March 15/2018
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani


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Bible Quotations
In The Kingdom of Peace, the wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat
Isaiah 11/01-16: "A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord—and he will delight in the fear of the Lord. He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears;  but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth. He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth; with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked. Righteousness will be his belt and faithfulness the sash around his waist.  The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. The infant will play near the cobra’s den, and the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his resting place will be glorious. 11 In that day the Lord will reach out his hand a second time to reclaim the surviving remnant of his people from Assyria, from Lower Egypt, from Upper Egypt, from Cush, from Elam, from Babylonia, from Hamath and from the islands of the Mediterranean. He will raise a banner for the nations and gather the exiles of Israel; he will assemble the scattered people of Judah from the four quarters of the earth. Ephraim’s jealousy will vanish, and Judah’s enemies will be destroyed; Ephraim will not be jealous of Judah, nor Judah hostile toward Ephraim. They will swoop down on the slopes of Philistia to the west; together they will plunder the people to the east. They will subdue Edom and Moab, and the Ammonites will be subject to them. The Lord will dry up the gulf of the Egyptian sea; with a scorching wind he will sweep his hand over the Euphrates River. He will break it up into seven streams so that anyone can cross over in sandals. There will be a highway for the remnant of his people that is left from Assyria, as there was for Israel when they came up from Egypt."

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on March 14-15/18
Those who allowed Hezbollah, so much power/Dr.Walid Phares/Face Book/March 14/18
Hizbullah Deputy Sec.-Gen. Sheikh Naim Qassem Receives A 'Symbolic Gift From The Jewish People,' Declares: We Will Be Victorious But Are In No Hurry/MEMRI/March 14/18
Fundamentalist Terrorists Benefit from "Fundamental Fairness"/Sandra Parker/Gatestone Institute/March 14/18
EU: More Censorship to "Protect" You/Judith Bergman/Gatestone Institute/March 14/18
Exclusive: Why Iran’s Intervention in Syria Proved so Costly/Amir Taheri/Asharq Al Awsat/March 14/18
The Rules of the Spy Game Are No Longer Clear/Leonid Bershidsky/Bloomberg View//March 14/18/
Enjoy Your Job in Software? You Have a Woman to Thank/Elaine Ou/Bloomberg/March 14/18
Trump’s clear message in firing Rex Tillerson/Mashari Althaydi/Al Arabiya/March 14/18
Messages of reform and change from Cairo/Hassan Al Mustafa/Al Arabiya/March 14/18
The Kurds have been sacrificed/Christian Chesnot/Al Arabiya/March 14/18
Saudi women make the most of International Women’s Day/Dr. Ali Al-Ghamdi/Al Arabiya/March 14/18

Titles For Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on March 14-15/18
Those who allowed Hezbollah, so much power...
Report: Hizbullah Denies Remarks Attributed to Nasrallah
Berri says parliamentary session to ratify budget before end of March
Hariri arrives in Rome, chairs Lebanon delegation to Rome II Conference
Hariri Marks March 14 Alliance Anniversary
Hariri receives OHCHR representative
New Charges Pressed Against Hacker Involved in Itani-Hajj Case
Sayegh: Kataeb-LF Alliance Compelled by Field Rules and Historical Identity
Sami Gemayel Marks 13th Anniversary of Cedars Revolution
Bou Khaled: Our Struggle for Change Emanates From People's Suffering
Derian meets Islamist detainees families
Judge Germanos presses charges against hacker Elie Gh. in new case
UK support to Lebanese businesses and infrastructure continues
Legislation and Consultations' Committee: Information Minister must take necessary decision as to TL chairmanship vacancy
Report: Saudi Arabia Keen on Showing Support for Lebanon
Lebanese Army Sets Rules for Flying Drones
Islamist Prisoners' Families Rally at Interior Ministry after Meeting Mufti
Mustaqbal Lauds Aoun's Call for Post-Polls Defense Strategy Talks
Lebanon: Defense Strategy Depends on Elections Results, Hezbollah’s Readiness to
Aoun given taxpayer charter by Lebanese association
Hizbullah Deputy Sec.-Gen. Sheikh Naim Qassem Receives A 'Symbolic Gift From The Jewish People,' Declares: We Will Be Victorious But Are In No Hurry

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on March 14-15/18

Second Day of Medical Evacuations Begins in Syria's Ghouta
Turkey Ramps Up Assault on Kurdish Enclave in Syria
Turkey Jails Man for Life for Syrian Mother, Daughter Murders
Moscow Says to Retaliate Soon to UK's Expulsion of Diplomats
UK Expels Russia Diplomats, Suspends Diplomatic Contact in Spy Row
Al-Qaida in Syria Losing Ground in Battles with Insurgents
UN Palestinian Agency in Urgent Search for Cash at Global Gathering
Erdogan Hopes Turkish Forces Will Completely Encircle Afrin by Wednesday
Knesset Backs Bill to Impose Jewish Nationalism
France Raises Alarm on Wave of Fighters Returning from Syria, Iraq
Germany: 3 Syrians Sentenced to Prison for Belonging to ISIS
Merkel Sworn in as German Chancellor for Fourth Term
Statement by Minister of Foreign Affairs on chemical weapon attack in United Kingdom
Statement by Canada on U.S. anti-dumping duties on imports of Canadian uncoated groundwood paper
Latest Lebanese Related News published on March 14-15/18
Those who allowed Hezbollah, so much power...
Dr.Walid Phares/Face Book/March 14/18
"Why are some Lebanese politicians surprised at SG Hassan Nasrallah's statements about the supremacy of the Vilayet Faqih to the Lebanese state? Haven't they read the doctrine of Hezbollah since its inception in 1981? These politicians had supported Taef in 1989-1990 which had recognized Hezbollah's legitimate "resistance." They included Hezbollah in electoral alliances, then in Governments as of 2005. They gave him a pass after the 2008 blitz. And sit happily with the Hezb in cabinets until now. Why are they acting surprised now? They were his partners for decades while this militia was devouring Lebanon. The reason for their comedy? Because Nasrallah unveiled the real goals of his group, in a raw manner, in front of the constituencies of these politicians. It is not Nasrallah who was exposed by these statements. It was those who allowed Hezbollah so much power over the years..."
Dr Walid Phares, former advisor on foreign affairs to President D Trump
Report: Hizbullah Denies Remarks Attributed to Nasrallah
Naharnet/March 14/18/Hizbullah's media office slammed as “untrue” Farda News reports quoting the party's chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah as saying that “the guardianship of Wilayat al-Fakih is above the Constitution and the implementation of its orders are compulsory,” Assharq al-Awsat reported on Wednesday. Hizbullah's media office denied the report published by Iranian Farda News Agency, which supports Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, stressing that they were “completely untrue.” The agency apologized for the report and withdrew it blaming its correspondent for the “error.”The report had said that Nasrallah's remarks came during his meeting with Iranian nationals residing in Lebanon. Nasrallah has repeatedly said that Hizbullah is an extension of the Iranian project and that his party is willing to make sacrifices for the sake of the Wilayat al-Fakih. He had also acknowledged that Hizbullah receives money from the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Berri says parliamentary session to ratify budget before end of March
Wed 14 Mar 2018/NNA - House Speaker, Nabih Berri, on Wednesday said that the parliamentary session to ratify the 2018 draft state budget will be taking place before the end of March. Speaker Berri's words came during his weekly Wednesday Gathering with deputies. The budget ratification would come ahead of the Easter holiday and the Paris Conference set to take place upcoming April 6. Visiting Lawmakers quoted the Speaker as saying that "Lebanon has scored a new victory against the Israeli enemy in terms of land and sea borders, through the entry of the Lebanese army and UNIFIL forces into the so-called 'B' point and the substantiation of Lebanese maps and documents with tangible evidence and proofs on the ground." Speaker Berri underlined that Lebanon and the Lebanese adhere to their sovereignty and borders, whether in land or sea, as well as to all their rights and resources, saying "they [Lebanese] shall never relinquish any of them."On the 2018 draft state budget, Berri said that the parliamentary session to ratify 2018 budget will take place before the end of March, indicating that the Finance Committee shall hold intensive sessions to discuss the budget.On the other hand, Berri also met with a delegation of the Union and Municipalities of Jabal Al-Rihan.

Hariri arrives in Rome, chairs Lebanon delegation to Rome II Conference
Wed 14 Mar 2018/NNA - Prime Minister Saad Hariri arrived in Rome on Monday evening, chairing the Lebanese delegation to the Rome II conference called forth by the International Support Group for Lebanon, aimed at supporting the official security and military institutions in Lebanon. Premier Hariri chairs an official delegation to the Conference, including Ministers of Defense, Interior and Municipalities and Foreign Affairs, as well as Army Commander General Joseph Aoun, Internal Security Forces chief Imad Othman, and General Security chief Abbas Ibrahim. The Lebanese delegation shall present at the Conference a five-year comprehensive plan in support of the army and security forces. The Conference will be inaugurated tomorrow at 4:00 pm (Beirut time) at the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation's headquarters.
Premier Hariri is to deliver Lebanon's word at the Conference.

Hariri Marks March 14 Alliance Anniversary
Naharnet/March 14/18/Prime Minister Saad Hariri issued a statement Wednesday marking the 13th anniversary of March 14 alliance, Hariri's media office said. "It is no coincidence today, on the 13th anniversary of March 14, that I travel to Rome on head of a Lebanese delegation to participate in an international conference aimed at boosting the army and security forces, the protectors of sovereignty and stability in Lebanon,” said Hariri. “The consolidation of the State and the sovereignty and freedom of Lebanon, were the demands that brought more than one million Lebanese citizens who descended on the squares on that historic day 13 years ago. Today, we continue to struggle to achieve these demands,” he added. The March 14 alliance was named after the date of the Cedar Revolution and was a coalition of political parties formed in 2005, united by their anti-Syrian regime stance after the assassination of Hariri's father ex-PM Rafik Hariri in a massive car bomb. Hariri said March 14 “will remain a milestone in the history of Lebanon and the banner of freedom, sovereignty and rejection of hegemony and guardianship, and a bridge to the real crossing towards the State.”Hariri is in Rome to take part in the Rome II donor conferences aimed at boosting the capabilities of Lebanon's military and security agencies.

Hariri receives OHCHR representative
Wed 14 Mar 2018/NNA - The President of the Council of Ministers Saad Hariri received today at the Grand Serail the Regional Representative of the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights OHCHR, Abdel Salam Sidahmed, in the presence of the Minister of State for Human Rights Ayman Choukair. After the meeting, Sidahmed said: "We discussed the establishment of the Lebanese national commission for human rights and we asked Prime Minister Hariri that the Council of Ministers names the members of the commission that has international standards after a decision issued by the Lebanese Parliament in October 2016." He added: "We also discussed the preparations for Rome Conference and the necessity to commit to the principles of human rights, and our readiness to help in this field."
New Charges Pressed Against Hacker Involved in Itani-Hajj Case 14/18/State Commissioner to the Military Court, Judge Peter Germanos, on Wednesday pressed new charges against the hacker involved in the case of ISF Major Suzan Hajj, the National News Agency reported. Elie Ghabash was found to be involved in another case in which he had also fabricated evidence that led to the arrest of an Army officer on charges of collaborating with Israel. Germanos referred Ghabash to the First Military Investigative Judge Riad Abu Ghaida for further questioning, and issued an arrest warrant against him. According to New TV, the hacker is suspected of fabricating evidence against retired Army officer, Ishak Daghim, who was arrested for 54 days, also for collaborating with Israel. Ghabash reportedly did so in retaliation against Daghim because of disagreements between the latter and the hacker’s brother. Ghabash is already detained for being involved in fabricating evidence to frame up director and comedian Ziad Itani, upon the request of the former head of the ISF's Cybercrime Bureau chief Maj. Suzan Hajj.

Sayegh: Kataeb-LF Alliance Compelled by Field Rules and Historical Identity 14/18/Kataeb's Deputy-President Salim Sayegh on Wednesday said that the field rules and the historical identity of both Zahle and Ashrafieh have compelled an alliance between the Kataeb Party and the Lebanese Forces, saying that the political agreement reached in both districts does not affect the alliances sealed elsewhere. "Any agreement with any political force must have the Kataeb's candidate, MP Nadim Gemayel, at its core; something that probably did not please everyone in civil society groups," Sayegh told MTV channel. "The new voting system requires securing the electoral quotient before getting into ways to ensure the preferential votes."

