March 23/2018
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani


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Bible Quotations
Jesus Said To the Devil: Do not put the Lord your God to the test
Matthew 04/ 01-11: "Then the Spirit led Jesus into the desert to be tempted by the Devil.  After spending forty days and nights without food, Jesus was hungry.  Then the Devil came to him and said, “If you are God's Son, order these stones to turn into bread.” But Jesus answered, “The scripture says, ‘Human beings cannot live on bread alone, but need every word that God speaks.’” Then the Devil took Jesus to Jerusalem, the Holy City, set him on the highest point of the Temple,  and said to him, “If you are God's Son, throw yourself down, for the scripture says,‘God will give orders to his angels about you;they will hold you up with their hands,so that not even your feet will be hurt on the stones.’”  Jesus answered, “But the scripture also says, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” Then the Devil took Jesus to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in all their greatness.  “All this I will give you,” the Devil said, “if you kneel down and worship me.” Then Jesus answered, “Go away, Satan! The scripture says, ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve only him!’” Then the Devil left Jesus; and angels came and helped him."
Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on March 22-23/18
Germany Stalls Iran Talks Over Labeling Hezbollah As Terrorists/Jerusalem Post/March 22/18
The Relationship between Money, Oil and Weapons/Abdulrahman Al-Rashed/Asharq Al-Awsat/March 22/18
A New Term for a New ‘Tsar’/Eyad Abu Shakra/Asharq Al Awsat/March 22/18
Is the United Kingdom an Islamist Colony/Tom Quiggin/Gatestone Institute/March 22/2018
How Facebook and Social Media Promote Terrorism/Uzi Shaya/Gatestone Institute/March 22/2018
The US liquidates its two main Mid East air bases at Incirlik and Al-Udeid/DEBKAfile/March 22/2018
On Syrian reactor, how about some modesty, gentlemen/Alex Fishman/Ynetnews/March 23/18
Exporting Iran’s Revolution’: A pleasant euphemism for regional chaos/Mohammed al-Sulami/Al Arabiya/March 22/18
How culture and arts enhance Saudi diplomacy/Hassan Al Mustafa/Al Arabiya/March 22/18
Menace of corruption and election showdown in Malaysia/Dr. Azeem Ibrahim/Al Arabiya/March 22/18

Titles For Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on March 22-23/18
Germany Stalls Iran Talks Over Labeling Hezbollah As Terrorists
Lebanon: Bill on Women’s Right to Children Naturalization Excludes Syrians, Palestinians
Hariri: Lebanon’s Economy is a Priority for the Government
Syria Says Saint Maron's Tomb 'Destroyed' in Turkish Raids
UNIFIL Says 'Lebanon, Israel Talks' Proceed Until Dispute is Solved
Lebanese Couple Indicted in U.S. in Syrian Bomb-Making Scheme
Geagea Says Baalbek-Hermel to See 'Historic Coup' in Elections
PSP, LF Register Electoral Lists of Chouf-Aley, Baabda
Baalbek-Hermel Candidate Arrested, Hizbullah Accused of Framing Him
UK Aid Allows Syrian Refugees to Meet Most Urgent Survival Needs in Lebanon
Satire TV Hosts Hisham Haddad, Abu Talal Under Scrutiny Over 'Bible' Remarks
Report: Bkirki Refuses Meddling in Elections
Nasrallah Calls for 'Improving Electoral Law', Agrees to Defense Strategy Talks
Declaration by EU High Representative Federica Mogherini on behalf of European Union to commemorate World Water Day
Raad visits Berri to discuss elections: Between Amal and Hezbollah is a strategic understanding
Ministry of Interior: Final number of electoral candidates 917
Aoun, Farhat talk general situation
Bukhari says Lebanese Saudi ties shall return to golden age
Sarraf, 'Fincatieri' company delegation tackle naval needs

