrians could go on Sunday
Iran’s Khamenei hails ‘resistance’ of Syria’s Assad
US calls Russia idea of Syria humanitarian corridors ‘a joke’
Eight Turkish soldiers killed in Syria, 13 wounded
Trump and Macron say will respond strongly to use of chemical weapons in Syria
Israel police question Netanyahu in telecoms corruption case
Kremlin Says Russia not Interested in 'Arms Race'
France, US 'Will not Tolerate Impunity' on Syria Chemical Weapons
Attacks Target French Embassy, Military HQ in Burkina Capital
Situation 'Under Control' at French Missions in Burkina, Several Attackers Killed
Turkish Jets Kill Pro-Regime Forces in Syria’s Afrin
Deadly Kabul Car Bomb Targets Foreign Forces
Saudi FM Reveals Anticipated Crown Prince Visit to US
Azerbaijan: 24 Killed in Fire at Drug Rehab Clinic
PA Welcomes First Visit of Prince William to Palestine'
Latest Lebanese Related News published on March 02-03/18
Saint Youhana Maroun

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
John Maron (Arabic: يوحنا مارون‎, Youhana Maroun; Latin: Ioannes Maronus) (born in 628 in Sirmaniyah or Sarmin, present Syria – died in 707 in Kfarhy, Lebanon), was a Syriac monk, and the first Maronite Patriarch. He is revered as a saint by the Maronite and Roman Catholic Churches, and is commemorated on March 2. He died and was buried in Kfarhy near Batroun, in Lebanon, where a shrine is dedicated to him.
The first Maronite Patriarch
The Patriarch of Antioch, Anastasius II was martyred in 609. With the ongoing Byzantine–Sasanian War and general unrest in the area, Constantinople began to appoint a series of titular patriarchs.[2] Maronite sources give the date of John Maron’s election to Patriarch of Antioch and All the East as 685.[2] John received the approval of Pope Sergius I, and became the first Maronite Patriarch.
John Maron works are in Syriac:
On Faith
Questions to the Monophysites
Early life
John was born in Sarum, a town located south of the city of Antioch.[1] He was the son of Agathon and Anohamia. He was called John the Sarumite since his father was governor of Sarum. His paternal grandfather, Prince Alidipas, was the nephew of Carloman, a Frankish Prince, and governed Antioch. John was educated in Antioch and the Monastery of Saint Maron, studying mathematics, sciences, philosophy, theology, philology and scripture. He became a monk at the monastery, adding the name Maron to his own.
John studied Greek and patrology in Constantinople.[1] Returning to Saint Maron’s, he wrote on such diverse topics as teaching, rhetoric, the sacraments, management of Church property, legislative techniques, and liturgy. He composed the Eucharistic Prayer which still bears his name. As a young priest he engaged himself in ecumenical debates with the Monophysites. Noted as a teacher and preacher, he explained the doctrine of the Council of Chalcedon (which focused on the nature of Jesus as both God and human), wrote a series of letters to the faithful against Monothelitism which Beit-Marun had adopted, and then travelled Syria to explain the heresy.

President Michel Aoun unveils a statue of Emir Majid Arsalan in Khaldeh.
LCCC/March 02/18/President Michel Aoun unveiled today a statue of late patriotic Druze prominent leader, prince Majid Arsalan. The celebration that was attended by numerous officials and by the celebrated close family in the town of Khaldeh. Prince Majid Arsalan is considered a great national independence hero. Son of the celebrated hero, Minister Faysal Araslan delivered a speech during the event.
Emir Majid Toufic Arslan
Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Born February 1908
Choueifat, Lebanon
Died September 18, 1983 (aged 75)
Beirut, Lebanon
Emir Majid Toufic Arslan (Arabic: الأمير مجيد توفيق أرسلان‎) (born February 1908 in Choueifat, Lebanon — died September 18, 1983 in Khaldeh, south of Beirut) was a Lebanese Druze leader and head of the Arslan feudal Druze ruling family. Emir Majid Arslan was the leader of the Yazbaki (Arslan affiliations) faction. Majid Arslan was a national political figure with a role in Lebanon's independence, a long-running Member of the Lebanese Parliament and a government minister for many times with a number of important ministerial portfolios, most notably Defense, Health, Telecommunications, Agriculture and Justice.
Personal life
Emir Majid Arslan was the son of Emir Toufic Arslan who helped found Greater Lebanon in 1920. He had three brothers (Nouhad, Riad, Melhem) and a sister (Zahia). Emir Majid studied at the famous French school, Mission Laïque Française.
In 1932, he married his cousin, Emira Lamiss Shehab. She bore him two sons: Emir Toufic (1935 — 2003) and Emir Faysal (1941 - 2009).
In 1956, after his first wife’s death, Prince Majid remarried Khawla Jumblatt. She bore him three daughters (Princesses Zeina, Rima, and Najwa) and a son, Prince Talal Arslan, current Head of the House of Arslan and a Druze leader.
He was known for his exceptional skills in horsemanship and would often exercise his hobby in a southern village El Mageedieh (3 km²), named after him.
Political career
Emir Majid Arslan ran for parliamentary elections in 1931 and won the Druze seat of Aley Cazaa district. His allies also won the elections. From 1931 until his death in 1983, he and his allies would win all the parliamentary elections of 1934, 1937, 1943, 1947, 1951, 1953, 1957, 1960, 1964, 1968 and 1972.
Over a period of 35 years, Emir Majid Arslan held various ministerial posts.
October 1937: Minister of Agriculture
September 1943: Minister of Health & Defense
July 1944: Minister of Health & Defense
May 1946: Minister of Health & Defense
December 1946: Minister of Telecommunications & Defense
June 1947: Minister of Telecommunications & Defense
July 1948: Minister of Agriculture & Defense
October 1949: Minister of Defense
February 1954: Minister of Health & Defense
July 1955: Minister of Defense
March 1956: Minister of Defense
November 1956: Minister of Health & Minister of Agriculture
August 1957: Minister of Telecommunications & Defense
March 1958: Minister of Agriculture
August 1960: Minister of Defense
October 1961: Minister of Defense
October 1968: Minister of Defense & Justice
January 1969: Minister of Defense
November 1969: Minister of Defense
May 1969: Minister of Defense
July 1973: Minister of State
October 1974: Minister of Health
July 1975: Minister of Health & Agriculture & Housing
Lebanon’s 1943 independence
Emir Majid Arslan was the leader of the independence of Lebanon in 1943 when the president Bechara El Khoury with fellow ministers were taken to prison to Rachaya by the French. 1 7 After World War I, in 1918, the French established control over Lebanon by virtue of a League of Nations Mandate. In 1943, the leaders of the country together with the ministers held a national convention and drew up a National Pact stating that:
Lebanon is an independent country with an Arab aspect,
Lebanon is to be led by neither East nor West,
No to Colonialism,
Religious sects are to be represented in ministries and all governmental posts,
The Lebanese government should bring under its control customs, railways and the Regie tobacco monopoly.
The Lebanese government should supervise and control its borders.
On 10 November 1943, the French retaliated by arresting the Lebanese President Bechara El Khoury, Prime Minister Riad Solh and ministers Camille Chamoun, Adel Osseiran and Abdul Hamid Karami. The French used Senegalese mercenaries to transport these political prisoners to Rashaya Fort in the Beqaa Valley. Ministers Majid Arslan, Sabri Hamadeh and Habib Abi Shahla escaped the arrest because they were not in their homes that night. One of Emir Majid's brothers also escaped to Majdel Baana to seek refuge there among members of the Abdel Khalek family.
On 11 November, 1943, Arslan, Hamadeh and Abi Shahla created the “Government of Free Lebanon” with Habib Abi Shahla as Prime Minister and Majid Arslan as Head of National Guard 57.

French President Postpones Visit to Lebanon

Naharnet/March 02/18/French President Emmanuel Macron has postponed a planned visit to Lebanon and Iraq amid assurances by the French Ambassador to Lebanon, Bruno Foucher that it “will be rescheduled," media reports said on Friday. Macron was planned to visit Iraq and Lebanon in the first half of April, but the travel arrangements were rescheduled due to previous commitments. Foucher has assured that the "visit will take place and will be rescheduled at a later time."Al-Joumhouria daily said “Macron's step was no surprise to many who expected it. The French ambassador pointed out that talks about the trip may resume after the completion of the parliamentary elections,” in Lebanon.He stressed that Macron is seeking strong relations with a number of friends from France and Lebanon to increase the aid programs planned for the country at the special conferences for Lebanon including the military, security and economic fields, and the file of displaced and Syrian refugees, added the daily. Lebanon is gearing up for three international donor conferences in 2018 aiming at boosting support for its army and security forces, the Rome II Conference, the Paris IV conference also known as the Cedar Con

Mashnouq Says Itani Innocent as al-Hajj Questioned over 'Fabricating' Case
Naharnet/March 02/18/Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq announced Friday that detained comedian Ziad Itani is “innocent,” as reports said a former Internal Security Forces officer is being interrogated over “fabricating” the case of spying for Israel. “All Lebanese apologize to Ziad Itani. Innocence is not enough. Pride in him and his patriotism is the only firm truth,” Mashnouq tweeted, slamming those who allegedly framed Itani as “spiteful, foolish and sectarian.” He also described Itani as an “honorable” man who “has never abandoned his Arab and Beiruti identity for a single day.”
TV networks meanwhile reported that the ISF Intelligence Branch is interrogating Lt. Col. Suzanne al-Hajj over “fabricating the case against Ziad Itani.”Al-Hajj had been fired in 2017 over liking a tweet posted by controversial director Charbel Khalil. Khalil’s tweet was deemed insulting to Saudi women.
Itani had posted a screenshot of al-Hajj’s like. According to MTV, al-Hajj hired a hacker who “created fake accounts to fabricate the case against Ziad Itani.” “Investigations will intensify and will target all those involved,” the TV network added. Investigative Judge Peter Germanos had in November 2017 charged Itani with collaboration with Israel and the possession of narcotics. The State Security agency had arrested Itani the same month on charges of collaborating with Israel and gathering information on political figures. Itani was detained "after several months of monitoring, follow-up and investigations within and outside" Lebanon, State Security said in a statement at the time. It said Itani confessed to having been "tasked to monitor a group of high-level political figures" and their associates. Itani had shot to prominence in recent years because of a series of comedy plays on Beirut, its customs and the transformations it has undergone in recent decades. The works -- particularly "Beirut Tariq al-Jdideh", which refers to a majority-Sunni neighborhood of the city -- have been very well-received. Before becoming an actor, Itani worked as a reporter with Lebanon's Al-Mayadeen television channel and with various regional newspapers.

SF Major Arrested over Suspected Links to Itani's Case 02/18/Major Suzan Hajj, former head of the ISF's Cyber Crime and Intellectual Property Rights Protection Office, was taken from her house in Kfarhebab to undergo interrogation, Voice of Lebanon radio station reported on Friday. Hajj was discharged from her post in October after she had liked, by mistake as she claimed, a Twitter post mocking Saudi Arabia's decision to allow women to drive. Later, LBCI reported that Hajj was arrested in connection to the case of Ziad Itani, Lebanese comedian, director and playwright who has been charged with collaborating with Israel. ISF's Information Branch is questioning Hajj over her suspected involvement in framing up Itani along with two other accomplices, including a hacker, who are still being pursued, LBCI quoted sources at the Interior Ministry as saying. The same sources noted that Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk ordered two weeks ago that the Information Branch would handle Itani's case and relaunch the probe. "All the Lebanese apologize to Ziad Itani. Innocence is not enough. The only fixed truth is that we are proud of him and his patriotism. Woe to the malevolent, idiot and sectarian people who found no one to target other than this noble, authentic Beiruti man," Machnouk wrote on Twitter shortly after Hajj was arrested.

Sami Gemayel Calls for Comprehensive Healthcare System Away from Favoritism 02/18/Kataeb leader Samy Gemayel on Thursday said that the Lebanese need attention and care at all levels, assuring that the party has sought the assistance of specialists so that its electoral platform would address the needs of the medical sector in Lebanon. During a ceremony held at the Kataeb's headquarter to honor doctors who have been affiliated to the party for more than 25 years, Gemayel stressed that it is the state's duty to look after its citizens, adding that the Lebanese are incurring a high cost of living and paying a large sum of taxes while getting nothing in return.
"Healthcare should not stop when health problems are most likely to begin, as in Lebanon where this system is ended once the person retires," Gemayel said. "Healthcare should be either comprehensive or not. It cannot be customized or linked to nepotism and favoritism."Gemayel stressed the need to address this issue by providing an old-age security system and a health insurance card for each citizen. "Keeping everything in this country in a state of ambiguity is abnormal."“Until now, we do not know why the citizens do not get their rights in Lebanon,” Gemayel wondered. "Are they supposed to beg politicians and parties for their rights? The Lebanese must be freed from all forms of guardianship and subordination in order to receive their basic rights?”Gemayel warned of the high risks affecting the health of the citizens as the country is witnessing all types of pollution, souding the alarm over the increasing cancer rate in Lebanon. The Kataeb chief also outlined the importance of securing a favorable work conditions for the doctors, deeming it as totally unacceptable that the state fails to meet its financial obligations towards the already-stumbling hospitals. "After the elections, we will struggle together to pass laws that would secure a healthcare protection system to all the Lebanese without discrimination. For this to happen, we must first ensure that we have a large bloc in the Parliament," Gemayel stressed.

Employees Threatened With Job Loss in Bid to Silence Kataeb 02/18/As the ruling authority is seeking more and more to muzzle the Kataeb Party in order to prevent it from exposing the shady deals and the unlawful practices that are marring its performance, another foul play has emerged with employees being threatened with unfair dismissal. Knowledgeable sources told our website that two employees at the Beirut Port's grain silos were threatened to be fired just because they are affiliated to the Kataeb Party which has been speaking up against a dubious deal being schemed at said facility. It all started lately when a contract was signed with a consultancy firm to help improve the silos; the same firm whose tender bid was rejected in 2016 due to the astronomical offer it made compared with other bidders.The government has yet to approve the contract which many observers have questioned due to its shady aspect that implies illicit gains and commissions.

ISF Arrests 'Dangerous' Drug Dealer in Mount Lebanon
Naharnet/March 02/18/The Internal Security Forces managed to apprehend in the town of Halat in Mount Lebanon one of the most dangerous drug traffickers in Lebanon, the ISF said in a statement on Friday. The suspect was identified by his initials as B.K. from Syria, it added. The police found in his possession a plastic box containing cocaine, which weighed approximately 5 grams, 38 envelopes of cocaine each weighing approximately one gram, 3 pieces of cannabis each weighing approximately 20 grams, and other kinds of illegal drugs. They also found LBP 3,250,000. The detainee was subject for interrogation and admitted that he had been trafficking drugs.

Man Found Dead in Tabarja
Naharnet/March 02/18/A Syrian man was found dead in the woodlands of Tabarja town in Keserwan district, the National News Agency reported on Friday. The body was found shortly after midnight, NNA said. Security Forces came to the scene and opened investigation into the incident. The body was examined by the forensic doctor and later taken to a state hospital.

Army commander meets head of Supreme Disciplinary Board
Fri 02 Mar 2018/NNA - Army Commander General Joseph Aoun on Friday welcomed at his Yarze office head of the Supreme Disciplinary Board, Judge Marwan Abboud, with talks reportedly touching on a range of judicial matters.

Gen. Aoun: Army Ready to Confront Any Israeli Border Encroachment Attempt
Naharnet/March 02/18/Army Commander General Joseph Aoun announced Thursday that the army “maintains its readiness on the southern border to confront any Israeli military aggression or any attempt to encroach on parts of the territorial and maritime borders.”“The army has the will to defend Lebanese rights through all the available assets and means, no matter how much the enemy’s threats and provocations may escalate,” Aoun said. Last month Lebanon signed its first contract to drill for oil and gas in a pair of offshore zones, including one that Israel says belongs to it. Lebanese officials have said the whole zone belongs to Lebanon while Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman has insisted it is solidly in Israeli territory. Tensions between Lebanon and Israel have also mounted as Israel pursues the construction of a wall along the border. Lebanon says part of the wall follows the U.N.-demarcated "Blue Line" drawn up after Israel's withdrawal from southern Lebanon in 2000, and insists some sections will cut into its territory. Israel has dismissed the claim and said the work is being carried out on Israeli territory.Israel began building the wall in 2012, six years after fighting a devastating war with Lebanon’s Hizbullah.

Families of prisoners cut off Riyaq road demanding amnesty be approved quickly
Fri 02 Mar 2018/NNA - The committee demanding the approval of the amnesty law has cut off at 4:00 this afternoon the Riyaq-Baalbek road with protestors raising banners that called upon President Michel Aoun, House Speaker Nabih Berri, and Prime Minister Saad Hariri to speed up the adoption of the amnesty law. They confirmed that "a general amnesty is the only way to send Lebanon's message of tolerance to the whole world."

Bou Assi, Chinese Ambassador sign aid protocol
Fri 02 Mar 2018/NNA - Social Affairs Minister Pierre Bou Assi and the Chinese Ambassador to Lebanon Wang Kijian on Friday signed an aid protocol provided by the People's Republic of China to the Ministry of Social Affairs. The signature ceremony took place during a joint press conference held at the Ministry building. "The Ministry has received 2,764 tons of Chinese rice to benefit most needy Lebanese people and displaced Syrians in Lebanon across all the Lebanese territories," Minister Bou Assi said. Bou Assi pointed out that the rice donation was distributed to 400 associations concerned with orphans, people with special needs, the elderly, vulnerable segments of society and under-privileged families. The Minister noted that the donation was distributed with the help of the High Relief Commission and the UN Refugee Agency targeting the displaced Syrians. Ambassador Kijian, for his part, said that the Chinese aid is tantamount to a rice donation to be distributed to the displaced Syrians and the host communities, as part of China's pledge to provide a batch of emergency humanitarian aid to countries during the Silk Road international cooperation conference. The Ambassador hailed the speed with which the aid had been shipped, delivered and distributed in a rapid and effective manner, indicating that such a step contributed to alleviating the suffering of the displaced people and the host communities. The Chinese envoy also hoped that the Syrian crisis would be politically resolved as quickly as possible, stressing continued Chinese assistance to the displaced Syrians. He also underlined continual cooperation with the Social Affairs Ministry.

Khoury at Pierre Sadeq's awards' ceremony: Pierre Sadeq inspiring, resourceful man
Fri 02 Mar 2018/NNA - Culture Minister, Dr Ghattas Khoury, on Friday extolled the merits of the late renowned caricaturist Pierre Sadeq as a free, inspiring and resourceful man who strongly believed in the nobleness of his innovative artistic march.
Minister Khoury's fresh words came during the Pierre Sadeq's awards' ceremony, held by the Pierre Sadek Foundation at the Sursock Museum under the patronage of Minister Khoury. The awards' distribution ceremony was attended by Information Minister, Melhem Riachi, former Ministers Tarek Mitri and Ziad Baroud, as well as jury members. The ceremony included a documentary about the inventive march of late Pierre Sadek, followed by the distribution of awards to winners.

