March 07/2018
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani


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Bible Quotations
I know what kind of people you are, and I know that you have no love for God in your hearts
John 05/30-47: "I can do nothing on my own authority; I judge only as God tells me, so my judgment is right, because I am not trying to do what I want, but only what he who sent me wants. “If I testify on my own behalf, what I say is not to be accepted as real proof.  But there is someone else who testifies on my behalf, and I know that what he says about me is true.  John is the one to whom you sent your messengers, and he spoke on behalf of the truth.  It is not that I must have a human witness; I say this only in order that you may be saved.  John was like a lamp, burning and shining, and you were willing for a while to enjoy his light.  But I have a witness on my behalf which is even greater than the witness that John gave: what I do, that is, the deeds my Father gave me to do, these speak on my behalf and show that the Father has sent me.  And the Father, who sent me, also testifies on my behalf. You have never heard his voice or seen his face,  and you do not keep his message in your hearts, for you do not believe in the one whom he sent.  You study the Scriptures, because you think that in them you will find eternal life. And these very Scriptures speak about me!  Yet you are not willing to come to me in order to have life. “I am not looking for human praise.  But I know what kind of people you are, and I know that you have no love for God in your hearts.  I have come with my Father's authority, but you have not received me; when, however, someone comes with his own authority, you will receive him.  You like to receive praise from one another, but you do not try to win praise from the one who alone is God; how, then, can you believe me?  Do not think, however, that I am the one who will accuse you to my Father. Moses, in whom you have put your hope, is the very one who will accuse you. If you had really believed Moses, you would have believed me, because he wrote about me.  But since you do not believe what he wrote, how can you believe what I say?"

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on March 06-07/18
Will Trump succeed where others failed/Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya/March 06/18
Forget the Ultimate Deal: Trump and Netanyahu Should Save Gaza For Now/David Makovsky/The Cipher Brief/March 06/2018
Putin’s threats, their timing and the Cold War/Abdullah bin Bijad Al-Otaibi/Al Arabiya/March 06/18
Should Iraq approve the Arab League’s possible smoking ban/Adnan Hussein/Al Arabiya/March 06/18
Vladimir Putin: Hour of the strong man/Ghassan Charbel/Al Arabiya/March 06/18
US: Muslim Calls for Murder Increasing/Judith Bergman/Gatestone Institute/March 06/2018

Titles For Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on March 06-07/18
Report: Detained Hacker Framed Retired Serviceman, al-Hajj Tried to Bribe His Wife
Hizbullah, FPM Agree to Ally in Beirut, West Bekaa
Supreme Judicial Council Urges Prosecution of Wahhab
Future bloc holds weekly meeting at Center House
Jreissati Denies Referring Hammoud, Abu Ghida to Judicial Inspection
UAE Ambassador: Riyadh, Abu Dhabi Will Always Stand by PM Hariri
STL Sets March 7 Session for Ruling on Oneissi Acquittal Application
Hariri: Reforms Will Encourage the Private Sector
Sami Gemayel follows up on situation of Syrian refugees with head of ICRC
Kataeb holds periodic meeting over current developments
One dead, two injured in landmine left behind by terrorists
Riachy blames administration, government for obstructing Tele Liban dossier
Riachy meets President of International Ambassadors Association in the United States
Central Bank Governor Says Dollar Reserves Climb by $1.4 Bln in First Two Months of Year
Saade: Country Will Slip into Abyss if Lebanese Don't Seize Chance for Change

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on March 06-07/18
Coptic Church says Saudi crown prince ‘disturbs roots of regional extremism’
Mohammed bin Salman: Saudi-Egyptian ties cannot be sabotaged
Saudi crown prince: I do not occupy myself with the Qatar crisis
Saudi Arabia, Britain must promote moderate Islam together, says crown prince
Saudi-backed Yemen forces advancing closer to Haradh border
U.N. Security Council to Meet Wednesday on Failing Syria Truce
32 Dead in Russian Military Plane Crash in Syria
Russia Says Coordinating Fresh Convoy to Syria's Besieged Ghouta
U.S.-Backed Syria Force to Redeploy 1,700 from IS Fight to Afrin
Russia Says Rebels Allowed to Leave Syria's E. Ghouta
Strikes Hit Syria's Battered Ghouta after Aid Convoy Turns Back
Sheikh Sultan al-Thani set to reveal details of father’s ‘treacherous murder’
Man attacked with machete in front of shocked diners at Paris restaurant
President Trump says there is no 'chaos' in the White House, only 'great energy'
Two Koreas to Hold Summit, North Ready for Denuclearization Talks
Palestinians Say Trump Peace Efforts Like Herding Cows to Slaughter
Latest Lebanese Related News published on March 06-07/18
Report: Detained Hacker Framed Retired Serviceman, al-Hajj Tried to Bribe His Wife

Naharnet/March 06/18/New leaks have surfaced in the case of the comedian Ziad Itani and Lt. Col. Suzanne al-Hajj. Quoting judicial sources, al-Akhbar newspaper reported Tuesday that the wife of E.Gh. -- a hacker allegedly hired by al-Hajj to frame Itani – has claimed that the lieutenant colonel has offered her a hefty bribe aimed at convincing her husband to change his confessions “so that he alone bears the responsibility for the technical forgery that led to fabricating the charges against the actor Ziad Itani.” “Al-Hajj is still denying all the charges attributed to her. Whenever she's asked about the WhatsApp chats between her and the hacker, she would say that she does not remember or that what is written or recorded is being misinterpreted,” the sources added. Sources from al-Hajj's family meanwhile denied to al-Akhbar that the officer is involved in framing Itani, claiming that her communication with the detained hacker had been aimed at “establishing a cryptocurrency firm.”Judicial sources have also told al-Akhbar that the hacker had “fabricated charges of collaboration with the enemy for a person other than Itani – a retired serviceman who was arrested by the Directorate General of State Security months ago before being referred to the judiciary and released.”The Intelligence Branch of the Internal Security Forces meanwhile summoned Itani's wife and listened to her testimony on their trip to Turkey prior to Itani's arrest. “Her testimony was identical to his testimony before the military examining magistrate. She said that they stayed together during the entire duration of their presence in Turkey and that they met with a number of their friends, including a Lebanese diplomat who was on a mission at the consulate in Istanbul,” al-Akhbar said. Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq has announced that Itani, who has been in detention since November 2017, is innocent. According to media reports, al-Hajj hired the hacker E.Gh., a State Security informant, to create fake social media accounts with the aim of framing Itani. The hacker used Israeli IPs to carry out the plot. The reports said al-Hajj sought “revenge” against Itani after he posted a screenshot of a Twitter 'like' placed by her on a post for controversial director Charbel Khalil. Al-Hajj was sacked by the ISF command over the 'like'. Khalil's tweet contained insults against Saudi Arabia and Saudi women.

Hizbullah, FPM Agree to Ally in Beirut, West Bekaa
Naharnet/March 06/18/An electoral agreement was reached in an overnight meeting between Free Patriotic Movement chief Jebran Bassil and Hizbullah Coordination and Liaison Officer Wafiq Safa, a media report said. According to al-Akhbar newspaper, the two parties agreed to be on the same lists in Western Bekaa and Beirut's second district. "Discussions are still underway over West Bekaa, after Speaker Nabih Berri rejected Bassil's demand to have a Maronite candidate and a Greek Orthodox candidate on ex-minister Abdul Rahim Mrad's list,” the daily said. In Beirut, an FPM candidate will replace the candidate of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party for the Evangelist seat. As for north Bekaa, Bassil “is still insisting on getting two candidates – a Maronite and a Greek Catholic.”In the Hasbaya-Marjeyoun district, the FPM chief has meanwhile decided to form a list that would confront the Hizbullah-AMAL Movement alliance. “He is in negotiations with MP Talal Arslan over adding a Druze candidate to the list,” al-Akhbar said. Sources informed on the Bassil-Safa meeting meanwhile stressed that “Hizbullah is keen on embracing Bassil in the elections.”

Supreme Judicial Council Urges Prosecution of Wahhab
Naharnet/March 06/18/The Supreme Judicial Council on Tuesday condemned ex-minister Wiam Wahhab's recent criticism of the judiciary, asking the state prosecutor to take legal action against him. In a statement, the Council said it “reviewed the content of Sunday evening's episode of al-Jadeed TV's 'al-Osbou Fi Saa' show,” condemning “the insults against the judiciary and its authority and judges by one of the participants, ex-minister Wiam Wahhab, who defamed the judiciary and questioned its work.”“In light of the seriousness and gravity of these acts, the Council has decided to ask the state prosecutor to conduct the necessary investigations and file a lawsuit against anyone involved,” the Council added. nDuring the episode, Wahhab called for “jailing” First Military Examining Magistrate Riad Abu Ghida “should Ziad Itani turn out to be innocent.”“Who will restore Ziad Itani's dignity? Are these the people whom we will entrust with people's lives?” Wahhab wondered. He also called on Justice Minister Salim Jreissati to “make a revolution in the judiciary.”

Future bloc holds weekly meeting at Center House
Tue 06 Mar 2018/NNA - Future bloc on Tuesday held its weekly meeting under the chairmanship of bloc head, Fouad Siniora, to address the overall situation in the country. In a statement issued in the wake of the meeting, the bloc expressed understanding and respect for the decision taken by bloc head, Fouad Siniora, to refrain from running in the forthcoming parliamentary elections. The bloc heaped praise on Siniora's undertakings at the national and political level on the Lebanese and Arab arena, appreciating his continual support to Future Movement and PM Saad Hariri, within his faith in the late Rafic Hariri's reform and revolutionary vision. On the other hand, the bloc voiced utter support to PM Saad Hariri's electoral and political choices, hoping that the future parliamentary team would meet the aspirations of the Lebanese people and their bet on the role of young men and women in enriching the country's national and political life, under the ceiling of national sovereignty and the free, independent national decision. In this framework, the bloc underlined the importance of staging the forthcoming parliamentary elections on schedule, stressing the importance of participating intensively and effectively in the electoral process, which enhances the democratic life in Lebanon. The bloc hailed Premier Hariri's visit to Saudi Arabia and its positive outcome in terms of underpinning the solidity of the historic relations between the two brotherly countries and the Kingdom's commitment to stand by Lebanon through participation in international conferences for Lebanon.