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on March 22-23/18
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Meets US Secretary of Defense at Pentagon
Turkey Targets PKK in Northern Iraq despite Warning
Suspect in Palestinian PM Assassination Attempt Dies after Hamas Gunbattle
Moscow Calls Johnson Likening Putin to Hitler 'Disgusting'
Saudi Arabia Combats Radical Ideology by Reforming National Curriculum
6 Dead in Czech Chemical Factory Explosion
Moscow Calls Johnson Likening Putin to Hitler 'Disgusting'
EU International Donors Sponsor Gaza Water Treatment Plant
Khamenei Criticizes ‘Political Tribalism’, Failure to Fight Corruption
Women Rally in Sanaa Agitates Houthi Militias, Recalls Dec. 4 Unrest
US approves $1bn in Saudi defense contracts
Mattis tells Saudi Crown Prince: Urgent need to find end to Yemen’s war
Saudi crown prince woos US media with promises of reform
Saudi FM: Yemeni crisis can only be solved through political process
Saudi intelligence sharing ‘has saved American lives,’ former Homeland Security adviser Frances Townsend tells Arab News
First Rebels Quit Syria Enclave under Russia-Brokered Deal
Beginning of the end for Ghouta rebels: Thousands flee relentless regime assault
Sarkozy Says Will Clear Name, Has 'Finished' in Politics
British PM May says Russia poses threat to all of Europe
At least 14 killed in Mogadishu car bombing

Latest Lebanese Related News published on March 22-23/18
Germany Stalls Iran Talks Over Labeling Hezbollah As Terrorists
ألمانيا توقف محادثاتها مع إيران حول تصنيف حزب الله بأنه إرهابي
Jerusalem Post/March 22/18
Trump said in January that the European states have until May 12 to work with the US and improve the Iran deal, or the US will withdraw from the agreement.
One source said Britain and France are amenable to sanctioning Hezbollah. There are, however, differences between the French and British positions over what punitive measures to take.
Trump said in January that the European states have until May 12 to work with the US and improve the Iran deal, or the US will withdraw from the agreement.
Both the German Foreign Ministry and Merkel’s office declined to answer detailed Post questions about its position during the Iran atomic talks and its injection of Israel into the nuclear discussions.
Germany does not want to ban all of Hezbollah, specifically its so-called political wing, within the Federal Republic. According to a 2017 German intelligence report, 950 Hezbollah members fund-raise and recruit members in Germany.
After a Hezbollah-organized terrorist attack in Bulgaria in 2012, in which five Israelis and a Bulgarian were killed, the EU only banned Hezbollah’s “military wing.”
Hezbollah is a proxy of Iran.
THE STATE DEPARTMENT official said that the US “discussed the six non-nuclear/regional issues that the president also identified, and called for stronger steps from our European allies.”
In addition to banning Hezbollah’s full organization in Europe, the official said Trump wants the Europeans to “cut off funding to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, its militant proxies, and anyone else who contributes to Iran’s support for terrorism.”
Trump declared the Revolutionary Guards a terrorist organization in October.
The State Department official said US allies should “join us in constraining Iran’s missile development and stopping its proliferation of missiles, especially to Yemen.”
European countries “should join us in countering Iran’s cyber threats,” and “should help us deter Iran’s aggression against international shipping,” the official added.
European powers “should pressure the Iranian regime to stop violating its citizens’ rights. And they should not do business with groups that enrich Iran’s dictatorship or fund the Revolutionary Guard and its terrorist proxies.”
An Israeli Foreign Ministry spokeswoman declined on Wednesday to comment on Germany’s alleged opposition to remedying the Iran nuclear deal.
Powerful economic interests may be influencing Germany’s role in the nuclear talks. German exports to the Islamic Republic climbed to €3.5 billion in 2017 from €2.6b. in 2016.
The US official said: The “US continues to have productive talks with our European partners. We have discussed the areas the president identified in January where we wants to see improvements – including ensuring Iran never comes close to a nuclear weapon and addressing our concerns with the sunset dates, taking strong action if Iran refuses IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] inspections, and preventing Iran from developing or testing a long-range ballistic missile.”
The official added that “the deal’s greatest flaw is that its restrictions sunset over time, leaving Iran free in the future to pursue industrial-scale nuclear fuel enrichment, an important step in achieving a rapid nuclear weapons breakout capability."
“This is a last chance. In the absence of a commitment from our European allies to work with us to fix the deal’s flaws, the United States will not again waive sanctions in order to stay in the Iran nuclear deal. And if at any time the president judges that agreement is not within reach, the United States will withdraw from the deal immediately,” the State Department representative said.
Lebanon: Bill on Women’s Right to Children Naturalization Excludes Syrians, Palestinians
Beirut – Youssef Diab/Asharq Al-Awsat/March 22/18/A new bill presented by Lebanon’s Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil sparked controversy in the country, as it called for allowing Lebanese women married to foreigners to pass their nationality on to their children, excluding those married to citizens from neighboring countries, Syria and Palestine. Bassil also equated women and men as the bill prohibited the granting of citizenship to the children of a Lebanese man married to a Syrian or Palestinian woman if she entered Lebanon as a refugee, justifying this clause by saying it aims to prevent their naturalization. The new bill caused widespread criticism among human rights associations and a fierce campaign emerged on social media, which slammed the plan as “racist”. Bassil said during a press conference held at his office at the Foreign Ministry that his initiative is aimed at achieving “equality between Lebanese women and men, based on the Constitution, international agreements and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.” The minister stressed that his bill “conforms to the provisions of the Lebanese Constitution that does not discriminate between Lebanese on the basis of gender, and is consistent with the preamble to the Constitution, which prohibits naturalization.” He stressed that the Lebanese government was committed to the right of return for Palestinian refugees and displaced Syrians. In a legal analysis of the new bill, former Minister of Justice Ibrahim Najjar said: “At the political level, the proposal may be understood under fears of naturalization, but at the legal level, it may be contrary to the Constitution.” In remarks to Asharq Al-Awsat, Najjar suggested that the draft-law be reformulated, “so it does not refer to discrimination between women and men and the nationality of those who marry, because that violates the principle of equality before the law.”The foreign minister’s suggestion also raised a wave of resentment in the political and popular circles. Legal expert and former MP Salah Honein told Asharq Al-Awsat that a Lebanese woman, married to a foreigner, should have the right to give her nationality to her children similar to the right of a Lebanese man married to a foreigner to pass citizenship to his children.

