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Jesus Cures The Paralysed Man/I say to you, stand up, take your mat and go
to your home.’
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Mark 02,01-12/:"When Jesus
returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home.
So many gathered around that there was no longer room for them, not even in
front of the door; and he was speaking the word to them. Then some people
came, bringing to him a paralysed man, carried by four of them. And when
they could not bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, they removed the
roof above him; and after having dug through it, they let down the mat on
which the paralytic lay. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the
paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.’ Now some of the scribes were
sitting there, questioning in their hearts, ‘Why does this fellow speak in
this way? It is blasphemy! Who can forgive sins but God alone?’At once Jesus
perceived in his spirit that they were discussing these questions among
themselves; and he said to them, ‘Why do you raise such questions in your
hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, "Your sins are forgiven",
or to say, "Stand up and take your mat and walk"? But so that you may know
that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins’ he said to the
paralytic ‘I say to you, stand up, take your mat and go to your home.’ And
he stood up, and immediately took the mat and went out before all of them;
so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, ‘We have never seen
anything like this!’
Whoever teaches otherwise and does not agree with the sound words of our
Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that is in accordance with godliness, is
depraved in mind and bereft of the truth
First Letter to Timothy 05/24-25/06,01-05/:"The sins of some people are
conspicuous and precede them to judgement, while the sins of others follow
them there. So also good works are conspicuous; and even when they are not,
they cannot remain hidden. Let all who are under the yoke of slavery regard
their masters as worthy of all honour, so that the name of God and the
teaching may not be blasphemed. Those who have believing masters must not be
disrespectful to them on the ground that they are members of the church;
rather they must serve them all the more, since those who benefit by their
service are believers and beloved. Teach and urge these duties. Whoever
teaches otherwise and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus
Christ and the teaching that is in accordance with godliness, is conceited,
understanding nothing, and has a morbid craving for controversy and for
disputes about words. From these come envy, dissension, slander, base
suspicions, and wrangling among those who are depraved in mind and bereft of
the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain.
For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources
published on March 10-11/18
The Healing Miracle of the Paralyzed/Elias Bejjani/March 11/18
Why Hezbollah is anxious about Saudi Arabia’s comeback in Lebanon/Mohamed
Kawas/The Arab Weekly/March 11, 2018
Qatar Diplomacy: Unraveling a Complicated Crisis/Simon Henderson/The
Washington Institute/March 09/18
Humanity Keeps Getting Smarter/Peter R. Orszag/Asharq Al Awsat/March 10/18
Iraq's Energy Future Lies to the North/James F. Jeffrey and Michael
Knights/The Washington Institute/March 09/18
Russia-America rivalry spreads to the oil market/Randa Takieddine/Al Arabiya/March
Saudi Arabia has drawn unjustified ire and unfounded accusations/Mashari
Althaydi/Al Arabiya/March 10/18
Iran: The French soufflé fails to rise/Amir Taheri/Al Arabiya/March 10/18
The loudness of our cities and the havoc of technology/Fahad Suleiman
Shoqiran/Al Arabiya/March 10/18
Titles For Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on
The Healing Miracle of the Paralyzed
Lebanese President: World Should Share Burden of Hosting Displaced Syrians
Saudi Arabia, UK Agree to 'Support' Lebanese Govt, 'Curb' Hizbullah's Role
Qassem: Lebanon Can't Be Strong without Hizbullah
Diaspora Energy Conference continues its works on nationality restoration,
KHATIB TOURS SHEHIM
SSNP delegation visits Franjieh in Bnechii
Sarraf arrives in Paris on preparatory visit for Rome II Conference
UNHCR’s Grandi appalled at suffering of civilians in Syria
Jumblatt, Kejian convene in Mukhtara
ISF Arrests Two Drug Dealers Wanted on Multiple Charges
Relatives of Islamist Prisoners Rally in Tripoli, Block Key Square
Why Hezbollah is anxious about Saudi Arabia’s comeback in Lebanon
Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And
News published on March 09-10/18
Saudi crown prince thanks British PM May after landmark three-day
UAE Minister Gargash: Turkey ‘must respect’ Arab states’ sovereignty
Jihadists to Be Evacuated from Syria's Ghouta
Turkish-Backed Rebels Advance on Kurdish-Held Syrian Town
Food Arrives in Syria's Battered Eastern Ghouta
BAE Systems Inks Saudi Deal for 48 Typhoon Jets
Putin Says Will Not Change Constitution to Cling to Power
Clinton Warns of 'Diplomatic Danger' in N. Korea Talks
Feeling Unwell, Tillerson Cancels Nairobi Program
Xi urges US, N.Korea talks 'as soon as possible'
Saudi Arabia signs deal for 48 Typhoon fighter jets
EU, Japan Seek Clarity from Crunch US Trade Talks
Latest Lebanese Related News published
on March 10-11/18
The Healing Miracle of
Elias Bejjani/March 11/18
“Come to me, all you who labor and are heavily burdened, and I will give you
rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in
heart; and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my
burden is light.” Matthew 11/28-30)
The practice of praying for others in any manner or pattern is a desirable
religious conduct, especially when the prayers are for the sake of those who
are sick, persecuted, oppressed, poor, lonely and distressed, or have fallen
prey to evil temptations.
Praying for others whether they are parents, relatives, strangers,
acquaintances, enemies, or friends, and for countries, is an act that
exhibits the faith, caring, love, and hope of those who offer the prayers.
Almighty God, Who is a loving, forgiving, passionate, and merciful Father
listens to these prayers and always answers them in His own wisdom and mercy
that mostly we are unable to grasp because of our limited human
understanding. “All things, whatever you ask in prayer, believing, you will
receive.” (Matthew 21/22)
On the fifth Lenten Sunday the Catholic Maronites cite and recall with great
reverence [ ] the Gospel of Saint Mark ( 02/1-12): “The Healing Miracle of
the Paralytic”: “When he entered again into Capernaum after some days, it
was heard that he was in the house. Immediately many were gathered together,
so that there was no more room, not even around the door; and he spoke the
word to them. Four people came, carrying a paralytic to him. When they could
not come near to him for the crowd, they removed the roof where he was. When
they had broken it up, they let down the mat that the paralytic was lying
on. Jesus, seeing their faith, said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are
forgiven you.” But there were some of the scribes sitting there, and
reasoning in their hearts, “Why does this man speak blasphemies like that?
Who can forgive sins but God alone?” Immediately Jesus, perceiving in his
spirit that they so reasoned within themselves, said to them, “Why do you
reason these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to tell the paralytic,
‘Your sins are forgiven;’ or to say, ‘Arise, and take up your bed, and
walk?’ But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to
forgive sins”— He said to the paralytic— “I tell you, arise, take up your
mat, and go to your house.” He arose, and immediately took up the mat, and
went out in front of them all; so that they were all amazed, and glorified
God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!”
This great miracle in its theological essence and core demonstrates beyond
doubt that intercessions, prayers and supplications for the benefit of
others are acceptable faith rituals that Almighty God attentively hears and
It is interesting to learn that the paralytic man as stated in the Gospel of
St. Mark, didn’t personally call on Jesus to cure him, nor he asked Him for
forgiveness, mercy or help, although as many theologians believe Jesus used
to visit Capernaum, where the man lives, and preach in its Synagogue
frequently. Apparently this crippled man was lacking faith, hope, distancing
himself from God and total ignoring the Gospel’s teaching. He did not
believe that the Lord can cure him.
What also makes this miracle remarkable and distinguishable lies in the fact
that the paralytic’s relatives and friends, or perhaps some of Jesus’
disciples were adamant that the Lord is able to heal this sick man who has
been totally crippled for 38 years if He just touches him. This strong faith
and hope made four of them carry the paralytic on his mat and rush to the
house where Jesus was preaching. When they could not break through the crowd
to inter the house they climbed with the paralytic to the roof, made a hole
in it and let down the mat that the paralytic was lying on in front of Jesus
and begged for his cure. Jesus was taken by their strong faith and fulfilled
Jesus forgave the paralytic his sins first (“Son, your sins are forgiven
you) and after that cured his body: “Arise, and take up your bed, and walk”.
Like the scribes many nowadays still question the reason and rationale that
made Jesus give priority to the man’s sins. Jesus’ wisdom illustrates that
sin is the actual death and the cause for eternal anguish in Hell. He
absolved his sins first because sin cripples those who fall in its traps,
annihilates their hopes, faith, morals and values, kills their human
feelings, inflicts numbness on their consciences and keeps them far away
from Almighty God. Jesus wanted to save the man’s soul before He cures his
earthy body. “For what does it profit a man, to gain the whole world, and
forfeit his life?” (Mark 08:/36 & 37).
Our Gracious God does not disappoint any person when he seek His help with
faith and confidence. With great interest and parental love, He listens to
worshipers’ prayers and requests and definitely respond to them in His own
way, wisdom, time and manner. “Ask, and it will be given you. Seek, and you
will find. Knock, and it will be opened for you. For everyone who asks
receives. He who seeks finds. To him who knocks it will be opened”. (Matthew
In this loving and forgiving context, prayers for others, alive or dead,
loved ones or enemies, relatives or strangers, are religiously desirable.
God hears and responds because He never abandons His children no matter what
they do or say, provided that they turn to Him with faith and repentance and
ask for His mercy and forgiveness either for themselves or for others. “Is
any among you suffering? Let him pray. Is any cheerful? Let him sing
praises. 5:14 Is any among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the
assembly, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of
the Lord, 5:15 and the prayer of faith will heal him who is sick, and the
Lord will raise him up”. (James 05:13)
There are numerous biblical parables and miracles in which Almighty God
shows clearly that He accepts and responds to prayers for the sake of
Jesus cured the centurion’s servant on the request of the Centurion and not
the servant himself. (Matthew 08/05-33 )
Jesus revived and brought back to life Lazarus on the request of his sisters
Mary and Martha. (John 11/01-44)
In conclusion: Almighty God is always waiting for us, we, His Children to
come to Him and ask for His help and mercy either for ourselves or for
others. He never leaves us alone. Meanwhile it is a Godly faith obligation
to extend our hand and pull up those who are falling and unable to pray for
themselves especially the mentally sick, the unconscious, and the paralyzed.
In this realm of faith, love and care for others comes our prayers to Virgin
Mary and to all Saints whom we do not worship, but ask for their
intercessions and blessings.
O, Lord, endow us with graces of faith, hope, wisdom, and patience. Help us
to be loving, caring, humble and meek. Show us the just paths. Help us to be
on your right with the righteous on the Judgment Day.
God sees and hears us all the time, let us all fear Him in all what we
think, do and say.
