March 12/2018
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani


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Bible Quotations
Make the heart of this people calloused; make their ears dull and close their eyes
Isaiah 06/01-13: "In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke. “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.” Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.” Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” He said, “Go and tell this people: “‘Be ever hearing, but never understanding; be ever seeing, but never perceiving. ’Make the heart of this people calloused; make their ears dull and close their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.” Then I said, “For how long, Lord?” And he answered: “Until the cities lie ruined and without inhabitant, until the houses are left deserted and the fields ruined and ravaged, until the Lord has sent everyone far away and the land is utterly forsaken. And though a tenth remains in the land, it will again be laid waste. But as the terebinth and oak leave stumps when they are cut down, so the holy seed will be the stump in the land.”

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on March 11-12/18
The Healing Miracle of the ParalyzedظElias Bejjani/March 11/18
Kataeb Party Unveils 131-Point Platform/ 11/18,
Qatar Diplomacy: Unraveling a Complicated Crisis/Simon Henderson/The Washington Institute/March 09/18
US Ambassador to Yemen: War Merchants are Getting Richer/Badr Qahtani/Asharq Al Awsat/March 11/18
Tyranny of Shaming/American Race Wars as Seen by an Immigrant/Nonie Darwish/Gatestone Institute/March 11/18
The 'American Century' Is Over, and It Died in Syria/Hal Brands/Bloomberg /March 11/18
Italy's Election Was Quite Traditional, Actually/Leonid Bershidsky/Bloomberg /March 11/18
Beating down Netanyahu to save Israel: How media continues to distort facts/Ramzy Baroud/Al Arabiya/March 11/18
Mohammed bin Salman is the agent of Saudi Arabia’s change, not custodian of its past/Najah Alotaibi/Al Arabiya/March 11/18
Where to next, Italy/Eyad Abu Shakra/Al Arabiya/March 11/18

Titles For Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published 
on March 11-12/18
The Healing Miracle of the Paralyzed
Lebanon’s political power clans pass their assembly seats to the next generation
LF-Mustaqbal Electoral Negotiations Suffer Setback
Bassil from Australia: We Won't Allow Replacement of Lebanese Expats with Refugees
Diplomat Confirms Gulf States to Back Army in Rome Meeting
Jabbour Says No Imminent Geagea-Hariri Meeting
Hariri Urges Votes for 'Rafik Hariri Project, Stability, Economy, Arab Identity'
Salameh: Lebanese Pound stable, economic situation well controlled
Bassil urges expatriates to participate heavily in elections
Kataeb Party Announces Candidates for Parliamentary Polls
Sami Gemayel Urges Lebanese to Put Politicians to Account in Upcoming Polls
Kataeb Party Unveils 131-Point Platform

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on March 11-12/18
Saudi ambassador to Beirut pulled after less than 3 months
Turkish Warplanes Destroy 18 PKK Targets in Iraq
Ankara Announces Reaching Agreement with Washington over Manbij, East Euphrates
Paris Attacks' Main Suspect Speaks to Judge for First Time
UAE Official: Arab-Turkish Relations Not at Their Best
Egypt Issues Death Sentences against 10 Defendants in ‘Imbaba Terror Cell’ Case
Iran becoming ‘nervous’ about warmer Saudi-Iraqi relations, report states
Dubai Police considers using artificial intelligence to fight drug smuggling
Private Turkish Plane Crashes in Iran on Way from UAE
Netanyahu Accused of Stoking 'Fake' Crisis to Force Poll
Erdogan Slams NATO for Failing to Back Syria Campaign
Delegation from Syria Rebel Enclave Mulls Evacuation Deal
Mattis Says Any Gas Attack in Syria 'Very Unwise'
Cuba Vote Opens Final Chapter of Castro Era
Latest Lebanese Related News published on March 11-12/18
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.

Lebanon’s political power clans pass their assembly seats to the next generation
Arab News/March 12/18/BEIRUT: Nine years have passed since the last election in Lebanon, and voters could be forgiven for being excited to see some fresh young faces standing to win seats in a Parliament dominated by aging men.
But in many cases the names, and what they stand for, are all too familiar. Nearly a quarter of the 128 seats are expected to be passed on from an older relative to another member of the family, as the country’s politics of clans and dynasties shows little sign of fading. Of these, 19 candidates are standing for seats currently held by a father or mother. For many of Lebanon’s most powerful families, a seat in Parliament is seen as part of their inheritance. “Our politicians are dealing with the parliamentary seat as a piece of private property, which can be inherited within the family,” said Zeina Al-Helou, the former secretary general of the Lebanese Association for Democratic Elections. “The son — or daughter — will remain on the same political track as their parents, which turns the issue into the monopolization of politics by a number of families.”
In total, 31 seats for the May election are being contested by a child of the MP already representing that constituency. The length of the delay in running the election has only added to the number of parents deciding it’s time to hand over the reins.
In some cases the parent has passed away or been the victim of an assassination.
Tony Suleiman Frangieh exemplifies the system of political inheritance in Lebanon. He comes from a family whose dynastic story is full of the tragic plot lines entwined in the country’s history.
Born in 1987, he is a candidate for the Zagharta district, a stronghold for Christian Maronites in the country’s north. If he wins, he will be the fourth generation of the family to hold the seat.
He is the son of the current MP Suleiman Frangieh, who decided to abandon the seat in the hope of becoming president.
He took on the seat from his father, Tony Frangieh who was assassinated at “the massacre of Ehden” in 1978, in the early years of the civil war.
And his father, another Suleiman Frangieh, was also the president of the country between 1970 and 1976, the period during which the civil war erupted.
It was therefore inevitable that the young Tony Frangieh would enter politics after he gained a master’s degree in economics from UK. His recent comments to Lebanese media suggest his education has done little to provide him with an alternative political viewpoint to that of his father. “I am convinced by the alliances of my father, and I believe that these friendships serve the country,” he said.
“The national reconciliation is essential to Lebanon.” He added that he had no desire to become a member of the government. “I am a candidate to the parliament, not to the cabinet,” he said.
A staff member from Frangieh’s office told Arab News: “The son is not leaving the political track of his father, he will be reinforcing it and expanding its efficiency.”
Other hopefuls standing in May as part of the new generation are Nezar Dalloul, son of the Shiite MP and ex-minister Mohsen Dalloul, and Abdulrahman Al-Bizri the son of the Sunni MP Nazih Al-Bizri.
Michel Mouawwad, the son of the President Rene Mouawwad, who was assassinated in the late 1980s, is planning to take the seat of Zgharta-Tripoli from his mother Nayla Mouawwad, who won it after her husband’s death.
Experts say that while the elections in May will bring new blood to the national assembly, the family affiliations mean it will be unlikely to improve the way it works.
The assembly has been gridlocked for years by wrangling between the various political factions. The lack of effective governance, and the Syrian refugee crisis means that basic services in the country have deteriorated since the last election.
Walid Fakhreddine, an expert on Lebanon’s political system, told Arab News that some families consider the parliamentarian seat an exclusive right.
“The problem is the absence of real political parties which would produce a healthy parliament,” he said.
“Those who are inheriting from their parents will continue on their same track, and remaining in power is the most important thing to them; they’re seeking some kind of prestige rather than achieving development in the country.”
Gemayel Urges Electoral 'Uprising', Lebanon 'Neutrality'
Naharnet/March 11/18/Kataeb Party chief MP Sami Gemayel on Sunday called for an “uprising” in the country’s upcoming parliamentary elections, as he reiterated his call for “neutrality” in the region. Speaking at the Legend venue in Nahr el-Kalb at a ceremony to announce Kataeb’s electoral platform, Gemayel described the May 2018 parliamentary polls as “the public opinion’s uprising against mistakes and submission,” urging every citizen to “shoulder the responsibility and hold accountable every politician who believes that people are followers.”“We will fight our battle until the end, we will not back down and we will win,” Gemayel vowed. Slamming “those who are insisting on dragging us into conflicts that we have nothing to do with,” the young leaders said “neutrality is the path towards stability and not surrender to arms and violations at the expense of the sovereignty of our state and our independence.” “We will not accept to back down from Lebanon’s full sovereignty,” he added. “In addition to neutrality, we have not been afraid to talk about civil marriage, even if the issue creates controversy in the country. Nonmandatory civil marriage should be a right for the Lebanese, the same as women should be granted the right to give citizenship to their children, which should be a human right in Lebanon,” Gemayel added. He said that “the same as people rebelled on March 14,” 2005, they are asked today to “rise up and hold accountable every politician who has betrayed the cause.”
“Is giving up sovereignty and the martyrs’ sacrifices acceptable? Is flip-flopping in stances and practicing corruption acceptable? Is making light of the economic file acceptable? Is impoverishing people and destroying Lebanon’s environment acceptable?” Gemayel wondered.

LF-Mustaqbal Electoral Negotiations Suffer Setback
Naharnet/March 11/18/Negotiations between the Lebanese Forces and the al-Mustaqbal Movement over electoral alliances are “facing obstacles in most districts,” MTV reported on Sunday. “This is threatening the fate of the electoral alliance between them,” the TV network added. “Contacts over the past two days between the Center House and Maarab have failed to achieve any notable progress,” MTV said. In remarks to al-Jadeed TV, LF spokesman Charles Jabbour confirmed that the negotiations have suffered a setback. Prime Minister Saad Hariri is meanwhile scheduled to announce the names of Mustaqbal’s candidates during a ceremony on Sunday afternoon.

Bassil from Australia: We Won't Allow Replacement of Lebanese Expats with Refugees
Naharnet/March 11/18/Free Patriotic Movement chief and Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil has stressed that the FPM will not allow the “replacement” of Lebanese expats with “refugees.”“They did not want this electoral law because they were benefiting from our marginalization and from the imbalance in order to boost their share at our expense,” Bassil told Lebanese expats at the Saint Charbel Church in Sydney. “We will not allow them to replace you with displaced people or refugees,” he added. In another speech in Melbourne, Bassil said: “We want to return expats to Lebanon and we will not build camps to replace the Lebanese with others.”“We were not affected when they accused us of racism when we rejection naturalization (of refugees) and we also were not affected when they accused us of sectarianism when we restored the rights of expats,” Bassil added. “No one can think of solving the problem of another people at the expense of our people,” the FPM chief underlined.

Diplomat Confirms Gulf States to Back Army in Rome Meeting
Naharnet/March 11/18/Gulf states that will attend the Rome conference for supporting the Lebanese Army in mid-March will offer assistance to the Lebanese military institution and security forces, a Gulf diplomat has said. “The countries who call for the army to preserve Lebanon’s sovereignty in an effective way cannot ask it to do so without supporting it,” the diplomat said in remarks to al-Hayat newspaper published Sunday. “There is a realistic approach from the Gulf countries regarding the principle of strengthening the Lebanese state and preserving Lebanon’s stability,” the source noted. “Lebanon must not be asked to exceed its capacity and capabilities amid the complicated situations in the region and amid the huge decline in the chances for a political solution in Syria,” the official added.And pointing out that “the policy of the Gulf states towards the actions of Iran and Hizbullah is no longer based on reactions, but rather on a strategy to confront Iranian expansion in the region,” the source said he expects a “political and security stability period in Lebanon after the May elections.”

Jabbour Says No Imminent Geagea-Hariri Meeting
Naharnet/March 11/18/There is no imminent meeting scheduled between Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea and Prime Minister Saad Hariri, the leader of al-Mustaqbal Movement, LF spokesman Charles Jabbour said on Sunday. “The LF considered PM Hariri’s resignation a rare chance to reinforce the country’s dissociation policy,” Jabbour said in an interview on al-Jadeed television, reminiscing the strained relations between Hariri and Geagea that followed the premier’s controversial resignation from Riyadh. “Any meeting between Hariri and Geagea should be the result of a political-electoral meeting and nothing is rushing this meeting,” Jabbour added. Relations between the long-time allies were strained after some Mustaqbal officials accused the LF of inciting Saudi leaders to press Hariri to resign. The premier announced his resignation in November from the Saudi capital but eventually rescinded it after reaching a deal with the Hizbullah-led camp. Separately, Jabbour said “the performance of Hizbullah’s ministers in the Cabinet is much better than that of ministers who belong to other political components,” as he ruled out any electoral alliance with the Iran-backed party. The LF spokesman also revealed that the LF will ally with MP Nadim Gemayel, Minister Michel Pharaon, the businessman Antoun Sehnaoui and other figures in the Ashrafieh electoral district. In Metn, the LF will ally with “local political forces” whereas in the predominantly Christian north Lebanon district it may ally with Independence Movement leader Michel Mouawad, the LF spokesman said. Turning to Tripoli, Jabbour said the LF will not ally with former justice minister Maj. Gen. Ashraf Rifi because of “his viewpoint that does not match our viewpoint” and because Tripoli “cannot tolerate an LF candidate” due to the civil war history. The LF spokesman meanwhile confirmed that his party with ally with the Kataeb Party in Zahle, hoping the LF-Kataeb alliance will expand from Ashrafieh and Zahle to Baabda and Keserwan. nd confirming that the LF will ally with the Progressive Socialist Party in Chouf-Aley, Baabda and West Bekaa, Jabbour noted that the negotiations are still ongoing with Mustaqbal over the Sidon-Jezzine district and that the LF will ally with the Free Patriotic Movement exclusively in the Zahrani-Marjeyoun district and possibly in Akkar.

