March 05/2018
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani


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Bible Quotations
Importance Of Praying For Others
James 5/13-20/Is any among you suffering? Let him pray. Is any cheerful? Let him sing praises. Is any among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the assembly, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord, and the prayer of faith will heal him who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. If he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Confess your offenses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The insistent prayer of a righteous person is powerfully effective. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain, and it didn’t rain on the earth for three years and six months. He prayed again, and the sky gave rain, and the earth brought forth its fruit. Brothers, if any among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death, and will cover a multitude of sins.
Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on March 04-05/18
The Lost Son Parable and Repentance/Elias Bejjani/March 04/18
What the Unspoken in ‘The Insult’ Says About Lebanon’s Politics/Karim Emile Bitar/New York Times/March 04/18
Botched response to Daesh paves way for its expansion/Baria Alamuddin/Arab News/March 04/18
Top rabbi praises ‘refreshing’ Saudi remarks on ‘horrors of Holocaust’/Eman El-Shenawi Al Arabiya/March 04/18 
How Iran deal aided the regime’s bid for hegemonic control/Tony Duheaume Special to Al Arabiya English/March 04/18

Titles For Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on March 04-05/18
The Lost Son Parable and Repentance
Aoun calls on authorities to protect migratory birds
Lebanese official arrested for framing actor as Israeli agent
Hariri leaves Saudi Arabia after meeting with Saudi King, Crown Prince
Maronite Patriarch Cardinal Bechara Boutros Rahi: We cannot continue with martyrdom while officials remain indifferent, solely caring about their narrow interests
Bassil Says No One Can Forbid 'Partnership' in Zgharta
Saudis Tell Hariri Will Attend Lebanon Support Conferences
Bassil says FPM keen on maintaining relations regardless of election results
Saudis Tell Hariri Will Attend Lebanon Support Conferences
Bassil says FPM keen on maintaining relations regardless of election results
MP Suleiman Franjieh Lashes Out at Bassil, FPM
MP Suleiman Franjieh: We are open to others, but refuse to have our presence cancelled
Kanaan Says FPM Not Seeking to 'Isolate' LF
Kanaan says international conferences' success is ensured by boosting confidence in Lebanon, not by raising the tone
Bou Assi: We cannot relax since the elections outcome is not guaranteed with the new law
Bassil from Qartaba: We respect the representation of others in their regions
Iraq's Ambassador calls on displaced Iraqis to return voluntarily to their country
Batroun Women's Association, chaired by Laure Sleiman, launches its first annual conference
Hankache: We Count on People's Conscience on May 6
Saade: Kataeb Party Is Against Win-Loss Settlements
Dagher: Current Ruling Class Is the Most Impertinent in Lebanon's History
Mira Wakim Urges Accountability on May 6
What the Unspoken in ‘The Insult’ Says About Lebanon’s Politics

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on March 04-05/18

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman landed Started an official Visit To Egypt
Egypt conducts first ever air strikes in the Nile Delta against terrorist targets
Egypt: 10 terrorists eliminated while four armed forces killed in Sinai
Syria's Assad says the humanitarian situation that the West talks about is a 'ridiculous lie'
France tells Iran risks sanctions if ballistic missile issue not handled
Rescue teams recover black boxes at site of Iran plane crash
Netanyahu to talk with Trump about attending Jerusalem embassy opening
Syrians flee government advances in eastern Ghouta
Netanyahu to Talk with Trump about Attending Embassy Opening
Netanyahu Opposes Early Polls as Graft Probes Intensify
Syria Regime Retakes Quarter of Rebel Enclave as Civilians Flee
Italy Votes in Uncertain Election Stalked by Populism
Macron Urges Tehran to 'Pressure' Syria to Halt E. Ghouta Offensive
Trump and May Blame Russia, Syria for E. Ghouta Suffering
Latest Lebanese Related News published on March 04-05/18
The Lost Son Parable and Repentance
Elias Bejjani
Lent is a prime time for spiritual change through genuine praying, serious and in depth self-examination, return to the roots of faith, repentance and forgiveness.
Almighty God is ready and always willing to turn everything around and take the hands of those who seriously and honestly pursue His mercy with perseverance forgiveness and repentance. He, with love and extreme happiness leads their steps towards all virtues of righteousness. He who in the Cana Wedding changed the water into wine and cleaned the Leper is willing all the time also to transform our minds and consciences from wickedness to goodness and salvation if and when we call for His help.
In our Maronite Catholic Church’s rite, on the Fourth Lent Sunday we recall and cite the biblical Lost Son’s parable that is known also as The Prodigal Son. This impulsive, selfish and thoughtless son, as the parable tells us, fell prey to evil’s temptation and decided to take his share of his father’s inheritance and leave the parental dwelling.
He travelled to a far-away city where he indulged badly in all evil conducts of pleasure and corruption until he lost all his money and became penniless. He experienced severe poverty, starvation, humiliation and loneliness. In the midst of his dire hardships he felt nostalgic, came back to his senses and decided with great self confidence to return back to his father’s house, kneel on his feet and ask him for forgiveness. On his return his loving and kind father received him with rejoice, open arms, accepted his repentance, and happily forgave him all his misdeeds. Because of his sincere repentance his Father gave him back all his privileges as a son.
The Lost (prodigal) Son’s parable: Luke15/11-32: He said, “A certain man had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of your property.’ He divided his livelihood between them. Not many days after, the younger son gathered all of this together and traveled into a far country. There he wasted his property with riotous living. When he had spent all of it, there arose a severe famine in that country, and he began to be in need. He went and joined himself to one of the citizens of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed pigs. He wanted to fill his belly with the husks that the pigs ate, but no one gave him any. 15:17 But when he came to himself he said, ‘How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough to spare, and I’m dying with hunger! I will get up and go to my father, and will tell him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight. I am no more worthy to be called your son. Make me as one of your hired servants .”’ “He arose, and came to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him, and was moved with compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ “But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring out the best robe, and put it on him. Put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. Bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat, and celebrate; for this, my son, was dead, and is alive again. He was lost, and is found.’ They began to celebrate. “Now his elder son was in the field. As he came near to the house, he heard music and dancing. He called one of the servants to him, and asked what was going on. He said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and healthy.’ But he was angry, and would not go in. Therefore his father came out, and begged him. But he answered his father, ‘Behold, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed a commandment of yours, but you never gave me a goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. 15:30 But when this, your son, came, who has devoured your living with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him.’ “He said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. But it was appropriate to celebrate and be glad, for this, your brother, was dead, and is alive again. He was lost, and is found.
This parable is a road map for repentance and forgiveness. It shows us how much Almighty God our Father loves us, we His children and how He is always ready with open arms and willing to forgive our sins and trespasses when we come back to our senses, recognize right from wrong, admit our weaknesses and wrongdoings, eagerly and freely return to Him and with faith and repentance ask for His forgiveness.
Asking Almighty God for what ever we need is exactly what the Holy Bible instructs us to do when encountering all kinds of doubt, weaknesses, stumbling, hard times, sickness, loneliness, persecution, injustice etc.
Matthew 7/7&8: “Ask, and it will be given you. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and it will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives. He who seeks finds. To him who knocks it will be opened” All what we have to do is pray and to ask Him with faith, self confidence and humility and He will respond. Matthew 21/22: “All things, whatever you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.”
We are not left alone at any time, especially when in trouble, no matter how far we distance ourselves from God and disobey His Holy bible. He is a Father, a loving, caring and forgiving Father. What is definite is that in spite of our foolishness, stupidity, ignorance, defiance and ingratitude He never ever abandons us or gives up on our salvation. He loves us because we His are children. He happily sent His only begotten son to be tortured, humiliated and crucified in a bid to absolve our original sin.
God carries our burdens and helps us to fight all kinds of Evil temptations. Matthew11/28-30: “Come to me, all you who labor and are heavily burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart; and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
God is waiting for our repentance, let us run to Him and ask for forgiveness before it is too late
Aoun calls on authorities to protect migratory birds
The Daily Star/ March 04/18/BEIRUT: President Michel Aoun Sunday called on Lebanese authorities to take measures to prevent hunters in the country from shooting migratory birds, as thousands of birds cross through Lebanon’s skies this spring. Aoun, as reported by a statement from his press office, called on authorities “to make Lebanon a safe passage for migratory birds that are protected from hunting.” He added, “All of humanity is working to protect [migratory birds] because they represent a global wealth that nobody owns, because it belongs to everyone.” Lebanon is a vital migratory passage for millions of birds. While a new law regulating hunting that passed in 2017 stipulates hunting season dates and sets out which bird species – and how many of each per season – can be shot, the enforcement of the law remains weak and violation is widespread. Aoun’s comments came less than a fortnight after a group of 52 Lebanese and international environmental NGOs and bird advocacy groups released a joint letter calling on the president to enforce Lebanon’s hunting laws ahead of spring bird migration. Around 2.6 million birds from roughly 327 species are estimated to be killed in Lebanon each year, the letter noted, hampering global conservation efforts. Lebanon’s hunting season ended at the end of January, though this has not dissuaded hunters. “We are deeply worried for the safety of the birds whose return to Europe we so eagerly await,” the letter read, explaining that the vast majority of birds in the eastern Africa-Eurasia region take migration routes over Lebanon. Images of birds shot down by Lebanese hunters have already been circulating on social media, including pictures of dead storks.