World Should Share Burden of Hosting Displaced Syrians
Asharq Al Awsat/March 10/18/Lebanese President Michel Aoun reiterated his
call on the international community to share the burden of Syrian refugees
and work on their return to safe areas in their home country. The
president’s comments on Friday came during a meeting with the Executive
Director of UNICEF Henrietta Fore at Baabda Palace, which was also attended
by UNICEF’s Lebanon Representative Tanya Chapuisat. Aoun said the
international community should take part in carrying the burden of Lebanon’s
refugee crisis and work on “limiting” their hardships by facilitating their
“gradual” return to so-called safe zones in Syria, especially areas that
have not been witnessing armed clashes. Syrian children who were born in
Lebanon since the start of the civil war in their country in 2011 are living
in difficult health, educational and social conditions, despite the care
granted to them and their parents by the Lebanese authorities, he told his
visitors. Aoun said that such support has taken a toll on Lebanese
infrastructure, health facilities and educational institutions, diminishing
Lebanon’s ability to support Lebanese children. This hardship has also
reflected on Lebanese university graduates, who have been struggling to find
jobs due to an excess of Syrian labor, which he said has increased
unemployment rates among Lebanon’s youth. In response, Fore affirmed that
UNICEF will “defend” the country’s rights, especially considering the role
it has been playing in hosting and supporting refugees. “This generous
Lebanese hospitality deserves broad international support, and this is what
will be emphasized at the Brussels conference,” Fore said. The
upcoming international donor conference in Brussels is set to focus on
support for Syrian refugees in the region.
Saudi Arabia, UK Agree to 'Support' Lebanese Govt,
'Curb' Hizbullah's Role
Naharnet/March 10/18/Saudi Arabia and the United Kingdom agreed in a joint
statement late on Friday “to work together to support Lebanon's government
and to work together to counter Hizbullah's role,” in the region, the Saudi
Press Agency reported on Saturday. The statement was issued during the visit
of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to the UK at the invitation of the
government of Queen Elizabeth II, said the news agency. “The two countries
agreed to work together to support the Lebanese government and to work
together to counter Hizbullah’s destabilizing role,” SPA reported. SA and
the UK have agreed to “see an end to the Iranian support” and a “withdrawal
of Iranian elements and Hizbullah from Yemen," it added. The statement
stressed that “for any political settlement to be achieved, it is paramount
to put an end to security threats to Saudi Arabia, other regional states, as
well as see an end to the Iranian support for militias and a withdrawal of
Iranian elements and Hizbullah from Yemen,” SPA reported. The two have
affirmed a long-term partnership in various areas in support of Saudi Vision
2030, it said.
Qassem: Lebanon Can't Be Strong without Hizbullah
Naharnet/March 10/18/Hizbullah Deputy Leader Sheikh Naim Qassem on Saturday
said Hizbullah will always confront the “attempts of Israel and the United
States to subordinate Lebanon” to its policies, affirming that Lebanon
“can't be strong without Hizbullah.” “Hizbullah is the pillar of modern
Lebanon. Lebanon can't be strong and stable without this pillar which has
become an integral part of building the institutions, drawing the future,
maintaining independence and prevention of occupation,” said Qassem at a
ceremony in Nabatieh. “The United States is trying to subordinate Lebanon to
its Israeli policy, but Hizbullah is an obstacle to Israel and America,
which spares no effort to attack us and impose sanctions on us,” he added.
Qassem stressed that Hizbullah “confronts the occupation and interferes in
the parliamentary elections in order to represent our people, but America
intervenes in these elections in order to reduce the number of our deputies
Diaspora Energy Conference continues its works on nationality restoration,
Sat 10 Mar 2018 /NNA - The 2018 Diaspora Energy Conference pursued its
meetings for the second consecutive day in Oceania on Saturday, under the
patronage of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates Minister, Gebran Bassil, with
discussions touching on investment opportunities between Lebanon and Oceania
and ways of boosting bilateral cooperation at various levels. Participants
highlighted the importance of paying attention to the investment sector to
attract direct investments from both sides.
Focus was also pinned on the efforts exerted by the Government of Lebanon to
maintain political stability in the country, in addition to the developments
witnessed in the private sector, which prove that Lebanon remains an
attractive country for investment.
Ways of strengthening commercial and trade relations between Lebanon and
Australia also featured high during discussions, with great reliance on the
Lebanese expatriate community in this respect in light of the strong,
successful and trustworthy presence it enjoys in Australia. On the other
hand, conferees addressed the law on restoring the Lebanese nationality,
stressing the importance of helping Lebanese expatriates to identify their
roots and work to restore their nationality, preserve their mother tongue
and adopt the Lebanese curriculum, in addition to registration that allows
them to exercise their political and civil rights in Lebanon. Among the
conference participants were: State Minister for Presidential Affairs,
Pierre Raffoul, Legislative Council Head Jean Ajaka, Lebanese Ambassador to
Canberra Milad Raad, Lebanon's Consul in Sydney Charbel Maakaroun, Lebanon's
Consul in Melbourne Ziad Itani, Australian Ambassador to Lebanon Glenn
Miles, as well as a large crowd of prominent figures, businessmen and
KHATIB TOURS SHEHIM
Sat 10 Mar 2018/NNA - Minister of Environment Tarek Khatib toured on
Saturday Shehim town in South of Lebanon, where he was welcomed by Shehim
municipality head Zeidan Saghir and a number of diplomatic and social
Khatib urged all the Lebanese to participate in the forthcoming
parliamentary elections in light of the adoption of the new proportional
In turn, attendees also thanked the Minister for his efforts to solve the
problem of waste in the region and the inclusion of the Chouf and Aley waste
to the landfill of Costa Brava.
SSNP delegation visits Franjieh in Bnechii
Sat 10 Mar 2018/NNA - A delegation from the Syrian Social Nationalist Party,
headed by Vice President Wael el-Hassanieh, visited Saturday Al-Maradah
Movement Head, MP Sleiman Franjieh, in Bnechii, with talks centering on the
strategic and historic relations between both parties. Discussions also
touched on electoral issues pertaining to various districts especially in
the North, confirming that SSNP candidate, former MP Salim Saadeh, will be
on the same electoral list as Al-Maradah candidate, Tony Franjieh, in the
North's third district.
Sarraf arrives in Paris on preparatory visit for Rome
Fri 09 Mar 2018/NNA - National Defense Minister, Yacoub Riad Al-Sarraf, on
Friday arrived in the French capital, Paris, on a preparatory visit to the
Rome II Conference to be taking place in support of the army and security
forces upcoming week in Italy.
Minister Sarraf held talks with his French counterpart, Florence Parly.
Discussions touched on the bilateral ties between the two countries and
means of bolstering cooperation between the Lebanese and French armies.
Talks also covered ongoing preparations for the Rome II Conference.
The meeting also dwelt on the current situation in the region and its impact
on the Lebanese arena, notably the Syrian refugees' crisis and its
repercussions on Lebanon at the socio-economic levels. Minister Sarraf also
shed light on the Israeli recurrent violations of Lebanese sovereignty, amid
its attempts to seize the oil wealth and build a concrete wall on Lebanese
territories. Sarraf relayed to his French counterpart Lebanon's firm
position rejecting any infringement or aggression on Lebanon's wealth and
sovereignty. The Minister stressed that the Lebanese army, which has won
over terrorism in a qualitative operation, is capable of protecting its
borders and land. He also indicated that Lebanon pins great hopes on
international conferences, especially the Rome II conference.
Lebanese-Oceania Energy Conference at the Aldon House Park in Sydney, saying
that carrying a Lebanese nationality was the most important achievement for
expats. "The Lebanese nationality is the most important thing we did for
expatriates, because it constitutes a part of our identity and culture,"
Bassil stressed. The minister noted that it was not easy to make the energy
conference a success over a period of three months, especially with the
replacement of the diplomatic staff in Australia, thanking the Lebanese
Ambassador and two Consuls in Sydney and Melbourne "for their tremendous
efforts in rendering the conference a success." He also announced that "the
next Energy Conference will be held in Melbourne and then in New Zealand."
On the business level, Bassil urged "Lebanese expats to invest in their
country, especially that Lebanon can provide many facilities," calling on
them to raise the level of trade exchange between the two countries. The
minister also encouraged educational exchange while preserving the Arabic
language and Lebanese dialect. Bassil stressed the importance of appointing
as many consuls as possible because they serve Lebanon freely, despite all
obstacles. "I feel ashamed to tell expatriates that some in Lebanon are
impeding the signing of decrees to appoint honorary consuls," he went on.
Bassil concluded by saying, "They are trying to poison the
Diaspora...Everyone has the right to have a political affiliation, but no
one has the right to divide the Lebanese expatriates because of their
political affiliation and differences...And whenever we do so ourselves, we
ask you to renounce us...We have one project and one thought for the
Diaspora, which is Lebanon that remains greater than all of us."
UNHCR’s Grandi appalled at suffering of civilians in Syria
Fri 09 Mar 2018NNA - UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi on
Friday described the suffering of civilians in Eastern Ghouta as an
appalling example of the human tragedy resulting from the conflict in Syria,
which has now been raging for seven years.
"The choice of the people in Ghouta is either to get out - and they don’t
know what’s happening when they get out of Ghouta - or to stay and be under
the bombs," he told a news conference in the Lebanese capital Beirut. "How
much worse can it get for any human being? It is truly appalling, and a
symbol of how catastrophic this conflict has become for the civilians."
Grandi told reporters that aid from a UN and Red Cross convoy that was
forced to leave Ghouta on Monday before it could unload completely had
re-entered the besieged enclave on Friday to deliver the remaining supplies.
The High Commissioner was speaking at the end of a three-day visit to
Lebanon, which hosts more refugees per capita than any country in the world.
With close to a million registered refugees from the conflict next door,
Syrians account for roughly a quarter of the country’s population. Grandi
paid tribute to Lebanon’s people and government for offering sanctuary and
opening its schools, hospitals and services to Syrians for so many years. He
acknowledged the strain that such an effort had put on the country’s economy
and local communities, and called on international donors to do even more to
support refugees and their hosts in the region. Without a political solution
in Syria, the ongoing violence and uncertainty meant it was premature to
expect refugees to return home in large numbers. "Syrians are saying ‘we
want to go back eventually to Syria, but almost all of them say not right
now," he said, adding: "We need to continue to prepare eventually for that
return, and we’re doing a lot of work in Syria itself to prepare for
Jumblatt, Kejian convene in Mukhtara
Sat 10 Mar 2018/NNA - Democratic Gathering Chief, MP Walid Jumblatt, met
Saturday at his Mukhtara Palace with Chinese Ambassador to Lebanon, Wang
Kejian, in the presence of Ministers Marwan Hamadeh and Ayman Choukeir and
Deputy Ghazi Aridi.
Talks centered on the latest developments on both the local and regional
scenes, whereby Jumblatt briefed the Chinese diplomat on his views regarding
the political situation. Earlier, MP Jumblatt met with a large Progressive
Socialist Party delegation from the region of Choueifat, with the upcoming
parliamentary elections featuring high during their discussions. In this
context, Jumblatt called for intensive voting in the elections in order to
achieve high voting outcome. "The next elections need a lot of calm, and we
have to accept the other. It is true that the new law is difficult and
complicated, but we must learn it, cast the voting paper for the success of
the "Mountain List" in the Shouf-Aley district, and vote heavily for the
sake of electoral victory," said Jumblatt.