Hariri Urges Votes for 'Rafik Hariri Project, Stability, Economy, Arab Identity'
Naharnet/March 11/18/Prime Minister Saad Hariri announced Sunday that each vote that goes to a Mustaqbal Movement candidate in the May parliamentary elections will be “a vote for Rafik Hariri’s project and for Lebanon’s stability, economy, sovereignty and Arab identity.”
“Whoever loves Saad must vote for Mustaqbal’s lists wherever they may be and in all districts,” said Hariri during a ceremony to announce Mustaqbal’s candidates. “Rafik Hariri protected the country with his blood, so it is not too much if we protect him with our votes,” Hariri said.
Referring to the head of al-Mustaqbal bloc ex-PM Fouad Saniora’s decision not to run in the elections, Hariri hailed the former premier for “giving a splendid example about a successful legislator, minister, premier and statesman.” He said Mustaqbal’s platform for the elections is a platform of “legitimacy, moderation, coexistence and the project of the state,” stressing that “only the constitution, state institutions, army and security forces can protect Lebanon.”“We are all working to serve you and serve a grand project based on protecting the country and its stability and safety as well as protecting the constitution, freedom, democracy and sovereignty,” the premier added. He said Mustaqbal’s platform also involves “protecting social security and the national currency, boosting the economy and finding jobs for young men and women.” Below are the names of Mustaqbal’s candidates as announced during the ceremony:
- Sidon-Jezzine district: Bahia Hariri and Hassan Shamseddine
- Chouf-Aley district: Mohammed al-Hajjar and Ghattas Khoury
- West Bekaa-Rashaya district: Mohammed al-Qaraoui, Amin Wehbe and Ziad al-Qaderi
- Zahle district: Assem Araji and Nizar Dalloul
- Baalbek-Hermel district: Hussen Solh and Bakr al-Hujeiri
- Tripoli-Minieh-Dinniyeh district: Mohammed Kabbara, Samir al-Jisr, Dima Jamali, Nehme Mahfoud, Layla Shahoud, Shadi Nashabeh, Walid Sawalhi, George Bikassini, Qassem Abdul Aziz, Sami Fatfat and Othman Alameddine
- Akkar district: Tarek al-Merehbi, Mohammed Suleiman, Walid al-Baarini, Hadi Hbeish, Khodr Habib and Jean Moussa
- Beirut’s second district: Tammam Salam, Nouhad al-Mashnouq, Rola al-Tabsh Jaroudi, Ghazi Youssef, Rabih Hassouna, Bassem al-Shab, Nazih Najm, Zaher Walid Eido, Ali al-Shaer and Saad Hariri

Salameh: Lebanese Pound stable, economic situation well controlled

Sun 11 Mar 2018/NNA - Lebanese Central Bank Governor, Riad Salameh, confirmed Sunday that the Lebanese Pound is stable and the economic situation is well controlled. During his meeting with representatives of economic organizations and prominent economic figures at the Beirut and Mount Lebanon Chamber of Commerce, Salameh touched on various steps that could consolidate the situation of different economic sectors. "We are all here working to increase economic growth and create job opportunities, and it must be a fundamental goal for everyone in Lebanon," said Salameh.
"Our policy at the Central Bank is based on the stability of the Lebanese Lira's exchange rate, which is a constant policy and we have all the necessary potential to preserve that stability," he reassured. The Governor also spoke about the strengths of the Lebanese economy, criticizing those who compare it to the economy of Greece, for the latter "possessed no strong banking sector nor a vital private sector nor large reserves in foreign currencies." "Despite the country's economic and financial difficulties, yet things are still under control and we are before the holding of international conferences that we hope will succeed because they will help Lebanon return to the path of advancement," Salameh emphasized. Moreover, he deemed that "if oil and gas are discovered next year, the reality will change dramatically, even before the cash flow." Salameh called for a broader role for the private sector while reducing the size of the public sector, in order to increase growth and create work opportunities in the country.

Bassil urges expatriates to participate heavily in elections
Sun 11 Mar 2018/NNA - Minister of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates Gibran Bassil met Sunday with a number of Lebanese expatriates in the Great Hall of St. Charbel's Monastery in Sydney, calling on them to participate heavily in the upcoming parliamentary elections. "I invite you to participate in the elections on three bases: First, to partake intensively in order to claim your rights...and to choose the best for you and for Lebanon. Second, you must pass your experience of the Australian elections to Lebanon based on work and reliable programs...and not on sectarian, doctrinal or regional instincts. Third, to vote freely because you are outside any influence," Bassil said to expatriates. He added that endorsing the Lebanese expatriates' right to vote from abroad was an accomplishment for everyone. "I am happy to be in Sydney, which achieved the highest number of registered voters for the election, exceeding 9,000 Lebanese voters," Bassil indicated. The minister also called on those who missed the chance to register their names "to visit Lebanon for the elections on May 6." He deemed that the upcoming elections "denote the dividing line between the state of reconciliation under the Constitution and the state of settlements at the expense of the law." "These elections are for the rejection of resettlement and the establishment of identity, and a battle to approve large-scale projects of electricity, oil, dams, roads, railways and developing the economy...," Bassil stressed. He concluded by saying, "We will not allow them to replace you with either displaced or refugees."

Kataeb Party Announces Candidates for Parliamentary Polls 11/18,
The Kataeb Party on Sunday announced its candidates for the parliamentary polls slated for May. 20 candidates will be running in several electoral districts nationwide.
Below is the list of Kataeb's candidates for the 2018 elections:
- Albert Andraos (Candidate for the Orthodox seat in Koura)
- Michel Kebbi (Candidate for the Orthodox seat in Tripoli)
- Saadallah Ardo (Candidate for the Catholic seat in Baalbeck-Hermel)
- Michel Doueihy (Candidate for the Maronite seat in Zgharta)
- Elie Marouni (Candidate for the Maronite seat in Zahle)
- Charles Saba (Candidate for the Orthodox seat in Zahle)
- Joseph Eid (Candidate for the Maronite seat in Chouf)
- Theodora Bejjani (Candidate for the Maronite seat in Aley)
- Raymond Nammour (Candidate for the Catholic seat in Jezzine)
- Joseph Nohra (Candidate for the Maronite seat in Jezzine)
- Ramzi Bou Khaled (Candidate for the Maronite seat in Baabda)
- Chadi Moarbes (Candidate for the Maronite seat in Akkar)
- Chaker Salameh (Candidate for the Maronite seat in Keserwan)
- Samer Saade (Candidate for the Maronite seat in Batroun)
- Samy Gemayel (Candidate for the Maronite seat in Metn)
- Elias Hankache (Candidate for the Maronite seat in Metn)
- Mira Wakim (Candidate for the Catholic seat in Tyre-Zahrani)
- Nadim Gemayel (Candidate for the Maronite seat in Beirut's first electoral district)
- Michel Khoury (Candidate for the Maronite seat in the Tripoli-Minyeh-Doniyeh district)
- Roy Keyrouz (Candidate for the Maronite seat in Becharri)

Sami Gemayel Urges Lebanese to Put Politicians to Account in Upcoming Polls 11/18,
Kataeb leader Samy Gemayel on Sunday renewed his call for the Lebanese to take stand up for their convictions and carry their will of change to the ballot boxes, asking them to vote conscientiously. “The propaganda that says that the people can change nothing in the country is a malicious scheme to prevent the Lebanese from casting their ballots,” he said during the Kataeb's platform launching ceremony. “We are only asking you to make the right choice and resort to your conscience once you are standing inside the voting booth,” he said in an address to the Lebanese. “Vote based on what your mind tells you to do.”
“You have all witnessed the achievements that we accomplished with just five lawmakers. Therefore, we are today asking you to renew their trust in us,” he said.
“Many people are asking why the Kataeb is running the polls alone. We are alone because we were the only ones who did not deceive the people or lie to them. We represent the viewpoints of the silent majority of the Lebanese. So our political rivals are standing alone, not us,” Gemayel said affirmed. “We have committed to the platform that we presented to the Lebanese ahead of the 2009 polls. We did not renege on any of the pledges we made,” Gemayel assured, noting that the Kataeb's has decided to develop its 2018 platform by including in it 131 planks and practical steps that serve the country's interest. “The platform includes very basic ideas and rights that the Lebanese should have had a long time ago,” Gemayel deplored. "In fact, we were ashamed to include so many ideas that are deemed as basic and fundamental in any country. Is it acceptable that in 2018 we are still pledging to secure full power supply away from corruption and to address the waste crisis? Is it acceptable that in 2018 we are still calling for the preservation of public freedoms and demanding that journalists do not get jailed?"
“We did not fear to include controversial and contentious stances in our platform, notably the issue of illegal arms and neutrality," he stressed. "In fact, it is neutrality what keeps Lebanon stable, not settlements which compel someone to abandon his constants and values."“We did not hesitate to propose the introduction of optional civil marriage in Lebanon, knowing that this issue has been also stirring controversy,” the Kataeb chief pointed out.
“All slogans and platforms would remain just a mere ink on paper if there are no honorable and upright people to carry them; therefore, we need lawmakers who truly believe in the country and seeks its welfare above all else,” Gemayel stressed.
“We want to prove in the upcoming polls that the Lebanese can enforce accountability and revolt against arrogant and dishonest officials because they can neither be taken for granted nor subdue through electoral bribery,” he stated. “We have showed everyone what it means to be a constructive and efficient opposition force that does not fear accountability, and what it means to have the Lebanese people’s best interest favored over our own."
“We want the Lebanese to prove to politicians that they are not above the law and that they cannot easily evade accountability," he urged. "“The Lebanese must put to account anyone who reneges on his pledges and abandons his constants for transient political gains."“Has the sudden shift in political stances become acceptable? Has the relinquishment of Lebanon's sovereignty become acceptable? Has it become acceptable to abandon the sacrifices of our martyrs?” he asked.
“The day we see all of this acceptable, is the day we will no longer be Kataeb”.
“We took the decision to confront the ruling authority alongside the people and we are aware of the high price we must pay and the repercussions we will endure because of our position,” he noted, adding “if we have accepted to be part of this this flawed and erroneous policy, then what’s the point of standing here and addressing you?”
“We are fighting a very hard battle, because we are confronting a deeply-rooted mentality that has been prevailing over the country for years and because we are facing huge financial capabilities,” he said.
Gemayel pledged that the party will fight the battle for a better Lebanon till the end, adding that it derives its strength from the martyrs who have sacrificed their lives for the sake of the country, and the people who believe in the party's convictions and stances.
“We will stand firm even if alone. We want a better country for the generations who will come after us,” he declared. “We will never compromise and we shall prevail."