Lebanese official arrested for framing actor as Israeli agent
Ynetnews/March 04/18/Lebanese actor, director Ziad Itani, arrested in November, accused of spying for Israel was victim of framing by former cyber security official, Susan Hajj Hobeiche who hired hacker to forge conversations between Itani and Israeli agent. Lebanese actor and director Ziad Itani was arrested in November on accusations of cooperating with and spying for Israel. It is now evident that Itani fell victim to a plot hatched by Major Susan Hajj Hobeiche, the former head of the Lebanese Anti-Cybercrime and Intellectual Property Bureau who was arrested Friday. Itani was accused of being recruited by a female Israeli intelligence agent and that the two exchanged information. According to reports in Lebanon, he was asked to contact senior Lebanese political officials in order to advance normalization with Israel. The agent allegedly sent him a list of 29 names of Lebanese government ministers in order to determine which of them Itani knew. In addition, it was announced that Itani received between 500 and 1,000 dollars a month for his services and that he admitted to the charges under questioning.  Susan Hajj was arrested on charges that she hired a hacker to forge the conversations between Itani and the Israeli agent in order to frame Itani, whom she blames for her ouster from her previous post, as a spy for Israel. “We all must ask forgiveness from Itani who has never abandoned his Arab and Beiruti identity for a single day,” said Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouk on Twitter. “It is not enough to declare his innocence. He is a patriot and we are proud of him.”

Hariri leaves Saudi Arabia after meeting with Saudi King, Crown Prince
Sun 04 Mar 2018/NNA - Prime Minister Saad Hariri left Saudi Arabia this afternoon, concluding a visit to the Kingdom during which he met with Saudi Monarch Salman bin Abdul-Aziz and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Deputy-Governor of Riyadh Province, Prince Mohammed bin Abdul-Rahman bin Abdul-Aziz, and Lebanon's Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Fawzi Kabbara, as well as a representative of the Saudi Royal Protocol were at King Khalid International Airport to bid PM Hariri a safe return.

Maronite Patriarch Cardinal Bechara Boutros Rahi: We cannot continue with martyrdom while officials remain indifferent, solely caring about their narrow interests

Sun 04 Mar 2018/NNA - Maronite Patriarch Cardinal Bechara Boutros Rahi considered Sunday that martyrdom cannot carry on in Lebanon while political officials remain indifferent and solely concerned with their personal interests. "The testimony of blood is one of martyrdom's facets: there is a physical martyrdom...a moral martyrdom... a legal martyrdom...a judicial martyrdom... a political martyrdom...and an economic martyrdom. Amidst these forms of martyrdom, political officials cannot remain indifferent, caring only about their own interests," Rahi said during a Mass service in Bkirki today.
In the same context, the Patriarch noted that judicial martyrdom "is when the arrestee is kept without trial and judicial decisions are blocked," in addition to the "politicization of justice, undermining its confidentiality and procrastination in the issuance of verdicts."The Prelate also referred to "political martyrdom", noting that it was exemplified by excluding officials from public office or by laying charges against them without allowing them to defend themselves. Rahi finally mentioned the economic martyrdom of provoking the poverty of the people by depriving them of their essential rights to housing, education, employment, health and infrastructure.

Bassil Says No One Can Forbid 'Partnership' in Zgharta
Naharnet/March 04/18/Free Patriotic Movement chief Jebran Bassil announced Sunday that the FPM “will return to Zgharta,” the bastion of MP Suleiman Franjieh’s Marada Movement. “We are the ones who demanded and called for partnership across Lebanon and we cannot but seek it,” Bassil said during a meeting in Zgharta. “We will not allow anyone to deny us it, neither in Zgharta nor in Lebanon,” the FPM chief emphasized. “Lebanon cannot rise unless it is diverse and pluralistic and any region in Lebanon cannot be controlled by a certain person or sect,” Bassil went on to say.

Saudis Tell Hariri Will Attend Lebanon Support Conferences
Naharnet/March 04/18/Saudi officials have assured Prime Minister Saad Hariri that the kingdom will attend the upcoming international meetings that are aimed at supporting Lebanon, a media report said. “Hariri’s visit to Saudi Arabia is part of its keenness on supporting the Lebanese state and its legitimate institutions as well as Lebanon’s continuation of the policy of distancing itself from regional conflicts,” official sources in Beirut told al-Hayat newspaper. “The first outcome of the Saudi initiative towards Lebanon and Hariri’s visit to Riyadh is the affirmation by the officials there that Saudi Arabia’s representatives will attend the international support meetings for Lebanon that will be held in Rome in mid-March and in Paris on April 6 in addition to the Brussels conference for aiding Syrian refugees,” the sources added.

Bassil says FPM keen on maintaining relations regardless of election results

Sun 04 Mar 2018/NNA - "The Free Patriotic Movement is keen on preserving connections regardless of the elections' outcome because elections are a circumstantial stage, while principles are fixed," Free Patriotic Movement Head, Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, said on Sunday after partaking in a Mass service in Lassa, Jbeil. Referring to the nature of the village, which illustrates coexistence and respect for the other, Bassil refused to talk about "a majority and a minority" in the context of the upcoming elections. He affirmed that the new electoral law was formulated for the respect of minorities' rights, since in Lebanon there was no absolute majority. "Living together in unity reflects the concept of partnership in the country. This was the basis of the understanding between the Free Patriotic Movement and Hezbollah, and therefore, this understanding persisted because it was based on trust, honesty and kindness...and was built on partnership and respect for the other," Bassil went on. He concluded by saying that "caring for one another is a duty, away from personal calculations."

MP Suleiman Franjieh Lashes Out at Bassil, FPM
Naharnet/March 04/18/Marada Movement leader MP Suleiman Franjieh lashed out Sunday at the Free Patriotic Movement and its chief, Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil. “He who is claiming to be the head of the biggest Christian party in Lebanon is struggling to clinch his (parliamentary) seat,” Franjieh said, in an apparent reference to Bassil. “We have not sought to eliminate the FPM. To the contrary, they are the ones who tried to eliminate us. Their whole problem with us is that we exist. They believe that you represent a threat to them as long as you exist,” the Marada chief charged. “The main problem is the presence of a person who is trying to eliminate everyone to become Christians’ only path,” Franjieh added. He stressed that “restoring (Christian) rights is not about achieving private interests.”“We must deal with each other ethically and not through the provocative approach that is of no use,” Franjieh said. Separately, the Marada chief said “a civil state is the solution,” emphasizing that he is a “secular person.”

MP Suleiman Franjieh: We are open to others, but refuse to have our presence cancelled
Sun 04 Mar 2018/NNA - Al-Maradah Movement Chief, MP Sleiman Franjieh, said Sunday that his Movement was open to relations with those who approach it with modesty, while voicing rejection against any attempt to cancel its presence. "We have never changed our path ever since the outset of our march, and we shall never do so," Franjieh asserted during a meeting with social media activists in Bnishii today. He denied, herein, that the dispute between supporters of al-Maradah and the Free Patriotic Movement would lead to an on-ground clash. Referring to the presidential elections, Franjieh indicated that he did not run for presidency, but was rather offered to be a presidential candidate. "The most important thing is the victory of our political line," he added. As for the restoration of Christian rights, Franjieh said, "The restoration of rights cannot be by ensuring our private interests, but rather through each side receiving its rights." "We have to deal with each other in an ethical manner, and not in a provocative way that leads nowhere," he underlined. "The civil state is the solution, and I am a secular person," stressed Franjieh, pointing to "the need to form a national body to abolish political sectarianism in a positive atmosphere, in order to achieve the desired outcome."In terms of legislation, the MP announced that the electoral lists in the 3rd constituency of North Lebanon would be ready soon, while noting that he will be alongside his allies in all other constituencies.

Kanaan Says FPM Not Seeking to 'Isolate' LF
Naharnet/March 04/18/Change and Reform bloc secretary MP Ibrahim Kanaan reassured Sunday that the Free Patriotic Movement is not part of alleged attempts to “isolate” the Lebanese Forces. “Electoral negotiations between the FPM and the LF are still ongoing until the moment in some districts,” Kanaan said. “LF leader Samir Geagea knows very well that there is no attempt by the FPM to isolate the LF and his remarks in this regard do no apply to us,” the lawmaker added.

Kanaan says international conferences' success is ensured by boosting confidence in Lebanon, not by raising the tone

Sun 04 Mar 2018/NNA - "Change and Reform" Parliamentary Bloc Secretary , MP Ibrahim Kenaan, said on Sunday that the success of international conferences is secured by strengthening confidence in Lebanon, and not by raising the tone to win votes on the eve of the parliamentary elections deadline. In an interview with "Voice of Lebanon 93.3" Radio Station today, the MP stressed the need to submit the 2018 draft budget to Parliament, recalling that one of the international demands was to finalize the annual public budget along with the necessary reforms. Despite the fact that reform was not easy, yet Kanaan highlighted the need to launch the required structural reform steps right away. Kanaan went on to consider that international confidence in Lebanon has been strengthened during the current presidential mandate, adding that the country is faced with the chance to be seriously supported at this stage. Hence, he urged Lebanese officials not to miss such a chance by unsubstantiated criticism. "Those who raise the tone against corruption in the legislative context must associate their words with serious action in Parliament and suggested reforms," Kanaan underscored.