Sami Gemayel Marks 13th Anniversary of Cedars Revolution 14/18/Kataeb leader Samy Gemayel on Wednesday reaffirmed commitment to the values and principles of the revolution of March 14, 2005, also known as the Cedars Revolution during which one million Lebanese flocked to the Martyrs Square in Beirut to demand the departure of Syrian forces from their territory. “March 14… The pulse of sovereignty and independence will keep our hearts beating forever ,” Gemayel wrote on Twitter.

Bou Khaled: Our Struggle for Change Emanates From People's Suffering 14/18/Kataeb's candidate for the Maronite seat in Baabda, Ramzi Bou Khaled, said that the area still lacks a balanced development due to the state's negligence and failure to meet the people's basic needs, adding that there are still no plans to improve the district. Speaking to the Kataeb website, Bou Khaled deplored the fact that none of lawmakers who were elected in 2009 has done anything for Baabda, stressing that the district's people are waiting for someone who can bring the much-needed change. "Electoral alliances in the Baabda district are yet to be finalized. A clear vision will emerge in the next few days. What is sure is that we will ally with those who resemble us," he said. "We are fighting this electoral battle so as to re-inject values into the political life, and help find solutions to all pending issues in a way to meet the people's aspirations. Our struggle for change emanates from the people's suffering." Bou Khaled said that he will be meeting with Baabda's people, dignitaries and mayors on Sunday in Hammana to discuss the Kataeb's platform. "I have been close to people in Baabda, so I know their concerns and needs. I will work on solving all their problems in cooperation with the area's municipal councils.""Do not fear taking the new choice being proposed to you," Bou Khaled said in an address to the voters. "Change requires courage and you must contribute to achieving it by making the right choice in the ballot boxes on May 6."

Derian meets Islamist detainees families
Wed 14 Mar 2018/NNA - Grand Mufti, Sheikh Abdullatif Derian, met, at Dar-al-Fatwa on Wednesday, with the families and relatives of the Islamist detainees, who broached their sons' tribulations inside the prison. The delegation, who also included the wife of Ahmad Assir, called the Mufti to urge officials to grant amnesty for their sons and for "all the prisoners without exception." During the meeting, Derian contacted Head of Future bloc, MP Fouad Siniora, who voiced solidarity with the families, vowing to follow up on their issue with Prime Minister Saad Hariri. "Their cause is my cause," Derian said.

Judge Germanos presses charges against hacker Elie Gh. in new case
Wed 14 Mar 2018/NNA - Government commissioner before the military court, judge Peter Germanos, pressed charges against hacker Elie Gh. in a new case that is separate from that of Itani-Hajj, National News Agency correspondent reported on Wednesday.
Investigations showed that the hacker had fabricated a case of spying for the Israeli enemy, this time framing a Lebanese army adjutant. Germanos referred Elie Gh. to the First Military Investigative Judge Riyad Abu Gheida and ordered his arrest.

UK support to Lebanese businesses and infrastructure continues
Wed 14 Mar 2018/NNA - In a press release by the British Embassy in Beirut, it said: "As part of his regular visits to Tripoli, British Ambassador Hugo Shorter accompanied by LHSP programme manager Raghed Assi, met with the Head of the Municipality Ahmad Kamareddine and discussed UK investments in the city. Ambassador Shorter also toured the historical Souks of Tripoli to see firsthand the launching of phase two of the Lebanon Host Communities Project with an additional $1 million to rehabilitate around 60 shops. The project will create direct jobs for Lebanese and Syrians during the rehabilitation of the Souk. Since 2011, the UK has committed over $900 million supporting Lebanon’s stability and prosperity. By 2019, we will have reached over 1,440,000 people and more than 220 municipalities under the Lebanon Host Communities programme (LHSP) in cooperation with the Ministry of Social Affairs and UNDP. At the end of his visit Ambassador Shorter said: 'It’s always fascinating to return to Tripoli. Today was an opportunity to discuss with the Head of the Municipality projects aimed at providing better economic opportunities for shop owners in the city. Last year UK Aid invested in a $500,000 project spent on renovating the Souks and Talaat Al Refaaei under LHSP. I am pleased to see today the start of the next phase where we will be continuing the rehabilitation of the Souks with an additional $1 million benefiting around 60 shops. I’m proud to say that we, along with donors, are playing an active role in the city’s development. Investment in infrastructure will benefit Lebanese citizens and support future economic growth, something that the Government of Lebanon is trying to achieve through the upcoming CEDRE conference in Paris matched with economic reforms. Since 2015 the UK has given $14 million in support to projects which enhance economic opportunities for vulnerable Lebanese, Syrian and Palestinian youth in areas such as Tripoli and the Bekaa.' Shop owners in the Souks said that such projects will have a positive impact on their livelihoods, income and that they are not forgotten, generations to come will be grateful for this support. Ambassador Shorter also visited MP Sleiman Franjieh and discussed the latest local and regional developments."

Legislation and Consultations' Committee: Information Minister must take necessary decision as to TL chairmanship vacancy
Wed 14 Mar 2018/NNA - The Ministry of Information on Wednesday received the opinion of Justice Ministry's Committee of Legislation and Consultations, pertaining to the continuous void at the Télé Liban chairman's post. According to the Committee, it is the duty of the Information Minister to take the necessary decision to run the ordinary administrative work, such as employees' remuneration, paying rental and taxes etc.
"These decisions do not need the approval of the Cabinet," the Committee indicated.

Report: Saudi Arabia Keen on Showing Support for Lebanon
Naharnet/March 14/18/Saudi Arabia's keenness on showing support for Lebanon “at all levels” was reflected in the meetings of Saudi Charge d’Affaires Walid al-Bukhari with Speaker Nabih Berri and Prime Minister Saad Hariri a day earlier, al-Joumhouria daily reported on Wednesday.
Saudi Arabia has confirmed participation in international conferences in support of Lebanon, mainly the upcoming Rome II Conference on March 15 set to boost Lebanon's military and security institutions. Bukhari, who has been recently re-appointed in Lebanon replacing Ambassador Walid al-Yaaqoub, said after meeting Berri: “Discussions have focused on the developments in the region and bilateral relations between the two countries. I assured the Speaker of the Kingdom's keenness on preserving Lebanon's stability.” On the other hand, informed sources told the daily that Hariri-Bukhari meeting “was held in the context of the Kingdom's support for Lebanon and its participation in the Rome II Conference this week. Bukhari will attend the conference alongside a Saudi delegation. This reflects the interest of the Kingdom in this conference.”“Bukhari's meeting with Hariri was friendly and falls within the context of the Kingdom's constant emphasis on Lebanon at all levels,” they added on condition of anonymity.Lebanon is gearing for a variety of donor international meetings this year to garner support for its economy and army, and to help it deal with the Syrian refugee crisis as it hosts around one million refugees.

Lebanese Army Sets Rules for Flying Drones

Naharnet/March 14/18/The Lebanese Army issued a warning for remote control drone owners urging them to get licenses for flying their vehicles and for drone photography, the Army Command-Orientation Directorate said in a statement on Wednesday.
The statement warned against the “threats of flying unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) over Lebanon's territories, mainly military centers and sensitive locations without a license issued by the Orientation Directorate.”The statement said any drone flown illegally without meeting the requirements “will be brought down and owners will be legally prosecuted,” siting “serious risk to the official institutions, the security and public safety.”
The documents needed to register UAVs for aerial photography are available on the Lebanese army's website, it added.

Islamist Prisoners' Families Rally at Interior Ministry after Meeting Mufti
Naharnet/March 14/18/Families of Islamist prisoners staged a sit-in Wednesday outside the Interior Ministry in Beirut's Sanayeh area, demanding a general amnesty for their sons. The families had met earlier in the day with Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Latif Daryan. During the meeting, phone talks were held with the head of al-Mustaqbal parliamentary bloc ex-PM Fouad Saniora, who “expressed solidarity with the families” and “promised to follow up on their issue with Prime Minister Saad Hariri, who has embraced the families' plight and is, in turn, seeking a solution,” the National News Agency said. “The first person who demanded a general amnesty that does not exclude anyone was the mufti of the republic,” Daryan told the families. He noted that he has formed a committee led by Sheikh Mohammed Anis al-Arwadi, the director general of Islamic endowments, to “follow up on the situations of the prisoners and reach a solution for their issue.”Speaking in the name of the families after the meeting, Sheikh Salem al-Rafehi said the delegation and the mufti had an identical viewpoint. “We are demanding a comprehensive general amnesty that does not exclude anyone, neither from our sect nor from other sects, and this stance is irreversible,” al-Rafehi added. “We call on the president to endorse this general amnesty to turn the page on a previous period that witnessed an undeclared civil war, and usually there comes an amnesty after every war, the same as happened in the past,” the cleric went on to say. “The mufti will endorse this file and exert efforts with the politicians so that it can be finalized before the elections,” al-Rafehi added. The families have staged several protests in recent days. The protests coincide with a hunger strike that the Islamist prisoners had started on Thursday. The hunger strike followed a call from detained Islamist cleric Khaled Hoblos. Addressing President Michel Aoun, Speaker Nabih Berri and Prime Minister Saad Hariri, Hoblos called in an audio recording for “finding a solution for thousands of detainees from all sects.”“We, the detainees in Lebanese prisons, are resuming our hunger strike under the slogan Freedom or Death,” Hoblos says in the audio recording. Lebanese authorities have rounded up hundreds of Sunni Islamists over the last years, including some involved in bombings against civilians and deadly clashes with the Lebanese Army. They also include extremists believed to belong to al-Qaida-linked groups and the Islamic State group. A lot of Islamist prisoners and their families have decried delay in judicial procedures and trials. Some prisoners are held for several years without trial or conviction.