ISF Arrests Two Drug Dealers Wanted on Multiple Charges
Naharnet/March 10/18/The Internal Security Forces announced the arrest of
two wanted drug dealers after thorough follow-up and monitoring, the ISF
said in a statement on Saturday. A patrol of the Anti-Narcotics Bureau
arrested one of the suspects on Thursday. He was identified as Palestinian
N.H. and is wanted on multiple drug and arson charges. He is also 'Red
Noticed' by the INTERPOL on arms possession and armed robbery charges in
Cyprus. The ISF has also traced the whereabouts of the suspect's accomplice
and “right arm”. He was arrested in the Dora area and was identified as
Syrian M.S.. He assisted the Palestinian suspect in delivering large amounts
of drugs to dealers in Mount Lebanon district. Large amounts of narcotics in
their possession were confiscated. The suspects was referred to the
judiciary for prosecution.
Relatives of Islamist Prisoners Rally in Tripoli, Block Key Square
Naharnet/March 10/18/Relatives of Islamist prisoners staged a new protest on
Friday to press for a “general amnesty.”The National News Agency said a
march was organized after Friday prayers in the northern city of
Tripoli.Protesters gathered at the Grand al-Mansouri Mosque and roamed
several streets before reaching the Abdul Hamid Karami Square, where
speeches were delivered, demanding “a general amnesty and the release of
prisoners.”The demonstrators blocked all roads leading to the square, amid
strict security measures that were taken by the Internal Security Forces,
NNA said. The blocking of the roads caused a severe traffic jam in central
Tripoli according to the agency. Similar protests were held Thursday in
Tripoli, Sidon and the Bekaa. Hundreds of prisoners had started a hunger
strike Thursday in Lebanese prisons to press for the approval of a general
amnesty. The move followed a call from detained Islamist cleric Khaled
Hoblos. Addressing President Michel Aoun, Speaker Nabih Berri and Prime
Minister Saad Hariri, Hoblos called in an audio recording for “finding a
solution for thousands of detainees from all sects.”“We, the detainees in
Lebanese prisons, are resuming our hunger strike under the slogan Freedom or
Death,” Hoblos says in the audio recording. Several protests have been held
across Lebanon in recent months demanding that Islamist prisoners be part of
a discussed general amnesty.
Lebanese authorities have rounded up hundreds of Sunni Islamists over the
last years, including some involved in bombings against civilians and deadly
clashes with the Lebanese Army. They also include extremists believed to
belong to al-Qaida-linked groups and the Islamic State group. A lot of
Islamist prisoners and their families have decried delay in judicial
procedures and trials. Some prisoners are held for several years without
trial or conviction.
Why Hezbollah is anxious about Saudi Arabia’s comeback
Mohamed Kawas/The Arab Weekly/March 11, 2018
Riyadh seems convinced that opposing Iran and its proxy militias must be an
Very little solid information has filtered out about Lebanese Prime Minister
Saad Hariri’s talks in Riyadh. However, the selfie Hariri posted showing him
with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz and the Saudi
ambassador to Washington is quite telling about the atmosphere of the talks
and sends the right signals to Lebanon about the nature of Saudi-Lebanese
relations with the Hariri family at the helm. It is possible that Riyadh
wishes to edge closer to Lebanon, as it had previously done with Iraq. In
Iraq, Saudi Arabia chose to “revive” its presence even though many had said
it was a wasted effort.
Riyadh is trying to recapture its historical presence in Lebanon. One,
however, should not risk any comparison between Saudi policies in Iraq and
in Lebanon. Saudi Arabia had always enjoyed close relations with practically
all political currents in Lebanon. Those relations were based on the Taif
Agreement and the political vision of the Hariri clan. That was not the case
with Iraq. Saudi-Iraqi relations had always been tense, even under Saddam
Hussein. The countries had common borders but they had diametrically opposed
Before French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian’s visit to Tehran, Paris
had postponed French President Emmanuel Macron’s trip to Lebanon because it
conflicted with “previous commitments.” France is leading European efforts,
in coordination with the United States, to pressure Iran into giving up its
expansionist policies and stop its ballistic missile programme.
By postponing Macron’s visit, Paris does not wish to bless a political
regime in Lebanon that is under complete Iranian influence. Riyadh, by
contrast, feels that it is the spearhead in opposing Iran in the region and
must reinforce its presence in Iraq and Lebanon without going as far as
opening opposition fronts to Iran in those countries. It seems that the
purpose behind inviting Hariri to Riyadh was to convince him to revive the
political strategy he has followed since he backed Michel Aoun’s candidacy
for the presidency of Lebanon. However, Hariri’s strategy was quite in tune
with Saudi wishes and Riyadh had not objected to it. It seems that Riyadh is
quite upset with Aoun’s pro-Hezbollah positions. Aoun has defended Hezbollah
and justified its armed militias. Hezbollah, of course, mounted a media
campaign against Saudi Arabia and was found guilty of militarily aiding
rebels in Yemen. Riyadh was growing impatient with not reaping the dividends
of its political investments in a country that is clearly growing anti-Saudi
by the day.
Riyadh seems convinced that opposing Iran and its proxy militias should
involve more than just Saudi means. It must be an international effort.
Riyadh is aware of mounting international pressure on Iran. Whether that
pressure will lead to war or to peace, an Arab side must be ready for
negotiations on the fate of the region. Saudi communications with Hariri
never ceased. There may have been tensions at times but both parties have
always been in contact. This probably explains why Hariri expected Riyadh’s
official invitation and why he was quick to acquiesce to it. Hariri’s visit
must have been prepared for quite some time. The hullaballoo raised by Saudi
Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir’s expected visit to Lebanon indicates that
the political class in Lebanon has taken notice of Saudi Arabia’s comeback.
The Saudi presence will certainly colour the May 6 elections in Lebanon.
Lebanon’s Future Movement, led by Hariri, announced its candidates without
necessarily coordinating with other pro-Saudi parties. Hariri seems to have
taken for granted that he won’t be the only representative for Saudi
interests in Lebanon.
Saudi Arabia seems to be genuinely interested in building healthy relations
with all political forces — except Hezbollah — in Lebanon. During his visit
to Beirut, Saudi envoy Nizar al-Aloula had positive words about Lebanese
Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri. This can be read as Saudi interest in
developing relations with Shias inside Lebanon, whether through Berri or
other Shia leaders not connected to Hezbollah. They are also interested in
building bridges with Christian political blocs. Their relations with Aoun
and his movement are a given considering the fact that the leadership of
both countries must always be in contact. The biggest loser in this
political game is no doubt Hezbollah, which remains very wary of this sudden
Saudi comeback. Hezbollah had thought the crisis created by Hariri’s
impetuous resignation announcement in November had banned him from Riyadh’s
For Hezbollah, a Saudi comeback in Lebanon represents a threat to Iran’s
plans for Lebanon. That this comeback coincides with growing international
concern about Iran’s expansionist tactics simply adds to Hezbollah’s
Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published
on March 10-11/18
Saudi crown prince
thanks British PM May after landmark three-day visit
Staff writer, Al Arabiya English/Saturday, 10 March
2018/Following his departure from the United Kingdom after a three-day
visit, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman sent a cable of thanks to
Prime Minister Theresa May on Saturday.
The following is the text of the cable:
Your Excellency Mrs Theresa May,
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
Good wishes, It gives me a great pleasure to express to Your Excellency, as
I leave your friendly country, my profound thanks and gratitude for the warm
welcome and generous hospitality accorded to me and the accompanying
Your Excellency: The mutual talks which took place during the visit and the
establishment of the Strategic Partnership Council between our two countries
confirmed the determination to proceed with enhancing relations between the
two countries in all fields and work for continuing coordination and
cooperation on issues of mutual concern in what would achieve the interests
of the two countries and their friendly peoples under the leadership of both
the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and
Your Excellency, wishing your Excellency good health and continuous
happiness and your country and friendly people steady progress and
prosperity. Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Crown Prince and Vice
President of the Council of Ministers Draft UN Security Council resolution
condemns Houthi militia missiles in Yemen
The draft resolution calls for ending child-soldiers’ recruitment.
Staff writer, Al Arabiya EnglishSaturday, 10 March 2018
The United Nations Security Council is expected to release a draft
resolution which stresses the need to ensure humanitarian aid workers’
security in Yemen.
It also condemns Houthi militia ballistic missiles.
According to Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper, diplomatic sources said that UN
Security Council members are negotiating a resolution which welcomes
humanitarian aid efforts in Yemen established by the Arab-led coalition.
The draft resolution urges ending child-soldiers’ recruitment. It also calls
on all member states to fully implement the international arms embargo.
UN aid workers abused
In addition, the resolution emphasized that nearly 22 million individuals
are in desperate need of help. This call comes amidst rising cases of
cholera, diphtheria, critical malnutrition and risks of famine. Meanwhile,
UN workers have asked for protection from the Houthi militias’ activities in
Yemen. They also complained about abuse encountered whilst continuing their
humanitarian relief mission. UN workers in Yemen have accused the militias
of blackmailing them in return for continuing their duties.
UAE Minister Gargash: Turkey ‘must respect’ Arab states’ sovereignty
Staff writer, Al Arabiya English/aturday, 10 March 2018
Text/The UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Anwar al-Gargash said on
Saturday via Twitter that Turkey must respect the sovereignty of Arab
states. The minister said that “there is no denying that Arab-Turkish
relations aren’t at their best.” But, for “Ankara to return to its former
stability, it must take into consideration and respect the sovereignty of
Arab states,” he added. He also said that Ankara must deal with its
neighbors “wisely and rationally.”Supporting movements that seek to change
regimes by violence does not constitute a rational approach, said Gargash.
“The Arab world will not be run by its neighbors and its current situation
is not permanent. As such, neighboring countries must distinguish between
dealing with Arabs with facts and myths,” concluded the minister.
Jihadists to Be
Evacuated from Syria's Ghouta
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/March
10/18/A first group of jihadists is to be evacuated from the Syrian rebel
enclave of Eastern Ghouta, the target of a devastating regime assault, a
powerful Islamist rebel group announced Friday. Syrian state television,
meanwhile, aired footage of a bus carrying "fighters" out of the enclave
through a humanitarian corridor, without giving their number or affiliation.