Bou Assi: We cannot relax since the elections outcome is not guaranteed with the new law
Sun 04 Mar 2018/NNA - Social Affairs Minister Pierre Bou Assi stressed Sunday that mobilization is necessary until May 6th, since the results of the parliamentary elections are not guaranteed with the new vote law. "There can be no politics without identity, a sense of belonging and values, and our policy as Lebanese Forces holds our identity, our belonging and our values," said Bou Assi. Running for the Baabda Maronite Seat in the upcoming parliamentary elections, Bou Assi's words came during an encounter with LF supporters in the area of Shiah this afternoon. "Shiah is characterized by kindness and integration, as there is no discrimination between its citizens and residents...and the people of Shiah have always defended the identity, principles and values that constitute the nation," he underlined. "The will of life overcomes everything...The people of Shiah have gone through difficult conditions, whereby they had to choose between surrendering or sacrificing so that the nation persists...and they chose sacrifice and won through their steadfastness for the nation's sake," Bou Assi asserted. He paid tribute herein to the souls of all fallen martyrs who lost their lives in the struggle for the homeland. Bou Assi concluded by urging his supporters "to warn him at any moment they feel he has deviated from his path and failed to fulfill his national duties," stressing on his "continuous strive towards harmony in his convictions and transparency in his relations."

Bassil from Qartaba: We respect the representation of others in their regions
Sun 04 Mar 2018/NNA - Free Patriotic Movement Head, Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, pursued his tour in the villages and towns of Jbeil Casa on Sunday by visiting Saint Elie's Cathedral in Qartaba this afternoon. Speaking before the town's dignitaries and political figures who gathered to welcome his visit, Bassil assured them that his Movement respects the representation of others in their areas and does not put a hand on their parliamentary seats. "Any official in any location or position of duty can serve and give regardless of the area to which he belongs," added Bassil. "Today, we have a project of a nation that transcends the sects and regions and we are present in all Lebanese areas," he went on, noting that "the relativity law will allow us to have more presence in all communities in Lebanon in order to express our convictions." On the electoral issue, Bassil stressed that "the constants lie in respecting others everywhere," adding, "there is no minority, for we are all minorities, and when we address a minority here, we have to think how it would deal with us there." "Those who approach us as a minority are doing wrong not onto us but onto Lebanon as a whole, and onto the Lebanese partnership," deemed Bassil.

Iraq's Ambassador calls on displaced Iraqis to return voluntarily to their country
Sun 04 Mar 2018/NNA - Iraq's Ambassador to Lebanon, Ali Bandar Al-Amri, called Sunday on all displaced Iraqis, including Christians, to return voluntarily to their country since their regions were now secure. In an interview with Radio Lebanon this morning, the Iraqi diplomat said that his Embassy, in cooperation with the Lebanese authorities, has managed to ensure the repatriation of a large number of displaced Iraqis and to settle their legal status in Lebanon. However, he noted that the number of displaced Iraqis in Lebanon is not fixed, and hence cannot be determined. Al-Amri stated that the war in Iraq officially ended when Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar Al-Abadi announced that his country has crushed terrorism. On the visit of President Michel Aoun to Baghdad, Al-Amri said, "It has had a great impact on the development of bilateral relations. We were very pleased with President Aoun's presence in Baghdad." Commenting on Lebanese companies' contribution to Iraq's reconstruction, Al-Amri said, "We are very proud of their participation, and they are among the first companies to invest in Iraq. We hope for their permanent presence because of the great similarity we share...They know the working conditions in Iraq and the culture of the Iraqis very well, which greatly serves to ensure the work's success.""Iraqis love the Lebanese presence and therefore, Lebanese companies are very welcome and have a fundamental work position in Iraq," Al-Amri concluded.

Batroun Women's Association, chaired by Laure Sleiman, launches its first annual conference
Sun 04 Mar 2018/NNA - Batroun Women's Association held Saturday its first annual conference under the patronage of State Minister for Women's Affairs, Jean Oghassapian, entitled "Woman in Public Life". Ambassadors of Qatar, Tunisia and Algeria, MPs Boutros Harb, Fadi Karam and Samer Saadé and other personalities attended the conference. Taking the word, Minister Oghassapian said that excluding women from parliament was a loss for the House and Lebanon. "If we want to develop our society we need to overcome the mentality of discrimination between men and women," he added. The minister deemed that posts are currently given to competent persons, according to the rule of the gender equality. In turn, President of the Batroun Women's Association, Laure Sleiman, affirmed that women were able to harmonize between their family duties and other functions in all circumstances… A fact that makes them able to assume responsibility for command posts and power, bypassing all the shackles and illusions inherited from the ages of decadence. "The women are able to prove that the standards of success are talent, science and a strong will. By this, we affirm that we must provide women with the opportunity to prove themselves, while protecting them and the values they advocate which serves to ensure their dignified life so that they assume their role as active members in building the society," Sleiman added. Sleiman asserted that caring for women and consolidating their role in society was everyone's responsibility. "The goal of our Association is not political: it is rather a cultural, social and religious development in the parish of Batroun, and the consolidation of women's role in this region," Sleiman concluded.

Hankache: We Count on People's Conscience on May 6 04th March 2018/Kataeb politburo member and candidate for the Maronite seat in the Metn district, Elias Hankache, on Sunday assured that the results of the upcoming parliamentary elections are not guaranteed as in previous years, pinning hopes on the voters' conscience on May 6. “We are counting on the citizens’ conscience when casting their ballots because it would be unacceptable to re-elect the same political class, which has been in power for the past 30 years, and beg it again for our rights,” Hankache said in an interview on Voice of Lebanon radio station. Commenting on Ziad Itani’s case, Hankache deemed what happened as scandalous and shameful, blasting the justifications made by the relevant official as impertinent and brazen. “None of the state officials has come out to claim responsibility for what happened and resign, after the man’s reputation was bashed in the worst way by accusing him of high treason and conspiracy,” Hankache added. The Kataeb candidate blasted the ruling authority for making the Lebanese choose between staying surrounded by waste and dumping it the sea, as well as between accepting the power barges deal and keeping the blackouts problem unresolved.

Saade: Kataeb Party Is Against Win-Loss Settlements 04th March 2018/Kataeb MP Samer Saade on Sunday said that it was normal that he runs for the Maronite seat in the Batroun district this time given that it is his hometown, deploring the fact that the parliamentary polls have become a means to boost one's gains away from political convictions. Speaking via Radio Liban, Saade said that the elections are now fought based on the win-loss calculations instead of a political vision and platform, wishing that all the independents who were once part of the March 14 coalition had formed an electoral alliance. "Lebanon requires more sacrifices from us. What is important is to cling to the values that the March 14 coalition was based on," he stressed. "The Kataeb's goal has nothing to do with winning and losing, thus the party has allied with forces and individuals that share the same political vision with it and believe in the same cause that it aspires to," Saade affirmed, adding that the Kataeb party is against any political settlement that is based on the win-loss calculations.
"We are looking forward to transparent and honorable elections," he concluded.

Dagher: Current Ruling Class Is the Most Impertinent in Lebanon's History 04th March 2018/Kataeb politburo member Serge Dagher on Sunday deemed the ruling class as the worst in Lebanon's history, hoping that the parliamentary elections will bring along the much-aspired change that the country needs. “There's a chance for accountability on May 6. The Lebanese must make the right choice in order not to get the same political class back to power,” Dagher stressed. “Ziad Itani’s case is a sample of this government’s performance as we woke up one day to find that he is accused of collaborating with Israel,” Dagher stated in an interview on New TV, criticizing interior minister for apologizing on behalf of the Lebanese who have no guilt to share in this case. Dagher blasted the direct political interference in the work of the Judiciary, saying that this has become obvious after hearing several ministers leaking information pertaining to secret investigations. “Corruption has always been present in Lebanon. In the past, politicians used to feel ashamed and hide what they are doing, while today they have become extremely impertinent, and the power barges deal is a clear proof,” Dagher added. The Kataeb member reiterated that the party opposed the presidential settlement because it meant the state has become supportive and complicit to Hezbollah’s acts, thus, endangering Lebanon’s security. Dagher condemned the fact that some Lebanese factions are meddling into the internal affairs of other countries and receiving foreign financial support, pointing out that the Kataeb party will be running for the parliamentary elections without any backed funding. “Our electoral alliances are based on two main guidelines: safeguarding the state’s sovereignty by making sure that the Lebanese Army is the sole armed force in the country, and seeking reform and change,” Dagher stressed.
Dagher pointed out that the Kataeb party will launch its electoral campaign on March 11. “With only five deputies, we were able to foil the taxes in the first time and to uncover the government’s flaws. Imagine what will we be able to do with 10, 15 or 20 deputies,” Dagher highlighted.

Mira Wakim Urges Accountability on May 6 04th March 2018/Kataeb's candidate for the Catholic seat in the Tyre-Zahrani district, Mira Wakim, stressed the need so as to meet the needs of the Lebanese, saying that the country is yearning for a new political class that would lead the country to a better future. Speaking to the Kataeb website, Wakim said that she has sensed the citizens' longing for a drastic change due to the repeated disappointments they have experienced since 2009, adding that the Lebanese ought to express their viewpoints in the ballot boxes. "The time of accountability has come. The Lebanese should punish those who brought them ordeals. The electoral law has changed, so each vote now counts because this is our only weapon to enforce accountability," she stressed. "Voting is both a right and a duty that we must not relinquish."
Wakim noted that Lebanon has everything to become one of the best countries in the world, blaming the ruling authority's ineffectiveness and negligence. "I call on the Lebanese to cast their ballots with full conscience by voting for the right person, not his sect," she said. "You should get to the Parliament those who deserve to be part of it and who seek the interests of Lebanon, not theirs."