Landmine explosion in Abbasieh, shepherd survives

Fri 02 Mar 2018/NNA - A shepherd on Friday survived a landmine explosion near Al-Abbasieh Mosque in Al-Arqoub region while a flock of sheep were killed, NNA field reporter said. The unexploded landmine was left by the Israeli enemy in south Lebanon.
Instantly, a patrol of the Lebanese army and UNIFIL arrived at said scene and opened a probe into incident.

Geagea during dinner banquet in honor of LF Ministers: Vote for candidates capable of building strong state
Fri 02 Mar 2018/NNA - Lebanese Forces (LF) leader Samir Geagea urged citizens to vote for parliamentary candidates capable of building a state they long aspire to. Geagea's fresh words came during a dinner banquet held yesterday in Meerab in honor of the LF ministers, attended by scores of political, party and media dignitaries as well as director generals. The LF leader underlined the paramount importance of building the strong Lebanese state, indicating that honoring the LF ministers comes as they reflect the LF's approach and practice as a whole in the public sector. Geagea also highlighted the practice of the LF Ministers in their respective portfolios, notably the ministries of Public Health, Social Affairs Ministry and Information. Geagea also hailed the performance of the LF ministers who carried out their ministerial tasks without narrow partisan calculations through dealing with all citizens without discrimination. On the other hand, Geagea considered that pure electoral motives stand behind the provisional suspension of the tasks of the governor of Jbeil. Speaking in the name of honored ministers, Information Minister Melhem Riachy thanked the LF leader, Geagea, who took the decision to build an effective state in Lebanon, a strong republic and a state enjoying no partner other than legitimacy.

Sami Gemayel, Souaid tackle latest electoral developments
Fri 02 Mar 2018/NNA - Kataeb Party chief, MP Sami Gemayel, on Friday welcomed at the Party's Central House in Saifi Dr. Fares Souaid, with whom he discussed most recent electoral developments notably in the Keserwan-Jbeil district.

Jreissati: Army and resistance maintain full readiness to defend Lebanon's rights
Fri 02 Mar 2018/NNA - Justice Minister Salim Jreissati on Friday welcomed Head of the Center for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces (DCAF) Programme for Security Sector Governance and Security Sector Reform in the Middle East and North Africa, Arnold Luethold, in the presence of Luethold's deputy Ayman Ayyoub. Talks reportedly touched on means of cooperation between Lebanon and the Center, as well as most recent developments in Lebanon and the broad region. On emerging, Minister Jreissati said that the delegation inquired about the current situation in light of the recent Israeli threats concerning the exclusive economic zone and its planned cement wall along the southern borders. Jreissati underlined before the delegation the army and the resistance's full readiness to defend Lebanese rights. The Minister said that the enemy's high-tone language was no longer useful.

Working with Hezbollah: The Elephant in US-Lebanon Policy

Owen Kirby/The Hill/March 02/18
For a brief moment, the secretary of State appeared ready to challenge the status quo. But it was not meant to be. On a whirlwind tour of the Middle East this month, it seemed that Secretary Tillerson’s every word faced critical parsing back home. In the region, on the hand, things went according to plans, for the most part: long standing alliances were reinforced, international priorities reiterated, and core U.S. interests reconfirmed. At the culmination of his five-country, five-day mission, the most that might be said is the secretary left the region very much as he had found it.
As Steven Cook of the Council on Foreign Relation’s opined in Foreign Policy, the secretary’s Middle East tour was noteworthy only to the extent that it underlined an administration approach to the region “that has long had broad bipartisan support and was once the standard for U.S. presidents.” Whether this is sufficient to meet current and future challenges remains an open question. Cook notes that the region has come a long way since Hosni Mubarak played host to foreign delegations on the Red Sea coast.
The only newsworthy item, or so it seemed, in an otherwise uneventful trip were 18 words uttered by the secretary in Amman, 24 hours before a scheduled stop off in Beirut. Responding to a question from a New York Times correspondent about the Lebanese Shia movement Hezbollah, he observed that “we also have to recognize the reality that (Hezbollah) are also part of the political process in Lebanon.” For audiences in the region, the secretary was merely stating the obvious, even if an unpleasant one.
The reaction back home was swift. A headline in the Washington Free Beacon condemned the secretary’s comments as “overtures,” suggesting White House division on how to deal with Hezbollah. A NY Post columnist went further, describing the secretary’s observations as a “huge blunder”, while Lebanon policy expert Tony Badran called them “ill-advised,” taking the opportunity to critique the broad spectrum of U.S. policy vis-à-vis Lebanon, Iran and Hezbollah.
Given the domestic tea-leaf-reading scrutiny of his comments, it was inevitable that the secretary would quickly be obliged to walk back any misinterpretations of his remarks, which he did upon arriving in Beirut the following day:
“The United States has considered Hezbollah a terrorist organization for more than two decades now. We neither see nor do we accept any distinction between its political and its military arms.”
It appeared of little consequence that the secretary’s Beirut clarifications were consistent with the full context of his address in Amman the day before, or that the Trump administration had imposed new sanctions on Hezbollah earlier in the month. Domestic audiences not yet convinced of the White House’s foreign policy inclinations had to be satisfied, which the secretary attempted to do at every stop in Beirut.
The fact that two of the secretary’s key interlocutors in Beirut (the Lebanese president and speaker of the parliament) are in electoral coalition with Hezbollah, ironically, has not aroused a similar level of controversy at home. Nor, for the most part, has the estimated $1.5 billion in U.S. support, in addition to training, over the past decade to the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF), which has shown itself singularly unwilling or incapable of confronting Hezbollah’s ongoing and mounting threats to regional stability.
Admittedly, Tony Badran does highlight the apparent contradictions in U.S. assistance to the LAF, as does the secretary’s initial choice for his deputy, Elliot Abrams, in a recent edition of Newsweek. But unlike the Secretary’s forced retreat on Hezbollah, the official response to LAF support remains firm and unapologetic. In the words of Assistant Secretary David Satterfield, on a visit to Israel in January, support to the LAF “could well serve as a counterweight to Hezbollah’s desire to expand its own influence there, as well as Iran’s reach in Lebanon.” His hosts are not so convinced.
So, where do things stand now that the secretary has set the record straight about a certain party that sits in its country’s elected parliament; whose allies occupy top positions in the government and regularly meet with U.S. officials; and whose troops are confronting jihadists on the Lebanese frontier in coordination with U.S.-equipped Lebanese Armed Forces; but who, like the Dark Lord in the Harry Potter chronicles, apparently cannot be named?
It would seem, as far as Lebanon policy goes, that things are stuck where the secretary found them at the start of his recent tour. For its part, Hezbollah is likely content with this outcome. Recognition as a “state actor” might have come with obligations at some point, including ownership of any international and domestic fallout (e.g. an end to LAF subsidies and other forms of bilateral assistance) for implicating the rest of the state in its actions. The party’s leadership prefers to operate outside of the realm of accountability, while continuously stoking its community’s historic distrust of the outsider — whether the U.S., or compatriots yet to have reconciled their respective contributions to Lebanon’s ongoing internal crises, including lingering sectarianism born of competing exclusivist communal narratives.
For a brief moment, it appeared that the secretary was about to call Hezbollah’s bluff, but it was not meant to be. For now, at least, the elephant is still firmly in the room.
The Hariri drama and Saudi Arabia
Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya/March 02/18
Many were surprised when Saudi Arabia invited Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri to visit the kingdom, and when he welcomed the invitation!
We can at least say that Hariri’s crisis proved that Saudi Arabia does not have absolute authority over any of its allies, even over Saad, the son of Rafiq Hariri who has a strong and long history of ties with the kingdom. It also proved that Saudi Arabia is a state, and not an exclusive agency for Hariri or any group or party.
Unlike Saudi Arabia, Iran absolutely controls its allies in Lebanon. It treats them like they’re its employees regardless of how high-ranking their statuses might be in their country, without taking into consideration whom they represent within their community. The maneuvering space for Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah is zero. He cannot interact with any faction or country no matter how much he needs to, unless Tehran gives him the green light. If he opposes Iran, he’ll end up wrapped in a kafan (shroud).
Unlike Saudi Arabia, Iran absolutely controls its allies in Lebanon. It treats them like they’re its employees regardless of how high-ranking their statuses might be in their country
Lebanon between Iran and Saudi Arabia
Disputes between real allies, not servants and followers, are normal. In fact, there have been disputes between Lebanese figures and Saudi Arabia, though they are very few. Salim al-Hoss, for instance, chose to be on Damascus’ side on a few occasions when he was PM. Najib Miqati also took some actions that did not meet Riyadh’s expectations. Both men, however, maintained good relations.
Siding with axes is a game that Lebanese leaders have mastered, either to express the needs of local factions they represent or of foreign parties they’re allied with. However, they haven’t always been safe tango dances. Leadership in Lebanon is a dangerous task. It’s the country whose politicians were targeted and killed the most. Some of its leaders rarely leave their homes for safety reasons.
The strange paradox is that Hezbollah, which killed Rafiq Hariri, is the party that led calls to “save Saad Hariri from Saudi Arabia” as they put it. Lebanese people cannot forget that Hezbollah assassinated more than 20 leaders other than Rafiq Hariri. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia, the country that’s had relations with Lebanon since the 1950’s, was never reported as “laying a hand” on a leader – perhaps not counting the New York Times’ report that alleged that Hariri was harassed in Riyadh!
Hezbollah’s love for saving Saad Hariri is more of a desire to get rid of him, as they aim to throw him out of Riyadh’s circle to eliminate his main source of power – with all due respect to his state.
Historical ties between Lebanon and Saudi Arabia
Regimes, like the ones in Damascus and Tehran, eliminate others via murder and intimidation. They killed Bashir Gemayel thus eliminating the strongest party that opposed them, i.e. the Kataeb. They killed Kamal Jumblatt thus ending his opposition to their presence in Lebanon. They killed Rafiq Hariri thus cancelling the moderate Sunni movement. They killed George Hawi and Samir Kassir thus silencing the leftists’ voice. They killed Gebran Tueni and disfigured May Chidiac thus intimidating the Christian opposition.
Riyadh, which has interests in Lebanon and the entire region, has a long history of solid ties with the country. Its interest is to have good relations with all independent leaders in order to serve mutual interests, including liberating Lebanon and the region from Iranian domination that’s directed against Saudi Arabia and others. Iran, however, controls the Lebanese state to impose its regional agenda that extends to the depths of Iraq and Syria.
They also want to create a power balance with Israel, thus serving their nuclear and regional project which has nothing to do with Palestine, that is merely a bargaining chip for them. This is the Saudi-Iranian formula in Lebanon in brief. Saudi Arabia’s invitation to Hariri is a step forward that came as a surprise to many, and thwarted the bet to weaken him, eliminate him and distance Saudi Arabia, thus causing the empowerment of Iran in Lebanon and the rest of the region’s countries.

Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on March 02-03/18
UN: War crimes being committed in Syria’s Ghouta must be prosecuted
Reuters/Friday, 2 March 2018/Air strikes on the besieged Syrian enclave of eastern Ghouta and shelling from the militia-held zone into Damascus most likely constitute war crimes and must be prosecuted, the top UN human rights official said on Friday.
Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that the perpetrators in Syria should know they were being identified and that dossiers were being built with a view to future criminal prosecutions."Syria must be referred to the International Criminal Court. Attempts to thwart justice, and shield these criminals, are disgraceful," Zeid told the Geneva rights forum which is holding an urgent debate on eastern Ghouta at Britain’s request.

At least 17 dead as Turkish jets attack pro-government forces in Afrin
Reuters, Beirut/Friday, 2 March 2018/Turkish warplanes attacked pro-Syrian government forces overnight, killing at least 17 people in a village in the north of the Afrin region in northwestern Syria, the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Friday. The dead included three members of the Syrian Kurdish YPG force, while the rest were drawn from militias that support President Bashar al-Assad and entered Afrin last week to help repel a Turkish offensive, the Observatory said.

Syrian government forces advance in east Ghouta assault

Reuters, Beirut/Friday, 2 March 2018/Syrian government forces have gained ground from rebels at the edge of the eastern Ghouta region near Damascus, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Friday, in a ground assault that has continued despite a Russian plan for daily ceasefires. The Syrian army and rebel sources could not immediately be reached for comment. Observatory Director Rami Abdulrahman said government forces had captured the village of Hawsh Zreika in addition to Hawsh al-Zawahra, in the Maraj area at the eastern and southeastern edge of the rebel enclave.
Meanwhile, at the request of Britain, the United Nations Human Rights Council is expected to hold an “urgent debate” on Friday on the deteriorating situation in Syria’s enclave of eastern Ghouta, a spokesman said on Friday.

UNICEF: Aid convoy for 180,000 Syrians could go on Sunday

Reuters/Friday, 2 March 2018/Syria's government may allow an aid convoy with supplies for 180,000 people to go to the town of Douma in the besieged enclave of eastern Ghouta on Sunday, the Middle East director of the UN children's agency UNICEF said on Friday.
Geert Cappelaere said there were initial agreements for further convoys to serve more of the enclave's 400,000 people, but no agreement on evacuation for some 1,000 people in dire medical need. "We have an indication from the government of Syria that an aid convoy will be allowed in on March 4, that is the day after tomorrow. We hope that indication turns into a bold commitment," Cappelaere told a news conference. "We are ready to move in." Militia-held eastern Ghouta, a suburb of Damascus, has been besieged by forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad since 2013, and in the past few months the siege has tightened, with almost no aid going in and food, water, electricity and medical supplies running out. Militants inside the area have fired mortars out towards Damascus and pro-Assad forces have shelled and bombed the enclave, despite a UN Security Council resolution demanding a 30-day ceasefire, and a Russian bid for daily five hour pauses. Later on Friday, the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva will hold an urgent debate on eastern Ghouta, at Britain's request. The convoy's supplies are mainly health and nutrition related, and would serve 70,000 children out of the 200,000 in eastern Ghouta, an area that encompasses many settlements. The Syrian government has previously stripped medical equipment from aid convoys to prevent the treatment of anyone involved in the fighting, an apparent breach of international law. Cappelaere suggested the same was likely to happen again. "Between now and Sunday, let us be realistic, we have seen in the past on certain convoys supplies have been taken off, mainly surgical supplies," he said. Levels of severe acute malnutrition, the most dangerous stage of malnutrition, had increased tenfold in the past six months among children in the enclave, he said.

Iran’s Khamenei hails ‘resistance’ of Syria’s Assad
AFP, Tehran/Friday, 2 March 2018/Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the last say on all state matters, on Thursday praised Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for his “resistance” after seven years of war. “Syria is on the front lines today; it is our duty to defend the Syrian resistance,” Khamenei said, quoted on his official website. “Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president, appeared as a great example of resistance and a fighting image; he never hesitated and stood strong: this is extremely important for a nation,” he added. Khamenei also hailed Iran’s survival as it enters the 40th year since the Islamic revolution. “From day one, all major world powers united and acted against us: the United States, USSR, NATO, Arab and regional reactionaries -- they all united. But we survived and prospered.”Addressing Assad, he said “if you and we, and other elements of resistance stay determined, the enemy cannot accomplish a single thing”. The resistance, according to Iran, is made up of Iran, Syria, the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, Iraqi militias and Palestinian Islamist groups. Iran is the main regional ally of the Syrian regime, which is also supported by Russia. Khamenei’s statement comes a day after the EU urged Iran, Russia and Turkey to do what they can to get the Syrian government to halt its offensive in the rebel-held enclave of Eastern Ghouta to let aid enter and civilians evacuate. On Saturday the United Nations Security Council passed a resolution calling for a 30-day ceasefire across Syria without delay, but it has yet to take effect. Russia and Syria set up a humanitarian corridor for the entry of aid and for civilians to leave Eastern Ghouta for five hours each day, but violence has continued with the regime and rebels blaming each other.

US calls Russia idea of Syria humanitarian corridors ‘a joke’
Reuters, Washington/Friday, 2 March 2018/Russian proposals for humanitarian corridors to evacuate people from Eastern Ghouta in Syria are a “joke” and people are afraid to use them for fear of conscription, exile or death, the US State Department said on Thursday.
“The idea that Russia is calling for a so-called humanitarian corridor, I want to be clear, is a joke,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said at a briefing. Residents fear using such corridors because they could be conscripted into Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces, never return to their homes, or be killed, she said.

Eight Turkish soldiers killed in Syria, 13 wounded

AFP/Friday, 2 March 2018/Turkey suffered heavy losses on Thursday during its offensive against a Kurdish militia in northwest Syria, with the military announcing that eight soldiers were killed and 13 more wounded. The death toll, released by the Turkish military staff in two separate statements, makes Thursday one of the deadliest days for Ankara since launching its cross-border operation against the People's Protection Units (YPG) in Syria's Afrin region on 20 January. "As part of the operations in Afrin, five of our heroic comrades fell as martyrs and seven were wounded" on Thursday, said the staff in a first statement.
Shortly after, it issued a second statement in which it announced that three more soldiers had been killed as well as six wounded, without giving details of the circumstances. "May God grant peace to our martyred soldiers in Afrin, all my condolences to their loved ones," spokesman for the Turkish presidency Ibrahim Kalin said on Twitter. The day's toll brings the number of Turkish soldiers killed since the launch of operation "Olive Branch" to at least 40. Ankara considers the YPG a "terrorist" organisation closely linked to the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), a group that has been leading a bloody guerrilla war on Turkish soil since 1984. However, the YPG is supported by the United States and have been spearheading the international coalition fight against the Islamic State (ISIS) group in Syria. The situation was complicated further 10 days ago following the deployment of pro-regime elements in the enclave of Afrin, with observers warning of an increased risk of collision between the forces of Ankara and Damascus. On Monday, Turkey deployed some 600 members of the police and gendarmerie special forces in the Afrin region, indicating it was preparing for urban fighting. The Turkish authorities have rejected a call by the United States this week to implement the humanitarian truce, called for by the UN Security Council in Syria, with Ankara saying the UN resolution did not concern its operation. The International Committee of the Red Cross said a humanitarian aid convoy entered the Afrin region on Thursday for the first time since the start of the Turkish offensive, which has had a severe impact on civilians. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (OSDH), 141 civilians, including 27 children, have died since the beginning of the Turkish military campaign, a claim which Ankara denies.

