March 08/2018
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani


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Bible Quotations
I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven
Matthew 05/17-30: "“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. herefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder,[a] and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’[d] is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell. “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift. “Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny. “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on March 07-08/18
We will never move forward if we don't have equality/Diana Moukalled/Arab News/March 07/2018
We’re not Bystanders in Syria’s Devastation. Some of the Rubble Is Ours/Colbert I. King/The Washington Post/March 07/18
Why Trump Is Reluctant to Escalate the Cyber War With Russia/Eli Lake/Bloomberg/March 07/18
Palestinians: The Arabs Do Not Care about Us/Khaled Abu Toameh/Gatestone Institute/March 07/18
Is Israel the Cause of Jihad/Raymond Ibrahim/Frontpage Magazine/March 07/18
US: Muslim Calls for Murder Increasing/Judith Bergman/Gatestone Institute/March 07/18
A century of progress is just the beginning/Baria Alamuddin/Arab News/March 07/2018

Titles For Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on March 07-08/18

Hariri Tribunal Snubs Early Acquittal Request by ‘Hezbollah’ Suspect’s Lawyer
Candidate Registration Deadline Ends with Highest Record Ever
976 Candidates to Run in Parliamentary Elections including 111 Women
Lebanon Tribunal Says Enough Evidence to Proceed in Hariri Assassination Case
Maronite Bishops Call on Lebanese to Vote Responsibly and Conscientiously
Another Witness Testifies in Power Barges Project Case
President Aoun chairs Cabinet session: Budget almost completed
Berri during Wednesday meeting: Next Parliament must assume its role in monitoring and oversight
Lebanon: Higher Judicial Council Calls for Prosecution of Wiam Wahhab
Samy Gemayel: Instant reforms solely save Lebanon from collapse
Army Commander meets British senior defense advisor for Middle East
Hammoud Remands al-Hajj, Hacker, Releases Wife
Record Number of Women Register to Run in Parliamentary Elections
Mount Lebanon Districts to Witness 3-Party Electoral Alliance
STL Rejects Bid to Acquit Hizbullah Suspect
Jumblat Declares 'Full' Electoral Agreement with Hariri
Casualties in Fierce Clashes at Shatila Palestinian Camp
Landmine Kills 1, Wounds 2 in Arsal's Outskirts
Lebanese Family Sues U.S. Nursing Home over Abuse Caught on Video
Mashnouq Says Elections Will be a 'Lebanese Democratic Carnival'
Women rarely vote for women candidates: Aoun
Aoun urges safe return for Syrian refugees
Fletcher hosts former French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin for Issam Fares Lecture
We will never move forward if we don't have equality

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on March 07-08/18
Pope praises Pyeongchang Olympics as bridge to peace
U.N. Says Syria Regime Planning Next 'Apocalypse'
Kurdish, Arab Fighters Drop IS Fight to Defend Syria's Afrin
Syria Regime Sends Hundreds of Reinforcements to Ghouta
Strikes Hit Syria's Battered Ghouta as Death Toll Hits 800
Netanyahu Warns against 'Tyrant' Iran
Palestinians to Suspend Recognition of Israel
French Official Sources Defend Le Drian’s Visit to Tehran
Turkey Urges US to Halt Kurdish Redeployment to Afrin
More Deadly Boko Haram Attacks as Tillerson Focuses on Security in Africa Visit
Second Air Disaster for Russia in 24 Hours
UN Suspects ‘Acts of Genocide’ Committed against Rohingya in Myanmar
British FM to Asharq Al-Awsat: We Want End to Iranian Missiles Fired at Saudi Arabia
Trump Steps Up Trade Threats as Cohn Resigns in Protest
Latest Lebanese Related News published on March 07-08/18
Hariri Tribunal Snubs Early Acquittal Request by ‘Hezbollah’ Suspect’s Lawyer
Asharq Al-Awsat/March 07/18/The Special Tribunal for Lebanon said Wednesday that the assassination of former Lebanese Premier Rafik Hariri in February 2005 was a terrorist act, and stressed that evidence presented by prosecutors "could" lead to the convictions of four “Hezbollah” suspects.
The bombing that killed Hariri and 21 others on the Beirut seafront was a terrorist act, judges at the UN-backed court in the Hague said in a ruling. The STL also said that evidence presented by prosecutors "could" lead to the convictions of the four suspects who remain at large and are being tried in absentia. That means their lawyers must present their defenses. Prosecutors rested their case last month. Lawyers for one of the suspects, Hassan Oneissi, had asked for early acquittal, saying all evidence against him was circumstantial and that the prosecution had failed to link him to the case.
But Judge Janet Nosworthy said that evidence, including cell phone records presented by prosecutors, showed Oneissi may have been involved in an elaborate attempt to blame the attack on a fictional terrorist group. It also could imply he knew the attack itself was being prepared. "The trial chamber has sufficient evidence from which it could convict Mr. Oneissi of his involvement in the attack on Mr. Hariri," she said. The court ordered an organizational meeting with all defense lawyers for Thursday. Defense lawyers for the other suspects, Salim Jamil Ayyash, Hassan Habib Merhi and Assad Hassan Sabra, did not seek early acquittal. Elsewhere in the decision, Presiding Judge David Re said the attack was an act of terrorism, intended to sow fear among the Lebanese people, and could only have been carried out by a sophisticated group, with intricate planning over a long period of time. In July 2016, the STL overturned an earlier decision to try in absentia Mustafa Badreddine, a “Hezbollah” military chief who was killed in Syria months earlier. The Appeals Chamber found by a majority that sufficient evidence had been presented to establish the Badreddine’s death. The STL had launched proceedings against Badreddine and the four other “Hezbollah suspects” in January 2014.
Candidate Registration Deadline Ends with Highest Record Ever 07th March 2018/ The deadline for candidates to register for the upcoming polls scheduled on May 6 ended at midnight, with 976 contenders set to take part in the parliamentary race. This number is the highest in Lebanon's history, compared to 484 candidates in 2005 and 702 in 2009. 111 women have registered for the polls, thus making up 11.37% of the total number of candidates; a significant quantum leap since 2009 when only 15 women submitted their candidacies. Candidates have until 11:59 pm on March 21 to step out of the race. The deadline for registering lists is March 26 before midnight. A list headed by House Speaker Nabih Berri was the first to register for the Zahrani-Tyre district, including MP Ali Khreiss, Minister of State for Administrative Affairs Inaya Ezzeddine, MP Ali Osseiran and MP Michel Moussa, MP Nawwaf Mousawi and Hussein Jishi who both represent Hezbollah. Another ten-member list headed by Fouad Makhzoumi also registered for the polls in Beirut's second electoral district. Faten Younis, head of political and refugee affairs at the Interior Ministry, noted that candidates who fail to join any list will be automatically disqualified from the race given that the new vote law does not allow contenders to run independently and alone. The total financial proceeds collected from candidacy registration fees have reached around LBP8 billion ($5.3 million).

976 Candidates to Run in Parliamentary Elections including 111 Women
Naharnet/March 07/18/Candidate registration closed at midnight for Lebanon's upcoming parliamentary elections, which for the first time in the country's history will be held under a complex proportional representation electoral system. The deadline for forming electoral lists will expire on March 26. The director of political affairs at the Interior Ministry, Faten Younis, said the nominations of 976 candidates were accepted, among them 111 women. Only 12 women had nominated themselves in 2009. The highest number of candidacies was recorded in Beirut's second electoral district, where 117 candidates will contest 11 parliamentary seats. The deadline for withdrawing nominations expires on March 21. The May 6 elections will be held in 15 electoral districts.

Lebanon Tribunal Says Enough Evidence to Proceed in Hariri Assassination Case

Reuters/Wednesday 07th March 2018/The 2005 bombing that killed former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri was a terrorist act, judges at the U.N.-backed tribunal in the Hague set up to investigate it said in a ruling on Wednesday. The Special Tribunal for Lebanon also said that evidence presented by prosecutors “could” lead to the convictions of four suspects. That means lawyers for the four, who remain at large and are being tried in absentia, must present their defenses. Prosecutors rested their case last month. Lawyers for one of the suspects, Hussein Hassan Oneissi, had asked for early acquittal, saying all evidence against him was circumstantial. But Judge Janet Nosworthy said that evidence, including cell phone records presented by prosecutors, showed Oneissi may have been involved in an elaborate attempt to blame the attack on a fictional terrorist group.
It also could imply he knew the attack itself was being prepared. “The trial chamber has sufficient evidence from which it could convict Mr. Oneissi of his involvement in the attack on Mr. Hariri,” she said. The court ordered an organizational meeting with all defense lawyers for Thursday, 8 March. Judges underlined that they have not concluded any of the suspects are actually guilty, only that they have a case to answer. Defence lawyers for the other suspects, Salim Jamil Ayyash, Hassan Habib Merhi and Assad Hassan Sabra, did not seek early acquittal. Elsewhere in the decision, Presiding Judge David Re said the attack, which killed Hariri and 21 others, was an act of terrorism, intended to sow fear among the Lebanese people, and could only have been carried out by a sophisticated group, with intricate planning over a long period of time. Re said Wednesday’s decision did not say anything about whether the facts against the suspects had been proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

Maronite Bishops Call on Lebanese to Vote Responsibly and Conscientiously 07th March 2018/The Council of Maronite Bishops on Wednesday called on officials to clarify and explain the vote law on which the upcoming parliamentary polls will be based, saying that a large part of the Lebanese is still perplexed by the new system. “A lot of Lebanese are afraid to miss the opportunity to make a quantum leap towards a true democratic transition," read a statement issued following the council's monthly meeting in Bkirki. The bishops warned against involving public institutions, ministries and security agencies in the electoral race, adding that officials must make sure that the polls are transparent and flawless. The bishops also urged the Lebanese to deal with the elections in a responsible and conscientious way, adding that the voters must elect whoever they see as competent and capable of serving the country's welfare. The council warned that the fragile economic situation is weighing down the Lebanese amid the repeated warnings made by international bodies, blaming that on the growing public debt, the squandering of public money, corruption and the alleged shady deals that are being sealed. “The country cannot rise without an economic vision that aims at achieving public good which guarantees the welfare of all citizens,” the council stressed.