Kataeb Party Unveils 131-Point Platform 11/18,
Parliamentary elections
The Lebanese Kataeb Party on Sunday unveiled its platform which encloses a set of principles, goals and strategies designed to address pressing issues at all levels.
The platform is broken down into planks or declarations that address five main topics: sovereignty, democracy, economy, society and environment.
A- Army and Security:
1 - Deploying the army across the Lebanese territory so that there won't be any area that is not controlled by the Lebanese state, including Palestinian refugee camps and factions' bases.
Tasking the Army with setting out a national defense strategy to confront all dangers that threaten Lebanon's security, territorial integrity and independence.
Maintaining the armament of the Lebanese Army and diversifying the sources of its weapons.
4 - Institutionalizing the Higher Defense Council and turning it into a permanent coordination body that links competent security agencies together.
5 - Establishing a crisis anticipation watchdog body, which was proposed by Martyr Minister Pierre Gemayel, and adopting a national civil protection plan in order to deal with natural or industrial disasters.
B- Border:
6- Demarcating Lebanon's land and maritime borders using all possible means, including satellites, as there is still no reason to prevent this process from being completed.
7- Resorting to all diplomatic means to reclaim the Shebaa farms, the hills of Kfarshuba as well as all territories that belong to Lebanon once the demarcation process is achieved. This requires Syria to abide by the UN Security Council resolution demanding it to submit documents proving the real ownership of these lands.
8- Implementing the provisions of the Lebanese Constitution and UNSC resolutions 1559 and 1701 in terms of arms possession in Lebanon where the military should be the only armed force. Controlling all Lebanese borders and abiding by the truce agreement with Israel.
C- Foreign Policy:
9- Introducing a new article into the preamble of the Constitution, clearly stating Lebanon's permanent neutrality and seeking the recognition of the UN Security Council, the General Assembly of the United Nations and the Arab League in this regard. Lebanon must also work on getting a clear acknowledgment of the value of Lebanon as a space for dialogue between civilizations, cultures and religions.
10- Bringing the ordeal of Lebanese detainees in Syrian prisons to an end by uncovering their fate and paying a compensation to them or their families.
11- Reviewing and amending all Lebanese-Syrian agreements, abolishing the Lebanese-Syrian Supreme Council as well as the Defense Agreement sealed between the two countries, and adopting diplomatic norms and principles when dealing with Damascus.
12- Tasking municipalities, ministries and relevant agencies with conducting a comprehensive survey of Syrians in Lebanon, determining the legal status of each of them, distinguishing between war-displaced and economic migrants, revising the UNHCR's data, and preventing the entry of economic migrants whose protection is not deemed as mandatory as per the international laws, and carrying out all the needed contacts with the international community so as to speed up the return of Syrian refugees and their resettlement to Arab countries which need a labor workforce.
13- Committing to the Arab Peace Initiative (Beirut Declaration 2002) and to the international resolutions pertaining to the Palestinian cause which is considered as righteous. Launching an international conference that would focus on the issue of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, while making sure that talks are based on their right to return to their homeland and the rejection of their naturalization, and working on a comprehensive plan to share this burden by all friendly countries until the Palestinians return home.
14- Separating the Ministry of Expatriates from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and establishing an expat financial fund that would be listed on the stock exchange market to invest in Lebanese companies.
A- Transparency:
15- Setting out a "code of ethics" that would include binding rules of conduct that presidents, ministers, deputies and senior officials would have to adhere to during their terms.
16- Lifting banking secrecy off the accounts and assets of deputies, ministers, top public servants and contractors who are awarded projects by the state.
17- Amending the Illegal Enrichment Act in terms of limiting the complaint to the injured party, canceling the bank guarantee owed to the plaintiff and reducing the imposed fine if the judiciary finds that there is no illicit enrichment situation; these amendments would make it easier for citizens to hold officials to account.
18- Modifying the procedure based on which the members of the Higher Judicial Council are selected and making sure that appointments go in line with the independence of the Judiciary.
19- Liberating the Audit Bureau, the Central Inspection Bureau and all other supervisory bodies from the control of the executive authority, and requiring them to submit detailed monthly reports about the performance of deputies.
20- Ratifying the law of public transactions and assigning the task of tender management and the solicitation of bids only to the Tenders Department.
21- Appointing a "Mediator of the Republic", also known as the ombudsman, establishing the National Authority for Human Rights and approving the law of the National Anti-Corruption Authority.
B- Civil State and Constitutional Institutions:
22- Approving a new electoral law that would be based on the majoritarian system in single-member constituencies, and reducing the current number of deputies (128).
23- Establishing a Senate in which all of Lebanon's historical communities would be represented.
mending the Constitution in a way that boosts the powers accorded to the President of the Republic, especially by giving him the authority to refer back decrees issued by the Council of Ministers.
25- Amending the Parliament's by-laws in order to compel the distribution of the agenda of a session at least one week in advance in normal cases, and 72 hours in exceptional or emergency cases. The amendments should also include the adoption of electronic voting, and the development of human resources by providing deputies with specialized parliamentary assistants.
26- Setting out a regulations system for the Council of Ministers, specifying the powers of both the Deputy Prime Minister and the Secretary General of the Council of Ministers as well as other main issues relating to the implementation of the Constitution.
27- Approving an optional law on civil marriage and personal status.
C- Decentralization:
28- Establishing a Ministry that would manage and address the affairs of local authorities, while making sure that it is not part of the Ministry of Interior.
29- Approving the law of decentralization and reconsidering the current administrative divisions, provided that the local authorities would be granted extensive administrative and financial powers.
30- Abolishing pre-censorship and activating post-censorship, that monitors the performance of local authorities, by establishing administrative courts and Audit Bureau offices in all governorates to reduce corruption and squandering.
31- Setting a detailed timetable in the government to set the annual date when the share of the Independent Municipal Fund and the telecom proceeds would be allocated to municipalities.
D- Public Administration:
32- Abolishing the Council for Development and Reconstruction as well as the funds and agencies that serve as alternates to the work of ministries, and replacing them with the Ministry of Planning.
33- Ratifying the e-government law while setting a timetable for its application.
34- Conducting a survey that determines the workforce needs of all public administrations in a bid to purge them of the so-called "phantom jobs".
35- Suspending all forms of part-time contracts and launching competitive exams to fill vacancies as part of a new management structure.
36- Developing the Central Statistics Center and activating its role so that the laws and government decisions would all be based on accurate figures and statistics.
A- State Budget:
37- Approving a state budget that is duly held, respects the principles of unity, annuality and inclusiveness and abides by the principle of non-allocation of incomes, while committing to the pre-requirement of submitting an audit of the previous year's accounts and abiding by the constitutional deadlines.
38- Reducing the deficit ceiling and setting a clear plan to gradually decrease it each year in order to bring down the deficit-to-GDP ratio below 5% over the next four years.
39- Adopting the private-public partnership (PPP) to address the deficit problem of the Electricite du Liban (EDL), which cost the treasury $15 billion over the past 10 years, and to ensure more power supply before the tariffs are reconsidered. The collection of power bills should be made more efficient, and the operational costs should be also reduced in order to halt the treasury bills given to EDL and achieve financial balance in the budget.
40- Opting for a correct and modern classification and description of jobs in the public sector so as to reduce random employment and control the wages accorded in the public sector, which account for more than 33% of the state's total expenditure.
41- Canceling the system of life-long compensations and allowances granted to lawmakers in order to alleviate the burden on the state treasury.
B- Public Debt Management:
42- Establishing a body that would be responsible of managing and restructuring the public debt in order to reduce its volume, which is now close to 150% of GDP, to under 100% over the next four years.
43- Set a ceiling for indebtedness while stopping to get involved in more debts to cover current expenditures, such as the wages and salaries of public sector employees as well as the growing deficit of the electricity sector.
C- Taxes:
44- Establishing a special office that would be tasked with combating tax evasion and forging fiscal equality.
45- Adopting the progressive taxation system, in which the tax rate increases as the taxable amount does, in a bid to establish social justice, improve the collection of taxes, ensure compliance, fight fraud, and reduce tax evasion as well as the hidden economy.
46- Reducing the Value Added Tax (VAT) to 10% and enforcing tax reforms in a way that would increase direct taxes and decrease the indirect ones.
D- Business Environment:
47- Ratifying laws pertaining to bankruptcy, trade, secured lending and competition in order to facilitate the work of business sectors and boost the competitiveness of the Lebanese economy.
48- Approving a law on Trademarks and Geographical Indications to introduce Lebanese products and promote them in foreign and domestic markets, as well as to protect both the consumer and producer.
49- Activating economic diplomacy by seeking new markets for the Lebanese exports and stimulating mutual investments, especially with countries in which Lebanon enjoys a certain advantage.
50- Reactivating and providing support to the Lebanese Export Promotion Agency (LEBEX).
51- Exempting the made-in-Lebanon exports from the total income tax to encourage investment and productive economy.
52- Activating the work of bilateral business councils and benefiting from Lebanese expatriates who can play an important role in consolidating ties between Lebanon and the countries where they reside.
53- Reviving Lebanon's accession to the World Trade Organization.
54- Creating a favorable and supportive business environment for women through incentives, special policies and specialized training.
55- Establishing a Lebanese-international program to encourage the youth to launch projects with a limited capital, especially in areas outside Beirut, and setting out a housing policy to enabling young Lebanese men and women to own affordable houses in their country.
56- Establishing a technology and innovation area to support start-ups and providing a business environment as well as a high-standard infrastructure and incentives to attract investments.
E- Infrastructure:
57- Promulgating the applicable decrees of the public-private partnership (PPP) to promote the dynamics of sustainable development and boost growth by harnessing the private sector's human, financial, administrative, regulatory, technological and knowledge capacities to finance and establish infrastructure.
58- Implementing the partnership between the private and public sectors in major projects in various sectors such as water, transport, electricity, education and health.
59- Speeding up the establishment of LIBA Telecom, which would be responsible of managing and developing the landlines network, in addition to establishing a third mobile phone operator in order to achieve real competition.
60- Providing new electronic electricity meters, with the possibility of introducing a payment system that would be based on prepaid cards to curb fraud and boost revenues.
61- Separating transport from the Ministry of Public Works by establishing a Ministry of Transport which would approve and implement a comprehensive policy for the land and maritime transport sector.
62- Improving the means of public transport through the adoption of trams in major cities and buses that operate between the coast and mountain areas. A smart technology system should be also adopted.
63- Rehabilitating the Qlaieat Airport to be used for civil aviation, expanding the Riaq military airport to stimulate economic activity and establishing a new airport in the northern Mount Lebanon area.
64- Rehabilitating the railways along the coastline.
- Building parking towers in Beirut and other big cities that suffer from traffic congestion and the lack of enough parking spaces.
F- Oil and Gas Sector:
- Committing to international and local standards to improve transparency by finalizing Lebanon's accession to the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), achieving the discussion and adoption of domestic laws that promote transparency in the oil and gas sector, and cooperating with specialized civil society organizations to monitor the work of the State and the private companies involved in this sector.
67- Approving a modern and transparent law for the Lebanese Sovereign Fund that would preserve the revenues of the extractive industries for future generations, while also aiming at fulfilling economic and development goals.
68- Setting an economic strategy for the oil and gas sector, determining the volume of revenues and on what they will be spent. Providing support to other sectors, that are either directly or indirectly related to this sector, in order to increase job opportunities, and enhancing vocational and technical education that is specialized in this sector.
69- Establishing a national oil company in the wake of the proven presence of oil reserves in Lebanon's exclusive economic zone, while making sure that it complies with the highest standards of good governance and transparency by steering it clear of political influence.
A- Human Rights and Public Freedoms:
70- Abolishing the Ministry of Information and the General Security's pre-censorship on cinematic and artistic works, and reconsidering the powers and functions of the National Media Council in a way to include electronic media.
71- Abolishing death penalty and replacing it with the hard labor sentence.
72- Extending the powers of the Defense and Interior Parliamentary Committee to strengthen the monitoring mechanism of the performance of the army and security agency, and forming the National Human Rights Commission to ensure full respect of human rights and public freedoms.
73- Approving the proposal that was submitted by the Kataeb deputies to amend the Military Justice Law; a proposal which aims to limit the prerogatives of the Military Court to cases involving military personnel only and transfer the power to look into disputes between military staff and civilians to the courts of justice.
74- Developing punishments that would be alternative to imprisonment, by resorting to social sanctions, conditional liberty and other measures that are designed to rehabilitate the wrongdoers, not just punish them.
75- Reducing pre-trial detention and halting the arrest decisions via phone calls as done by general prosecutors.
76- Eliminating all forms of discrimination against women in the laws pertaining to personal status, penal code, labor and social security and passing a law that protects them from sexual harassment.
77- Adopting a female quota system that accounts for at least 30% of the parliamentary and municipal seats as well as in other areas of public service.
78- Abrogating all legal articles that criminalize homosexuality.
B- Healthcare:
79- Approving free health insurance for those over the age of 65 years while amending the labor law to meet the requirements of a healthcare system for all workers, so as to ensure coverage after retirement for the worker and his affiliates.
80- Activating and updating the healthcare card for non-insured persons and determining the state's contribution in accordance with a budget set in advance. By doing that, patients will be benefiting from healthcare services at reduced prices in public and private hospitals.
Organizing and developing ties between private hospitals and insurance companies at all levels, while making sure that hospitals would get their rights.
82- Establishing a regulatory body for the health and pharmaceutical sectors to ensure quality and enforce applicable laws.
C- Human Dignity and Social Security:
83- Developing the work of the national program to help the poor by enhancing work incentives and not relying permanently on government assistance.
84- Enhancing household care for vulnerable groups by enabling Lebanese families to take care of the elderly, children and people with special needs at home.
85- Updating and implementing the Juvenile Protection Act through the establishment of child protection centers across Lebanon, particularly in remote, deprived areas in order to provide shelter, protection and care for children, and, therefore, curb homelessness, child labor and trafficking.
86- Ensuring an old-age security system to allow beneficiaries to receive an appropriate and adequate pension.
87- Implementing the Law 2000/220 that concerns people with special needs, by equipping public places, buildings, pavements and gardens in a way that suits their conditions. Granting tax incentives to private companies in a bid to create more job opportunities for people with special needs.
88- Developing a special insurance program to protect any individual and his family during the period of forced unemployment.
89- Providing more assistance to marginalized groups, strengthening the capacities of social service workers, notably the specialized care institutions, and re-directing resources towards people with a low-income.
90- Introducing the concepts of accountability, transparency and good governance by requiring associations and social service providers to abide by a set of binding standards and quality systems.
91- Carrying out a periodic review of economic indicators to link income with the cost of living.
92- Establishing a pension fund for workers who have been permanently disabled.
D- Pluralism and Cultural Wealth:
93- Introducing Armenian and Syriac as optional languages to be taught in public schools.
94- Establishing a public library where publications and researches on the history, major issues and the specificities of each of Lebanon's cultural groups would be found.
95- Reviving cultural heritage, as well as conducting a general survey of heritage buildings, classifying them and preparing a comprehensive restoration strategy in partnership with their owners, banks and donors. An archaeological excavation and restoration campaign should be launched nationwide, using the assistance of researchers and experts.
96- Activating the National Committee for Artisanal Work to establish quality standards, regulate this sector and ensure markets for the products to secure the continuity of this artistic sector.
97- Providing support to the Lebanese film and art production, as well as to emerging writers in a bid to promote the Lebanese cultural industry.
E- Educational Policy
98- Establishing Lebanese University campuses in areas outside Beirut to help reduce the cost of living, housing and transportation fees that students are incurring.
99- Stop licensing new private universities to maitain the quality of education, and granting licenses to colleges that provide programs that meet the needs of the Lebanese labor market. The licenses granted to some universities, that do not provide the required level of education according to internationally-approved standards, must be reconsidered.
100- Activating and institutionalizing the work of the Supreme Council of Higher Education and appointing the evaluation commission, as stipulated by the law regulating this sector, to control and develop the level of this education and ensure that it meets the needs of the labor market in coordination with the National Institution for Employment.
101- Reassembling public schools in ideal compounds within one geographical zone and providing transportation for students from neighboring areas according to a strategic plan that ensures the quality of education by gathering the best cadres in one place, stopping waste and rationalizing the disbursement of financial and technical resources.
102- Suspending part-time contract hiring and introducing a new mechanism that takes into account the applicant's educational level, language knowledge, achieved training and years of experience.
103- Activating and modernizing the educational inspection body and establishing a public-private system to evaluate and improve the quality of education.
104- Issuing a unified history book that includes the different perspectives regarding the major events that took place in Lebanon, so as to respect the different viewpoints in the country and leave the student to draw the facts and come up with the conclusion that he finds more convincing.
105- Re-examining the law pertaining to the higher technical education in terms of the years of learning and training, activating the Supreme Council for Technical Education, working on the development of the curricula of the vocational and technical education and improving its image to ensure a prestigious social status that attracts students, trainees and parents.
A- Solid Waste Management:
106- Approving the solid waste management draft after making the necessary adjustments in accordance with the environmental and scientific standards adopted by the European Union, and endorsing the national strategic method to manage solid waste which would incorporate the practical steps to minimize the volume of garbage.
107- Encouraging garbage sorting and boosting the recycling industries, provided that companies would be decentralized while under state supervision.
108- Promulgating the draft law, proposed by the Kataeb party, proposing the clearance of debts owed by municipalities to the Independent Municipal Fund, due to the solid waste management contracts that were agreed upon by the Cabinet without the prior consent of the concerned municipal councils.
109- Appointing a regulatory solid waste committee that would be under the Environment Ministry’s supervision. This body would be tasked with following up on the Tenders Department and municipalities when launching any tender for collecting, transporting, sorting and treating waste.
110- Including the costs of establishing and operating the waste treatment and energy recovery centers in all of Lebanon in the Environment Ministry’s budget, provided that the collection of garbage, street sweeping and sorting remain under the jurisdiction and financial control of municipalities and its federations.
B- Urban Planning:
111- Amending the construction regulations by embracing clear environmental criteria and conditions, such as the establishment of green buildings that are characterized by energy-saving technologies.
112- Declaring the green located in the vicinity of Greater Beirut as natural reserves after approving the needed decrees and legislations to implement that. More green spaces must be created in urban areas.
113- Stopping works in unlicensed quarries, dismantling them and forcing their owners to contribute to the rehabilitation of the distorted area. No more licenses should be granted to establish a quarry or mine, except on Lebanon’s eastern mountain chain. A strict supervision of excavation and construction works should be enforced in mountain areas as many are being used as a cover to set up new quarries.
114- Collecting all legislative texts dealing with the environment in one law, while insisting on implementing the Environmental Protection Law and enforcing all of its provisions. No public or private project should be established unless approved by the Environment Ministry based on an environmental impact study.
115- Completing the design of detailed maps to make sure that lands are being use in a way that complies with the national plan for zoning and urban planning. Reviewing previous designs while taking into consideration the preservation of forest, agricultural and mountainous areas, as well as rivers and maritime spaces.
116- Reorganizing economic facilities in certain areas and eliminating construction violations while compensating the owners.
117- Setting out a general urban planning outline, to be added to the current zoning guidelines, in order to preserve the heritage characteristics of old towns and prevent them from being turned into concrete blocks.
C- Water Resources Management and Quality Assurance:
118- Completing the establishment of mountain lakes in accordance with the ten-year plan approved in 2002.
119- Re-evaluating dams that have not been so far implemented in the 10-year plan and turning them into water strips on rivers, thus reducing the cost and the negative environmental impact entailed by the construction of dams. This would also reduce the risk of landslides and geological faults, while increasing hydropower production.
120- Building water towers in cooperation between water authorities, major municipalities and municipal federations to provide safe drinking water to all houses in cities and villages.
1- Directing the investments of water authorities towards improving the efficiency of distribution networks, which waste more than 50% of water. This can be done by installing meters for subscribers and the adopting a smart technology that allows the cutting of supply to those who do not pay the bills.
122- Ensuring the quality of water resources through quality control checks carried out by the Ministry of Environment, the application of the principle of "the polluter pays" by enforcing financial fees in case of violations, and through clear binding conditions for the investment of groundwater and surface water.
123- Completing the installation of sewage networks across Lebanon and linking them to water purification centers. Appropriate solutions should be found to deal with the waste that would be resulting from the purification process.
D- Public Maritime, River and Mountain Properties:
124- Ensuring that Lebanon's beaches form an uninterrupted line, demolishing concrete constructions to replace them with wood, and compelling touristic facilities to refine the waste water and rationalize the use of water.
125- Declaring public maritime, mountain and river properties as natural reserves and stop granting any new building or investment permits therein.
126- Adopting a national plan, in partnership with the private sector and donor countries, to reforest the Cedars line and to plant the strip line adjacent to the beaches.
127- Stopping and abolishing all delimitation processes affecting rural lands in order to prevent turning them into individual properties.
E- Air Quality:
128- Converting electricity production, which accounts for nearly two-thirds of air pollution, to gas which would significantly improve air quality.
129- Adopting an incentive customs policy for low-emission transport vehicles, and encouraging the importation of non-polluting buses.
130- Tightening conditions for the transport and storage of building materials to ensure air quality control and make sure that groundwater is not affected.
131- Increasing fines on factories that do not use filters to limit their toxic emissions, and equipping all plants with sensors that would be linked to a national online database monitoring the level of emissions around the clock and in real time.

Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on March 11-12/18
Saudi ambassador to Beirut pulled after less than 3 months
The Daily Star/March11/18 /BEIRUT: Saudi Ambassador to Lebanon Walid al-Yaacoub is being replaced after being on the job for less than three months, a political source told The Daily Star Sunday. "Former Saudi Charge d’Affaires in Lebanon Walid al-Bukhari will arrive to Beirut tonight and head the Saudi diplomatic team in Lebanon," the source said. The source said that Yaacoub would no longer be the ambassador to Lebanon, and that he had already left for Riyadh. Yaacoub was appointed to Beirut last September during Thamer al-Sabhan’s tenure as Saudi Minister of State for Gulf Affairs. The firebrand critic of Hezbollah has since been removed from the kingdom’s Lebanon file. Yaacoub’s credentials were later presented to President Michel Aoun in January. He worked in the Saudi Embassy in Beirut from 2010 to 2014 and then moved to his country’s embassy in Paris, where he worked until 2017. He worked with Sabhan on issues concerning Lebanon, while representing the kingdom in many international conferences at the United Nations. Bukhari had served as acting head of mission since former Ambassador Ali Awad Asiri’s term ended in August 2016.

Turkish Warplanes Destroy 18 PKK Targets in Iraq
Asharq Al-Awsat/March 11/18/Turkish warplanes destroyed at least 18 targets belonging to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in northern Iraq over the weekend, the state-run Anadolu news agency said on Sunday. The strikes, carried out on Saturday and Sunday, targeted the Hakurk, Zap, Metina, Gara and Avasin-Basyan regions of northern Iraq, Anadolu said, citing the Turkish military. Turkey regularly carries out airstrikes against PKK targets in the Qandil mountains. The PKK, considered a terrorist organisation by the United States, the European Union and Turkey, has waged a three-decade insurgency in Turkey's largely Kurdish southeast that has killed some 40,000 people. Turkey in January launched a separate military operation in northern Syria's Afrin region to sweep Syrian Kurdish YPG fighters from its southern border. Turkey considers the YPG an extension of the PKK. US support for the YPG in the fight against terrorist group ISIS in Syria has strained ties between Ankara and Washington.

Ankara Announces Reaching Agreement with Washington over Manbij, East Euphrates
Ankara - Said Abdulrazak/Asharq Al-Awsat/March 11/18/The US and Turkey have reached an agreement on the issue of the stabilization of the city of Manbij in northern Syria and other cities east of the Euphrates River. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said that the Turkish and Syrian armies will continue their advancement after Afrin towards Manbij, Kobani and Qamishli. “We have established working groups for that,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said in an interview with the German weekly Die Zeit on Friday. The Turkish foreign minister said he would meet with his US counterpart Rex Tillerson on March 19 to discuss further details. “We hope the US stops giving support to terror organizations” he said, referring to the Syrian Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG). “These militants have control of 35 percent of Syria, but the majority of the people that live in the cities are Arabs, Cavusoglu said, accusing them of displacing 350,000 Syrian Kurds to Turkey. The first meeting of the technical committee between Turkey and the United States, which was held on various issues, including the situation in Syria and Iraq, was concluded in Washington on Friday. Turkish diplomatic sources said that the issue of combating terrorism topped the agenda of the delegations of the two countries in the first meeting, as well as the Syrian file, pointing out that the foreign ministers of the two countries will meet next week in Washington. The US State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said Thursday that talks between Turkish and American officials have begun in the US capital and many issues will be discussed including Syria and Turkey’s ongoing operation in Afrin.“Today is the first day that the US government and Turkish officials are meeting to discuss what was agreed to when Tillerson met with his counterpart in Istanbul a couple of weeks ago,” Nauert told reporters at a daily press briefing, referring to the first of the three technical committees of Turkey and the US, formed to solve issues between the two countries. Regarding the military Operation Olive Branch, which is carried out by the Turkish and Free Syrian armies in Afrin, northern Syria, Cavusoglu said that its goal is to eliminate threats against his country, pointing to the launch of about 700 rockets from Afrin to Turkish territories. In this context, Erdogan stressed that forces participating in the military operation will head towards Manbij and several other cities to liberate them.

Paris Attacks' Main Suspect Speaks to Judge for First Time
Brussels - Abdullah Mustafah/Asharq Al-Awsat/March 11/18/For the first time since his arrest two years ago in Molenbeek district, Salah Abdel Salam, the only survivor of Paris attacks in November 2015, agreed to talk to the judge and defended, Ali Oulkadi who allegedly drove him in Brussels the day after the Paris attacks. Oulkadi's Belgian lawyer said in a statement to Belgian media that his client repeatedly asserted that he was innocent and had nothing to do with terrorism. He only followed Salah's request and transferred him to Schaerbeek district and was not aware of Abdel Salam's involvement in the matter. This was confirmed by Abdel Salam who spoke to French investigators for the first time. Belgian News Agency said that both Mohamed Amri and Hamza Attou assisted Abdel Salam and transferred him from Paris to Brussels on November 14, hours after the bombings. Abdel Salam met Oulkadi in a cafe and the latter transferred him to Schaerbeek district. Salah refused to make any confessions about his role in Paris attacks, and he denied reports that Oulkadi visited the residence in Schaerbeek where the explosives were assembled. Investigators previously reported that DNA samples were found for Abdel Salam and Oulkadi at the place. Oulkadi's lawyer was surprised to hear of a DNA sample of his client, although he did not visit the residence, according to Abdel Salam's testimony. Sources close to the investigation reported that Abdel Salam broke his silence only to confirm the innocence of another man accused of helping him escape the police. Abdel Salam, a French citizen, is the only surviving member of ISIS terrorist cell that attacked Paris in November 2015 and killed 130 people. He was arrested in Brussels in March 2016 and handed over to French authorities the following month.
Mid-February, ISIS lauded Abdel Salam's postion and refusal to stand before the judge and cooperate with the court. This came in an issue of the weekly radical magazine "Nabaa" in which confirms Abdel Salam involvement in terrorism.
The hearings sparked controversy with Abdel Salam's lawyer request for his client's innocence due to wrong procedures. Interior Minister Jan Jambon said he did not understand the attorney's request for acquittal on the basis of a procedural error.
"I do not understand this. The lawyer is there to ensure that the defendant gets a proper judgment," he said, adding that the lawyer's request for innocence is "going too far"The statements were criticized by a number of lawyers, and the minister's office issued a statement indicating that he doesn't intend to pressure the judiciary."The minister has the right to say his opinion in his response to a question about the role of lawyer in society," it added. The Criminal Court in Brussels decided to postpone the trial sessions of Salah Abdel Salam and Sufian Ayari to March 29, giving the judges one month to make a decision, which could be issued before that date.

UAE Official: Arab-Turkish Relations Not at Their Best
Abu Dhabi - Asharq Al-Awsat/March 11/18/A senior UAE official said that Arab-Turkish relations as not in their best state, calling on Ankara to respect Arab sovereignty and stop harming it and stop supporting movements that seek to change Arab regimes.
“It is no secret that Arab-Turkish relations aren’t in their best state,” UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said in a tweet. “In order to return to balance, Ankara has to respect Arab sovereignty and deal with its neighbors with wisdom and rationality,” he said. Gargash added in tweets that “supporting movements that are trying to change regimes by violence does not represent a rational trend towards neighboring countries, and Ankara is required to respect the sovereignty of the Arab states." Gargash's calls come in light of the continued Turkish practices to provoke controversy with the UAE on a number of issues, most recently was the Ankara Municipality's intention to put the name of one of the Ottoman figures “Fahreddin Pasha” on the street where the UAE Embassy is located. This came after the historical figure has provoked a diplomatic dispute because of a tweet of which UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan has retweeted in December. The original tweet accused Fahreddin Pasha of stealing some antiquities and money in Medina in 1916, which provoked Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who defended Pasha. The UAE was not the only country to be exposed to so-called "street diplomacy" in the United States as the United States also faced these practices. A street close to the US Embassy in Ankara was named "Olive Branch", referring to Ankara's military operation against Fighters of the Washington-backed Kurdish People's Protection Units. The Turkish attack on the Syrian Kurds has renewed tension between Ankara and Washington, who are allies in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

Egypt Issues Death Sentences against 10 Defendants in ‘Imbaba Terror Cell’ Case
Cairo - Asharq Al-Awsat/March 11/18/Giza Criminal Court sentenced 10 defendants to death and five others to life imprisonment on Saturday. Those sentenced were accused of founding an illegal group, attacking the armed forces, targeting public establishments, inciting violence against Coptic Christians and possessing unlicensed firearms. The trial, which has been dubbed the “Imbaba terror cell” case in local media outlets, began in September 2015. The defendants, who received the death penalty, are all in state custody while three of the men who received life imprisonment were sentenced in absentia. One defendant died during the course of the trial. The court started hearings in the case in September 2015 after the State Security Prosecution investigated the defendants and referred the case to the court with confessions by some defendants saying that they established the terrorist cell to overthrow the country’s government. The group was also accused of aiming to endanger society by possessing firearms, participating in gatherings intended to commit a murder, destroying public property, attempting to kill police and army officers, destroying a police vehicles and manufacturing explosive devices. Investigations also revealed that the defendants "formed a terrorist cell in the wake of the June 30, 2013 revolution, with the aim of securing armed marches organized by the Muslim Brotherhood in Giza. They were also involved in carrying out hostile operations targeting police security installations in Giza by placing explosive devices in their vicinity, planning to assassinate the head of police station in Imbaba and a number of officers after monitoring their movements. According to the public prosecution, the defendants “confessed during the investigations that they participated in the armed sit-ins of the Muslim Brotherhood in Rabia al-Adawiya and Nahda, and that they have financed the purchase and concealment of weapons to be used in their hostile operations against the police forces”.
Iran becoming ‘nervous’ about warmer Saudi-Iraqi relations, report states
Staff writer, Al Arabiya English/Sunday, 11 March 2018/A recent report by The Economist described the beginning of close Saudi-Iraqi ties as making Iran nervous.
Following a series of events, including the near opening of a Saudi consulate in the city of Basra, and the resumption of air links between the kingdom and Iraq, creating over 140 flights per month, Iran is worried that their influence will be marginalized, as they consider Basra their “backyard”, the magazine reported. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was considered a key figure in restoring relations with Iraq in 2015, and reopening borders with the country in 2017. The kingdom now aims to help in the reconstruction of Iraq and help them fight ISIS factions, where Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said in a conference last month that the kingdom pledging one billion USD in loans to Iraq and $500 million in export credit. Saudi Arabia also aims to strengthen economic ties through investments which will “wean Iraq off Iranian products”, according to the Economist. This includes several businesses, like the Saudi petrochemical giant SABIC, opening offices in Baghdad, and other projects reserved for Saudi investment like Basra’s declining petrochemical plant. The magazine reported that Iranian influence is deeply rooted in southern Iraq to the extent that some streets are named after Iranian Islamic revolution leaders. They added that Iran’s biggest worry is the wave of competition that Saudi investments will bring.