Trump and Macron say will respond strongly to use of chemical weapons in Syria
Reuters/Friday, 2 March 2018/US President Donald Trump spoke to the leaders of France and Germany about the situation on Friday. France said President Emmanuel Macron and Trump agreed to work together to implement a UN-backed ceasefire that has failed to stop the onslaught, and called on Russia to get Damascus to abide by it.Syrian government forces aim to advance into the eastern Ghouta region one "bite" at a time, a pro-government commander said on Friday, as a war monitor said the army had seized new ground from rebels. In one of the deadliest offensives of the war, government air strikes and bombardment have killed hundreds of people over 12 days in eastern Ghouta, an area of besieged towns and farms that is the last major rebel-controlled area near the capital. The Security Council on Saturday called for a 30-day countrywide truce. Russia, which backs the Syrian government in the war, has instead called for daily humanitarian ceasefires from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. (0700 GMT to 1200 GMT). The US State Department on Thursday dismissed Russia's humanitarian ceasefire plan as "a joke", saying people were afraid to leave the area through a "humanitarian corridor" because of fear of conscription, exile or death. The war has escalated on several fronts this year, with the collapse of Islamic State giving way to other conflicts between Syrian and international parties, including Turkey which said eight more of its soldiers had been killed fighting Kurdish militias in the Afrin area of northwestern Syria.
Government forces, including the elite Tiger Force, have been attacking rebels in the Maraj area of the Ghouta for several days. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Friday they had captured two villages - Hawsh al-Dawahra and Hawsh Zreika - in addition to hills and farmland.
Rebel sources could not immediately be reached for comment on Friday. The spokesman for Jaish al-Islam, one of the main Ghouta rebel groups, said on Thursday government forces had tried to divert their attention by opening a new front in the Hazerma area while also waging battles in nearby Hawsh al-Dawahra. Rebels had used artillery fire to disable two tanks. The commander in the military alliance that backs Assad said government forces had taken some villages on the Maraj area. Government forces had also made "notable" advances on the western edge of the rebel enclave at Harasta, he said. The Observatory said government forces had seized a group of buildings in that area.
"What is happening at present is biting and taking some villages from the eastern side," the commander told Reuters. The Observatory says the government bombardment of Ghouta has killed 617 people since Feb. 18, while intensified rebel shelling of government-held areas of Damascus has killed 27.
France, US want "maximum pressure" from Russia
Assad has steadily won back territory from rebels with critical military backing from Russia and Iran. With no sign of decisive Western pressure, eastern Ghouta appears on course to eventually fall to government forces too. Damascus appears to be applying tried and tested military means, combining air strikes and bombardment with ground assaults, as it did to recapture eastern Aleppo from rebels including groups that once received US support. While Washington has backed away from supporting rebels fighting to topple Assad, Iranian and Russian military aid to the government has remained steadfast: Iran's supreme leader vowed on Thursday to continue support for Damascus. Macron and Trump spoke by telephone to discuss the situation in Syria, and the enforcement of a ceasefire aimed at ending hostilities, opening access to humanitarian aid in eastern Ghouta and evacuating the wounded, the Elysee Palace said.
The two leaders agreed that Russia needed to "unambiguously exert maximum pressure on the regime in Damascus" for it to abide by the ceasefire, said the Elysee statement. Macron also said France would have a "firm response" if it transpired chemical weapons led to civilian deaths in Syria.
The Syrian government has consistently denied using chemical weapons, though Western states have accused it of doing so. An investigation established by the United Nations concluded last year that Damascus was behind an attack with sarin nerve agent in northwestern Syria last April, and also that government forces had used chlorine as a weapon on three occasions. Trump also spoke to German Chancellor Angela Merkel by phone, agreeing that Damascus, Russia and Iran should "promptly and fully" implement the UN resolution for a ceasefire, Merkel's spokesman said.
Turkish casualties
UN officials have called for the Russian ceasefire plan to be expanded to allow aid deliveries and for civilians and urgent medical cases to leave. Damascus and Moscow have accused rebels of preventing civilians from leaving eastern Ghouta. Rebels deny this. The UN children's agency UNICEF said on Friday the Syrian government may allow an aid convoy with supplies for 180,000 people to go to the eastern Ghouta town of Douma on Sunday. Geert Cappelaere told a news conference that there was no sign of agreement on further convoys to serve the rest of the enclave's 400,000 people, nor any agreement on evacuation for some 1,000 people in dire medical need. "We have an indication from the government of Syria that an aid convoy will be allowed in on March 4, that is the day after tomorrow. We hope that indication turns into a bold commitment," Cappelaere said. "We are ready to move in."
The UN Human Rights Council in Geneva will hold an urgent debate on eastern Ghouta, at Britain's request. Turkey launched its campaign against the Kurdish YPG militia in the Afrin region in January. Ankara regards the YPG as a terrorist group linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) which has waged a three-decade insurgency against the Turkish state. Eight Turkish soldiers were killed and another 13 were wounded in clashes in northwest Syria's Afrin region on Thursday, Turkey's armed forces said, bringing to 41 the death toll among Turkish soldiers in the "Olive Branch" operation.
The Observatory said Turkish warplanes attacked pro-Syrian government forces overnight in Afrin, killing at least 17 people, including militias that support Assad and which entered Afrin last week to help repel the Turkish offensive.

Israel police question Netanyahu in telecoms corruption case
Reuters, Jerusalem/Friday, 2 March 2018/Israeli police questioned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday for the first time in a corruption case that involves the country's largest telecommunications company Bezeq, Israel Radio said. Along with two other corruption cases, in which Netanyahu is suspected of bribery, the probes pose a serious threat to the four-term prime minister's political survival. Netanyahu denies any wrongdoing in all the cases. In the newest investigation, known as Case 4000, police allege that the owners of Bezeq Israel Telecom provided favorable coverage of Netanyahu and his wife on a news website they controlled in return for favors from communications regulators. A police spokesman declined comment. A Reuters cameraman saw a vehicle carrying two police officers pull into the prime minister's official residence on Friday morning. Israel Radio said Netanyahu's wife Sara was providing testimony at the same time, at a police station near Tel Aviv. The controlling shareholder of Bezeq Telecom, Shaul Elovitch, is currently in police custody, along with a former Netanyahu spokesman. They deny any wrongdoing. Shlomo Filber, a confidant of Netanyahu and former director general of the Communications Ministry, has also been arrested in connection with the case, and has agreed to turn state's witness, according to Israeli media. Netanyahu, Israel's dominant political figure for a generation - in power since 2009 and for 12 years in total since 1996 - calls the allegations against him a "witch hunt". He has said he will seek a fifth term in a national election due in late 2019.
Police indict Netanyahu
Police recommended in February that Netanyahu be indicted in two other corruption investigations. The attorney-general must determine whether to accept the police recommendation to charge him. The final decision on both cases could take months. In one, known as Case 1000, he is suspected of bribery over gifts, which police say were worth nearly $300,000, that he received from wealthy businessmen. The other, Case 2000, involves an alleged plot to win positive coverage in Israel's biggest newspaper by offering to take measures to curtail the circulation of a rival daily. So far, partners in Netanyahu's governing coalition have stood by him, saying they were awaiting the attorney-general's next moves. Political analysts say that could change if the investigations against Netanyahu intensify. Netanyahu could also call a snap election to try to stall legal proceedings during the campaign and rally his right-wing power base behind him.

Kremlin Says Russia not Interested in 'Arms Race'
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/March 02/18/The Kremlin denied Friday Russia was violating any arms control agreements and said it did not want to be part of an arms race, after Putin talked up a new arsenal of cutting-edge weapons. "We categorically reject any accusations that Russia is violating any provisions and articles of international law on disarmament and arms control," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters. "Russia is not going to be pulled into any arms race."Putin stunned the West -- and many in Russia -- on Thursday by using his state of the nation address to unveil a new arsenal of "invincible" hypersonic weapons and submarines three weeks before an election is expected to extend his rule until 2024. Nearly half of Putin's almost two-hour speech was dedicated to the country's latest weaponry and was accompanied by video montages of missiles heading over the Atlantic. Washington immediately accused Moscow of breaching Cold War-era arms treaties, with a State Department spokeswoman saying it was "unfortunate" to have watched a video animation that depicted a nuclear attack on the United States. Putin also told NBC in an interview later Thursday that an arms race effectively started again when Washington pulled out of the Soviet-era Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty under George W. Bush. He also admitted the Russian weapons were in various stages of development, but some were battle ready. Referring to Putin's speech, Peskov on Friday reiterated that Russia should not be seen as a threat. "Russia is not going to attack anyone, and these weapons do not present a danger to anyone who is not hatching plans to attack our country," he said. Peskov denied suggestions by some commentators that one of the videos allegedly used a map of the United States to simulate an attack on Florida. "Frankly speaking, I did not see a map of Florida," he said. "No maps were used there, these are absolutely symbolic contours, there is not any tie-up to any concrete country." "Russia will not respond symmetrically to US plans and the ongoing work to deploy missile defence systems," he said. "We are talking about an asymmetric response."

France, US 'Will not Tolerate Impunity' on Syria Chemical Weapons
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/March 02/18/French President Emmanuel Macron and his US counterpart Donald Trump vowed there would be "no impunity" in the event of further chemical weapons use in Syria in a telephone call Friday. The leaders also urged Russia to put "maximum pressure" on its ally Damascus to commit to a United Nations ceasefire, warning of an increasingly dire humanitarian crisis in war-torn Syria. Macron "stressed there will be a firm response in the case of proven use of chemical weapons leading to the death of civilians, in close coordination with our American allies," a statement from the French presidency said. "France and the United States will not tolerate impunity." The rising pressure on Damascus and its key ally Moscow comes after new reports last weekend of suspected chlorine use in the battered rebel-held enclave of Eastern Ghouta. France has repeatedly warned that evidence of further use of chemical weapons in Syria is a "red line" that would prompt French strikes in a brutal seven-year conflict that has drawn in foreign powers from Russia to Turkey. Washington has asked the UN Security Council to set up a new inquiry on chemical weapons attacks, for which the Syrian regime has repeatedly denied responsibility. In Eastern Ghouta, hundreds of civilians have been killed since the Syrian army began new air strikes on February 18 in a bid to root out Islamist rebel groups, sparking global outrage. A five-hour daily "pause" announced by Moscow on Monday has led to a reduction in the bombardment, but it falls far short of the UN ceasefire agreed through a Security Council resolution Saturday that has yet to be implemented. Macron and Trump pledged to "work together to allow the resolution to be put in place to allow a ceasefire, delivery of humanitarian aide and evacuation of the injured", the French statement said. The UN Human Rights Council is to hold an emergency meeting on Eastern Ghouta on Friday after dozens of aid trucks were unable to reach 400,000 suffering civilians a day earlier. Aid workers have warned of dire medical needs in the enclave and the urgent need to evacuate the many sick and wounded.

Attacks Target French Embassy, Military HQ in Burkina Capital

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/March 02/18/The capital of Burkina Faso came under multiple attacks on Friday which targeted the French embassy, the French cultural centre and the country's military headquarters, an AFP reporter and witnesses said.
Witnesses said five armed men got out of a car and opened fire on passersby before heading towards the embassy in the centre of the city.  An AFP reporter heard heavy exchanges of gunfire and saw a blazing vehicle, which witnesses said was the car used by the assailants. Police and army units were deployed in the area. Other witnesses said there was an explosion near the headquarters of the Burkinabe armed forces and the French cultural centre, which are located about a kilometre (half a mile) from the site of the first attack. There was no early information about any casualties. The French embassy, on Facebook, initially said "attack under way at the French embassy and French Institute. Stay indoors." It later said: "Uncertain at this stage which places are targeted" but maintained its advice for people to stay indoors.
In Paris, President Emmanuel Macron's office said the French leader was "being informed in real time" of the situation.
Deadly insurgency -Burkina Faso is one of a string of fragile countries on the southern rim of the Sahara that are battling jihadist groups. The insurgency has caused thousands of deaths, prompted tens of thousands to flee their homes and dealt crippling blows to economies that are already among the poorest in the world. On August 13 last year, two assailants opened fire on a restaurant on Ouagadougou's main avenue, killing 19 people and wounded 21. The attack remains unclaimed. On January 15 2016, 30 people, including six Canadians and five Europeans, were killed in a jihadist attack on a hotel and restaurant in the city centre. Responsiblity was claimed by a group called Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). France, the former colonial power in the Sahel region, has deployed 4,000 troops and is supporting a five-country joint force gathering Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger. The United Nations also has a 12,000-strong peacekeeping force in Mali called MINUSMA, which has taken heavy casualties. Four UN peacekeepers were killed by a mine blast on Wednesday in the centre of the country.
In a separate development on Friday, the specialist US website SITE, which monitors jihadist activity, said kidnappers had released a video of a 75-year-old French hostage, Sophie Petronin, who had been abducted in northern Mali in late 2016.
Petronin, who had been running an association helping Malian orphans, appears in poor health in the brief video. Her kidnapping, hitherto unclaimed, was carried out by the "Support Group for Islam and Muslims." In the background, Macron's voice is heard on a loop, saying "I will protect you."
Situation 'Under Control' at French Missions in Burkina, Several Attackers Killed
Asharq Al-Awsat/March 02/18/The situation is "under control"' at France's embassy and cultural institute in Burkina Faso's capital, which came under attack Friday, a French foreign ministry source said. "The situation is under control at French diplomatic premises," the source said after the attack which also targeted the country's military headquarters in Ouagadougou. Defense Minister Jean Claude Bouda told Reuters that three gunmen have been killed at the army's headquarters, A separate government statement said four gunmen had been "neutralized" at the French embassy, but there was no immediate word on civilian casualties. Witnesses told AFP that five armed men got out of a car and opened fire on passersby before heading towards the embassy in the center of the city. An AFP reporter heard heavy exchanges of gunfire and saw a blazing vehicle, which witnesses said was the car used by the assailants. Police and army units were deployed in the area. Other witnesses said there was an explosion near the headquarters of the Burkinabe armed forces and the French cultural center, which are located about a kilometer from the site of the first attack. The French embassy, on Facebook, initially said "attack under way at the French embassy and French Institute. Stay indoors." It later said: "Uncertain at this stage which places are targeted" but maintained its advice for people to stay indoors. In Paris, President Emmanuel Macron's office said the French leader was "being informed in real time" of the situation. The Elysee statement urged French nationals to follow alerts from the embassy. It was not clear who was behind the violence but Burkina Faso and other West African countries have been targeted by militant groups linked to al-Qaeda and ISIS in the past few years. France, the former colonial power in the Sahel region, has deployed 4,000 troops and is supporting a five-country joint force gathering Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger.

Turkish Jets Kill Pro-Regime Forces in Syria’s Afrin
Asharq Al-Awsat/March 02/18/Turkish air strikes have killed at least 14 fighters deployed by the Syrian regime in support of Kurds battling Turkish-led rebels in the northwestern enclave of Afrin, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Friday. Three Kurdish fighters were also killed in the strikes late Thursday on the village of Jamma in the enclave on the Turkish border, it said. Turkey-led Syrian rebels have advanced steadily since launching an assault on January 20 on Afrin, which is controlled by the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG). The Syrian regime deployed fighters to the enclave a month later after the Kurds called for help. YPG spokesman in Afrin, Birusk Hasakeh, said Turkish warplanes targeted the positions of fighters linked to the Syrian army in Jamma, causing casualties, but did not provide a precise toll. Pro-regime fighters are present on several fronts in the enclave, according to the Kurds. Turkey's military declined to comment on the Observatory report, but the Turkish state-run Anadolu news agency reported on Friday that Turkish attack helicopters had killed nine YPG fighters in the west of Afrin. Turkey also suffered heavy losses in Afrin on Thursday. The military said eight soldiers were killed and 13 wounded. The day's toll brought the number of Turkish soldiers killed since the start of the operation to at least 40. The Observatory says more than 140 civilians have been killed in Turkish bombardment, but Turkey denies the claim and says it takes the "utmost care" to avoid civilian casualties.

Deadly Kabul Car Bomb Targets Foreign Forces
Asharq Al-Awsat/March 02/18/A suicide car bomb targeting a foreign forces convoy in the eastern part of the Afghan capital left at least one civilian dead and injured nine others just days after the authorities unveiled plans for Taliban peace talks, the interior ministry said. Extensive damage to the facades of nearby houses could be seen with debris scattered on pavements as witnesses reported a strong explosion. Security forces rushed to the scene as passers-by helped move the wounded, with witnesses complaining to AFP that ambulances took around half an hour to arrive. "Unfortunately around 9:00 am, a car bombing took place in (the) Qabil Bay area of Kabul. The target of the attack was a foreign forces convoy," ministry spokesman Najib Danish told AFP, adding that police are investigating. NATO's Resolute Support mission in Kabul told the news agency that it was checking if there had been any foreign casualties in the blast. A health ministry spokesman confirmed that a child was killed and at least nine were injured, all civilians. But a security source said up to 12 people had been wounded. No group immediately claimed the attack, which is the latest to hit Kabul, one of the deadliest places in Afghanistan for civilians as both the Taliban and the expanding ISIS step up their assaults on the city. The recent attacks have underscored the weaknesses of Afghan security forces. Friday’s bombing comes just two days after Afghan President Ashraf Ghani unveiled a plan for peace talks with the Taliban “to save the country,” including a proposal to eventually recognize them as a political party. Separately, the Taliban said Friday they released five of a total of 19 people they say they abducted on Tuesday along the boundary between the southern Kandahar and Uruzgan provinces. At the time, Gen. Abdul Raziq, Kandahar's police chief, said insurgents wearing army uniforms stopped a bus and abducted 30 people. There was no information on the fate of the others.

Saudi FM Reveals Anticipated Crown Prince Visit to US
Riyadh - Abdul Hadi Habtoor/Asharq Al-Awsat/March 02/18/Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has received an invitation from US President Donald Trump to visit the US, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said. Jubeir also said Thursday that the Crown Prince has accepted the invitation. He said that Saudi authorities are contacting Washington for details and arrangements needed for the visit. The announcement came during Jubeir’s joint press conference with Costa Rican counterpart Manuel Gonzalez Sanz. On that note, both Costa Rica and Saudi Arabia signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on Thursday. Jubeir noted that Sanz’ visit is historical. The two discussed bilateral relations. “The relations between the two countries in all fields have promising opportunities,” Jubeir said. He also expressed the Kingdom’s appreciation of Costa Rica’s positions on regional matters.“It is an honor for me to visit Saudi Arabia, a historic visit for the first time. We are pleased to have the opportunity to invest in agriculture, tourism and mutual investment. In my meeting with the minister, we discussed cooperation and what Costa Rica can offer in tourism opportunities,” Sanz said. “I would also like to refer to the visit of Saudi Minister of Commerce and Investment Majed Al-Qasabi to Costa Rica. This was a message for the establishment of cooperation between the two countries in the fields of economy, agriculture, trade, tourism and investment, and there are many things in common between the two countries,” he added.Sanz said owning land in Costa Rica was a straightforward proposition. “We are an open economy and investors can own land without any local partner and without any restrictions,” he said.