Mustaqbal Lauds Aoun's Call for Post-Polls Defense Strategy Talks
Naharnet/March 14/18/Al-Mustaqbal parliamentary bloc on Tuesday lauded President Michel Aoun for saying that national defense strategy talks will be held after the parliamentary elections. “This declaration is a step towards bolstering the state and its institutions and resolving the issue of (Hizbullah's) arms within the framework of national consensus that can preserve both sovereignty and stability,” the bloc said in a statement issued after its weekly meeting. Aoun said Monday that “Lebanese leaders will discuss the national defense strategy after the parliamentary elections that will be held in May.”The defense strategy has long been a thorny issue in Lebanon.
Lebanon: Defense Strategy Depends on Elections Results, Hezbollah’s Readiness to
Beirut- Paula Astih/Asharq Al Awsat/March 14/18/Lebanese President Michel Aoun’s announcement that he will launch dialogue on the country’s defense strategy following the upcoming parliamentary elections has opened the door for speculations about the priorities of the new government and the main challenges awaiting the Lebanese in the post-election phase. Dialogue on the defense strategy was halted at the end of the term of former President Michel Sleiman in 2014. The latter has convened national dialogue sessions that gathered the country’s leaders, who have failed, over a period of eight years, to agree on the fate of Hezbollah’s arms. In 2012, Lebanon’s decision-makers agreed on a number of items under the so-called “Baabda Declaration”. Article 12 of the Declaration calls for “dissociating Lebanon from the policy of regional and international axes and conflicts, and avoiding the negative repercussions of regional tensions and crises.”However, with Hezbollah’s decision to send its fighters to Syria to participate in the war, the party has bluntly violated the Baabda Declaration, as head of Hezbollah’s parliamentary bloc MP Mohammed Raad said that the Declaration was “born dead and is mere ink on paper.”
In September 2012, Suleiman presented his vision of a national strategy for the defense of Lebanon, stating that the appropriate frameworks and mechanisms should be agreed upon to use the weapons of the resistance and to place them under the Army’s mandate. Lebanese leaders discussed this strategy without reaching a conclusion. Hezbollah does not seem to be enthusiastic about re-discussing the defense strategy, and no official position on Aoun’s announcement was issued by the party. However, in an indirect response, Raad said on Tuesday: “The resistance, which represents a cornerstone in the equation of power and defense of this homeland, and which offered a lot of gear, planning and will… this resistance embraced by our generous national people… do not need texts, and remains a need as long as there is an Israeli enemy and terrorist threats to our existence and identity.”According to sources close to Aoun, the president has not yet developed any vision to tackle the defense strategy and nothing was clear on whether the issue would be discussed through national dialogue or by the new government that will emerge from the new Parliament.
Aoun given taxpayer charter by Lebanese association
The Daily Star/March 14, 2018/BEIRUT: President Michel Aoun Wednesday met with a delegation from ALDIC, a Lebanese association aimed at promoting tax ethics and compliance, and received a copy of the group’s "taxpayer charter," a statement from his media office reported. "The basic principles of the tax law are enshrined in this text, even those that seem self-evident," the delegation told Aoun at Baabda Palace. The charter is comprised of three sections – comprising the goals and objectives of the taxes, and the rights and responsibilities of both the state and the taxpayer. "Taxes are an import source of income for the state and should be distributed equally among Lebanese citizens to ensure safety and welfare for all," the delegation said, to explain why the charter had been created. Aoun then received a delegation from the Lebanese Army’s Strategic Research and Studies Center, members of which updated Aoun on the center’s work. "The first batch of Master’s students is graduating, including ten researchers who submitted their research and already applied for a doctorate," SRSC Director Brig. Gen. Fadi Abi Farraj said. The Master’s program is a collaboration between the center and the Lebanese University. The meeting also touched on the SRSC’s eighth regional conference, entitled "Reinforcing Stability and Development in Arab Countries and the Middle East," which was held last February and attended by 12 European and Arab countries. Abi Farraj noted that the recommendations that emerged from the conference would soon be published in a book prepared by the center. "The participation of Lebanese, Arab and foreign experts and specialists in these conferences is adding to [the center’s] success and helping it achieve its purpose," Aoun told the delegation.
Hizbullah Deputy Sec.-Gen. Sheikh Naim Qassem Receives A 'Symbolic Gift From The Jewish People,' Declares: We Will Be Victorious But Are In No Hurry
نعيم قاسم يتسلم هدية رمزية من الشعب اليهودي ويعلن ان النصر سيتحقق ولن حزبه غير مستعجل
MEMRI/March 14/18'
Deputy Secretary-General of Hizbullah Sheikh Naim Qassem spoke at the Fourth Global Convention of Solidarity with Palestine on March 13, saying that the only way to regain Palestine was through resistance and "first and foremost, armed resistance." He further declared: "We want victory – today, tomorrow, or the day after tomorrow – but nobody can exert pressure on us... and take through our surrender what they could not wrest from us through war. We are in no hurry." Sheikh Qassem criticized U.S. intervention in Iraq and Syria and its support of the Saudi and Bahraini rulers, saying that the story of America "is the story of Satan." Following his speech, American activist Rabbi Dovid Weiss of Neturei Karta presented him with a gift "from the Jewish people, from my brethren in Palestine and around the world." Sheikh Al-Qassem received the gift on behalf of Hizbullah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah. The proceedings were broadcast on Al-Manar TV.
Following is a transcript:
Naim Qassem: "Palestine must be restored to its rightful owners. We must cooperate with the people of Palestine in order to restore it to them.
"As for America – its story is the story of Satan, who has not left a single corner in this world that he did not destroy. The American intervention in our region has destroyed it, harmed its people, increased the arrogance of the Zionist occupation, and abetted its expansion and aggression. America occupied Iraq and brought takfirists to Syria, thus destroying it. It supported Saudi Arabia in its aggression against Yemen, and protected the rulers of Bahrain in their oppression of their people. It left the fingerprints of destruction when it interfered in the Arab Spring, which was meant to bring liberation, but was used by them as a pretext for sowing destruction. All of this was done in order to defend Israel.
"We say to the Arabs, to the Muslims, and to the world in its entirety: Any of you who are incapable of supporting the Palestinian people should remain silent rather than supporting the enemy.
"There is no way to regain Palestine other than through the resistance – first and foremost, armed resistance, followed by all other forms of resistance.
"We shall not replace resistance by weapons with any other form of resistance, until this enemy surrenders, and surrender it will.
"The backbone of the resistance is the Palestinians. The head of the resistance is the Palestinians. Nobody will take their place. We are not acting on their behalf. We are with you, we are behind you, and we support you, but it is you who are at the helm. You have proven throughout history that you are a nation worthy of fighting for its cause. Keep on this path, and we are certain that you and we will be victorious on the path to liberation.
"If anyone is interested in knowing when we expect to be victorious, we say: We are in no hurry. We want victory – today, tomorrow, or the day after tomorrow – but nobody can exert pressure on us with regard to the place or the time, or [threaten us with] international considerations, and take through our surrender what they could not wrest from us through war. We are in no hurry."
MC: "I invite Rabbi Dovid Weiss to come to the stage, in order to present a symbolic gift to Hizbullah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah, who is represented here by Sheikh Naim Qassem.
[Weiss embraces Qassem and hands him the gift.]
"Rabbi Dovid Weiss is presenting a gift to Hizbullah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah…to Deputy Secretary-General Sheikh Naim Qassem."
Naim Qassem: "In Palestine, the Jews are with us, the Christians are with us, and the Muslims are with us. We are all with Palestine."
Dovid Weiss: "With the help of the Almighty. We simply gave a symbolic, little gift from the Jewish people, from my brethren in Palestine and from around the world, to show that this is not a conflict between religions. This is not a conflict between Jews and Muslims. This is the despicable narrative of the Zionist state.
"We pray every day for a free Palestine. We want it returned to the Palestinian people. The Muslim people were so good to us. They gave us… embraced us, in our suffering throughout the exile. We want to show our gratitude. This is to show that we are both working together in peace and solidarity, in harmony, as we have lived for so many hundreds of years. God should help. He should bring this about – soon in our days – a free Palestine. As a Jew, we would be able to show our appreciation, our gratitude, to our brothers and sisters, the Muslims and the Arabs."
Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on March 14-15/18
Second Day of Medical Evacuations Begins in Syria's Ghouta
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/March 14/18/A second day of medical evacuations from Syria's Eastern Ghouta got underway on Wednesday, with dozens more civilians expected to be taken out of the besieged rebel enclave. The United Nations has called for urgent medical evacuations for more than 1,000 people who are in desperate need of treatment unavailable in the enclave. Medical evacuations from Ghouta's largest town of Douma began on Tuesday under a deal with the rebel faction which controls it, and more sick and wounded were taken out on Wednesday. A Syrian Arab Red Crescent official in Damascus, which has facilitated the evacuations, confirmed a new operation had begun on Wednesday. Inside Douma, dozens of people awaiting evacuation gathered at a Red Crescent center early on Wednesday, an AFP correspondent reported. Among them was 18-year-old Omran, who was severely wounded two years ago in bombardment of Ghouta. He lost his left leg, right arm and left eye. A high-ranking member of Jaish al-Islam, the rebel group that controls Douma, confirmed that new evacuations were taking place. "Today, people with medical conditions will be evacuated for treatment," Yasser Dalwan told AFP. "They are all civilians. There are around 35 people, along with their companions." State television aired footage of Red Crescent ambulances leaving Ghouta and entering government-held territory. The U.N. Security Council passed a resolution last month calling for a 30-day truce to allow for aid deliveries and medical evacuations from Ghouta. Such evacuations in Syria have typically seen people taken out of a besieged area for care, and then returned after treatment. On Tuesday, around 150 people were transported out of Douma in the first civilian evacuation from the enclave since government forces launched a devastating offensive on February 18.

Turkey Ramps Up Assault on Kurdish Enclave in Syria

Turkey turned up the heat on Syria's Afrin Wednesday, launching deadly strikes on Damascus loyalists deployed around the Kurdish enclave and closing in on its main city. The development, which could redraw the map of northern Syria, came as Russian-backed regime forces pounded shrinking rebel pockets in Eastern Ghouta near Damascus. The violence in both enclaves came as the foreign ministers of Turkey and Russia, the two major foreign players in a conflict entering its eighth year Thursday, met in Moscow. A Turkish presidency source said Afrin's encirclement "will have been completed by the evening", retracting an earlier statement by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan predicting its fall on Wednesday. Afrin city lies in the heart of a Kurdish-majority enclave in northern Syria which neighbouring Turkey sees as a threat and against which it launched a deadly ground and air offensive on January 20. Before the retraction, Erdogan had told supporters in Ankara Wednesday he hoped "Afrin will, God willing, have completely fallen by the evening."A top official in the People's Protection Units (YPG) Kurdish militia, whose fighters are defending Afrin, laughed off the claim.
"It sounds like Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is daydreaming when he says Afrin will fall tonight," Redur Khalil told AFP. Turkish and allied forces have already almost completely encircled the city of Afrin, from which thousands of civilians started fleeing in recent days, when it became apparent Ankara's goal was nothing short of fully capturing the enclave. - Strike on regime loyalists -On Wednesday, Turkish bombing raids killed 10 fighters loyal to the regime, which had last month sent pro-government forces after the Kurds asked for help. "The air strikes targeted a checkpoint on the only road leading from Afrin to regime-controlled territory to the southeast," the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor said. The escalation of violence in Afrin, one of the cantons in the self-proclaimed Kurdish administration in northern Syria, has displaced thousands of civilians and left those trapped in the enclave with limited supplies. On the outskirts of Damascus, hundreds of kilometres south of Afrin, another humanitarian emergency was unfolding in Eastern Ghouta. For nearly a month, Moscow-backed Syrian government forces and allied militia have been waging a devastating air and ground assault that has left around 1,200 civilians dead.  Even before the onslaught, Ghouta's 400,000 residents were suffering a five-year regime siege that left hospitals crippled by shortages of medicine and other equipment. The United Nations has called for urgent medical evacuations for more than 1,000 people who are in desperate need of being taken out of the area for treatment. A slow trickle of evacuations from Ghouta's largest town of Douma began Tuesday under a deal with rebel factions there, and more patients were expected to be allowed out Wednesday. "Today, people with medical conditions will be evacuated for treatment," said Yasser Dalwan, a high-ranking member of the Jaish al-Islam rebel group. "They are all civilians. There are around 35 people, along with their companions," he said. Dozens of people awaiting evacuation could be seen gathering at the Red Crescent's centre in Douma, an AFP reporter said.
- More raids on Ghouta -Among them was 18-year-old Omran, who was badly wounded two years ago in bombardment on Ghouta. He was missing his left leg, his right arm, and his left eye. The United Nations Security Council passed a resolution last month calling for a 30-day truce to allow for aid deliveries and medical evacuations from Ghouta. Such evacuations in Syria have typically seen people taken out of a besieged area for care, and then transported back in after treatment is complete. The Syrian government's assault on Ghouta has split the opposition enclave into three shrinking sections, each controlled by a different armed faction. The regime has reportedly been pursuing separate negotiations tracks to secure local truces or evacuations from each zone. But it has also pressed its blistering offensive, with help from allied militiamen and Russia's air force. Air strikes by Moscow early Wednesday killed at least seven civilians in an isolated southern zone of Ghouta, according to the Observatory. An AFP correspondent in Hammuriyeh, a town in the bombarded southern pocket, said air strikes battered the area all night. More than 350,000 people have been killed since Syria's conflict broke out in 2011 with protests against President Bashar al-Assad. He has maintained his grip on power despite global calls to step down and outrage at the fierce offensives he has waged to retake towns and cities from rebel fighters.

Turkey Jails Man for Life for Syrian Mother, Daughter Murders
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/March 14/18/A Turkish court has sentenced a man to life in prison for murdering a Syrian opposition activist and her journalist daughter in a crime that shocked the exile community, state media said Wednesday. Aroubeh Barakat and her 22-year-old daughter Halla Barakat were found dead in their Istanbul apartment in September last year. Syrian national Ahmet Barakat, believed to be a relative of the victims, was arrested after a police raid and charged with murder. The court in Istanbul convicted him late Tuesday with premeditated murder, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported. The judge said in the hearing that DNA evidence collected by forensic reports had incriminated the suspect who denied the charges. "We had no hostility between us. I did not kill them. I did not even see them," Ahmet Barakat told the court. Turkey is home to over 3.5 million Syrian refugees -- many of them opponents of the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. Istanbul alone has half a million Syrian refugees, the largest community in the country. Halla Barakat had been working for a website called Orient News and had previously worked for Turkish state broadcaster TRT.
Both mother and daughter were well known figures in the Syrian community. Syrian opposition activists and journalists have repeatedly complained of threats to their security. The US State Department said after the murders of the pair that it would closely follow the investigation. Both women were believed to be opponents of Assad and reports said Aroubeh Barakat had carried out investigations into alleged torture in prisons run by Assad. Two Syrian journalists from the city of Raqa who were opposed to the Islamic State (IS) extremist group were found beheaded in southern Turkey in 2015.
The indictment against Barakat said the killing happened because of a family row and made no mention of any political motive.