Hariri: Lebanon’s Economy is a Priority for the Government

Asharq Al-Awsat/March 22/18/Prime Minister Saad Hariri said that the Lebanese government's priority for the next stage is to focus on the productive sectors, expecting the upcoming CEDAR conference to contribute in providing many job opportunities for the Lebanese youth. He pointed that all the projects in the Capital investment program CIP that the government will present to the conference in Paris will be discussed by the cabinet for approval. The government is dealing realistically with the 10-year plan, which includes projects worth 16 billion dollars, he said. Hariri's remarks came during a dialogue at the Grand Serail with participants in the "Business and Finance Forum" organized by Confex in cooperation with the Central Bank.He said: “The government has initiated, in conjunction with the preparation of this program, necessary and essential financial reforms, some of which were included in the 2018 draft budget, and they are the cornerstone for building a modern and integrated economy that can gain the trust of donor countries." He added: "In the previous stage, our goal was to consolidate political and security stability in the country, and today there is consensus within the government to focus on the economic situation, especially that important political and economic events are coming, most notably the CEDAR conference which will support the Lebanese economy. "Our problem today is that growth in the country has reached 1.5 percent, which is not enough compared to the challenges that Lebanon is facing, whether economically or in the issue of the Syrian refugees, which affects job opportunities in the country. The CEDAR conference is expected to contribute in providing many job opportunities for the Lebanese youth, based on the projects included in the CIP.” “If we achieve all the projects that we plan in various areas, a large amount of funds will be injected in the country, which will help all industrial and productive sectors,” he added.
Syria Says Saint Maron's Tomb 'Destroyed' in Turkish Raids
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/March 22/18/Turkish air raids have damaged an ancient Christian heritage site in northeastern Syria near the city of Afrin which Ankara-led forces captured at the weekend, Syria's antiquities department said Thursday. "Turkish regime planes bombed the archaeological site of Brad, 15 kilometers (about nine miles) south of Afrin city," the Directorate-General of Antiquities and Museums said in a statement. It said that Brad -- which includes many Byzantine churches and monasteries as well as tombs dating back to the Roman period -- has been on UNESCO's world heritage list since 2011. "The bombing destroyed many important archaeological buildings," including the tomb of Saint Maron of the Maronite community, said Syrian antiquities chief Mahmoud Hamoud. Also destroyed was "the Julianus Church, which includes the mausoleum and is one of the oldest Christian churches in the world, built at the end of the 4th century," he added. Turkish troops and allied Syrian rebels seized control of Afrin city from the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) militia on Sunday. Ankara began its offensive in January against the YPG, which it says is allied with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) waging an insurgency against Turkey since 1984. The PKK is blacklisted as a terror organization by Turkey and its Western allies. At the end of January, Syria accused Turkey of damaging the 3,000-year-old iron age neo-Hittite temple of Ain Dara as it pressed its bombardment of the Afrin region. But the Turkish military said "religious and cultural buildings, historical sites, archaeological ruins and public facilities are absolutely not among the targets" of the offensive. The tomb of Saint Maron was discovered by a French archeological mission in 2002. "This site is one of the most beautiful pages of the history of Christianity. It is home to three churches, a monastery and a five-meter-high tower," Syria's former antiquities chief Maamoun Abdulkarim told AFP. In Janurary he had voiced concern for a group of 40 ancient villages in the Afrin region, which UNESCO calls "Ancient Villages of Northern Syria" and includes on its world heritage list. UNESCO says these villages provide, among other things, "an exceptional illustration of the development of Christianity in the East, in village communities."Syria's seven-year war has killed more than 340,000 people, displaced millions and ravaged its archaeological heritage since it started in 2011. Maronites are a branch of the Catholic Church and are indigenous to Syria and Lebanon. In Lebanon, the president is chosen from the Maronite community named after Saint Maron.