Azerbaijan: 24 Killed in Fire at Drug Rehab Clinic

Asharq Al-Awsat/March 02/18/A fire killed 24 people in a drug rehabilitation center in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, its General Prosecutor’s office said on Friday. Eldar Sultanov, spokesman for the office, said 31 people had been rescued during the incident. The fire had probably been caused by a problem in the power network of the building containing the center, Reuters reported. "At 06:10 am a fire happened at the Republican Narcological Centre in Baku," the General Prosecutor's Office, the health, interior and emergencies ministries said in a joint statement. "The bodies of 24 people have been found," the statement added. The office of the Azerbaijani president said he had arrived at the scene to oversee the rescue effort. In May 2015, 15 people – including five minors -- were killed by a fire in a multi-storey building in Baku, according to AFP. In October 1995, 289 people died in a metro fire in Baku, in the world's deadliest subway disaster that was caused by outdated Soviet equipment.

PA Welcomes First Visit of Prince William to Palestine
Ramallah - Asharq Al-Awsat/March 02/18/The Palestinian authority and Israel welcomed the anticipated visit of Duke of Cambridge Prince William this summer, describing it as significant and historic. The Palestinian authority said that Prince William will visit Palestine, in response to the invitation of Palestinian authority president Mahmoud Abbas. A presidential spokesperson noted that the visit is significant and would contribute to reinforcing ties between the two nations. Kensington Palace announced earlier that Prince William would visit Occupied Palestine later during the year, following an invitation from Mahmoud Abbas. This visit would cement diplomatic and cultural ties between the Palestinian and British nations, according to Kensington, and would be divided into three stages in which he will later visit Israel and Jordan. According to the palace statement, the Duke of Cambridge is keen to carry out regular visits to UK partners around the wold. British Consulate General in Jerusalem Philip Hall expressed delight that Prince William accepted the invitation in which the visit would be a unique opportunity for him to meet with the Palestinian people and be briefed about their condition. Prince William visit will be the first visit to be made by one of the royal family members to Ramallah and Tel Aviv. In his turn, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lauded the visit, and described it as historic and the first of its kind. Mark Regev, Israeli Ambassador to the UK, tweeted that Israel is also looking forward to the visit.

Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on March 02-03/18
The Legal Case for Striking North Korea First
John R. Bolton/Gatestone Institute/March 02/18
The Winter Olympics' closing ceremonies also concluded North Korea's propaganda effort to divert attention from its nuclear-weapons and ballistic-missile programs. And although President Trump announced more economic sanctions against Pyongyang last week, he also bluntly presaged "Phase Two" of U.S. action against the Kim regime, which "may be a very rough thing."
CIA Director Mike Pompeo said in January that Pyongyang was within "a handful of months" of being able to deliver nuclear warheads to the U.S. How long must America wait before it acts to eliminate that threat?
Pre-emption opponents argue that action is not justified because Pyongyang does not constitute an "imminent threat." They are wrong. The threat is imminent, and the case against pre-emption rests on the misinterpretation of a standard that derives from prenuclear, pre-ballistic-missile times. Given the gaps in U.S. intelligence about North Korea, we should not wait until the very last minute. That would risk striking after the North has deliverable nuclear weapons, a much more dangerous situation.
People watch a television broadcast, reporting on North Korea's test-launch of its new ICBM and the range of the missile, on November 29, 2017 in Seoul, South Korea.
In assessing the timing of pre-emptive attacks, the classic formulation is Daniel Webster's test of "necessity." British forces in 1837 invaded U.S. territory to destroy the steamboat Caroline, which Canadian rebels had used to transport weapons into Ontario.
Webster asserted that Britain failed to show that "the necessity of self-defense was instant, overwhelming, leaving no choice of means, and no moment of deliberation." Pre-emption opponents would argue that Britain should have waited until the Caroline reached Canada before attacking.
Would an American strike today against North Korea's nuclear-weapons program violate Webster's necessity test? Clearly not. Necessity in the nuclear and ballistic-missile age is simply different than in the age of steam. What was once remote is now, as a practical matter, near; what was previously time-consuming to deliver can now arrive in minutes; and the level of destructiveness of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons is infinitely greater than that of the steamship Caroline's weapons cargo.
Timing and distance have long been recognized as surrogate measures defining the seriousness of military threats, thereby serving as criteria to justify pre-emptive political or military actions. In the days of sail, maritime states were recognized as controlling territorial waters (above and below the surface) for three nautical miles out to sea. In the early 18th century, that was the farthest distance cannonballs could reach, hence defining a state's outer defense perimeter. While some states asserted broader maritime claims, the three-mile limit was widely accepted in Europe.
Technological developments inevitably challenged maritime-state defenses. Over time, many nations extended their territorial claims, but the U.S. adhered to the three-mile limit until World War II. After proclaiming U.S. neutrality in 1939, in large measure to limit the activities of belligerent-power warships and submarines in our waters, President Franklin D. Roosevelt quickly realized the three-mile limit was an invitation for aggression. German submarines were sinking ships off the coast within sight of Boston and New York.
In May 1941, Roosevelt told the Pan-American Union that "if the Axis Powers fail to gain control of the seas, then they are certainly defeated." He explained that our defenses had "to relate . . . to the lightning speed of modern warfare." He scoffed at those waiting "until bombs actually drop in the streets" of U.S. cities: "Our Bunker Hill of tomorrow may be several thousand miles from Boston." Accordingly, over time, Roosevelt vastly extended America's "waters of self defense" to include Greenland, Iceland and even parts of West Africa.
Similarly in 1988, President Reagan unilaterally extended U.S. territorial waters from three to 12 miles. Reagan's executive order cited U.S. national security and other significant interests in this expansion, and administration officials underlined that a major rationale was making it harder for Soviet spy ships to gather information.
In short, both Roosevelt and Reagan acted unilaterally to adjust to new realities. They did not reify time and distance, or confuse the concrete for the existential. They adjusted the measures to reality, not the reverse.
Although the Caroline criteria are often cited in pre-emption debates, they are merely customary international law, which is interpreted and modified in light of changing state practice. In contemporary times, Israel has already twice struck nuclear-weapons programs in hostile states: destroying the Osirak reactor outside Baghdad in 1981 and a Syrian reactor being built by North Koreans in 2007.
This is how we should think today about the threat of nuclear warheads delivered by ballistic missiles. In 1837 Britain unleashed pre-emptive "fire and fury" against a wooden steamboat. It is perfectly legitimate for the United States to respond to the current "necessity" posed by North Korea's nuclear weapons by striking first.
**John R. Bolton, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, is Chairman of Gatestone Institute, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and author of "Surrender Is Not an Option: Defending America at the United Nations and Abroad".
*This article first appeared in The Wall Street Journal and is reprinted here with the kind permission of the author.
© 2018 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

How the Left Became its Own Worst Enemy - Part II
Denis MacEoin/Gatestone Institute/March 02/18
This willingness to indulge even the most anti-liberal beliefs and behaviour finds many of its roots in the general disdain many left-wingers and liberals seem to feel for Western democracy, human rights and individualism. But that does not explain why so many people, often decent people, are drawn to defend Islam, Islamic patriarchy, Islamic discrimination against women, violence and more, even when such defence is obviously anti-liberal in the extreme.
I have never known a liberal to say a bad word about a more prevalent and arguably more damaging imperialism: Islamic imperialism. There have been many more imperialist Muslim empires than European ones.
One might have thought that historical facts such as these would provoke human-rights activists to put the Muslim empires into the same category as the later European ones. Not a word of it. Nor do liberals mention another issue that should be close to their hearts: the Islamic slave trade.
Feminists are far from the only so-called left-wing or liberal group to betray their own basic principles out of a bizarre admiration for Islam, whether its history, its values, or its self-proclaimed victimization. Real liberals believe in human rights, women's rights, racial equality, free speech, and more, rejecting extremism on both the right and left. However, the left in the UK and elsewhere seems to have abandoned those principles and betrayed the very people they had previously supported.[1]
This willingness to indulge even the most anti-liberal beliefs and behaviour finds many of its roots in the general disdain that many so-called left-wingers and liberals seem to feel for Western democracy, human rights and individual freedom. This disdain, however, does not explain why so many people -- often decent people -- are drawn to defend Islam, Islamic patriarchy, Islamic discrimination against women, or violence in the name of Islam, especially when such defence is obviously anti-liberal in the extreme. Examples are not hard to find, for instance feminists who urge Muslim women to submit to the veil and abandon their rights as free women in favour of Muslim men and their power over them.
What possesses so many Westerners to regard Islam, Islamic religion, Islamic law, and Islamic intolerance through rose-tinted spectacles that obscure the obvious and blind observers from seeing what is in front of them?
Another of the most notable examples is the virtually universal attitude toward imperialism. We might all agree that imperialism is a thing of the past and that, for the most part, it has brought considerable suffering on indigenous peoples who found themselves under British, French, Belgian, Spanish or Portuguese rule. No country in the modern West would seek to bring back an imperial system that, mercifully, was dealt a death blow by the First and Second World Wars. This change, however, does not prevent Marxists and others of a similar ilk from claiming that imperialism continues to this day, through the power exerted by strong nations in the West such as Israel or the U.S. Even the United Nations has been condemned as "a tool of imperialism".
Mystifyingly, however, I have never known a liberal to say a bad word about a more prevalent and arguably more damaging imperialism: Islamic imperialism.[2] From the year 632 until 1918, there have been many more Muslim empires than European ones.
The first extensive Islamic empire was the Umayyad Caliphate (661-750), which extended from the Iberian peninsula (Spain and Portugal) to what is now Northern India and Pakistan's province of Sindh. At its height, it was the largest empire in the world and remains the fifth largest in history.
The Umayyads were replaced by the 'Abbasids (750-1258), who ruled a similar extent of territory, including Sardinia, Sicily, and southern Italy. A succession of such empires controlled territories from North Africa to India. The most extensive of all was the long-lasting Ottoman empire (1299-1918), the possessions of which rivalled those of the largest of all empires, that of Great Britain. Here is a rough list of the Ottoman dominions:
Algeria, Tunis, Tripoli (Libya), Egypt, Western Arabia, Syria (a vast area), Mesopotamia (Iraq), Anatolia (Turkey), Croatia, Bosnia, Albania, Greece, Serbia, Bulgaria, Rumelia, Wallachia, Hungary, Poland, Transylvania, Moldova, Bessarabia, Crete, Cyprus, Crimea, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Daghestan, al-Hasa (in eastern Arabia).
Broadly speaking, the Ottoman empire lasted longer and covered more territory than even the long-lived (1415-1999) Portuguese empire in South America, Africa, India and farther east. European empires may have been – and often were -- despotic, carrying out ethnic cleansing; genocides, such as Spain's and Portugal's in South America, as well as general brutality to the natives. Those are all causes for censure.
In addition, frighteningly high numbers of Hindus were massacred in India by Muslim rulers. A Sikh writer declares that the assault amounted to "the biggest holocaust in World history":
With the invasion of India by Mahmud Ghazni about 1000 A.D., began the Muslim invasions into the Indian subcontinent and they lasted for several centuries. Nadir Shah made a mountain of the skulls of the Hindus he killed in Delhi alone. Babur raised towers of Hindu skulls at Khanua when he defeated Rana Sanga in 1527 and later he repeated the same horrors after capturing the fort of Chanderi. Akbar ordered a general massacre of 30,000 Rajputs after he captured Chithorgarh in 1568. The Bahamani Sultans had an annual agenda of killing a minimum of 100,000 Hindus every year.
The Belgian Indologist Dr. Koenrad Elst wrote that:
There is no official estimate of the total death toll of Hindus at the hands of Islam. A first glance at important testimonies by Muslim chroniclers suggests that, over 13 centuries and a territory as vast as the Subcontinent, Muslim Holy Warriors easily killed more Hindus than the 6 million of the Holocaust. Ferishtha lists several occasions when the Bahmani sultans in central India (1347-1528) killed a hundred thousand Hindus, which they set as a minimum goal whenever they felt like "punishing" the Hindus; and they were only a third-rank provincial dynasty. The biggest slaughters took place during the raids of Mahmud Ghaznavi (ca. 1000 CE); during the actual conquest of North India by Mohammed Ghori and his lieutenants (1192 ff.); and under the Delhi Sultanate (1206-1526).... The Moghuls (1526-1857), even Babar and Aurangzeb, were fairly restrained tyrants by comparison. Prof. K.S. Lal once estimated that the Indian population declined by 50 million under the Sultanate, but that would be hard to substantiate; research into the magnitude of the damage Islam did to India is yet to start in right earnest.
He continues:
Apart from actual killing, millions of Hindus disappeared by way of enslavement. After every conquest by a Muslim invader, slave markets in Bagdad and Samarkand were flooded with Hindus. Slaves were likely to die of hardship, e.g. the mountain range Hindu Koh, "Indian mountain", was renamed Hindu Kush, "Hindu-killer", when one cold night in the reign of Timur Lenk (1398-99), a hundred thousand Hindu slaves died there while on transport to Central Asia. Though Timur conquered Delhi from another Muslim ruler, he recorded in his journal that he made sure his pillaging soldiers spared the Muslim quarter, while in the Hindu areas, they took "twenty slaves each".
One might have thought that historical facts such as these would provoke human-rights activists to put the Muslim empires into the same category as the later European ones. Not a word of it. Nor do liberals mention another issue that should be close to their hearts: the Islamic slave trade.
Slavery has been an integral part of Islamic practice from the start. It is scripturally endorsed, embedded in shari'a law, and has been practiced from the seventh century until today. The slave trade was notably carried on by Arab merchants across the Sahara and brought Africans to North Africa. Liberals rightly condemn the European slave trade and its impact on North America; they – again rightly – act to eliminate modern slavery through trafficking – which is estimated to involve some 40.3 million people worldwide by 2016. It is almost unheard of, nevertheless, for people on the left also to speak of the Islamic (mainly Arab) slave trade.
The educational website History World, for instance, has a substantial account entitled "History of Slavery", in which it describes the use of slaves in Babylon, Greece, Rome, the European Middle Ages, and the Portuguese and triangular (chiefly the Transatlantic) slave trades. Yet it only mentions Islamic slavery in passing, despite its having lasted far longer than the European and American versions. Here are the three short paragraphs the site devotes to the subject, all of which appear to argue that supposedly Muslim slavery was not altogether a bad thing:
Slavery is an accepted part of life in Arabia during the time of Muhammad, in the 7th century, and the Qur'an offers no arguments against the practice. It merely states, particularly in relation to female slaves, that they must be well treated. In general that has been the case[3] compared with the barbaric treatment of slaves in some Christian communities.
Meanwhile the Muslim habit of using slaves in the army has led to one unusual result - in itself an indication of the trust accorded to slaves in Middle Eastern communities.
In 1250 the slave leaders of the Egyptian army, known as Mamelukes, depose the sultan and seize power. A succession of rulers from their own ranks control much of the Middle East, as the Mameluke dynasty, for nearly three centuries.
This article also does not mention the three centuries of the Barbary Slavers,: North African Muslims who went out as pirates into the Mediterranean to capture ships from European countries and take crews and passengers as slaves to be sold in the markets of Tunis, Algiers and other towns. Barbary pirates ventured as far as England and Ireland, where they would raid coastal villages, and carry residents off. Professor Robert Davis writes:
"The fishermen and coastal dwellers of 17th-century Britain lived in terror of being kidnapped by pirates and sold into slavery in North Africa. Hundreds of thousands across Europe met wretched deaths on the Barbary Coast in this way".
As late as the early 19th century, the new US Navy fought two wars against the Barbary States, bringing the piracy to an end.[4]
Edward Moran's 1897 painting, depicting the burning USS Philadelphia at the Battle of Tripoli Harbor, during the First Barbary War in 1804. (Image source: U.S. Naval Academy Museum Collection/Wikimedia Commons)
Fantasies about the benign effects of slavery under Islam or, more widely, the tolerance enjoyed by non-Muslims living in the Muslim empires are still widespread. Muslims themselves insist that Islam is the most tolerant religion, and many progressives take this on board without much knowledge of the facts. Classroom, a website devoted to education, illustrates the naivety of excessively open-minded Westerners. In an article, "How Muslim Empires Treated Religion", Laura Leddy Turner writes:
From Muhammad's founding of Islam and his unification of the Arab tribes in the seventh century, Muslims were instructed to practice respect towards other religions. This tolerance was essential to ensure peace and stability in Medina and throughout Asia Minor, as these lands were populated by Jews, Christians and other faiths. Most of the Islamic empires established in this region upheld the tradition of religious tolerance, although conflict between Sunni and Shiite Muslims was frequent.
Ms Turner holds a B.A. in literature and English from Ramapo College of New Jersey, with postgraduate coursework in business law. She has obviously never read a word of the Qur'an or the Hadith, or studied the history of Islam in any depth or she would not write such nonsense. Many religions can display intolerance towards non-believers, often in defiance of scriptural values (as in Christianity), but Islam in particular seems to stand out for a hatred for non-Muslims, and for other Muslim sects not like theirs, that is still practiced. Under Islamic law, Jews and Christians are forced live by a separate set of laws designed to remind them they are merely lower-class, "tolerated" residents, called dhimmis, and that they have to pay a "protection" tax merely to preserve their lives and keep their homes, synagogues or churches.
If they refuse to do so, they may be killed and their property confiscated. All other "disbelievers" are considered pagans, who may be killed with impunity if they do not convert to Islam on the spot. Tolerance?
A favourite focus for praise of life under Islamic rule is, of course, the Jewish and Christian experience under Umayyad rule in the Iberian peninsula, covering most of Spain and what, in 1128, became Portugal – a territory best known as Andalusia (from the Arabic al-Andalus). A host of articles and lectures have described Islamic Spain as a haven of tolerance and civilization, representing a gold age in European history. Akbar Ahmed, for example, holds the Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies at American University's School of International Service in Washington, DC and served as the former Pakistani High Commissioner to the UK and Ireland. Writing in the Huffington Post, he states that:
At its height, Andalusia produced a magnificent Muslim civilization — religious tolerance, poetry, music, learned scientists and scholars like Averroës, great libraries (the main library at Cordoba alone had 400,000 books), public baths, and splendid architecture (like the palace complex at the Alhambra and the Grand Mosque of Cordoba). These great achievements were the result of collaboration between Muslims, Christians and Jews — indeed the work of the great Jewish Rabbi Maimonides was written in the Arabic language. It was a time when a Muslim ruler had a Jewish chief minister and a Catholic archbishop as his foreign minister. The Spanish had a phrase for that period of history — La Convivencia, or co-existence.
While there may be some truth in this, it is in most respects a gross exaggeration that whitewashes the realities of life there for all non-Muslims. This exaggeration was in some measure contradicted by Edward Rothstein, writing (somewhat surprisingly) in the New York Times in 2003, in an article entitled, "Was the Islam Of Old Spain Truly Tolerant?":
As many scholars have argued, this [idealized] image is distorted. Even the Umayyad dynasty, begun by Abd al-Rahman in 756, was far from enlightened. Issues of succession were often settled by force. One ruler murdered two sons and two brothers. Uprisings in 805 and 818 in Córdoba were answered with mass executions and the destruction of one of the city's suburbs. Wars were accompanied by plunder, kidnappings and ransom. Córdoba itself was finally sacked by Muslim Berbers in 1013, its epochal library destroyed.
Andalusian governance was also based on a religious tribal model. Christians and Jews, who shared Islam's Abrahamic past, had the status of dhimmis -- alien minorities. They rose high but remained second-class citizens; one 11th-century legal text called them members of "the devil's party." They were subject to special taxes and, often, dress codes. Violence also erupted, including a massacre of thousands of Jews in Grenada in 1066 and the forced exile of many Christians in 1126.
More recently, and in much greater detail, Darío Fernádnez-Morera, an associate professor in Spanish and Portuguese at Northwestern University has published a ground-breaking study, The Myth of the Andalusian Paradise: Muslims, Christians, and Jews under Islamic Rule in Medieval Spain (2016). We have to hope that it, and future studies from a similar perspective, will help dispel the fog of ignorance that surrounds what life was really like under Islamic imperialism.
*Dr. Denis MacEoin (PhD Cambridge) formerly lectured in Arabic and Islamic Studies and has written numerous books, articles, and encyclopedia entries on Islam, including aspects of Iranian Shi'ism.
[1] For more on this, see What's Left? How the Left Lost its Way: How Liberals Lost Their Way, by Nick Cohen, one of Britain's leading journalists.
[2] For the most up-to-date study, see Efraim Karsh, Islamic Imperialism: A History, Yale University Press, 2006
[3] It is hard to know on what this "general" claim is based.
[4] There is decent literature on the Barbary Slave Trade because it relates directly to Europe. An excellent modern study is Robert Davis's Christian Slaves, Muslim Masters: White Slavery in the Mediterranean, the Barbary Coast, and Italy, 1500-1800 (New York, 2003). There are fewer studies of the general Islamic trade, but a useful introduction is Bernard Lewis's Race and Slavery in the Middle East: An Historical Enquiry, new ed., Oxford University Press, 1992. In this, Lewis "examines the romantic myth of the Middle East as a racial utopia".
© 2018 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