Moscow Says to Retaliate Soon to UK's Expulsion of Diplomats
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/March 14/18/Moscow on Wednesday called Britain's decision to expel 23 Russian diplomats over the poisoning of an ex-spy a sign that London was choosing confrontation with Russia, adding that retaliation would follow shortly. "The British government made a choice for confrontation with Russia," the Russian foreign ministry said in a statement. British Prime Minister Theresa May on Wednesday expelled the diplomats and suspended high-level contacts with Russia after Moscow did not respond to her demand for an explanation on how a Soviet-designed nerve agent came to be used to attack former spy Sergei Skripal on British soil. May said there was "no alternative conclusion other than that the Russian state was culpable" for the attack on Skripal and his daughter, who fell ill from exposure to a substance called Novichok in the city of Salisbury on March 4 and are currently in hospital. The Russian ministry said May's statement was an "unprecedentedly rude provocation which undermines the foundations of normal bilateral dialogue between our countries." It accused London of pursuing a political agenda and choosing to "aggravate relations," calling the announced measures "hostile."May also confirmed that neither members of the royal family nor ministers would attend the football World Cup in Russia this year. "Our response measures will not be tardy," the Russian foreign ministry said.

UK Expels Russia Diplomats, Suspends Diplomatic Contact in Spy Row
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/March 14/18/British Prime Minister Theresa May on Wednesday expelled 23 diplomats and suspended high-level contacts with Russia including for the World Cup, saying her government found Moscow "culpable" of a nerve agent attack on a former spy. May said she would be pushing for a "robust international response" when the U.N. Security Council meets later Wednesday in New York to discuss the attack on Sergei Skripal and his daughter on March 4. Russia has repeatedly denied any involvement and its London embassy warned that May's response was "totally unacceptable and shortsighted."May told parliament that Russia had failed to respond to her demand for an explanation on how a Soviet-designed chemical, Novichok, was used in the English city of Salisbury. "There is no alternative conclusion other than that the Russian State was culpable for the attempted murder of Mr Skripal and his daughter," she said. "This represents an unlawful use of force by the Russian State against the United Kingdom." 'Hostile activities' In measures drawn up at a meeting of her national security council earlier Wednesday, May announced that 23 Russian diplomats believed to be undeclared intelligence officers must leave Britain in a week. She suspended all planned high-level contacts, which includes revoking an invitation for Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to visit but said she did not want to break off relations entirely. May also confirmed that neither members of the royal family or ministers would attend the football World Cup in Russia later this year. And she outlined fresh measures against people traveling to or living in Britain who were responsible for violations of human rights or planned "hostile activities."NATO allies, including the United States, have expressed their support for Britain following the first offensive use of a nerve agent in Europe since World War II. Along with the U.N. Security Council meeting in New York, EU Council President Donald Tusk indicated that the issue would be on the agenda of next week's summit of the bloc's leaders in Brussels.
Russian 'defiance
May said on Monday that it was "highly likely" that Russia was behind the attack, which left Skripal and his daughter in a critical condition in hospital, while a policeman was also hospitalized. She had given Moscow until midnight Tuesday to explain whether it was directly responsible or "lost control" of the nerve agent, but said it has responded with "sarcasm, contempt and defiance." President Vladimir Putin's spokesman said again Wednesday that it had "nothing to do with the accident in Britain", but warned it would not accept the "language of ultimatums."Lavrov has said the Kremlin is ready to cooperate with Britain but complained that its request for samples of the nerve agent had been rejected. Moscow has also warned that it will take retaliatory measures, and on Tuesday threatened to expel British media from Russia if the license of its state broadcaster RT was threatened in Britain.
May on Wednesday blamed Putin for a deterioration of relations between Moscow and London, saying it was "tragic that President Putin has chosen to act in this way".
But the Russian embassy said the British government was responsible.
Allied support
Britain is wary of acting alone and May has spoken to US President Donald Trump, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel in recent days. In a phone call late Tuesday, Trump and May "agreed on the need for consequences for those who use these heinous weapons in flagrant violation of international norms," the White House said. In a joint statement by its 29 member states, the U.S.-led NATO alliance said the attack was a "clear breach of international norms and agreements" and called on Russia to fully disclose details of the Novichok program.
British experts say Skripal, 66, and his 33-year-old daughter, who was visiting from Russia, were poisoned with a nerve agent from a broad category known as Novichok, which developed by the Soviet Union during the late stages of the Cold War.
The Russian chemist who first revealed the existence of Novichok, Vil Mirzayanov, said "only the Russians" developed the Novichok agents. "They kept it and are still keeping it in secrecy," he said from his home in the U.S., where he moved in 1995 after 30 years of working for the State Scientific Research Institute of Organic Chemistry and Technology. The Salisbury case has drawn parallels with the 2006 death by radiation poisoning of former Russian agent and Kremlin critic Alexander Litvinenko, which Britain blamed on Moscow. In a further twist, former senior Russian executive Nikolai Glushkov, linked to late Kremlin opponent Boris Berezovsky, was found dead in London on Tuesday in unexplained circumstances, British and Russian media reported.

Al-Qaida in Syria Losing Ground in Battles with Insurgents
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/March 14/18/For the first time since its meteoric rise in 2012 amid the chaos of war, al-Qaida's branch in Syria is in retreat, battling rival militant groups in the north and fighting for survival in a key foothold near the capital, Damascus.
Over the past three weeks, the extremist group has been driven from nearly all of the northern province of Aleppo, losing dozens of fighters in battles there and in nearby Idlib province. The fighting poses a major challenge to the militant group, already beset by infighting and a string of assassinations that have taken out some of its top leaders. Unlike previous battles in which al-Qaida-linked fighters were able to quickly crush their opponents, the fighting has been particularly fierce, with the militants losing dozens of villages. The al-Qaida-linked coalition known as the Levant Liberation Committee is still one of Syria's most powerful armed groups, with fighters numbering in the thousands. While the U.S.-led coalition and Russian-backed Syrian troops have focused on driving the Islamic State group from the country's east, the al-Qaida-linked group has consolidated its control over Idlib, where it remains the strongest force despite its recent losses there. After the defeat of IS, al-Qaida is seen as the main jihadi group that rejects any peace talks to try to end Syria's seven-year conflict. Its presence in northern Syria and in the Damascus suburbs of eastern Ghouta has provided a pretext for President Bashar Assad and his Russian backers to wage war against opposition-held territory, since various de-escalation and cease-fire agreements have excluded al-Qaida. Several hundred al-Qaida fighters holed up in eastern Ghouta have become a burden to the armed opposition battling government forces there, which has pressed the extremists to leave the area for their stronghold in Idlib in order to avoid the current crushing offensive. The group's presence has also raised concern in nations from Turkey to the United States that fear the global network founded by Osama bin Laden could use its presence in northern Syria to launch terrorist attacks around the world.
The recent fighting appears to have been triggered by last month's assassination of a senior al-Qaida official, Abu Ayman al-Masri, who was riding in a car with his wife when members of a rival militant group, Nour el-Din el-Zinki, fired on their vehicle, killing al-Masri and wounding his wife. The killing led to battles in Aleppo and Idlib that have raged for the past three weeks. The shooting was preceded by the merger of Nour el-Din el-Zinki and the ultraconservative Ahrar al-Sham, both former al-Qaida allies now turned enemies. Amid the recent battles, the new coalition, the Syria Liberation Front, has forced the al-Qaida fighters to retreat west to Idlib. The insurgents say that the war against al-Qaida will not stop until the jihadi group is crushed in Syria — an ambitious goal. It is also a striking statement, considering the rival groups once turned to al-Qaida's experienced and battle-hardened fighters for support in the battle against Assad's forces.
Yazan Mohammed, a media activist based in Idlib province, said that although al-Qaida has lost some territory in the recent fighting, the group is far from being defeated. The al-Qaida fighters are "not scouts. They are an organized and powerful group," Mohammed said. In recent years, tens of thousands of rebels and civilians from around the country have fled to Idlib or been forced there by government troops, raising concerns that the presence of al-Qaida will give the government a pretext to storm the province under the cover of Russian airstrikes as it has elsewhere, including in Aleppo in late 2016 and in the current offensive in the eastern suburbs of Damascus. Brett McGurk, the top U.S. envoy for the coalition battling IS, said last year that Idlib is the largest al-Qaida haven since bin Laden's days in Afghanistan. "This war will not stop," said Bassam Haji Mustafa, a senior official with the Nour el-Din el-Zinki group. "This is a real war against al-Qaida, its extremist ideas and terrorism." After the recent battlefield losses, a senior al-Qaida commander, Abu Yaqzan al-Masri, released an audio asserting the militant group will soon crush the offensive and the focus will again be "to fight infidels," an apparent reference to the West.
The commander's comments coincided with a counteroffensive in which the al-Qaida affiliate regained some villages it had lost earlier, although its presence in Aleppo province has almost ceased to exist. Local activists said the al-Qaida counteroffensive was backed by members of the Turkistan Islamic Party, a powerful group consisting mostly of jihadis from China's Turkic-speaking Uighur minority. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which tracks Syria's seven-year conflict, says the fighting that broke out on Feb. 20 has killed 223 fighters on both sides, including 132 from al-Qaida's affiliate.
Despite losing dozens of villages in the recent battles, it is unlikely that al-Qaida will be defeated easily in Idlib, where the militants have crushed many of their opponents in recent years. "They will not be able to defeat the Committee," said Abu Dardaa al-Shami, who sometimes fights with the al-Qaida affiliate but refused to take part in the current battles, saying he only fights against government forces.
"This is mission impossible," he said.

UN Palestinian Agency in Urgent Search for Cash at Global Gathering
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/March 14/18/Global powers will gather in Rome on Thursday to discuss the future of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, which faces an unprecedented crisis after the US froze tens of millions of dollars in funding. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) only has enough funds to keep schools and medical services open until May, its commissioner general Pierre Krahenbuhl told AFP. US President Donald Trump's administration has so far committed only $60 million to the agency this year, down from $360 million in 2017. He has frozen two planned payments worth more than $100 million -- one for UNRWA's central budget and one for food aid. Trump continues to pressure the Palestinians to end their boycott of his administration sparked by his December recognition of the disputed city of Jerusalem as Israel's capital. A major funding drive launched by UNRWA after the US freeze has raised little new money and diplomats are not optimistic about getting major pledges in the Italian capital. UN officials want European countries to step in to fill part of the gap but are especially looking at Gulf Arab countries. Fear is rife about the future of the organisation that employs more than 20,000 people across the Middle East, the vast majority Palestinians. UNRWA was established after the war surrounding Israel's creation in 1948 when around 700,000 Palestinians were expelled or fled. It offers vital support for these refugees and their descendants in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and the West Bank and Gaza, providing services for more than three million people. This includes education for around half a million students, with nearly 30 percent of its funding coming from the United States. - 'Extremely disappointing' -In January, Trump tweeted "we pay the Palestinians HUNDRED OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS a year and get no appreciation or respect," accusing them of walking away from peace negotiations.
Two weeks later his administration confirmed it would hold back tens of millions in aid to UNRWA, saying it wanted the rest of the world to pay more. Krahenbuhl labelled it the agency's worst ever financial crisis and launched a major funding drive, turning the front page of its website into a call for donations. Senior officials travelled around the world to push for funds, with UNRWA aiming to find nearly half a billion dollars in new money. But since the launch of the "Dignity is Priceless" campaign, the only new funding was a $900,000 grant from Kuwait, though European countries have brought forward donations planned for the summer. Private donations ran only into the "hundreds of thousands," Krahenbuhl said, calling it "not groundbreaking." UNRWA did not respond to multiple requests for a more specific figure. The UN Central Emergency Response Fund released $30 million for UNRWA on Tuesday to keep the agency's food aid programme afloat.
Krahenbuhl played down concerns the world was not stepping up to fill the gap."It takes a lot of political dialogue for these things to move forward, especially in light of the size of the shortfall," he told AFP. "States were planning to contribute $20-25 million to UNRWA and suddenly see a shortfall that has increased by $300 million. It is quite natural you will not have one single state that will come forward and close that shortfall."But UNRWA employees face deep concerns about the sheer size of the gap. Nicola Jones, of the Overseas Development Institute think tank, said she expected UNRWA leaders to be "really concerned" by the slow pace of new funds. "They really did try to have a high profile public awareness campaign about the cost of withdrawing funding and I think it is clearly extremely disappointing that it hasn’t been fruitful." - 'Corner the Americans' -The Rome conference, co-hosted by Sweden, Egypt and Jordan, will seek fresh momentum. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres will attend, his office confirmed on Tuesday, while Acting Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs David Satterfield is expected to represent the United States. "When any agency depends on a single donor it is a vulnerability," said Sweden's ambassador to the United Nations, Olof Skoog."Sharing the responsibility more equally is therefore reasonable, but we expect the United States to stay committed."Hugh Lovatt, Israel/Palestine analyst at the European Council of Foreign Relations think tank, said European countries were wary of being seen to bridge the funding gap for fear of vindicating Trump's attempts to cut international aid funding. Trump is due to announce his proposal for new Israel-Palestinian peace talks and Lovatt said all countries were waiting to see what vision it proposes for UNRWA. He expected Europeans in Rome to make a "concerted effort to corner the Americans and convince them to reconsider."
Erdogan Hopes Turkish Forces Will Completely Encircle Afrin by Wednesday
Asharq Al-Awsat/March 14/18/Turkish forces will completely encircle the Syrian town of Afrin by Wednesday night, hoped President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in a speech at the presidential palace in Ankara. His statement was clarified by a source after Erdogan was initially quoted as saying that he hoped that “Afrin will have completely fallen by the evening.”"In the president's speech the sentence 'I hope that Afrin will have completely fallen by the evening' should be understood as 'the encirclement will have been completed by the evening'," said a presidential source in a message to media, asking not to be named. Erdogan had earlier stated in a speech at the presidential palace in Ankara that Afrin would fall by the evening to the Turkish army and Syrian allies, a claim rejected by the Syrian Kurds. "We have got a little bit closer to Afrin. I hope that Afrin will, God willing, have completely fallen by the evening," Erdogan said in the speech. Afrin city is the key target in Turkey's seven-week operation Olive Branch launched on January 20 and aimed at ousting the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) from the Afrin region of northern Syria.
A YPG spokesman accused Erdogan of "daydreaming" in the speech.
"This evening he will take all of Afrin?" said YPG spokesman Nouri Mahmoud. "Erdogan is lying to the people, I don't know how this would happen." Mahmoud also said Ankara's statements that civilians were being evacuated out of Afrin were false. The Turkish army and its Syrian allies, who had been looking to complete the encirclement in a two-pronged movement from the east and the west, had Afrin city surrounded on Monday, the army said on Tuesday. "The routes used to the east by the terrorists to enter and go out of the region will be closed today or tomorrow, God willing," Erdogan added in the speech.
Turkey regards the YPG as a terror group and a branch of a Kurdish militant movement in Turkey that has waged an insurgency for decades. But the YPG has been a key ally of the United States in the fight against extremists in Syria and Turkey's operation against it has raised tensions with Ankara's NATO allies in Washington and Europe. Erdogan has repeatedly said that after taking Afrin, Turkey's offensive would expand to key border towns controlled by the YPG right up to the Iraqi frontier. These would include Kurdish-held towns such as Manbij where US forces have a presence, raising the risk of a confrontation with Turkey's NATO ally. "We will cleanse Manbij and then in the same way will cleanse east of the Euphrates right up to the Iraqi border," he said. Erdogan also raised the prospect of a cross-border operation in northern Iraq where the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has waged a decades long struggle against the Turkish army, has its rear bases. "We are surveying the terror nests in northern Iraq at every opportunity," said Erdogan. "Soon we will bring these down on the heads of the terrorists in the strongest way."Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said last week that Turkey and Iraq's central government could start a joint military operation against Kurdish groups after Iraqi parliamentary elections scheduled for May 2018. Turkish warplanes regularly launch strikes against the PKK, which has camps in the mountains of northern Iraq, near the border with Turkey.