Fighters from Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), a group made up mostly of
al-Qaida's ex-affiliate al-Nusra Front, are to be evacuated to the northern
province of Idlib, Jaish al-Islam rebel group said in a statement. It said
the initiative was "based on consultations between Jaish al-Islam and the
United Nations, and a number of international actors." "It has been agreed
that the first group of HTS members be released from the prisons of Jaish
al-Islam ... It has been agreed that they be moved to Idlib at their
request," Jaish al-Islam said. Despite two weeks of air strikes and
artillery bombardment that have killed almost 950 civilians, the main rebel
groups have so far rejected Russian-brokered offers to evacuate civilians or
any of their own fighters. The main groups had said on February 27 they
would be willing to expel jihadist fighters from the enclave as soon as a
U.N. ceasefire took effect. Eastern Ghouta, which lies just east of
Damascus, is home to some 400,000 civilians and is controlled by myriad
armed groups. The main forces are Islamist groups -- Jaish al-Islam, Faylaq
al-Rahman and Ahrar al-Sham.
Turkish-Backed Rebels Advance on Kurdish-Held Syrian
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/March 10/18/Turkish forces and
allied Syrian rebels battling Kurdish militia in northern Syria advanced on
Saturday to within just a few kilometres of the flashpoint town of Afrin, a
war monitor said. The move came a day after Turkish President Recep Tayyip
Erdogan said his troops and the Syrian fighters they were backing could
break into the Kurdish-controlled town "at any moment."Turkey launched
operation "Olive Branch" on January 20 against the Kurdish People's
Protection Units (YPG), a powerful militia that controls the Afrin region in
northwest Syria and which Ankara regards as a "terror group". On Saturday,
the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said
the attacking forces "are now four kilometres (2.5 miles) away from the town
of Afrin from the northeast, where there are intense clashes, air strikes,
and artillery fire."
Rami Abel Rahman, head of the Britain-based Observatory, said the aim was to
besiege Afrin, cutting it off from other areas. Ankara says the YPG is the
Syrian branch of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has fought a
three-decade insurgency in southeast Turkey. "Olive Branch" initially made
slow progress, but the capture on Thursday of Jandairis, a major town in the
Kurdish-held enclave, has given the operation a clear shot at the central
town of Afrin. Abdel Rahman said that the advance sparked "major concerns"
for tens of thousands of civilians in the town of Afrin.
Thousands of people have fled heavy shelling on the villages and towns near
the Turkish border, many of them into Afrin town. Only one route currently
leads out of the town and into government-controlled zones in Syria's
northern province of Aleppo. According to the Observatory, Turkey and allied
Syrian opposition factions now hold 60 percent of the Afrin region. The
monitor says at least 370 YPG fighters and 340 rebel fighters have died
since the assault began. It says more than 200 civilians have also been
killed, but Turkey denies the reports and says it takes the "utmost care" to
avoid civilian casualties. Ankara says 42 Turkish soldiers have died in the
Food Arrives in Syria's Battered Eastern Ghouta
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/March 10/18/The Syrian army continued its
offensive against rebel-held Eastern Ghouta Saturday, a day after an aid
convoy delivered food to the hunger-stricken residents of the enclave
despite heavy bombardment. Nearly 950 civilians have been killed since
Russia-backed government forces launched a blistering assault on the last
opposition bastion near Damascus on February 18. Eastern Ghouta's 400,000
inhabitants have lived under government siege since 2013 and the enclave --
more than half of which has over the past three weeks been retaken by regime
forces -- is home to a myriad of armed groups. Apart from Islamist groups
such as Jaish al-Islam, jihadists from Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), who are
mostly linked to Al-Qaeda, are also deployed there. Syrian state television
aired footage of a single bus carrying 13 "fighters" and family members out
of the enclave through Al-Wafideen checkpoint, without giving their
affiliation. Some appeared to be young, while others wore hoodies to cover
their heads and faces. The limited operation came as the powerful Jaish
al-Islam said HTS fighters would be evacuated to the northern province of
Idlib, in an arrangement struck following consultations with the United
Nations and other international players. "It has been agreed that the first
group of HTS members be released from the prisons of Jaish al-Islam ...
(and) moved to Idlib at their request," Jaish al-Islam said.
HTS is the main force in Idlib, in Syria's northwest and the last province
outside regime control. - 'Enough death' -Civilians continued to bear the
brunt of the violence on Friday with at least six killed in air strikes on
the area of Jisreen, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor
said. Thirteen trucks loaded with 2,400 food parcels, meanwhile, crossed
into Eastern Ghouta, the International Committee of the Red Cross said,
entering what UN chief Antonio Guterres has called "hell on earth".
But "shelling" near the enclave's main town of Douma threatened "to put at
risk" the joint ICRC, Syrian Arab Red Crescent and United Nations convoy,
said the UN humanitarian coordinator in Syria, Ali al-Zaatari. The aid was
delivered as helicopters hovered overhead and warplanes targeted areas
outside Douma, a correspondent said. The World Health Organization said it
has verified 67 hits on medical facilities in Syria through January and
February, nearly half of them in Eastern Ghouta.
The facilities hit included 20 hospitals, 16 health facilities, two
ambulance stations and one medical supply warehouse. Doctors and
nurses in the enclave have run out of several life-saving items, according
to Doctors Without Borders (MSF), which reported a "terrible medical
"Medical material is extremely limited, medical infrastructure has been hit
and medical staff are exhausted," it said, adding that hundreds of people
have been wounded and need urgent assistance. In the face of the regime's
Russian-backed onslaught, Ghouta's main rebel groups had so far rejected
Moscow-brokered offers to evacuate civilians or any of their own fighters.
But on February 27, they said in a letter to the United Nations they would
be willing to expel jihadist fighters from the enclave as soon as a UN
ceasefire took effect. That offer came on the same day as a daily
humanitarian "pause" called by Moscow began, a measure which fell short of a
30-day ceasefire called by the UN Security Council late last month.
Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman said talks were underway between regime
representatives and local figures to organise the evacuation of civilians or
fighters from parts of the enclave. SANA earlier said dozens of civilians
were expected to leave on Friday through the Wafideen checkpoint, an agreed
exit point. An AFP correspondent at the checkpoint said green and white
trucks and ambulances were parked waiting to pick up passengers. In the town
of Hammuriyeh, dozens of people took part in a protest calling for an end to
the bloodshed, the Britain-based Observatory said.
"Enough destruction and death! We want to save our children and all those
who have not died," said Abu Riyadh, a 47-year-old man in the town.
'Colossal human tragedy' -A negotiator from
the Hammuriyeh said a "civilian delegation" wanted to hold talks with the
regime to end the fighting in the area. A tribal leader said more than 300
civilians from the areas of Kafr Batna, Saqba and Hammuriyeh wanted to
leave. He told journalists there had also been discussions for "500 fighters
to hand over their weapons to the army".
Syria's war, which enters its eight year next week, has killed more that
340,000 people since it erupted in 2011 with the brutal repression of
anti-government protests. UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi
on Friday called the conflict a "colossal human tragedy".In rebel fire on
Friday, a woman and a child were killed by a mortar round that hit the
Damascus suburb of Jaramana, SANA said. On another front, Turkish President
Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his forces and allied rebels could enter the
northern Syrian town of Afrin "at any moment", a day after they seized
another town in the area. Turkey-led rebels have been pressing an assault on
the Kurdish enclave of Afrin since January 20.
BAE Systems Inks Saudi Deal for 48 Typhoon Jets
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/March 10/18/Britain has signed a
multi-billion-pound preliminary order from Saudi Arabia for 48 Eurofighter
Typhoon fighter jets, military equipment maker BAE Systems said on
Friday.The lucrative deal was unveiled on the third and final day of Saudi
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's visit to Britain. BAE Systems added in a
statement that the order would help Riyadh modernize its armed forces under
the kingdom's 'Vision 2030' economic plan, while no financial details were
given. Eurofighter was developed by a European consortium that also
comprises Italy's Finmeccanica and Franco-German civilian planemaker Airbus.
"The UK Government has signed a Memorandum of Intent with the Kingdom of
Saudi Arabia to aim to finalise discussions for the purchase of 48 Typhoon
Aircraft," BAE Systems said in a brief statement to the London Stock
"This is a positive step towards agreeing a contract for our valued partner.
"We are committed to supporting the Kingdom as it modernizes the Saudi Armed
Forces and develops key industrial capabilities critical to the delivery of
The news comes after Qatar inked a deal late last year to buy 24 Typhoon
jets for some $8.0 billion. Friday's blockbuster announcement follows
long-running discussions with Saudi Arabia, which already has a total of 72
Eurofighter Typhoon planes in its fleet. The news also comes just two weeks
after BAE posted sliding annual net profits -- but forecast improving
defense budgets across its major markets. Late last year, however, BAE said
it planned to axe 2,000 jobs, and had partly blamed weaker demand for Hawk
and Eurofighter Typhoon fighter jets.
In reaction, BAE's share price jumped 2.17 percent to finish at 601.80 pence
on London's benchmark FTSE 100 index, which ended 0.3 percent higher at
7,224.51 points on Friday. "BAE Systems ... enjoyed an afternoon boost after
(the) news broke," noted CMC Markets analyst Michael Hewson. He added that
the news would "secure hundreds of jobs in the process." The deal
confirmation followed intense speculation over the large aircraft order,
which has been under discussion for many years according to media
reports.The Eurofighter Typhoon -- a competitor to the Rafale jet
manufactured by French arms maker Dassault -- has four major customers
comprising Austria, Kuwait, Oman and Saudi. Back in April 2016, the Saudi
government approved major reform plans dubbed "Vision 2030" that are aimed
at diversifying the nation's oil-dependent economy.
Putin Says Will Not Change Constitution to Cling to
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/March 10/18/Russian President Vladimir Putin,
who is expected to be reelected for a fourth term in an upcoming ballot,
said Saturday he had no plans to change the constitution to stay in the
Kremlin beyond 2024. Asked by the US television network NBC whether he would
follow in the footsteps of China's Xi Jinping, who is eyeing a limitless
tenure, Putin insisted he had no such intentions. "I never changed the
constitution, I did not do it to suit myself and I have no such plans to do
so today," he said in an interview whose transcript was released by the
Kremlin on Saturday. Critics accuse Putin, who was first elected president
in 2000 and is running for a fourth term in March 18 polls, of harbouring
ambitions to stay in power indefinitely. Putin has always prided himself on
respecting the constitution, which bars him from serving more than two
presidential terms in a row.
In 2008, Putin became prime minister but maintained his grip on power, with
his protege Dmitry Medvedev serving as president until 2012 when Putin
returned to the Kremlin in the face of huge opposition protests. He rejected
suggestions that he could not quit power because it would put him in danger,
saying he heard "a lot of ravings on this subject". "Why do you think after
me power in Russia will be necessarily taken over by people who are ready to
destroy everything that I have done over the past years?" Putin said. He
said he had been thinking about his potential successor since 2000. "It
never hurts to think but at the end of the day it will be the Russian people
who will decide that," he added.Putin will run against a motley crew of
seven challengers, with his top critic Alexei Navalny barred from contesting
the poll because of a criminal conviction his supporters call punishment for
challenging the strongman. Putin declined to say whether he could pardon
Navalny."Any man can be pardoned if he deserves this," said Putin. The
Russian president, who never called Navalny by his name in public, referred
to the 41-year-old opposition politician as "certain political forces".