Jreissati Denies Referring Hammoud, Abu Ghida to Judicial Inspection
Naharnet/March 06/18/Justice Minister Salim Jreissati on Tuesday denied referring State Prosecutor Samir Hammoud and First Military Examining Magistrate Riad Abu Ghida to the Judicial Inspection Committee. "I have rather called on the Judicial Inspection Committee to ask a number of top judges not to give statements to the media before obtaining authorization from the Justice Minister, in line with the applicable norms," Jreissati told reporters after the weekly meeting of the Change and Reform bloc. MTV had earlier reported that Jreissati had referred Hammoud and Abu Ghida to the Judicial Inspection Committee for giving unauthorized statements to the media. Abu Ghida has spoken to al-Jadeed television and Asharq al-Awsat newspaper about the highly controversial case of detained comedian Ziad Itani. Hammoud for his part has conducted an interview with An Nahar newspaper and a local TV station about the same case.

UAE Ambassador: Riyadh, Abu Dhabi Will Always Stand by PM Hariri
Naharnet/March 06/18/UAE Ambassador to Lebanon Hamad al-Shamesi announced Tuesday that “Riyadh and Abu Dhabi will always stand by Prime Minister (Saad) Hariri.”The envoy voiced his remarks after talks with Hariri at the Grand Serail, where he handed him an invitation from Dubai Ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashed to attend the 17th edition of the Arab Media Forum. Asked about Hariri's recent visit to Riyadh, al-Shamesi said: “PM Hariri's visit to Riyadh was successful at all levels and Riyadh and Abu Dhabi will always stand by PM Hariri, who greatly appreciates and respects the Gulf support.”“We wish him full success in the upcoming elections,” the ambassador added. He also emphasized that Saudi Arabia and the UAE are “among the biggest supporters of Lebanon and its stability.” “We are very keen on Lebanon's stability and we want to see a clear development agenda in Lebanon and not a subversive agenda,” al-Shamesi went on to say. He also confirmed that the UAE will take part in the upcoming Lebanon support meetings in Paris and Rome. “The UAE will back the military institution and the security institutions,” he announced.

STL Sets March 7 Session for Ruling on Oneissi Acquittal Application
Naharnet/March 06/18/A public hearing will take place on Wednesday, March 7 and the Trial Chamber Judges of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon will render a decision on an application submitted by the Oneissi Defense seeking a judgement of acquittal under Rule 167 of the STL’s Rule of Procedure and Evidence, the STL said. The Defense for Salim Ayyash, Hassan Merhi and Assad Sabra have not made submissions under Rule 167. In accordance with this Rule entitled “Judgement of Acquittal at the Close of the Prosecution Case”, the Trial Chamber, after hearing submissions of the Parties, will issue a judgement of acquittal on any count if they find that there is no evidence capable of supporting a conviction on that count, the STL said in a statement. The Prosecutor may appeal any judgement of acquittal under this Rule. On Tuesday and Wednesday 20 and 21 February 2018, lead counsel for the Accused Hussein Oneissi made oral submissions seeking a judgement of acquittal under Rule 167 in respect of all charges against Oneissi in the amended consolidated indictment. The Prosecution responded on February 21, followed by a reply from the Oneissi Defense.
The Prosecution and the Oneissi Defense also filed written submissions in accordance with an oral order of the Trial Chamber on the sufficiency of evidence on each count Oneissi is charged with and on the elements of complicity in Article 129 of the Lebanese Criminal Law.
The Tribunal is trying in absentia four alleged Hizbullah members accused of involvement in the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Earlier this month, prosecutors wrapped up their case after four years. They called more than 260 witnesses and showed judges some 2,470 exhibits as they laid out their case that the four suspects plotted together to blow up Hariri with a massive truck bomb. Hizbullah has denied involvement in Hariri's assassination. The case against a fifth suspect, Hizbullah military commander Mustafa Badreddine, was halted in 2016 after he was killed in Syria.

Hariri: Reforms Will Encourage the Private Sector
Naharnet/March 06/18/Prime Minister Saad Hariri hoped Tuesday that the private sector would be a “pioneer” at the upcoming CEDRE conference, stressing that he supports the reforms required from Lebanon.
Hariri was addressing this morning the participants in the opening of the “Lebanon Investment in Infrastructure Conference” organized by Al-Iktissad Wal-Aamal group and the Lebanese economic bodies at the Four Seasons Hotel.
Below is the prime minister's full speech: "Let me start by thanking 'Al-Iktissad Wal-Aamal' group and Raouf Abou Zaki for their efforts to organize the conference today. Mr Abou Zaki is always a pioneer in accompanying the government’s work and priorities.
I also welcome the French interministerial delegate for the Mediterranean Ambassador Pierre Duquesne, who is entrusted by President Emmanuel Macron to coordinate the preparations for the “CEDRE” conference that will be held in Paris in a few weeks.
We meet today to launch the 'Lebanon Investment in Infrastructure Conference' during which we seek to launch important and ambitious partnership projects between the public and private sectors.
Indeed Lebanon starts today a new and promising era, by involving the private sector in the implementation of the infrastructure projects, especially after the approval by Parliament of the law of partnership between the public and private sectors last year.
The participation of the private sector in the infrastructure revival program is a key issue and a basic pillar for the next period.
Thus, this conference represents the beginning of the road and it will be followed by intensive and serious engagement between the state and the private sector on more than one level to enhance the participation of the private sector in the Capital investment program that will be launched soon. I would like to point out that the role that we expect from the private sector is essential for the success of the program.
I believe that the participation of the private sector is as important as the participation of the states in the conference. It is time for the private sector to be in partnership with the public sector. I believe the public sector manages businesses better and is able to carry out these investment projects, whether electricity, roads, airports or other infrastructure projects, better than the state. We as a state should encourage the private sector to carry out these works.
It is no secret that the economic situation is difficult and that we face big challenges. The growth rates are low, unemployment rates exceeded 30 per cent, poverty rates are increasing, balance of payments suffers deficit, public debt is rising at a rapid rate and it exceeded $80 billion and the treasury deficit reached unsustainable levels.
In addition to all this, the Syrian crisis has weighed heavily on the national economy, national exports and the foreign investment inflow, in addition to the repercussions of the massive displacement that burdened the infrastructure, public services, the treasury deficit and the economy in general.
The successive crises that Lebanon faced in the past few years, whether internal or external, drained the national economy, depleted its immunity and weakened the state institutions. The growing treasury deficit has limited the government’s ability to take measures that will stimulate the economy and support the productive sectors.
Hence, a huge and ambitious investment program is needed to relaunch the economic activity and restore the confidence of investors in Lebanon.
The Capital investment program that we developed in coordination and cooperation with all concerned ministries and administrations, and reviewed with all parliamentary blocs exceeds $16 billion and includes more than 250 projects in the sectors of electricity, transportation, water, irrigation, sewage and solid waste, in addition to the industrial zones and cultural development projects.
These projects include all governorates and aim at establishing an infrastructure and public services that keep pace with these times, meet the demands of the private sector and ensure the requirements of decent living for every Lebanese citizen.
This program that takes into account the principle of balanced development is a continuation of Lebanon’s reconstruction project that was launched by Martyr Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in the early nineties and allowed the return of Lebanon to life after years of war and destruction.
Today we are reviving the project of Rafik Hariri, the national project that the enemies of Lebanon tried to stop it by assassinating him on February 14, 2005. However, with the support of all those who love Lebanon, particularly the Arab countries with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia at the forefront, we have maintained the legacy and we will continue the dream from where it stopped, to build a better future for all Lebanese.
As you know, we are working hard in coordination with Lebanon’s friends in the international community to organize conferences to support Lebanon’s stability. The CEDRE conference that France will host on April 6 is the cornerstone of an ambitious construction policy of implementing the Capital investment program over the next ten years.
More than helping Lebanon execute the CIP, the Paris conference aims to support economic stability in Lebanon and lay solid foundations that will allow us to advance our national economy in the coming years, achieve high growth rates and create sustainable employment opportunities for our young men and women.
Hence, the success of CEDRE conference depends mainly on the serious intent of the international community to stand by Lebanon to support its economic stability. It also depends on a genuine will by all political parties to proceed with the financial reform and execute the sectoral and structural reforms that would reinforce the activity of the private sector, attract foreign investments and create sustainable growth rates and employment opportunities.
The CEDRE conference represents an important opportunity for all Lebanese to elaborate a contract for stability, growth and employment opportunities between Lebanon and the international community. And I am fully confident that this contract is in the interest of Lebanon and all the Lebanese.
In conclusion, I reaffirm the key role of the private sector in the coming period. If we look at our situation a year and a half ago and what we achieved today with the political consensus after the election of President Michel Aoun, we find that this consensus is the basis. I know that the challenges are great and the deficit is great. I know that there are political disputes between us, but this political consensus enabled us to complete the 2017 budget, an electoral law that we tried to work on for eight years, the oil and gas law and several other projects that were stopped in parliament. This is why we must benefit from this political consensus, whether now before heading to the Paris conference, or even after the parliamentary elections. These elections will produce a new parliament and will be the basis to complete the plan. Whoever comes in the future, there will be a clear plan for reform, development, stability, security and all that matters to the Lebanese citizen. This is why I am very optimistic although the challenges are great. Some may wonder about the ambition of the Lebanese. It is not the ambition of Saad Hariri, but I see that every Lebanese citizen has an ambition just like Saad Hariri and maybe much more. I know that the private sector is capable of achieving this ambition because you have been looking after the country since the days of Martyr Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
This is why the CEDRE conference and the projects that you will see during it will be profitable and this is what matters to the private sector. Contrary to what some politicians believe, that the private sector should not achieve profits and only them should, we say that the private sector should have the means to work in the country. This is why Parliament approved the law of partnership and I hope that the private sector will be a pioneer at the CEDRE conference.
I call on everyone to consider that this project is for our children and grandchildren and cannot be more transparent. The difference between this conference and Paris I, II and III is clear to you today. It is true that there are 250 projects open to investment by the private or public sectors, but the clarity of this project is that we also put the reforms as a basis to translate these projects, so we link the funds that will flow to Lebanon to these reforms. I support these reforms in Lebanon, in order to encourage the private sector and enable the state to stop the waste of public money and corruption and provide Lebanese citizens with the infrastructure that they deserve.
Everyone knows that without infrastructure the country cannot rise. Thus, the focus is on the infrastructure that will create employment opportunities for the Lebanese. And instead of having 30% unemployment, these young men and women will remain in the country and work and this is our goal.”