Knesset Backs Bill to Impose Jewish Nationalism
Tel Aviv /Asharq Al Awsat/March 14/18/Right-wing coalition parties held an urgent session for the parliamentary constitution committee Tuesday and backed in its first reading a bill establishing Israel as “the national home of the Jewish people.”This step comes years after a debate among the right-wing MKs about its first draft presented by the Israeli minister of interior security, Avi Dechter, former head of the Shin Bet interior intelligence. However the MKs overcame their dispute by introducing amendments to the bill. In the new version, some terminologies were deleted such as “democracy” and the “Declaration of Independence”, which tackles equality and human rights. Next week, the bill will be tackled by the Knesset for approval before the elections. Knesset members were notified Monday evening that they should attend a meeting the next day to debate the new version of the bill. They were informed that voting will occur in the same session, which is considered an exceptional procedure. A sponsor of the bill, Tourism Minister Yariv Levin of Likud, called the committee vote “a historic step to correct the constitutional revolution that has harmed the Jewish status of the state.”MK Bezalel Smotrich criticized the bill’s new version. “A nation-state bill from which enshrining the Jewish state, Jewish law and the holy sites were deleted, while the Arabic language has been given constitutional status,” he said. “The coalition represents a portion of the Israeli public, not all of it. Such a nation-state bill needs to be adopted through dialogue with a majority of the public,” MK Tzipi Livni told the committee.

France Raises Alarm on Wave of Fighters Returning from Syria, Iraq
Paris - Michel Abou Najm/Asharq Al Awsat/March 14/18/The last time France was struck by a terrorist attack was on October 1, 2017, when a man fatally stabbed two women outside Saint-Charles station in Marseille. Despite the relative calm, the threat of terror has not been reduced on French territory. Official statistics released by the Interior Ministry showed that national security agencies have succeeded in thwarting 20 terrorist attacks last year alone and at least two in the first two months of 2018. Authorities are not only concerned by sleeper terror cells or “lone wolf” terrorists, but they are primarily concerned by ISIS French recruits, who fought in Syria and Iraq and who are now returning home. Even though many recruits were killed by airstrikes or in battles in Iraq and Syria since 2014, a significant number of them, enough to raise concerns for future French national security, remains. The threat of returning fighters becomes stronger as ISIS incurs more defeats in Syria and Iraq. Official figures estimated that no less than 1,700 Frenchmen or “residents” headed to Syria and Iraq starting in 2014. At least 300 were killed, including 12 women. Some 256 have returned to French territory in various ways, along with 78 minors. Authorities estimate that some 730 people are still in conflict zones, with about 500 minors and children. The threat posed by these returnees has French officials concerned. They see them as a serious security threat due to their experience in fighting in Syria and Iraq, radical ideology and knowledge on making bombs and explosives. French President Emmanuel Macron and ministers of interior, foreign affairs and defense therefore reiterated the need to put to trial those who have been arrested in Syria and Iraq wherever they are. This however has created a legal problem. Most of the detainees have been arrested by Kurds (about 100 with Syrian Kurds and six families with Iraqi Kurds). Neither Iraqi Kurds nor northeastern Syrian Kurds reside in countries with a recognized judicial system. Paris has however “turned a blind eye” to this legal dilemma because its security is at stake. As for those held by the Iraqi judiciary, they raise a different security issue should some of them be sentenced to death. Paris stressed that where a French citizen is sentenced to death, despite being a terrorist, French diplomacy will move to amend the sentence. As for those who succeed in returning home, security services will hold them for questioning if they are an adult, whether a man or a woman, and refer them to the judiciary. So far, a majority of returnees have either been sentenced to prison or subject to house arrest. They are forced to visit police stations periodically, while very few were released.

Germany: 3 Syrians Sentenced to Prison for Belonging to ISIS
Cologne - Majed al-Khatib/Asharq Al Awsat/March 14/18/A German court on Monday sentenced three Syrians to years-long jail terms for belonging to ISIS and forming sleeper cell in Germany to carry out terrorist operations. The oldest of the accused, identified as 27-year-old Mohamed A., was given the longest sentence of six-and-a-half years by Hamburg’s higher regional court, and his 19- and 20-year-old co-accused, minors at the time of the acts, received prison terms of three and a half years each. The verdicts were issued after the court found that the three Syrians had infiltrated into Germany in November 2015 with the waves of refugees, following ISIS orders to form a terrorist cell. ISIS instructed them to form a sleeper cell and await further orders. To reach Germany, the men traveled via Turkey and Greece -- using the same route as hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing war-torn Syria at the time. The accused were given fake passports, cash and mobile phones from ISIS, according to the court, and used the same smuggling network as the assailants who had carried out the ISIS-claimed attacks in Paris in 2015 that left 130 people dead. There were "many parallels" between the German sleeper cell and the Paris cell, the presiding judge said. While reading the verdicts, the judge stressed the importance of international cooperation against terrorism. The court also received protocols of telephone conversations between the three defendants from the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). "Only through this cooperation was the cell activity highlighted," the judge said. It is assumed that the Americans handed over to the German side pictures of the three defendants, and that the German authorities identified them as asylum seekers in Germany through the electronic search system for terrorists. The trial of the three Syrians began on June 13, 2017. The three remained silent until a hearing on February 16 when the oldest surprised the court when he confessed in order to receive a mild sentence.

Merkel Sworn in as German Chancellor for Fourth Term
Asharq Al-Awsat/March 14/18/Angela Merkel was sworn in on Wednesday for a fourth term as German chancellor. Lawmakers voted by 364 to 315, with nine abstentions, in favor of re-electing Merkel, a humbling start as the coalition of her conservatives and the center-left Social Democrats (SPD) has 399 votes in the Bundestag lower house of parliament. Her likely final term may prove her most challenging yet as she takes charge of a fragile coalition with her personal standing diminished. “I accept the vote,” a beaming Merkel, 63, told lawmakers before being sworn in by Bundestag President Wolfgang Schaeuble. In office since 2005, she has dominated Germany’s political landscape and steered the European Union through economic crisis. But her authority was dented by her decision in 2015 to commit Germany to an open-door policy on migration, resulting in an influx of more than one million people. She must now juggle competing domestic demands from her conservative CDU/CSU alliance and the SPD, just as Germany is locked in a trade stand-off with the United States. “It is a good start for Germany to have a stable government... after so many months, there is now a big incentive to get down to work with energy,” Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen said. Merkel starts work with a full inbox. Abroad she faces the trade tensions with Washington, pressure from France to reform Europe, and from Britain to stand up to Russia. President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said it was "high time for a new government" to go to work. "It is good that the time of uncertainty is over," he said at a ceremony with Merkel's cabinet ministers. On Tuesday, Merkel's spokesman said she spoke by phone with British Prime Minister Theresa May and condemned a nerve agent attack on an ex-Russian spy in England for which May held Moscow
responsible. Despite that, Russian President Vladimir Putin congratulated Merkel on her re-election in a telegram. Fault lines have emerged in the new government even before its first cabinet meeting, with tensions evident over the sequencing and extent of reforms. The pressure is on for both camps to deliver: the inclusion in the coalition deal of a clause that envisages a review of the government’s progress after two years gives each the opportunity to leave the alliance then if it is not working for them. The priority the government gives to different reforms set out in the coalition deal, the extent to which it implements them, and the personnel involved promise a welter of competing pressures that Merkel will need all her political skill to balance. The SPD only agreed to ally with Merkel after promising a list of distinctive policies to secure the approval of party members, many of whom wanted the SPD to regroup in opposition after the last four years in coalition damaged its standing among voters. On Friday, Merkel will travel to Paris to meet Emmanuel Macron, the French president's office said, with the two leaders expected to discuss their plans for reforming the European Union.
She is expected in the afternoon for a "working session" with Macron, a statement said. Macron, elected last May, has urged a major reform drive to reinvigorate the EU at a time of rising populist challenges, with proposals including a common eurozone finance minister and budget. He sees it as crucial to secure the backing of Merkel as a heavyweight European leader and head of Europe's biggest economy. Merkel's new left-right coalition says in its joint policy paper that it welcomes and generally supports the reform proposals of Macron and the European Commission, but stays vague on some of the details. The coalition blueprint starts with the topic of Europe, with pledges to strengthen common EU foreign and defense policy as well as to reform the eurozone. The plan supports the creation of a European Monetary Fund that could lend to countries in economic crisis, but pledges only to study some of Macron's other ideas, notably the common eurozone budget and finance minister. Merkel has also said Berlin remains opposed to any mutualisation of debt in Europe, in which the debt loads of individual countries would be spread across the bloc.

Statement by Minister of Foreign Affairs on chemical weapon attack in United Kingdom
March 14, 2018 – Ottawa, Ontario - Global Affairs Canada
The Honourable Chrystia Freeland, Minister of Foreign Affairs, today issued the following statement in response to the chemical weapon attack in Salisbury, United Kingdom:
“Canada stands in solidarity with its close ally, the United Kingdom, and the British people. We offer our heartfelt support to the victims of the March 4th chemical attack in Salisbury.
“We condemn in the strongest terms the despicable use of a chemical agent on the sovereign territory of the United Kingdom—a point I recently conveyed to my British counterpart, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson. Russia’s likely involvement in this attack is a serious breach of the rules-based order. “Canada offers its complete support to the United Kingdom and call on all states to cooperate fully with British investigators.”