"What do I like in principle? It's that they expose problems and this is
good, indeed it's right," Putin said. "But it's not enough for the country's
positive development. Absolutely not enough. Because concentrating one's
attention on problems, it's not only insufficient, it's even dangerous
because it could lead to certain destruction and we need creation."
Clinton Warns of 'Diplomatic Danger' in N. Korea Talks
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/March 10/18/Hillary Clinton has warned that
the Trump administration "was not recognising the danger" in discussing
nuclear disarmament with Pyongyang, and said Washington lacked experienced
diplomats to handle the talks. "If you want to talk to Kim Jong Un about his
nuclear weapons you need experienced diplomats," Clinton was quoted as
telling Dutch tabloid Algemeen Dagblad in an interview published Saturday.
"These are people familiar with the dossiers and who know the North Koreans
and their language," Trump's presidential rival said in an interview
conducted in Amsterdam and published in Dutch. The former secretary of state
said however that the US State Department was "being eroded" and that
experienced diplomats on the North Korean issue were in short supply, with
many having left. "You cannot have diplomacy without diplomats," she said,
adding "the danger is not being recognised by the Trump
government."Clinton's words echo those of veteran diplomat and former US
ambassador to the United Nations, Bill Richardson, who warned that
negotiating with North Korea was not "reality television.""It's a real
opportunity... I worry about the president's unpreparedness and lack of
discipline. But I commend him for his very bold move in accepting the
invitation," Richardson told AFP on Friday. "But this is not 'The
Apprentice' or a reality TV event. It's a negotiation with an unpredictable
leader who has at least 20 nuclear weapons and who threatens the United
States," he said.
Feeling Unwell, Tillerson Cancels Nairobi Program
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/March 10/18/US Secretary of State Rex
Tillerson, who is on his first-ever Africa tour as Washington's top
diplomat, on Saturday cancelled his program in Kenya because he was feeling
unwell, officials said. "The secretary is not feeling well after a long
couple days working on major issues back home such as North Korea and has
cancelled his events for the day," said a brief statement from
Undersecretary of State Steve Goldstein. The announcement comes little more
than 24 hours after US President Donald Trump stunned the world by accepting
an invitation to meet North Korea's Kim Jong Un before the end of May. The
audacious diplomatic gambit, which was taken before consulting key
confidantes including Tillerson -- who was in the Ethiopian capital Addis
Ababa at the time -- left aides scrambling to catch up. Just hours before
the summit announcement, which emerged late on Thursday, Tillerson had said
Washington was "a long way" from talking directly to North Korea as he
kicked off his five-nation Africa tour. The US diplomat, who arrived in
Nairobi on Friday, had been due to visit the AIDS-relief programme PEPFAR on
Saturday and also attend a ceremony marking 20 years since Al-Qaeda bombed
the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, killing 224 people. Plans to lay a
wreath at the site could be rescheduled, Goldstein said.
Tillerson is due to travel to Chad on Monday then on to Nigeria a day later.
Xi urges US, N.Korea
talks 'as soon as possible'
Fri 09 Mar 2018 at 19:10 / NNA - Chinese President Xi Jinping
urged the U.S. and North Korea to begin talks as "soon as possible" in a
phone call with his American counterpart, state media said Friday.
Xi praised the "positive aspiration" of President Donald Trump to achieve a
political settlement of the Korean peninsula issue after the U.S. leader
agreed to meet Kim Jong Un, state news agency Xinhua added. "I hope the
United States and North Korea can start to get in touch and dialogue as soon
as possible, and strive to obtain positive achievements," Xi said, according
to Xinhua. Trump Thursday agreed to a historic meeting with Kim - the first
ever meeting between a U.S. president and a North Korean leader - by May, in
a stunning development in America's high-stakes nuclear standoff with North
Saudi Arabia signs deal for 48 Typhoon
Fri 09 Mar 2018/NNA - British military equipment maker BAE Systems announced
Friday that Saudi Arabia has signed a preliminary deal for 48 Eurofighter
Typhoon fighter jets. "The UK Government has signed a Memorandum of Intent
with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to aim to finalise discussions for the
purchase of 48 Typhoon Aircraft," BAE said in a brief statement to the
London Stock Exchange. "This is a positive step towards agreeing a contract
for our valued partner." "We are committed to supporting the Kingdom as it
modernises the Saudi Armed Forces and develops key industrial
EU, Japan Seek Clarity
from Crunch US Trade Talks
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/March 10/18/The EU and Japan
held crunch talks with their US counterparts in Brussels on Saturday hoping
to get "clarity" on President Donald Trump's controversial new steel and
aluminium tariffs. Trump's announcement of duties of 25 percent on imported
steel and 10 percent on aluminium has stung the European Union and triggered
warnings of an all-out international trade war. Brussels has prepared a list
of US products to hit with countermeasures if its exports are affected by
the tariffs, but says it hopes to join Canada and Mexico in being exempted.
Japan has decried the "grave impact" the Trump measures could have on the
world economy. The EU's top trade official Cecilia Malmstroem and Japanese
Economy Minister Hiroshige Seko began preliminary talks in Brussels ahead of
the sitdown with US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer. The talks,
initially set to address China's over-supply of steel, have long been in the
diary but after Trump's dramatic announcement they are now a de facto crisis
"Dialogue is always the prime option of the European Union," Malmstroem told
reporters on Friday, saying Brussels was "counting on being excluded" from
the new duties. She predicted a "long day" of talks on Saturday, while
European Commission Vice President Jyrki Katainen sought to play down
expectations, saying it was "a meeting, not THE meeting". Katainen said
Brussels wanted "clarity" on how the tariffs will be implemented and was
ready to enforce retaliatory measures to protect European interests if
needed. "We are prepared and will be prepared if need be to use rebalancing
measures," Katainen said. - US 'affront' -Along with a huge range of steel
products, the EU's hit list of flagship American products lined up for
counter measures includes peanut butter, bourbon whiskey and denim jeans.
Germany -- singled out for particular criticism by Trump -- accused
Washington of protectionism, calling the tariffs an "affront to close
German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged dialogue and warned that "no one can
win in such a race to the bottom".French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday
warned his US counterpart Trump against forging ahead with the planned
tariffs, saying they risked provoking a mutually destructive "trade war".
Trump said the tariffs, which will come into effect after 15 days, will not
initially apply to Canada and Mexico. He also added Australia to the list of
likely carve-outs. Complicating matters, Trump indicated on Friday that
Australia's carveout was linked to an unspecified "security agreement"
outside of trade policy.This shed some light on the tycoon's specific barbs
against Germany -- the biggest economy in the European Union -- that have
finger-pointed Berlin for contributing much less than the US towards the
funding of NATO. The EU exports around five billion euros' ($4
billion) worth of steel and a billion euros' worth of aluminium to the US
each year, and the European Commission, the bloc's executive arm, estimates
Trump's tariffs could cost some 2.8 billion euros. Brussels is also looking
at "safeguard" measures to protect its industry -- restricting the bloc's
imports of steel and aluminium to stop foreign supplies flooding the
European market, which is allowed under World Trade Organization rules. The
EU and Japan last year formally agreed the broad outlines of a landmark
trade deal that was announced as a direct challenge to the protectionism
championed by Trump.
Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources
published on March 10-11/18
Qatar Diplomacy: Unraveling a
Simon Henderson/The Washington Institute/March 09/18
President Trump's personal intervention to end the split between U.S. Gulf
allies will be a major test of his authority—and his patience.
Since a diplomatic row erupted last June between Qatar and the coalition of
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and Bahrain, various efforts
to resolve the dispute have failed. In the past week, however, Washington
appears to have launched a new round of U.S. diplomacy.
First, the White House reportedly intends to invite all six members of the
Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) to a May summit at Camp David. And on
February 27-28, President Trump held separate telephone calls with Crown
Prince Muhammad bin Salman of Saudi Arabia, Crown Prince Muhammad bin Zayed
of Abu Dhabi (the leading emirate of the UAE), and Emir Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani
of Qatar. The White House readouts of the three conversations were
essentially identical—each leader was thanked for highlighting ways in which
all GCC states "can better counter Iranian destabilizing activities and
defeat terrorists and extremists."
President Trump then spoke with Egyptian president Abdul Fattah al-Sisi on
March 4. This time the readout mentioned "Russia and Iran's irresponsible
support for the Assad regime's brutal attacks against innocent civilians,"
as well as a pledge to "work together on...achieving Arab unity and security
in the region." So far there has been no report of Trump contacting the
fourth leader of the Arab coalition, King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa of
What is the context?
Saudi Arabia is the region's largest oil exporter; the UAE is second. Qatar
is the world's largest exporter of liquefied natural gas and shares its
largest gas field with Iran. By virtue of its small citizen population of
around 300,000, Qatar also has the world's highest per capita income, and it
has used this wealth to carve out an independent foreign policy, for example
inviting Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to the 2007 GCC summit in
Doha. At the same time, Qatar hosts 10,000 U.S. military personnel at al-Udeid
Air Base, from which U.S. aircraft routinely launch strikes on Islamic State
targets in Syria.
Who are the key players?
The two most important figures in resolving the dispute are the crown
princes of Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi, respectively known as MbS and MbZ,
and the de facto leaders of their countries. MbZ has apparently taken the
lead role on this matter. On the Qatari side, Emir Tamim is not as powerful
on the regional stage, and his father, Hamad bin Khalifa, is not regarded as
a significant player by foreign diplomats in Doha, despite Emirati claims
that he is crucial. U.S. diplomacy is led by Secretary of State Rex
Tillerson and Defense Secretary James Mattis. Emir Sabah al-Ahmed al-Sabah
of Kuwait has also been laboring for months to resolve the crisis.
What is the dispute?
Unraveling the most relevant differences between the Arab coalition and
Qatar has become increasingly complicated. Their historical enmity predates
the discovery of local oil and gas deposits. The current crisis also seems
like a re-run of a previous row in early 2014, when Saudi Arabia, the UAE,
and Bahrain withdrew their ambassadors from Qatar for several months after
accusing it of meddling in their domestic affairs. When the latest rupture
occurred, the Arab coalition produced a list of thirteen demands
(subsequently recast as six "principles") and closed Qatar's land border and
At times, the key issue—particularly for MbZ, but also for Egypt—seems to be
Doha's reputation for allowing exiled Muslim Brotherhood members to live in
Qatar. Other demands relate to restraining Al Jazeera's often-inflammatory
satellite television broadcasts and ceasing support for terrorism. But the
first item on the coalition's list is all about Iran. Specifically, Doha has
been ordered to do the following: "Curb diplomatic ties with Iran and close
its diplomatic missions there. Expel members of Iran's Revolutionary Guard
from Qatar and cut off any joint military cooperation with Iran. Only trade
and commerce with Iran that complies with U.S. and international sanctions
will be permitted."