Sami Gemayel follows up on situation of Syrian refugees with head of ICRC
Tue 06 Mar 2018/NNA - Kataeb Party leader, MP Sami Gemayel, welcomed on Tuesday International Red Cross Committee (ICRC) Head, Christophe Martin, at the party's headquarters in Saifi. The meeting featured high on the role played by the ICRC in support of Syrian refugees, and the plan set by the ICRC to organize their return back to their homeland. Lebanon's needs were also discussed in light of the increasing burden of the refugee crisis and its impact on the country at all levels.

Kataeb holds periodic meeting over current developments

Tue 06 Mar 2018/NNA - Kataeb Party politburo on Tuesday held its weekly meeting under the chairmanship of Party chief MP Sami Gemayel, to address most recent developments in the country. In a statement issued in the wake of the meeting, Kataeb Party held the political class responsible for the recent security scandal, which has revealed the extent of corruption and weariness befalling state institutions. The Party warned of politicizing justice, demanding an immediate investigation to uncover all the details in this regard and identify responsibilities.
Kataeb underlined the right of the Lebanese to a democratic state governed by justice and laws in force, respecting human rights and preserving the dignity of its citizens. The Party asserted that it is due time to hold the political class accountable, anticipating a looming accountability with the pulse of change during the forthcoming parliamentary elections. The Phalange Party also sounded the alarm over the level of public debt which has reached a point threatening of a comprehensive economic collapse due to the failure of the Authority's economic and social policies. The Party called for the endorsement of a state budget committed to reducing the deficit and restructuring the public debt. On the other hand, Kataeb called on the judiciary to pursue the investigation into the file of the electricity deal, and uncover the whole truth.

One dead, two injured in landmine left behind by terrorists
Tue 06 Mar 2018/NNA - One person was reported dead and two injured after a landmine, left behind by terrorists, went off in an agricultural road in Ajram region of Arsal outskirts, NNA reporter said on Tuesday. The blast casualties were immediately transferred to "Dar Al-Rahma" hospital in Arsal, NNA reporter added.

Riachy blames administration, government for obstructing Tele Liban dossier

Tue 06 Mar 2018/NNA - Information Minister, Melhem Riachy, highlighted on Tuesday the need to appoint a new a Tele Liban president and board of directors as soon as possible, snubbing any sort of swap deal between the National News Agency and Tele Liban.
Riachy also blamed the state administration and government for what he described as "silly" attempts at curtailing new Tele Liban appointments. The Minister's words came today during a meeting with Tele Liban employees' syndicate, headed by Kamal Aswad. Talks reportedly touched on Tele Liban staff's full right for a wage hike as per the new salary scale. In turn, Riachy promised to follow-up on this matter with the Minister of Finance and the Prime Minister. "Once appointments are made, Tele Liban will become the most important television in the Mediterranean region within 16 months," Riachy added."The board of directors is the only party authorized to deal with all the outstanding problems of Tele Liban," the Minister added, refusing any form of chaos and corruption.

Riachy meets President of International Ambassadors Association in the United States
Tue 06 Mar 2018/NNA - Information Minister Melhem Riachy on Tuesday welcomed at his ministerial office President of the International Ambassadors Association in the United States, Graziella Seif, who is of Lebanese origin. Seif briefed the Minister on her visit to Lebanon and the press conference to be held upcoming week at the Editors' Syndicate headquarters marking the Lebanese Emigrant Day. More than 50 journalists will be honored under the auspices of Minister Riachy in recognition of their work with the Union to advance and promote the country's image in the international community via audio, visual and written media outlets and Lebanese websites, especially from state-run TL Liban and Radio Lebanon. Seif hailed the Minister's efforts to preserve the state institutions and find means to advance their work in accordance with modern standards and various knowledge programs.

Central Bank Governor Says Dollar Reserves Climb by $1.4 Bln in First Two Months of Year
Reuters/March 06/2018/The Lebanese central bank's dollar reserves climbed by $1.4 billion in the first two months of the year and its total assets in dollars exceeded $43 billion, its governor said on Tuesday. Riad Salameh gave the figure in a speech to an economic conference in Beirut. He earlier told Reuters the general reserve of the central bank and its assets in foreign currencies had increased by $1.5 billion in the first two months. Salameh also told Reuters that November's around 2 percentage point increase in local currency interest rates had been sufficient to iron out market imbalances, "therefore we have an outlook of stable interest rates".

Saade: Country Will Slip into Abyss if Lebanese Don't Seize Chance for Change 06/2018/MP Samer Saade, who is running for another term in the Batroun district in the May polls, said that the disastrous situation that the Lebanese have been enduring over the past period has prompted the Kataeb party to revolt against the current status quo, being a staunch opponent of the ruling authority whose performance has been marred with corruption and dubious settlements. "The whole country is suffering from unresolved problems. People are demanding the basic services while the State is failing to provide them. There are no public hospitals, no healthcare system, no job opportunities, no investments and no stable security situation. Not to mention the shady deals that have been exposed throughout the past period," Saade told the Kataeb website. Saade said that the Lebanese are living in despair because their country no longer meet their aspirations, adding that they are getting nothing in return for the taxes they are paying to the state. "There is a chance to make a change. We should not miss it. The Lebanese must stand against corrupt people and seek the change that would get them out of the reality they are living in. Otherwise, the country will slip into the abyss," he warned. Saade stressed the need to rise above personal interests and do whatever serves Lebanon's welfare, blasting the electoral bribery that some forces have opted for to secure their win. The Kataeb MP assured that the party has a wide popular base in Batroun, urging a high turnout in the polls because the Lebanese should make their voices heard in the ballot boxes. "I call on the Lebanese to vote based on their conscience." Saade noted that contacts have ceased with the Lebanese Forces regarding an electoral alliance in Batroun, adding that it is out of question to engage in the elections alongside the Marada Movement because it is allied with the Syrian Social Nationalist Party.

Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on March 06-07/18
Coptic Church says Saudi crown prince ‘disturbs roots of regional extremism’
Staff writer, Al Arabiya English/Tuesday, 6 March 2018/Paul Halim, the Coptic Church's spokesman in Egypt, said on Monday that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman disturbs the roots of extremism in the region. In an interview with the program Panorama that airs on Al Arabiya television channel, Halim said the crown prince’s visit to Saint Mark's Cathedral had a huge impact on the Egyptian and Arab public as it sends a very significant message that supports moderation and rejects extremism. He added that the visit conveyed a message of cooperation, partnership and kindness. “The openness which Saudi Arabia is leading has influenced the Egyptian street. Mohammed bin Salman’s visit to Egypt is historical given its significances,” Paul said. Paul added that the crown prince’s speech on the Copts, the Egyptian Church and Christians was a “very strong message that spreads enlightening and moderate rhetoric.”

Mohammed bin Salman: Saudi-Egyptian ties cannot be sabotaged
Staff writer, Al Arabiya English/Tuesday, 6 March 2018/During his visit to Egypt, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman met on Monday with a number of journalists and editors of the Egyptian newspapers and media. The Crown Prince affirmed during the meeting the strong relations between Egypt and Saudi Arabia against any attempt to sabotage it.
Profound relations with Egypt
"Egypt-Saudi relations are strong and solid, and no attempt to sabotage it will ever succeed… When Egypt thrives, the whole region can rise," he said. He added: "Egypt is now in the best position economically, and what’s coming ahead is even better."
On Qatar crisis
Addressing a question on the Qatar crisis, Prince Mohammed bin Salman said: "I do not occupy myself with the issue of Qatar. The only way to resolve the crisis is to manage it the way the US handled the clash with Cuba in 1959.”
Reforms in Saudi Arabia
When asked about the ongoing reforms in Saudi Arabia, the crown prince said: "The Social reforms in Saudi Arabia are compatible with true Islam ... Islam is a tolerant religion that allows us to open wide dialogues with all ideologies and schools of thought in Saudi Arabia."
"Everything we do in Saudi Arabia is reflected on the economic progress, and on the citizens, especially the Saudi youth," he added.
The war in Yemen
About the ongoing war in Yemen, the crown prince said: "The war in Yemen is close to achieving its goals to restore legitimacy in the face of the Houthi militia and their end is imminent.”
The role of Shiites
"The Shiites of Saudi Arabia are contributing to its growth and they fill leading positions," Prince Mohammed bin Salman said.

Saudi crown prince: I do not occupy myself with the Qatar crisis
Staff writer, Al Arabiya English/Tuesday, 6 March 2018/Saudi royal court adviser Saud Al Qahtani said on Tuesday that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman addressed the Qatar crisis during his meeting with reporters in Egypt and said that he did not occupy himself with it. “I do not occupy myself with it. The one handling the matter has a post less than a minister’s. Qatar’s entire population is less than the number of residents in a street in Egypt. Any minister (in Saudi Arabia) can resolve that crisis,” Qahtani quoted the crown prince as saying.“A dear colleague at the ministry of foreign affairs whose ranking is Grade 12 is in charge of the Qatari matter, in addition to the tasks assigned to him,” Qahtani said on Twitter. Qahtani also said that the crown prince compared US’ policy towards Cuba with the anti-terror quartet’s policy towards Qatar. “I disagree with his Highness in one thing here. The US was deprived of the Cuban cigar but we have not been deprived of anything. Qatar has been deprived of everything, such as pastures, and it ended up transforming from a ‘peninsula’ into an isolated ‘island’,” he added. Meanwhile, Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry met on Monday with retired US Marine Corps General Anthony Zinni and Timothy Lenderking, the US deputy assistant secretary of state for Gulf affairs, who were dispatched by the US to the region to discuss solutions for the crisis with Qatar. Ahmed Abu Zeid, the Egyptian foreign ministry spokesperson, said Shoukry informed the US delegation of the quartet’s worries of Qatar’s continuous negative role in sponsoring terrorism and extremism, whether financially or by providing safe havens to them, and in spreading hate speech and incitement.  Shoukry also voiced worry of Qatar’s interferences in Arab countries’ domestic affairs in a manner that threatens social peace and the entire Arab world’s security and stability. According to Abu Zeid, the US delegation updated the minister with the results of their meeting in the region. The US delegation also evaluated the efforts of Kuwait’s Emir to resolve the crisis while Shoukry commended these efforts.
Shoukry reiterated there was coordination among the anti-terror quartet, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE, adding that they all agree that Qatar must implement the list of the 13 demands which harmonize with international law. The minister also said that the quartet voiced its seriousness to deal with the crisis at several occasions and voiced its willingness to sit for dialogue with Doha as long as it keeps its commitments to combat terrorism and ends its hostile policy in the region. He added that the real burden falls on Qatar as it must prove its good intentions, and this hasn’t happened yet despite several regional and international parties’ attempts to resolve the crisis. As for Zinni, he voiced hope that a solution that pleases all parties is achieved in the next phase. He added that the US is keen on communicating with all parties and on coordinating with Kuwait to find a solution.