Palestinians: The "Ugly Crime" of a School Curriculum
Bassam Tawil/Gatestone Institute/March 02/18
A recent study of Palestinian textbooks found that Palestinian children are being taught to glorify and value terrorism and violence. The Palestinian Authority and its Minister of Education, Sabri Saidam, want Arab schools in Jerusalem to teach the students why Muslims should be killing Jews.
"Within the pages of the textbooks, children are being taught to be expendable. Messages such as: 'The Volcano of My Revenge'; 'The Longing of my Blood for my Land'; and 'I Shall Sacrifice My Blood to Saturate the Land' suffuse the [Palestinian] curriculum. Math books use numbers of dead martyrs to teach arithmetic. The vision of an Arab Palestine includes the entirety of what is now Israel, defined as the '1948 Occupied Territories.'" — IMPACT-se.
How come the Arab citizens of Israel have never complained about the Israeli educational system? The answer is because they evidently like the education that Israel has been offering them. It teaches them to value life, freedom of speech and democracy, and Arab Israelis admire it. They love the education Israel offers them because it does not demonize any race or group of people. They love it because it does not teach them to kill Jews, but to live with them in peace and security. This is the truth that the Palestinian Authority does not want to hear. This is the truth that it does not want the rest of the world to hear.
The Palestinian Authority (PA) Minister of Education, Sabri Saidam, is worried these days. He is not worried, he says, because Palestinian schoolchildren are being taught to hate Israel. He is not worried because Palestinian schoolchildren are being goaded by their leaders to carry out terror attacks against Jews, from stone-throwing to stabbings to ramming cars.
The PA minister of Education is worried, he says, about a "crime" that is about to be committed against Arab children in Jerusalem schools. The "crime," in his view, is that the children will be taught according to an Israeli, and not a Palestinian, curriculum.
Saidam sees the decision to apply the Israeli curriculum to Arab schools in Jerusalem as an "ugly crime of counterfeit." These are the exact words he used to denounce the decision to introduce the Israeli curriculum into Arab schools.
Why are the minister and the Palestinian Authority so truculently opposed to Arab schoolchildren studying according to the Israeli curriculum? Is this curriculum really an "ugly crime of counterfeit," as the minister says?
The main reason the PA leadership is opposed to the Israeli curriculum is because it does not promote hatred. The curriculum also does not demonize Arabs in parallel to the way the Palestinian curriculum demonizes Jews.
A recent study of Palestinian textbooks found that Palestinian children are being taught to glorify and value terrorism and violence. The study, called "Palestinian Elementary School Curriculum 2016-17: Radicalization and Revival of the PLO Program," was conducted by the Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education.
The Palestinian curriculum teaches students to be martyrs, demonizes and denies the existence of Israel, and focuses on a "'return' to an exclusively Palestinian homeland," according to the study.
Within the pages of the textbooks, children are being taught to be expendable. Messages such as: "The Volcano of My Revenge"; "The Longing of my Blood for my Land"; and "I Shall Sacrifice My Blood to Saturate the Land" suffuse the [Palestinian] curriculum. Math books use numbers of dead martyrs to teach arithmetic. The vision of an Arab Palestine includes the entirety of what is now Israel, defined as the "1948 Occupied Territories."
While Islam is not used as a radical political tool for this age group, negative messages linger regarding non-Muslims. And though Christian education is provided, Jewish roots are ignored. Arabs continue to be presented as original dwellers of the land. Palestinian identity, as conveyed to these children, is now more realistically based on Levantine-Palestinian folklore alongside Arabism, Islam, and the struggle against Israel.
"Within the pages of the [Palestinian Authority] textbooks, children are being taught to be expendable. Messages such as: 'The Longing of my Blood for my Land'; and 'I Shall Sacrifice My Blood to Saturate the Land'". (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
The Palestinian minister of education, then, is worried that Arab children in Jerusalem will no longer be exposed to the poison and brainwashing of the Palestinian curriculum. He is even worried that the Arab children will not be taught about the 1974 PLO's Phased Plan to conquer Israel in stages. Phase one (Article 2) is to create a Palestinian state on any territory vacated by Israel. The next phase (Article 8) is to use that territory to "foment an allied Arab assault against a truncated Jewish state."
This PLO Phased Plan is still an integral part of the Palestinian curriculum.
Saidam and his Palestinian Authority want Arab schools in Jerusalem to teach the students why Muslims should be killing Jews. Take, for example, the religious textbooks for the upper grades in Palestinian Authority schools, which include genocidal messages such as the following hadith (a record of the traditions or sayings of Prophet Mohammed), from Hadiths, Bukhari, Book number 4:
Fighting the Jews and victory over them: The Messenger [Mohammed] already announced [the good news] of the end of the Jews' oppression upon this Holy Land and the removal of their corruption and of their occupation thereof. [It is told] by Abu Hurayrah [one of Mohammed's Companions] that the Prophet said: "The End of Days will not take place until the Muslims fight the Jews, and the Muslims will kill them to a point that a Jew will hide behind a rock or a tree, and then the rock or the tree will say: 'O Muslim, O God's servant, there is a Jew behind me, so come and kill him, except the salt bush (Gharqad), for it is one of the Jews' trees." Faith, (Sharia Studies) Grade 11, 2003, p 94.
The Palestinian Authority and its Ministry of Education are angry because this hadith has been removed from the textbooks in the Arab schools of Jerusalem.
The removal of the hadith, they argue, is an "ugly crime." In other words, the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah is fighting for the right of students to be taught that Jews are "corrupt" and "occupiers" and should be killed, even as they try to hide behind a rock or a tree.
Now has come a fatwa (Islamic religious decree) recently issued by Palestinian Mufti of Jerusalem, Sheikh Mohammed Hussein, prohibiting schoolchildren from studying in accordance with the Israeli curriculum.
"Teaching the Israeli curriculum in Palestinian schools is dangerous and abusive," the fatwa determined. "The Israeli curriculum consists of matters that contravene the Islamic faith, the Arab identity, and Palestinian values and traditions."
Conspicuously missing from the fatwa was even a single example of how the Israeli curriculum was dangerous and abusive to schoolchildren. The reason: there is nothing there -- in the Israeli curriculum -- that can poison the hearts and minds of the Arab students.
What the Palestinian Authority is failing to tell its people and the rest of the world is that there are hundreds of thousands of Arabs who do study according to the Israeli curriculum. These are the Arab citizens of Israel, who for the past 70 years have been studying in accordance with a curriculum set by successive Israeli governments.
Why is it all right for those Arab children to be studying according to a curriculum that does not contain bigotry and racism, while it is wrong for Arabs living in Jerusalem? Why is it alright for tens of thousands of Arabs to attend Israeli schools, universities and colleges and study according to Israeli curricula, while it is banned for Arabs in Jerusalem to do so?
The Arab citizens of Israel who studied in Israeli educational institutions are probably the most peaceful, pragmatic and moderate Arabs living in the Middle East. They are among the country's leading professors, lawyers, businessmen and physicians; they have their own political parties, members of parliament and sit on Israel's Supreme Court. This is what happens when a student gets a good education, free of indoctrination, incitement and messages of hate.
If the Israeli curriculum is as bad and dangerous as the Palestinian Authority claims, why are thousands of Arabs continuing to enroll in Hebrew University, Haifa University, Tel Aviv University and even the "settler" Ariel University in the northern West Bank? How come the Arab citizens of Israel have never complained about the Israeli educational system?
The number of Israeli Arabs pursuing bachelor's degrees at Israeli universities and colleges, has, in fact, jumped 60% over the last seven years to 47,000 in 2017, according to the Council for Higher Education in Israel. In just the past seven years, the number of Arab students studying in Israeli universities and colleges has climbed 78.5%, the council said.
The answer is because they evidently like the education that Israel has been offering them for the past 70 years. It is an education that teaches them to value life, freedom of speech and democracy, and Arab Israelis admire it. They love the education Israel offers them because it does not demonize any race or group of people. They love it because it does not teach them to kill Jews, but to live with them in peace and security.
This is the truth that the Palestinian Authority does not want to hear. This is the truth that it does not want the rest of the world to hear. Instead, the PA leadership in Ramallah wants to continue to teach children to hate Israel and Jews and prepare to destroy Israel.
The Palestinian minister of education can continue to talk about resisting the Israeli curriculum, but the good news is that the Arabs residents of Jerusalem and the Arab citizens of Israel will continue to knock on the doors of Israeli educational institutions to seek a good education.
The true intention of the Palestinian Authority, namely to raze Israel to the ground and wage jihad against the Jews, has once again been exposed. If one is seeking "ugly crimes," one need look no further.
*Bassam Tawil is a Muslim based in the Middle East.
© 2018 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

Trump the Deal-maker and the Middle East
Amir Taheri/Asharq Al Awsat/March 02/18
Casting himself as the best friend Israel could hope for, President Donald Trump is promising, some may say threatening, to unveil his grand plan for a peace “deal” to end the so-called “Middle East problem”.
Trump has always fancied himself as a deal-maker; he has even written a book on the subject. It is, therefore, no surprise that he might want to put his skill to use on an issue which has defied numerous deal-makers for six decades.
What are the chances of him succeeding?
The short answer is: nil!
This is no reflection on Trump’s talent for deal-making.
The problem with the “Middle East problem” is that those who tried to solve it never managed to define it and, as a result, sacrificed the existential reality on the ground to the essential abstraction of elusive ideals.
The current phase of the saga began in 1945 at the end of the Second World War.
The first would-be deal-maker was Britain’s Prime Minister Clement Attlee, then responsible for the fate of the chunk of the Greater Syria of the Ottoman times, known as Palestine. Influenced by the Foreign Office which had already allocated a portion of the booty to Trans-Jordan, Attlee was apparently persuaded that the remaining bit should also be distributed among Arab states, then allies of Britain grouped in The Arab League.
However, Britain’s evolving position run into opposition from former US President Harry S Truman who also fancied himself as a deal-maker. To iron out differences between the two rival deal-makers, London and Washington created the Anglo-American Commission of Inquiry.
Truman’s envoy to the commission was a Californian Catholic judge, Bartley C Crum, who admitted he knew nothing of the issue. However, during the months he spent in the region attending the commission’s many hearings, addressed by envoys from Arab countries and native Muslim, Christian and Jewish populations, he concluded that creating a “homeland” for the Jews, as promised by Great Britain in the Balfour declaration of1917, must be part of any “deal”.
At that time, however, Britain had moved beyond Balfour and hoped to create an Arab bloc against the looming Soviet danger in the region.
Both Attlee and Truman failed in imposing their divergent deals. And in February 1947 British Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin passed the hot potato to the United Nations.
In November 1947 the UN General Assembly cast itself as deal-maker by passing General Assembly Resolution 181 that recommended the creation of two states, one for Jews and the other for Arabs.
Britain was one of the 10 states that abstained while 13 others, (Afghanistan, Cuba, Egypt, Greece, India, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey, and Yemen) voted against.
However, it quickly became clear that the UN, too, had failed as a deal-maker.
The resolution was so long, so detailed and so laden with jargon that few apart from seasoned lawyers would comprehend let alone be able to implement it.
Rather than admit failure, the UN persisted in its deal-making delusion. Successive Secretary-Generals, from Dag Hammarskjold to Kurt Waldheim and passing by U Thant, appointed special emissaries to shape a “deal”.
Some emissaries, notably Sweden’s Gunnar Jarring, claimed that they were on the threshold of a deal. In every case they came close but no cigar.
Until the 1970s the issue was labeled “the Arab-Israeli conflict”, a term justified by four wars. The decade also marked the start of an inflationary trend in Mideast deal-making. Henry Kissinger, dubbed “the modern Metternich”, chased the mirage with his shuffle diplomacy, and failed.
He was succeeded in the role by President Jimmy Carter who achieved a truce between Egypt and Israel but kicked peace into long grass.
By the 1980s the conflict had acquired a new appellation: the “Palestine issue” and the seductive dream of a deal remained.
Since then the list of would-be deal-makers has continued to get longer, so long, in fact, that one could not mention all of them in a single column. Among the pretenders were French President Jacques Chirac, British Premier Tony Blair and, in a different register, the Norwegian government. In 2005 even Angela Merkel, just named Chancellor of Germany, toyed with the idea of playing Mideast deal-maker but, wise lady as she is, quickly turned to other matters.
There are many reasons why so many deal-makers have failed.
The first is that peace is never negotiated and is always imposed by the side that wins a war. There is not any instance in history, which is primarily a narrative of countless wars, in which an outsider has imposed peace on unwilling belligerents.
The second reason is that outside deal-makers have their interests and agendas which make an already tangled web even more complicated. For example, in the case of American deal-makers, how to win Jewish votes in the US without antagonizing the Arabs who sell us oil and buy our arms?
The third reason is that wannabee deal-makers do not fully appreciate the importance of the status quo, the reality on the ground.
Whenever a status quo is at least tolerable for both belligerents the desire for risking it in the hope of an ill-defined peace is diminished. Many people in the world live with status quo they don’t regard as ideal.
Russia and Japan coexist, trade with each other, and maintain correct relations despite being technically at war with the Russian occupation chunks of Kuril Islands.
China and India coexist despite the Chinese annexation of large Indian territories along the border.
Bolivia and Chile are still technically at war because of the Chilean annexation of Bolivia’s access to the ocean. By one count no fewer than 89 of the 198 members of the United Nations are involved in territorial disputes or are home to restive, sometimes secessionist minorities.
If we add irredentist dreams and claims rooted in myths or history, almost all UN members are in dispute with their neighbors. I haven’t met a Mexican who didn’t think that California and Texas belonged to Mexico. Nor would you find many Serbs ready to forget Pristina, their “holy city”, now in the hands of Muslim Albanians. And there are few Iranians who don’t feel sad that Baghdad, the site of their ancient capital of Ctesiphon, is now an Arab metropolis.
Finally, and more importantly, there could be no deal and no peace unless and until those involved in a conflict desire it. Without that desire the best one could aim for is a truce, allowing for coexistence, living and half living as the Anglo-American poet Elliot put it.
There is one thing that Trump the deal-maker could do. He could ask the Israelis and the Palestinians to work on an agreement, each in their own camp, on what they exactly want, and report to him.
My bet is that, at this moment, neither of the two sides would be able to shape any agreement in their own respective camp on what kind of a deal they might accept. And that, at least implicitly, means that both are happier with the status quo rather than the prolongation of a “peace process” which could never lead to peace and now is no longer even a process.