How deep are the differences?
MbS commented this week that the crisis with Qatar "could last for a long
time," comparing it with the U.S. embargo on Cuba. Yet however serious the
dispute may be to the parties themselves, some of their behavior thus far
seems petty to outsiders. For example, the children's section of the new
Louvre Abu Dhabi museum recently displayed a map of the southern Gulf that
erased the Qatari peninsula. The museum described the omission as an
"oversight," but the problem resurfaced just last week, when a map provided
to Bloomberg television by the Saudi state-owned oil company made an
identical omission. (Bloomberg offered an on-air apology a day later.)
Meanwhile, MbZ has been hosting peripheral disenchanted members of the
Qatari royal family in Abu Dhabi; one left in January after protesting he
was being held against his will; another was welcomed on February 20.
How do reports of foreign hacking fit in?
Both Qatar and the UAE have used cyberwarfare during the dispute. At some
point, the personal email account of the UAE ambassador to Washington,
Yousef Al Otaiba, was compromised by individuals presumably acting on Doha's
behalf. And last May, just after President Trump celebrated Gulf unity at a
summit in Riyadh, hackers infiltrated the Qatar News Agency and sent out a
story that was supportive of Iran, prompting outrage from the UAE and Saudi
Arabia. U.S. officials have reportedly concluded that the hack was
perpetrated by or on behalf of the UAE.
Are there policy differences within the Trump administration?
President Trump's initial tweets about the dispute appeared to take Saudi
Arabia and the UAE's side, while Tillerson and Mattis seemed to regard the
crisis as a distraction from Washington's main regional priority: supporting
Gulf allies against the Iranian threat. But they now seem to share unity of
In January, Tillerson and Mattis jointly hosted the first U.S.-Qatar
Strategic Dialogue, which was reportedly a great success. And when MbS
visits the White House this month, Qatar will be on the agenda. President
Trump may try to split him off from MbZ on this issue; MbZ himself has been
invited for a White House meeting a few days later, while Emir Tamim is
scheduled to visit in April. Whether President Trump can broker an accord
may depend on the extent to which the three leaders pride their relationship
with him and the United States. The proposed Camp David summit in May is
unlikely to happen unless the crisis is resolved by then.
Is the crisis amenable to negotiation?
The coalition's demand that Qatar break diplomatic links with Iran is
especially thorny given Tehran's complicated relations with several of the
parties. Although Saudi Arabia and Bahrain broke off formal relations with
the Islamic Republic after the Saudi embassy in Tehran was attacked by
rioters in 2016, the UAE has maintained official links. Iran has a large
consulate in Dubai, where a significant proportion of UAE citizens with
Iranian heritage live. Iran is also the UAE's second-largest export market,
accounting for around 9 percent of its outgoing trade, worth about $30
Meanwhile, Qatar's ties with Iran have been exaggerated at times. The
coalition demand to expel Revolutionary Guard troops is probably based on a
false news report that such personnel had been stationed outside palaces in
Doha. Foreign diplomats posted in the Qatari capital say that there is no
truth to the allegation, and that there are no significant military or
political ties between the two countries. Their bilateral trade has
increased only marginally in the past few months and remains very low. Now
that its border with Saudi Arabia is closed, Qatar has to import everything
it needs via sea or air. Iranian milk is on sale in Qatari supermarkets, but
so is milk from Turkey and Britain.
Is there an Israeli angle?
Israel has a stake in the dispute given its own concerns about Iran and
terrorism, but its relationship with the Gulf players is similarly
complicated. In late January, after prominent American Jews visited Doha at
Qatar's expense, the Israeli embassy in Washington tweeted, "We oppose
Qatar's outreach to pro-Israel Jews." At the same time, Israel used to have
a diplomatic office in Doha, and its passport holders are still permitted
entry to attend conferences in Qatar. Israel is also grateful for Qatar's
financial support to reconstruction efforts in Gaza and parallel mediation
role with Hamas. Yet while such funds are required to pass through official
Israeli channels, concerns persist that some of the money has been leaked to
Hamas and similar groups for terrorist activity.
On the other side of the dispute, the UAE is central to what Israeli
diplomats call the "iceberg strategy," which entails cementing discreet ties
with Gulf states threatened by Iran. The UAE is the only Gulf state with an
official Israeli diplomatic presence, in the form of a representative office
to the International Renewable Energy Agency headquartered in Abu Dhabi.
Is there a domestic U.S. angle?
The New York Times reported last weekend that Special Counsel Robert Mueller
was investigating Lebanese American businessman George Nader regarding
possible UAE attempts to buy political influence via financial support for
Trump's presidential campaign. Nader apparently received a detailed report
from top Trump fundraiser Elliott Broidy about an Oval Office meeting in
which Broidy lobbied the president to meet privately with MbZ, back the
UAE's regional policies, and fire Secretary Tillerson. Broidy has accused
Qatar of hacking his emails to get that report.
-*Simon Henderson is the Baker Fellow and director of the Gulf and Energy
Policy Program at The Washington Institute.
Humanity Keeps Getting Smarter
Peter R. Orszag/Asharq Al Awsat/March 10/18
When President Trump infamously declared his preference for immigrants from
Norway, he was presumably unaware that he selected one of the few developed
economies in the world experiencing a decline in average IQ. Norway and the
other Nordic countries have seen an IQ downturn, admittedly from relatively
high levels, even while intelligence measurements in the rest of the world
continue their long upward rise. A key question is whether the recent
downturn in Norway and elsewhere suggests the global phenomenon may soon
Average intelligence levels, as measured by standardized intelligence tests,
have been rising since at least the early 20th century. A recent
meta-analysis that included more than 4 million people in 31 countries found
an average gain of about three IQ points per decade, or roughly 10 points
per generation. Another recent study found a similar increase.
The phenomenon is commonly called the “Flynn effect,” after James Robert
Flynn, the New Zealand academic who documented it in a series of studies
starting in the early 1980s. The rise in IQ has been found in both developed
and developing countries, but it varies by degree across countries, over
time, and according to the type of intelligence measured. The Flynn effect
has been stronger for nonverbal tests than for verbal ones, for instance,
and greater for adults than for children.
Its causes are hotly debated. One theory is that the results are a mirage,
reflecting better test-taking techniques or the selection of people taking
the tests. But such shifts have not been great enough to explain the
phenomenon. More likely, multiple factors are at play, including
improvements in nutrition; expansion of formal schooling; increases in
average educational attainment; environmental improvements such as a
reduction in lead exposure; and shrinking family size, which allows more
focus on the education of each child. An ongoing debate exists about whether
or not the increase in the average reflects a disproportionate increase in
IQ levels at the bottom end of the distribution.
One implication for policy involves the need to reconsider what constitutes
impaired intelligence. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled, for example, that
it was cruel and unusual punishment for a state to execute someone lacking
sufficient mental capability to understand the consequences of his or her
own actions. For this purpose, should an IQ of 80 today be considered
comparable to an IQ of 70 a generation ago? Courts have been inconsistent on
the question of whether to adjust for the Flynn effect. (Professor Flynn
himself has argued vehemently that the courts should adjust.)
One notable exception to the sustained, worldwide rise in average IQ is
found within the U.S. military: Officers’ test scores have declined in
recent decades. Given that the IQ scores for the U.S. overall have continued
to rise, the military results presumably reflect recruitment patterns rather
than any broader phenomenon. What stands out is when average scores for a
whole country decline.
Which brings us back to Norway. Nine studies have measured negative Flynn
effects in seven countries, according to a recent systematic review of the
literature. The data for Norway are particularly interesting, because
they’re based on tests administered to military conscripts and cover a
substantial share of young men in the country. They show declines in average
IQ in Norway since the mid-1990s.
Professor Flynn himself has conducted some of the new research on Norway and
other Scandinavian countries. His analysis suggests a decline of about 6.5
points per generation.
Might these declines eventually be echoed in the rest of the world, or are
they specific to the countries involved? Presumably, the causes of the Flynn
effect could diminish, and be overwhelmed by other forces -- including the
effects of video gaming and other recent social and cultural changes.
Indeed, one of the recent studies found that the pace of increase in IQ
scores has generally been slowing -- a possible early warning about a
potential negative Flynn effect ahead. However, the second study found no
Since we understand so little about what causes scores to rise, we’re left
with the unappealing option of having to wait to see what happens in the
world. In the U.S., for now at least, the rise in IQ levels shows no sign of
Iraq's Energy Future Lies to the North
James F. Jeffrey and Michael Knights/The Washington Institute/March 09/18
U.S. support for Iraqi oil export projects involving Turkey, the Gulf, and
Europe can help keep undue Iranian influence at bay.
Despite a fifteen-year security crisis that would have sunk most societies, Iraq
has registered year-on-year oil production increases that make its energy sector
a global success story. Going forward, Iraqi hydrocarbons will either be
exploited by Iran and its allies or used for Iraq's own benefit, transforming
the country into an energy export hub between the Gulf states, Turkey, and
Europe. The United States has a strong strategic interest in promoting the
A FAST-GROWING SECTOR
At the CWC Group's "Iraq Petroleum" conference in Berlin late last month,
officials, business reps, and analysts were told that Iraq has become a strong
number two in OPEC oil production, coming close to 5 million barrels per day
(bpd) last year, with almost 4 million exported. Moreover, Baghdad is planning a
major seawater injection program with the aim of further expanding production,
first to 7 million bpd and eventually to 9 million. The latter target would put
it in the same league as Saudi Arabia, the United States, and Russia.
Iraq's potential gas prodction is also enormous—it wastes an extraordinary 16
billion cubic meters (bcm) annually in flaring alone, or 0.5 percent of global
production. A joint project between Shell, Mitsubishi, and the Iraqi government
will be the largest flaring capture effort in the world, providing 2 bcm
annually for much-needed electricity generation. Iraq's ambitious plan is to
capture and use all of its gas production with zero flaring by 2021. The initial
objective is to replace more expensive, less efficient, and dirtier oil
products, but if Iraq reaches its capture goal, it could become not only a gas
exporter, but also a gas transit hub linking Turkey, Iran, Syria, Jordan, Saudi
Arabia, and other key economies.
KURDISTAN AND KIRKUK OIL
The most pressing obstacle to these plans is Baghdad's ongoing tussle with the
Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) over oil from northern Iraq. The Kirkuk
fields are especially thorny, generating a dispute that has drawn in Turkey and
Iran, with Washington as an occasional mediator.
The problem began when the 2005 constitution gave the KRG a significant role in
developing "new" fields, which it did with a vengeance by courting international
oil companies and signing production sharing contracts. Yet the constitution
also required the federal government—via the State Oil Marketing Organization (SOMO)—to
market production from everywhere in the country, including the KRG. In return,
the federal budget set aside some 17 percent of oil revenues for the KRG (closer
to 12 percent when certain national expenditures were taken out, though the
associated figures and definitions have long been fuzzy). The KRG usually did
not allow SOMO to market its oil, however, so the federal revenue payments often
went unpaid. Today, the latest Iraqi budget nets the Kurds only about 12.5
percent of anticipated oil income. The two sides have repeatedly sought to paper
over their differences with American help, only to break their agreements and
renew the dispute.