Saudi Arabia, Britain must promote moderate Islam together, says crown prince

Staff writer, Al Arabiya English/Tuesday, 6 March 2018/Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman said he believes that Britain and Saudi Arabia would be much safer if their relationship was stronger and they worked to promote moderate Islam together. In an exclusive interview with The Telegraph published on Tuesday, the crown prince said the historic relationship between both countries is linked by common defense and business interests. “The relationship between Saudi Arabia and Britain is historic and goes back to the foundation of the Kingdom,” he said. “We have a common interest that goes back to the earliest days of the relationship. Our relationship with Britain today is super.”He added: “The British and Saudi people, along with the rest of the world, will be much safer if you have a strong relationship with Saudi Arabia. “The extremists and the terrorists are linked through spreading their agenda,” he said. “We need to work together to promote moderate Islam.”Britain and Saudi Arabia's Vision 2030
Speaking ahead of his three-day visit to Britain this week, Prince Mohammed spoke of business opportunities between both states. During the visit, Prince Mohammed is set to meet Prime Minister Theresa May and other senior ministers, as well as meeting members of the British royal family, The Telegraph reports. “We believe that Saudi Arabia needs to be part of the global economy,” he explained. “People need to be able to move freely, and we need to apply the same standards as the rest of the world. “After Brexit there will be huge opportunities for Britain as a result of Vision 2030,” he said, in reference to a national plan in which Saudi Arabia aims to diversify their economy away from oil dependence. “We want economic growth that will help the region to develop. Because of our dominant position, Saudi Arabia is the key to the economic success of the region.”
Changes in Saudi Arabia
The crown prince spoke on the social changes currently being felt in Saudi Arabia that have come against a backdrop of sweeping reforms, which include a re-energized crackdown on hate speech and religious police, greater freedoms for women, a bustling entertainment scene and a pledge to “destroy extremism and return to moderate Islam.”Prince Mohammed said: “People in Saudi Arabia have changed a lot because they travel to countries like Britain and see a different way of life.”The crown prince is due to have private meetings with the heads of MI5 and MI6, as well as being invited to attend a meeting of the National Security Council - a rare privilege for a visiting foreign dignitary, the newspaper reports. “We want to fight terrorism, and we want to fight extremism because we need to build stability in the Middle East,” he said.
Iran, Qatar
Discussing regional politics, the crown prince dismissed claims that Saudi Arabia’s policies on Iran and Qatar may provoke a new regional conflict. He said he was working closely with the British government to resolve these issues. “Britain is very supportive of our concerns regarding Iran and other regional security issues. It is always trying to help us and to fix things when there are issues.” Touching on human rights in the kingdom, the crown prince said: “We do not have the best human rights record in the world,” he said, “but we are getting better, and we have come a long way in a short time.” Following his visit to Britain, Prince Mohammed will head to France and then the US later this month.

Saudi-backed Yemen forces advancing closer to Haradh border
Staff writer, Al Arabiya English/Tuesday, 6 March 2018/The Arab Coalition forces pushed forward a large military force closer to the border of Haradh city in Hajjah province, northwest of Yemen. According to military sources, the Saudi unit has pushed a military brigade into the Haradh axis as part of a military operation aimed at ending the control of the Houthi militias over the city. The arrival of the Saudi forces coincided with the launch of a military operation against the militias in the city with limited participation of Sudanese and Yemeni forces from the fifth military zone. Saada and Hajjah fronts witnessed clashes and artillery shelling from the forces of the National Army, supported by the Joint Saudi Forces, which targeted the positions and the defenses of the Houthi militias. The bombing coincided with the flight of the coalition aircrafts, and carrying out a number of raids targeting the militias in the internal roads in Saada and Jouf. On the eastern front of Saada, engineering teams from the National Army, were able to extract about 150 mines and explosive devices planted by the Houthi militias, with the technical support of the coalition forces.

U.N. Security Council to Meet Wednesday on Failing Syria Truce
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/March 06/18/The U.N. Security Council will on Wednesday hold urgent talks on the failure of a 30-day ceasefire to take hold in Syria, diplomats said. France and Britain requested the meeting that will be held behind closed doors at 1500 GMT, as air strikes and clashes continue in the Syrian enclave of Eastern Ghouta. Backed by Russia, the council unanimously adopted on February 24 a resolution demanding the 30-day cessation of hostilities to allow deliveries of humanitarian aid and evacuations of the sick and wounded. A first aid convoy reached Eastern Ghouta on Monday but the operation was cut short as air strikes pounded the enclave, killing at least 68 civilians, according to a human rights monitor. Air strikes, and artillery and rocket fire on the last major rebel-held enclave near the capital Damascus have killed hundreds and devastated residential areas since they began on February 18. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 800 civilians -- including at least 177 children -- have been killed since Russia-backed Syrian forces launched an assault on the besieged enclave outside Damascus on February 18.

32 Dead in Russian Military Plane Crash in Syria
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/March 06/18/A Russian transport plane crashed on landing at Russia's Hmeimim airbase in Syria, killing all 32 on board, the defense ministry said in a statement carried by RIA Novosti. There were 26 passengers and 6 crew, the ministry said. "The reason for the crash according to preliminary information could have been a technical fault," the ministry said, adding that the plane had not come under fire according to a report from the ground. The transporter was around 500 meters from the runway, the statement said. A commission will investigate the causes of the crash. Moscow began conducting air strikes in Syria in September 2015, and its intervention has swung the nearly seven-year conflict firmly in favor of its ally in Damascus. The latest accident comes after a Sukhoi military jet crashed while trying to take off from Hmeimim in October last year, killing two crew. Russia's most recent officially acknowledged military loss in battle in Syria was last month when a pilot was killed after his plane was downed over Idlib province. Russia's official military losses in the war before the crash were 45. Moscow last month also said that five citizens, not officially affiliated with the Russian military, were likely killed in the strikes in eastern Syria -- the first admission of non-military combat casualties.

Russia Says Coordinating Fresh Convoy to Syria's Besieged Ghouta
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/March 06/18/Russia's defense ministry on Tuesday said its officials were discussing with international humanitarian organizations a plan to send a fresh aid convoy on Thursday to Syria's rebel enclave of Eastern Ghouta. The United Nations said a convoy delivering desperately needed aid to the town of Douma in the besieged enclave on Monday was forced to cut its mission short amid shelling. "Following the humanitarian convoy to Douma, we discussed measures to coordinate new humanitarian convoys to Eastern Ghouta, including one planned for Thursday," Russian agencies reported General Vladimir Zolotukhin as saying. Zolotukhin, a spokesman for Russia's Syria reconciliation center, said agreement was reached on "a meeting at which the wishes already expressed by (humanitarian aid) organizers will be discussed in detail," RIA Novosti news agency reported. Russia has said the first international convoy to the area delivered 247 tonnes of medical aid and food to Douma. On Monday evening, the Russian army called for "all the heads of armed groups in Eastern Ghouta to allow the safe passage of civilians and the delivery of humanitarian aid." Moscow had earlier offered safe passage to non-combatants wishing to leave Eastern Ghouta during daily "humanitarian pauses." But the U.N. says no Syrian civilians have left the enclave since the first break in fighting took effect last week. Damascus and Moscow have accused rebels of preventing civilians from leaving in order to use them as human shields. The Syrian regime, supported by Russia, began an unprecedented aerial offensive in Eastern Ghouta on February 18. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights put the number of civilians killed since the assault began at more than 780, including 170 children. The bombing campaign has been accompanied by a ground operation that has allowed loyalist forces to take control of 40 percent of the rebel enclave.

U.S.-Backed Syria Force to Redeploy 1,700 from IS Fight to Afrin
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/March 06/18/A U.S.-backed alliance of Syrian forces announced on Tuesday it would redeploy around 1,700 fighters from front lines against the Islamic State group to a Kurdish enclave under Turkish attack. Turkey and allied Syrian rebels are waging a weeks-long offensive on Afrin, which is held by a Kurdish militia that makes up the bulk of the Syrian Democratic Forces. At a press conference on Tuesday, the SDF announced it would pull fighters out of areas of eastern Syria, where they have been fighting pockets of IS jihadists, in order to shore up defenses in Afrin. "We took the difficult decision to pull our forces out of Deir Ezzor province and battlefronts against Daesh (IS) to head to the Afrin battle," said Abu Omar al-Idlibi, an SDF commander, saying his units numbered 1,700 fighters. Idlibi spoke to AFP in the football stadium in Raqa, which the SDF recaptured from IS in October with help from the U.S.-led international coalition. "We fought Daesh. We helped the coalition in Raqa, but without the coalition defending its partners," Idlibi said. "Our people in Afrin are our priority. Protecting them is more important than the international coalition's decisions."
Ankara and allied Syrian rebels launched their offensive against the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) in Afrin on January 20 and have since captured a strip along the border between the enclave and Turkish territory. The operation has so far captured 40 percent of the enclave, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based war monitor said on Tuesday.