Statement by Canada on U.S. anti-dumping duties on imports of Canadian uncoated groundwood paper
March 13, 2018 - Ottawa, Ontario - Global Affairs Canada
The Honourable Chrystia Freeland, Minister of Foreign Affairs, and the Honourable Jim Carr, Minister of Natural Resources, today issued the following statement regarding the U.S. Department of Commerce’s preliminary determination in its anti-dumping investigation on imports of Canadian uncoated groundwood paper.
“We are disappointed with today’s preliminary anti-dumping determination, which follows preliminary countervailing-duty rates previously announced by the U.S. Department of Commerce on January 9.
“Any duties will have a direct and negative impact on ‎U.S. newspapers, especially those in small cities and towns, ‎and result in job losses in the American printing sector‎.
“Our government is committed to helping our forest industry enhance existing trade relationships and diversify trade with new international markets.
“Canada’s forest industry sustains good, middle-class jobs and provides economic opportunities for rural and Indigenous communities across our country. We will continue to work with our forest industry, provinces and territories, and communities across Canada to defend this vital sector against unfair and unwarranted U.S. trade measures and practices.”

Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on March 14-15/18
Fundamentalist Terrorists Benefit from "Fundamental Fairness"
Sandra Parker/Gatestone Institute/March 14/18
An American jury unanimously found the PLO and the Palestinian Authority (PA) liable for the terror that had been inflicted against these American citizens.
Late last year, the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the verdict. The Circuit's strange reasoning was that "fundamental fairness" does not allow U.S. courts to exercise civil jurisdiction over terrorists who act outside of U.S. territory.
American courts have long held that the Due Process Clause does not bar the federal government from freezing the assets of terrorists, bringing them to face criminal trial, or even imposing the death penalty upon them.
Given the Second Circuit Court's controversial decision, the case warrants an opinion from the Supreme Court.
In January of 2002, a 28-year-old Palestinian woman named Wafa Idris detonated a 22-pound bomb outside a Jerusalem shoe store. The explosion killed 81-year-old Pinhas Tokatli, and injured more than 100 other people – including an American citizen named Mark Sokolow. His wife and two of his daughters were also wounded in the attack.
Two years later, Sokolow joined with ten other American families who had been wounded or lost loved ones at the hands of Palestinian terrorists, and sued the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) under the 1992 Antiterrorism Act.
The plaintiffs in the case alleged that Idris and other Palestinian terrorists had killed and wounded Americans with the PLO's support. In addition, in what has come to be known as the Palestinian Authority's (PA) "pay-to-slay" policy, the plaintiffs also alleged that terrorists and their families were receiving salaries and stipends as compensation for their crimes.
In truth, there is no justice for those who lose their loved ones to terrorists. There is only an acknowledgement of the pain and suffering the victims have endured. Ten years after the case was brought forth, Sokolow and the other plaintiffs received that acknowledgment, when a jury unanimously found the PLO and the PA liable for the terror that had been inflicted against these American citizens.
Unfortunately, late last year, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the verdict on the grounds that the Due Process Clause of the Constitution protects terrorists as long as they commit their crimes off of U.S. soil. The Circuit's strange reasoning was that "fundamental fairness" does not allow U.S. courts to exercise civil jurisdiction over terrorists who act outside of U.S. territory.
American courts have long held that the Due Process Clause does not bar the federal government from freezing the assets of terrorists, excluding them from our financial system, capturing them and bringing them to face criminal trial, or even imposing the death penalty upon them. Therefore it is rather astounding that the Second Circuit Court would find that the Due Process Clause allows all of that, but somehow bars suing terrorists because allowing a civil lawsuit crosses a line of "fundamental fairness."
Congress is doing its part to end the PA's "pay-to-slay" policy by advancing the Taylor Force Act. That bill, named for an American veteran murdered by a Palestinian terrorist on the streets of Tel Aviv, would end US support for the PA until the PA ends its incitement and support of terror. But the past victims of Palestinian terror – and those who may be targeted in the future – deserve the opportunity to fight back.
If we are concerned with "fundamental fairness," it is safe to say that allowing the PLO to use a legal loophole to get away with murder is fundamentally unfair. If we are concerned with the law, the Constitution gives Congress broad powers to protect Americans and project American law overseas.
Regardless of how one approaches this issue, given the Second Circuit Court's controversial decision, and given the case's implications for any American traveling abroad, Sokolow et al v. Palestine Liberation Organization et al, warrants an opinion from the Supreme Court. Should this case not appear before the Court, just as we have with the Taylor Force Act, the nearly four million members of Christians United for Israel will urge Congress to act to advance legislation that closes the terrorists' legal loophole.
*Sandra Parker is an attorney and the Chairwoman of the Christians United for Israel Action Fund.
© 2018 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

EU: More Censorship to "Protect" You
Judith Bergman/Gatestone Institute/March 14/18
There appears to be a huge disconnect here between the EU's professed concern for keeping Europeans safe -- as expressed in the one-hour rule -- and the EU's actual refusal to keep Europeans safe in the offline world. The result is that Europeans, manipulated by an untransparent, unaccountable body, will not be kept safe either online or off. And what if the content in question, as has already occurred, may be trying to warn the public about terrorism?
Regardless of these facts, including that women can no longer exercise their freedom to walk in safety in many neighborhoods of European cities, the EU has staunchly refused to stop the influx of migrants. It is, therefore, difficult to take seriously in any way the European Commission's claim that the security, offline and online, of EU citizens is a "top priority". If that were true, why does not Europe simply close the borders? Instead, the EU actually sues EU countries -- Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic -- who refuse to endanger their citizens by admitting the quota of migrants that the EU assigns for them.
These EU ultimatums also fail to take into account what a recent study showed: that the second most important factor in the radicalization of Muslims, after Islam itself, is the environment, namely the mosques and imams to which Muslims go and on which they rely. Although the internet evidently does play a role in the radicalization process, the study showed that face-to-face encounters were more important, and that dawa, proselytizing Islam, plays a central role in this process.
On March 1, The European Commission -- the unelected executive branch of the European Union -- told social media companies to remove illegal online terrorist content within an hour, or risk facing EU-wide legislation on the topic. The ultimatum was part of a new set of recommendations that will apply to all forms of "illegal content" online, "from terrorist content, incitement to hatred and violence, child sexual abuse material, counterfeit products and copyright infringement."
The European Commission said, "Considering that terrorist content is most harmful in the first hours of its appearance online, all companies should remove such content within one hour from its referral as a general rule".
While the one-hour ultimatum is ostensibly only about terrorist content, this is how the European Commission motivated the new recommendations:
"The Juncker Commission made security a top priority from day one. It is the most basic and universal of rights to feel safe in your own home or when walking down the street. Europeans rightly expect their Union to provide that security for them – online and offline. The Commission has taken a number of actions to protect Europeans online – be it from terrorist content, illegal hate speech or fake news... we are continuously looking into ways we can improve our fight against illegal content online. Illegal content means any information which is not in compliance with Union law or the law of a Member State, such as content inciting people to terrorism, racist or xenophobic, illegal hate speech, child sexual exploitation... What is illegal offline is also illegal online".
"Illegal hate speech", is broadly defined by the European Commission as "incitement to violence or hatred directed against a group of persons or a member of such a group defined by reference to race, colour, religion, descent or national or ethnic origin".
The internet companies have three months to deliver results and the European Commission will then decide whether it will introduce legislation. Incidentally, the three-month deadline, in May 2018, coincides with the deadline that the European Commission gave itself in 2017 on deciding whether the "Code of Conduct on countering illegal online hate speech" should be made into legislation.
In May 2016, the European Commission and Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Microsoft, agreed on a "Code of Conduct on countering illegal online hate speech" (Google+ and Instagram joined the Code of Conduct in January 2018). The Code of Conduct commits the social media companies to review and remove within 24 hours content that is deemed to be, "illegal hate speech". According to the Code of Conduct, when companies receive a request to remove content, they must "assess the request against their rules and community guidelines and, where applicable, national laws on combating racism and xenophobia..." In other words, the social media giants act as voluntary censors on behalf of the European Union.
The European Commission has been regularly monitoring the implementation of the Code of Conduct. It recently found that "Under the Code of Conduct on Countering Illegal Hate Speech Online, internet companies now remove on average 70% of illegal hate speech notified to them and in more than 80% of these cases, the removals took place within 24 hours".
The European Commission's announcement on the new recommendations, specifically the one-hour rule, was heavily criticized. EDiMA, an industry association that includes Facebook, YouTube, Google and Twitter, said it was "dismayed" by the Commission's announcement:
Our sector accepts the urgency but needs to balance the responsibility to protect users while upholding fundamental rights -- a one-hour turn-around time in such cases could harm the effectiveness of service providers' take-down systems rather than help... EDiMA fails to see how the arbitrary Recommendation published by the European Commission, without due consideration of the types of content; the context and impact of the obligation on other regulatory issues; and, the feasibility of applying such broad recommendations by different kinds of service providers can be seen as a positive step forward.
Joe McNamee, executive director of European Digital Rights, described the Commission's proposal as "voluntary censorship":
"Today's recommendation institutionalizes a role for Facebook and Google in regulating the free speech of Europeans," he said in a statement. "The Commission needs to be smart and to finally start developing policy based on reliable data and not public relations spin."
Facebook, on the other hand, said that it shares the European Commission's goal:
"We have already made good progress removing various forms of illegal content," the company said in a statement. "We continue to work hard to remove hate speech and terrorist content while making sure that Facebook remains a platform for all ideas."
There appears to be a huge disconnect here between the EU's professed concern for keeping Europeans safe -- as expressed in the one hour rule -- and the EU's actual refusal to keep Europeans safe in the offline world. The result is that Europeans, manipulated by an untransparent, unaccountable body, will not be kept safe either online or off.
Only a few months ago, EU's Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, Dimitris Avramopoulos wrote, "We cannot and will never be able to stop migration... At the end of the day, we all need to be ready to accept migration, mobility and diversity as the new norm and tailor our policies accordingly".
The enormous influx of migrants into the EU, especially since 2015, is closely linked to the spike in terrorism, as well as the current and future Islamization of the continent. ISIS terrorists have returned to Europe or entered the continent disguised as migrants, and several have perpetrated terror attacks. According to Gilles de Kerchove, EU Counterterrorism Coordinator, there are now more than 50,000 jihadists living in Europe. In 2017, one terrorist attack was attempted every seven days in Europe, on average. When Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, gave his State of the Union Address to the European Parliament in September 2017, he admitted a hugely embarrassing fact:
"We still lack the means to act quickly in case of cross-border terrorist threats. This is why I call for a European intelligence unit that ensures data concerning terrorists and foreign fighters are automatically shared among intelligence services and with the police".
After the ISIS attacks in Paris in November 2015, the Brussels attacks in March 2016, the Nice attack in July 2016, the Berlin Christmas Market attack in December 2016, and the Manchester attack in May 2017 -- and those are just the most spectacular ones -- should the "intelligence unit" for which Juncker calls not have been the very highest priority for the European Commission? After all, it claims that security is its "top priority". Yet, Europeans are supposed to believe that removing "terrorist content" within one hour is going to protect them against future terrorist attacks?
Moreover, as long as you are claiming that security is a "top priority", if President Juncker so readily admits to lacking "the means to act quickly in case of cross-border terrorist threats", would the logical consequence not be to close those borders, at least until you have acquired those means?
European intelligence authorities have repeatedly stated that with the ongoing migration, Europe is "... importing Islamic extremism, Arab anti-Semitism, national and ethnic conflicts of other peoples, as well as a different understanding of society and law".
These are all factors contributing to the current spikes not only in the terror threat to Europe, but also in the crime waves sweeping countries such as Sweden and Germany, including the surge in rapes.
Regardless of these facts, including that women can no longer exercise their freedom to walk in safety in many neighborhoods of European cities, the EU has staunchly refused to stop the influx of migrants. It is, therefore, difficult to take seriously in any way the European Commission's claim that the security, offline and online, of EU citizens is a "top priority". If that were true, why does not Europe simply close the borders? Stopping terrorists at the borders would be infinitely more efficient at reducing the terrorist threat than requiring tech companies to remove "Illegal online content". Instead, the EU actually sues EU countries -- Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic -- who refuse to endanger their citizens by admitting the quota of migrants that the EU assigns for them.
These EU ultimatums also fail to take into account what a recent study showed: that the second most important factor in the radicalization of Muslims, after Islam itself, is the environment, namely the mosques and imams to which Muslims go and on which they rely. Although the internet evidently does play a role in the radicalization process, the study showed that face-to-face encounters were more important, and that dawa, proselytizing Islam, plays a central role in this process. Perhaps the EU should obsess less over inconsequential time frames -- last year the European Commission talked about a two-hour time frame for removal -- and worry more about what is being preached inside the thousands of mosques scattered around its membership countries, so many of them financed by Saudi Arabia and Qatar?
Recent experience with Germany's censorship law shows that a company is likely to err on the side of caution -- censorship. And what if the content in question, as has already occurred may be trying to warn the public about terrorism?
Above all, the one-hour rule, with the threat of legislation behind it, looks more like a diversion created for public relations and for sneaking even more authoritarian censorship -- plus the ignorance that goes with it -- into the lives of its EU citizens.
*Judith Bergman is a columnist, lawyer and political analyst.
© 2018 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