The prospect of Turkish-Greek flare-up over Cyprus gas!
Huda al-Husseini/Al Arabiya/March 02/18
Is Turkey about to open a military front against Greece? As a matter of fact, hostile statements and recent events in the Aegean have led to fears of a potential conflict between Turkey and Greece. Last Saturday, Turkish warships threatened to use force against an Italian ship in order to prevent it from extracting gas in Cyprus. There have been reports that Greek and Turkish vessels confronted each other in waters off uninhabited disputed islands on January 12. There have also been frequent violations of Greek airspace by Turkish fighter jets. On Monday, Greece reported 42 air incursions.
War with Greece not likely
Greece is furious about Turkish attempts to block the prospects of natural gas’ drilling around Cyprus. Yet, despite the growing tension between the two countries, going to war does not seem a plausible option, because Turkey is involved in many other issues at this time. Turkey also has close economic relations with Europe which will be affected by any war in the Aegean. Thus, initiating a conflict may lead to an economic suicide for Ankara.
Initially, Erdogan had started peace talks with Kurds when he was keen to show his benevolent side. Now, the Kurds are subjected to his political and militaristic rage. Erdogan has turned his back on democratic principles, which Turkey is supposed to share with its allies
Turkish public opinion is more worried about the Kurdish threat, not Greece. But the rhetoric of war in the Aegean serves the political agenda of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan well. With presidential elections scheduled for next year, Erdogan knows that using historic grievances guarantees winning the support of hardline voters.
Nevertheless, the prospect of a sudden misadventure in the Aegean could lead to unprecedented events. In fact, to resolve the recent collision between Turkish and Greek ships, Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım and Greece’s Alexis Tsipras spoke on the phone to defuse the situation. As a result of the growing tension, Athens has called on NATO to take a stronger stance against Turkey, urging Washington to use diplomatic pressure by threatening to put off sales of its jet fighter to Ankara.
Character arc of a totalitarian
Erdogan has quickly changed from being a democratic model into a leader seeking to establish totalitarian rule. In 2004, the European Union extended an official invitation to Turkey to join the bloc. It urged Turkey to curtail the strength of the Turkish army. However, there were soon accusations of conspiracy leading to the arrest of senior Turkish military officers and a failed coup attempt. Until now, there are doubts as to who suuports it. In response, Turkey resorted to a full scale repression and used violence as a strategy to create a one-man state.
Initially, Erdogan had started peace talks with Kurds when he was keen to show his benevolent side. Now, the Kurds are subjected to his political and militaristic rage. Erdogan has turned his back on democratic principles, which Turkey is supposed to share with its allies, especially NATO countries. However, neither his totalitarian rule nor his stance regarding the Kurds has provoked the wrath of Washington. However, his fiery statements against Washington, which did not change its strategy in Syria, did.
Before the visit of US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to Ankara which took place last week, there was speculation about what needs to be done to restore amicable relations among the two NATO allies. Observers believe that Washington and Ankara will continue to safeguard their interests while maintaining their relations, which has been the norm since Turkey's admission into NATO in 1952. This somewhat optimistic outlook is entertained more by American officials than by their Turkish counterparts.
Turkish politicians have not forgotten the letter of US President Lyndon Johnson in 1964 to Turkish prime minister, when he advised him against taking any military action against Cyprus. Yet in July 1974, Turkey annexed the northern part of Cyprus. The Turks have not even forgotten the arms embargo of the 1970s and the arrest of some Turkish Special Forces personnel in northern Iraq during the 2003 invasion. In contrast, American politicians do not give much importance to such events. This is partially due to a misconception on both sides about the nature of the NATO alliance. Both sides think of it as an entity more than a defensive alliance initially established to stop Soviet expansion, and finally as a counter-terrorism mechanism to block any Russian efforts for destabilization.
There is a lot of literature about the values of NATO and that its main goal of providing greater security to its member states, as well as the conviction that an attack on one member state is tantamount to an attack on all.
This misconception has led to an idealistic view of NATO's capacity to foster amicable relations among its members, because the reality is each NATO member has developed an independent foreign policy to achieve its own goals.
On the one hand, Turkey seeks to stop the expansion of Kurdish-controlled areas in northern Syria and wants to prevent the creation of an independent Kurdish region along its borders, which it considers more important than defeating ISIS or other radical Islamic organizations. Washington, on the other hand, considers defeating ISIS and other radical groups as the most critical issue in Syria. Until ISIS is totally and fully eliminated, and until Turkey quashes all Kurdish hope of autonomous rule, the war in Syria will keep fomenting tensions between the two countries.
Is Turkey serious about NATO?
It is questionable whether President Erdogan acknowledges the importance of NATO membership as his predecessors did. He may even consider this alliance as a liability which keeps Turkey from acting unilaterally.
If Erdogan feels that his objectives require Turkey to renounce the NATO and the United States, he may take actions that advance the breaking up of NATO, by provoking a conflict over oil exploration around Cyprus or unnecessarily precipitating troubles against Greece in the Aegean Sea.
Tillerson held a three-hour meeting with Erdogan in the presence of the Turkish foreign minister as a trusted translator. This meeting allowed for honest discussions but its effectiveness could only be measured in coming weeks and months. The American media leaked that Tillerson offered three things to Erdogan: joint US-Turkish military garrisons in Manbij, establishing a buffer zone in Afrin, and gradually decreasing America’s relations with Syrian Kurd fighters. Still, the State Department spokeswoman declined to comment.
However, if both sides continue making hostile statements then a deep rupture in relations will appear highly possible. Russia will exploit Turkey's estrangement from the West to weaken the NATO alliance in the Black Sea region. Russian President Vladimir Putin has become an expert in profiting from the divisions within this alliance, using natural gas and information warfare as weapons. One Western politician told me: Erdogan's inclination to make enemies is a blessing to salvage the West! He does not seem to be helping anyone, he only works to isolate himself. He added that Turks should know that they cannot wander alone in the world, and that we will not interfere by supporting the Turkish opposition so as not to promote popularization in the country.
Does Erdogan trust Russia? How is his relationship with Iran, the ally of his enemy, Bashar al-Assad? The Kurds are his main worry, but now he is also worried about the oil and gas in Cyprus (Greece’s ally) and he also wants to antagonize the United States?
It seems that the president who thinks he is working to restore the Ottoman sultanate can use a quantum of serenity. The world has changed. The only thing left for him to do is reach China and North Korea.

Interfaith conference: Opportunities for dialogue and challenges of conflict
Fahad Suleiman Shoqiran/Al Arabiya/March 02/18
In September 2006, Pope Benedict XVI sparked a fierce media war between Christians and Muslims when during a visit to Germany, he described Islam “as a religion not constrained by rationality.” His remarks stirred uproar considering he is the head of the Christian religious institution which has a centuries-long history of blood with Islam. The conflict between the two religions was greatly influential in drawing maps, sparking conflicts and renewing vengeful sentiments.
Center for interreligious dialogue
To know more about this history, one can refer to the book Religions, from conflicts to competitions: Lessing and challenging Islam by Karl-Josef Kuschel. The book offers analyses of the verbal and theological conflict, creative competitions and military conflicts such as Crusades and conquest wars of Andalusia and the Balkans. Wisemen realized that the Pope’s harmful statements towards Muslims may affect international balance and bring back elimination wars and genocide plans to people’s minds. It was thus a must to take a decisive measure to prevent this fire from spreading.
Interfaith dialogues must be based on scientific and not diplomatic standards. Diplomatic speeches are important sometimes but when religious representatives and figures sit in one hall, they must be frank enough to clearly talk to one another
Six years after Pope Benedict XVI made these remarks (particularly in November 2012), Saudi Arabia announced inaugurating King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz International Center for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue, KAICIID, in Vienna. During the press conference at the inauguration, late Saudi Prince Saud al-Faisal said: “Bringing together the followers of religions and cultures which influence people in this center aims to serve humanity and peace purposes and spread good all over the world so sectarian differences are no longer a reason for conflict but a factor towards harmony.”
The center’s establishment was met with positive reactions from across the globe as many bet on it to curb tensions and people’s constant motivations to plan protests, burn photos and chant slogans whenever someone makes a slip of a tongue.
The pope made the aforementioned statements although he is one of the most prominent Christian theologians who has held a teaching position at the University of Regensburg since 1969 and who participated in important dialogues with prominent philosophers like Jurgen Habermas, particularly to discuss the controversy of secularization and religion.
In other words, disasters are not only caused by enthusiastic masses that are driven behind extremist and ignorant symbols.
Denial of extremism
Meanwhile, aninterfaith dialogue is being held in Vienna. The dialogue’s events are distinguished for their calm speeches and dreamy visions, in addition for their confident denial of historical events. For example, Doctor Mohammed al-Issa, the secretary general of the Muslim World League said: “Religions are innocent of wars that were fought in their name.”
This was a general remark but history shows us that those who fought such wars were extremist believers in their religions. Their extremist beliefs strengthened their tendency to go to war to achieve political and economic goals and gain geographic influence.Therefore, there is no need to exonerate history to revive values of dialogue between religions as all nations’ histories are full of wars and genocides. Allow me however to commend Doctor Issa for emphasizing the significance of the values of enlightenment, religious pluralism and freedom of faith.
There’s a huge problem that’s unfolding away from conferences which may not produce practical recommendations that can be implemented. Religions’ battles today are spreading via other tools and in different forms. Philosopher Jacques Derrida warned of this in the book Religion in our World which he co-wrote with Gianni Vattimo. Derrida warned of the spread of cyber religious wars via digital platforms and television channels. “We must pay great attention, if possible, to what currently forms the essence of religion, and we must examine what’s being said in the name of religion across the world and in history books,” he said. Destructive wars between religious and sectarian television channels actually reflect what Derrida talked about.
Interfaith dialogues must be based on scientific and not diplomatic standards. Diplomatic speeches are important sometimes but when religious representatives and figures sit in one hall, they must be frank enough to clearly talk to one another and debate each other. They must begin dialogues with discussing religions, their fates and areas of differences as focusing on what religions have in common does not lead to a debate that offers knowledge but to holding a mere friendly meeting. Thus, institutions lose their role and value in the long run. Just like academics hold debates on ideologies and conclude their discussions by writing useful material, religious symbols must also revive debates instead of making reassurances and voicing dreamy visions.
In a debate with Pope Benedict XVI, Jurgen Habermas who is not a fan of repeating the self-evident, said: “Religious awareness must succeed in the integration process in modern societies. All religions are in fact a vision of the world or an ideological understanding that demands its right to authority to establish a form of life in its entirety. However, religion must give up this right and the right to monopolize interpretation and to organize comprehensive life considering the conditions of science’s secularism, neutralization of the state’s authority and comprehensive religious freedom.”
Dialogues between religions are important but their tools and techniques as well as their extent of frankness and discussion approaches require renewal that matches the extent of challenges and the fates of conflicts.

Greater Damascus: The Final Touches on the New Demographic Map
إياد أبو شقرا: إنجاز الخريطة الديموغرافية لمحيط دمشق
Eyad Abu Shakra/Asharq Al Awsat/March 02/18
“Ghouta will fall. That is the message. And when it falls, Idlib must surely be next. And then the Syrians must decide how to break the US-Kurdish hold on Raqqa”, clearly and succinctly, wrote Robert Fisk in ‘The Independent’.
Fisk did not forget to mention that Eastern Ghouta (Northeast and East of Damascus) was now a besieged “enclave”; however, he did not bother to say why it became an “enclave” after 7 years of killing, destruction and systematic population displacement.
Stranger still, that as Fisk used the word ‘Syrians’ in the above opening quote to mean the Damascus regime, ignoring the fact that this Regime was not fighting alone, but was backed throughout its wars of destruction and displacement by the Russian air force and Iran’s sectarian militias brought into Syria from Lebanon, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan…
Fisk knows more than many the true nature of the Al-Assad family regime, even before the Massacre of Hama in 1982; and yet he regards that Bashar Al-Assad and his brother Maher who is now shelling Eastern Ghouta – with the intention of uprooting and transferring its inhabitants, as was the case with Western Ghouta, Wadi Al-Ajam and Wadi Barada – represent ‘the Syrians’.
Perhaps, he also believes that he who has killed a million Syrians and displacing millions, with direct Russian support, as part of Iran’s settlement grand project connecting Iraq with the Mediterranean coast, not only represent the Syrian people but also Syria’s ‘sovereignty’!
This is a simple example of how some Western experts, circles and media have approached the Syrian debacle; specifically, since former US President Barack Obama decided his administration’s priorities in the Middle East.
The western focus has shifted from the moral duty to support a peaceful popular uprising against a sectarian dictatorship that controlled Syria since the autumn of 1970, to a “war against terrorism” that was allowed to proliferate and commit atrocities, in order to justify aborting the uprising, and rehabilitate dictatorship and ‘non-suicidal’ sectarianism. That latter is the famous term alluding to Iran’s, and used by Obama while marketing his nuclear deal with the Iranian regime.
On the other hand, it would be naïve to think that the ‘Iranian considerations’ were the only ones behind Barack Obama’s decision to stand against the Syrian Uprising. In fact, there is smart and dynamic representative of other interests in Washington, precisely inside the Democratic Party: which is ‘The Israeli Lobby’. This ‘Lobby’ has been comfortable with the Damascus regime’s commitment with ‘peaceful co-existence’ with Israel across the October 1973 ceasefire in in the Golan Heights.
The Israelis know the nature of Al-Assad regime only too well. They understand its strengths, weaknesses and existential priorities. The have also become familiar with its outbidding and escalating belligerent rhetoric while providing Israel one service after another. This is why we have noticed that Israeli pragmatism decided against taking a jump into the unknown; and taking the risk of replacing a ‘useful situation’ with non-guaranteed alternative.
Thus, with intersecting Israeli and Iranian – subsequently, ‘Obamist’ – interests in Syria, the decision was reached to leave the Syrian people to face its own fate.
Meanwhile, in another side of the arena, there were two important players: First, Turkey, the regional power hoping to reclaim its Ottoman imperial role and pose as the protector of Sunni Muslims in an area where Iran and Israel were in the ascendency with American approval. Second, Russia, which under a ‘neo-Tzarist’ rule, has decided to keep its last remaining foothold in the Arab world after losing Iraq in 2003, and Libya in 2011.
Turkey flexed its muscles and resorted to loud rhetoric, while Russia used a more efficient approach combining its UN ‘veto’ and employed diplomacy and misleading negotiations as a cover of changing the rules of engagement on the ground.
Soon enough, Turkey suffered two regional setbacks: the first, when it became involved in inter – Arab conflicts; the second, when it had to beat a retreat in the face of Russian threats after it downed a Russian military aircraft in November 2015 over the Turkish – Syrian borders.
These two setbacks were bound to cost Ankara the initiative, and limit its grandiose geo-political ambitions in Syria; especially, following Moscow’s and Tehran’s exploitation of Washington’s bet on the Kurds.
Given these developments, Ankara realized its limitations, as well as the risks of being accused of ‘supporting terrorism’; and seeing Washington’s rush to bolster secessionist Syrian Kurdish militias, Ankara saw a common cause with Moscow and Tehran that soon resulted in the Astana Process, the first political ‘coup’ against the Geneva Peace Process for Syria.
As for Moscow, and following its gains from Obama’s policy appeasement with Iran, it gained again from the confusion and chaos in Donald Trump’s administration. This has allowed the Russians, while liaising with Israel, to uncover their real ambitions in Syria, and provide the much-needed cover to Tehran and Al-Assad’s regime to carry on their demographic change in the country.
The policy of demographic change has resulted so far in uprooting and displacing the populations of eastern Aleppo, the western and southern suburbs of Damascus, as well as Wadi Barada (the valley of Barada River), with the intention of linking Damascus with Hezbollah-dominated Lebanon to the west.
All that after the mass displacement of the populations of the majority of Homs city neighborhoods, as well as several areas in the provinces of Homs, Hama and Idlib; and under the pretext of fighting ISIS, many parts of the provinces of Raqqa, Deir Ez-Zor, Al-Hasakah, and even Deraa.
Today, when Robert Fist talks with conviction about the imminent fall of Ghouta, and Idlib later on, he does because there are no more illusions, despite the futile haggling taking place in the UN Security Council.
The fact of the matter is that the demographic conspiracy against Syria is fast nearing its completion. The dubious ‘evaporation’ of ISIS, and the rush of secessionist Kurdish militias to hand back the territories they control to the Al-Assad troops and Iranian militias lead by Suleimani and protected by Putin’s air force, only confirm that we are now in the last phase.
What’s next?
Well, logically, what remains of the set ‘scenario’ are determining the details of the Kurdish-American co-operation east of the Euphrates River, and settling the issue of Southern Syria with Israeli input.
The pre-2011 is now dead. This is a painful fact that one needs to accept; however, what is even worse and more dangerous is that we are going through the redrawing of new maps in an increasingly fragile and weak region.

Why Europe's Google Rulings Don't Benefit Consumers

Leonid Bershidsky/Bloomberg/March 02/18
Perhaps the most baffling aspect of the European Commission's ruling against Google last year, which included a 2.42 billion euro ($3 billion) fine, is that the remedial action Google was allowed to take didn't make the market in question, shopping searches, any fairer or any more accessible to smaller players than it was before the ruling. Now there's a reason to expect the ruling in another Google case -- the one dealing with the company's treatment of phone makers who use its Android operating system -- to be just as useless for the cause of fair competition.
Reporters for Politico have discovered that FairSearch, the non-profit group that filed the Android complaint in 2013, is under the full legal control of two giant companies: US-based Oracle and South Africa-based Naspers, which owns shares in China's Tencent and Russia's At the time the complaint was filed, Microsoft was also part of the effort, but it left FairSearch in 2015. Other companies that have been mentioned as FairSearch members are so-called adherent members without voting rights who "do not participate actively in the achievement of the association's goals."
This makes sense on a certain level: The small firms don't have the deep pockets to hire expensive lawyers and PR consultants (FairSearch is working with elite firms Clifford Chance and Burson Marsteller). FairSearch has rejected Politico's findings as immaterial, and some of its "adherent members" have backed this stance. But the implication is clear: If, at the end, it all comes down to Oracle's and Naspers's desire to keep Google in check, Google may end up punished but consumers and smaller companies won't get much out of it.
That's exactly what happened last year. The search monopolist was slapped with the fine (which it's contesting) for prominently surfacing its own suggestions when a user searched for a product to buy, and burying comparison websites' competing results. It was told to fix the problem andcame up with an auction-based mechanism for the top spots on the search output page, in which competitors could bid for space against Google Shopping. That service was required to show a profit so it couldn't always outbid the others. It hasn't worked. Search for something to buy in any European country and you'll get results from Google Shopping. Google has told me that competitors were placing ads, too, but I don't know what one needs to do, or how many times a search needs to be repeated, finally to stumble upon an alternative.
In the Android case, which is likely to be resolved in the next few months, the idea is to stop Google from forcing phone makers to preinstall its apps and from barring access to the Google Play store -- the official source of Android apps -- for producers who install Android "forks," versions of the system that Google doesn't support. As an Android user, I'm not sure how the EU can help me with any of this. I want the Google apps preinstalled, rather than the useless bloatware supplied by phone makers such as Samsung.
Even if I cannot remove an app that came with my phone -- which traditionally has been easier on Android than on Apple's MacOS -- the various interfaces available for the system can be tweaked so that I'll never see it. It's easy for an Android user to replace the default browser if one doesn't like Google's Chrome (I've done so) and to use a search engine other than Google (sadly, none works as well -- but privacy advocates aren't prevented from using DuckDuckGo, for example). And as for Android forks, they're for geeks who are fine with common applications not working right on their devices.
Nor is it clear how a ruling against Google could address any of Oracle's or Naspers's direct competition concerns. Oracle's beef with Google is about the use of elements of Java, an Oracle-owned programming language, in Android. Naspers is a major player in online classified ads, a business in which it clashes with Google. Neither would benefit directly from a change in Google's relationships with phone makers.
One can, however, easily see Oracle and Naspers rejoice at another publicity black eye for Google and another huge fine. Margrethe Vestager, the competition commissioner, is the European Commission's undisputed star, who is often mentioned as a potential successor to its current president, Jean-Claude Juncker. But what if her crusade against US tech is no more than a reflection of the increasingly high-stakes lobbying game played in Brussels by non-European tech giants?
Google's declared EU lobbying costs, between 5.25 million and 5.5 million euros in 2016, the latest year for which data have been available.