Russia Says Rebels Allowed to Leave Syria's E. Ghouta
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/March 06/18/The Russian military said Tuesday that rebels were being allowed to leave Syria's Eastern Ghouta enclave via a humanitarian corridor together with their families and firearms, news agencies reported. "This time the humanitarian corridor was open not just for Eastern Ghouta's civilians but for fighters with their families," Russian military officer Vladimir Zolotukhin in Eastern Ghouta was quoted as saying. "Members of illegal armed groups are allowed to carry personal weapons," he added, without clarifying what options would be available to any rebels who arrived in the government-controlled zone. Moscow has been managing a corridor out of the besieged Eastern Ghouta region for eight days, with a daily "humanitarian pause" between 9:00 am and 2:00 pm meant to encourage civilians to leave the zone. But the plan, which was also supposed to give a chance for aid and medical supplies to reach those in need, has mostly failed to work as the region outside Damascus remains under continued regime bombardment. Moscow has accused the rebels in Eastern Ghouta of blocking civilians from using the corridor. On Monday, only 13 people were able to exit the enclave together with a U.N. convoy, the Russian military said. Zolotukhin said fire from rebel-controlled areas in the enclave hit a hospital in a Damascus suburb Monday but that attacks on the corridor subsided on Tuesday. More than 780 civilians including 170 children have been killed since the Syrian regime launched the assault on Eastern Ghouta on February 18.By early Tuesday, government troops controlled 40 percent of the enclave, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Strikes Hit Syria's Battered Ghouta after Aid Convoy Turns Back
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/March 06/18/Fresh air strikes and clashes shook the Syrian rebel enclave of Eastern Ghouta on Tuesday after desperately needed aid deliveries were cut short by fighting. More than 780 civilians -- including 170 children -- have been killed since Russia-backed regime forces launched an assault on the besieged enclave outside Damascus on February 18. The brutal onslaught on the last major rebel stronghold near the capital, the latest regime offensive of the seven-year civil war, has sparked outrage but little action from the West. Government troops have advanced rapidly across farmland in Eastern Ghouta in the past week, a monitor says, and as of early Tuesday controlled 40 percent of the enclave, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. Essential aid deliveries to tens of thousands of besieged civilians were cut short on Monday as the regime pounded the region. At least nine civilians were killed in air strikes on the town of Jisreen early on Tuesday, the Britain-based Observatory said. In the enclave's main town of Douma, air strikes had reduced homes to piles of rubble on both sides of the road, an AFP correspondent reported.
Smashed furniture for fuel
Some civilians took advantage of a lull in air strikes to venture out from cellars to gather a few necessities from what was left of their homes. Others gathered the pieces of home furniture smashed in the raids to use as fuel or sell to others. At the a hospital in the town, medical staff scrambled to help the wounded. Some had lost relatives in the raids. Parents held their children close, trying to comfort them. An AFP reporter in Hammuriyeh said air strikes had hit the town overnight and only a few residents emerged from their cellars after daybreak for fear of more. Late on Monday, the Observatory reported 18 people suffered breathing difficulties following a strike on Hammuriyeh. It had no firm word on the cause. The U.N. Human Rights Council on Monday ordered investigators to examine the latest violence in the enclave. It condemned "the indiscriminate use of heavy weapons and aerial bombardments against civilians, and the alleged use of chemical weapons in Eastern Ghouta." The enclave's 400,000 residents have lived under siege since 2013, facing severe shortages of food and medicines even before the latest onslaught.
Forty-six aid trucks entered Eastern Ghouta on Monday for the first time since the offensive started, but had to cut short their deliveries and leave due to heavy bombardment. "The people we've met here have been through unimaginable things. They looked exhausted," Pawel Krzysiek of the International Committee of the Red Cross said afterwards. "And the aid we've delivered today is by no means enough," he said on Twitter. Regime ally Russia last week announced a five-hour daily "humanitarian pause" in Eastern Ghouta, during which it said it would guarantee safe passage to civilians wishing to flee the enclave. But no Syrian civilians are known to have left since Tuesday last week. The "humanitarian pause" fell far short of a month-long nationwide ceasefire demanded by the U.N. Security Council last month. More than 340,000 people have been killed and millions displaced in Syria since the start of the civil war in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government protests. Over the years, numerous rounds of U.N.-backed Syria peace talks have failed to stem the fighting. In the latest attempt to end the seven-year war, the foreign ministers of regime allies Iran and Russia and rebel backer Turkey are to meet next week in Astana, Kazakhstan's top diplomatic envoy said on Tuesday.

Sheikh Sultan al-Thani set to reveal details of father’s ‘treacherous murder’
Staff writer, Al Arabiya English/Tuesday, 6 March 2018/In an exclusive interview with Al Arabiya News Channel’s General Manager, Qatar’ Sheikh Sultan bin Suhaim al-Thani revealed documents and evidence confirming the murder of his father. During the interview, set to air on Al Arabiya on Wednesday 4 GMT, Sheikh Sultan confirmed that Qatar’s current policies are rejected from both inside and outside the country. He said that the Qatari authorities who had stormed his home in Doha had stolen important documents revealing historical secrets.

Man attacked with machete in front of shocked diners at Paris restaurant
Tue 06 Mar 2018/NNA - A man was attacked with a machete and reportedly "scalped" as he ate dinner with his wife at an Indian restaurant in Paris on Monday night. Diners at an Indian restaurant in the 10th arrondissement of the French capital witnessed the shocking scene on Monday night when a man, who was also eating at the restaurant, was attacked and reportedly scalped at his table. The incident, which took place at a restaurant 8.30pm on Rue Cail, a street well known for its curry restaurants, saw two men whose faces were covered by hoods burst into the restaurant armed with a sword and a machete, according to French press reports. The two men then attacked the man who was having dinner with his wife. According to reports, the victim -- a Sri Lankan man aged 35 -- received several wounds to the head, elbow and wrist, suffering very serious injuries before he was taken to the nearest hospital. The victim remains in a critical state. Meanwhile, the perpetrators managed to escape. "He was scalped and had his arm and wrist severely cut," a source close to the case told the French press. It is believed that this terrible aggression could be part of a settling of scores in the Sri Lankan community and an investigation is underway.

President Trump says there is no 'chaos' in the White House, only 'great energy'
Tue 06 Mar 2018/NNA - President Donald Trump rebuffed claims Tuesday that his White House is in chaos amid reports of high-profile departures and discord within the top ranks of the West Wing. "The new Fake News narrative is that there is CHAOS in the White House. Wrong! People will always come & go, and I want strong dialogue before making a final decision," Trump tweeted. "I still have some people that I want to change (always seeking perfection). There is no Chaos, only great Energy!"Over the weekend, White House chief economic adviser Gary Cohn was furious, one person familiar told CNN, and reportedly wanted to resign over Trump's decision to impose steel and aluminum tariffs. And on Monday, former Trump ally Sam Nunberg told multiple reporters and television networks that he wouldn't comply with the special counsel's subpoena of his emails with former Trump aides. He later said he probably would comply.--CNN

Two Koreas to Hold Summit, North Ready for Denuclearization Talks
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/March 06/18/The leaders of North and South Korea will hold a historic summit in the Demilitarized Zone next month after Pyongyang expressed willingness to give up its nuclear weapons in exchange for security guarantees, Seoul said Tuesday. The North is open to "frank" talks with the United States on denuclearization and would suspend missile and nuclear tests while dialogue was under way, the South's national security adviser Chung Eui-yong said after returning from a meeting in Pyongyang with leader Kim Jong Un. North Korea is subject to multiple rounds of U.N. Security Council sanctions over its atomic and ballistic missile programs, and has long insisted that its "treasured sword" is not up for negotiation.  But it is willing to abandon the programs if its national security -- and that of its leadership -- is guaranteed, Chung said. That remains a high threshold -- Pyongyang has considered itself at risk of invasion by the United States since the Korean War ended in a ceasefire in 1953, leaving the two sides technically still at war. But, Chung said, Kim is willing to discuss denuclearization in talks with Washington -- which could be the crucial concession needed to enable a dialogue to happen. The U.S. has long insisted that Pyongyang take concrete steps towards denuclearization as a precondition. Tuesday's developments are the latest steps in a rapid Olympics-driven rapprochement on the peninsula. They follow a year of high tensions during which Pyongyang carried out its most powerful nuclear test to date, along with multiple missile launches, including rockets capable of reaching the U.S. mainland. Kim and U.S. President Donald Trump traded personal insults and threats of war, sending fears of conflict spiraling. But the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in the South triggered an apparent transformation, with Kim sending his sister to the opening ceremony and sparking a flurry of cross-border trips as South Korean President Moon Jae-in tries to broker talks between Pyongyang and Washington. North and South agreed to hold a summit in late April in Panmunjom, the truce village in the DMZ, Chung said after leading the most senior delegation to travel North for more than a decade. It will be the third meeting between the leaders of North and South, but the first to take place in the DMZ after summits in Pyongyang in 2000 and 2007. The North "made clear that there is no reason to own nuclear (weapons) if military threats towards the North are cleared and the safety of its regime is guaranteed", Chung said. Pyongyang "expressed willingness to have frank dialogue with the US to discuss the denuclearization issue and to normalize North-U.S. relations," he added, and said there would be no provocations such as nuclear or ballistic missile tests while dialogue was under way."Also, the North promised not to use atomic weapons or conventional weapons towards the South," he told reporters, adding that Seoul and Pyongyang would set up a hotline between the leaders. Kim said he would "understand" if the South goes ahead with delayed joint military exercises with the U.S. that usually infuriate Pyongyang, a senior official at the South's presidential office added.
'Very important breakthrough' -
The envoys' visit had produced "a very important breakthrough", said Cheong Seong Chang of Sejong Institute think tank, calling the results "an important first step towards stably managing the North's nuclear and missile threats, preventing war on the Korean peninsula and building political and military trust". He cautioned that the definition of "military threats" the North wanted to see removed was "up for interpretation", but said he believed Washington and Pyongyang "would soon begin serious dialogue."But previous negotiations have ultimately foundered. Six-party talks, grouping the two Koreas, Russia, China, Japan and the U.S., and offering the North security and economic benefits in exchange for denuclearization, broke down almost a decade ago. North Korean state media pictures of the delegation's meeting with Kim in Pyongyang -- which Seoul said lasted more than four hours -- showed the North's leader in jovial mood, smiling and shaking hands enthusiastically. "Hearing the intention of President Moon Jae-In for a summit from the special envoy of the south side, he exchanged views and made a satisfactory agreement," the North's official news agency KCNA said earlier.
Rodong Sinmun newspaper, the mouthpiece of the ruling Workers Party, devoted its entire front page Tuesday to the visit. The Seoul representatives' trip came after the North's leader sent his sister to the Winter Games in the South and invited Moon to a summit in Pyongyang.
Kim Yo Jong's trip was the first to the South by a member of the North's ruling dynasty since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War. Her appearance at the Games' opening ceremony -- where athletes from the two Koreas marched together -- made global headlines.
At the time Moon did not accept the invitation to a summit, saying that the "right conditions" were needed. The South's envoys will travel to Washington on Wednesday to brief U.S. officials on their discussions in Pyongyang. It could be a challenging task -- Trump has dubbed Kim "Little Rocket Man" and boasted about the size of his nuclear button, while the North Korean leader called the American president a "mentally deranged U.S. dotard."