Exclusive: Why Iran’s Intervention in Syria Proved so Costly
London - Amir Taheri/Asharq Al Awsat/March 14/18
Seven years after getting involved in the Syrian war, Iran may be beginning to have second thoughts about the wisdom of an adventure that shows no signs of ending. Several factors have contributed to what analysts believe could morph into a re-think of the costly strategy.
The first factor was official confirmation of Iran’s human losses in the war. Between November 2012 and 2017 Iran lost over 2,100 men, including 418 ranking officers while more than 7,000 Iranian “defenders of the shrines” were also wounded. Unofficial estimates for the losses of non-Iranian fighters, mostly Lebanese, Iraqi, Afghan and Pakistani, recruited and led by Iran, show several thousand casualties.
According to estimates by Iranian researchers using a survey of “funeral notices” published by the Lebanese branch of “Hezbollah,” the Iran-controlled militia led by Hassan Nasrallah has lost at least 1,400 men in combat in Syria. That is more than twice the number of men that “Hezbollah” lost in the 2006 war with Israel. Western intelligence sources put the number of Iranian and Iran-led fighters in Syria at over 25,000. Thus, the losses they have sustained are far bigger than the classical military measure of “decimation” used to indicate the worst possible military performance. With that measure, Iran and the forces it leads in Syria should have lost no more than 2,500 men in total.
“The Syrian experience is a textbook case of poor planning and amateurish leadership,” says Hamid Zomorrodi a former naval officer and military analyst. “Those who decided to get Iran involved didn’t know what they wanted and were thus unable to decide what type of forces to commit and what tactics to adopt.” According to a posthumously published account by General Hussein Hamadani, killed in combat in Syria, Tehran’s decision to intervene was aimed at preventing the fall of the head of the Syrian regime, Bashar al-Assad. However, Hamdani’s account shows that he and his fellow combatants were never told what they were supposed to do. Worse still, on arrival in Damascus, they realized that the Syrian military were far from keen on Iranian intervention.
“The Syrian military raised a wall of iron to keep us within limits.”
Unable to secure a central position within the broader strategy developed by the Syrian military, the Iranian contingent invented a justification for this presence by posing as “defender of the holy shrines.”
However, almost no one knew how many shrines there were or why they needed to be defended. More importantly, there was no sign of anybody wishing to attack those shrines in the middle of a larger war with much bigger objectives on all sides. The Iranians spent the first year of their presence putting together a list of shrines, coming up with the amazing number of over 10,000, many of them linked with Old Testament figures.
However, even supposing the objective was to protect “the shrines”, the elements sent to Syria were not trained for what was essentially a policing, not military, mission.
Iranian meddling in Syria has led Tehran into its biggest military losses since the eight-year war with Iraq. Iran’s military intervention in the 1970s in Oman against Communist-led insurgents in Dhofar claimed 69 Iranian lives.
According to General Ali Khorsand, who led that campaign, it succeeded because it was designed with “clock-work precision.”
“We knew what we were supposed to, how to get there and how to get out,” he claimed. “More importantly, we knew who was in command.”
In the case of the Syrian adventure, Iran’s involvement was not predicated on those conditions and, above all, lacked a clear command structure.
The Western, especially American media, have tried to build up Major-General Qassem Soleimani who heads the Quds (Jerusalem) Corps as the overall commander in the Syrian adventure. American magazines have put him on their cover and American TV has portrayed him as a swashbuckling knight on a white charger. However, Soleimani, having spent almost his entire career at staff level, has had little field experience and is not capable of developing a strategic vision needed in a major conflict. By all accounts, Soleimani is a talented PR man and an efficient controller for the militias and agents paid by Iran in Lebanon, Iraq and elsewhere. But he is no military planner and his Quds Corps, which lacks combat units of its own, has never been anything more than a composite beast of intelligence, security, business, espionage, counter-espionage and propaganda.
Not knowing what type of forces was needed in Syria, Tehran left the sending of fighters there to personal choices of the “volunteers of martyrdom” and he hazards of the situation. Thus thousands of Iranians who had served in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), the Baseej (Mobilization) of the Dispossessed, the Islamic Police (NAJA), the elite Islamic Green Berets and disparate other forces such as The Forestry Guard and even the navy went to Syria, treating that multifaceted war as if it were a tougher version of a Boy Scouts Jamboree. Among Iranian officers killed in Syria were at least 17 naval officers, including some experts in underwater fighting, although there was no water in the Syrian war.
The hodgepodge nature of those forces made it impossible to develop a coherent command-and-control system, especially in the context of asymmetric warfare against “enemies” using guerrilla tactics in their own home territory. Iranian fighters in Syria spoke no Arabic, knew nothing about the terrain and the culture, and were often shunned by the Syrian government’s armed forces. In the tragic case of Khan Touman, for example, the Syrian 4th Armored Division, simply refused to come to the aid of a besieged unit of Iranian Green Berets, left isolated and surrounded. In their hasty retreat Iran’s best fighters had to leave behind the dead bodies of 13 of their comrades.
Another problem is that the majority of Iranian “defenders of the shrine” are retired officers and NCOs, not at the height of their physical powers, or teenagers and young fighters with little or no combat experience. The 3-week “basic training” offered by Gen. Soleimani is not sufficient to train those volunteers in anything but driving military vehicles and handling weapons and ammunition.
The passage of years has not solved any of those problems.
Iranian forces don’t know what they are supposed to do apart from killing as many Syrians and possible. On occasions they become involved in classical positional warfare against “enemies” that specialize in hit-and-run. On other occasions they are confined to guarding and patrolling sites that are of no military interest. The emergence of Russia from 2015 onwards as the chief orchestrator of the war in Syria has further confused the Iranians, limiting their margins of maneuver and reducing their overall influence.
Lacking an air force, Iran has not provided its forces in Syria with air support especially by helicopter gunships. Both Syria and Russia, which have the air power needed, have always refused to put their asset at the disposal of the Iranians or their Lebanese and other mercenaries.
In a closed system such as Khomeinist Iran it is not always possible to gauge public opinion. However, anecdotal evidence and musings within the establishment indicate growing weariness about a war which Iranians have never been fully informed about let alone approved.
An attempt almost two years ago to put General Mohsen Rezai, the former IRGC Commander, in charge of the Syrian war and relegate Gen. Soleimani to his public relations function was vetoed by “Supreme Guide” Ali Khamenei.
However, once again, the buzz in Tehran is about a new strategy and a new command structure for the Syrian war which, even if won, will give Iran no more than crumbs of victory.

The Rules of the Spy Game Are No Longer Clear
Leonid Bershidsky/Bloomberg View//March 14/18/
The theory most popular in the UK media at the moment is that it was Russian spies who poisoned the former military intelligence colonel, Sergei Skripal, and his daughter, Yulia. This would surprise no one. That Russian intelligence is back in the business of executing traitors has been known since the case of Alexander Litvinenko, poisoned with polonium in 2006. If the Skripal situation is part of this practice, two things are striking about it because they would suggest that Russia has blown up unwritten spy game rules from which it has repeatedly benefited: first, that Skripal had been "off the board" after being tried, convicted and traded to the UK and, second, that his daughter had apparently been targeted along with him. In 2010, the ex-colonel was one of four people who came to the West as part of a widely covered spy swap, in which the US released 10 Russian "sleeper agents." There had been at least a dozen spy exchanges between Western countries and the Soviet Union and its satellites during the Cold War, but this was the first publicly announced one in the Vladimir Putin era.
None of the people traded to the West in these swaps has ever been assassinated. The possibility of a swap is a perk that makes it marginally worthwhile to spy for a foreign power. The money paid to spies or the moral satisfaction of working against a hated regime is never enough to compensate for the dreadful risk of this work; not even the implicit promise that the side you work for will take care of you will tip the scale if you have to look over your shoulder for the rest of your life. A swap, however, has been a guarantee of peaceful retirement. If that's no longer the case, this raises the stakes for spies -- and makes swaps pointless.
Having resumed the Cold War-era practice of swaps, why would Putin or his spy chiefs want to ruin it by approving the assassination of a former spy who had served part of his sentence in a Russian jail and was then put out to pasture in the UK? One answer could be that Skripal perhaps continued working for British intelligence after he was traded. But since the Russian government now can't admit anything without setting off a major confrontation with the UK, we'll likely never know if this is what happened -- and because of this, the unwritten rules of spy swaps have still been put in doubt as far as Western intelligence services are concerned.
Then there's the matter of Skripal's daughter, Yulia. It was never Soviet or Russian practice to attack traitors' relatives; even the 1938 case of Leon Trotsky's son, Lev Sedov, is not a clear-cut assassination. Nor is there a single known case of "collateral damage" to families. The Soviet and Russian approach to retribution was always pragmatic rather than vendetta-like. All of that amounts to good reason to be skeptical of the conventional wisdom until there are real facts to support it.
That won't stop seasoned analysts from drawing preliminary conclusions: Mark Galeotti, senior research fellow at the Institute of International Relations Prague, who has studied the Russian intelligence community, wrote of "a breakdown in the old etiquette of espionage." He also pointed out that the FSB, the Russian domestic intelligence service, has been increasingly active overseas -- and that it's unlikely to be bound by the old rules because it doesn't generally recognize any rules at home.
Whether or not the attack was sanctioned by the Kremlin, or reflects a new culture in the intelligence services, the assassination attempt sends a clear signal to Russians who work, or who have worked, for Western intelligence services: There is no arrangement they can make to stop looking over their shoulder.
This is a powerful message, and its flip side is that anyone working clandestinely for Russia can also expect harsher treatment, if not poison in their drinks and attacks on their kin. Would the Kremlin risk such reciprocation -- and the almost-inevitable UK response -- just to take out a retired spy? If not, the Kremlin had better hope an alternative explanatifon surfaces quickly and that, if rogue elements were involved, they are punished. And yet the answer may be yes, for the same reasons that Putin recently devoted a major speech to threatening the US with a set of newly developed nuclear superweapons. Putin's stated goal is to be heard by the West and to force negotiations on security issues. Showing that there are no rules of engagement for this iteration of the Cold War -- which is true in many areas, not just in the spy game -- would be one way of trying to force a discussion. And when a bigger goal is involved, Putin's Russia and its predecessors were never hesitant to risk the lives of those loyal to them. Like the nuclear threats, though, such demonstrations of lawlessness would likely backfire. Putin's problem isn't that he's not threatening enough: He is. It's that the Kremlin's and its freelancers' willingness to throw rules out the window reinforces the impression of the Putin regime's unreliability and makes talks appear pointless.