UNIFIL Says 'Lebanon, Israel Talks' Proceed Until Dispute is Solved
Associated Press/Naharnet/March 22/18/Spokesman for the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), Andrea Tenenti said Thursday that talks to solve border disputes between Lebanon and Israel are ongoing until a solution is reached. “Dialogue will carry on until a solution for pending issues between Lebanon and Israel are reached,” Tenenti told VDL (93.3) radio in an interview. The UNIFIL Spokesman assured the need to maintain stability in South Lebanon. He said “stability in the South is a priority not only for the UNIFIL, but also for the international community.”Tenenti had earlier announced that Lebanon and Israel have been holding talks “nearly every day” over the border dispute. New threats emerged between Lebanon and Israel over several issues, including a wall the Jewish state is building along the border that Beirut says may jut into Lebanese territories, as well as plans for oil and gas exploration in the Mediterranean. The oil and gas dispute dates back years, but recently resurfaced when Lebanon invited companies to bid for exploratory offshore drilling next year along the countries' maritime border. Israel claims some of the drilling would be taking place in its territorial waters.

Lebanese Couple Indicted in U.S. in Syrian Bomb-Making Scheme
Associated Press/Naharnet/March 22/18/A husband and wife who ran an export business out of their Massachusetts home have been indicted on charges that they did business with a Syrian company that developed bombs used against U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, U.S. federal prosecutors said. Anni Beurklian, 49, and her husband, Antoine Ajaka, 50, operated their company Top Tech US Inc. out of their Waltham home, the U.S. attorney's office in Boston said. Between 2012 and 2018, the business exported electronics, computer equipment and other items to customers in Lebanon and Syria, according to the indictment. One customer was Syria-based EKT Electronics, which the U.S. government alleges developed improvised explosive devices. EKT was "involved in activities related to the acquisition, attempted acquisition, and/or development of improvised explosive devices, which were being used against U.S. and coalition troops in Iraq and Afghanistan," according to authorities. As a result, the U.S. Commerce Department requires anyone doing business with EKT to obtain an export license, which authorities say Top Tech did not do. EKT's manager was also named in the indictment. The couple was engaged in plea negotiations when they fled the United States in January to avoid prosecution, federal authorities said. Both are originally from Lebanon. Anni Beurklian, who also goes by the name Anni Ajaka, is a naturalized U.S. citizen. Antoine Ajaka, who also goes by Tony Ajaka, is a legal permanent resident of the U.S. They are charged with conspiracy to violate U.S. export laws and regulations, conspiracy to defraud the United States, smuggling goods out of the United States, conspiracy to obstruct justice, and obstruction of justice. "I am aware of the indictments and am in the process of reviewing and digesting the charges, which are serious," their Boston-based attorney, Brad Bailey, said before declining further comment.

Geagea Says Baalbek-Hermel to See 'Historic Coup' in Elections
Naharnet/March 22/18/Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea announced Thursday that the Baalbek-Hermel electoral district will witness a “historic coup” in the upcoming parliamentary elections. “What's happening today in Baalbek-Hermel is not a mere electoral process but rather a historic coup,” Geagea said in Maarab meeting with a delegation from the town of Ainata. The delegation was accompanied by Antoine Habshi, the LF's candidate for Baalbek-Hermel's Maronite seat. “The issue is not merely about electing a certain MP or not. It is much bigger – it's about our existence. We either exist or not,” the LF leader added. “What's happening in this electoral battle has much greater importance than the developmental and constructional issues. It is a historic coup, seeing as throughout 50 years, circumstances had prevented us from choosing real representatives for the region,” Geagea went on to say.
“This candidate will enter parliament, and this in itself is a historic coup,” the LF leader emphasized. He noted that the moment the nomination was announced, “the situations in the region were rectified.”“All other candidates in the Baalbek-Hermel region started approaching things on the basis that both Baalbek-Hermel and Deir al-Ahmar exist and this alone is very important,” Geagea added. “We do not want development or construction, we only want to live in this region the same way our grandfathers used to live,” the LF leader went on to say. Baalbek-Hermel is a major political and electoral stronghold of Hizbullah. The LF and its allies believe that the new electoral law, which is based on proportional representation, will allow them to take some seats from Hizbullah.