Palestinians Say Trump Peace Efforts Like Herding Cows to Slaughter
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/March 06/18/U.S. President Donald Trump's hard-line approach to the Palestinians is similar to herding cows for slaughter, a top Palestinian official said Tuesday. The comments came a day after the U.S. leader welcomed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Washington and ahead of the expected launch of Trump's plan for Israeli-Palestinian peace. "Today what is happening with us is what you call in the United States a cattle shoot trap," Mohammad Shtayyeh, an adviser to President Mahmoud Abbas, told journalists in the West Bank city of Ramallah. "They bring the cattle in a yard with one single exit, with a man on a horse and a whip. And they keep pushing the cow into the trap. By the time every single cow gets through, it is shot in the head with an electric gun, then goes in a belt to the slaughtering house, then we eat it as hamburger.""With the Palestinians, what is happening is exactly the same." He listed off a number of controversial Trump decisions, including December's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital and his freezing of tens of millions in dollars in funding for the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees, as evidence of a systematic attempt to squeeze them. Both the Palestinians and Israel see Jerusalem as their capital and the U.S. decision to move its Israeli embassy there prompted the Palestinians to say the White House could no longer be the primary mediator between the two sides. On Monday during a meeting with Netanyahu, Trump said he might attend the opening of the embassy in May. Despite the poor relations with the Palestinians, the White House is still expected to present a proposal for Israeli-Palestinian peace in the coming weeks. "The Palestinians, I think, are wanting to come back to the table very badly," Trump said as he sat alongside Netanyahu at the White House. "If they don't, you don't have peace. And that's a possibility also."
Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on March 06-07/18
Will Trump succeed where others failed?
Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya/March 06/18
All US presidents have tried their luck and proposed – or tried to propose – a peace plan between Arabs and Israel, except for Barack Obama who was occupied with other affairs in the region. Meanwhile, Donald Trump seems to be working to accomplish “mission impossible” to reach a peace plan. He assigned this task to one of the closest people to him, his senior advisor and son-in-law Jared Kushner, and to special envoy Jason Greenblatt. Details on this peace plan are not enough so we will not rush and judge whether it will fail or not. We all know that no one has succeeded so far, to the point that it seems achieving comprehensive peace is as impossible as the rising of the phoenix! Despite this we will remain optimistic as who knows, maybe someone’s efforts will yield results! It’s like winning the lottery - it’s possible to win although chances are very slight. The conditions for success are currently present. The regional situation specifically is more suitable than the days of Camp David in the 1970s, the Madrid Peace Conference in the 1990s and the days of the famous Oslo Agreement. It’s certainly better than the circumstances of later peace talks in Taba, Wye River, Arabah and others.
Time for a plan
The current political atmosphere is suitable for a peace plan thanks to the major changes the Arab region witnessed. The most hostile figures who sabotaged previous peace plans are no longer part of the game. They include Saddam Hussein, Moammar Qaddafi, Bashar al-Assad and leftist Palestinian factions. Meanwhile, the Brotherhood was ousted from power in Egypt and weakened in Sudan. The governance of the Iranian Ayatollah is disturbed from within and it’s now involved in Syria and Iraq and linked to the nuclear agreement and to conditionally lifting sanctions. I will not note the exit of terror groups, like al-Qaeda and ISIS, because they were never part of the formula and they never sought to sabotage previous projects. This major absence of parties which oppose peace does not mean that the new Arab atmosphere is currently enthusiastic to reach a reconciliation. Arabs are simply not thinking about it and not talking about it because they are occupied with the three dangerous wars in Syria, Libya and Yemen. This is in addition to large-scale tensions and confrontations in countries neighboring war-torn states.
This non-hostile or indifferent atmosphere regarding peace in Palestine is not enough without a fair peace plan. So is there anyone preparing a real peace plan which resembles that of Bill Clinton which many, including skeptics and parties that oppose peace, approved of? That real chance towards peace was not seized as a result of the then-Palestinian president’s reluctance and the Israelis’ rejection to propose it again later. This is a difficult task for Kushner, a young ambitious man with special relations with Jewish parties in Israel and with a number of Arab leaders. The Palestinian cause is no longer an urgent matter despite the continuous suffering of the Palestinian people and mainly because the world is busy with Syria, Iran, Libya and ISIS. However, Kushner put it on top of the president’s list of concerns. Everyone is waiting to know more about the details of Trump’s plan for peace. I am among the skeptics of the possibility of reaching the “impossible deal” as world leaders have failed to achieve one for over 50 years. It will not be easy especially after President Trump decided to move the US embassy to Jerusalem for nothing in return from Israel. Despite this, we will wait until we hear more about the plan’s details and judge it then.

Forget the Ultimate Deal: Trump and Netanyahu Should Save Gaza For Now

David Makovsky/The Cipher Brief/March 06/2018
A plan to avert further economic deterioration in the strip may not be an ultimate deal, but it is a necessary one. When Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu visits President Donald Trump at the White House on Monday, they might commiserate over the domestic investigations each are facing as well as take great satisfaction over Trump's affirmation of the opening of a U.S. embassy in Jerusalem on the 70th anniversary of Israel's existence this spring. Trump could still trumpet what he famously called the "ultimate deal"—his idea for an end to the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. But this not attainable now. It probably never was. This does not mean that an unpredictable Trump would not try anyway, but he should not. The gaps between Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas were too wide even before the December announcement on moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem. Instead, the Trump-Netanyahu summit should focus on what is needed now. A successful summit on Monday would mean the U.S. and Israel would pledge to join others in the international community to halt the economic deterioration in Gaza. Halting the economic decline is the best hope to avert a fourth war between Gaza and Israel within this past decade. Ironically, such an American focus could play to the Trump Administration's desire to focus on the economic rather than political dimensions of an issue.
Of course, the leaders have important issues to discuss including averting an Israeli-Iranian escalation in Syria, as evidenced by recent developments when an Iranian drone flying over Israel led to the rare downing of an Israeli F-16 and Israel knocking out Syrian anti-aircraft batteries. However, the Palestinian issue should not get lost.
The "ultimate deal" would likely have failed. Even in 2013 to 2014, when each leader could afford to be more accommodating, the Venn Diagram between Netanyahu and Abbas did not sufficiently overlap to reach agreement on the five core issues—borders, security arrangements, Jerusalem, refugees and mutual recognition. Now, with Netanyahu's coalition narrower than before and those surrounding Abbas more focused on succession, the two leaders have moved even farther apart. My recent visit to Israel and Ramallah highlighted that both Israel and the Palestinians have long expected Trump's offer to be far less generous than that offered under President Barack Obama, and therefore both sides predicted the Palestinians would automatically reject it.
Yet, the chasm between the U.S. and Palestinian Authority should not discourage both parties from taking advantage of the opportunity to converge and work together on a more immediate problem, namely averting further economic deterioration in Gaza. The number of trucks entering Gaza has dropped from 1000 to 350 per day due to a lack of purchasing power, according to Israeli military officials. According to the UN and Israel, Gaza's water is not expected to be drinkable by 2020. Last July, the beaches of Ashkelon had to be closed for a few days due to a health hazard from neighboring Gaza.
Donor countries held an emergency meeting in Brussels a few weeks ago, pledging to assist Gaza, but there is no evidence that the donors are willing to contribute the money needed for heavy infrastructure such as power stations and desalination plants. A major economic effort in Gaza is required and the Quartet—the U.S., European Union, Russia and the secretary-general of the UN—should come together on this issue.
The issue of Gaza is not as taboo as it previously was in Israel, when Israelis viewed Gaza's plight as another excuse for blaming Israel. Now right-wing minister Yisrael Katz has been urging the cabinet to discuss plans to build a port and airport in Gaza, perhaps by extending the very densely populated area by dint of an artificial island. The Knesset has even convened a caucus to draw attention to Gaza. All understand that chaos in Gaza does not serve Israel or the Palestinians.
The timing of Israeli-Palestinian cooperation over Gaza is interesting as it comes at a time that Hamas leader Yihye Sinwar has acknowledged to Gazans that Hamas has failed at governance. Such an admission by Hamas marks a momentous shift, even if Hamas will not yet concede to make the critical move of yielding their weaponry to the PA. Similar to Hezbollah, Hamas would like to retain the authority even if they yield the responsibility. However, as part of true economic stabilization in Gaza, the PA must be able to return to Gaza with genuine control at least over governance. Failure to stabilize Gaza would reinforce the Hamas narrative that the world is indifferent to their fate and only Hamas can defend Palestinian rights.
Some critics may say that Gaza should be squeezed until Hamas yields completely and surrenders its weapons. However, during my visit, I did not sense that a single senior Israeli security official believed this was possible—at least not now. If it took 11 years to get to this point of deterioration since Hamas assumed power in Gaza, could it take another 11 years to promote economic development? What will happen in the meantime?
Lately, Abbas, 83 this month, seems more focused on squeezing Gaza as a means to pressure Hamas than searching for remedies to the humanitarian situation on the ground or worrying about the trajectory of Gaza's future. Another set of critics may charge that any focus on Gaza is a diversion from the "ultimate deal" as the issues of Gaza and the West Bank should be solved together. However, the ultimate deal is not possible now: in the Middle East, whenever it is all or nothing, it is always nothing. While a plan to avert further economic deterioration in Gaza is not an ultimate deal, it is a necessary one.
*David Makovsky is the Ziegler Distinguished Fellow at The Washington Institute and author of its interactive map website Settlements and Solutions.