When the Islamic State invaded the north in 2014, Kirkuk city and its oil fields
were defended not by the Iraqi army, but by Kurdish Peshmerga, who seized the
fields and began exporting Kirkuk oil through the KRG pipeline to the Turkish
border and then on to the port of Ceyhan. For the most part, they marketed the
oil itself rather than byproducts. Baghdad did not like this deal but had no
choice at the time.
With the Islamic State's defeat, however, the central government saw its chance,
particularly after the KRG's strategic mistake of holding an independence
referendum last September. Amid heavy regional pressure on the Kurds, Baghdad
quashed their independence bid and took back Kirkuk.
The dispute now centers on how to export and market Kirkuk's oil, and who will
market the KRG oil still flowing to Ceyhan. In the meantime, Kirkuk's estimated
300,000 bpd are shut in.
IRAQ'S ENERGY PARTNERS
When major international players look at Iraq, they see not only future energy
supplies and a rich market for their exports, but also potential geostrategic
gains. These players are particularly interested in Kirkuk's stranded oil.
Russia. Rosneft, Moscow's main state oil company, has invested some $3 billion
in the KRG hydrocarbon sector. This includes partial ownership of the pipeline
from Kirkuk via the KRG to the Turkish border, which links to the Ceyhan line
(portions of Iraq's original Kirkuk-Ceyhan pipeline running through non-Kurdish
territory to the Turkish border were destroyed by the Islamic State).
Turkey. Ankara still allows the KRG to market its own oil (roughly 300,000 bpd)
at Ceyhan, claiming it cannot turn this flow over to SOMO unless Baghdad assumes
the KRG's oil-related debts to Turkey. Ankara has clear strategic and trade
interests in preserving a friendly, autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq.
Turkey also hopes for significant gas exports from the KRG, which would be
provided at below-market prices and without destination restrictions.
At the same time, Ankara wants Baghdad to drop its arbitration against Turkey
for allowing KRG oil exports through the jointly owned Iraqi-Turkish pipeline.
Ankara covets trade opportunities in Iraq's broader imported goods and services
market as well. Indeed, Turkey led international donors with a $5 billion pledge
at last month's Iraq reconstruction conference in Kuwait.
Iran. The Islamic Republic already exports overpriced electricity and gas to
Iraq, and it seeks to strengthen this stranglehold on the country's power
generation market. It also hopes to establish a pipeline from Kirkuk to Iran in
order to draw northern Iraqi oil away from its traditional Turkish export route,
ultimately delivering Iranian crude through Gulf ports instead of refining Iraqi
crude. While locked in disputes with the KRG, Baghdad has attempted to export
some oil to Iran via truck, though this effort has been stymied by marauding
Islamic State remnants in the area. Iraqi authorities have also threatened to
divert much of Kirkuk's oil by building a new pipeline to Iran.
The larger geostrategic stakes are significant as well. If Baghdad's Shia-majority
government decides to favor an export route through Shia Iran instead of through
Kurdish or Sunni Arab areas of Iraq, then it would put itself firmly in the camp
of the regional pariahs in Tehran and essentially write off 40 percent of its
population as untrustworthy, second-class subjects. Likewise, choosing Iran over
Turkey would be a major blow to Ankara's prestige given its economic strength
and commitment to Iraqi reconstruction—not to mention the damage this would do
to Iraq's chances of full recovery.
IMPLICATIONS FOR U.S. POLICY
Under these circumstances, U.S.-led international mediation is necessary to
avoid yet another win for Iran. Iraqi prime minister Haider al-Abadi recently
backtracked on the Iran option for Kirkuk oil, suggesting that local production
could be shipped via the KRG pipeline. He has not followed through, however,
probably because such a compromise would weaken him before the May national
While the United States and its coalition partners may need to wait till after
those elections to formalize a deal, they should still prioritize efforts to
hammer out the details of an export and revenue-sharing agreement between
Baghdad and the KRG in the meantime. Iran is trying to make Iraq dependent on
its overpriced gas, and it will likely seek to drive this gas over to Syria in
the near future. Greater energy interconnection between Iran and Iraq—including
oil swaps and the use of sanctioned Iranian construction firms in Iraqi pipeline
projects—will only loosen Baghdad's connection to free markets and international
To prevent that outcome, the United States should put its weight behind a
north-south energy corridor in which Iraq serves as an energy hub between
ever-friendlier Gulf states and Turkey, ultimately forming an export bridge to
Europe. Washington should also support the Basra-Haditha-Aqaba pipeline project
to bring Iraqi oil and gas to Jordan. This project—along with reconditioning of
the reversible north-south strategic pipeline linking hydrocarbon-rich southern
Iraq to Turkey—would reduce Baghdad's over-dependence on exporting oil through
the Persian Gulf, where Iran can hold Iraqi terminals and the Strait of Hormuz
hostage. Finally, Baghdad could play a profitable role as a gas transit hub
between the Gulf, Europe, and the Levant.
*James F. Jeffrey is the Philip Solondz Distinguished Fellow at The Washington
Institute and former U.S. ambassador to Iraq and Turkey. Michael Knights is a
Lafer Fellow with the Institute and has worked extensively on energy projects
Russia-America rivalry spreads to the oil market
Randa Takieddine/Al Arabiya/March 10/18
A report by the International Energy Agency (IEA) has revealed an increase in US
oil production raising questions about the share of OPEC and non-OPEC countries
in the global oil market after they decreased their production. The 24 OPEC and
non-OPEC countries, headed by the biggest producers Saudi Arabia and Russia, had
decided to cut down production by 1.8 million barrels per day until the end of
2018 due to a surplus in oil supply.
US shale oil disrupts price
According to the IEA, the rapid rise of US shale oil and increased production in
Brazil and Canada will be able to accommodate growing demand for oil by 2020.
The United States under the leadership of George Bush and Barack Obama expedited
the process of transforming the country from being the largest oil importer into
an important and independent producer. When Trump was elected president, he
ordered issuing licenses and removing obstacles that hindered exploring and
producing more shale oil. The United States is now exporting not only gas but
Russian companies are worried that US oil is taking away their share of the
This situation may compel OPEC members and non-OPEC states to extend reduction
in oil production to beyond 2018. Current OPEC president Suhail Al Mazroui said
in Houston that the group has not ruled out if it is going to continue
implementing this policy even after 2018. Ever since the IEA published its
report on US oil production, the price of Brent crude has dropped to below $64
after having reached $71 in January. There is no doubt that all OPEC countries
and most of the other non-OPEC countries do not want to see a drop in oil prices
because it is not in their interest.
A number of Russian companies are worried that US oil is taking away their share
of the market, and they may not want to continue to reduce their share of oil in
the market after 2018 in favor of the US. It is premature to predict what the 24
OPEC and non-OPEC countries will decide during their June meeting in Vienna on
the sidelines of the OPEC conference because it will have a bearing on the
evolution of the price of oil, which can rise and drop for reasons other than
market fundamentals, like geopolitical factors or even investor speculation.
Generally, the US growth factor can pose a challenge for major producers,
including Russia and Saudi Arabia. For years, Saudi Arabia has increased its oil
exports to countries in the east – such as to China, India and Japan. In order
to save its oil for export, Saudi Aramco and Russia's Novatek have signed a
memorandum of understanding for future investment in an LNG plant. This will
enable Saudi Arabia to acquire Russian natural gas to supply electricity. Saudi
Arabia wants to preserve its market share and cultivate policies in this regard
as for instance there are Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's plans and projects
to diversify the kingdom's economy so that it is not dependent on oil and its
prices in the future.
The Russian-Saudi cooperation in oil and gas is in the interest of the two
countries. But Russia's current policy as an ally to Iran in Syria and its
determination to defend Iran is echoed in Russia’s talks with Western leaders
and ministers. This puts a question mark over the prospect of this cooperation.
In his meeting with his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian, Russian Foreign
Minister Sergei Lavrov considered Iran a stabilizing factor in Syria, Lebanon
and the Middle East. This raises questions about the future of sustaining
Russia’s interests with Gulf states if it maintains the same policies.
Saudi Arabia has drawn unjustified ire and unfounded
Mashari Althaydi/Al Arabiya/March 10/18
Without dwelling on the political and economic aspect of Saudi Crown Prince
Mohammed bin Salman’s deliberations during his recent trip to Egypt, the United
Kingdom and then the United States, let us focus solely on the human and
cultural aspects of the tour.
In Egypt, the Saudi Crown Prince had a unique meeting with the highest
representative of Egyptian Christians and the Coptic Church, Pope Tawadros II,
at St. Mark's Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in the Abbassia District in Cairo. He
also met with other Christian figures. The discussions revolved around the
situation of Christians and the Copts in Egypt and reaffirmed both parties
“common commitment to eradicating extremism and terrorism.” The Saudi leadership
is intent on forming a multi-cultural and religious alliance between different
religions and cultures to promote peace, harmony and synergy in its war against
terrorism and terrorist ideology
In the UK, Prince Mohammed, who held several political, economic and security
meetings, scheduled a meeting with the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby,
principal leader of the Anglican Church.
I do not understand why those who claim to be secular and civil and those who
accuse Saudi Arabia of espousing an ideology that promotes terrorism are furious
that the Saudi leadership is intent on forming a multi-cultural and religious
alliance between different religions and cultures to promote peace, harmony and
synergy in its war against terrorism and terrorist ideology. Is it not necessary
for Saudi Arabia to be involved in an ideological war against terrorist groups
which promote their beliefs among Muslim youths in Muslim as well as western
Saudi Arabia is the origin of Islam and a destination for all Muslims, so why do
these people fight its good efforts, or in the best case scenario, they ignore
them or doubt them or underestimate them?
On what premise do they base their judgments?
Following is a quick review of some of the headlines of the BBC in its Arabic
version on the Prince’s visit to the United Kingdom:
*British prime minister defends the country‘s relations with Saudi Arabia
*Saudi-British relations: Not everything is alright
*Saudi Arabia is having a public relations’ problem as the world sees it as an
unrealistically wealthy country waging war on a poverty-stricken Yemen
*Saudi Arabia imposes embargo on neighboring Qatar
Importance of reforms
This is not a fleeting trend, but a continuous “approach” that only the blind
cannot see. I am not surprised that such outlets are attacking Saudi Arabia
because that’s become their habit. However, how can they, whether implicitly or
explicitly, accuse Saudi Arabia of sponsoring and financing terrorist ideology
and then thwart Saudi efforts to fight it? Let’s assume we believe your
accusations against Saudi Arabia. Fine! Help it and encourage it to no longer be
extremist. Wouldn’t this be the wise thing to do?