Another Witness Testifies in Power Barges Project Case 07th March 2018/Financial Prosecutor Ali Ibrahim on Wednesday heard the testimony of another witness in the probe launched into the dubious power barges deal, local media reported. Karim Khayyat, who heads Middle East Power company which took part in the tender launched by the Energy Ministry, appeared before Ibrahim after journalist Johnny Mounayyar, who also testified earlier this month, claimed that Khayyat had told him that he made an offer that costs less than $1.1 billion while the power barges deal being mulled by the government costs $1.8 billion. "What is even more dangerous is that Karim Khayyat was offered a $20 million bribe to withdraw his bid," Mounayyar said in an interview on New TV. Coordinator of the Lebanese Corruption Observatory and adviser to Kataeb party, Charles Saba, also gave his testimony last week. Saba handed Ibrahim a complete file that contains a list of witnesses that can be useful to this case.
President Aoun chairs Cabinet session: Budget almost completed
Wed 07 Mar 2018/NNA - President of the Republic, General Michel Aoun, opened the cabinet session by congratulating Lebanese women on the International Women's Day, praising their role in the intellectual, social, humanitarian, political and economic fields. Aoun paid a special tribute to Minister Inaya Ezzedine, "the only woman in the government", underscoring her key role and her appreciated efforts.The President accordingly noted that "the number of women who have filed candidacy for the elections has reached 111," wishing success to them all. Tackling his Armenia and Iraq visits, the President deemed both of them successful politically and economically "as we sensed a full commitment to supporting Lebanon and participating in the conferences to be held in Rome, Paris and Brussels. We agreed on a series of measures that would facilitate the process of reconstruction of Iraq. Channels of cooperation are open between Lebanon and each of the two countries." President Aoun tackled the issue of the draft budget for the year 2018, assuring that it was close to completion. Pertaining to the parliamentary elections, he noted that the basic preparations have been completed "and we are looking forward to doing the finishing touches so as to achieve full readiness on the date set for the elections." He then informed the Cabinet that he had asked the Central Bank Governor to "pay the housing loans that the banks have committed to pay to the concerned parties, in accordance with the terms already agreed upon, and to hold meetings with the institutions concerned with housing loans to discuss a new mechanism that would secure the continuity of loans." President Aoun spoke at length about the reality of electricity, and briefed the Cabinet on a detailed report he read before them on the reality of electricity in Lebanon and the deficit caused by the public finances and the rise in public debt, explaining in detail the real cost of energy production and the solutions that are supposed to be adopted. Addressing the Council of Ministers, Prime Minister Hariri displayed the outcomes of his visit to Saudi Arabia, which he described as "very positive", saying "the Kingdom would participate in the conferences of Rome, Paris and Brussels."He underlined the "dissociation policy that the government has committed to; a policy that is important for the Kingdom as it is for Lebanon." PM Hariri pointed out that "the Rome conference will be held next week and three weeks later, the Paris conference will take place, and work is underway to complete the paper that Lebanon will submit to the Cedar. The economic team tasked with this paper has listened to the views of most political blocs and all their observations. " Tackling the budget, he said "the meeting to be held at the Serail tomorrow aims at doing a final reading of the budget. (...) If done, it will finally be submitted to the cabinet either on Friday or early next week."

Berri during Wednesday meeting: Next Parliament must assume its role in monitoring and oversight
Wed 07 Mar 2018/NNA - Speaker of the House, Nabih Berri, on Wednesday underlined that "the next Parliament must assume its role in the monitoring and oversight of the executive power's actions, in order to fight corruption and contribute to the enhancement of the reform process in the country." Berri also indicted that the huge turnout to the submission of candidacies to the legislative polls was due to the new poll mode and the preferential vote.  On the state budget issue, the Speaker said that the government was heading to endorsing the bill next week, stressing that "the Parliament will work on approving it before the elections." As to the oil dossier, he maintained the importance of multiplying efforts to benefit from Lebanon's resources. He accordingly highlighted the necessity "to preserve security and stability in the country, because stability is a key element in investment." Berri made these remarks during his periodic weekly meeting with the lawmakers at Ain-el-Tineh.

Lebanon: Higher Judicial Council Calls for Prosecution of Wiam Wahhab
Beirut-/Asharq Al Awsat/March 07/18/Higher Judicial Council announced Tuesday its intention to prosecute former Minister Wiam Wahhab for offending judicial authorities and questioning their work during a televised appearance last week. The Council asked the public prosecutor to initiate public proceedings against Arab Tawhid Party Chief Wahhab and carry out the necessary investigations after the former minister criticized the judiciary during an episode of Ousbou fi Saa on al-Jadeed TV. The council released a statement saying that it discussed the episode in question and was surprised with the attack on the judiciary with both its authorities and individuals, by one of the participants, namely Wahhab. In light of the gravity and seriousness of such actions, the council requested the Attorney General to the Court of Cassation to conduct the necessary investigations and work to bring a lawsuit against relevant parties. During the TV program, Wahhab accused certain judges of corruption in a number of cases, including one against actor Ziad Itani. Wahhab described some of the public prosecutors as corrupt and threatened to “remove the eye” of any judge trying to wrongly prosecute him in any case. Earlier this week, evidence emerged that proved that Itani fell victim to a plot hatched by Susan Hajj Hobeiche, former head of Lebanese Anti-Cybercrime and Intellectual Property Bureau. Itani was accused of being recruited by a female Israeli intelligence agent, but investigations revealed that the “Israeli women” was, in fact, a hacker operating from within Lebanese territories.

Samy Gemayel: Instant reforms solely save Lebanon from collapse
Wed 07 Mar 2018/NNA - Kataeb Party chief MP Samy Gemayel on Wednesday warned that Lebanon was on the brink of bankruptcy, stressing that instant reforms can solely rescue the country from such collapse. MP Gemayel's fresh remarks came during a press conference at the Kataeb's Central House in Saifi, during which he sounded the alarm over a major economic collapse as a result of the arbitrary policy adopted by the current ruling class. Gemayel's alarming remarks came on the eve of the endorsement of the state budget. The Lawmaker pointed out that the figures depicted in the budget are catastrophic for the economy, stressing the dire need to halt such a chaos given its disastrous outcomes. In this regard, Gemayel underlined that "change is not an option but rather an imperative necessity," urging the Lebanese people to cut short the existing conduct by choosing parliamentary candidates who are well aware of these dangers and determined for confrontation and saying the truth within the House of Parliament.

Army Commander meets British senior defense advisor for Middle East

Wed 07 Mar 2018/NNA - Army Commander General Joseph Aoun welcomed at his Yarze office UK's Defense Senior Advisor for the Middle East Lt General John Lorimer, accompanied by British Assistant Chief of the Defense Staff Major General Giles Hill.  The meeting was also attended by the British Ambassador to Lebanon, Hugo Shorter, and the Embassy's Military Attaché. Discussions covered the general situation in Lebanon and the broad region, as well as the British military assistance program to the Lebanese army.  General Aoun also met with the commander of the French naval forces operating in the Mediterranean Admiral Charles Henri de la Favre de Che, in the presence of the French military attaché. Talks reportedly touched on the bilateral ties between both countries' armies.

Hammoud Remands al-Hajj, Hacker, Releases Wife
Naharnet/March 07/18/State Prosecutor Judge Samir Hammoud announced Wednesday that he has wrapped up the investigations that were held under his supervision by the Intelligence Branch of the Internal Security Forces in the so-called Itani-Hajj case. “He remanded two people in custody pending further investigations and ordered the release of a third person,” the National News Agency said. Hammoud referred “the entire file to the State Commissioner to the Military Court,” NNA added. Media reports said the released person is the wife of detained hacker E.Gh. Lt. Col. Suzanne al-Hajj and the hacker were arrested last week on charges of framing detained comedian Ziad Itani in a fake spying for Israel case. Media reports said al-Hajj asked the hacker to fabricate electronic evidence against Itani to take revenge on him for posting a screenshot of a 'like' she had placed on a tweet by controversial TV director Charbel Khalil. The 'like' cost al-Hajj her job as head of the ISF anti-cybercrime unit. In the 2017 tweet, Khalil had quipped that “Saudi women are only allowed to drive if the car is booby-trapped.”

Record Number of Women Register to Run in Parliamentary Elections

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/March 07/18/A record number of women are among nearly 1,000 candidates who have registered to stand in Lebanon's first legislative elections in nine years. A total of 976 people announced their candidacies for 128 parliamentary seats before registration for the May 6 poll closed late Tuesday, the state-run National News Agency said. They include 111 women, the NNA reported, citing the interior ministry which manages elections. That marks a sharp increase compared with the previous legislative election in 2009 when just 12 women were among 706 candidates who took part. Among the female candidates are high-profile journalist Paula Yaacoubian, civil society activist and first-time candidate Nayla Geagea, lawyer and one-time presidential candidate Nadine Moussa, MTV's telegenic news presenter Jessica Azar and State Minister for Administrative Development Enaya Ezzeddine. The May 6 vote will be the first test of Lebanon's new proportional electoral law which was agreed on in 2017 after years of wrangling among Lebanon's various political factions. It replaces the plurality voting system with proportional representation and reduces the number of electoral districts to 15. In each district, seats are distributed among the different religious communities living there. Competition is expected to be fierce in several areas, including one district in Beirut where 117 people are running for 11 seats. Candidates must run in lists, which are to be finalized and announced by March 26.

Mount Lebanon Districts to Witness 3-Party Electoral Alliance
Naharnet/March 07/18/The electoral districts in Mount Lebanon will witness a three-party alliance in the upcoming parliamentary elections, media reports said. The alliance will bring together the Progressive Socialist Party, the Lebanese Forces and al-Mustaqbal Movement. Prime Minister Saad Hariri “has managed to convince the LF to ally with al-Mustaqbal and MP Walid Jumblat in the Chouf-Aley district and to overcome the obstacle of ex-minister Naji al-Bustani's nomination on Jumblat's list, although Bustani would weaken MP George Adwan's success chances,” al-Akhbar newspaper reported on Wednesday. Under the agreement, the PSP's votes would go to LF's list in Northern Metn while Mustaqbal would grant its votes to the LF-PSP list in Baabda. With the emergence of this new alliance, the three parties will confront the Free Patriotic Movement and MP Talal Arslan in Chouf-Aley; the FPM, Hizbullah and AMAL Movement in Baabda; and the FPM, the Syrian Social Nationalist Party and the Tashnag Party in Northern Metn. According to al-Akhbar, the ministers Ghattas Khoury and Melhem Riachi are expected to visit Maarab after Thursday's cabinet session to finalize the alliances in the rest of the districts.

STL Rejects Bid to Acquit Hizbullah Suspect
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/March 07/18/Judges at a U.N.-backed tribunal Wednesday threw out a bid to acquit an alleged Hizbullah member of any role in the 2005 assassination of ex-prime minister Rafik Hariri. The chamber at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon "finds that the prosecution has provided a sufficiency of evidence upon which it could convict" Hussein Oneissi, presiding judge David Re said. "Application for his acquittal is therefore dismissed," Re added. The judge stressed though the court "could still acquit Mr. Oneissi at the end of the trial" if the prosecution has not proved the charges "beyond reasonable doubt."The prosecution last month concluded its case against Oneissi, and three other suspected Hizbullah members, all being tried in absentia in the court in the Netherlands. Before opening the defense case, lawyers for Oneissi, 44, had argued the five charges against him should be dropped as the prosecution had failed to provide sufficient evidence. The judges agreed much of the evidence against Oneissi, much of which is based on records from mobile phone networks and SIM cards used in the attack, was circumstantial. But "the number of coincidental actions is such that the trial chamber has sufficient evidence from which it could convict Mr. Oneissi of his involvement in the attack on Mr. Hariri," judge Janet Nosworthy said. Hariri, who was Lebanon's prime minister until his resignation in October 2004, was killed in February 2005, when a suicide bomber detonated a van packed with tons of explosives next to his armored convoy on the Beirut seafront. Another 21 people were killed and 226 injured in the assassination, with fingers pointing at Syria which had long been a power-broker in the country. "The assassination of Mr. Hariri was obviously a carefully planned and rehearsed event requiring ... military precision," said Re. Oneissi is notably accused of having recruited Lebanese Islamist Ahmed Abu Adass, and helping him to make a videotape falsely claiming the assassination. Within minutes of the attack, the false claim of responsibility was made in several phone calls to Reuters news agency. Shortly afterwards a videotape of Abu Adass' "confession" was dropped off in a tree by the Beirut offices of Al-Jazeera. The court agreed that since the trial opened in January 2014 no evidence had been found that Abu Adass was the suicide bomber and his DNA had not been found at the scene. Rather Abu Adass had been used as a decoy "to divert attention from the attackers" to a "fictional fundamentalist group," Nosworthy said. Salim Ayyash, as well as a fifth suspect Hizbullah commander Mustafa Badreddine, are accused of masterminding the plot, with Oneissi and two others – Hassan Merhi and Assad Sabra -- as accomplices. The case against Badreddine was dropped after he was said to have been killed in fighting in Syria in 2016. Hizbullah denies any involvement in the attack and its leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah has dismissed the court as a U.S.-Israeli scheme.