Dubai Police considers using artificial intelligence to fight drug smuggling
Staff writer, Al Arabiya English/Sunday, 11 March 2018/Dubai Police and Dubai Customs held the first forum discussing ways of preventing drug smuggling into the UAE through land, air and sea ports using cutting edge technology.According to the Khaleej Times, Brigadier Abdullah Ali al-Ghaithi, Director of the General Department of Organizations Protective Security and Emergency (OPSE) of the Dubai Police, said that they are considering using artificial intelligence to secure airports, shipping ports and road borders from smuggling illegal goods. Officials from both entities said they are using high-tech means to detect hiding places that smugglers use for drugs that include teddy bears, their bodies and even almonds. The newspaper reported them saying that one of their latest security programs is the ‘Alarm Clock’. Effective at airports across the UAE, the program can quickly detect contents in luggage. They added that airports are also equipped with high-tech scanners that detect foreign objects in the human body. “Inspectors have even caught people who insert drugs inside the wheels of their travel bags,” the Khaleej Times reported Marwan Sunga, director of the General Department of Airport Security, as saying. The drugs are also covered up or added to other substances, to fool sniffer dogs. “For instance, they bring in sweets with marijuana in it or chocolate with heroin or cocaine.”According to the newspaper, Colonel Ayub Hassan Meftah, director of the local control department at the Anti-Narcotics department at the Dubai Police, focused on concealment and deflection methods. He noted that drug gangs often changed their travel routes midway to try and fool the authorities. They said that 54 people of various nationalities were arrested from more than 16 countries, thanks to intelligence exchanged between the Dubai Police narcotics wing and those countries. Dubai Police and Dubai Customs are planning to make this an annual forum.

Private Turkish Plane Crashes in Iran on Way from UAE

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/March 11/18/A private Turkish plane flying from the United Arab Emirates to Istanbul crashed Sunday in the south of Iran with 11 people on board, Iranian state television reported. The plane had left from the emirate of Sharjah and went down near the city of Shahr-e Kord, about 400 kilometers (250 miles) south of Tehran, it reported. The aircraft was a Canadian-made Bombardier, according to the Iranian news agency Tasnim. It had eight passengers and three crew members on board, said Reza Jafarzadeh, head of the Iran Civil Aviation Organization. "The plane is on fire. After the pilot asked to lower altitude, it disappeared from the radar," Tasnim quoted an ICAO official as saying.

Netanyahu Accused of Stoking 'Fake' Crisis to Force Poll
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/March 11/18/Members of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's coalition accused the embattled premier on Sunday of perpetuating a "fake crisis" over a political dispute to potentially force early elections. The dispute comes as Netanyahu faces a possible indictment on bribery charges in the coming months. Polls suggest he could remain prime minister and his Likud party could win the most seats in fresh elections despite police investigations into his affairs. Victory could bolster his political standing ahead of the attorney general's decision on indictments. Netanyahu has said he wants his coalition to last its entire term, which expires in November 2019 -- something he repeated on Sunday. But others in his right-wing coalition suggested he had other motives, and speculation intensified throughout the day that Israel could soon be headed for elections.
The coalition is at loggerheads over legislation that would exempt young ultra-Orthodox men from military service, a dispute that has threatened to pull the government apart. "Over the past week we've baked a good solution for the draft crisis. I can say that there's no draft crisis. It's a fake crisis," Education Minister Naftali Bennett, head of the Jewish Home party, told reporters ahead of Sunday's cabinet meeting. He added that "it could be that there's someone who for personal reasons wants to generate a crisis and lead the state to elections... In the end it's all up to one person who has to decide whether he wants elections or not, and that's the prime minister." Yaakov Margi of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party implied that compromises had been made to allow for a resolution, saying that "the feeling is that the prime minister has fallen in love with this fake crisis.""Once the heads of the ultra-Orthodox parties announced they'd agree to a solution, the draft crisis was solved," he wrote on Twitter.
"All the rest is a fake crisis."
Rabbis reject compromise bill
The ultra-Orthodox parties are refusing to approve the 2019 budget unless the conscription bill passes. The bill is bitterly opposed by Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman.Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon is meanwhile insisting that the budget be approved before the end of this week. At a meeting on Sunday, influential rabbis reportedly decided to stick by the demand that a bill on the military exemption be approved before the budget is passed while rejecting compromise legislation that had been proposed. Netanyahu met with leaders of the ultra-Orthodox parties Saturday night, after which he said they were working on a draft for the bill that would meet legal and political demands. Speaking with Likud ministers ahead of the Sunday cabinet meeting, Netanyahu said they were "working for a stable government that would work until the end of its term in November 2019.""In order for that to happen, all the parties need to reach agreements and decide to continue together," he said, implying that he was not the cause of the dispute. Netanyahu has reportedly called on members of his coalition to commit to remaining in the government until the end of the current term as part of negotiations. The 68-year-old premier could soon face charges in at least two separate corruption affairs. Last week, Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman of ultra-Orthodox alliance United Torah Judaism said that Netanyahu wanted early elections. A spokesman for Litzman said on Sunday that there were currently discussions among all relevant parties over the wording of the conscription bill.

Erdogan Slams NATO for Failing to Back Syria Campaign
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/March 11/18/Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday angrily lashed out at NATO, accusing the Western military alliance of failing to back Turkey's campaign against Kurdish militia in Syria. Erdogan's latest comments were among the toughest he has directed in recent times against NATO, which Turkey joined in 1952 as the U.S. sought to make sure it did not fall under Soviet sway after World War II. Turkey launched its operation on January 20 seeking to oust the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) from the Afrin region of northern Syria with its forces now just a few kilometers away from Afrin town. But the YPG has been a key American ally in the fight against jihadists in Syria and the operation has raised tensions with Washington and European NATO powers, notably France. "Hey NATO! With what has been going on in Syria, when are you going to come and be alongside us?" Erdogan said in remarks to supporters in Bolu, a city east of Istanbul. "We are constantly harassed by terror groups on our borders," he said. "Unfortunately until now, there has not been a positive word or voice." After the start of the campaign, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Turkey had a right to defend itself but emphasized it must be done "in a proportionate and measured way."Erdogan slammed Washington for arming the YPG, saying the group had received 5,000 trucks and 2,000 cargo planes of weapons. "Is this friendship? Is this NATO unity?" he asked in a later speech, noting how Turkey had backed the alliance by participating in its operations in Afghanistan and elsewhere. "Are we not a NATO member?"He also said Turkish troops and allied Syrian rebels were now just four to five kilometers (about three miles) from Afrin which they were poised to take. Turkey regards the YPG as a terror group and a branch of militants in Turkey who have waged an insurgency for decades. Speaking on Saturday, Erdogan said after taking Afrin, Turkey's offensive would expand to key border towns controlled by the YPG right up to the Iraqi frontier.

Delegation from Syria Rebel Enclave Mulls Evacuation Deal
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/March 11/18/A delegation from Syria's rebel-held Eastern Ghouta was on Sunday considering a partial evacuation deal to halt a fierce government offensive, a negotiator and monitor told AFP. The two main rebel groups in the region, which borders Damascus, have firmly and repeatedly denied negotiating with the Syrian regime.  But on Sunday, as the government's Russian-backed assault entered its fourth week, influential figures in one rebel-held town were considering a possible evacuation offer. A committee from Hammuriyeh met with regime representatives on Saturday, a member of the committee told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity. "The committee discussed a proposed reconciliation that would guarantee exit for those that want to leave, both civilians and rebels, from Hammuriyeh to other areas in Syria under rebel control," the delegate said. Civilians and fighters could be bussed to rebel-controlled parts of Daraa province in Syria's south, or to Idlib in the northwest, held by rebels and a former al-Qaida affiliate. Government forces would then take control of Hammuriyeh, and residents who wanted to stay on in the town would be allowed to do so. "The committee is meeting on Sunday to take a decision and inform the regime. If they do not agree, there would be a resumption of the military operation on Ghouta, including Hammuriyeh," the negotiator added. Following weeks of bombing, it was relatively quiet in the town throughout the night and into Sunday. In recent years, the regime has recaptured several areas around Damascus from rebels by pursuing fierce military offensives culminating in evacuation deals.
Russian role in talks
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based war monitor, said negotiations for evacuations from multiple towns were ongoing Sunday. "A decision could be taken any moment for Hammuriyeh, Jisreen, and Saqba," said Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman. All three towns are controlled by Islamist rebel group Faylaq al-Rahman, which has repeated denied engaging in talks with the regime. "There are no direct or indirect negotiations with the Russian enemy or its allies," said the group's spokesman Wael Alwan late Saturday. "No one has been authorized to negotiate on behalf of" rebels in Ghouta, he added. The second main rebel group in Ghouta, Jaish al-Islam, has also denied rumors it is negotiating its own withdrawal. But it has admitted engaging in talks with the United Nations and world powers on Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), a jihadist group once linked to al-Qaida. Those negotiations resulted last week in Jaish al-Islam releasing 13 HTS members it was holding. The jihadists and their relatives were then evacuated to northwest Syria on Friday. HTS, which has a small presence in parts of Ghouta, has not commented publicly on the negotiations. Russian news agency Interfax said Sunday that the Russian Centre for Reconciliation, based alongside Russia's air force at the Hmeimim military airport in western Syria, was facilitating negotiations with rebels in Ghouta. It did not specify which rebel factions were engaging in the talks. "The fighters are considering the possibility of evacuating several dozen residents in exchange for an opportunity to leave the area with their families," a representative of the centre, officer Vladimir Zolotukhin, told Interfax.

Mattis Says Any Gas Attack in Syria 'Very Unwise'

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/March 11/18/U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Sunday it would be "very unwise" for the Syrian regime to use gas as a weapon against the people of Eastern Ghouta and elsewhere. Mattis'swarning came amid reports President Bashar al-Assad's forces have used chlorine gas in the rebel-held area near Damascus, and he underscored his remarks by referencing President Donald Trump's strike on a Syrian airbase after an alleged chemical attack last year. "We have made it very clear that it would be very unwise to use gas against people, civilians on any battlefield," Mattis told reporters accompanying him on a trip to Oman. "I just want to reiterate that it would be very unwise for them to use weaponized gas, and I think President Trump made that very clear early in his administration." Mattis said he was aware of "an awful lot of reports about chlorine gas use or about symptoms that could be resulting from chlorine gas," but indicated he did not have conclusive evidence. Trump last April ordered a missile strike against a regime airbase at Shayrat, after Washington said it used the facility to launch a sarin nerve gas attack on the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhun, killing scores of civilians.
The use of chlorine as a weapon is banned under international law and Russia was supposed to oversee the destruction of Syria's chemical weapons arsenal.  The fact that Assad may still have chemical weapons shows "either Russia is incompetent or in cahoots with Assad," Mattis said.
Syria's besieged Eastern Ghouta region is the last opposition-controlled pocket near Damascus. For nearly three weeks, regime forces have pounded it in an assault that has killed over 1,000 civilians. The Pentagon chief also took aim at Russia, which has been propping up Assad's regime since 2015 and helping in anti-rebel operations. Assad "could not be in power absent Russia's unfortunate veto in the U.N. years ago and the Russians' full-throated military support for Assad," he said. Mattis declined to say whether the use of gas would represent some sort of trigger that would prompt a US military response. "The president has full political maneuver room to take the decision that he believes appropriate," he said. "There are other Western nations that have been in contact with us that are watching this very closely and are completely aligned with us and what I just said -- that it would be very unwise for someone to use gas."