What the Unspoken in ‘The Insult’ Says About Lebanon’s Politics
Karim Emile Bitar/New York Times/March 04/18
In the beginning there was just an insult, sparked by a trivial squabble in a street of a working-class neighborhood of Beirut. A surly-looking man on a balcony splashes some water on a foreman below who has come to fix a defective pipe; the foreman curses back. Such is the starting point of “The Insult,” a film by Ziad Doueiri, which is up for an Academy Award in the foreign-language category on Sunday.
Matters could have ended there. After all, as Freud supposedly said, “The first human who hurled an insult instead of a stone was the founder of civilization.” But not in the Lebanon of “The Insult” — where the insult turns into a fight, then a court case and finally a state affair. And not in the real Lebanon either: Some weeks back, just a few months before the next general election is expected to be held, another insult set the country ablaze.
In late January a video appeared online showing Gebran Bassil, the foreign minister (and the president’s son-in-law), calling Nabih Berri, the speaker of the National Assembly, a “thug.” Some streets of Beirut broke out into scenes that could have been lifted from the movie: angry youth, blocked roads, burning tires — as ever, the specter of civil strife. Mr. Bassil (like his father-in-law) is a Maronite Christian; Mr. Berri is a Shiite. And the whole of Lebanese politics plays the sectarian chord.
Here, a single insult can rekindle badly healed wounds, and nudged by just a few excesses from the media or the public, push Lebanon to the brink. (Freud might have called this, too, the “return of the repressed.”) Resentment runs deep in this tiny country, this house of many mansions, home to so many communities with so many narratives forged over so many decades of frustration. Fear of a conflagration remains after a long history of deadly fratricidal clashes, for example in 1845, 1860, 1958 and, of course, 1975–90.
Lebanon’s main fault lines have shifted since that civil war. The film mentions the massacre of Christians by radical Palestinian militias in the village of Damour in 1976, which is sometimes overlooked. But the Palestinian question has become a less central issue since the Israeli invasion of 1982, which caused many fighters from Yasir Arafat’s Palestine Liberation Organization to leave the country.
By focusing on this earlier period in a film set in contemporary Lebanon, Mr. Doueiri might appear to be evading what the most sensitive questions of the moment. The movie makes no mention of the Shiite organization Hezbollah, undoubtedly the most important political actor in the country today. No word either of the rift between Sunnis and Shiites, which has deepened both in Lebanon and throughout the region since the American invasion of Iraq in 2003. Or of the proxy wars that Iran and Saudi Arabia have been waging here.
But the film also avoids being Manichaean, and it captures well how Lebanon’s fundamental structural problems have barely changed: minorities’ fear of the other and their existential anxiety, clientelism and corruption, the shameless manipulation of popular resentment by politicians.
In 1991, soon after the war, an amnesty law was passed in the name of national reconciliation. It has only allowed the warlords to evade justice and stay in charge: Since then, they have continued to sabotage the state, though now from within, capturing its resources and handing those out to their minions. The central authorities are weak and powerless as a result, having become indentured to various political and sectarian fiefs. Since amnesty has also bred amnesia, the country still isn’t immune to a return of its old demons.
The insult of Mr. Doueiri’s film is the stuff of tragedy. It illustrates deep disagreements over history and memory between two victims who are from opposite camps yet alike in their shared experience of suffering. Trapped in a great game being played well beyond them, both men, each in his own way, end up embodying what George Orwell called common decency.
In contrast, the rivalries of today oppose members of a well-fed elite. Their confrontations are not about assaults on an individual’s dignity; they are petty quarrels over how to slice the pie. These people have ruled together, and they will likely rule together again, in what they call, improperly, “national unity governments.” At most, the upcoming election in May will only marginally affect a system that is as well-greased as it is perverse.
Indeed, 75 years after independence from France, Lebanon has yet to develop a proper sense of democratic citizenship, a direct relation between the individual and the state. From their cradles to their graves, Lebanese people live under a sort of house arrest, confined by their communal affiliation; they cannot assert their rights without having to resort to the patronage networks of sectarian leaders.
Behind its facade as a liberal parliamentary democracy, Lebanon is the hostage of a half-dozen cynical politicians — themselves often indentured to a foreign power — who divvy up positions and profits among themselves. The country’s system of “consociational democracy,” which was supposed to maintain balance among its various religious communities, has over the years turned it into a quasi-oligarchy.
Lebanon’s civil society is often commended, and rightly so, for its dynamism and its resilience. But its political system and its political class, however dysfunctional and sclerotic, are remarkably resilient as well. The country’s leaders may be patently incompetent when it comes to matters of the state — sovereign debt, electricity shortages, waste-management crises — but they are very ingenious about holding on to power. And that is why, much like the Lebanon in Mr. Doueiri’s film, the real Lebanon of today continues, as the cliché goes, to dance on the edge of a volcano.

Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on March 04-05/18
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman landed Started an official Visit To Egypt
Arab News/March 04/18/CAIRO: Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman landed in Egypt on Sunday where he was received by Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi on the first leg of his maiden foreign tour as heir to the throne.
Within hours of arriving, the two countries signed a memorandum of understanding to activate a 60-billion Saudi riyal ($16 billion) investment fund. They also signed agreements to continue cooperation in resolving political crises in the Middle East, and a commitment to environmental protection. Prince Mohammed, the Saudi deputy prime minister and minister of defense, was greeted by El-Sisi as he landed at Cairo International Airport. During meetings, the two sides reviewed “strategic bilateral relations and discussed developments in the region “especially issues related to security and stability” and “fighting terrorism,” Saudi Press Agency reported. The Crown Prince’s visit to Egypt was his first since he became crown prince in June of last year. “The Egyptian president reaffirmed that the security of the Gulf is an integral part of Egyptian national security,” Egypt’s presidential spokesman, Bassam Rady said. "President El-Sisi expressed Egypt's keenness to enhance bilateral cooperation with Saudi Arabia in all fields, in a way that reflects the level of strategic partnership between the two countries", Rady said. Rady also highlighted the significance of the visit's timing in light of the "great challenges currently taking place in the Middle East, which require mutual coordination between Egypt and Saudi Arabia." Ahead of the visit, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri said the Crown Prince and El-Sisi would “discuss the political situation in Yemen, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Libya.” Prince Mohammed will also meet Prime Minister Sharif Ismail, the parliament speaker Ali Abdel-Aal, the grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar, Ahmed Tayeb and Pope Tawadros, the head of the Egyptian church. The crown prince is expected to visit Ismailia today where he will tour some of Egypt’s national projects including the new channel of the Suez Canal. In preparation, the Ismailia Governorate has decorated the route along which they will travel with flags. Later they will attended a performance of the show “Salem Nafsak” (Surrender Yourself) at the Cairo Opera House.  The Coptic Orthodox Church announced that Prince Mohammed would visit the main St. Mark’s Coptic Cathedral in Cairo.  Pope Tawadros II met King Salman at his residence during his visit to Cairo in April 2016. Also on Sunday, US President Donald Trump called El-Sisi to discuss with him “regional issues” and “ways of combating terrorism,” a statement from the Egyptian presidency said. Prince Mohammed stressed that his keenness to conduct his first foreign visit as Crown Prince "reflects the depth and strength of relations between Egypt and Saudi Arabia, which are bound by common history and one destiny".
Egypt conducts first ever air strikes in the Nile Delta against terrorist targets
DEBKAfile/March 04/18/The Egyptian air force has bombed six terrorist targets in Sinai and, for the first time in its modern military history, in the famous Nile Delta. Reporting this on Sunday, March 4, the Egyptian military spokesman Col. Tamer Rifai did not specify which areas were struck in the two regions, or which terrorist organizations were targeted. DEBKAfile’s military sources report that the very fact that the Egyptian military has expanded its counter-terror campaign from the Sinai desert into an area in northern Egypt testifies to the rising threat posed by the Islamic State and the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. The Nile Delta, Egypt’s richest agricultural region for 5,000 years, has a population of 39 million, most of them living in the main towns of Alexandria and the Cairo conurbation and sparsely spread out in between. It fans out across 240, from Alexandria in the west, through Port Said in the east and up to the Mediterranean in the north. President Abdel-Fatteh el-Sisi personally approved this extreme measure, despite its inevitable political fallout, in order to cut down on the terrorist peril hanging over his regime before Egypt goes to the polls on March 26-28 to choose its president. In the four years since he seized power from the Muslim Brotherhood’s President Mohamed Morsi, internal security in Egypt, instead of improving, has gone from bad to worse. Although El-Sisi’s re-election is in the bag, in the absence of any other serious contenders, his personal and political standing is at stake. “Comprehensive Operation Sinai 2018″ was officially launched on Feb. 9 for “the comprehensive confrontation of terrorist and criminal elements and organizations in north and middle Sinai and other areas in the Nile Delta and the desert areas west of the Nile valley.” The military spokesman now reports that, so far, 16 troops and 10 terrorists were killed in the operation and 245 detained. On March, Amnesty International issued a statement based on an Egyptian military video accusing the Egyptian air force of using US supplied Mk 118 cluster munitions in North Sinai.

Egypt: 10 terrorists eliminated while four armed forces killed in Sinai
Arab News/March 04/18/DUBAI: Egypt’s armed forces announced the killing of 10 suicide bombers, 6 terrorists and the destruction of two car bombs in northern and central Sinai on Sunday, UAE state-news agency WAM reported. The Egyptian armed forces said in a statement that two officers and two soldiers were killed during the clashes and the clearing of terrorist strongholds, while one officer and three soldiers were wounded. Security forces also arrested 245 suspects and destroyed 145 terrorist shelters and weapons caches. The statement also said that the Egyptian Air Force discovered and destroyed 11 vehicles loaded with weapons and ammunition while trying to penetrate the western border.