Jumblat Declares 'Full' Electoral Agreement with Hariri
Naharnet/March 07/18/Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat has announced that a “full” electoral agreement has been reached between him and Prime Minister Saad Hariri, the leader of al-Mustaqbal Movement. “The electoral agreement with Hariri will involve Chouf, West Bekaa and Beirut,” Jumblat told al-Joumhouria newspaper in remarks published Wednesday. “Discussions are still ongoing with other political forces to complete the PSP's alliances” in the upcoming parliamentary elections, Jumblat added. He noted that “negotiations are mainly taking place with the Lebanese Forces from the Christian side.”Jumblat added that the PSP's “official and final alliances” may be declared “within two days.”Jumblat had met Hariri on Monday at the Center House.

Casualties in Fierce Clashes at Shatila Palestinian Camp
Naharnet/March 07/18/Fierce clashes erupted Wednesday at the Shatila Palestinian refugee camp on Beirut's southern edges, media reports said. MTV said several people were killed and wounded in the fighting between the Fatah al-Intifada and al-Saeqa groups, which involved the use of “machineguns and some rocket-propelled grenades.”The majority of the casualties were transferred to the Haifa hospital amid preparations to transfer others to the al-Maqassed hospital, the TV network said. Al-Jadeed television meanwhile reported that one person was killed and two others were wounded in the clashes. “Cautious calm is engulfing the camp amid efforts to contain the clash,” it added. By long-standing convention, the Lebanese Army does not enter the twelve Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon, leaving the Palestinian factions themselves to handle security. That has created lawless areas in many camps, some of which contain extremists and fugitives. More than 450,000 Palestinians are registered in Lebanon with the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees UNRWA. Most live in squalid conditions in 12 official refugee camps and face a variety of legal restrictions, including on their employment.

Landmine Kills 1, Wounds 2 in Arsal's Outskirts
Naharnet/March 07/18/A landmine left behind by jihadist groups on Tuesday killed a Lebanese citizen and wounded two others in the outskirts of the eastern border town of Arsal. The National News Agency said Burkan al-Hujeiri was killed and two others from the al-Hujeiri family were wounded when the landmine went off on an agricultural route in the al-Ajram area in the town's outskirts. They were transferred to the Dar al-Rahma Hospital in Arsal. Jihadists from the Islamic State and al-Nusra Front groups had remained entrenched in the town's mountainous outskirts for several years before being ousted by separate Lebanese Army and Hizbullah offensives.

Lebanese Family Sues U.S. Nursing Home over Abuse Caught on Video
Associated Press/Naharnet/March 07/18/The family of an elderly Lebanese man is suing a Michigan nursing home, alleging a hidden camera captured footage of the abuse and some caretakers directed ethnic slurs toward the man. Hussein Younes, 89, was seeking care at Autumnwood of Livonia in 2015 after a bowel obstruction surgery. His son, Salim Younes, grew concerned after noticing his father had several bruises, cuts and significant weight loss. "They blamed his injuries on him falling 11 times over a five-month period," said Jonathan Marko, the family's lawyer. Salim Younes hid a camera in an alarm clock next to his father's bed. The family gathered more than 100 clips documenting neglectful behavior over two days, Marko said. The family removed Hussein Younes from the facility in December 2015. The lawsuit alleges caretakers physically abused and hurled ethnic slurs at Younes. The complaint also alleges Younes was denied water, had his call button taken from him and had his legs run into a wall while in a wheelchair. The actions may have been racially motivated, Marko said. "He's an elderly Lebanese gentleman who was born and grew up in Lebanon," Marko said. "He's an Arab-American, and because of that, he was targeted as this nursing home and horribly abused." The company conducted an internal investigation and reported the allegations to several government agencies after learning of the complaints in December 2015, but wasn't able to substantiate the allegations at the time, said the company's attorneys. Autumnwood wasn't made aware of the video until May 2016. "The actions depicted in the video are in no way illustrative of the quality care that is provided by the caring staff at Autumnwood on a daily basis," the company said in a statement. The employees in the video have been fired and other employees are receiving additional training, according to attorneys for Autumnwood. The civil trial begins in June.

Mashnouq Says Elections Will be a 'Lebanese Democratic Carnival'
Naharnet/March 07/18/Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq has announced that the upcoming polls will be “a Lebanese democratic carnival, after a ten-year absence of parliamentary elections.”“The electoral law is based on four elements: proportional representation, the preferential vote, counting and voting,” the minister said. “Each vote can make a difference, because each vote can boost a list's percentage and qualify it” to win seats, Mashnouq explained. He noted that the elections will “renew Lebanon's political cells” and that “the law reflects each candidate's true political weight.”Candidate registration closed at midnight while the deadline for registering electoral lists will expire on March 26. The elections will be held on May 6 under a complex proportional representation system based on 15 districts.

Women rarely vote for women candidates: Aoun
The Daily Star/March 07, 2018/BEIRUT: Citing electoral statistics, President Michel Aoun said Wednesday that women rarely vote for female candidates, as he called on Lebanese women to firmly hold on to their beliefs. "Don't allow the male community to influence your thoughts – I say this because recent electoral statistics show that women rarely give their votes to a woman," the presidency's Twitter account quoted Aoun as saying, following an event held at Baabda Palace in honor of International Women's Day. To lessen the disparity between men and women, the idea of gender equality must be ingrained within society as well as being enshrined in legislation, the president said. During the event, Aoun also called on organizations concerned with women rights to unify their efforts, opining that this solidarity would strengthen the causes they lobby for. "Consolidate your efforts and combine your demands. Unify the voice of women, because in the unity of voices there is power, and with power, effectiveness would increase," Aoun said, according to a separate tweet. “The road [forward] begins with consolidating the conviction – in our societies, upbringing and culture – that women and men are equal in their rights and duties and that women are key partners in building the country and in political decision-making,” Aoun said. “Then comes the legislative treatment in Parliament to endorse the necessary laws, which will enable the practical application of equality in rights and duties,” the president added. He called on Lebanese women not simply to ask for their rights, but also to actively pursue them. “Don’t wait for the man to give up on what he considers to be his role and his right. Take the initiative, prove your presence and enter the political field in an effective [role],” Aoun said, directly addressing the country’s women. International Women’s Day is celebrated annually on March 8.

Aoun urges safe return for Syrian refugees
The Daily Star/Mar. 07, 2018/BEIRUT: President Michel Aoun requested the international community help "ease" the return of Lebanon’s Syrian refugees, during a meeting Wednesday at Baabda Palace with Filippo Grandi, the head of the United Nations’ refugee agency. The international community “must help ease the gradual return of these displaced people to safe areas of Syria that are no longer seeing any fighting,” Aoun said, referring to the nearly 1 million U.N.-registered Syrian refugees currently residing inside Lebanon. Lebanon is “no longer able to handle the burden” of providing for Lebanon’s Syrian refugee community, the president added. Syrian refugees in Lebanon live in “extreme poverty,” a recent UNHCR report found, with more than three quarters of them living on less than $4 per day.

Fletcher hosts former French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin for Issam Fares Lecture
DANIEL WEINSTEIN/The Tufts Daily/March 07/18/The Fares Center for Eastern Mediterranean Studies at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy welcomed former French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin as the speaker of this year’s Issam M. Fares Lecture. Villepin spoke on the prompt, “Can we still save the two-state solution?”Addressing close to 200 people in Cohen Auditorium, Villepin advocated for increased global cooperation on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and argued that recent transformations in the region provide a new context for thinking about future developments.
After introductions from University President Anthony Monaco, Dean of the Fletcher School James Stavridis and Fares Fares (LA ’92), son of Fares Center founder Issam Fares, Villepin began his discussion by providing context for the current situation in Israel-Palestine.
Villepin noted that, after 70 years, there is no clear solution in a situation fraught with historical and symbolic tensions. He views the ongoing conflict as a failure on the part of the international community, most prominently the United Nations. He also articulated that, consequently, the two-state solution is currently not viable. Following this introductory overview, Villepin claimed that the situation is also seemingly unsolvable because other scenarios such as the one-state solution and the annexation of the West Bank by Jordan and Gaza by Egypt are improbable.
Villepin also said that complete Israeli annexation of the Palestinian Territories would lead to undesirable results. He noted that a state in which both Israelis and Palestinians live, but in which Palestinians lack equal rights, is not sustainable.
“History teaches us that there is no lasting way to impose apartheid. Whether in South Africa, whether here in the U.S. or in [French Algeria], it has become clear that that is not an option,” Villepin said.
In the midst of bleak prospects and a lack of solutions in the status quo, Villepin argued that we should focus on recent changes in the Middle East, such as the emergence of other conflicts, divisions, increasing economic prominence and modernization, when thinking about the future of the two-state solution and the peace process.
“Although the Israeli-Palestinian conflict used to be center-stage, it is not so much anymore, as it is now one of many others in the region … With new divisions emerging in the region, I think it is in the interest of all parties to find new agreements on the peace process,” Villepin told the Daily in an interview.
In light of these transformations, Villepin then discussed the severe risks that result from the acceleration of new conflicts and changes across the Middle East, referencing the Iran nuclear deal and the volatile situations in Iraq and Syria.
To avoid these pressure points, Villepin believes that leaders must avoid what he calls “diplomatic temptations.”
“I believe that our duty is to avoid war at all costs, and to do that we must avoid diplomatic temptations, particularly the temptation of the blame game prevalent in the Jared Kushner-led Middle East plan,” Villepin noted.
To conclude his lecture, Villepin argued that it is important to resist the status quo and start thinking of new ways to mitigate the situation in Israel-Palestine and rethink the prospect of the two-state solution.
“To go ahead, we need new tools. There is a need for a structure, a new process of dialogue where Israel-Palestine would only be one part. I believe in a more global and integrated process,” Villepin said.
After the main portion of the lecture, Stavridis and Villepin discussed the parallels between the situation of the Middle East with that in Europe, the roles China and Russia might play in the future of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and other topics.
When asked in an interview about the impact Villepin hopes the lecture will have on the Tufts students and community as a whole, Villepin mentioned that he hopes students will “raise the good questions” when engaging this topic because, according to him, in the study of international relations, questions are more important than answers.“Of course, each one of us has his or her own beliefs and understanding of who should take advantage. But at the end of the day, we need to compromise,” Villepin told the Daily. “And if you are asking the good questions, you will more easily find the common ground to make progress.”