Putin’s threats, their timing and the Cold War
Abdullah bin Bijad Al-Otaibi/Al Arabiya/March 06/18
Last Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin bragged about his political and military achievements in such an unprecedented manner by using new presentation methods and modern techniques to explain all about Russian weapons. However, the speech was mainly reminiscent of the old Cold War rhetoric, bitterness, memories and defeats. How he blatantly voiced his vision may be shocking. However, this vision has been clear for many years and it has been expressed by Russia's policies and stances towards major crises in the world, whether in the Middle East, North Korea, Iran, Ukraine or elsewhere. What has been happening in terms of the Syrian or the Yemeni crises for the past few years reveals that this is a consistent approach of Russian policy.
Restoring glories of the past
Putin has for long wanted to show his people, his army and his allies that he would be the Soviet Stalin and the Russian Caesar at the same time and that he would assign Russia a valuable international role all over again to restore the glories of the past. He is now close to achieve what he wanted during the eight years of Barack Obama's rule which was marked with isolationism and regress. Part of Putin's speech was expressed by Russia at the UN Security Council last week while making a decision on two important resolutions pertaining to the Middle East: one about the truce in Eastern Ghouta in Syria and the other about the Iranian role in arming the Houthi militia in Yemen. Russia agreed to the first resolution. However, the next day, it interpreted it on its own and decided on a five-hour-truce while continuing to violently shell the city. This is similar to what happened in Aleppo and in Grozny. It rejected the second resolution which was presented by Britain regarding the Iranian role in Yemen, and passed its other draft on Yemen without mentioning anything about the Iranian role there.
A new cold war?
It is a new cold world war in every sense of the word. Putin's speech is clear. It is the culmination of Russian policies, decisions and strategies. He is announcing the results of these policies and not announcing adopting them. Some observers, including myself, have highlighted this for years and warned that the cold regional war launched by the Khomeinist Iran would escalate into a cold world war. The majority rejected such an analysis then and did not pay attention to it, but it has been clearly proved right.
But there is a very important question regarding the timing. Why did Putin choose this particular timing? Is it just a preparation for the next presidential elections in about two weeks? Or is it a desire to evoke what he sees as great political and strategic achievement in confronting the West? Are they future promises? Is he reviewing achievements and vowing to continue to adopt this approach in the future? It could be so. However, did Putin think how this speech may affect Russia and lead to the adoption of international policies in which he may not be the biggest winner?
The Cold War was an expression of an international consensus that rejects world wars and acknowledges how hideous they are and how their future means the destruction of the human race. International treaties that reject world wars were thus approved. So does Putin’s speech indicate going in the opposite direction? In other words, is the aim of his speech is to escalate major regional crises in North Korea and the Ukrainian crisis and others and enhance Iran's roles in the Middle East to lead to a third world war that destroys everything?
When examining historical moments of transition in terms of the balance of international powers, everyone sought to enhance their international position and achieve their greater interests. They even desired that these balances are altered to achieve their aims. However history has taught us that the final outcome does not match the reaped result and that adventures are not calculated when adopting such policies as those seeking to shake this balance of power may be the biggest losers.
When considering the timing of his speech, we notice that it came after a clear western trend to support US President Donald Trump's policies toward the crisis in Syria and direct and clear criticism of Russia's policies. France and Britain also got involved here as the more brutal the Assad regime, the Iranian militias and the Russian forces are, the more countries are rejecting Russia’s decisions on Syria. The issue of eastern Ghouta is just one example.
In terms of the US’ role and its status in the world, it’s worth noting that Putin made this speech during the reign of an American president who is completely different than his predecessor. Trump is fighting an internal political battle to provide the biggest historical support to the Pentagon and to strengthen the US on all levels to lead the world. So is this the appropriate time to make threats, defy others and show off using military force?
There is also a point here regarding the economy. Is the Russian economy growing and prospering enough to engage in international competition and launch an arms race with the US and the West?
Actual threats? Putin's speech included a frank threat that Russia will defend its allies against any aggression. So who are Russia's current allies? The most important ones in this context are North Korea and Iran. So has Putin felt there are actual threats against the two countries?
Last week, South Korean President Moon Jae-in conveyed North Korea’s desire to hold direct talks with the US. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov also announced this in December. So does voicing this desire confirm that Russia sensed imminent threat? As for Iran, the Trump administration’s position is clear regarding Tehran’s policies. It’s actually an advanced stance compared with some European countries. So does Putin sense there will be imminent policies that might force Iran to yield to international resolutions, abandon policies that incite chaos and stop supporting terrorism? History’s doors are open for new things. Restoring balance in international politics has already begun. The future is open for developments pertaining to the stance on international peace and security, whether negatively or positively.

Should Iraq approve the Arab League’s possible smoking ban?
Adnan Hussein/Al Arabiya/March 06/18
The agenda of the upcoming 29th Arab Summit includes a very important topic that pertains to the health of millions of Arabs and non-Arabs living in Arab League countries.
The Executive Office of the Arab Health Ministers Council recently met in Cairo and decided to propose to the summit that will be held in Riyadh at the end of this month a resolution to impose a comprehensive smoking ban in the League’s member states. If this summit approves this resolution, it will do people in Arab countries a great favor. However, I advise the Iraqi delegation, whoever its chief is, to take a neutral position and to neither oppose nor accept the resolution. Why is that? The League’s member states must abide by the summit’s decisions if their kings, presidents, or representatives sign them. However, experience has taught us that this is not always the case. Hundreds of decisions have been made at the previous 28 summits but more than half of them were never implemented because those decisions were mainly made for domestic consumption and under the influence of dictatorial and nationalist regimes. Even if all Arab countries comply with this resolution to ban smoking in public places, Iraq in particular will not be able to implement it. This is why I suggest that it takes a neutral stance as not implementing the resolution will diminish the Iraqi state’s worth and value. Subsequent summits and health ministers’ meetings will thus note that Iraq has failed to fulfill its commitments in this regard.
The reason I say so is because the Iraqi government had already enacted a law banning smoking in public transport but no one complied. None of the state representatives, such as the police, sought to hold those who violated the law accountable. Smoking remained common even in clinics, public and private hospitals and state institutions’ departments. We have never heard that a minister or a director punished his employees for smoking to set an example to others. Apart from all that, Iraqi cities and rural areas are full of what violates basic health conditions. Garbage is spread in every street, yard and ally. Rivers and drinking water are contaminated. Cars emit all kinds of toxic gases and there is no health or environmental control or supervision whatsoever. Restaurants and vendors serve contaminated and even carcinogenic food, and no one is monitoring their work or holding them accountable. Interestingly the only "achievement" accomplished by the "reforming" decisions which the government made in 2015 was abolishing the environment and the science and technology ministries.
In addition to this, we have a country that cannot implement public safety laws and regulations, such as the traffic law. It’s certain that a state like this one cannot abide by the upcoming Arab League Summit’s decision to ban smoking. So why disgrace ourselves by signing such a resolution?

Vladimir Putin: Hour of the strong man
Ghassan Charbel/Al Arabiya/March 06/18
The belief has been that the age of the strong leaders ended with the past century. Their emergence was linked to extraordinary developments in the fabric of wars of independence or world wars. Observing latest developments demonstrate that the challenges of this century are no less demanding than the previous one, even if the circumstances and factors have changed. It appears that our time is awaiting a strong man. One who is able to open the windows of hope, garner good will, bridge distances and make initiatives when others hesitate. A man who breaks the paralysis and dares to think outside the box. We need people of vision, decision-makers and those with a strong will to overcome the difficult challenges. Sometimes the emergence of an extraordinary man prevents a country from falling into the abyss it was headed towards. This man reawakens the dreams of the youth and allows them to take part in deciding a country’s fate. He averts bloody conflicts and fatal collapses. The West is no longer able to produce a “strong man”. Democracy fears the powerful, who harbor a deep-rooted dream for unlimited power. This is why the West has grown adept at devising formulas that can rein in their dreams. Unforgiving constitutions. The minute he celebrates a victory, he is aware of the date of his departure. Parliament will not hesitate in putting obstacles in his way. The public will not hesitate in pouncing on any slip-up. The traps of the opposition and journalists will bleed the president’s reputation. Blood will be shed on a daily basis on social media. It is clear that democracies are banking on the role of institutions and their continuity, not on an all-powerful leader. The West, however, despite its advancement and enlightenment, is not the whole world. Wrong are those who believe that the global village will scramble to adopt the example that declared victory after the fall and suicide of the Soviet Union. We are now witnessing the confusion of the global arena at the rise of boxers who are difficult to be labeled as democratic, at least in the western sense. The 2023 end date of his current term is now just a stop in a lifelong presidency that is envied by President Donald Trump, who admires Xi
Situation in the West
The situation in the West is well-known. The United States and the world are hanging on the words of a tweeting president. The German chancellor was able to remain in her post, but election results tarnished her image. The honeymoon between the man in the Elysee and the French people is coming to an end. The lady in 10 Downing Street is struggling in leading the divorce from the European Union. The situation in China is completely different than the one in the global village. We are witnessing the birth of the Mao Zedong of the 21st century. There are some who believe that China is preparing to live under the reign of a new emperor. It is wrong to believe that the development there does not concern us. We are speaking here about a country of 1.4 billion people and the world’s second strongest economy. A few days ago, the Communist Party of China surprised the world when it removed the two-term limit clause in the constitution. The party also proposed introducing President Xi Jinping’s thought into the constitution. This is an honor that none of Mao’s predecessors enjoyed. This simply means that Xi’s voyage with China will be open-ended. The 2023 end date of his current term is now just a stop in a lifelong presidency that is envied by President Donald Trump, who admires Xi. It is clear that Xi succeeded in the past five years in paving the way for an open-ended stay on Mao’s throne. He tamed the army generals and barons of war. He led a strict campaign against corruption that toppled major and stubborn figures. Whoever is observing the situation in China realizes the significance of this coup. In 1982, the party forced the leader to leave after he completed two terms. It sought to avoid the emergence of a strong figure. It avoided the emergence of a man, who enjoys freedom to act as he wished, similar to Mao, especially in wake of the cultural revolution that led to major human and economic losses. The prevalent belief in the West was that Russia, which was rising from the rubble of the Soviet Union, would follow in the footsteps of western countries and be inspired to establish a democracy despite a long stay under single-party rule.
Russian version of democracy
This did not happen. Since the beginning of the century, Russia has been ruled by a man who succeeded in forming a Russian version of democracy. A guaranteed parliament and press. An ongoing crackdown on civil society and a lack of independent public opinion that can express opposition and demand accountability. A strong leader called Vladimir Putin was born. He reshaped the internal scene, his country’s image abroad and its standing among major powers. The man holds all the strings and running in election is a cakewalk for him. He has regained Crimea and destabilized Ukraine. He intervened militarily in Syria and imposed his role on the regional and international scenes. China is also headed towards unprecedented challenges. Its rise sparks concerns among countries near and far. The Belt and Road initiative is a clear demonstration of its aspiration to play an exceptional role in the global economy, and eventually the political arena. The position of the world’s most powerful economy for decades to come makes it a viable rival in major tussles with the US. On the internal scene, the challenges are not simple. Preserving a high development rate. Preserving stability in a society that is witnessing demands for improvement among millions of its people, who want to take part in drawing the future of their country. This is not possible however within the current party rules. The process of modernity and catching up with the successive technological revolutions. Dealing with the digital revolution and transforming each citizen into a journalist, publisher and witness. Given these factors, the Communist Party in China pave the way for the “strong leader” phenomenon. Perhaps it sensed that a permanent leader was necessary on the internal and foreign scenes for the upcoming phase. The need to preserve prosperity and stability combined. The need to advance China towards the position of major player on the international scene. Perhaps this is why some believe that Putin’s latest war speech that was directed to the West was not a stance. The primary competitor to the strong man in the Kremlin is the strong man sitting on Mao’s throne, which is not very far from Russia.