طفيل أحمد: الفتوى الباكستانية الرسمية ضد الجهاد هي كاذبة وخادعة ولا معنى لها والعالم سيكون افضل من دونها
The Pakistani State's Official Fatwa Against Jihad Is Bogus, Deceptive, And Meaningless; The World Will Be Better Without It

By: Tufail Ahmad/MEMRI/March 02/18
On January 16, 2018, the government of Pakistan unveiled a fatwa ("Islamic decree"), which was described as the Pakistani "nation's unanimous declaration to counter extremism and end terrorism."[1] Media reports said that the fatwa was seconded by more than 1,800 Islamic scholars.[2] The fatwa is published as a book called Paigham-e-Pakistan ("The Message Of Pakistan"), written by the researchers of the Islamic Research Institute at the International Islamic University, Islamabad (IIUI). The revision and endorsement of the 121-page book, as noted in it, was carried out by "eminent scholars of all schools of thought, muftis [jurists] and professors of national universities."
The draft of "The Message Of Pakistan" was presented at a seminar on May 26, 2017. At the seminar, a joint declaration and a fatwa were also released. Later, religious scholars from divergent schools of Islam discussed and approved "The Message Of Pakistan," which will be referred to in this article as the Fatwa. "The Message identifies the problems faced by the State of Pakistan and provides basis to devise a strategy to achieve the goals of Objectives Resolution," the preface says and adds: "This document is now published with the approval of the State of Pakistan to implement it as a bisic [sic] national code of conduct." The Objectives Resolution refers to a code which, in short, led to the Islamization of the Pakistani state and unleashed religious extremism in Pakistani society.
The Fatwa was released at a function in Islamabad presided over by Pakistani President Mamnoon Hussain and attended by Islamic scholars, academics, and government ministers. Releasing the Fatwa, President Hussain said: "The Pakistani nation's foundational declaration is the Constitution of Pakistan which was prepared in the light of the Koran and the Sunnah and the thoughts of the Father of the Nation M.A. Jinnah, and which is trusted by the entire nation. Whereas, the Islamic scholars' Fatwa illustrates and seconds [the Constitution]."[3]
Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal, speaking also on the occasion, stated: "If we want to correct our direction for the future, it is necessary that society is peaceful and stable because without them we cannot embark on this journey"; "Pakistan was not created so it could be just one more addition to a list of the world's poorest countries"; "The Fatwa will provide a platform for national unity... So that in the 21st century, we can make Pakistan a distinguished country, an Asian tiger..."[4] Despite this noble goal, a running deception behind this Fatwa, as discussed below, is its total silence about how Islam treats religious minorities.
The Fatwa – Or "The Message Of Pakistan"
The 121-page book is divided into the following sections: the Message from the President Mamnoon Hussain; the Preface written by Prof. Dr. Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq of IIUI; Chapter 1 – Islamic Code of Conduct; Chapter 2 – Islamic Republic of Pakistan; Chapter 3 – The State of Pakistan and Challenges Faced by Pakistani Society; Chapter 4 – Joint Declaration; Chapter 5 – Unanimous Fatwa. Chapter 5 contains the fatwa that was issued at the seminar held on May 26, 2017, and comprises the following sub-sections: 5.1 Request for Fatwa (Istifta), 5.2 Unanimous Fatwa (Response to Istifta), 5.3 Unanimous Fatwa: Key Points. Chapters 6 through 10 give the names of over 1,800 researchers, writers, and Islamic scholars who have written or endorsed the Fatwa.
Chapter 1 – Islamic Code Of Conduct
Chapter 1 is a discussion of the Islamic code of living. It begins with the Koranic idea that Allah sent prophets and messengers to all communities "at regional level and not at global or international level" – "inasmuch as their messages were limited to the communities for which they were sent." Koran verse 30:47 is cited: "We did indeed send, before thee, messengers to their (respective) peoples." Then the argument moves on. "When it was time for the world to shift from localism to globalism," it notes, "a comprehensive and complete code of life," i.e. Islam, was sent through Prophet Muhammad. It cites Koran verse 21:107 – "We sent thee not, but as a mercy for all creatures" – to buttress the argument that the Prophet was sent for all of mankind.
Once the argument that the Prophet was sent for all is established, problems emerge. "The aim of Islamic system of worship is to raise the spirit of being subservient to Allah," it notes, which would mean that all humans, Muslims or non-Muslims, pray before Allah. It states that Islam's purpose is "to promote such high moral values that are reserved for welfare, national unity through fulfilling the rights and obligations, upholding a just system in the society." Based on this point, it says the Prophet "started to implement revelation-based just system in Medani [i.e. of Medina] society in 622 CE" as a result of which many tribes such as "the Aws, Khazraj, immigrants and other non-Muslim Arab clans became united under the political leadership of Prophet Muhammad."
This is a problematic area. The chapter notes: "Under this situation, the Jews were the only people who were outside the sphere of this social system. When the Prophet... invited Jews into this social system, it became impossible for them to reject the offer for their own survival and other security reasons." Here it avoids mentioning how between 700 and 900 Jews of the tribe of Banu Qurayzah were surrounded and finally butchered one by one for failing, by not upholding an agreement, to be part of the Medani political system.[5] It lauds the view that the principle of equality under the Treaty of Medina allowed everyone to be equal and "equalised the blood money of Banu Qurayzah with the other clans of Jews [like Banu Qaynuqa, who were higher in the social ranks and required less blood money]."
Cover page of the Fatwa issued by Pakistan.
Chapter 1 discusses how the Prophet "established such a society in the city of Medina where Muslims, Jews and non-Muslim Arabs developed relationship based on justice, equality and fulfillment of rights and obligations with no discrimination." Several verses from the Koran are cited to forward the argument that such an Islamic society was and must be based on the following principles: fairness and justice (verse 5:8), gods of other religions must not be reviled (verse 6:108), non-Muslims should be invited into the fold of Islam through arguments and good deeds (verse 16:15), humans should walk the earth with humbleness (verse 17:37), forgiveness is better than revenge (verse 42:40), human dignity must be protected (verse 5:32), etc.
This chapter's key conclusion is: "In this system of social justice, non-Muslims, women and children are specifically protected." While this argument itself is valid, this chapter fails to shed light on the biggest criticism of Islam that it protects minority groups only when they surrender before the political authority of the Islamic state, and their good treatment by Muslims comes only when they pay jizya (the Islamic tax on non-Muslims) or convert to Islam. Pakistan's own record on this point is bad: Pakistani citizens who are not Muslims are not permitted by law to become the president of Pakistan – a point President Hussain avoids mentioning in his Message in the Fatwa.
Chapter 2 – Islamic Republic Of Pakistan
Chapter 2 is a discussion of the historical context in which Pakistan was created out of the Indian subcontinent. It makes a factual statement: "Muslims ruled Subcontinent for centuries but they never tried to convert its inhabitants to Islam by coercion. At the time when Muslims took over the rule in the Subcontinent, during their reign and after the end of their rule in the region non-Muslims remained in majority." It notes that the Muslim rulers lost decisively in the War of 1857 to the British, who realized in the early decades of the 20th century that they must leave India to the Indians by introducing a model of "British democracy."
The essential characteristic of all modern democracies is that citizens – irrespective of their race, religion, caste, gender, or other primordial identities – are equal. However, the unwritten argument that Islam does not accept a system of government in which non-Muslims can live as equals is buttressed again by Chapter 2. It observes that when the British were leaving, "Muslims of the region realized that this scenario will result in Hindu rule in the Subcontinent making Muslims once again subjects of a non-Muslim government." This is a problematic argument because it means that Muslims will never be willing to live under non-Muslims even if they were given equal status as citizens in a democracy, and also that non-Muslims in an Islamic state must live as second-class citizens, or dhimmis. That is, they must live as minorities, but not as equals. The president of Pakistan, who wrote his Message to accompany this Fatwa, needs to explain why a non-Muslim Pakistani citizen cannot become the president of the Pakistani state. Until he explains this, this Fatwa remains, by any definition, bogus.
"To avoid this situation [i.e. the situation under democracy in which Muslims and non-Muslims could be equal partners], Muslims started their struggle to achieve an independent state where Muslims could live their lives as per their own culture," this chapter observes, adding that the state of Pakistan was created "as an Islamic Republic" – "first of its kind after the state of Medina [by Prophet Muhammad]" – due to a mass political movement birthed by Pakistan's Islamist national poet Muhammad Iqbal and M.A. Jinnah, the founder. Although Pakistan emerged as an "Islamic Republic," it is interesting that this Fatwa describes Pakistan as an Islamic State, with a capitalized S – the name used by the jihadi group Islamic State (ISIS).
Jinnah advocated the creation of a Pakistani society and legal system based on the teachings of the Koran and Sunnah where ijtihad – consensus by reasoning as a source of law-making in Islam – played a vital role. But, this chapter soon sinks into victimhood by arguing that Pakistan became bedevilled by various problems and notes: "India unjustly occupied the territory of Kashmir." This is historically incorrect because in 1947-48, the Kashmiris – who were not part of Pakistan and India – saw Pakistanis as invaders and their Hindu king requested military help from India. Soon, this chapter lends support to the Islamist arguments when it notes that the first Pakistani Prime Minister Liaqat Ali Khan presented the Objectives Resolution on March 12, 1949, in the constituent assembly.
The Resolution, now part of the Pakistani constitution, is the main source of religious extremism in Pakistani society. In 2010, noted Canadian-Pakistani academic Izzud-Din Pal wrote an article titled "Objectives Resolution: the root of religious orthodoxy" in which he noted: "When the Objectives Resolution was introduced, the country was known as Pakistan, not Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Its structure was republican... This structure is still western and democratic, and distinction between Muslims and minorities is out of tune with it. Pakistan has not succeeded in reconciling these two conflicting objectives. In this sense, the religious leaders have a consistent position. Their concept of Islamic state leaves the decision-making to a few 'pious' citizens [i.e. Muslims]."[6]
M.A. Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan (image courtesy: The News, Pakistan).
Article 2A of the Pakistani Constitution states: "The principles and provisions set out in the Objectives Resolution reproduced in the Annex are hereby made substantive part of the Constitution and shall have effect accordingly."[7] The Resolution invests the authority of Allah in the state of Pakistan, observing: "The authority... [Allah] has delegated to the State of Pakistan, through its people for being exercised within the limits prescribed by Him" and in a system under such an authority "Muslims shall be enabled to order their lives in the individual and collective spheres in accordance with the teachings and requirements of Islam as set out in the Holy Koran and the Sunnah."[8]
Chapter 2 celebrates the Objectives Resolution which, it says, "provided a framework for the constitution of Pakistan and established that the principles provided by Islam... so that people of Pakistan could live their individual and social lives in accordance with the injunctions of the Holy Koran and Sunnah." It also notes: "Rights of Muslims and non-Muslims are guaranteed in the Objectives Resolution and it had been decided that all citizens of Pakistan shall enjoy equal status." But, this so-called equal status is flouted by Article 2 of the Pakistani Constitution, which declares: "Islam shall be the State religion of Pakistan," and by Article 41 (2) which states: "A person shall not be qualified for election as President unless he is a Muslim." The Fatwa will die an infant if the Objectives Resolution is not eliminated, along with Articles 2 and 41(2). All three of these points are relevant to how non-Muslims are governed, or rather mistreated, under Islam.
This chapter leaves a wide field open for Islamic clerics by arguing that no law can be passed in Pakistan "which is against the teachings of Islam" and "existing laws shall also be brought in conformity with the injunctions of Islam." This labored point is intended to counter arguments by jihadi groups that Pakistan is not an Islamic state. "The youth is usually misled by the anti-state elements [i.e. jihadi groups] by deluding them that governing system of Pakistan is un-Islamic and constitution of Pakistan is not in accordance with the teachings of Islam," it notes. Even the Fatwa's argument that jihadi groups are anti-state is invalid. It is established that the Pakistani military's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) births, nurtures, and shelters jihadi leaders, from Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar to Lashkar-e-Taiba founder Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, Hakartul Mujahideen chief Syed Salahuddin, and Jaish-e-Muhammad founder Maulana Masood Azhar, among numerous others.[9]
This chapter also observes that the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) – a constitutional body – has declared 95 percent of the laws to be compliant with Islam. The remaining five percent means: "Despite several achievements of Pakistan, we are still far from achieving our goals and objectives that were set in the Objectives Resolution."
hapter 3 – The State Of Pakistan And Challenges Faced By Pakistani Society
Chapter 3 begins a discussion of issues involving the narratives of jihadi groups. It states: "the use of force, armed escalation against the state, terrorist activities and all forms of anarchy, that our country [Pakistan] is facing, are strictly prohibited in Shari'ah and considered rebellion." It adds: "This sort of war is not only against an Islamic State [sic] but also against Allah and His Messenger [Prophet Muhammad]." A question begins to arise if all forms of armed rebellion against an Islamic state are extremism. The Fatwa does not answer how the armed rebellion by Aisha, the wife of Muhammad, against the fourth Caliph Ali ibn Abi Talib would be classified. Unless the Fatwa comes out with a nuanced view on the issue of rebellion, it leaves a wide scope for jihadis to put forward their own counter arguments.
It seems the Fatwa is inspired by the Pakistani army's, specifically that of the ISI, doctrine of necessity, which becomes clear when Chapter 3 sees only the "anti-state" argument as valid. This would mean that the Islamic Emirate (the Afghan Taliban organization), Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Muhammad, and Hizbul Mujahideen – all of which are not against the Pakistani state or the ISI – are not terrorist groups and therefore legitimate in the eyes of the state of Pakistan. This is, let's not forget, an official Fatwa issued by the Pakistani state. This chapter says: "Anti-state forces rebelled against the State of Medina, immediately after the death of the Prophet, which Abu Bakr... crushed successfully." It cites Koran verse 5:33, which forbids rebellion against Allah, who in turn has vested his authority in the state of Pakistan, as the Objectives Resolution notes.
Chapter 3 urges Muslims to "do their own struggle against those elements who are fighting against Pakistani armed forces" and notes that Islamic jurists believe hirabah ("unlawful war") is a punishable crime. "Muslim scholars are in agreement that even if a ruler is reluctant to implement Shari'ah, still no one has the right to do armed struggle against him," it says. It cites Koran verses 49:9-10 in support of this. These verses are quoted: "If two parties among the Believers fall into a quarrel, make ye peace between them: but if one of them transgresses beyond bounds against the other, then fight ye (all) against the one that transgresses until it complies with the command of Allah..." These verses allow one group of Muslims to fight against another group of Muslims, and therefore defeat the key argument of this chapter. Though cited with good intentions, such verses can be used equally by the jihadi groups to crush those Muslims who differ with them.
It cites Koran verses against divisions between Muslims and non-Muslims, or between Muslim sects, which could mean a call to war to end these differences. It quotes verse 3:105 – "Be not like those who are divided amongst themselves and fall into disputations after receiving Clear Signs..." – and verses 30:31-32 – "Turn ye back in repentance to Him, and fear Him: establish regular prayers, and be not ye among those [non-Muslims] who join gods with Allah – Those who split up their Religion, and become (mere) Sects..." Some of this chapter's arguments, which are well known, include that non-Muslims, women, the elderly, and those who are not warriors must not be killed. It notes that the second Caliph Abu Bakr sent troops to the Levant (present-day Syria region) and ordered them "not to kill any woman, child or old person and do not cut fruit trees, not to destroy any population center and not to kill or injure any animal unless you need it for your food."
The Objectives Resolution forms part of the Pakistani Constitution.
Chapter 3 introduces a very short discussion of jihad, noting: "Terrorists do not differentiate between jihad and traditional wars." It distinguishes between two types of jihad. The first is qital, "which under specific circumstances is the responsibility of the State," and the second is harb, which is traditional warfare. It does not offer a clear distinction between the two, except for stating that the Prophet's life shows that qital was an exception. It states: "Islamic jurists are of the opinion that qital is not mandatory under normal situations. Rather, it is partially obligatory (Farz kifayah). Therefore, it is required that qital should only be declared by the State." It still means that an Islamic state can order qital under "normal situations."
One of the key arguments jihadi groups have advanced is that different states ruled by Muslim rulers are not Shari'ah-compliant and therefore Muslims cannot depend on such states to issue a call for jihad. The Fatwa under review also admits that in the case of Pakistan, too, about five percent of the country's laws are still not Shari'ah-compliant, thereby opening space for jihadi groups to fill this gap. It says the Koranic injunction "of helping others in the matters of good and piety is completely ignored" by extremist groups, but does not cite any Koran verse. To be fair, Koran verses do teach fairness, justice, and brotherhood, though there are also verses contrary to these teachings.
Some Koran verses are also cited to argued that citizen charters and international covenants must be upheld by Muslims. However, such arguments are forwarded to strengthen the hand of the Pakistani state. The unwritten argument throughout this Fatwa remains: Terrorist groups functioning under the ISI's command can continue to operate, notably in Afghanistan and Kashmir.
Chapter 4 – Joint Declaration
Chapter 4 is a joint declaration by the writers of the Fatwa and the Islamic scholars who endorsed it – some of them with their additional notes. Based on the discussions in Chapters 1 through 3, there are 22 clauses, or steps, forwarded by these scholars to be followed by Pakistani people and officials in the light of the Koran and the Sunnah. These clauses are given below, along with arguments on why and how they fail humanity at large, especially non-Muslim Pakistani citizens:
1. The Constitution of Pakistan is "Islamic" and "every Pakistani must fulfil his/her oath of loyalty with the State of Pakistan in every situation." It is unclear why a Pakistani non-Muslim citizen should support a constitution that is openly religiously discriminatory.
2. "All citizens have the guarantee to fundamental rights within the parameters of law" including in matters of belief, worship, and freedom of assembly. This is flouted by a 1974 Pakistani law forbidding Ahmadi Muslims from worshipping as they believe and deems them infidels.
3. The Islamic Republic of Pakistan is "an Islamic state" and "no law shall be enacted in Pakistan against the dictates of the Holy Koran and Sunnah." Such a religiously prejudiced clause makes non-Muslim Pakistani citizens subservient to Islam and impinges on their religious freedom.
4. "Peaceful efforts for the implementation of the injunctions of the Holy Koran and Sunnah is the religious obligation of every Muslim. This right is given to him by the Constitution of Pakistan and it is not prohibited in the country." This clause empowers every Pakistani Muslim to start implementing Islamic shari'a as interpreted by them.
5. "[T]here is no justification to declare personnel of the government, military or other security agencies as infidels [for their negligence in implementing the Pakistani constitution]. There is no justification in Shari'ah to launch any armed activity against them." All Islamic clerics in Pakistan today say that Ahmadi Muslims are infidels and therefore demand that they be removed from government and military positions. Are such clerics who endorsed the fatwa not jihadis?
6. This clause notes that Pakistan's war against terrorism is supported by "ulama [Islamic scholars], mashaikh [Sufi mystics] and people from all walks of life are in full solidarity with armed forces." Contrary to this, Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan, the country's largest religious organization, has refused to call Pakistani soldiers martyrs and says that slain Taliban leaders are martyrs.[10]
7. "The fatwa with the title of 'qatl-e na haq' (unjust killing), declaring suicide attacks absolutely prohibited (haram qat'i), issued by the representatives of all religious schools of thought in the light of Shari'ah is fully endorsed." This point seems to refer to a 2010 fatwa. However, most Pakistani fatwas have rejected such terror actions only inside Pakistan, not in Afghanistan or Kashmir.
8. "Sectarian hatred [between Shias and Sunnis], armed sectarian conflict and imposing one's ideology on others by force is in clear violation of the injunctions of Shari'ah and is disorder on earth." This is right in principle. But even noted Pakistani-Canadian cleric Maulana Tahir-ul-Qadri, notwithstanding his own fatwa against jihad, has said Shias are from among the infidels.[11]
9. "All public and private educational institutions must not impart any hostile military education or training, hatred, extremism and violence." In principle, this point is just. In practice, all provincial governments have published school textbooks that teach hate against Pakistani Hindus, Christians, and other religious minorities.[12]
10. "It is imperative to take administrative steps and do intellectual jihad against extremist mindset." This is good in intention. But in practice, jihadi units such as Idarat-ul-Pakistan are nurtured inside the Pakistani military, notably as revealed by Pakistani Taliban militant Adnan Rasheed, a former staff of the Pakistan Air Force.[13]
11. "[I]n accordance with the Islamic teachings and the law of land no one is permitted to speak or write against any person, institution or school of thought using insolence, hatred or baseless allegations." It remains to be seen what Islamic scholars who endorsed the Fatwa will say about numerous hateful references to kuffar ("unbelievers") and mushrikeen ("idolaters") in the Koran.
12. "Sections 295-298 of Pakistan Penal Code shall be fully enforced in its letter and spirit..." This set of laws, especially 295-C, which prescribes the death penalty for blasphemy, has become a major issue in Pakistani society where cases against non-Muslims are routinely filed on false accusations of blaspheming against Islamic personalities. Unless Pakistan removes its blasphemy laws, no progress can be made and this Fatwa will remain meaningless in its intention. In fact, this clause seems to be a total surrender before Islamic clerics in Pakistan.
13. "It is the responsibility of an Alim [Islamic scholar] and Mufti [Islamic jurist] to explain Shari'ah ruling on clear statements of infidelity [i.e. whether a person has become infidel], but to decide about someone that he/she has committed infidelity is the prerogative of judiciary." This clause in this Fatwa effectively makes the Pakistani judiciary subservient to every Islamic cleric.
14. "[T]he land of Pakistan at no time shall be allowed to be used for the propagation of any kind of terrorism, intellectual and practical training of terrorists, recruitment of terrorists, conducting terrorist activities in other countries and other such ulterior motives." Contrary to this official Fatwa, the Pakistani state is routinely and publicly allowing jihadi group Jaish-e-Muhammad to run teaching courses on "jihadi verses" across Pakistan as of February 2018.[14]
15. This clause in the joint declaration states: "Schools of thought and juristic denominations are there among Muslims from the early period of Islam"; "Ethics of disagreement shall be made part of the curriculum of public and private educational institutions." This is an honorable goal.
16. "[T]he state institutions and their officials are also bound to perform their duties in accordance with true Islamic teachings." This clause opens a wide field for government officials to interpret their religious actions as per their beliefs. Perhaps for this reason, the Islamabad High Court banned celebrations of Valentine's Day in 2016 and extended the ban this year.[15]
17. This clause sets a noble goal: "Building upon Islamic principles, the reconstruction of Pakistani society is imperative where democracy, liberty, equality, tolerance, harmony, mutual respect and justice are ensured. So that congenial atmosphere for peaceful coexistence is achieved."
18. This is a religiously prejudiced clause. It states: "Human dignity and respect for Muslims are to be ensured." As an aside, it also notes: "Further, to protect the rights of senior citizens, women, children, hermaphrodites, and all other underprivileged classes it is necessary to implement Shari'ah rulings on official and unofficial levels." It is extremely sad that this entire 121-page Fatwa is so prejudiced and hateful that it does not even consider the need to mention Pakistani Hindus, Pakistani Christians, Pakistani Sikhs, and Pakistani Jews (some live anonymously).
19. Further to Clause 18, this clause again does not deem that Hindus, Christians, Sikhs, and Jews are words that should exist in Pakistan. But, it does mention: "Non-Muslims living in Pakistan enjoy all such civil and legal rights for the protection of their life, property and dignity that their fellow Muslims avail within the bounds of law and constitution." Practically, none of these rights, not even dignity, is available to non-Muslim Pakistanis. Even the word "minority" is pejorative and hateful in Pakistani society. Practically, Islam protects minorities only when it rules over them.
20. This clause is about women's rights as protected by Islam, but it is specifically about Muslim women and does not say anything about non-Muslim Pakistani women. It states: "In accordance with the teachings of Islam, women have right to vote, education and employment." This will effectively mean that non-Muslim Pakistani women's rights are not protected.
21. A major issue in Islamic societies nowadays is the use of loudspeakers and television by religious scholars to outdo rival sects. This clause states: "All forms of illegal use of loudspeaker shall be discouraged"; "Legal action shall be taken against the hate speeches delivered from the platform of mosque"; "Polemical discussions on religious topics on television channels are reprehensible and shall be declared cognizable crime." It remains to be seen how these points will be implemented.
22. This clause is meant to curb freedom of thought and expression in Pakistani society. It states: "Right of freedom of expression of the electronic media shall be regulated by law"; "Every program that damages Islamic identity of Pakistan shall be banned."
Chapters 6 through 10 give the names of writers and clerics who endorsed the Fatwa.
Chapter 5 – Unanimous Fatwa (May 26, 2017)
"The Message of Pakistan" also includes a fatwa issued by Islamic clerics at a May 26, 2017 seminar. This fatwa is included in Chapter 5. A fatwa is usually an Islamic legal opinion given in response to a question, or a set of questions. The 2017 fatwa was delivered in response to the following five questions: 1. "Whether Pakistan is an Islamic state or an un-Islamic state? Further, can a state be declared un-Islamic and its government and armed forces as non-Muslim if Shari'ah is not implemented in its entirety?" 2. " Under the given circumstances, is armed rebellion against the government or army permissible, in the name of struggle for implementation of Shari'ah?" 3. "Whether the Holy Koran and Sunnah provide any justification for suicide attacks that are being carried out all over Pakistan in the name of implementation of Shari'ah and jihad?" 4. "If the answer to the above three questions is in negative, then whether the actions taken by the government and armed forces of Pakistan to combat insurrection are permissible according to Shari'ah? Should the Muslims come forward and support these actions?" 5. "Several armed sectarian clashes are also taking place in our country aiming to impose one's ideology on others by force. Are these activities justified in Shari'ah?"
The 2017 fatwa mirrors the arguments in Chapters 1 through 4 discussed above, but there are additional points. In response to the first question, it says Pakistan is an Islamic state because "Article 31 of the Constitution provides detailed policy principles to enable the Muslims of Pakistan to order their lives in accordance with the Islamic way of life" and "in Article 227 it is affirmed that all existing laws shall be brought in conformity with the injunctions of Islam as laid down in the Holy Koran and Sunnah." It also notes that "merely due to some functional issues" declaring Pakistan "as infidel is not permissible, rather it is a sin."
To the second question, it responds: "Armed struggle against Pakistani government or its armed forces certainly fall within the category of rebellion that is categorically Haram (illegal) as per the Shari'ah." It also quotes a hadith (Sahih Muslim, Hadith No. 4768) according to which Prophet Muhammad said that a person can condemn an act of a ruler if he "indulges in an act of disobedience of Allah" but "should not withdraw himself from his obedience." In response to the third question, the 2017 fatwa quotes the Koran verse 4:29 – "And do not kill yourselves" – and declares that "suicide is unacceptable in Islam." Similarly, it says a suicide attack to kill "another believer [i.e. Muslim]" is like a double crime forbidden by Koran verse 4:93, which says: "Whoever kills a believer deliberately – his recompense is Hell..."
It also presents a third scenario in which a non-Muslim is killed, not necessarily in a suicide attack, in an Islamic state. It quotes the Prophet Muhammad as saying that such killing violates "the covenant with Allah." All three types of suicide attacks discussed here fall silent on and therefore approve of killing non-Muslims in a non-Islamic state, notably in Kashmir. It is also interesting that the entire 121-page document is silent on the situation in Afghanistan. Since the discussion in the entire book is about Pakistan as the Islamic state, this silence potentially means that such suicide attacks are permitted in Afghanistan and Kashmir. It is known for sure that in the post-9/11 years Islamic clerics have issued many fatwas against jihad, forbidding it only in Pakistan. There is no mention of "Afghanistan" and "Kashmir" in the entire discussion within the context of the subject at issue: extremisms and jihad.
In response to the fourth question, the 2017 fatwa declares that anyone fighting against the government "in the name of implementation of Shari'ah" is "committing High Treason" against an Islamic state. To the fifth question, it declares that it is haram to kill each other on the basis of sectarian (Sunni-Shia) differences, and interestingly upholds Pakistan's controversial blasphemy laws, which have become a source of daily nightmare for Pakistani non-Muslims. This 2017 fatwa was endorsed by the Jamia Naeemia madrassa of Karachi, with an "additional note," which in effect is not additional and practically supports the above line of argument to serve the Pakistani military and its ISI.
A 9-point summary of Chapter 5 also endorses the Pakistani military line. The peoples of India and Afghanistan, who are on the receiving end of the Pakistani military-sponsored jihadi war, will find absolutely nothing in this 121-page Message of Pakistan. If the state of Pakistan is sincere in offering equality and peace to non-Muslims within Pakistan itself, here is what it must do as a first step: abolish Article 41 (2) which states: "A person shall not be qualified for election as President unless he is a Muslim." This will allow a non-Muslim Pakistani citizen to become the president of Pakistan and revolutionize the principle of equality that Islamic clerics say Islam teaches.
* Tufail Ahmad is Senior Fellow for the MEMRI Islamism and Counter-Radicalization Initiative.
[1] Roznama Ummat (Pakistan), January 17, 2018. In this dispatch, the spelling of English words and names within quotes has been standardized to conform to American English.
[2] Roznama Express (Pakistan), January 17, 2018.
[3] Roznama Ummat (Pakistan), January 17, 2018.
[4] (Pakistan), January 16, 2018.
[5] See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 6078 Article By MEMRI Scholar Tufail Ahmad: Lies, Duplicity And Deceit In The Name Of Allah, June 19, 2015.
[6] (Pakistan), June 20, 2010.
[7] The Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan (as modified up to February 28, 2012), accessed February 24, 2018.
[8] The Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan (as modified up to February 28, 2012), accessed February 24, 2018.
[9], September 26, 2016.
[10] The Express Tribune (Pakistan), November 13, 2013.
[11] See MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis No. 920 The Ideology And Politics Of Pakistani Religious Leader Dr. Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri, January 15, 2013.
[12] See MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis No. 1020 Textbooks In Pakistani Government Schools Teaching Hate Against Christians And Hindus, Jihad And Martyrdom To Young Students, September 30, 2013.
[13] See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 6128 Article By MEMRI Scholar Tufail Ahmad: 'Pakistan's Continuing War Against Indian Civilization', August 7, 2015.
[14] See MEMRI JTTM report Jaish-e-Muhammad Organizes Courses On 'Jihadi Verses' In Pakistani Towns Of Bahawalpur, Peshawar, Nowshera, Faisalabad, Lahore, Rawalpindi, February 14, 2018.
[15] The Nation (Pakistan), February 15, 2018.