We will never move forward if we don't have equality
لن نتقدم أبداً ما لم تكن المساواة مؤمنة
Diana Moukalled/Arab News/March 07/2018
We are witnessing countless wars in the world today. Every time one conflict calms down, another flares up. Yesterday’s enemy may become today’s ally and vice versa. However, with all these wars changing sides and places, there is one battle that is always engaged: The permanent war against women.
This is no exaggeration or augmented feminism, and we are not begging for solidarity. Even if everyone rejects war practices against women, such as killing, raping and enslaving, there are always cultures, laws and practices that pave the way for such violent actions.
Let us look into our everyday life. When a female activist in matters of public interest expresses a political opinion or statement on her personal social media accounts, she is inundated with heated discussions and sexual and discriminatory insults. This is recurrent in Lebanon, as well as other countries and societies where women are attacked, forcing them to disappear or retreat from public arenas.
In Lebanon, elections are approaching. Religious ideological parties, such as Hezbollah, refuse to nominate women to run for parliamentary elections, claiming that it is burdening for them and challenges their domestic responsibilities. Hezbollah’s Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah has previously encouraged child marriage in Lebanon.
Meanwhile, about two years ago, Lebanese MP Elie Marouni said that some women were giving rapists a reason to target them. This opinion was reiterated by an Egyptian MP, Nabih Al-Wahsh, when he accused women of being responsible for their rape. He went even further by saying that the rape of women who wear daring outfits was a “national duty.” Similar stories and statements are endless.
However, something has begun to change in Arab societies: In Tunisia, for example, the laws have significantly improved in terms of gender equality. The same applies to Saudi Arabia and other countries. Nevertheless, there is no doubt there is societal and political resistance to gender equality changes.
Arab women’s journey from being commodities, subordinates or puppets to people with equal rights and duties, capable of playing an active role in public life, has a long way to go and is full of difficulties.
The plight of Arab women is ongoing. Their journey from being a commodity, subordinate or puppet to becoming a person with equal rights and duties, playing an active role in public life and politics, has a long way to go and is full of difficulties.
Many Arab regimes, whether conservative or revolutionary, only work to perpetuate the position of women as subordinates. Arab societies that have undergone revolutions, except partially for Tunisia, have not been preoccupied with the status of women and the need for change. Military regimes choose to work on transforming women into soldiers, showing them off on official occasions, while Islamists have found in women another subject for disciplinary measures under sacred texts.
The repugnant old style, which is based on showing off and praising a well-known female figure here and another business woman there to show that we have made significant progress in gender equality, is still dominant. In fact, the topic of addressing gender issues is not often present in public debates, or it is sometimes used to prove Western conspiracies, especially when calling for societal and behavioral reforms.
Women’s rights are a crucial issue for the resurrection of the Arab region. This cause is taken up by a limited number of feminists, jurists and activists in civil society organizations, as well as advocates and supporters of principled convictions; however, they have very limited influence. The same applies to Western pressures exerted on our governments, as the latter circumvents international demands, applying minor refinements without addressing the heart of the problem.
Women can no longer bear the slightest possibility of not criminalizing what they are subjected to, while using other designations to take into consideration someone’s feelings or someone else’s beliefs. For decades, feminist groups have been working on addressing this reality. They have been following pivotal agendas at times and progressive ones at others, either to highlight complex problems, make the needed changes in behavioral and intellectual patterns, or push toward the desired legal amendments. Without equal laws between us, Arab men and women will never move forward, and being idle in this case should not be countenanced.
**Diana Moukalled is a veteran journalist with extensive experience in both traditional and new media. She is also a columnist and freelance documentary producer. Twitter: @dianamoukalled

Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on March 07-08/18
Pope praises Pyeongchang Olympics as bridge to peace
Wed 07 Mar 2018/NNA - Pope Francis has praised the Pyeongchang Olympics for showing that sport can "build bridges between countries in conflict and give a valid contribution to peace."Francis delivered the message during his general audience Wednesday ahead of the start of the Paralympics. Francis praised the paralympic athletes as "examples of courage, perseverance and tenacity in not letting limitations have the last word."During the recent Winter Olympics, North and South Korean officials met, and a summit is now scheduled for the first time in a decade. Francis, who has expressed repeated alarm about the prospects of nuclear conflict on the Korean peninsula, said the just-completed games showed how sport can bring peace, and the paralympics even moreso. He offered prayers "for peace and joy for all." -- AP

U.N. Says Syria Regime Planning Next 'Apocalypse'
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/March 07/18/Another "apocalypse" orchestrated by the Syrian regime and its foreign allies will follow the devastating crisis unfolding in the rebel-held enclave of Eastern Ghouta, the U.N. human rights chief said Wednesday. "This month, it is Eastern Ghouta which is, in the words of the Secretary General, hell on earth;next month or the month after, it will be somewhere else where people face an apocalypse -– an apocalypse intended, planned and executed by individuals within the government, apparently with the full backing of some of their foreign supporters," Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said in his annual report to the United Nations Human Rights Council.

Kurdish, Arab Fighters Drop IS Fight to Defend Syria's Afrin
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/March 07/18/Hundreds of miles away from family and friends facing an attack by Turkey, Kurdish and Arab forces deployed in the eastern Syrian desert against jihadists have become increasingly frustrated. Six weeks into the Turkey-led assault on the Kurdish enclave of Afrin, young men and women are leaving the fight against the Islamic State group in droves to head west to help. Kurdish militia have formed the backbone of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an alliance that has successfully expelled IS from much of Syria with the backing of a US-led military coalition. But as news of the battle in Afrin reaches them, the fighters have become reluctant to hunt down jihadists in their last hideouts in Deir Ezzor province. "We're preparing to head to Afrin," SDF fighter Roshavam Qamishlo told AFP on Saturday. The enclave "needs us now more than ever."
He spoke at the funeral of three comrades-in-arms in the northeastern town of Qamishli, where dozens came to pay their respects to those killed in Deir Ezzor. "They should have died in Afrin," he said, as their coffins were displayed in the middle of the crowd, draped in the Kurdish colors of yellow, red and green. Arab fighters, too, have opted to ditch battlefronts against IS to shore up lines of defence in Afrin. On Tuesday, SDF commander Abu Omar al-Idlibi said 1,700 of his fighters -- mostly Arabs from northern Syria whose families had sought refuge in Afrin -- would be sent to defend the enclave in the coming week.
All want to go
Afrin, which is controlled by the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) militia, is one of three regions Syria's Kurds hope will be part of a self-ruled federal region in the country's north. Turkey sees the YPG as a "terrorist" group and has bombarded the region with air strikes and artillery fire since January 20. More than 170 civilians have died in the assault, says the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitor. Ankara however denies the claim and says it takes the "utmost care" to avoid civilian casualties. The offensive has prompted a call-to-arms for the YPG and SDF, and one senior SDF official says "hundreds of fighters from Afrin and who have relatives there have returned to defend" their people. As a result, the U.S.-led coalition declared an "operational pause" to its anti-IS fight in eastern Syria on Monday. U.S. and coalition officials have said they will not get involved in the Afrin fighting and expressed concern it would detract from the SDF's operations against IS. In addition to reinforcements from IS battlefronts, other fighters have streamed into Afrin from Qamishli, Hasakeh in the northeast and Kobane further west, says Rezan Hedo, an adviser to the YPG in Afrin. Others even traveled from the Kurdish neighborhood of Sheikh Maqsud in the northern city of Aleppo, Hedo tells AFP. In Qamishli, another fighter who gave his nom de guerre as Nushin Qamishlo said he would also join the fight on the Turkish border. "We all want to go," said the 25-year-old, who sported a thick beard and whose head was wrapped in a bright blue scarf.
A fair solution
"We're highly capable and will take on the Turks even without the coalition's help."Fighter Al-Ashqar Nuseen feared losing Afrin could be a huge blow to his long-awaited dreams of a federal Syrian Kurdish region. "We will defend Afrin with all our might, taking on the Turks like we did Daesh," he said, using an Arabic acronym for IS. Ali Omar, 65, a Syrian Kurdish bystander at the funeral in Qamishli, said he supported the Kurdish fighters withdrawing from Deir Ezzor. "When it's our interests, our people, our villages and our towns that are threatened, we're forced to leave everything and head to defend our homeland," he said. But he questioned why the U.S.-led coalition, which the Kurds have aided in its fight against IS in Syria, had not intervened to help the Kurds in Afrin. "Why are we helping you in Deir Ezzor and other places, and you don't help us in Afrin?"Without help from any outside power, Syria's Kurds have found themselves in the awkward position of having to ask for support from the Damascus regime. Since last month, pro-regime fighters have been deployed alongside Kurdish fighters in Afrin on several fronts. Abdel Salam Ahmad, a high-ranking official of the Kurdish Democratic Society Movement, said Syria's Kurds have lost faith in the international community. "This region will not find stability until a fair solution is found for the Kurdish people," he said.

Syria Regime Sends Hundreds of Reinforcements to Ghouta
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/March 07/18/Hundreds more pro-regime fighters have been deployed to front lines in Syria's Eastern Ghouta, a monitor said on Wednesday, tightening the noose around the shrinking rebel enclave. "At least 700 Afghan, Palestinian, and Syrian loyalist militiamen came from Aleppo and were sent late Tuesday to Ghouta," said Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The Britain-based monitor said the reinforcements were deployed to two main battlefronts on the western side of the enclave, including the town of Harasta. The Syrian army and allied militia launched an offensive on February 18 to retake Eastern Ghouta, the last rebel-controlled region near the capital Damascus. They have since recaptured more than 40 percent of the enclave with support from a devastating bombing campaign that has killed more than 800 civilians. By Wednesday, government troops were at the edges of several key towns, including Misraba, Beit Sawa, Jisreen and Hammuriyeh. AFP correspondents in Eastern Ghouta heard warplanes overhead carrying all out strikes on the battleground towns. Two barrel bombs hit al-Rihan, near the enclave's largest town of Douma. The raids came despite a daily "humanitarian pause" announced by Russia last week that is meant to bring calm to Eastern Ghouta between 9:00 am (0700 GMT) and 2:00 pm each day. Moscow's initiative has fallen short of the U.N. Security Council's demand more than a week ago for an immediate ceasefire for Eastern Ghouta. The council is to meet at 1500 GMT on Wednesday to discuss the failure of the truce to take hold.

Strikes Hit Syria's Battered Ghouta as Death Toll Hits 800
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/March 07/18/Heavy air strikes and clashes shook the Syrian rebel enclave of Eastern Ghouta ahead of an urgent U.N. Security Council meeting Wednesday on the escalating violence. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 805 civilians -- including at least 178 children -- have been killed since Russia-backed regime forces launched an assault on the besieged enclave outside Damascus on February 18. Russia suffered its own heavy losses on Tuesday as the defense ministry said a Russian transport plane crash landed at an airbase in western Syria, killing all 39 people on board. Bombardment and clashes in Eastern Ghouta, the last major rebel stronghold near Damascus, have persisted despite a month-long ceasefire demanded by the Security Council more than a week ago. At least 24 civilians were killed on Tuesday, according to the Observatory, a Britain-based monitor. The relentless attacks prompted France and Britain to request an emergency meeting of the top U.N. body behind closed doors on Wednesday to discuss the ceasefire's failure to take hold. Government troops have advanced rapidly across farmland in Eastern Ghouta in the past week and had wrested control of 40 percent of the enclave as of early Tuesday. In the enclave's main town of Douma, air strikes have reduced homes to piles of rubble, an AFP correspondent reported. Exhausted civil defense workers on Tuesday took advantage of a few hours of calm to dislodge the body of a resident, killed in bombardment several days ago, from a collapsed building. Eastern Ghouta's around 400,000 residents have lived under government siege since 2013, facing severe shortages of food and medicines even before the latest offensive began. Forty-six aid trucks entered the area on Monday for the first time since the offensive started, but had to cut short their deliveries and leave due to heavy bombardment. Nearly half of the food carried on the convoy could not be delivered and Syrian authorities removed some medical and health supplies from the trucks, the United Nations said. In a statement on Tuesday U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he "calls on all parties to immediately allow safe and unimpeded access for further convoys to deliver critical supplies to hundreds of thousands of people in desperate need". He urged all warring sides to allow aid trucks to return for a planned second delivery to Douma on Thursday.
Rebels fire mortars
Civilians in the area used the lull in air strikes to venture out from cellars to gather a few necessities from what was left of their homes. Some gathered the pieces of furniture smashed in the raids to use as fuel or sell to their neighbors. An AFP reporter in Hammuriyeh said air strikes were continuing to pummel the town on Tuesday. The raids came after around 18 people suffered breathing difficulties in the town following a strike there late Monday, the Observatory reported. It had no firm word on the cause. "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 after the aid convoy ended its mission on Monday. 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 area is the last opposition bastion on the Syrian capital's doorstep, and the regime is keen to retake it to secure Damascus. Rebels there have fired waves of rockets and mortars onto eastern Damascus neighborhoods. On Tuesday, three civilians were killed and eight wounded in mortar fire on the neighborhood of Jarmana, according to state news agency SANA.
Corridor' expanded to rebels?
Regime ally Russia last week announced a five-hour daily "humanitarian pause" in the region, during which it said it would guarantee safe passage to civilians wishing to flee the enclave. No Syrian civilians are known to have used the "humanitarian corridor."On Tuesday, Russia announced that the exit route had been expanded to allow rebels, not just civilians, to leave the enclave. Russia's air force intervened in Syria in 2015 on behalf of President Bashar al-Assad, helping his troops retake key cities across the country. It has been repeatedly accused of hitting civilians, and U.N. investigators on Tuesday said a Russian strike on a crowded Syrian market last year may amount to a "war crime." The air strikes on a market in rebel-held Atareb in northern Syria last November 13 killed at least 84 people, including five children, and injured around 150 others, the U.N. Commission of Inquiry on human rights in Syria said in its latest report. Moscow's defence ministry said on Tuesday that a Russian transport plane crashed on landing at the Hmeimim airbase, killing 33 passengers and six crew members -- all military personnel. "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. 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.