What’s good for Saudi Arabia is not only good for the kingdom but for all
Muslims. British Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Boris
Johnson acknowledged this in an article as he called on British citizens not to
ignore the achievements of Saudi Arabia. He stressed that the future of Saudi
Arabia, the region and the Islamic world as a whole depends on the outcome of
Iran: The French soufflé fails to rise
Amir Taheri/Al Arabiya/March 10/18
According to those in the know in Paris, France’s Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le
Drian is a smart soft-soaper capable of persuading a mule out of its hind legs.
A provincial politician, Le Drian emerged from relative obscurity towards the
end of President Francois Hollande’s much maligned presidency. As Defense
Minister in Hollande’s government, Le Drian was quickly established as the star
of a moribund administration.
While other ministers turned round vacuous illusions, Le Drian won a reputation
as a “doer” (in French faiseur) by winning huge contracts for the sale of the
latest French combat aircraft, le Raffale, to a number of countries including
Brazil, Egypt and India, thus providing some good news for Hollande’s bad-news
tenure. Le Drian was Socialist enough to survive several Cabinet reshuffles but
not too Socialist to remain on board as the party’s sinking ship.
Knowing when to abandon ship, Le Drian was the first senior politician to jump
on Emanuel Macron’s presidential bandwagon at a time few rated the young
aspirant’s chances above that of a snowflake in June.
When Macron won against all odds, Le Drian was upgraded to Foreign Minister with
the understanding that, as the new regime’s elder statesman, he would have a say
in other aspects of domestic and foreign policies.
So, this week as Le Drian headed for Tehran for what some described as “crucial
talks”, the consensus in Paris was that if anyone can persuade the mullahs to
temper their ardor it would be the Breton miracle-worker.
According to sources in Paris and Tehran, in talks with Iranian officials, Le
Drian used his hitherto successful method of “give-and-take”.
The method is simple.
The Frenchman asks his interlocutors what is it exactly that they want.
Once that has become clear he would raise the question of how much of what they
want is achievable, how and when? The trick is to keep the interlocutors focused
on real, tangible things rather than chimeras and abstractions. The next step is
to link what the interlocutors want to what the French want and show a high
measure of compatibility, leading to a deal that gives both sides most, if not
all, of what they want.
By all accounts Le Drian’s recipe failed in Tehran.
The soufflé that had risen in so many countries across the globe failed to rise.
Le Drian’s failure is the latest in a string of such forlorn bids by big, medium
and small powers trying, in the words of former US President Barack Obama, to
“bring Iran into the dance.”There are many reasons for such failures.
The first is the fact that we have two Irans: one is Iran as a nation-state with
the normal interests, fears and aspirations of any typical nation-state, and the
other is Iran as a revolution with the irrational dreams and ambitions of all
This duality means that Iran cannot develop a coherent policy on any issue,
domestic or foreign as the interests and aspiration of the two Irans, Dr. Jekyll
and Mr. Hyde, do not always coincide.
Because Iran has a problem with itself it is bound to have problems with
When Le Drian asks Tehran officials: What is it that they want, they are unable
to provide a clear answer. And because they cannot answer, they behave as if
they want everything, rather any identifiable desiderata.
The classical demands of a nation-state behaving as such are not legion.
A nation state wants, respect, security, demarcated borders, trade, access to
natural resources, share of markets, economic cooperation, cultural exchanges
etc. All those demands can be and in the case of almost all 198 members of the
United Nations are routinely fulfilled. The Islamic Republic is one of the few
exceptions along with North Korea, Venezuela and Zimbabwe until the fall of
A revolution, however, feeds on its messianic pretensions.
It cannot seek to become part of a grey status quo which would extinguish
whatever is left of its embers. It has to remain defiant, clenched fist and all,
claiming a purity it never had but always boasted about. The second mistake Le
Drian made, as countless others did before him, was to believe that he was
negotiating with authentic decision-makers. However, the fact is that in the
Islamic Republic the President and his ministers are essentially actors playing
such roles in an ever-revised script.
It is clear that in the Khomeinist system Iran is ruled by a “deep state” headed
by the “Supreme Guide” and a handful of military and civilian advisers forming a
parallel government in “The House of the Leader” (Beit-e-Rahbar).
If you hope for results you ought to talk directly, and exclusively, to Ali
Khamenei. This is what Russian President Vladimir Putin did when he flew to
Tehran, drove directly from the airport to Khamenei’s house, and spent several
hours with him before driving back to the airport for a return flight to Moscow.
Putin wasted no time with his nominal counterpart President Hassan Rouhani let
alone the actors playing ministers.
If our information is correct Le Drian wanted two things.
The first was a pledge by Iran not to develop long-range missiles capable of
carrying nuclear warheads- a demand advanced by US President Donald Trump and
backed by Macron. The fact is that neither Rouhani nor his Foreign Minister
Mohammad-Javad Zarif know much about the missile project, let alone being in a
position to agree to a “freezing phase.”
The puppeteer has ordered them to respond to such demands with a firm “no”. End
of discussions. Le Drian’s second demand was for Iran to reduce its footprint in
Syria and Yemen. Again, this is something above the pay-grade of either Rouhani
or Zarif, who don’t even know how much money Iran is spending on maintaining the
Syrian despot Bashar al-Assad in his Damascene hideout. There are no figures for
that in the official budget presented by Rouhani. The reason is that funds for
“exporting revolution” come from the Special Account of the “House of the
Leader”. Money poured into that account comes from a variety of sources
including a one percent ring-fenced tariff on all imported cars. The ”House of
the Leader” also owns some of the 32 companies that trade in Iranian oil and
petroleum products at home and abroad and, being classed as private sector,
avoid public scrutiny. Le Drian wanted things from those who don’t have them,
ignoring those who could deliver the goods but won’t because of a traditional
carpet bazaar scenario in which you start by asking a small discount on a carpet
you like but end up buying at twice the price a carpet you don’t want.
The loudness of our cities and the havoc of technology
Fahad Suleiman Shoqiran/Al Arabiya/March 10/18
Every now and then I make sure to pay a visit to a teacher whom I’ve known for a
long time. His library is diverse and exhaustive, but the books are in bad
condition, as they have been borrowed and read by many people. In fact, the
teacher believes that books are “wasted” if nobody lends them to others.
Sitting in these rather Spartan precincts I revert to the past, to old naïve
dreams, when one drew puerile plans for bringing about change amid the city’s
tranquility, particularly when the day ended after evening prayers.
Technology distorts individuality
It’s very rare for someone to keep oneself away from all the preaching, the
chatter on social media to gain attention and cause discord. All these
pre-occupations have distorted man’s individuality and existence. One is no
longer capable of moulding one’s own personality. This is why all people today
look alike. However, there are still some people who reflect upon the triviality
of this world. Technology is like a pickaxe that shatters the self. It invades
and encroaches upon everything, destroys the sense of amazement and wonder,
dehumanizes personality, imprisons the mind and belies ignorance.
Heidegger was one of the few early philosophers to have discussed the effects of
technology. He feared that technology will start affecting existence and shall
be viewed as the “the era’s metaphysics.” He delved into its complexities and
dangers. In his lecture “The Question Concerning Technology,” he noted that
“questioning is piety of thought.” He believed in the essence behind the world
of technology, which man cannot fully control. Man thus becomes captive to
technology and is driven by its own impulses and tools.
Technology encroaches upon everything, destroys the sense of amazement and
wonder, dehumanizes personality, imprisons the mind and belies ignorance.
Fahad Suleiman Shoqiran
He discusses how technology has developed since the 1940’s with the introduced
of the visual media, then developed nuclear weapons and then paved the way for
the invention of the computer. The early technological inventions pointed to how
these tools would influence the “existence” of today. It’s been an overwhelming
influence to the point where those who have not kept up with technology feel
isolated and ignorant. We’ve all fallen captive to this technological prison.
However, why don’t we can we not condemn this jailer every now and again? This
is what I am doing.
I’ve chosen to cite Heidegger because of his clear thoughts and critique of
technology, its developmental stages and because he delved into details of
existence and its mysteries. His entire life was an expression of his philosophy
as he employed what’s within his reach to shape his concepts. His former student
Hans-Georg Gadamer discusses this in his books Heidegger’s Ways and
Philosophical Apprenticeships, which are about Heidegger’s philosophy, concepts
In his book Heidegger’s Ways, Gadamer writes about an instance when Heidegger
showed up at a lecture wearing a ski suit. “When stopped and asked ‘Are you
going to lecture like that,’ he laughed.
The reason for his laughter was that “he was giving a lecture on skiing that
evening, which was to serve as an introduction to a then new course on dry
skiing. The way he began the lecture was pure Heidegger. He said: One can learn
to ski only on the slopes and for the slopes. The typical knock-out punch, it
dealt a heavy blow to fashionable expectations, but simultaneously provided an
opening for new expectations,” Gadamer quips.
Later, Heidegger wrote the book Pathmarks, which was distinguished for its use
of terms like “rugged slope” and “multiple paths.” These are terms derived from
skiing. But what did Heidegger do to confront all this fuss?
In his paper ‘Why do I stay in the provinces?’ which Heidegger wrote from a
small ski hut in the southern Black Forest at an elevation of 1,150 meters, he
said: “On a deep winter’s night when a wild, pounding snowstorm rages around the
cabin and veils and covers everything, that is the perfect time for philosophy.
In the public world, one can be made a ‘celebrity’ overnight by the newspapers
and journals. That always remains the surest way to have one’s innermost
intentions get misinterpreted and quickly and thoroughly forgotten. And this
philosophical work does not take its course like the aloof studies of some
eccentric. It belongs right in the middle of the peasant’s work. When the young
farmboy drags his heavy sled up the slope and guides it, piled high with beech
logs, down the dangerous descent to his house… my work is of the same sort. I
sit with the peasants by the fire or at the table in the corner, we mostly say
nothing at all. We smoke our pipes in silence. Now and again someone might say
that the woodcutting in the forest is finishing up, that a marten broke into the
hen-house last night and that one of the cows will probably calf in the
He also narrates a story that reflects an existential stance. “Very often in the
past year when I lived alone in the cabin for weeks on end, this peasant woman
with her 83 years would still come climbing up the slope to visit me. She wanted
to look in from time to time, as she put it, to see whether I was still there or
whether ‘someone’ had stolen from me off unawares. She spent the night of her
death in conversation with her family. Just an hour and a half before the end,
she sent her greetings to the ‘Professor.’ Such a memory is worth incomparably
more than the most astute report by any international newspaper about my alleged
philosophy.”We recall these experiences to mitigate the consequences of all this
fuss around us as it’s impossible to break free from it. One, however, has the
right to protest against this evident falsity now and then. Heidegger was one of
those philosophers who criticized ‘nosiness’, ‘trivial chatter’, ‘demagoguery’,
and ‘vulgarity’ the most.