PSP, LF Register Electoral Lists of Chouf-Aley, Baabda
Naharnet/March 22/18/The Progressive Socialist Party and the Lebanese Forces on Thursday submitted to the Interior Ministry their electoral lists for the Chouf-Aley and Baabda districts. PSP chief MP Walid Jumblat's son “Taimur Jumblat visited Thursday morning the headquarters of the Interior Ministry in Sanayeh, where he registered the Reconciliation List of the Chouf-Aley district,” a PSP statement said. “The list chose the red color and it comprises Taimur Jumblat (PSP), George Adwan (LF), Naji al-Bustani (independent), Ghattas al-Khoury (Mustaqbal Movement), Nehme Tohme (Democratic Gathering), Marwan Hamadeh (PSP), Bilal Abdullah (PSP) and Mohammed al-Hajjar (Mustaqbal) for the Chouf region, and Akram Shehayyeb (PSP), Henri Helou (Democratic Gathering), Anis Nassar (LF) and Raji al-Saad (nephew of Democratic Gathering MP Fouad al-Saad) for the Aley region,” the PSP added. Social Affairs Minister Pierre Bou Assi of the LF meanwhile registered a list for the Baabda district, called the “Baabda Unity and Development” list. The list comprises Pierre Bou Assi, Cynthia al-Asmar and Joseph Adaimi for the Maronite seats, Hadi Abu al-Hassan for the Druze seat and Salah al-Harakeh for the Shiite seat. The deadline for registering lists expires on March 26. The parliamentary elections will be held under a complex proportional representation system on May 6.

Baalbek-Hermel Candidate Arrested, Hizbullah Accused of Framing Him
Naharnet/March 22/18/An anti-Hizbullah Shiite cleric was arrested Thursday by General Security on an outstanding arrest warrant, the National News Agency reported. NNA said Sheikh Abbas al-Jawhari, a candidate running for a parliamentary seat in the Baalbek-Hermel district, was apprehended by General Security at its Beirut headquarters upon his filing of a passport application. “General Security found out that he is wanted on an outstanding arrest warrant over a drug-related offense, referring him to Mount Lebanon's public prosecution for interrogation,” the agency added. General Security later issued a statement saying al-Jawhari was apprehended after arriving at its headquarters to carry out a transaction related to a domestic worker. “It turned out that there is an outstanding arrest warrant against him carrying the number 86/869 and issued on February 12, 2018 by Mount Lebanon's examining magistrate over a drug-related offense. After consulting Mount Lebanon's public prosecution, it ordered the arrest of Sheikh al-Jawhari and demanded that he be referred to it,” General Security said. “Accordingly, the cleric was referred to the aforementioned public prosecutor's office on the same date,” the security agency added. Al-Jawhari's press office meanwhile issued a statement explaining its account of events. “Around five years ago, a brother of incumbent MP Hussein al-Moussawi rented an apartment in Baalbek for eighth months... Sheikh Abbas al-Jawhari had rented the same apartment before Mr. Moussawi,” the press office said.
“After Mr. Moussawi's departure from the rental apartment, a quantity of Captagon was seized in it and both Mr. Moussawi and Sheikh Abbas al-Jawhari were subjected to an investigation. It turned out later that it was a malicious ploy by Hizbullah to frame Sheikh Abbas al-Jawhari and target him over his opposition to Hizbullah's fighting in Syria,” the office added. “Sheikh al-Jawhari issued later a statement confirming his innocence and the fabricated ploy,” the office said. It added that the cleric was arrested Thursday “under the alibi of the same file.”“Hizbullah exerted pressure to oust Sheikh al-Jawhari from the race for the 2018 parliament because the cleric is the only Shiite who has the ability to clinch a seat from Hizbullah's list,” the press office alleged.