Netanyahu Warns against 'Tyrant' Iran
Washington - /Asharq Al Awsat/March 07/18/Addressing a crowd at the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference in Washington on Tuesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned against the "tyranny in Tehran" and its aggressive empire. "Darkness is descending on our region. Iran is building an aggressive empire," he said. Recalling a title from the famous “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly,” a movie by Sergio Leone, the prime minister gave a 30-minute speech on the “good, bad and beautiful” in Israel and the region. Netanyahu said the good news is coming out of Israel, regarding its technology, military and intelligence expertise. However, he said the overwhelmingly bad thing was Iran. "The force behind so much of what is bad is this radical tyranny in Iran. I have a message for you today, it's a very simple one: we must stop Iran, we will stop Iran," the PM said. During the speech, Netanyahu pointed to a map showing Iran’s inroads in the region colored in black, and said the Republic was trying to establish a land bridge from Tehran to Tartus on the Mediterranean. “It wants to build precision-guided missile factories in Syria and Lebanon,” he stated. “We won’t let that happen.”Netanyahu distinguished between the Iranian regime and the Iranian people, saying “the historic friendship between the people of Israel and the people of Persia will be reestablished.”He said that when he last spoke at the AIPAC in 2015, he had warned the world about a nuclear deal that was a threat to the survival of Israel.
“I warned that the deal gives Iran a clear path towards developing a nuclear arsenal in little more than a decade.”The PM thanked Trump for his vow to tear up the deal and said Israel would back such a move. “We will never let Iran develop nuclear weapons. Not now, not in 10 years, not ever,” he said.

Palestinians to Suspend Recognition of Israel
Ramallah - Kifah Ziboun/Asharq Al Awsat/March 07/18/Palestinian officials rejected on Tuesday US President Donald Trump’s call to return to peace negotiations, saying that he has isolated himself and Washington from any role in the political operation when he recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
They therefore added that they may suspend recognition of Israel as a state and seek to “internationalize” the conflict. Senior negotiator Saeb Erekat said that Palestinians will suspend recognition of Israel in response to Trump’s decision on Jerusalem.  “Trump wanted to remove Jerusalem from the negotiations table,” he said in a statement. “Instead, he has removed the United States from the negotiations table. We have no option but to implement the recommendations of the Central Council to suspend recognition of Israel until Israel recognizes Palestine.”Trump had said during a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that he himself may inaugurate the US Embassy in Jerusalem in May, expressing pride with his decision. Mohammad Ashtiya, Fatah member and a close adviser to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, stated that the Palestinian Authority will not return to the negotiations table and that bilateral negotiations yielded no results. “No matter what, the Palestinian authority will not return to this path. This approach is over,” he said, accusing the US administration of being part of the problem. The Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs slammed Trump and his administration, saying that it did not derive lessons from the disastrous decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. In a statement, the ministry said that Trump’s statements affirm that he is misreading the facts of the Palestinian-Israeli struggle. It stressed that there can be no solution without the Palestinian people regaining their national rights. There can be no solution for the struggle unless East Jerusalem is declared the capital of Palestine, it added.

French Official Sources Defend Le Drian’s Visit to Tehran
Paris - Michel Abou Najm/March 07/18/French media agreed on Tuesday that Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian has returned from his visit to Tehran “empty-handed”, and has failed to change the Iranian stance on several issues, including Iran’s ballistic missile program and Tehran’s regional policy and its supposed structural reforms to generate foreign investment and improve trade and economic partnerships. However, French diplomatic sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that although they support such analysis, they believe that the purpose of the visit was not “to have Iran sign a pledge”, but that the French minister sought to explain his country’s position and demands in front of a wide spectrum of reformists and non-reformists. These sources added that the other objective was to express “the concerns of Paris based on our information and our reading of the current situation and the problems associated with the nuclear agreement, Iran’s ballistic missile program and regional policy”, which President Emmanuel Macron and Le Drian had expressed on several occasions. Paris considers Le Drian’s recent visit as the first opportunity for French diplomacy to “take full account of Iran’s political spectrum and look directly at its diversity,” according to the sources. As revealed by the diplomatic sources, the rhetoric used by Secretary-General of the Supreme National Security Council Ali Shamkhani on the fate of the nuclear agreement and the language used by President Hassan Rouhani were “really divergent.” While the former said there was “no cause for concern” if Washington broke the agreement, threatening that Iran was ready to abandon the deal, Rouhani, on the other hand, expressed “adherence” to it. But what seemed to be incomprehensible was the cancellation of Le Drian’s meeting with Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani. Paris did not mention the reasons for the annulment of the meeting.The official sources said that during the foreign minister’s visit, each side has presented in detail its arguments and analysis of the situation. Le Drian held more than six hours of “frank and direct” discussions, twice the time initially allotted to him. In addition, the Iranian side showed “interest” in pursuing discussions with the French official, who was the first European minister concerned with the nuclear file to visit Tehran since US President Donald Trump threatened to veto the agreement if it was not amended sufficiently.
However, all these discussions did not make the Iranian side change its positions or show flexibility or openness towards the demands that Le Drian has presented, which included framing Iran’s missile program and pursuing a “different policy” towards its direct and indirect neighborhood.

Turkey Urges US to Halt Kurdish Redeployment to Afrin
Asharq Al Awsat/March 07/18/Turkey called on Washington Wednesday to prevent US-backed Kurds from sending fighters deployed against ISIS militants to shore up Kurdish forces battling a Turkish offensive in northwestern Syria’s Afrin region. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's spokesman said that Ankara wants the US to "step in and prevent" the redeployment. Turkey sent troops into the Afrin enclave on Jan. 20 to drive out Syrian Kurdish fighters it considers to be terrorists.US officials have warned that Turkey's offensive could undermine the fight against the ISIS. Erdogan's spokesman, Ibrahim Kalin, rejected that, saying the aim was to clear Syria of all terror groups. At a news conference on Tuesday, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) announced it would pull fighters out of areas of eastern Syria, where they have been fighting pockets of ISIS militants, 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 ISS to head to the Afrin battle," said Abu Omar al-Idlibi, an SDF commander, saying his fighters numbered 1,700. US and coalition officials have said they will not get involved in the Afrin fighting and expressed concern it would detract from the SDF's operations against ISIS. But Idlibi said: “Our people in Afrin are our priority. Protecting them is more important than the international coalition's decisions." He said his units, mostly made up of Syrian Arabs from the north of the country, were to be redeployed in the coming week.

More Deadly Boko Haram Attacks as Tillerson Focuses on Security in Africa Visit
Asharq Al Awsat/March 07/18/Boko Haram killed 10 people in three separate attacks in northeast Nigeria, in the latest violence against civilians in the restive region and on the eve of US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s visit to the country. On Tuesday, four loggers were killed when they stepped on a landmine left by the militants near Dikwa, 90 kilometers east of the Borno state capital, Maiduguri. The four had gone to retrieve a vehicle abandoned the previous day following a Boko Haram ambush that left three dead. "Four people died yesterday (Tuesday) just outside Dikwa as a result of an explosion from a mine planted by Boko Haram," Babakura Kolo, a militia leader in Maiduguri, told AFP. "They were among a team of loggers who were attacked by Boko Haram on Monday while on their way to the bush to collect firewood under security escort. "Three loggers were killed in the attack while the rest fled to Dikwa and left behind a pickup van." Another militia leader, Ibrahim Liman, gave a similar account of the incident. Also on Tuesday, three people were killed in Gamboru on the border with Cameroon, said Umar Kachalla, a militia leader who is based in the town. He said the attackers sneaked into the town on foot. "They slaughtered their first victim in the Kasuwar Shanu area and looted his provision store before moving to Fulatari area where they shot dead two residents," he said. The motive for the killings were unclear, he added. Tillerson flew to Africa on Wednesday at the start of his first diplomatic trip to the continent to bolster security alliances. He is scheduled to visit several countries, including Nigeria and Chad, both major oil-producers struggling to contain Boko Haram’s nine-year insurgency which has killed at least 20,000 and forced some 2.6 million others to flee their homes.

Second Air Disaster for Russia in 24 Hours
Asharq Al Awsat/March 07/18/At least five people were killed on Wednesday when a Russian security services helicopter crashed in the Chechnya region, the second air disaster to hit Russia in 24 hours. RIA news agency reported had initially reported there were seven dead, but later said at least five were killed. Russian news agencies said there were a total of nine people on board. On Tuesday, an An-26 Russian transport plane crashed on landing at the Hmeimim airbase in Syria , the defense ministry said, killing all 39 people on board in one of the deadliest incidents since Moscow's intervention in the country's war.The ministry said the 33 passengers and six crew members of the twin-engine plane were all military personnel, in a statement carried by news agencies, revising up an earlier toll of 32. "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 Russian Defense Ministry said a general was among those killed, and Russian media identified him as Maj. Gen. Vladimir Yeremeyev. It was the second Russian military plane to crash in Syria this year, after a Su-25 ground attack jet was struck by a portable air defense missile over the northern Idlib province last month.

UN Suspects ‘Acts of Genocide’ Committed against Rohingya in Myanmar
Asharq Al Awsat/March 07/18/The United Nations human rights chief accused on Wednesday Myanmar authorities of deliberately attempting to “destroy evidence of potential international crimes, including possible crimes against humanity.”Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein said that he strongly suspected that "acts of genocide" may have taken place against Muslim Rohingyas in Myanmar's northern Rakhine state since August. Speaking before the UN Human Rights Council, Zeid noted that his office said on Tuesday that it believes ethnic cleansing is still underway in Rakhine state. Nearly 700,000 Rohingya have fled Rakhine into Bangladesh since insurgent attacks sparked a security crackdown in August, joining 200,000 refugees from a previous exodus. Rohingya are still fleeing because of "systematic" if lower-intensity persecution and violence there, Zeid said. "Victims have reported killings, rape, torture and abductions by the security forces and local militia, as well as apparently deliberate attempts to force the Rohingya to leave the area through starvation, with officials blocking their access to crops and food supplies," he told the Geneva forum. There was no immediate comment by the Myanmar government. In the Council, its delegation is allowed to respond on Thursday. Zeid’s office had received reports of land inhabited by Rohingya being appropriated and members of other ethnic groups replacing them. "A recent announcement that seven soldiers and three police officers will be brought to justice for the alleged extra-judicial killing of ten Rohingya men is grossly insufficient," he added. Myanmar's government must take steps to provide real accountability for violations and respect the rights of Rohingya, including to citizenship, Zeid said. A fact-finding mission set up by the Council, headed by former Indonesian Attorney-General Marzuki Darusman, is due to report on its initial findings on Monday after interviewing victims and survivors in Bangladesh and other countries. Pending their final report, the UN General Assembly should establish a new independent mechanism to expedite criminal proceedings in courts against those responsible, Zeid said. In Bangladesh meanwhile, a cabinet accused Myanmar of obstructing efforts to repatriate the hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees there. Finance minister A.M.A Muhith said it was unlikely the displaced Muslims would ever return to their homeland. The repatriation deal signed between Myanmar and Bangladesh in November would likely fail despite his government's official stance that the refugees must eventually go back, he continued. "I do not believe the Rohingya can be sent back," Muhith, an outspoken minister from the ruling party, told reporters late Tuesday in Dhaka after meeting with a British charity. "You can speculate that very few will return to Burma. The first reason is that Burma will only take a few and secondly is that the refugees will never return if they fear persecution," he added, using another name for Myanmar. Bangladesh insists the repatriation process will go ahead, last month submitting to Myanmar the names of 8,000 refugees expected to return to Rakhine state. But the plan has courted controversy from the outset. Rights groups and the UN have warned that conditions for their return are not close to being in place. Refugees living in camps in southeastern Bangladesh have also resisted the idea, fearing they will not be safe if they return to Rakhine. Under the agreement, the first of a proposed 750,000 returnees were scheduled to begin crossing the border in late January. But the process stalled, with Myanmar and Bangladesh blaming the other for a lack of preparedness for the huge undertaking. Muhith said Myanmar would "take 15 a day when there is one million", referring to the Rohingya in camps strung along the border.
"They (Myanmar) are absolute evil," he added.