Syria's Assad says the humanitarian situation that the West talks about is a 'ridiculous lie'

Arab Nerws/March 04/18/DAMASCUS: Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad said ion Sunday the humanitarian situation that the West talks about is a 'ridiculous lie', adding that Damascus "will continue to fight terrorism...and the Ghouta operation is a continuation of the fight against terrorism."Assad added trhat the Ghouta operation must continue in parallel with opening the way for civilains to leave, indicating that Western accusations of chemical weapons use in Syria are an excuse to attack the Syrian army. The Syrian President said that his forces must continue an operation in the rebel-held enclave of Eastern Ghouta, despite mounting pressure to end it. "The operation against terrorism must continue, while at the same time civilians will continue to have the possibility" to evacuate, Assad told journalists in remarks broadcast on state television. Assad's forces have seized over a quarter of the enclave on Damascus's eastern edges after two weeks of devastating bombardment, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a war monitor.

France tells Iran risks sanctions if ballistic missile issue not handled
Reuters/March 04/18/PARIS: France’s foreign minister told Iran ahead of a visit to Tehran on Monday that the country needed to address concerns over its ballistic missile program or risked new sanctions. “There are ballistic programs of missiles that can reach several thousand kilometers which are not compatible with UN Security Council resolutions and exceed the sole need of defending Iran’s borders,” Jean-Yves Le Drian told the Journal du Dimanche newspaper. “If not tackled head on, this country risks new sanctions,” he added.

Rescue teams recover black boxes at site of Iran plane crash

AFP, Tehran/Sunday, 4 March 2018/Rescue teams have recovered the black boxes of a plane that crashed last month in the mountains of southwestern Iran leaving 66 people dead, official media reported on Sunday. “The box that recorded flight parameters and the one with conversations in the cockpit have been handed over to judicial authorities,” Reza Jafarzadeh, the public relations director of Iran’s civil aviation organisation, told official news agency IRNA. Jafarzadeh said the two black boxes of the Aseman Airlines ATR-72 were found on Saturday by rescue teams, who had resumed search operations in the Zagros mountains on Friday after bad weather forced them to halt efforts for nearly a week. They were to be handed over to investigators seeking to determine the cause of the accident. The aircraft, on a domestic flight out of Tehran, went down in a snowstorm on February 18 and crashed at a height of about 4,000 metres. There have been no reported survivors from the plane’s 66 passengers and crew. The crash site has been hit by heavy snowfall in recent days, making rescue operations particularly dangerous due to avalanche risks, according to officials quoted by local media. So far, only body parts have been recovered from the scene of the crash. Forensic teams have performed tests on 51 samples of human tissue in attempts to identify the victims, IRNA reported.

Netanyahu to talk with Trump about attending Jerusalem embassy opening

AFP, Jerusalem/Sunday, 4 March 2018/Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said he will discuss the possibility of US President Donald Trump attending the May opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem when he meets Trump on Monday. Netanyahu made the comment late Saturday before boarding a flight to the United States. “I’ll definitely discuss with him that possibility,” Netanyahu said in response to a journalist’s question on whether he planned to invite Trump for the occasion. “I’m very grateful to him for this historic decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and to move the American embassy to Jerusalem on our independence day,” he said. The May 14 date of the embassy opening coincides with the 70th anniversary of the founding of Israel. For Palestinians, the date represents the anniversary of the Nakba, or “catastrophe”, in which hundreds of thousands either fled or were expelled from their homes in the war surrounding Israel’s creation. Trump’s December 6 Jerusalem declaration outraged Palestinians and broke with decades of international consensus that the disputed city’s status must be negotiated between the two sides. Other countries have their embassies in Tel Aviv. The new embassy will initially be located in a US consular building in Jerusalem while Washington searches for a permanent location. Israel occupied mainly Palestinian east Jerusalem in the 1967 Six-Day War and later annexed it in a move never recognized by the international community. It sees the entire city as its capital. The Palestinians see east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.

Syrians flee government advances in eastern Ghouta
Reuters, Beirut/Sunday, 4 March 2018/Hundreds of people are fleeing advances by Syrian government forces in eastern Ghouta, a war monitor and a resident said on Sunday, as Damascus presses an offensive to crush the last major rebel stronghold near the capital.
Government forces are thrusting into the besieged rebel enclave from its eastern edge in an apparent bid to split it in two - a pattern of attack used repeatedly by Damascus and its allies in the war entering its eighth year. Orient TV, which supports the opposition to President Bashar al-Assad, said advances by pro-Assad forces had triggered large-scale displacement. People were seeking shelter in areas closer to the center of the eastern Ghouta, said the resident, who estimated thousands were on the move. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based organization which reports on the war, estimated that between 300 to 400 families had fled, adding that government bombardment was focused on the town of Mesraba. Damascus, backed by Russia and Iran, has been waging one of the deadliest offensives of the war in eastern Ghouta, killing hundreds of people in a fierce air and artillery bombardment over the last two weeks. The UN Security Council demanded a 30-day countrywide ceasefire a week ago, but this has failed to take effect.
No permission for convoy
Russia has instead called for daily, five-hour humanitarian ceasefires to allow for aid deliveries and evacuations of civilians and wounded. No aid has been delivered however, and the US State Department has called the Russian plan a “joke”. The Russian military said militants in eastern Ghouta had imposed a curfew in areas under their control to prevent civilians from leaving through a humanitarian corridor during the truce, Interfax news agency reported. Rebel officials have consistently denied stopping civilians from leaving. A UN official in Syria told Reuters a humanitarian convoy carrying life-saving supplies from UN and other aid agencies would not enter eastern Ghouta as had been planned on Sunday, citing a lack of permission. Western diplomats said that the Syrian government had not given the final clearances needed for safe access.
The convoy of some 40 trucks had been due to go to Douma in the government-besieged enclave near Damascus, where some 400,000 people need food, medical and other supplies, the UN says. Only one small convoy with supplies for 7,200 people has been allowed to Ghouta so far this year, in mid-February. A Western diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, drew a parallel with rebel-held eastern Aleppo where no aid convoys were allowed to enter in late 2016 before it fell to government forces: “Similar to the lack of approval to get aid into East Aleppo - lots of talk and no action.”

Netanyahu to Talk with Trump about Attending Embassy Opening
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/March 04/18/Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said he will discuss the possibility of U.S. President Donald Trump attending the May opening of the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem when he meets Trump on Monday. Netanyahu made the comment late Saturday before boarding a flight to the United States. "I'll definitely discuss with him that possibility," Netanyahu said in response to a journalist's question on whether he planned to invite Trump for the occasion. "I'm very grateful to him for this historic decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital and to move the American embassy to Jerusalem on our independence day," he said. The May 14 date of the embassy opening coincides with the 70th anniversary of the founding of Israel. For Palestinians, the date represents the anniversary of the Nakba, or "catastrophe", in which hundreds of thousands either fled or were expelled from their homes in the war surrounding Israel's creation. Trump's December 6 Jerusalem declaration outraged Palestinians and broke with decades of international consensus that the disputed city's status must be negotiated between the two sides. Other countries have their embassies in Tel Aviv. The new embassy will initially be located in a U.S. consular building in Jerusalem while Washington searches for a permanent location. Israel occupied mainly Palestinian east Jerusalem in the 1967 Six-Day War and later annexed it in a move never recognized by the international community. It sees the entire city as its capital. The Palestinians see east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.

Netanyahu Opposes Early Polls as Graft Probes Intensify
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/March 04/18/Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said he opposes early elections, as corruption probes linked to him intensify speculation over his future. Israeli media have raised the possibility of a June poll, with graft investigations potentially weakening the premier's ability to hold together his right-wing coalition. "There is no reason for that to happen if there is good will," Netanyahu said before departing for a visit to the United States late Saturday. "For me, there is good will. I hope that the other (coalition) partners also have it."Netanyahu will meet U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday at the White House and is set to address pro-Israel lobbying group AIPAC on Tuesday. Israeli police recommended Netanyahu's indictment in two corruption cases last month and investigations are continuing in others. He and his wife Sara were questioned by police on Friday in a third case of alleged graft. At the same time, there are signs that a split is emerging within his coalition that threatens to pull the government apart. Ultra-Orthodox Jewish parties want a law passed to allow religious students to continue to be exempted from military conscription. Other members of the coalition oppose such a law, but the ultra-Orthodox have threatened to block a 2019 budget that Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon wants to see approved this month.