US: Muslim Calls for Murder Increasing

Judith Bergman/Gatestone Institute/March 06/2018
Far from being "isolated" events, calls for jihad against all non-Muslims began in the US several decades ago.
It would be a mistake to view the hate preached against Jews differently from the hate preached against other non-Muslims. Both are sanctioned by the Quran and the hadiths. It is this hate against anyone "other" -- and that is still taken to heart by many Muslims -- that drives Islamic terrorism against the West.
Muslim supremacists are apparently acceptable; white supremacists are not.
Yes, other religious books are also filled with hate verses, but as the author Bruce Bawer points out, many "Muslims still live by them."
In December 2017, four imams -- at mosques in North Carolina, New Jersey and Texas -- called for killing Jews. Two of the imams quoted from a hadith that says:
"The last hour would not come unless the Muslims will fight against the Jews and the Muslims would kill them until the Jews would hide themselves behind a stone or a tree and a stone or a tree would say: Muslim, or the servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me; come and kill him".
Two other imams, respectively, asked Allah "to destroy the Zionists and their allies, and those who assist them" and "to wreak vengeance upon the plundering oppressors".
Prior to these December calls, in July 2017, two imams in California (Riverside and Davis) also called for killing Jews. One imam quoted the hadith above. He later apologized, claiming that "The last thing that I would do is intentionally hurt anyone, Muslim, Jewish or otherwise. It is not in my heart".
It may not be in his heart, but it was in his mouth, and it is in the Quran and the hadiths, which are filled[1] with supremacist and violent references not only to Jews, but to all non-Muslims.
Yes, other religious books are also filled with hate verses, but as the author Bruce Bawer points out, many "Muslims still live by them."
Raed Saleh Al-Rousan, imam and founder of Tajweed Institute's Houston branch, quotes an Islamic hadith to kill Jews. (Image source: MEMRI video screenshot)
There was, in fact, surprisingly little outrage in the United States that violent hatred is preached in certain American mosques. Hardly any media pundits, community leaders or cultural celebrities threw themselves into a frenzy over this recent display of racist supremacism, as they had done over the display of Jew-hatred by white supremacists in Charlottesville about six months ago.
The CEO of the Anti- Defamation League (ADL), Jonathan Greenblatt, did not, this time, ask the president of the United States to "name the hate" and "devise a plan" to confront Muslim supremacy, as he had done in response to the white supremacists after Charlottesville.
The general lack of outrage was particularly noticeable given that the FBI had just released its hate crime statistics for 2016. These showed -- as they have done since the FBI began to collect hate crime statistics in 1992 -- that Jews were still the main target of religiously-motivated hate crimes. In 2016, Jews constituted just 1.8 percent of the American population, yet they were victims of 54.4 percent of such attacks. By comparison, Muslims, who constitute 1.1 percent of the population, were victims of 24.5 percent of religiously-motivated crimes.
Muslim supremacists are apparently acceptable; white supremacists are not.
Muslim lobbying organizations such as the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), which are usually the first to condemn "Islamophobia," and which often condemn white supremacists, have also been conspicuously silent on the issue of the imams' expressions of Jew-hate. Muslim Advocates, one of the only Muslim rights groups to react, merely called the three speeches "despicable" but "isolated."
They actually are not isolated. Six incidents -- at least, that the public knows about -- in six months is not "isolated". More significantly, in Canadian and European mosques, calls for murdering Jews have become increasingly commonplace. In Europe, such preaching has had murderous results. In Copenhagen, a Muslim listened to a sermon similar to the ones issued by the American imams, then murdered a Jewish guard in front of the city's synagogue. Calls from imams in mosques to murder anyone should set off alarm bells that murders are in the works. Instead, these calls go largely ignored. That indifference applies as much when the calls are directed against homosexuals or other Muslims, as against Jews.
Some news outlets would have the public believe that calls for murdering Jews were linked to President Donald Trump's December declaration on Jerusalem. Newsweek, for instance, recently wrote that calls for killing Jews was "a trend that has followed President Donald Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel". No, calls for murdering "disbelievers" is a trend deeply rooted in Islam's foundational texts, which are 1,400 years old.
It would be a mistake to view the hate preached against Jews differently from the hate preached against other non-Muslims. Both are sanctioned by the Quran and the hadiths. It is this hate against anyone "other" -- and that is still taken to heart by many Muslims -- that drives Islamic terrorism against the West.
Americans, therefore, should be greatly concerned that the reactions of officials and the media to calls in the US since last July for murder have been so muted. Calls for jihad against all non-Muslims began in the US several decades ago.
In 1988, Osama Bin Laden's mentor, Abdullah Azzam, visited and preached in Oklahoma that, "The Jihad, the fighting, is obligatory on you wherever you can perform it. The word Jihad means fighting only, fighting with the sword".
In the 1990s, the "Blind Sheikh", Omar Abdel-Rahman, was an imam at three separate mosques in the US. Abdel-Rahman's sermons condemned Americans as the "descendants of apes and pigs who have been feeding from the dining tables of the Zionists, Communists, and colonialists". He called on Muslims to assail the West, "cut the transportation of their countries, tear it apart, destroy their economy, burn their companies, eliminate their interests, sink their ships, shoot down their planes, kill them on the sea, air, or land".
Rahman was convicted of conspiracy in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and of planning a broader "war of urban terrorism" in the United States.
Anwar Al Awlaki, an American-born terrorist killed by an American drone strike in Yemen in 2011, was preaching and spreading his hateful message of jihad in American mosques as early as the 1990s. At the Masjid Ar-Ribat al-Islami mosque in San Diego, between 1996-2000, two of the future 9/11 hijackers attended his sermons. He is also reported to have inspired several other terrorists, such as the Fort Hood terrorist, Major Nidal Malik Hasan, with whom he exchanged emails, and the Tsarnaev brothers, who bombed the 2013 Boston marathon. According to one US counter-terrorism official, speaking in September 2016, "If you were to look at people who had committed acts of terrorism or had been arrested and you took a poll, you'd find that the majority of them had some kind of exposure to Awlaki"[2].
Hatred is not only disseminated in mosques. In 1998, as documented by Steven Emerson of the Investigative Project on |Terrorism, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) was the co-sponsor of a Brooklyn rally. There it was said, "...Allah says he who equips a warrior of Jihad is like the one [who] makes Jihad himself," and a song with the lyrics: "No to the Jews, descendants of the apes" was sung.
CAIR denies co-sponsoring this rally. In September 2003 Senate testimony, the CEO and Founder of CAIR, Nihad Awad, said, "As Executive Director of CAIR, I had never heard of this event, let alone authorize sponsorship for it." The event, however, is explicitly mentioned in the rally's program. Nihad Awad, incidentally, at Barry University, endorsed the terrorist group Hamas:
"I used to support the PLO, and I used to be the President of the General Union of Palestine Students which is part of the PLO here in the United States, but after I researched the situation inside Palestine and outside, I am in support of the Hamas movement more than the PLO".
Violence and terrorism do not occur in a vacuum. Terrorism always seems to be preceded by indoctrination. Calls in US mosques for murder, while permissible under free speech protected by the US First Amendment, need to be taken seriously, not simply shrugged off.
*Judith Bergman is a columnist, lawyer and political analyst.
[1] Just a few of the verses that preach supremacism, as well as violence, against non-Muslims, include:
Quran (3:118) - "O you who believe! do not take for intimate friends from among others than your own people, they do not fall short of inflicting loss upon you; they love what distresses you; vehement hatred has already appeared from out of their mouths, and what their breasts conceal is greater still; indeed, We have made the communications clear to you, if you will understand.
Quran (5:51) - "O you who believe! do not take the Jews and the Christians for friends; they are friends of each other; and whoever amongst you takes them for a friend, then surely he is one of them; surely Allah does not guide the unjust people."
Quran (4:101) "And when you (Muslims) travel in the land, there is no sin on you if you shorten your Salat (prayer) if you fear that the disbelievers may attack you, verily, the disbelievers are ever unto you open enemies."
Quran (2:216) "Fighting is prescribed for you, and ye dislike it. But it is possible that ye dislike a thing which is good for you, and that ye love a thing which is bad for you. But Allah knoweth, and ye know not."
Quran (8:12) "(Remember) when your Lord inspired the angels... "I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Therefore strike off their heads and strike off every fingertip of them."
Quran (8:39) "And fight with them until there is no more fitna (disorder, unbelief) and religion is all for Allah"
[2] The Counter Extremism Project has counted 77 extremists with ties to Awlaki -- 43 in the U.S. and 34 in Europe. Some of the individuals in high-profile U.S. terrorism cases who were either in contact with Awlaki while he was alive, or inspired by his words before and after his death:
Ahmed Abdulkadir Warsame, a Somali who was captured in April 2011 and charged with being the liaison between al-Qaeda and al-Shabab, the Somali terrorist group, was believed to be in direct contact with Awlaki.
Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, convicted in the Christmas 2009 attempted bombing of a Northwest Airlines flight over Detroit, traveled to Yemen to make contact with Awlaki, whose teachings he had been following. Abdulmutallab stayed at Awlaki's house, and the cleric then directed the young Nigerian's participation in the failed bomb plot.
Faisal Shahzad, captured and convicted after plotting in May 2010 to detonate a bomb-laden SUV in Times Square, was inspired by Awlaki.
Mohammad Youssef Abdulazeez, who shot dead four Marines and a Navy sailor in Chattanooga in July 2015.
Syed Rizwan Farook, one of the shooters in the December 2015 San Bernardino mass shooting that killed 14.
Omar Mateen, who killed 49 people and wounded 53 others in a June 2016 mass shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando.
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