British FM to Asharq Al-Awsat: We Want End to Iranian Missiles Fired at Saudi Arabia
London - Ibrahim Hamidi/Asharq Al Awsat/March 07/18/British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson stressed on Tuesday that the visit to London by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense, will pave the way for new strategic ties with Riyadh.
He told Asharq Al-Awsat that talks with Saudi officials will discuss bolstering bilateral ties, as well as the situation in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia has the right to defend its security, he stressed. It is completely unacceptable that Iranian missiles are launched at the Kingdom by the Houthis in Yemen.
He demanded an end to such violations, saying that London shares Riyadh’s concern over Iran’s role in the Middle East. Addressing the crisis in Yemen, the official stated that a political settlement must accept including a role for the Houthis in the Yemen government.
Iran’s role in Yemen must be reined in, he demanded. Turning to Syria, Johnson described the situation there as a “major tragedy”. He said that he agreed with Saudi Arabia on the need to launch negotiations in Geneva and kick off the political process. He also deemed as heinous the developments in Eastern Ghouta that has for weeks come under intense regime bombardment that has left hundreds of civilians dead. Johnson hoped that the Russians and Syrian regime would be convinced that they cannot win the war this way. They are sowing spite for generations to come, he warned. A political process is necessary and the Syrian opposition should be part of discussions to reach a political settlement in the country. Commenting on the regime’s chemical attacks, Johnson said that it should be held accountable for its disgusting actions. Asked to confirm whether US President Donald Trump was studying the possibility of launching a new strike against Syria, he replied that there was no specific proposal. He added however that the US president’s decision last year to attack the Shayrat base in April was the right call. Washington ordered the strike in wake of a chemical attack in Syria’s Khan Sheikhoun region a few days earlier. Addressing Prince Mohammed’s visit to London, Johnson noted that the Crown Prince had launched a reform program in Saudi Arabia, saying that he is headed in the right direction. This encourages London to bolster cooperation with Riyadh. He hailed the Crown Prince for shifting Saudi Arabia away from dependence on oil and steering it towards artificial intelligence and information economy. Johonson said that this opens up possibilities for partnership in cultural, health, transportation, technology, education and political fields with the Kingdom.  The British government, he explained, will hope to address building a partnership that extends not just to the near future, but establishes infrastructure that can extend to generations to come. The changes introduced in a great and leading Muslim country such as Saudi Arabia will pave the way for change throughout the Islamic world, predicted Johnson, while citing Riyadh’s decision to allow women to drive and decision to open movie theaters in the Kingdom. He voiced his admiration for Prince Mohammed, hoping that Britain could be a part of the new changes in Saudi Arabia.
Trump Steps Up Trade Threats as Cohn Resigns in Protest
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/March 07/18/White House economic advisor Gary Cohn became the latest casualty of President Donald Trump's tumultuous administration,resigning in protest Tuesday as Trump stepped up his threats of steep tariffs on steel, aluminum and European cars. Asian stocks opened lower Wednesday amid fears the American president would embark on a more protectionist drive, despite US stocks finishing higher partly due to expectations for a detente in the Korean peninsula but with investors still struggling to discern whether Trump would follow through on restrictive trade measures. Cohn led the charge on a tax cut proposal approved by Congress in December, but lost the internal struggle against more protectionist voices over trade tariffs. "Gary has been my chief economic advisor and did a superb job in driving our agenda," Trump said in a statement. "He is a rare talent, and I thank him for his dedicated service." The White House downplayed the idea Cohn resigned over more aggressive trade policies, but only moments before the announcement, Trump showed no signs of backing down even in the face of opposition from his own party. Speaking to reporters, Trump said he was elected to protect American workers and industries that had been harmed by years of unfair trade policies. "Our country has been taken advantage of by everybody. By everybody. And we cannot let that happen any longer," Trump said during a joint press conference with Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven. But Trump's aggressive plan to punish abusers by imposing 25 percent tariffs on steel and 10 percent on aluminum, against friend and foe alike, angered U.S. trading partners. It also startled U.S. automakers and firms that rely on those metals and the free flow of trade.
Even administration officials were caught off guard by the announcement late last week, since the legal review had not been completed. Reports of Cohn's likely resignation began to circulate almost immediately. It appears the 57-year-old former Goldman Sachs executive was drowned out by a decidedly more protectionist team including trade adviser Peter Navarro and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. Trump, in a tweet, said he would "soon" appoint a replacement. "Many people wanting the job - will choose wisely!" he wrote.
Republican opposition
Cohn is the latest in a long string of senior advisors to resign or be fired, a virtually unprecedented turnover of administration staff. Hope Hicks, perhaps Trump's most trusted confidante, announced last Wednesday that she would resign as communications director.
Her move followed the departures of chief of staff Reince Priebus, national security advisor Michael Flynn, and others. Markets became convinced Tuesday that the tariffs might not be that bad and a trade war could be averted, but Cohn's departure could portend a rocky trading session on Wednesday. The tariff plan -- which Trump followed up with a threat to impose "reciprocal taxes" on all imports from countries that charge duties on U.S. exports -- also sent shivers through Republican leaders, whose party has traditionally embraced free trade. House Speaker Paul Ryan was in the vanguard, calling on Trump to have a "smarter" plan that was "more surgical and more targeted." While there was "clearly abuse occurring" regarding overcapacity and dumping particularly by China, protectionist measures could have the "unintended consequences" of a trade war, Ryan told reporters.
But Trump once again dismissed the concerns about sparking a global confrontation, saying "trade wars aren't so bad... the trade war hurts them. It doesn't hurt us."
Retaliation and counter-retaliation
Earlier Tuesday, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Trump understands "the potential impact" of the measures on the economy. Mnuchin noted that he has been working on the specifics of the tariff plan, which will be announced this week, "and I think we have a way of managing through this." Trump himself said, somewhat cryptically, that the measures will be imposed "in a long, loving way."Despite those apparent assurances, the EU already has threatened to retaliate against American blue jeans, bourbon and Harley-Davidson motorcycles. Mexico's Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo vowed Tuesday to fight back against US tariffs and target "the things they export that are most politically sensitive."Trump again hit out at the threats of countermeasures, saying if the EU reacts, "then we put a big tax of 25 percent on their cars and believe me, they won't be doing it very long."
He also criticized Europe for making it "almost impossible for us do business with them."It is just that kind of tit-for-tat confrontation that has economists fearing a real chance of a trade war that could do serious global economic damage. Economist Ian Shepherdson of High Frequency economics said Trump is "playing with fire." "While the steel and aluminum industries are tiny relative to the overall economy, tariffs on those sectors are likely to lead to retaliation from other countries, with the Trump administration then potentially retaliating against the retaliation," he said in a research note.

Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on March 07-08/18
We’re not Bystanders in Syria’s Devastation. Some of the Rubble Is Ours.
Colbert I. King/The Washington Post/March 07/18
“He died hungry. He didn’t eat. At least he will have food in heaven.” The agony of a heartbroken mother in a faraway place called Eastern Ghouta in Syria. She cried. All she could do was cry. She had nothing to give him to eat. In a world that seems to throw away as much food as it consumes, that little boy, dwelling in a bombed-out village 20 minutes from Damascus, starved.
Oh, but that’s Syria, you say: One more place in the Middle East where people are fighting and dying all the time; where bombs fall like rain from the sky and they may be running out of places to bury the dead.
What does that have to do with us? We have enough on our hands here at home, you say.
And you aren’t wrong. We have much to worry about right here. But armed militias aren’t roaming our streets the way they do there. We don’t live in fear of rockets, napalm and chemical weapons being dropped on our homes. We aren’t cut off from food and medicine. We don’t have to dig through rubble to find our children or our mother or that neighbor down the street who couldn’t get around too well.
But, yes, people are also dying here before their time.
They die in schools, at movie theaters, at concerts and dances. They die on darkened streets and in alleys. They die at the hands of people not armed with grenades and suicide vests but with pistols, rifles, knives and opiates.
Yes, we have much to worry about.
Next month’s rent. Medical results. Ridicule. Abandonment. Broken heart. An empty house, empty arms, a loveless life.
The only place where there are no problems is the place where nobody lives, said one of my teachers. But I go back to that little boy in Ghouta. He didn’t do anything to anybody. Too innocent to hate, too small to hurt anyone, too weak to live. “He died hungry,” his mother wept. She said those words in a country where the United States has dumped more than $7.7 billion in humanitarian aid and hundreds of millions in direct aid to the Syrian opposition. Whether the mother knows it or not, today she shares her country with 2,000 US troops.
Therefore, what happens to her and her massacred town of Eastern Ghouta, and the son she buried, does have a little something to do with us.
We here in Washington demanded that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad relinquish power. We here in Washington, under President Barack Obama, put CIA forces on the ground in 2013 to train moderate Syrian rebels opposed to Assad, only to have them pulled out — to the delight of a demanding Russia — by an accommodating President Trump. The program under Obama was widely derided as ineffective, but no one wanted it ended more than Vladi­mir Putin.
US officials recently confirmed that they plan to continue to hold on to about 28 percent of Syrian territory, in partnership with the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces. “But those plans are increasingly in conflict with the other major international players in the war-torn country,” wrote Jonathan Spyer in Foreign Policy magazine. The carnage goes on.
It’s no better for the United States in Afghanistan, where we have been engaged in nearly 17 years of war costing up to $1 trillion, and what do we have to show for it? A Taliban opposition force that controls large sections of the country. And more US troops on the way.
As in Syria, we have the tiger by the tail.
So when stories of deadly attacks in some far-flung corners of the Middle East manage to get squeezed into the 24-hour news cycle, don’t change the channel.
Count on it: We are not bystanders. Some of the rubble is ours.
Just as, on the basis of our human existence, that little boy was ours.
“At least he will have food in heaven.” Because his life was made nothing but hell on earth.

