March 11/2018
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani


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Bible Quotations
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.

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on March 10-11/18
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 10/18
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 March 10-11/18

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, investment opportunities
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 visit
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 the Paralyzed
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 definitely answers.
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 their request.
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 07/07 &08)
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 others, e.g.
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.
Lebanese President: 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 and blocs.”

Diaspora Energy Conference continues its works on nationality restoration, investment opportunities

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 investors.

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 figures.
Khatib urged all the Lebanese to participate in the forthcoming parliamentary elections in light of the adoption of the new proportional electoral law.
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 II Conference
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 Syr
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 that."--UNHCR website

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 in Lebanon
Mohamed Kawas/The Arab Weekly/March 11, 2018
Riyadh seems convinced that opposing Iran and its proxy militias must be an international effort.
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 political systems.
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 agenda.
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 anxiety.
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 delegation.
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. (Supplied)
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 Town
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 fight.

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 catastrophe."
"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 Exchange.
"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 Vision 2030."
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 Power
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 Korea.--AFP

Saudi Arabia signs deal for 48 Typhoon fighter jets
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 capabilities."--AFP

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 meeting.
"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 partners".
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 Complicated Crisis
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 Bahrain.
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 air links.
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 purpose.
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 billion annually.
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 end, too.
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 such slowing.
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 slowing down.

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 latter outcome.
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.
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.
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.
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 elections.
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 capital.
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 inside Iraq.

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 also oil.
Russian companies are worried that US oil is taking away their share of the market
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.
Russia-Saudi cooperation
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 accusations
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
Unfounded accusations
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 countries?
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 Saudi reforms.

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 revolutions.
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 everyone else.
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.
Messianic pretensions
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 Robert Mugabe.
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 and contentions.
Heidegger’s retreat
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 morning.”
Greater glory
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.