Enjoy Your Job in Software? You Have a Woman to Thank
Elaine Ou/Bloomberg/March 14/18
The most tragic story of the computer industry is how a field once dominated by women became the domain of men. Contrary to popular belief, it wasn’t just a matter of the latter pushing out the former. To a large extent, men have women to thank for the very existence of their jobs.
Once upon a time, only programmers could interact with computers. It was considered a form of clerical work, like data entry or switchboard operation. Female programmers -- known as computer “feeders,” because they fed data into a machine (hence the term “data feed”) -- translated flow charts into logic operations, then punched the corresponding machine codes into cards.
The tools of the trade were an instruction table and a stencil.
A mathematician at Remington Rand, Dr. Grace Hopper recognized that human feeders were a bottleneck in the programming process. Hopper imagined that someday, nontechnical users could communicate directly with machines in English, bypassing the inefficient process of translating commands into cards. Although her employer dismissed the idea, Dr. Hopper went ahead and created her own English-like computer language called FLOW-MATIC.
At the same time, Hopper’s colleague Betty Holberton wrote the first automatic programming system -- that is, a program that people can use to create or operate other programs. The two women contributed to what became one of the first widely used programming languages, COBOL
COBOL obviated the need for human-to-machine translation, a process that in 1959 could require more than $600,000 and two years of effort for just one program. 1 Software became both intelligible and reusable across different machines. Within 10 years, computer-feeding jobs were automated out of existence.
So women created the technology that took their jobs. But this gave rise to demand for all kinds of new tasks, such as developing the software that quickly became a critical component of every business sector, from banking to inventory control. Hopper’s vision of humans conversing with computers also led to tools such as Excel and Quickbooks, which provide accessible interfaces that translate users’ requests into code. When people say that women are insufficiently represented in the computer industry, perhaps they’re defining it too narrowly. In a sense, everyone who uses a computer today -- a management consultant armed with Microsoft Access, a teenager using Snapchat -- is doing what the early programmers once did. Today’s database software is so far removed from the underlying computations that we don’t think of users as coders at all.
In other words, women aren’t passive victims who were pushed out of the industry. They’re pioneers. Thanks to their efforts, the industry grew to the point where professions could become highly specialized. Hopper’s work on COBOL and software compilers so successfully democratized the field of computer programming that most computer tasks today involve no programming.
Computer feeders won’t be the only casualty of software automation. Already, app developers do the bulk of their work through user interfaces that allow them to simply drag and drop the desired components. The industry constantly redefines how humans communicate with machines and what it means to be a programmer. A decade from now, it’s quite possible that the software engineers we revere will be rendered as irrelevant as the feeders of the 1950s.

Trump’s clear message in firing Rex Tillerson
Mashari Althaydi/Al Arabiya/March 14/18
In an interview last year, US President Donald Trump criticized Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and said he alone matters when it comes to specifying US foreign policy. “The one that matters is me,” Trump said.
What’s been expected for months has happened. Trump fired Tillerson, who had worked in the oil and energy sector. Tillerson was not in harmony with Trump’s foreign policies and his presence was rather strange within the team especially that Trump is leading deep transformations in foreign policy, such as his recent intentions to meet with th president of North Korea to end the historical problem with it.
Tillerson resisted – though softly – Trump’s intentions towards Iran and support of the Arab anti-terror quartet’s stance towards Qatar’s “harmful” policies. Tillerson seemed to side with Qatar’s narrative and he even used a term from the Qatari-Brotherhood’s dictionary when commenting on the crisis. He called for lifting the “blockade” on Qatar. However, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt reject this term and have repeatedly said that they’ve simply “boycotted” Qatar, noting that this is a “sovereign” act.
In a press conference on Tuesday, Trump said: "When you look at the Iran deal, I thought it was terrible, he thought it was okay. I wanted to either break it or do something, he felt a little differently. So we were not really thinking the same."
Mike Pompeo, a former Congressman, a Harvard Law graduate and a former US army officer who served in the war of liberation of Kuwait in 1991, was assigned as the new secretary of state. According to a Reuters report, Pompeo “is on the same wavelength” with Trump.
Expectations from Tillerson
Meanwhile, Gina Haspel will replace Pompeo as head of the Central Intelligence Agency. Haspel was deputy director of the CIA. According to preliminary reports, she is a veteran CIA officer and a hawk. She is the first woman to head the CIA.
According to media reports, she joined the agency in 1985 and is an expert in combating al-Qaeda organization. In 2002, she managed an overseas secret prison in Thailand where al-Qaeda symbols, like Abdul Rahim Al Nashiri, aka “the prince of the sea,” were held. Tillerson’s departure will upset those who were betting that someone from within Trump’s administration will decrease pressure on Iran and promote the Qatari-Brotherhood narrative. Frankly, those who made such bets may have exaggerated their expectations from Tillerson.
It’s been a year and few months since Trump became president. The manifestations of unity within his administration and the harmony of voices are getting clearer by the day. We will wait and see how this will impact our problems in the Arab world, and aren’t they many!

Messages of reform and change from Cairo
Hassan Al Mustafa/Al Arabiya/March 14/18
The scene was self-explanatory and did not require asking any questions or making any comments. The pictures of Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman in Saint Mark's Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in the Egyptian capital of Cairo sends many messages that clarify the manifestations of the new Saudi Arabia that the young prince is working hard and fast to build. This visit came as a surprise to many!
Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s meeting with Pope Tawadros II of Alexandria and Patriarch of the See of St. Mark solidified the deep values of respecting others, believing in pluralism and the sanctity of man and accepting differences, which are natural, and other religions and cultures. If preachers and orators sit down to talk about these same values, they wouldn’t have had a practical and political impact as they do now.
Change is in fact a cultural, behavioral and long-term act that carries on for generations. It sometimes needs a “shock” therapy, as noted by Prince Mohammed bin Salman, to disrupt the old dilapidated structures
In Cairo, the crown prince also met with the Grand Sheikh of al-Azhar, Sheikh Ahmed Al-Tayeb and visited the Egyptian Opera House. He also attended a play with President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.
He also spoke with journalists about the importance of fighting extremism and extremist discourse, underlining the principle of equality between citizens without discriminating between sects and emphasizing that the fundamental tone which some factions in society wanted to cultivate is declining.
The road to change
All of this leads us to have faith that this is not just about raising slogans and that there’s real change in Saudi Arabia. In order for this change, which some people are skeptical about, to mature and become clearer and stronger, it needs time and work via state institutions and the formulation of modern laws and regulations. Work is underway on this front. Change is in fact a cultural, behavioral and long-term act that carries on for generations. It sometimes needs a “shock” therapy, as noted by Prince Mohammed bin Salman, to disrupt the old dilapidated structures and replace them with a modern system to resolve current problems and prevent their reoccurrence.
What is happening in Saudi Arabia is not a purely domestic matter as its effects will positively impact the region. The success of these changes and the reforms carried out on many levels will serve the interest of neighboring countries and give a great push to moderation. This will help limit the concepts of underdevelopment and terrorism!

The Kurds have been sacrificed
Christian Chesnot/Al Arabiya/March 14/18
Three years ago, the Kurds seized Kobane (Ain Al-Arab) from the jihadists. The whole world hailed this symbolic victory, underlining the heroism of the Peshmerga. The image of women in battledresses against the ISIS fighters wearing black made the headlines.
The battle of Kobane will always be the first victory on the roadway leading to the demolishing of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi's "self-proclaimed caliphate" in Syria. Kurds with the help of local tribesmen were present at all the battles. Westerners were not wrong: while the United States and France let loose the Free Syrian Army, Washington and Paris "invested" in the Kurds by supporting them with weapons and sending them Special Forces for back up.
But all of this was yesterday! Today, dramatic turnaround, the Syrian Kurds are very much alone. They feel abandoned. Enlightened by the vicissitudes of history, they had nevertheless succeeded in creating links with all the actors of the Syrian crisis: the regime, the opposition, the Russians, the Westerners. Keeping equals distance with everyone allowed them to remain on the surface of the chaos of the civil war, reinforcing the territories under their control.
All the indications point to the fact that everyone wishes to teach the Kurds a lesson after their military triumph over ISIS.
Obviously, on the other side of the border, Erdogan closely monitored the rise of the Kurds, whose militia has close ties with the PKK, the arch- enemy of Ankara.
As the Turkish tightens their grip on Afrin, a jurisdiction located in the far north-west of Syria, the Kurds will have to make some tough choices. The Westerners - so as not to cut off the ties with Turkey - let Erdogan loose to a certain extent. In other words, the Kurds seem to be let loose by the United States and France in this battle of Afrin.
A fixation point
All the indications point to the fact that everyone wishes to teach the Kurds a lesson after their military triumph over ISIS.
Even though the regime of Bashar Al-Assad has allowed reinforcements to pass to Afrin, Damascus is not sad to see the Kurds in trouble. The objective is to win them back to its camp and regain the territories that were lost. The Syrian President is betting that once the Kurds lose their strength they will be more willing to negotiate with his regime to slip away from the claws of the Turks.
The Russians are almost hoping for the same thing. They hope that the Kurds will drop the United States in turn and gather around the diplomatic agenda of Moscow. Russia was not happy to see that they boycotted the Sochi conference. As for Turkey, it does not hide the fact that the Kurds are its sworn enemies and that its purpose is to expel them out of Manbij, further east.
These are the agendas of some and the other. Already, we are beginning to see the repercussions on the field. Kurdish fighters have announced an "operational pause" in the remaining battles against the last cells of the jihadists. The letting down of the Kurds is also likely to radicalize them a little more against Turkey. The loss of Afrin will be a painful stroke for the Peshmerga. Especially since this location is highly populated by the Kurds, which is not the case for other parts in eastern Syria.
In short, one needn’t to be a great prophet to know that the Syrian-Turkish border, very calm to this day, is becoming a fixation point in the Syrian conflict. As they say in detective novels, "who benefits from the crime? Most certainly it is Bashar al-Assad and Russia who expect that Turkey will use its forces in its asymmetrical battle with the Kurds. Nobody doubts it: it is a new Turkish-Kurdish war which started at Afrin.

Saudi women make the most of International Women’s Day
Dr. Ali Al-Ghamdi/Al Arabiya/March 14/18
The idea of celebrating the International Women’s Day dates back to the beginning of the second half of the 19th century when demonstrations were staged by thousands of women in New York City in protest against the ill-treatment they had been subjected to.
They demanded a change in the difficult circumstances under which they were forced to work. Police used force to disburse these demonstrations. But the struggle by women seeking their rights continued for a long time and New York City’s streets again witnessed women’s march in the beginning of the 20th century. The activists demanded women’s rights such as shorter working hours, better pay, an end to child labor and the right to vote. A group of women workers also carried banners proclaiming “Bread and Roses.”
The campaign for “Bread and Roses” began on March 8, which was later marked as “American Women’s Day”. Later, the struggle of women for their rights began to spread to Europe where the day was observed as the “Women’s Day,” an occasion to highlight women’s economic, political and social achievements. Subsequently many other countries started observing this as ‘Women’s Day.’
Apart from obtaining right to drive, there are several other remarkable achievements that the Saudi women have gained over the recent years
Following the holding of the first conference of the Women’s International Democratic Federation in Paris in 1945, women were granted holiday on a designated day in some countries. In the year 1977, the United Nations adopted a resolution to celebrate March 8 as the International Women’s Day every year.
The Saudi woman also celebrates the International Women’s Day, but she felt that her celebration was incomplete because she was banned from doing things which are enjoyed by the rest of the women in the world, such as driving a car. At last she was granted this right too after passing several phases of hurdles.
At first she was denied of the right on the pretext that it is a taboo in the religion, which was the view advocated by some scholars. However, other scholars rejected this view and emphasized that there was no evidence for forbidding this in the religious principles.
Not a taboo
The scholars who had earlier considered it as a taboo were eventually convinced that it was not a taboo but it should be prevented because of the risks that women may experience while driving such as accidents and the women’s inability to do maintenance of any malfunction or damage caused to the vehicle.
But this was not at all a convincing justification to prevent Saudi women from driving. The Saudi authorities found that women need to be allowed to drive just like women in other parts of the world and the risks involving in driving are the usual ones for women as in the case of men too.
Another excuse given for not allowing women to drive was that it may not be acceptable to the society. The answer for this excuse was that if we accept only what the society accepts, then there would have been no schools for girls and no television transmission was allowed to air in the Kingdom.
Similar would be the case with women’s participation in the Shoura Council or contesting or exercising franchise in municipal elections. In all these cases, when the political decision was taken, there was no objection from any part of the society. On the other hand, even those who opposed it in the beginning welcomed it after realizing its benefits.
The decision to allow Saudi women to drive was delayed a lot, and this delay gave the opponents a weapon to discredit or abuse the Kingdom every now and then. Anyone who looks to hire a driver does not care whether a male or a female drives his or her car.
I recall that the late Minister of Labor Dr. Ghazi al-Gosaibi was asked when would the Saudi woman be allowed to drive a car? His answer was that the question of driving by a woman was a matter of time. When asked if he would allow his daughter to drive, his answer was that he would not allow her in the beginning but she will drive the car when it becomes common.
Apart from obtaining the right to drive, there are several other remarkable achievements that the Saudi women have gained over the recent years. They have been selected as members of the Shoura Council and municipal councils across the Kingdom.
The women law graduates have been granted permission to practice as lawyers after undergoing the necessary training. Introduction of sports in girls’ schools, baby-sitting facilities to support working women, and creation of a fund for meeting the expenses of the divorcees are other landmark achievements
Saudi women still aspire to enjoy more rights that are guaranteed by the Islamic Shariah and thus they are entitled to celebrate the International Women’s Day with women from the rest of the world without having any inferiority complex.