Why Trump Is Reluctant to Escalate the Cyber War With Russia
Eli Lake/Bloomberg/March 07/18
Democrats are furious. Leaders of the US intelligence community have no doubt that Russian trolls, bots and hackers are planning to meddle in the midterm elections this fall, and to date President Donald Trump has not instructed his cyber generals to hit back.
This was the upshot of Senate testimony Tuesday from Admiral Mike Rogers, the director of the National Security Agency and chief of US Cyber Command. He was repeating a warning voiced by intelligence community leaders earlier this month. Asked if he has been directed by the White House to counter the coming Russian offensive in cyberspace, Rogers responded that he has not.
In this hyper-partisan moment, it's understandable that the remarks of the NSA director will be used as a cudgel. In Trump, the Russians got what they paid for, the argument goes. But like most matters of Russia policy, it's a bit more complicated.
Rogers was responding in part to a question about whether he had been told to try to stop Russian hackers at their "point of origin." That means offensive cyber operations designed to shut down, overwhelm or monitor the servers and networks Russia uses to hype fake news, hack Americans and sow chaos in US politics. These would be some of the most sensitive operations conducted by the US government. In such cyber warfare, the rules of escalation and engagement are still not clear.
In this sense Rogers was airing a debate that has raged inside the national security state since 2015. That year, as the Washington Post first reported in December, David Cohen, then deputy CIA director, circulated a menu of covert operations aimed at taking on Russian propaganda on the internet at the source. The options included setting up anti-Kremlin trolls and disabling the servers used by Russian trolls. A US official familiar with the options says these options also included outing the online personas of Russian operatives posing as American activists. As the Post reported, the proposal divided the administration at the time and never reached the president for a decision.
After the 2016 election, some of those ideas were revisited when the Obama administration began drawing up a retaliation policy for Russian meddling that year against the Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton. Some of the retaliation was public, such as the decision to shut down Russian facilities that doubled as spy hubs. The cyber component, however, was left for the Trump administration to implement.
A White House official told me on Tuesday that these measures are contentious within the wider government. Rogers and the NSA, for example, are looking for more authority to begin staging these kinds of attacks, asking for what the NSA in a recent strategy paper called greater "agility" to quickly approve operations as threats gather.
Meanwhile others inside the administration, like Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Secretary of Defense James Mattis, are wary. There are risks to America's broader reputation if a cyber weapon causes broader damage to the digital infrastructure of allies or countries that were not the target of the attack. This is what happened in the case of a Russian virus, NotPetya, deployed initially against Ukraine's banking infrastructure that spread into the wider internet.
There are turf issues as well. As the Post reported in December, one element that has slowed down the cyber retaliation against Russia has been confusion over whether this falls under National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster or Tom Bossert, the top White House official in charge of homeland security.
Finally, there is the very real prospect of escalation. Columbia University researcher and cyber expert Jason Healey made this point in a piece this week. He wrote that Putin saw his election interference in 2016 as a response to what he perceived was the US government's role in releasing the Panama Papers, a trove of secret bank records that exposed offshore wealth hidden by a number of high government officials, including Putin.
Healey told me that the task for policy makers is to get the right balance for cyber actions against Russia related to the election this year. "Trying to get this calibration right -- of something that is just disruptive enough that it throws off the Russian game, but not so severe that they feel they need to come back heavier -- is what needs to happen," he said.
The problem is that Putin has won the contest of what military planners call "escalation dominance" for now. He proved he was willing to go further in 2016 than the established cyber contest between the US and Russia. In some ways, Russia already showed it was willing to go beyond previously established understandings of cyber warfare when in 2014 hackers made public a recording of a phone call of former US Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland talking with the US ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt.
Healey says Putin can do worse. "We are seething, and I respect that," he told me. But he said it's worth thinking through how Putin can further escalate. "What if he decides to release the personal information of the people on the Cyber Mission Force?" he asked. It would not be hard for Russian spies to get hold of that. In 2015, Chinese hackers pilfered the personnel records of 4 million US government workers from the Office of Personnel Management, the government agency that keeps records of US security clearances, among other things.
None of this is an excuse for inaction. Russia's troll farms and hackers should be probed and disrupted. State voting systems should be hardened before the midterm elections. But cyber warfare is complicated. There are honest reasons the Trump administration would want to proceed carefully, so as not to escalate a cyber war with Russia.

Palestinians: The Arabs Do Not Care about Us
Khaled Abu Toameh/Gatestone Institute/March 07/18
The Palestinians appear to be the only ones in the Arab world who are coming out on a daily basis against a plan no one has seen.
This Arab apathy towards the Palestinians is the result of a long-standing belief in the Arab world that the Palestinians are an ungrateful people who do not hesitate to bite the hand that feeds them.
When Trump finally does announce his Middle East peace plan, the Palestinians will discover that they are alone in threatening to thwart it.
The Palestinian Authority (PA) has been working hard to persuade the Arab countries to support its position in the standoff with the US administration.
The PA leadership in Ramallah fears that without the backing of the Arab countries, the US administration will "impose" President Donald Trump's "deal of the century" -- the yet-to-be-announced plan for peace in the Middle East.
The Arab countries, however, appear to be preoccupied with other matters. For now, the Palestinians are getting much lip service from their Arab brothers, including promises to put pressure on the Trump administration possibly to "modify" its plan to make it less "harmful" to Palestinian demands and aspirations.
What is actually happening is that the PA leadership is terrified that many of the Arab countries will support the Trump plan, thus abandoning their Palestinian brothers and leaving them exposed to international pressure to accept the "deal of the century." This fear does not seem to be unjustified.
Palestinian officials have already voiced concern that Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and some Gulf countries are in collusion with the Trump administration to "impose" the peace plan, the details of which have yet to be made public.
These Arab countries, the Palestinians point out, have endorsed a more pragmatic and conciliatory approach towards the reputed peace plan and are no longer expressing strong opposition to it, despite Palestinian claims that the main points of the "deal of the century" endorse the positions of the Israeli government.
Unlike the Palestinians, the Arab countries are obviously not interested in ruining their relations with the US administration. Their comments are likely more about preserving good relations with Washington than supporting the policies of the Israeli government.
The Palestinians appear to be the only ones in the Arab world who are coming out on a daily basis against a plan no one has seen.
Hardly a day passes without a Palestinian official warning against Trump's plan of "liquidation" or "slap of the century," as some have begun referring to it. The Palestinians say they are also determined to foil the plan, notwithstanding the consequences.
"The Palestinians don't care about the date when Trump's plan will be announced because they reject it," said Nabil Sha'ath, a former PA foreign minister who serves as a senior advisor to President Mahmoud Abbas.
"What has already been leaked about the plan is sufficient for us to reject it. We won't accept an American plan that allows the US to restore its exclusivity over the peace process. If Washington wants to contribute to the peace process, it must be within the framework of an international multilateral forum."
Another senior Abbas aide, Azzam al-Ahmed, said that Trump's "deal of the century" won't pass because it will not lead to the establishment of a Palestinian state. The US, he added, is no longer qualified to play the role of sole sponsor of any peace process between the Palestinians and Israel.
PLO Secretary-General Saeb Erekat also repeated the Palestinian opposition to Trump's "deal of the century." Accusing the US administration of seeking to "liquidate" the Palestinian cause and impose its dictates on the Palestinians, Erekat complained in a "political report" he submitted to members of the ruling Fatah faction in Ramallah last week that the "bold lines" of the Trump plan offer the Palestinians nothing but "eternal self-rule" and a "demilitarized" state.
In the past few weeks, the PA leadership has been campaigning to muster Arab support for its opposition to the Trump plan. So far, however, the Palestinian effort has been only partially successful, if at all.
At a recent meeting in Brussels of Arab foreign ministers with their EU counterparts, the Palestinians demanded that the Arab countries endorse their position towards the Trump plan. The Palestinians are also pressing for a larger EU role in the peace process with Israel so that the US would no longer have exclusivity over peacemaking.
However, the Arab response to the Palestinian campaign has been disappointing for the Palestinians.
The Arab ministers rejected the Palestinian demand to diminish the US role in the peace process. "We don't want to exclude the American role, which remains a major one," the Arab ministers reportedly told the Palestinians.
The Arab countries have also refused to endorse the Palestinians' fiery anti-US rhetoric. Judging from the tone of the leaders of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and Morocco, they seem to adopt a soft approach towards the US administration and its yet-to-be-announced peace plan. Unlike the Palestinians, the Arab countries do not see the plan as a "conspiracy aimed at liquidating the Palestinian cause and national rights."
Moreover, there is talk in Ramallah that some Arab countries have actually been pressuring the PA leadership to accept the Trump plan.
"Several pro-US Arab countries are still exerting pressure on the Palestinian leadership not to reject the American plan," said political analyst Rasem Obeidat. "They are even asking the Palestinian leadership to deal with the plan in a positive manner." He called on the Palestinians to stop relying on the Arabs and to unite their ranks and strengthen their internal front.
The Palestinians were hoping that the Arab and Islamic countries' response to Trump's December 6 decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital would be much tougher. The very least the Palestinians were expecting was that these countries would respond by expelling the US ambassadors or shutting US embassies in Arab and Islamic capitals. This, of course, did not happen, much to the dismay of the Palestinians, who feel that they have been once again abandoned by their Arab and Muslim brothers.
The Arab countries appear to be fed up with the Palestinians. At most, they are prepared to offer the Palestinians public statements of support and promises to help them achieve their rights. Each one of these countries has its own problems to worry about and the Palestinian issue is no longer at the top of the Arabs' list of priorities.
Egypt, for example, is preoccupied with its war against jihadist terrorists in Sinai and the upcoming presidential election, slated for late March. The Egyptians have bitter memories of meddling in the internal affairs of the Palestinians. For the past three months, the Egyptians have been trying, thus far unsuccessfully, to persuade Hamas and Abbas's Fatah faction to proceed with the "reconciliation" agreement which the two parties signed in Cairo in November 2017.
In the past week, an Egyptian security delegation has held intensive discussions with Hamas leaders in the Gaza Strip in a bid to solve the crisis, but to no avail. A Hamas delegation that visited Cairo last month to talk about ways of implementing the floundering "reconciliation" accord returned empty-handed to the Gaza Strip, after spending three weeks in Egypt.
The Saudis, for their part, are also busy with their domestic issues. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia, is preoccupied with his plan to introduce major reforms in the kingdom and collect billions of dollars from corrupt princes and top officials. The PA leadership anyway does not seem to have much confidence in the young crown prince and suspects him also of colluding with the Trump administration to "impose" the "deal" on the Palestinians.
Similarly, Jordan is trying to deal with its own problems, and they appear to be huge. The Jordanian government's recent decision to remove subsidies on bread has sparked a wave of street protests throughout the kingdom.
Qatar and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), meanwhile, are separately at work promoting their own agendas in the Palestinian political landscape.
The Qataris are supporting the Hamas regime in the Gaza Strip, while the UAE is trying to promote its Palestinian proxy, deposed Fatah leader Mohammed Dahlan, as the next Palestinian leader. The UAE has reportedly asked Dahlan to form a new party that would run in the next Palestinian presidential and parliamentary elections, if and when they ever take place.
The PA leadership is not happy about the interference of Qatar and UAE in the internal affairs of the Palestinians. It is also not happy with the way Egypt seems to have endorsed Dahlan, an arch-enemy of Abbas. The PA sees Arab meddling in Palestinian affairs as harmful and counterproductive. It has yet to recover from the days when each Arab country had endorsed its own Palestinian faction.
The Palestinians are once again being forced to face the unpleasant truth that their Arab brothers are more interested in their own survival than in the Palestinian issue.
This Arab apathy towards the Palestinians is the result of a long-standing belief in the Arab world that the Palestinians are an ungrateful people who do not hesitate to bite the hand that feeds them. Palestinian support for Saddam Hussein's 1990 invasion of Kuwait -- a country that used to provide the Palestinians with millions of dollars annually -- was the turning point in relations between the Arab countries and the Palestinians. Since then, the Palestinians have been almost entirely dependent on American and EU funding.
Arab apathy towards the Palestinians is the result of a long-standing belief that the Palestinians do not hesitate to bite the hand that feeds them. Palestinian support for Saddam Hussein's 1990 invasion of Kuwait was the turning point in relations between the Arab countries and the Palestinians. Pictured: Yasser Arafat with then Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, in 1988. (Photo via Getty Images)
When Trump finally does announce his Middle East peace plan, the Palestinians will discover that they are alone in threatening to thwart it. The Palestinians have good reason to believe that the Arab countries are about to leave them to their own devices. And, after half a century of failed and corrupt leadership, the Palestinian devices leave much to be desired.
**Khaled Abu Toameh, an award-winning journalist, is based in Jerusalem.
© 2018 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