Kuwait’s homegrown priest celebrates Bible and bedouin culture
قسيس كويتي يمارس مهامه الكنسية في الكويت بحرية كاملة منذ 18 سنة

AFP/ِArab Times/March 02/2018
KUWAIT CITY: Dressed in a traditional white Gulf headdress and with two red crosses embroidered on his black clerical robe, Kuwait’s first homegrown priest cuts a unique figure in the predominantly Muslim emirate.
Father Emmanuel Benjamin Jacob Gharib, 68, celebrates both the Bible and Gulf Arab culture with his Christian congregation in Kuwait City.
In an interview with AFP ahead of the 20th anniversary of his ordination, he stressed the level of acceptance he has felt from fellow Kuwaitis.
“Everyone welcomes me wherever I go,” said Father Emmanuel.
Born in the Qibla district of Kuwait City, Gharib was raised in a devout Christian family and surrounded by mostly Muslim neighbors.
Like many Christian Kuwaitis, his roots lie elsewhere in the Middle East.
The priest’s father was born to an Assyrian family in southeast Turkey but forced to flee Ottoman massacres against the Armenian and Assyrian Christian minorities.
The Red Cross took his father to Iraq, where he would eventually wed Gharib’s mother — a fellow Assyrian — in the northern city of Mosul in 1945.
With the former Ottoman cities reeling from the upheaval of World War I, the couple decided to build their future in Kuwait.
They raised four girls and three boys — the eldest Emmanuel — in a religious environment, taking them to Sunday School each week.
They always felt close to their Muslim neighbors.
Emmanuel Gharib was not always destined for the priesthood.
He graduated from engineering school with a degree in geology in 1971 and soon found a job at the Kuwaiti oil ministry.
Ten years into his career, Emmanuel Gharib and his wife took part in a religious conference in Kuwait.
“That was the turning point,” he said. “That was where the Lord changed my life... where I was born again and began my journey with Jesus Christ.”
He quit his job and embarked in 1989 on a theology degree at the Evangelical Theological Seminary in Cairo.
He was ordained as a priest in 1999 and subsequently elected to head the National Evangelical Church of Kuwait, becoming the first and only Gulf Arab priest.
Father Emmanuel also serves as vice president of the Islamic-Christian Relations Council in Kuwait, which he co-founded in 2009.
Evangelical Church
Father Emmanuel’s own landmark next year will coincide with the 85th anniversary of the Evangelical Church in Kuwait.
But the presence of Christians in Kuwait dates back even further, to the arrival of American Evangelical missionaries and the founding of the American Mission Hospital in the early 1900s, he said.
Kuwaiti “society began to have a positive view of the missionaries during the Battle of Jahra because the Mission Hospital played a big role in treating the wounded,” Father Emmanuel said, referring to Kuwait’s 1920 battle against Saudi-backed Wahhabi militants.
Over the past century, Christians have immigrated from Turkey, Iraq and Palestine during periods of upheaval, gaining citizenship under a 1959 Nationality Law, although a later law banned non-Muslims from naturalization.
At the last count, according to Father Emmanuel, Kuwait has 264 native Christians from eight extended families, out of a total native population of 1.35 million.
The local Christian population is dwarfed by 900,000 expatriate workers of various Christian denominations and nationalities — from Lebanese to Filipinos.
Unlike Saudi Arabia which bans the construction of churches, Christians of different denominations are “free to practice” in several churches and Kuwait City municipality has provided land to bury their dead, he said.
Christian Kuwaitis say they feel a greater sense of identification with one of their own as priest.
“An Egyptian or Lebanese priest performs the same liturgy but a Kuwaiti priest can communicate the teachings of the Bible in the Kuwaiti dialect,” said Abu Nader, a 63-year-old parishioner.
For 54-year-old Eyad Noman: “Our relationship with him is very strong... He is one of us.”

Why Iranian regime should face justice over Syria
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh/Arab News/March 02/ 2018
There has been debate recently over sending some Syrian leaders to face the International Criminal Court in order to prosecute those who have committed war crimes. But little attention has been given to other state actors who actually play the same role, if not more intensively, by committing or facilitating heinous crimes against Syrian civilians.
The Iranian regime is typically involved in military operations across Syria through the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and its elite branch the Quds Force, along with domestic and foreign militias. Even the Iranian leaders have admitted their direct military role in the Syrian war. Soldiers from the IRGC, as well as military advisers and trainers, are ubiquitous in Syria, dominating and significantly influencing the local political and military command-and-control systems, as well as often appearing on the front lines.
Regarding the latest bombing and massacre in Ghouta, the Iranian regime even showed its desire to escalate the war and civilian casualties by ignoring the UN ceasefire. Appearing unconcerned with the deaths of civilians, including many women and children, Gen. Mohammed Baqeri, Iran’s military chief of staff, pointed out defiantly that pro-Damascus forces will continue the assault despite the truce, which is aimed at allowing aid access and medical evacuations.
Without the Iranian regime’s financial, political, military, advisory and intelligence assistance, Syria’s leaders would not have been capable of committing war crimes at such an extensive level. Efforts should be made to hold not only the Syrian officials, but also their main backers — the Iranian leaders — to account.
To do so, realistically, there exists several obstacles that can only be overcome with robust leadership. One of the major issues is that, while Iran is a signatory to the ICC’s Rome Statute, it has not yet ratified the treaty. This means there are two other options that need to be pursued in order to investigate Iran’s role: Either the Iranian regime has to give jurisdiction to the ICC, or the ICC would require a referral from the United Nations Security Council.
It goes without saying that the Iranian regime would not voluntarily accept ICC jurisdiction, since it is fully aware of its direct and indirect involvement in the Syrian war. Hence, the other members of the Security Council ought to pressure Russia publicly in order to allow such a referral and to uphold justice.
Many believe that the ICC is the only judicial mechanism to addressing war crimes in Syria, but many states also have the alternative of creating an international committee or tribunal to hold the Iranian leaders accountable.
Senior leaders and IRGC generals have been operating with impunity and must be taken before the International Criminal Court to be held accountable for war crimes.
An international tribunal might not be as powerful as the ICC but, if it indicted those senior Iranian leaders who are responsible for war crimes in Syria, other states could pursue various steps to hold those leaders accountable; such as freezing their assets, issuing visa bans against them, and refraining from negotiating with them. This approach can be powerful in delegitimizing these individuals and the Iranian regime in the international arena.
If there is a consensus to take this path, there are many countries that would be willing to bring these war criminals to justice. Remember that the Arab League has previously called for accountability in Syria, including a referral to the ICC and calls for “fair international trials.” Formerly, 64 countries, alongside the EU Foreign Affairs Council, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and the Syrian National Coalition, supported investigating those who are committing war crimes in Syria.
Finally, it is worth noting that individual states or international organizations can also utilize the legal concept of “universal jurisdiction.” Applying this indicates that, regardless of individual nationality, states or international organizations can claim jurisdiction over state and non-state actors who commit grave breaches of international laws, such as massacres, war crimes and torture.
History has proved that peace, stability and security will not be fully obtained without criminal indictments of those military generals, politicians and militia leaders who commit horrific war crimes. When people observe that justice has been done, this would be the beginning of peace, and with less antagonism and incentive to take the law into one’s own hands in order to punish the perpetrators.
Senior Iranian leaders and IRGC generals, who are directly or indirectly involved in war crimes in Syria, should not be allowed to continue operating with impunity. Bringing them to justice would be the first step toward addressing the Syrian situation. It is incumbent on the ICC, the UN Security Council, the international community and individual states to hold them accountable.
**Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated Iranian-American political scientist. He is a leading expert on Iran and US foreign policy, a businessman and president of the International American Council. He serves on the boards of the Harvard International Review, the Harvard International Relations Council and the US-Middle East Chamber for Commerce and Business. Twitter: @Dr_Rafizadeh