Cuba Vote Opens Final Chapter of Castro Era
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/March 11/18/Cubans vote to ratify a new National Assembly on Sunday, a key step in a process leading to the election of a new president, the first in nearly 60 years from outside the Castro family. The new members of the National Assembly will be tasked with choosing a successor to 86-year-old President Raul Castro when he steps down next month. As voting was about to begin, however, the foreign ministry issued a statement insisting that even without a Castro as president the Cuban revolution they led will endure into the next generation. Some hear siren songs and announce the end of the 'Castro era,'" it said on Twitter. "The next president will not have that surname. But without a doubt, it will be a son of the Revolution."Raul took over in 2006 from his ailing brother Fidel, who had governed since seizing power during the 1959 revolution. Eight million Cubans are expected to turn out to ratify 605 candidates for an equal number of seats in the Assembly, a process shorn of suspense and unique to the Communist-run Caribbean island nation. "They're the most important elections of recent years, because we are going to vote for new people who will govern from then on," day-care center guardian Ramon Perez told AFP. Sunday's general election is the first since the death in 2016 of Fidel Castro, and marks the beginning of major change at the top in Cuba. Candidates may be either members of the Cuban Communist Party or not, and may also belong to trade unions or be students. "The designation of candidates is based on merit, abilities and the commitment of the people," Raul Castro said when he announced the elections last year. "Nobody exchanges promises for votes, or boasts of his abilities to get supporters... This is the true and exceptional face of what we proudly call socialist democracy," the official daily Granma wrote.
More than half of the candidates, 322, are women.
Cuba's president is designated by a 31-member Council of State, whose head is automatically president of the country. But the Council of State first has to be selected by the National Assembly. Castro had already announced that he would not be seeking a new term, although he is expected to remain head of the all-powerful Communist Party until 2021. His first vice president, Miguel Diaz-Canel, 57, is widely expected to succeed him and is committed to guaranteeing continuity. Born after the revolution, Diaz-Canel, an engineer, slowly climbed to the top rungs of Cuba's hierarchy over a three-decade career under Raul's mentorship. "There will still be a president of Cuba in the process of defending the revolution," he said in November. Julio Cesar Guanche, a professor of law and history, said on the OnCuba website that the legitimacy of the country's next president would come more from "institutional performance" than personal history such as involvement in the 1959 revolution. Turnout for the election is expected to be around 90 percent. Although voting is voluntary, not voting is frowned upon and going to the polls is considered an act of sovereignty and of "revolutionary affirmation."The final results will be known on Monday. Opposition criticism of the process centers around the fact that the president is not chosen in direct elections. Cuban dissident Rosa Maria Paya, of the Cuba Decide movement, wants a referendum on modifying the island's government system and says her group will be watching for signs "of rejection of the electoral process, in which in reality we cannot elect" anyone. Cubans who want to demonstrate opposition typically spoil their ballots. The Otro18 opposition movement is also calling for change. "The citizens do not participate in the choice or the election of the president and we think it's a decisive moment for the citizens to push a request" to change the electoral system, said Manuel Costa Morua, Otro18's leader.

Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on March 11-12/18
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.

US Ambassador to Yemen: War Merchants are Getting Richer

Riyadh - Badr Qahtani/Asharq Al Awsat/March 11/18
"When I look at the overall situation in Yemen, there is an Iranian ambition, in which Tehran is looking for a foothold in Yemen, and I think it is very logical that Saudi Arabia sees this as a problem for Iran's ambitions," US Ambassador to Yemen Matthew Tueller described the issue of the conflict in Yemen. He did indicate however that he believes there aren't just two parties involved in Yemen's war, rather a group of parties competing for absolute authority over the country. On March 4, the ambassador came into Courtyard by Marriott in the Riyadh's Diplomatic Quarter for an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper during which he reviewed four years of detailed follow up of Yemen's situation.
Washington's Efforts for Solution
Discussing role of US in pushing for a solution, the ambassador indicated that this year brings more opportunities. "We have an impact on the legitimate government, and I think we can use this influence, as well as technical means to help legitimacy achieve this role successfully," he said. Tueller stated that if US can help important institutions such as the central bank and the Ministry of Finance to play an independent role not affected by politics, it will help the country. If one were to watch Houthis' advertisements, they claim that everything happened because of Saudi Arabia, thus, "I believe that it is important to shed light on two important issues: humanitarian and economic," he indicated.
Tueller explained that there are new elements in the country exploiting very important parts of the economy and are getting richer every day denying people their salaries.
"The problem is financial corruption in Houthis-controlled areas in the north, as well as areas dominated by legitimacy," said Tueller adding that who wants to help legitimacy must make sure the government's performance is better than before. The other aspect affected by the conflict is that the Yemeni economy is dependent on the export of oil and gas, as well as remittances sent by Yemenis abroad, mainly from Saudi Arabia. Yemeni Riyals exchange rate decreased which made it even more difficult for importers to bring in merchandise and oil. "I think again if we can work with our partners to help legitimacy improve their performance and meet the challenges, even if the conflict persists, this is a positive thing for the country," Tueller stressed, adding: "that this will give Yemeni citizens the feeling that the government is actually working for them."The US Diplomat admitted that during his only year until now, he wanted to give Houthis the credit for wanting to fight the corrupt elite in Yemen. But that wasn't fulfilled.
"They turned out to be worse than the corrupt elite they claimed they wanted to fight," said Tueller. The Ambassador believes that Yemen is a country that does not deserve to be poor.
The Coalition and Counter-terrorism
Tueller confirms the cooperation between the US and the coalition countries, especially Saudi Arabia and the UAE, in combating terrorism in Yemen. "We worked with them to get rid of the terrorists," he said, adding that they had worked with Saudi Arabia and UAE to train and provide equipment and support to Yemeni forces to get rid of al-Qaeda.
The ambassador voiced his deep concerns about Iran's exploitation of Yemen when asked about fears that Iran's project represented by Houthis become another version of al-Qaeda, similar to what happened in Afghanistan. "Of course I have deep concerns. This is an area in which Iran wants to exploit Yemeni society, and some isolated regions of the world as well," Tueller stated.
Economic Development and Aid
We fully discussed how Yemen doesn't deserve to be the poorest country in the Middle East. The country has been weakened within government and military institutions, yet there are people who are working seriously and the country has borders with countries such as Saudi Arabia and Oman, as well as the Red Sea, the coast and Bab al-Mandab Strait, which could all help the country flourish, explained the ambassador.
"The thing is there are leaders and extremists who want to exploit the country against the poor," he pointed out.
Tueller recalls that he was concerned when the Saudi-led military coalition was first formed in 2015, where he believed it would "have a negative impact and prolong the war in the country." However, he understood the importance of Yemen for Saudi Arabia, and thus it cannot ignore the Yemeni file. "If the military issue is important to Saudi Arabia, it is equally important for the kingdom and its allies that Yemen is stable and prosperous. Otherwise, Saudi Arabia will find itself dragged into battles and confrontations inside Yemen," Tueller told Asharq Al-Awsat.
The US diplomat said his country welcomed Saudi Arabia's "renewed efforts in the humanitarian and economic situation of Yemen."
When asked about what should be expected of the new envoy, the ambassador began by praising former UN Envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed for his dedication in work and welcomed the new envoy. He admitted that there is no "magic wand" that could solve the issue. The core of the problem is that the struggle in "Yemen is the power struggle between different Yemeni parties.""I am optimistic that we will see progress in 2018, not because there is a new UN envoy, but I hope that the parties have realized that going on with such a conflict is really destroying the country and their future in living within it," Tueller warned.
Parallel Efforts
When asked if the United States supports any initiatives, principles or preparations for UN efforts, Tueller indicated that such efforts are encouraged and can be useful, especially if there are international players involved who have contacts with the legitimate government, Houthis or Saleh's loyalists.If the new UN envoy succeeds in persuading the parties to return to negotiations, this will be very useful to him, he indicated.
Techniques of Ould Cheikh's Successor
The ambassador believes UN Envoy exerted all possible efforts to meet and discuss with Houthis, but in the end if Houthis seek Ould Cheikh's support to back Iran' s dominance, they will not find sympathizer in this job. Ambassador Tueller concluded that if Houthis have more political maturity than before, and if they are ready to offer concessions then it will be a good opportunity for a solution.