UK Aid Allows Syrian Refugees to Meet Most Urgent Survival Needs in Lebanon
Naharnet/March 22/18/British International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt has announced a “ground-breaking package of support” for people driven from their homes as a result of the conflict in Syria, which is now entering its eighth year, the British embassy in Lebanon said on Thursday. The program, delivered in partnership with the U.N.’s World Food Program, will provide more than 10,000 severely vulnerable families with an allowance so that they can buy essential items such as food, household supplies and vital medicine for their families. With an estimated 76% of Syrian refugees living below the poverty line, this support will ensure families have the resources they need to survive and will aim to help prevent families taking desperate measures such as skipping meals or forcing their children to work. “This bold new approach will empower the people that rely on UK support to make choices about what they need, whilst also ensuring that aid is delivered more efficiently. It will use the latest retina scanning technology, coupled with up to date Lebanese banking facilities, to eliminate fraud and make sure UK aid goes only to those who need it the most,” the British embassy said. Secretary Mordaunt said: “In 2017, through UK aid and further public donations, Britain provided a vital lifeline to people suffering from the relentless violence in Syria. As we enter the eighth year of this deadly conflict, we continue to stand by the people of Syria to help them rebuild their lives, giving them hope and a chance for a future.”“Our support is providing families living in Lebanon with an allowance to buy the essential items that they cannot live without. This is helping to stamp out child labor and give refugees the dignity they deserve,” Mordaunt added. Welcoming the announcement, British Ambassador to Lebanon Hugo Shorter said: “As the conflict enters its eighth year, providing aid to refugees fleeing from the Syria conflict has been at the heart of UK aid. The program delivered by the U.N.’s World Food Program will help families meet some of their most urgent needs. The UK will continue to support Lebanon in coping with the refugee crisis until it is safe for them to return home.”Fadwa, a Syrian mother who lives in the corner of a Beirut car park with her husband and seven children, is benefiting from the UK aid-backed program. Following the announcement, she said: “It’s our only income so being able to choose how to spend it is important as we need different things from one month to the next. The children were excited because they thought it meant we would buy toys, but I told them it’s money for survival.” “Before, we were borrowing money every time we needed to fix something in the house, or even to buy medicine. We are also treated differently now. People don’t look at us like 'Syrians living off aid' because they see us as being self-sufficient --  buying food with cash,” Fadwa added. “The UK continues to be by Lebanon’s side with action and not just words. In addition to our significant and lifesaving humanitarian assistance, we have provided textbooks for every child aged 6-15 years, and provided financial and technical support to the Lebanese Ministry of Education and Higher Education,” the British embassy said. “Total UK assistance to education for the next four years from 2016-2020 is at £160 million. Across the whole of Lebanon we are supporting Lebanese host communities coping with the weight of the refugee crisis, partnering with over 270 municipalities,” it added.
Read more about Fadwa’s story on the WFP website:
(Picture courtesy of Edward Johnson/World Food Program)

Satire TV Hosts Hisham Haddad, Abu Talal Under Scrutiny Over 'Bible' Remarks
Naharnet/March 22/18/The Episcopal Media Committee has filed a complaint with the Lebanese National Audiovisual Media Council over two satire TV shows that made “cynical references against segments from the holy Bible”, the National News Agency reported on Thursday. NNA said the Audiovisual Media Council received the complaint filed against weekly satire entertainment programs one hosted by Hisham Haddad on LBCI, and another on al-Jadeed TV hosted by satirist character called Abu Talal. The two hosts have “addressed segments from the holy Bible in a comical manner,” said NNA. Recordings from the programs will be submitted to the media council for assessment. The appropriate measures will be taken in coordination with Information Minster, Melhem Riachi, it added. Lebanon's media endured a string of court cases and judicial investigations as Lebanese authorities are getting tough on free speech ahead of national elections. Recently, officials have summoned leading talk show hosts to court over on-air remarks and sentencing an analyst to jail for comments she made in Washington about the Lebanese army.

Report: Bkirki Refuses Meddling in Elections

Naharnet/March 22/18/Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi “stands at an equal distance” from all political parties and refuses to interfere in the parliamentary electoral process, al-Joumhouria daily reported on Thursday. “Bkirki stand at an equal distance from all candidates, particularly in the Christian regions. Bkirki does not support anyone (candidate or party) at the expense of another,” the daily quoted Bkirki sources. They stressed that Rahi “has not, will not interfere in the formation of electoral lists. Bkirki refuses to enter the corridors of the electoral process.” Political parties are gearing up for the country's first legislative elections in nine years. The majority have announced their candidates to run in the polls. Lebanon is staging its 2018 elections based on a new complex proportional representation system and 15 electoral districts. It replaces the winner-takes-all system that had governed Lebanon’s elections since 1943. The polls are scheduled on May 6.