Is Israel the Cause of Jihad?
Raymond Ibrahim/Frontpage Magazine/March 07/18
*Originally published under the title, "Eliminate Israel, Eliminate Islamic Terrorism." This piece has been edited from the original with the author's permission.
Islamists say "we hate you because you are unbelievers," no matter what "grievances" they claim to have against Israel.
The plague of Islamic terrorism is based on "grievances" against Israel—so says Al Azhar, the world's most prestigious Islamic university that co-hosted Barack Obama's 2009 "A New Beginning" speech. During a recently televised Egyptian interview, Ahmed Al Tayeb—Al Azhar's grand imam, once named the "most influential Muslim in the world"—said:
I have noticed that they are always telling us that terrorism is "Islamic." All those mouthpieces that croak—out of ignorance or because they were told to—that the Al Azhar curricula are the cause of terrorism never talk about Israel, about Israel's prisons, about the genocides perpetrated by the Zionist entity state.... If not for the abuse of the region by means of the Zionist entity, there would never have been any problem. The Middle East and the region would have progressed, and the Arab individual would have been like any other person in the world, enjoying a good life, or at least enjoying the right to live in peace.
There's certainly much to comment on here. First, Al Azhar has in fact been exposed time and time again teaching the same "anti-infidel" and supremacist doctrines that groups like the Islamic State rely on. After being asked why Al Azhar, which is in the habit of denouncing secular thinkers as un-Islamic, refuses to denounce the Islamic State as un-Islamic, Sheikh Nasr, a scholar of Islamic law and graduate of Al Azhar, said:
[Al Azhar] can't [condemn the Islamic State as un-Islamic]. The Islamic State is a byproduct of Al Azhar's programs. So can Al Azhar denounce itself as un-Islamic? Al Azhar says there must be a caliphate and that it is an obligation for the Muslim world [to establish it]. Al Azhar teaches the law of apostasy and killing the apostate. Al Azhar is hostile towards religious minorities, and teaches things like [the prohibition on Christians] building churches, etc. Al Azhar upholds the institution of jizya (extracting tribute from religious minorities). Al Azhar teaches stoning people (is an appropriate punishment for violations of Sharia). So can Al Azhar denounce itself as un-Islamic?
But what of Tayeb's other point, that because Israel "abuses" Palestinians (meaning fellow Muslims), aggrieved Muslims around the world have had no choice but to turn to jihad/terrorism? This, of course, is another rehashing of the "Muslim grievance" myth popularized by al-Qaeda post 9/11. Back in 2009, Bin Laden said:
You [Americans] should ask yourselves whether your security, your blood, your sons, your money, your jobs, your homes, your economy, and your reputation are more dear to you than the security and economy of the Israelis.... Let me say that we have declared many times, over more than two and a half decades, that the reason for our conflict with you is your support for your Israeli allies, who are occupying our land of Palestine [emphasis added].
Needless to say, this message was (and continues to be) swallowed hook line and sinker by many Western analysts—even as bin Laden was stressing to fellow Muslims (in Arabic) the "real reason for our conflict":
Our talks with the infidel West and our conflict with them ultimately revolve around one issue — one that demands our total support, with power and determination, with one voice — and it is: Does Islam, or does it not, force people by the power of the sword to submit to its authority corporeally if not spiritually? Yes. There are only three choices in Islam: [1] either willing submission [conversion]; [2] or payment of the jizya, through physical, though not spiritual, submission to the authority of Islam; [3] or the sword — for it is not right to let [an infidel] live. The matter is summed up for every person alive: Either submit, or live under the suzerainty of Islam, or die [The Al Qaeda Reader, p. 42].
Of late, more emboldened jihadis have dropped the façade that Zionism lies at the heart of the conflict. In an article unambiguously titled, "Why We Hate You & Why We Fight You," the Islamic State confessed that "We hate you, first and foremost, because you are disbelievers." As for any and all political "grievances," these are "secondary" reasons for the jihad:
What's important to understand here is that although some might argue that your foreign policies are the extent of what drives our hatred, this particular reason for hating you is secondary [...] The fact is, even if you were to stop bombing us, imprisoning us, torturing us, vilifying us, and usurping our lands, we would continue to hate you because our primary reason for hating you will not cease to exist until you embrace Islam. Even if you were to pay (the) jizyah and live under the authority of Islam in humiliation, we would continue to hate you [emphasis added].
If Israel had nothing to do with all this history—it did not even exist—are we really to believe that grievances against it are responsible for Al Azhar still teaching, and Muslims still upholding, the same doctrines that caused them to terrorize all non-Muslims for centuries?
From IS's and other Islamists' perspective, then, this threefold choice—conversion, subjugation/jizya, or the sword—is the ultimate source of conflict between Islam and everyone else... Nor is Islamic supremacism confined to modern jihadis—history makes an equally ironclad case. As I document in my forthcoming book, Sword and Scimitar: Fourteen Centuries of War between Islam and the West, Muslims, through countless jihads, invaded and eventually conquered some ¾ of all Christian lands; the scale of destruction and atrocities accompanying these jihads make Islamic State atrocities seem like child's play.
If Israel had nothing to do with all this history—it did not even exist—are we really to believe that grievances against it are responsible for Al Azhar still teaching, and Muslims still upholding, the same doctrines that caused them to terrorize all non-Muslims for centuries?
No, this is yet another case of Islamist apologists trying to kill two birds with one stone: portraying—and thus exonerating—Islamic terrorism as inevitable, grievance-based reactions to Israel, which deserves all blame. In reality, the ultimate "grievance" Islamists have against all non-Muslims is just that—that they are non-Muslim, inferior infidels that must be subjugated one way or the other.
**Raymond Ibrahim is a writing fellow at the Middle East Forum.

US: Muslim Calls for Murder Increasing
Judith Bergman/Gatestone Institute/March 07/18
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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A century of progress is just the beginning
Baria Alamuddin/Arab News/March 07/2018
With hard-won gains in legal, academic and workplace rights, we are experiencing an exhilarating period for women. Ladies are engaging with the world with growing confidence and speaking out fearlessly on issues such as equal pay and sexual abuse. For any society to flourish, men and women cannot be treated as if they are different creatures; both should enjoy parity in rights, capabilities and the insights they have to contribute. But, oh, what a long distance we still must travel to make this vision a reality.
Great Britain, the cradle of parliamentary democracy, has been celebrating 100 years of women having the right to vote. Prior to the First World War, the suffragette movement led the battle for political rights. Yet in some quarters these female activists were regarded as radical extremists – even terrorists. Although voting rights initially were only extended to female property owners over the age of 30, female pioneers were quick to capitalize on this victory to pursue change in other fields.
When half of the electorate is female, politicians have a tremendous incentive to champion pro-women policies, including workplace rights such as maternity leave and anti-discrimination legislation. Nevertheless, a century later major employers are still violating the law by failing to guarantee equal pay. That most British of institutions, the BBC, is currently tying itself up in knots justifying why its most talented female employees are paid far less than men.
The high proportion of women juggling part-time work with family responsibilities is a major factor in forcing females to endure lower pay and precarious terms of employment. A campaign among leading UK companies with the goal of ensuring that 30 percent of senior executives are women is laudable, but illustrates how male-dominated the top echelons of business continue to be.
As women move toward 50 percent representation in some parliaments (Sweden, Rwanda, Finland, Senegal and Bolivia score highly), this has transformed the legislative agenda there. Nevertheless, only 10 percent of nations exceed 30 percent female representation in parliament. Liberal and left-leaning parties tend to boast more women MPs, meaning that female electoral success is often a catalyst for progressive policies that maximize the well-being of all citizens.
With Angela Merkel confirmed to serve another term as Germany’s chancellor, there are currently more than 20 female world leaders. As a journalist I am fortunate to have interviewed a respectable number of pioneering women, including Britain’s first female prime minister, Margaret Thatcher; Gro Harlem Brundtland, who served three terms as Norway’s prime minister and was director-general of the World Health Organization; former Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi; and Benazir Bhutto, the former prime minister of Pakistan. The latter two were assassinated, paying the ultimate price for leading the way.
While we can take a moment on International Women’s Day to celebrate the gains that have been made and honor those who achieved them, there is still a long way to go on the road to true gender equality.
A common denominator among the hundreds of female politicians I have interviewed is an appreciation of the obstacles they have overcome, motivating them to prove themselves 10 times more competent than male colleagues. I recall Gandhi telling me that women often make better leaders because as childbearers they can tolerate more difficulties and have greater attention to detail. Women tend to approach problems patiently and rationally, conscientiously pondering the consequences of their decisions for the most vulnerable in society. Smaller and less-fragile egos help avoid ill-considered conflicts and confrontations.
In the Arab world, female MPs in Tunisia and Sudan exceed 30 percent representation in their parliaments, while Algeria, the UAE and the Palestinians also have commendable records. Bahrain is one of several nations where plenty of women are appointed to the Shura Council and top posts, but high-caliber female parliamentary candidates struggle to get elected by a relatively more conservative public.
The number of working women in Muslim-majority nations has surged by more than a third to 155 million in just a decade, offering inspirational role models for the next generation to build on. Tech-savvy and entrepreneurial Arab women are outnumbering and outperforming male colleagues in leading science and technology universities, before going on to enrich the private sector’s lifeblood.
In the past decade we have seen a transformation in the political rights of Saudi women. Surprising numbers of female candidates enjoyed success in recent municipal elections, while the Shura Council’s 20 percent female membership narrowly exceeds that of the US Congress. A Saudi woman, Tamadur Al-Ramah, was recently appointed deputy labor minister. However, aspirations to reform or abolish the guardianship laws – a prerequisite for full female autonomy – have yet to be followed through.
Having spent the past couple of years interviewing hundreds of Saudi women for a book, this issue is close to my heart. I share their excitement at a succession of recent breakthroughs. The right to drive is just one of these achievements, as floods of highly-educated females struggle to enter the jobs market. I am humbled by their passion and desire to serve their nation.
However, a major obstacle is often women’s own lack of self-belief. They must first enjoy confidence in their own capabilities before seizing their destinies with both hands. I have sought to live by a maxim exemplified by my mother: When we present a strong, inspiring and positive role model to our offspring, we instill the self-belief that they are capable of whatever they set out to achieve. If we fail to impart to both our sons and daughters a sense of mutual respect and equal expectations, then the same old prejudices, chauvinism and inferiorities will perpetuate themselves. I am deeply proud and moved today to see my own daughters setting an outstanding example for yet another generation.
However, ambitious women still encounter the glass ceiling of institutional inertia, as the “old boys’ clubs” governing our male-dominated world pull every trick in the book to resist the collapse of the patriarchy. Men should not fear female advancement, because everyone benefits from the attributes and insights women bring to the workplace, making society more productive and prosperous. It is no accident that accelerated economic development in the most advanced nations has been closely correlated with the rapid entry of women to the jobs market.
Allowing women to achieve their deserved place in society is thus not exclusively a “women’s” issue, but a goal that the whole of society has a stake in actively pursuing. Previous achievements were won through courageous individuals – male and female – fighting every step of the way. Likewise, further progress is predicated on our willingness to make sacrifices to stand up against abuse, discrimination, inequalities and institutional obstacles.
Yet this is a fight that promises innumerable gains for humanity. The future belongs to both women and men on a level playing field – and all our lives will be infinitely more rewarding as a consequence of this.
*Baria Alamuddin is an award-winning journalist and broadcaster in the Middle East and the UK. She is editor of the Media Services Syndicate and has interviewed numerous heads of state.