Tyranny of Shaming/American Race Wars as Seen by an Immigrant
Nonie Darwish/Gatestone Institute/March 11/18
The bias of many Americans against American values has blinded them from seeing the reasons we immigrants went through hell to come to this country. Many Americans believe that those who criticize the culture from which we escaped must be "Islamophobic." They seem not to understand why we never again want to see what we have gone through so much to escape from.
Such attacks on the white majority in Americans are, bluntly, racist. It is a shame that so many Americans are unable or refuse to see what many immigrants see: that it was under this white majority that millions of oppressed people -- of all colors and creeds -- from around the world were rescued from tyranny, Sharia law, slavery, discrimination, Islamism and a miserable existence under corrupt, war-torn and famine-stricken nations. Instead, many seem to want to bring all that here.
We watched American freedoms as a dream: to be able to smile back at a man who opened the door for you without accusations of being a loose woman for smiling. To be able to wear what you want, go out when you want, work or get an education or not, and venture to hope one day to live under a system that respects monogamy and equal rights for women and minorities. Yes, it is the American culture where whites are the majority, no problem with that, that made our dreams come true. Despite its shortcomings no other country in the world offers its citizens the chance to be whatever they would like. We might never get back what we already have.
Every day we hear on television, "We need an honest discussion about race in this country".
Many well-meaning Americans, however, may have had enough of this endless, empty and dysfunctional discussion of race. To an outsider, Americans seem obsessed with race; and the discussion always deteriorates to shouting, insulting, blaming, finger-pointing, distorting reality and removing any hope of taking responsibility for oneself. The goal of the discussion always seems to be to try to claim that "I am holier than thou."
We immigrants, on the other hand, the minute we land in the US, we feel the political struggle for our vote.
The day I got my citizenship and went out to register to vote, some people in the room told me to register as a Democrat because the Democrats would protect my rights from the racist establishment and give me "stuff." Many of the people who had come with me did register that way, but I found the urging alarming. I grew up under a socialist, totalitarian system under the leadership of President Gamal Abdel Nasser in Egypt -- a nanny state that also gives you "stuff'." What many Americans do not realize is that the free stuff can be too expensive
Many Americans do not seem to learn much from history; perhaps (to everyone's peril) it is not even being taught. The outcome is that these understandably frustrated citizens appear to hope that the failed socialist systems will right the wrongs they feel done to them, or at least allow them to live comfortable lives without worries about healthcare or education.
Nasser's Egypt, however, revealed the danger of falling into the trap of a government's false promises. Nasser said he wanted to change Egypt fundamentally. Unfortunately, he succeeded. To this day, Egypt can hardly get itself out of the rot of Nasser's 1952 revolution. He promised to give all Egyptians free education and free health care. He seized properties, businesses and vast farmland so he could redistribute the wealth by dividing it into tiny portions for everyone to have a little. In the process, a new, even more corrupt class, was born. Most people ended up with virtually nothing. Just look, for example, at Venezuela -- free stuff and corruption have turned an oil-rich country into a poverty-stricken hell.
Several generations of Americans seem to have been brought up on the false premise that if someone loves this country, its liberties, its culture and its way of life or God, they must be "racist." If they are white and not Democrats, the assumption goes, they must be "racist." As the majority of the population of America happens to be white, whites are supposedly the face of America: "racists" holding on to their guns and Bibles and depriving the rest of the country of a socialist Utopia.
Generations of Americans also seem to have been brought up with an exaggerated view of "white privilege" -- to the degree that at this point it is probably a bit of a lie, as though achieving success and wealth in America were due to the luck of the skin-color lottery rather than, as Justice Clarence Thomas has been arguing, to hard work. Here, however, "free" education may be at fault. Yes, everybody is able to get it, but it is terrible. So, in reality, nobody really gets much of an education -- at least one that provides an equal opportunity to compete with someone who has receive a private education. The best once can say is that it is still better than no education at all, which is what much of the world still gets. At bottom, if you are born into a home where education is not valued, you may be permanently lost.
The use of the word "racist" in the West is used similarly the word "infidel" in Islamic societies. Such words become useful shaming tools to coerce people into compliance. They are not used to discuss matters; they are used to abort discussion, silence opposition, and often to threaten the livelihood and even the life of those who dissent. These are words are intended to render anyone who does not agree as evil and a pariah.
Like the shame-based culture of the Middle East, many Americans today, presumably to avoid the backlash of being shamed, seem to have fallen into the trap of "group think". If, God forbid, you are seen as Republican, conservative, or if you prefer capitalism to socialism or do not belong to a victim group, shaming will be directed at you. Impressionable new generations of Americans naively take this bait. They are fearful of giving an opinion lest they be called "racist."
The Muslim world has successfully been using this tyranny of shaming for centuries to enforce compliance. Today if you ask a question to a man on the Arab street, you will most likely get a prefabricated answer -- one that is probably the un-thought-through opinion of the majority. This technique is frequently used in the Islamic culture -- in addition to terror of course -- to crush the non-Muslim "infidels" out of existence. Today, in the birthplace of Judaism and Christianity, hardly anyone is living peacefully.
That many Democrats seem to be planning "fundamentally to change America" by making white people the minority and replacing them with immigrants -- both legal and illegal -- is no longer a secret. In 2015, former Vice President Joe Biden said that "whites" becoming a minority in America is a "good thing":
"An unrelenting stream of immigration. Nonstop, nonstop. Folks like me who are Caucasian, of European descent, for the first time in 2017 we'll be an absolute minority in the United States of America. Absolute minority. Fewer than 50% of the people in America from then and on will be white European stock. That's not a bad thing. That's a source of our strength."
Minority leader Nancy Pelosi recently joined in, saying that President Trump's immigration plan would 'make America White again."
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer cited "skin color" in voting against a white federal judge nominee. He justified the vote as, "Having a diversity of views and experience on the federal bench is necessary for the equal administration of justice."
That view, however, while trying to right a perceived wrong, is itself fundamentally racist.
Ironically, it is the white leaders in politics and media who have become central in advocating the elimination of "white American culture" -- presumably to assemble a majority of voters who would elect Democrats and a socialist economy forever. Such attacks on the white majority in Americans are, bluntly, racist. It is a shame that many Americans are unable or refuse to see what many immigrants see: That it was under this white majority that millions of oppressed people from around the world, of all colors and creeds, were rescued from tyranny, Sharia law, slavery, discrimination, Islamism and a miserable existence under corrupt, war-torn and famine-stricken nations. Instead, many seem to want to bring much of that here.
How could politicians who advocate displacing white people in America to make them a minority think it is a good thing? This logic is cruel towards great citizens of a great nation that did so much good in the world. It was not Africa, China, South America, Europe or Russia that spoke for the oppressed and brought them to live in freedom; it was America -- white, black, Indian, Asian and everything in between -- and its Judeo-Christian values that did this.
Is it any wonder that many Americans today feel cheated, alienated and that their country, culture and way of life are being ripped apart along racial, gender and economic lines, by politicians, media and academics, all seemingly hell-bent on changing America's culture, demography, laws and Constitution?
Even ambitious globalists seem interested in changing only the West, not in promoting changes for the rest of the world, no matter how oppressive it clearly is. To them, the number one enemy to their plans for America is most likely independent-thinking Americans, who treasure its accomplishments, Constitution and freedoms – all of which have been fought for, so hard won, and built over many decades.
Globalists, who seem to prefer "international values" over Western ones, seem convinced that only if white America is out of the way, then the progressive plan, to change America fundamentally, could be achieved faster. Immigrants, especially from third world countries, are seemingly to them the solution to injecting "new blood" into the country. The argument, however, is not about immigrants -- no one is objecting to having more people come to America. The question is about two decisions. One is: Who should be preferred -- skilled or unskilled people or a mixture of both. The second is: How they get here -- legally, by waiting for years, or illegally.
The mind-set currently in fashion -- again similar to the mind-set used in the Middle East to defend Islamic goals -- is to blame everything wrong in the system on the outside world, especially the West. Loathing oneself, in Western culture, has now been elevated to a badge of honor. This view does not go unnoticed by enemies of the West. Instead of searching for solutions that work for America to make it better, many Americans seem to want to overthrow everything – even the good parts. America's enemies love watching that, especially when Americans agree with them to blaming the West and especially white people. It is a marriage of Western self-loathing with Islamic loathing-of-the-other: they both loathe the same thing.
I remember, as a new immigrant, hearing a distinguished white professor in Berkeley say, "The white male is the most oppressive in the world'. I told him, "I was raised under the cruelty of Sharia law and the Islamic authority for thirty years. I find the Western white male culture to be more gentlemanly towards women than any other culture in the world". I asked him if he knew that slavery flourished under Muslims before America was ever discovered, and that it still does today.
Many in America who have already bought into this lie about "oppression" sound as if they are in a state of rage against their own country. To these dissatisfied Americans -- as to Muslims who love Sharia -- any resistance to their goals is seen as "racism" and as a treason that should never be forgiven. To them, as to Muslim extremists, people who do not agree with them deserve to be humiliated, made into examples before the rest of the population, reduced to a minority status, then, if they keep "causing trouble," eventually eliminated.
As an immigrant to the US I could not get over how uncomfortable it is to see American pop culture have made it "cool" to suppress the natural tendency of citizens to love and want to preserve one's country, culture and way of life. In the new equation, loving and treasuring America and its history, errors and all, has become an unforgivable racial sin. What these critics also fail to see is that America is one of the few countries that owns up to what is wrong and often tries to fix it.
When it comes to non-white immigrants, however, many Americans are inconsistent. Immigrants are frequently encouraged to do just the opposite of what many in America urge white Americans to do: take pride in their original culture and continue practicing and preserving their old customs and way of life. It was so uncomfortable when Americans shamed me for being critical of my old culture -- life under Sharia -- and for wanting to change, adapt to America, assimilate. The bias of many Americans against American values has blinded them from seeing the reasons we immigrants went through hell to come to this country. Many Americans believe that those who criticize the culture from which we escaped must be "Islamophobic." They seem not to understand why we never again want to see what we have gone through so much to escape from.
It is, in fact, much harder to choose not to assimilate than just to go along and assimilate. That is why progressives, in my opinion, are repressive and wrong for encouraging immigrants and minorities to stay just the way they were in the old country. It is against human nature to continue living in a sub-culture from which one has just fled.
American capitalism, while perhaps not perfect, has lifted more people out of poverty than any other economic system in history, yet it is viewed by progressives, as "racist." Many American seem to be trying to drill that into in the mind of Americans. They seem to think that because the current president is white and a Republican who loves America, then he must be a racist, so they thus have the right to bring him down by any means.
America's sharp divisions have never been clearer. To Americans who like the current administration, it represents independence from government and saving America from a nanny state that risks becoming increasingly authoritarian and that wants to destroy American sovereignty. To Americans who dislike the current administration, it is thwarting their plans to change America fundamentally by bringing in new voters to replace those from the old American culture.
The bad news -- from someone who was born and raised in Egypt -- to those who think that replacing Americans or Europeans with a third world citizenry is a good idea: it is actually reckless, destructive and will end up burning those who are playing with such fire. Just ask any third world leaders how easily they manage their population.
As one of the millions of grateful immigrants, we have been watching America on our televisions and in movies to take our minds off of the oppressive reality of life in third world countries. We loved the American movies of John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, and James Dean whose name until today is used in Egyptian pop culture as a symbol for being "cool." We watched American freedoms as a dream: to be able to smile back at a man who opened the door for you without accusations of being a loose woman for smiling. To be able to wear what you want, go out when you want, work or get an education or not and venture to hope one day to live under a system that respects monogamy and equal rights for women and minorities. Yes, it is the American culture where whites are the majority, no problem with that, that made our dreams come true. Despite its shortcomings no other country in the world offers its citizens the chance to be whatever they would like. We might never get back what we already have.
*Nonie Darwish, born and raised in Egypt, is the author of: "Wholly Different; Why I Chose Biblical Values Over Islamic Values"
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The 'American Century' Is Over, and It Died in Syria
Hal Brands/Bloomberg /March 11/18
For anyone who thought that the winding down of the campaign against ISIS would cause the Syrian civil war to recede from the headlines, the last few weeks have been a rude awakening. Far from abating, the Syrian conflict is intensifying, with a brutal assault -- reportedly involving chemical weapons -- by the Syrian regime on rebel-held areas near Damascus, sharp aerial clashes between Israeli, Iranian and Syrian forces, and a bloody and one-sided confrontation between American airpower and Russian "mercenaries."
These events do more than simply demonstrate that the Syrian conflict remains an appalling humanitarian catastrophe. More significantly, Syria is the nexus for the destabilizing trends that are thrusting the entire global order into crisis.
That order was originally created after World War II, but it reached its full flowering and ambition after the fall of the Soviet Union. The post-Cold War era was characterized by widespread hopes that the forces of order and civilization were finally defeating those of aggression and inhumanity; that democracy was becoming truly universal; that great-power competition had vanished; and that the danger of major war was receding further than ever before. Nearly three decades later, however, the heady optimism of that period has given way to a darker set of trends, all of which are at work in Syria.
Syria is where the erosion is most advanced and the consequences most horrific. The regime's continued use of starvation sieges, barrel bombs and illegal weapons against the civilian population -- and the international community's inability or unwillingness to bring the slaughter to an end -- demonstrates more painfully than anything else that the moral gains the world seemed to have achieved are now being rolled back, and the rules of conduct it seemed to have established are now being transgressed. Neither the Barack Obama administration, with its "red-line" fiasco of 2013, nor the Donald Trump administration, with its diplomatic disengagement from the conflict, has had an answer to this challenge.
The Syrian war also reveals a second unsettling feature of global politics today: the return of ideological conflict. This is not to say that the civil war is a clash between entrenched authoritarians and aspiring democrats. Many Syrians who initially protested and fought against the regime in 2011 and 2012 wanted a transition to a more pluralistic system, but most of those moderates have now been killed, radicalized or otherwise driven from the field. Nonetheless, the Syrian conflict reflects the broader authoritarian resurgence at work. Head of Syrian regime Bashar al-Assad offers a brutal and ruthless example.
Moreover, the war shows how ideological differences are again driving global politics. Most of the Western democracies have insisted -- rhetorically, at least--that the killing must stop and Assad must go. Yet the world's leading autocracies have rejected the idea of foreign-imposed regime change and provided various forms of assistance to keep a fellow autocrat in power.
The competition between authoritarianism and democracy has been renewed, and nowhere has that competition been sharper than in Syria.
Meanwhile, intense geopolitical competition has also returned, and here too, Syria is ground zero. Iran and Israel are maneuvering -- often violently -- for advantage, as part of their broader regional struggle. More strikingly still, Syria has become an arena for renewed great-power rivalry between the US and Russia. The once and current adversaries do not simply disagree over Assad's fate; they are using their military power to carve out competing spheres of influence and stake their respective claims to leadership.
Russia in particular is using Syria as a proving ground for the advanced weapons systems and hybrid-warfare tactics it might well employ in a future conflict with the West, as well as to make itself a player in Middle Eastern geopolitics.

Italy's Election Was Quite Traditional, Actually
Leonid Bershidsky/Bloomberg /March 11/18
The Italian election was heartening for populist forces. Yet the results do not break with a venerable Italian tradition -- one that political scientist Giuseppe di Palma described in "Surviving without Governing: The Italian Parties in Parliament." Those who are suddenly overcome with anxiety for Italy and Europe might find solace in its pages. Di Palma's work, published in 1977, emerged in the wake of parliamentary elections that look a lot like Sunday's results: The Italian Communist Party won 34.4 percent of the vote in a parliamentary election -- slightly more than the populist 5-Star Movement is projected top have gained in Sunday's vote. The centrist Christian Democrats won 38.8 percent, close to the result of the center-right coalition in 2018. They'd been weakened, like the Democratic Party of Matteo Renzi today, by the recent loss of a referendum (theirs had been on divorce, Renzi's on a constitutional reform).
The echoes between then and now are striking. Political observers feared a collapse of the center. Economic analysts dwelled on the potential damage to the Italian economy, which was also underperforming after a global economic crisis. "The present Italian governments," di Palma wrote, in the plural because Italy was on its 34th post-World War II government as he wrote it, "can no more cure themselves than they can the social and economic malaise of the country."
Di Palma offered a compelling explanation why Italian parties were better at electoral survival than at governing. He wrote: The emergence of limited government after World War II can be partially read as a reaction to historical events: the trauma of over twenty years of Fascist dictatorship. In Italy, the weakness of the postwar regime has been, in a way, one of its assets, providing the system with its rubber-ball quality: Men and formulas fall, but bounce back, at the slightest impact. It's actually a tried-and-true strategy for dealing with totalitarian trauma. The Czech Republic, with its ever-changing political landscape and ineffective coalitions, appears to have opted for a similar model after its spell as a Soviet satellite. Last year's Czech election produced an even worse mess than the current one in Italy. Populist parties did well, too. In January, the resulting minority government lost a confidence vote. The country still doesn't have a stable cabinet.
Other European countries with totalitarian or dictatorial experiences behind them -- notably Germany and France -- opted for a strong central authority. Their voters seek stable governments that can work a full term. Even when the political system's foundations are shaken and traditional parties falter or even die, an election winner's ability to govern is a strong consideration. In these countries, people will sometimes vote strategically for a candidate they don't fully support to get that result. France's vote for Emmanuel Macron in last year's presidential election and the German Social Democrats' vote of support for a coalition government with Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives provide just two examples of such strategic behavior. In a country accustomed to weak central governments, however, there's no need for such compromises: People can happily vent, protest, vote to make a point. They don't expect things to get much worse if they do.
That may be because the central government may have less of an effect on their daily lives than their society's other institutions, which don't necessarily change much as a result of elections. These institutions can include strong local communities, informal economic networks and businesses. Institutional resistance to Trumpism in the US, with states, cities and companies pursuing policies with which the Trump administration disagrees, shows the power of these institutions and networks. If central government fails, these power centers pick up the slack.
Italy has a long history of relying on anything but political power for governance. In his book, di Palma stressed the importance of public companies and public service agencies, all but immune to political change and representing the real authority while governments change kaleidoscopically: In other words, in a weak political system, the institutions that take on the functions of government can be both a disease and a cure, usurping power but maintaining a centrist common sense.
Italian voters wouldn't put up with this kind of instability had it not been their conscious choice to have a weak central government rather than an empowered one.
It's an important consequence of this choice that Italy cannot be a driver of positive change in the European Union: That role falls to countries with stable governments.