Nasrallah Calls for 'Improving Electoral Law', Agrees to Defense Strategy Talks
Naharnet/March 22/18/Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah on Wednesday called for “improving” the current electoral law while declaring that his party does not have “reservations” over President Michel Aoun's call for post-polls defense strategy talks. “The upcoming elections represent a serious opportunity for the Lebanese people to re-produce their national authorities,” said Nasrallah in a televised address to announce his party's electoral platform. He said Hizbullah's platform includes “improving the electoral law, especially in terms of turning Lebanon into a single electoral district and lowering the voting age to 18.”The new electoral law, approved last year after years of political wrangling, is based on a complex proportional representation system and 15 electoral districts. It replaces the winner-takes-all system that had governed Lebanon's elections since 1943. Hizbullah had long called for an electoral law based on proportional representation and a single electoral district. Separately, Nasrallah said Hizbullah's MPs “will work to provide the necessary capabilities to strengthen the security and military institutions, topped by the Lebanese Army.”“The necessary funds must be provided to enable them to perform their missions in defending Lebanon,” he emphasized. “The judicial system must be developed so that the judiciary becomes an independent authority,” Nasrallah added. And calling for “creating a planning ministry,” Nasrallah underlined that Hizbullah's ministers “will not agree to any outsourcing agreement without a tendering process.”“It seems that the country's financial situation is dangerous... This danger may pose an existential threat to the state and the country should this situation persist,” the Secretary-General warned. He announced that Hizbullah will form “a special unit tasked with confronting corruption and the waste of public money.”“We commit to keep our organization and party clean and uninvolved in any corruption,” Nasrallah pledged. “Those who have any suspicions of corruption against Hizbullah should present them (to the authorities). We will hold accountable anyone implicated in corruption and graft,” he added. “I will personally follow up on the issue of combating corruption, because we are entering a dangerous period,” Nasrallah vowed. Hizbullah's chief noted that the new electoral law is “an opportunity for better representation for our allies and friends.” “But if our allies don't show modesty, the result will be failure. I call on everyone to show modesty and to offer concessions in order to reach agreements,” Nasrallah urged. He also noted that the electoral differences will not affect the “strategic” political alliance between Hizbullah and the Free Patriotic Movement. “As for Hizbullah and the FPM, there is central communication and our political relation is still ongoing. We might disagree over some files but we have not become a single political party,” Nasrallah said. “We will cooperate with the Free Patriotic Movement after the elections,” he stressed. Turning to Aoun's call for defense strategy talks, Nasrallah said the president “has the right to call for talks over a national defense strategy.”“We do not have any reservations over this call, especially that it came from President Aoun,” he said. The issue of Hizbullah's arsenal of arms has long been a thorny issue in Lebanon.

Declaration by EU High Representative Federica Mogherini on behalf of European Union to commemorate World Water Day

Thu 22 Mar 2018/ NNA - "Access to safe drinking water is a fundamental right but is still a challenge in many parts of the world. On World Water Day, the European Union reaffirms that all States are expected to fulfil their obligations regarding access to safe drinking water, which must be available, accessible, safe, acceptable, and affordable for all without discrimination, and recalls that the right to safe drinking water is a human right essential for the full enjoyment of life and all human rights. The EU also stresses the importance of the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation, and calls on all states to collaborate with the current rapporteur. Across the world, human rights defenders protecting and promoting the rights to safe drinking water and sanitation are often subjected to prosecution, threats and violence. Today, the European Union pay special tribute to those brave individuals who stand up every day for fundamental rights and the protection of the environment. Climate change is taking a toll on the drier areas of the planet. Already, one of Africa’s largest lakes, Lake Chad, has decreased by 90 per cent as a result of climate change, over use of water and extended drought. The reduction has destroyed livelihoods and led to the loss of invaluable biodiversity. The UN Security Council has also recognized the adverse effects of climate change and ecological changes among other factors on the stability of the Lake Chad region.
As the 2017 Report of the Global High Level Panel on Water and Peace has acknowledged, water is not only a driver of social and economic development but also of peace and security. The availability of water is one of the key factors that can lead to conflicts and mass displacements. As cooperation increases resilience and stability by preventing conflicts and consolidating peace, the EU will continue to promote global accession to the UNECE Water Convention, and share with its partners its long experience in the sustainable management of shared water resources. The EU also reiterates its commitment to the Paris Agreement and the Marrakech Action Proclamation which reaffirmed the world's determination to fight climate change and to help address the impacts of climate change on the environment, including on water. The EU will continue to support sustainable water management through its cooperation with key partner countries in policy dialogues, development cooperation, multi-stakeholder partnerships and through a strategic approach to regional development. Promoting and protecting access to fundamental resources means promoting and protecting the rights and the security not only of the present, but also of the future generations. " -- Media office