Syria Regime Retakes Quarter of Rebel Enclave as Civilians Flee
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/March 04/18/Syria's regime has seized control of over a quarter of rebel-held Eastern Ghouta on the edge of Damascus after two weeks of devastating bombardment, sending hundreds of civilians into flight, a monitor said Sunday. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said regime forces had advanced to three kilometers (two miles) from Douma, the main town, after retaking "more than 25 percent" of Eastern Ghouta, in operations mostly through farmlands.The government's advance into the last major opposition enclave near the capital, on the back of 15 days of air strikes, artillery fire and rocket attacks that are reported to have left more than 640 civilians dead, sent hundreds of residents into flight to western parts of the enclave. Under growing international pressure to end the bloodshed, regime backer Russia last week announced daily five-hour "humanitarian pauses" in the enclave. But while the air campaign has eased, fighting has intensified on the ground. Backed by Russian air power, the Syrian military has advanced on several fronts, retaking control of farms and villages, a military source told state media. The source said government forces seized a number of districts including al-Nashabiyeh and Otaya, and had "eradicated terrorist groups" on the eastern outskirts of Damascus. They have reached the center of the enclave, to the edge of Beit Sawa, according to the Observatory. After advances in recent days that saw the regime seize control of 10 percent of Eastern Ghouta, rebel fighters clashed with regime forces on Sunday in the eastern part of the enclave, the Observatory said. Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Britain-based monitoring group, said at least 12 regime fighters had been killed in two areas, al-Rihan and Shifoniya, in overnight clashes with the Jaish al-Islam rebel group. Jaish al-Islam shares control of rebel-held parts of Eastern Ghouta with Faylaq al-Rahman and Ahrar al-Sham. Damascus and Moscow say they are trying to clear the area of "terrorists." Hamza Bayraqdar, a spokesman for Jaish al-Islam, said on Twitter that the group's forces had launched "surprise attacks" against regime positions. The Observatory, which relies on a network of sources on the ground, said rebels had retaken some parts of Shifoniya.
Hundreds flee
An AFP correspondent inside Eastern Ghouta saw hundreds of civilians on Sunday fleeing from the town of Beit Sawa in the southeast of the enclave. The Observatory said some 2,000 civilians had fled regime shelling and clashes in eastern areas to western parts of the enclave. "Everyone is on the road. There's destruction everywhere," said 35-year-old Abu Khalil, carrying a little girl in his arms wounded on the cheek. "Many families are trapped under rubble, the rescue workers just can't cope." On Saturday, 18 civilians, including three children, were killed in regime bombardment of Eastern Ghouta, according to the Observatory. At least 76 pro-regime fighters and 43 rebels from Jaish al-Islam have also been killed in clashes since February 25, it says. Encircled by regime-controlled territory and unable or unwilling to flee, Eastern Ghouta's 400,000 residents have in recent weeks suffered one of the most ferocious assaults of Syria's civil war. Under siege since 2013, they had already been facing severe shortages of food and medicine. The region's over-burdened medical workers have been struggling to cope with the rising number of wounded. While falling short of a 30-day ceasefire demanded by the United Nations, the announcement of daily humanitarian pauses in fighting had raised hopes of some aid deliveries and evacuations. But trucks loaded with aid have so far been unable to enter the enclave, according to the U.N. Moscow has offered safe passage to non-combatants wishing to leave Eastern Ghouta during the pause, but no Syrian civilians have left the enclave since the first break in fighting took effect on Tuesday, the Observatory says.The Russian military said no civilians exited via the established corridor on Saturday. Damascus and Moscow have accused rebels of preventing civilians from leaving.
Simply unacceptable
French President Emmanuel Macron and U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres expressed "grave concern" about the humanitarian situation in a telephone conversation late Saturday. "The U.N. convoys must immediately deliver medical assistance and food aid to the besieged population," the French presidency said. The U.N.'s regional humanitarian coordinator for Syria, Panos Moumtzis, sounded the alarm on Sunday over the increase in violence. "Instead of a much-needed reprieve, we continue to see more fighting, more death, and more disturbing reports of hunger and hospitals being bombed," he said.
"This collective punishment of civilians is simply unacceptable." As Syria's conflict approaches its seventh anniversary, President Bashar al-Assad's forces, heavily backed by Russia, have retaken most of the territory once lost to rebels. Eastern Ghouta remains one of the few areas outside their control, along with the northwestern province of Idlib which is partly controlled by al-Qaida-linked jihadists.

Italy Votes in Uncertain Election Stalked by Populism
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/March 04/18/Italians began voting on Sunday in one of the country's most uncertain elections ever, with far-right and populist parties expected to make major gains and Silvio Berlusconi set to play a leading role. Clashes between far-right and anti-fascist activists have marred a gloomy campaign dominated by fears about immigration and economic malaise. "It's been a very negative campaign," said Domenico Coricelli, a 28-year-old in Florence. Many Italians are cynical about election promises made by the country's many squabbling parties and confused about what the outcome might be. "We hope something will change because until now things have been very bad," said Enzo Gallo, an elderly shopper at a street market in Milan. "The middle class no longer exists, the poor are becoming poorer, the rich are becoming richer and there is no social justice," he told AFP.
The result could be a stalemate between the populist Five Star Movement, three-time former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi's right wing coalition and the ruling centre-left Democratic Party. The last opinion polls before the vote put Berlusconi's coalition in the lead with 37 percent, followed by the Five Star Movement with 28 percent and the centre-left with 27 percent. But under a new electoral law being tried out for the first time, any grouping would need at least 40 percent of the vote to command an overall majority of seats in both chambers of parliament. "These elections are a lottery. It's been the case before but never like today," said Roberto D'Alimonte, head of political science at Rome's Luiss University. Polls opened at 0600 GMT and will close at 2200 GMT with initial results expected early on Monday.
Berlusconi's back
A remarkable feature of the election has been the return to the limelight of 81-year-old Berlusconi, despite a political career overshadowed by sex scandals and legal woes.
The billionaire tycoon cannot himself hold office because of a tax fraud conviction but has put forward European Parliament President Antonio Tajani as his prime ministerial nominee. Berlusconi's plans, however, face a challenge from his ambitious coalition partner, League leader Matteo Salvini, whose anti-immigration and euroskeptic rhetoric has fired up the campaign. Salvini has said he should be nominated prime minister if his party comes ahead of Berlusconi's and their coalition as a whole wins a majority. Berlusconi and Salvini have promised to expel 600,000 illegal migrants from Italy if they win power -- a proposal that the centre-left has dismissed as logistically impossible.
Pure populism'
The election has drawn international attention, including from former White House adviser Steve Bannon -- the man who harnessed the populist insurgency that propelled Donald Trump to power. Italy's election "epitomises everything, it is pure populism," Bannon said in an interview with the New York Times last week. Bannon, who is visiting Italy as part of a European tour, told the paper: "The Italian people have gone farther, in a shorter period of time, than the British did for Brexit and the Americans did for Trump."He called a potential alliance between the Five Star Movement and the League -- a scenario that has spooked financial markets and European capitals -- the "ultimate dream". Democratic Party leader Matteo Renzi told a final campaign event in his native Florence on Friday that only a vote for his party would prevent Salvini from taking power. "The Democratic Party is the only serious political force that can bring concrete results," Chiara Serdone, a 70-year-old retired railway company employee, told AFP at the rally.
If no party wins an overall majority, one scenario outlined by analysts could be a grand coalition between the Democratic Party and Forza Italia -- a prospect that would reassure investors but risks spreading more cynicism and emboldening populists and the far-right.
Another possibility could be a temporary government and eventually new elections. The anti-establishment Five Star Movement, which has drawn support from Italians disillusioned with traditional parties, may end up as the single biggest party but has ruled out any post-election deals with the others. Five Star's leader Luigi Di Maio broke with tradition by announcing a full list of ministerial nominees ahead of the vote, including many academics with no political experience. The 31-year-old Di Maio told supporters: "Some people have mocked this decision but we will be the ones laughing on Monday."

Macron Urges Tehran to 'Pressure' Syria to Halt E. Ghouta Offensive
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/March 04/18/French President Emmanuel Macron called on his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani on Sunday to put the "necessary pressure" on the Syrian government to halt "indiscriminate" attacks on civilians in the rebel-held enclave of Eastern Ghouta. During a telephone call between the two leaders, Macron underscored the "particular responsibility for Iran, because of its ties to the regime, regarding the implementation of the humanitarian truce" sought by the U.N., his office said. Their talks came as a monitoring group said forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad had seized control of over a quarter of Eastern Ghouta, on the edge of Damascus, after two weeks of devastating bombardment. The offensive has reportedly killed more than 640 civilians and sent hundreds more fleeing, prompting growing international calls to end the bloodshed. "The two presidents expressed their agreement to work together in the coming days along with the U.N., in conjunction with the Damascus regime and the main countries involved in Syria, to secure results on the ground, supply necessary aid to civilians and implement an effective ceasefire," Macron's office said. He and Rouhani are expected to speak again later this week. The United Nations has called for a 30-day ceasefire in Eastern Ghouta, but so far regime-backer Russia has declared only a five-hour daily "humanitarian pause."

Trump and May Blame Russia, Syria for E. Ghouta Suffering
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/March 04/18/Russia and Syria are responsible for the "heart-breaking human suffering" in the Syrian rebel-held enclave of Eastern Ghouta, U.S. President Donald Trump and his British counterpart Theresa May said Sunday. The two leaders discussed the "appalling humanitarian situation in Eastern Ghouta" during a phone call Sunday detailed by May's Downing Street office. "They agreed it was a humanitarian catastrophe, and that the overwhelming responsibility for the heart-breaking human suffering lay with the Syrian regime and Russia, as the regime's main backer," the prime minister's office said. Syria's regime has seized control of over a quarter of Eastern Ghouta, on the edges of the capital Damascus, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Sunday. May and Trump said "Russia and others with influence over the Syrian regime must act now to cease their campaign of violence and to protect civilians." The Syrian government's advance on Eastern Ghouta comes after 15 days of devastating air strikes, artillery fire and rocket attacks that are reported to have left more than 640 civilians dead.

Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on March 04-05/18
Botched response to Daesh paves way for its expansion
Baria Alamuddin/Arab News/March 04/18
One of the surest methods for radicalizing and alienating communities is the blunt instrument of collective punishment, which represents a fundamental breach of the laws of conflict. When you brutally treat whole populations as if they are the enemy, eventually they become your enemy. Israel was rightly condemned for demolishing entire housing blocks in retaliation for pinprick actions by militants. Today we see comparably vengeful campaigns against Iraqi and Syrian civilians. In recently-liberated regions of Iraq, Human Rights Watch has documented how thousands of people are prevented from obtaining identity documents on the flimsy pretext of possible family links to Daesh. Considering that, under Daesh’s “caliphate,” identity papers were systematically destroyed, this is an urgent problem as documentation is required for access to food, moving around and, crucially, being able to vote.
Even if someone is believed to be the aunt of a Daesh suspect, punishing the wider family is illegal under international law. Yet such allegations are exploited to disenfranchise a huge swathe of people, including those with no proven links to extremists. The recent death of a relative is taken as proof that the deceased must have been a combatant; yet few families in Mosul have not lost relatives. Even lawyers trying to represent families have been threatened and accused of being Daesh sympathizers. As Human Rights Watch warned: “Unless this collective punishment stops, the authorities will be further destabilizing the situation in Mosul and other former (Daesh)-held cities.”
The May 12 elections are a primary motivator for these punitive policies. Even if such restrictions are eventually struck down, it will be too late for the hundreds of thousands of mostly Sunnis who, through loss of identity and dislocation, will be prevented from having their say in the future of Iraq. The same sectarian paramilitaries that are ensuring western Iraq remains a warzone unsuitable for holding elections are the forces hoping to gain an outright majority in May. Indeed, the only time sectarian Shiite factions won more than 50 percent of the vote was 2005, when a high proportion of Sunnis either could not or would not vote.
With the goal of political hegemony, Al-Hashd Al-Shaabi paramilitary forces have implemented a scorched earth policy across central Iraq, burning hundreds of villages and forcing returnees back into exile. A significant proportion of Iraq’s three million displaced persons are forced to remain in squalid camps under spurious accusations of Daesh sympathies. This toxic amalgamation of sectarian cleansing and collective punishment is sowing the seeds of future sectarian conflict, teaching a generation of young people that the Iraqi state and its allied forces are their enemies.
A second manifestation of collective punishment is Eastern Ghouta, where Bashar Assad and his allies are blitzing the civilian population with missiles and chemical munitions. Untold hundreds have died, with children torn to pieces by shells. Doctors describe the heartbreaking scenario of stitching babies back together, but with no surviving parents left to claim them: Nobody even knows who these infants are, or what future awaits them in the hell into which they have been born. Airstrikes against at least five Ghouta health centers in recent days is an integral part of this policy of collective punishment, aimed at destroying morale in this district that houses about 400,000 people. By turning a blind eye to collective punishment, sectarian cleansing and crimes against humanity, we are nurturing the perfect climate in which new strains of terrorism and radicalism can proliferate.
The horrors of Ghouta are not qualitatively different from dozens of other localities across Syria. Yet nobody still seriously talks about holding Assad and his enablers to account. Indeed, US-backed Kurdish forces, while fighting Daesh and confronting the Turks, have effectively found themselves fighting on the same side as Assad. As these Kurdish forces abandon the fight against Daesh and rush to confront Turkish proxies, Daesh enjoys the opportunity to lick its wounds and regroup.
Multiple factors give cause for optimism among Syria’s extremists: Rival factions are once again finding common ground; a weak and divided Syria will remain a benevolent environment; their enemies are distractedly fighting each other; and there is a fertile recruiting ground among dislocated and traumatized youths whose only prospects are through preying on those weaker than themselves. Systematic killing and displacement of Sunni communities by Iranian proxies furthermore creates a sectarianized and radicalized environment where future coexistence and statehood become impossible.
By pounding Daesh and the civilian population to smithereens in Mosul, leaders like Donald Trump can portray themselves as strong against “radical Islamic terrorism.” But such military strategies alone only serve to create a breeding ground for the next generation of terrorists. “Strong against terrorism” should mean creating stable and integrated societies where terrorism cannot gain a foothold. The 17 years since President George W. Bush declared his “war on terror” in the wake of 9/11 has instead seen us go backwards, with a dozen new failed states acting as terrorist incubators.
The extremist movement’s biggest strategic error was trying to hold large expanses of territory with the entire civilized world aligned against it. In defeating Daesh, we are allowing its fighters to retreat back to the wastelands where they are strongest and best able to wreak havoc around the world. Indeed, there has been an uptick in Daesh attacks in Iraq in recent weeks. The international system’s failure to support disintegrating states offers a vast expanse of virgin territory from Africa to South Asia that extremists can call home. Daesh has never had it so good.
The West learned the wrong lessons from the catastrophic 2003 Iraq intervention, and today it is taken for granted that all direct overseas involvement is bad. Thus, it was better to let local forces lead any necessary fighting — even when those forces were Iranian proxies with a long record of sectarian cleansing and war crimes. Likewise, America’s tepid support for Syrian rebel factions first encouraged Vladimir Putin to create his own foothold, and then led to Turkey invading against forces armed by the West. The desire not to get involved has recurrently led to untold chaos, as these conflicts accumulate global ramifications. For example, the post-2014 backlash against the mass displacement of refugees into Europe fueled the rise of freshly-empowered white supremacist political movements. These fascists threaten to extinguish the flame of liberal democracy and cast us into a new political dark age.
Meanwhile, the UN-based system for conflict prevention and upholding international law has been so fundamentally undermined that it ceases even pretending to be relevant. Security Council members shook off their lethargy for a rare bout of exertion in response to the killing in Ghouta. Yet Assad didn’t even pretend to respect the declared cease-fire, and Russia and the US had no intention of imposing consequences. The flagrant use of chemical weapons before the eyes of the world represents a calculated provocation against an impotent and discredited global peacekeeping infrastructure. Extremism thrives on such blatant injustices and international dysfunction.
The Middle East straddles the southeastern approaches to Europe and its inestimable oil reserves constitute the reservoir for global energy security. If this critical mass of humanitarian catastrophes can’t goad the world into action, then perhaps pragmatic realism and base survival instinct will force us to think twice.
By turning a blind eye to collective punishment, sectarian cleansing and crimes against humanity, we are nurturing the perfect climate in which new strains of terrorism and radicalism can proliferate — from the malevolence of the far-right to the nihilism of Daesh and the sectarian provocations of Tehran’s proxies. Daesh’s “caliphate” may be no more, but terrorism has certainly not been defeated. This is merely the calm before the storm.
*Baria Alamuddin is an award-winning journalist and broadcaster in the Middle East and the UK. She is editor of the Media Services Syndicate and has interviewed numerous heads of state.