Beating down Netanyahu to save Israel: How media continues to distort facts
Ramzy Baroud/Al Arabiya/March 11/18
This is what US and Israeli mainstream media are essentially telling us: The problem is not Israel and its occupation of Palestinian land – it is Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The Israeli leader, who has galvanized American elites in favor of Israel for decades, is being thrown under the bus by the very media that once idealized him and validated his numerous mischiefs and under-handed showmanship.
But the media, Israeli and American alike, are only defaming Netanyahu’s image to save Israel’s. Nothing personal. For them, Israel comes first. It always does. This means the truth must be twisted: facts must be bent, and reality misrepresented.
In a recent New Yorker article, Ruth Margalit, held no punches as she listed all of Netanyahu’s alleged crimes, his massive corruption racket, four open investigations and requests for indictments. More are likely to follow: bribery, quid-for-quo dirty dealings, nepotism, favoritism, cliquism – the list is endless.
Yet, somehow, she spared Israel. Her information, views and conclusions were all the outcome of her interviews with Israelis and based on Israeli media reports. Palestinians, Netanyahu’s prime victims, were rarely a factor.
“It is an irony of no small proportions that Netanyahu may, in time, be viewed as the instigator of his own undoing: by neutering political debate in Israel, he has made the focus personal, drawing attention to the murky underside of his governing,” she concludes.
Israelis refer to their country as “the only democracy in the Middle East” – a defense mechanism used to divert from the fact that apartheid, racially-structured political systems, are inherently undemocratic
Degree of corruption
But how personal is this affair really? How could this degree of corruption, so involved and convoluted, reaching many individuals, media companies, commercial interests, politicians, judges, lackeys and advisors, be discussed in isolation from Israel’s own corrupt political system, predicated on ruthless neoliberal economics, rich oligarchs, powerful lobbyists and more? In the Washington Post, Ishaan Tharoor discussed Netanyahu’s corruption within the context of US foreign policy, the Israeli prime minister’s close ties with US President Donald Trump, and Netanyahu’s recent speech at the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC’s) annual policy conference in Washington.
Yet again, the issue is Netanyahu only. AIPAC, a group so powerful it largely determines US foreign policy on Palestine, and the rest of the Middle East, is mentioned as background fodder for the story.
There is no intimation whatsoever that perhaps Netanyahu, a favorite among AIPAC’s rightwing constituency, is but a natural outcome of this vastly corrupt system split between two entities, one that rules Israel (and subjugates Palestinians) at home, and another that relentlessly advocates the Israeli agenda abroad. It is this two-headed creature that produced Netanyahu and will continue producing others, as it did in the past. Yes, corruption in Israel is endemic, and Netanyahu seems to have utilized the crooked system to his advantage better than any previous leader.
It is quite telling that the first police recommendation to charge Netanyahu with corruption was back in March 2000 but went unheeded – the then-attorney general ordered the case shut and Netanyahu returned a few years later to the helm of Israeli politics to serve as Prime Minister of Israel for three more terms.
Despite his corruption in the last decade being common knowledge, he still managed to secure Israeli votes. In fact, if elections take place today, Netanyahu’s rightwing Likud Party will win even more seats, despite all that has been divulged about him.
Netanyahu’s enablers are an army of corrupt officials, businessmen, media moguls and the likes. Their degenerate apparatus is like an octopus whose outreach can be felt in every aspect of life.
Larger phenomenon
But there should be no denying that the corruption racket is, in fact, a microcosm of the larger phenomenon that has afflicted Israel as a whole, as articulated by columnist Brant Roberts in a recent article. “That he is being charged is far from surprising,” he wrote.
“What is surprising is that his tenure has included indiscriminate bombing raids and a decade-long blockade of Gaza, violations of international law, massive deportations of African refugees, imprisonment of Palestinian children and countless human-rights violations against Palestinians.”
None of that is the work of Netanyahu alone, but also the by-product of the collective moral corruption of a highly militarized society held unaccountable for its own destructive ideas about racial and religious supremacy.
But only a few are making this obvious connection. Worse, some journalists are erecting pseudo-journalistic smokescreens to divert from the discussion altogether. In an article published in Al-Monitor, Israeli journalist, Shlomi Eldar, went to unprecedented lengths to divert attention from the corruption in his country.
He spoke of Palestinian journalists – all speaking on condition of anonymity – who “applauded” and “admired” Israeli media coverage of Netanyahu’s corruption scandals.
This same “admired” Israeli media has largely supported Netanyahu’s devastating wars on Gaza, relentlessly defending the illegal occupation of Palestine and serving as a shield for Israel’s stained reputation on the international stage.
This is hardly praiseworthy even if it arguably provides decent coverage for the Netanyahu investigations. But Eldar’s journalism aside, one would think that seeking Palestinian admiration for Israeli media should be the least urgent question to address at this time. What Israelis are trying to tell us is that, despite all of its problems, Israel is an admirable, transparent, law-abiding and democratic society. This is precisely the motivation behind Eldar’s article. The outcome was a familiar act of intellectual hubris that we have grown familiar with.
Many of Israel’s friends in western governments and corporate media have also contributed to this opportunistic style of journalism; they come to the rescue during trying times to find ways to praise Israel and chastise Palestinians and Arabs, even if the latter are completely irrelevant to the discussion.
Diverting from the argument
This Israeli obsession with diverting from the argument is an old tactic as Israel fashions an Arab enemy to beat down, chastise and blame whenever it is in the dock for whatever problem. In the final analysis, Israel somehow maintains the upper hand and self-granted moral ascendency.
For this reason, Israelis refer to their country as “the only democracy in the Middle East” – a defense mechanism used to divert from the fact that apartheid, racially-structured political systems, are inherently undemocratic.
In some strange way, corruption is one of few things that is truly normal about Israel, for it is a shared quality with every country in the world. What is not normal, and should never be normalized, is that Israel is the only country in the world that continues to practice Apartheid, many years after it was disbanded in South Africa.
Israeli, and US media would rather delay that discussion indefinitely – a gutless act that is neither admirable nor praiseworthy.

Mohammed bin Salman is the agent of Saudi Arabia’s change, not custodian of its past

Najah Alotaibi/Al Arabiya/March 11/18
As a young Saudi woman living in London, I desperately want Saudi Arabia to adapt to the modern world. That’s why I’ve found much to support in the agenda of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman – and wanted his visit to Britain which has ended Friday to succeed. That may sound odd: wanting modernity and backing a future absolute monarch. But Mohammad bin Salman is the agent of Saudi Arabia’s change, not the custodian of its past. As a reformer, he is tackling what is least good about Saudi Arabia – and is taking criticism for it from ultra-conservatives. If people want Saudi Arabia to reform, I believe that they should look to bolster and encourage its top reformer. I came to Britain in 2009 to pursue my higher education. My studies and those of thousands like me were paid for by the Saudi Government as part of modernizing the Kingdom. Mohammed bin Salman is in that tradition and the most ambitious modernizer we have had. In 2016, he established a reform plan – Vision 2030 – so ambitious that many wrote it off as a fantasy. Yet so far, it is coming to pass.
Take women’s rights. Just last week, the military opened its doors to women recruits. We no longer require a “guardian” for government services; from June we will be allowed to drive; and a fifth of our legislature is made up of women.
More women graduate from university than men. The head of the Saudi stock exchange, the official spokesperson of the Saudi Embassy in Washington and the CEO of one of our largest financial companies are all women. This change is not over – in fact, it is speeding up. Vision 2030 is not all about women. It covers everything from government services to cinemas (opening this month for the first time in nearly 40 years). But take another area for which Saudi Arabia has long been criticized: extremism, a subject on which I recently wrote a report for the Henry Jackson Society.
Saudi citizens’ involvement in 9/11 was a shock to Saudi Arabia and to its leaders and prompted major change. Riyadh was targeted too: in waves of terror attacks throughout the early 2000s at the hands of al-Qaeda and again in recent years at the hands of ISIS. From 2012 to 2016, Saudi Arabia suffered 253 individual attacks. The Kingdom has expended vast quantities of blood and treasure in defeating terrorism and has worked with UK and US intelligence agencies to foil plots in the West. But under Mohammed bin Salman, the story of counter-terrorism is changing from one solely focused on immediate security to one focused on long-term ideology. If the UK wants a moderate, modern Saudi Arabia open to the world, then Mohammed bin Salman is the man who can make that happen
Moderate Islam
Religion has not escaped his modernizing agenda, and he has promised to return Islam in the Kingdom to “a moderate Islam open to the world and all religions … We won’t waste 30 years of our life combating extremist thoughts, we will destroy them now and immediately.” Efforts are already being made to achieve this. The power of the religious police has been substantially curtailed; 10,000 unsuitable imams have been sacked; and the Council of Senior Scholars – the leading religious body in the Kingdom –has been reshuffled to include moderate voices. In 2016, Mohammad bin Abdul Karim al-Issa, a former Minister of Justice, was appointed Head of the Muslim World League, a body that has in the past been accused of spreading extremist literature around the world. Al-Issa is himself a reformer, as he demonstrated in recent statements on women not needing to wear the abaya, or condemning Holocaust denial. There is still some way for Saudi Arabia to go. There are legitimate concerns about human rights in the Kingdom. But no country can change overnight. If the UK wants a moderate, modern Saudi Arabia open to the world, then Mohammed bin Salman is the man who can make that happen. He has the vision, the drive and the work ethic. Ministers are being held to account for what they achieve, and those who underperform are fired. The recent crackdown on corruption – reaching senior levels of the Royal Family – was intended to signal that no-one is above the law.
A reformed Saudi Arabia is in the West’s interests too. Mohammad bin Salman’s efforts will bolster the Kingdom’s security. Reforming the dominant narratives within the home of Islam will have a knock-on effect around the world. Britain has expertise that Saudi Arabia can use in its efforts. She should continue to provide that expertise – not least because Saudi Arabia’s security is the UK’s security too.

Where to next, Italy?
Eyad Abu Shakra/Al Arabiya/March 11/18
Geography doesn't lie, even when history is falsified. A few countries’ identities were shaped by geography like Italy’s, despite its glorious history. Italy went to the polls to elect its new parliament, in a much changed Europe and a much changed world. The country that gave the world the physics genius Archimedes, and Niccolo Machiavelli who ‘institutionalized’ politics and brought it down from philosophic utopia to realistic pragmatism, has elected its parliament, and consequently will form its new government amid a wide spectrum of choices from the extreme Left to the extreme Right.
Many of the contradictions embodied in Italy’s competing parties are much old than the current Italian political entity. Indeed, Italian language and culture are steeped in history, while the modern Italian state was only born during the 19th century thanks to the efforts of Giuseppe Mazzini, Camillo Benso (Count of Cavour), and Giuseppe Garibaldi.
The ‘Mediterranean’ Influence
The beginning came with the defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte’s France in 1815 and the convening of the Congress of Vienna, in the same year, to redraw the map of Europe. As far as Italy was concerned, that Congress resurrected the pre-Napoleonic ‘mosaic’ of the old entities covering the Italian peninsula. These entities were either independent or attached to major neighbors, led by Austria. By 1843, before the revolts and wars of unification, the present-day Italy included five major entities: 1) The Kingdom of Sardinia and Piedmont in the north and northwest, 2) The Kingdom of Venice and Lombardy in the north and northeast, 3) The Papal States in the center (comprising present-day provinces of Lazio, Umbria, Marche and the eastern part of Emilia-Romagna), 4) The Kingdom of the Two Sicilies in the south (comprising Sicily and the present-day provinces of Calabria, Campania, Basilicata, Puglia, Abruzzo and Molise. Added to those, were smaller entities such as the duchies of Parma, Modena and Lucca. Without going further into details, it must be said that even after the ‘unification’ of Italy, it never became a perfect ‘nation state’, in the linguistic, cultural, and demographic contexts; A certain ‘Italian’ cultural and linguistic influence remained outside its borders, and ‘Germanic’ and ‘French’ influence within these borders.
The Italian south, including the island of Sicily, was in ancient times part of the ‘Hellenic World’. Among the famous cities of that period were Syracuse (Surqoussa to the Arabs), where Archimedes was born and lived, and Naples (Napoli) – Neapolis in Greek meaning “new city”.
Later on, this part of Italy became part of the Islamic world, following the Muslim conquest of Sicily in 827 AD, under the leadership of Assad Ibn Al-Furat; and later Calabria whose major city Reggio they called Jerrajah (or Jurrajah). Indeed, Ibn Al-Furat died during the siege of Syracuse (828 AD) and was buried in the city, before the army reached Calabria.
Thus, the ‘Mediterranean’ Influence, whether Hellenic or Islamic, left its imprint on Italy’s south, while the cultures of western and central Europe influenced northern Italy. The differences between ‘north’ and ‘south’ have not been limited to culture, but have been noticeable in the social development and economic sectors. While cities of the ‘north’ became bastions of industry and business in Europe, led by Milan (Milano), Turin (Torino), Brescia, Bologna and Modena, the ‘south’ remained primarily rural, agricultural and touristic, with weak economic ‘muscles’, and much lower per capita income than in the ‘north’.
As regards social development, disparity between ‘north’ and ‘south’ has been reflected even in Italy’s politics, namely, its party allegiances. In the ‘north,’ leftist and secular liberal parties as well as strong trade unions thrived; while the major role in the ‘south’ was played by powerful ‘cradles’ led by the Catholic Church, and traditional clan and local support affinities that metamorphosed later in the Mafia, the most notorious of which have been the Napoli and Sicily Mafia ‘families’.
During the Cold War, Italy’s biggest and most powerful political parties were the Christian Democracy (Democrazia Cristiana) and the Italian Communist Party (PCI). The PCI – the biggest in the West – dominated local and provincial politics for long periods in most major cities, especially in the north, and still managed to the mayorship of Rome, the national capital as well as the center of Catholicism.
As for the Christian Democrats (founded in 1943), they dominated in the south and rural areas, and gave Italy most of its post-WWII prime ministers. For a certain stage, competition between ‘Left’ and ‘Right’ factions was a feature of the Party, which eventually caused its demise in 1994; and thus, its ‘Leftist’ remnants joined the newly born ‘center-Left’ coalitions, while the ‘Rightist’ remnants joined the Right, even extreme Right, parties.
The end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Warsaw Pact had a huge impact on the Italian scene. The demise of Communism in Europe shook the PCI despite its ideological and organizational independence vis-à-vis Moscow. Furthermore, the end of enforced and pressing polarization, corruption scandals ravaging the Christian Democrats, and uncovering the links between some of its ‘bosses’ with the Mafia and organized crime were factors that made redundant the need for a ‘bulwark’ against what was now non-existing Communist threat.
In fact, change affected Italy as a whole, as much as it affected the world around it. Winds of ‘Globalization’ hit Italy as they did elsewhere in Europe, and spurred – at least – in its rich ‘north’ the same isolationist reaction against ‘Globalization’ seen in other rich western European countries. Later on, waves of refugees and immigrants, particularly from Africa, made the situation worse; and why not when one remembers that the northern shores of Africa are only a stone throw from Italy’s south shores.
Geography does not lie. Italy’s ‘north’, where German is spoken in the Alto Adige and Friuli, and French near the French borders in the Val d’Aosta, communicates and interacts with Europe, and the rich Lombardy and Veneto Provinces only accept Italian ‘identity’ on their own conditions … otherwise they dream of secession!