Top rabbi praises ‘refreshing’ Saudi remarks on ‘horrors of Holocaust’
Eman El-Shenawi Al Arabiya English/Sunday, 4 March 2018/
In January, an email was sent by a top Muslim official in Saudi Arabia that made Jewish communities worldwide pause and take notice. The message, addressed to the director of the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, has arguably become the single most important development in relations between Jewish and Muslim religious leaders in recent history. In it, the head of the Riyadh-based Muslim World League, Dr. Mohammad al-Issa, acknowledged the “horrors of the Holocaust.”The genocide “could not be denied or underrated by any fair-minded or peace-loving person,” Dr. al-Issa wrote.
Dr. Mohammad Alissa, Secretary General, Muslim World League, and the President of the International Organization of Muslim Scholars. (Supplied) Reading the high-profile statement from his Munich headquarters was Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, the President of the Conference of European Rabbis - the primary Orthodox rabbinical alliance in Europe. Describing the remarks as “refreshing,” Rabbi Pinchas tells Al Arabiya English how they were received in Europe. “They marked a clear and welcomed break with the region’s past,” he says, adding that Dr. al-Issa managed to inverse a narrative commonly believed about the Middle East.
“The Israeli-Palestinian conflict resulted in the creation of two distinct narratives of two people totally disconnected and ignorant of each other. Dr. al-Issa’s gesture is an important step in the direction of the Muslim World understanding and accepting the narrative of Jewish history.”
The catalyst for change
As well as being well-received among Jewish communities, some were able to connect the dots. The statement had come against a backdrop of sweeping reforms in Saudi Arabia, which include a re-energized crackdown on hate speech and a pledge by the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to “destroy extremism and return to moderate Islam.”Commenting on this, Rabbi Pinchas wished Prince Mohammed “much success in his quest to define radicalism and bring back reason, moderation and peace to the Middle East.”Rabbi Pinchas gives examples of the work Muslim and Jewish leaders are doing together.
A crucial point within the rabbinical alliance’s manifesto is that “religious communities should police themselves and lead the fight against religious radicalism,” Pinchas says. He believes interfaith communities can work across borders to achieve this, mentioning the Muslim-Jewish Leadership Council (MJLC) - created to unite “leading Imams and Rabbis of Europe to coordinate the campaign for religious freedom and the fight against Islamophobia and anti-Semitism together.” The MJLC was, in fact, created under the auspices of the King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz International Centre for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue – a Saudi-founded inter-governmental organization.
Pinchas gives an example of the work Muslim and Jewish leaders are doing together: “We are currently protesting the new Icelandic law criminalizing circumcision and our united voice is more effective.”"The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is no longer the most important conflict in the Middle East," Pinchas tells Al Arabiya English.But amid efforts by religious leaders to pacify and integrate Jews and Muslims at a community level, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict lingers at the forefront. Rabbi Pinchas addresses this at length, but first points to Syria.
“Today, more people are killed in just one day in Syria, than during a whole year in the West Bank and Gaza,” he says, despite this statement largely being dependent on the length and intensity of bombing campaigns across Syria, the West Bank and Gaza, which vary year to year.
But his point is this: “The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is no longer the most important conflict in the Middle East. “Nevertheless, the conflict remains, and it must be resolved,” he says, providing three points on what he believes will facilitate peace.
They can be read in the full transcript of the interview below.
Full Interview with Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, President of Conference of European Rabbis
Al Arabiya English: The Saudi-based Muslim World League chief, Dr. Mohammad al-Issa, recently commented on the Holocaust. How was this high-profile statement viewed received among the international Jewish community?
In the context of the Middle East, where caricatures featuring Jews as Nazis are ubiquitous, and countries such as Iran host festivals to celebrate an exhibition of Holocaust caricatures and fugitive Nazi scientists are engaged in the Arab struggle against the young State of Israel, Dr. al-Issa’s comments are refreshing as they mark a clear and welcomed break with the region’s past.
AAE: Al-Issa recently agreed to visit tour the US Holocaust Memorial Museum: Is this an important step in the process of legitimizing Muslim discussion of the Holocaust?
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict resulted in the creation of two distinct narratives of two people totally disconnected and ignorant of each other. Dr. al-Issa’s gesture is an important step in the direction of the Muslim World understanding and accepting the narrative of Jewish history.
AAE: Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has recently discussed the need for the kingdom “return to moderate Islam,” as part of efforts to “destroy extremism.” What are your thoughts on this?
Everyone or almost everyone today is opposed to extremism. The question arises, however, of what divides moderate Islam and extreme Islam? Is it the Hijab, as defined by French and Belgian law? Or is it circumcision or the Halal slaughtering practice, as suggested by many European far right parties and secularists?
I don’t believe so. The definition of extremism is very simple. It is the denial of a person’s right to lead a dignified and liberated life, as defined by them, because of some form of coercion, be it through violence or other means.
Osama bin Laden was an extremist and taught an extremist interpretation of Islam. Because of him, the modern world is unrecognisable. Secret bank accounts are a relic of the past and airport security results in the need for innocent people to disrobe as airport staff are pressed to safety at all costs.
I wish Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman much success in his quest to define radicalism and bring back reason, moderation and peace to the Middle East.
AAE: To what extent do you believe religious communities must take the lead in tackling radicalization?
After the attack against Charlie Hebdo in 2015, the Conference of European Rabbis published a manifesto at the WEF in Davos proposing that religious communities should police themselves and lead the fight against religious Radicalism.
A. Religious leaders are the most important ingredient of a religious community. They must be educated in European schools, where respect and tolerance of difference is an integral part of the curriculum.
B. The donation dollar should be transparent and not come from organizations promoting extremism.
C. There should be an officer from within the congregation who is tasked with monitoring extremism. This is because it is only a scholar from within the faith community who can detect when traditional, religious texts are manipulated as a tool to recruit suicide bombers and terrorists.
We distributed our proposals throughout the EU and two countries, Austria and France, have incorporated these suggestions as the law of the land.
It is always the same story. When we do not self- regulate, the Government are forced to introduce new regulations.
I believe that it would be much better to have this as an accepted practice of religious communities rather than a state law.
AAE: In your view, can interfaith communities work together across borders to achieve this?
Yes, I believe they can do. Under the auspices of the KAICIID, we have created the MJLC, the Muslim- Jewish Leadership Council, uniting leading Imams and Rabbis of Europe to coordinate the campaign for religious freedom and the fight against Islamophobia and anti-Semitism Together, our voice is amplified and stronger. For example, we are currently protesting the new Icelandic law criminalising circumcision and our united voice is more effective.
AAE: What’s your future visions for peace in the Middle East, do you predict any progress in the near future between the Israelis and Palestinians?
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is no longer the most important and bloody conflict in the Middle East. Today, more people are killed in just one day in Syria, than during a whole year in the West Bank and Gaza. Nevertheless, the conflict remains, and it must be resolved.
The following three points will facilitate the process of a peace settlement:
1. Strong leaders on both sides
2. The new Palestinian State should be based on sound economic footing, to ensure that it develops into stable country, such as Bahrain or United Arab Emirates, and not one that is poverty-stricken and conflicted, such as Sudan or Yemen.
3. A superpower should be positioned as guarantor for both sides as concessions are made for peace. At present, it seems that the US is very reluctant to play this role, and in the current political climate, I don’t think that Russia or China can fill the US’s shoes.

How Iran deal aided the regime’s bid for hegemonic control
Tony Duheaume Special to Al Arabiya English/March 04/18
Despite the fact that Iran has already embarked on a quest to “annexe” both Iraq and Syria through stealth, and is flexing its hegemonic muscles in Yemen; apart from Donald Trump, most Western leaders are doing their utmost to keep the Iran deal in place.
According to its supporters, this agreement has supposedly curtailed the Iranian regime’s nuclear program, preventing it from developing a nuclear weapon, and becoming a threat to world peace. While this might be perceived by many to be a good solution to rein in Iran’s nuclear program, it can only work as a short-term fix, one that will merely freeze, but not end its nuclear ambitions. But as far as its extraterritorial aims are concerned, the Iran deal will certainly not curtail the regime’s interference in the affairs of neighbouring countries, a meddling which is already becoming a threat to both peace and stability in the region, the deal will in fact help to fund this. As far as the Iranian regime is concerned, the deal has given it a breathing space, one with which to give its military the time it needs to work tirelessly towards a long-term project, which is to develop a nuclear-capable ICBM (intercontinental ballistic missile), with the ability to strike the eastern seaboard of the United States.As far as this project is concerned, on the day that North Korea claimed it had successfully tested an ICBM capable of reaching the US, Iran announced it was bolstering ties with Pyongyang, which leads to speculation that such a move could bring Iran closer to its goal of acquiring a missile that could reach American shores.
Miniaturizing nuclear warhead
When it comes to miniaturizing a nuclear warhead with which to mount on such a missile, for years Iran has been sharing clandestine nuclear technology with North Korea, and with North Korea now having the expertise to fit such a device, there is always the chance that its rabidly anti-Western leader Kim Jong-Un, will eventually share such technology with Iran in the same way as missile technology has been shared over the years.
At the time of signing up for the deal, Iran’s main objective for entering the agreement, was to dupe the Obama administration into returning billions of dollars, which had been impounded due to its continual pursuance of illicit nuclear activity.
Through its participation in the deal, the Iranian leadership was also eager to tempt foreign investors into making lucrative trade deals, some of which have already brought about a much more prosperous Iran.
But none of this money has reached the general populace, rather than alleviate the poverty of its own people. At the same time, the regime has been strengthening its internal defences, through creating its own long-range missile defence system, the Bavar 373, to protect vital installations from attack from the air.
But already installed is the S-300 air defence systems, supplied by the Russians, which are capable of targeting aircraft at high altitude from up to a 150-mile range, allowing them to create a formidable ring of defence around any nuclear facility, or other sensitive military establishment, which makes it almost impossible for an enemy to target such facilities without a substantial loss of aircraft.
Khomeini’s concept of government came through the rule of clerics, a religious despotism with no democratic accountability whatsoever, where the people would have no choice but to give in to the will of the ruling mullahs, whose Supreme Leader had the last say on all forms of governance, and any president “chosen” by the people, was unable to make a move without the Supreme Leader’s say-so. Throughout his term as Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei has advocated pursuing a doctrine of hegemonic control against the Islamic and Arab world, with his ultimate goal being to gain control of all of the Gulf states, and through Iran becoming a super power in the area, force the United States to retreat from the Middle East, defeated by Iran’s use of asymmetric (unconventional) warfare and terrorist proxies.
Foreign fighters
For decades, Iranian training camps have been preparing foreign fighters to carry out proxy acts of terror on behalf of the regime, and with the advent of the Syrian Uprising, many of these trainees have been put to good use as combat troops, cannon fodder fighting alongside the depleted Syrian army, aiding the survival of Bashar al-Assad. While in neighbouring Iraq, with Iran’s Qods Force reforming Shiite groups that had been disbanded after the pull-out of American troops, the IRGC Quds Force has developed a new form of waging war through the use of foreign mercenaries, which saves their own army large body counts, much of this now paid for from cash returned from the Iran deal. The idea behind this move is quite simple, as by using IRGC Quds Force officers, and a number of their non-commissioned officers to lead this mixed bag of paramilitary groups, the IRGC doesn’t have to rely on its own enlisted troops, and by doing so, are able to boost the size of fighting units, using foot soldiers from Hezbollah, and various Iraqi, Syrian and other foreign Shiite militia groups from far afield.
All of this slaughter is being subsidised by cash from the Iran deal, all ignored by European governments, who have been sending trade delegations to Tehran, putting together lucrative deals that will swell the bank accounts of these rich nations, while the Iranian military and its proxies rampage across neighbouring lands, using money acquired from these transactions, to pay for the bullets, shells and bombs that are aiding its bid for hegemonic control of the Middle East.
As far as Iran’s nuclear program is concerned, it is only stalled under the Iran deal, and with Donald Trump now threatening to renegotiate the deal, should this happen, the Iranians could resume enriching their stockpile of uranium to 20 percent, which would take it to weapon’s grade.
As stated by Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, when commenting on Donald Trump’s threat; it would be possible for Iran to produce 20 percent enriched uranium at its Fordo plant, within four days of the nuclear deal collapsing.
Then once the regime acquires a nuclear weapon, it doesn’t necessarily have to use it, all it has to do is flaunt the fact of acquiring one in front of its neighbours, using the weapon as a large stick with which to threaten or coerce them into doing its bidding.