Raad visits Berri to discuss elections: Between Amal and Hezbollah is a strategic understanding
Thu 22 Mar 2018/NNA - Speaker of the House, Nabih Berri, received this Thursday at his residence in Msaileh "Loyalty to Resistance" bloc president, MP Mohammad Raad, with talks touching on the general situation and dwelling on the upcoming electoral entitlement. "Between the Amal movement and Hezbollah is a strategic understanding," said Raad in the wake of the meeting. "We informed the Speaker that the preparations to announce the 'Hope and Loyalty' list in the third circumscription in South Lebanon have been completed. The list is scheduled to be announced on Sunday in Nabatiyeh." "We are always here to listen to [Speaker Berri's] directives, as he remains the big brother who sponsors the march of resistance and the march of those keen on building and developing this country," Raad said. As for the fear that elections may not take place because of the ongoing escalation in the region, Raad said: "The elections have become a reality and no one can disrupt or annul them."Asked about the defense strategy, he said "We have no sensitivity over such an issue, and we are confident that the proposal we made in this context is the best to protect Lebanon."

Ministry of Interior: Final number of electoral candidates 917
Thu 22 Mar 2018/NNA - The Interior and Municipalities Ministry's Directorate General for Political and Refugee Affairs issued the following statement: "The deadline for the withdrawal of candidacies for parliamentary elections scheduled for May 6, 2018, has ended on March 21st at midnight. The number of candidates has reached 917 after the withdrawal of 58 candidates."

Aoun, Farhat talk general situation

Thu 22 Mar 2018/NNA - President of the Republic, Michel Aoun, on Thursday met at the Baabda palace with former minister, Abdullah Farhat, with talks reportedly touching on the general situation in the country.

Bukhari says Lebanese Saudi ties shall return to golden age
Thu 22 Mar 2018 /NNA - Saudi Chargé d'Affaires, Plenipotentiary Minister, Walid Bukhari, on Thursday said that Saudi-Lebanese economic ties would witness significant positive developments in the looming future, which would pave the way for the return of relations between the two countries to their golden age." Bukhari anticipated that the High Joint Committee between the two countries would meet upcoming June with 27 draft agreements on its agenda, laying the formal frameworks for bilateral relations in the fields of economy, transport, customs, culture and defense. The Saudi Chargé d'Affaires considered that these agreements would constitute a qualitative turning point in the formal structure of relations, adding, "this shall be accompanied by visits whether at the level of ministers or at the level of the private sector." Bukhari's fresh remarks came during his meeting at the Embassy with an extended delegation from the Lebanese-Saudi Business Council, led by Raouf Abu Zaki. The meeting took place in the presence of MP Neemeh Tohmeh, Saudi Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Dr Fawzi Kabbara, and scores of concerned dignitaries.

Sarraf, 'Fincatieri' company delegation tackle naval needs
Thu 22 Mar 2018/NNA - National Defense Minister Yacoub Riad Al Sarraf, on Thursday met with the Regional Director of "Fincatieri" ship-building company, Ashel Folvaro, on top of a delegation, in the presence of Italian Ambassador to Lebanon, Massimo Marutti. Minister Sarraf discussed with the visiting delegation the needs of the Lebanese Navy in terms of boats, ships and equipment designed to enhance the work of the Navy. Discussions also touched on the significant role played by the Lebanese Navy in cooperation with the naval units operating within UNIFIL.
Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on March 22-23/18
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Meets US Secretary of Defense at Pentagon
Asharq Al-Awsat/March 22/18/Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense, held talks on Thursday with US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis in Washington. Mattis received the Saudi royal at the Pentagon where talks focused on regional affairs, including the war in Yemen. Mattis said that Saudi Arabia was an integral part of the political solution in Yemen. "We must also reinvigorate urgent efforts to seek a peaceful resolution to the civil war in Yemen and we support you in this regard," he said, offering his firm backing to Riyadh. "We are going to end this war, that is the bottom line. And we are going to end it on positive terms for the people of Yemen but also security for the nations in the peninsula." The two officials discussed bilateral ties and strategic cooperation between their two countries. They address defense and military affairs in regards to bolstering defense capabilities and deepening bilateral partnership according to the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, reported the Saudi Press Agency. Prince Mohammed and Mattis reviewed the latest developments in the Middle East and international scene, stressing efforts exerted by Riyadh and Washington in combating terrorism and extremism. Prince Mohammed had embarked on an official 18-day trip to the US on Tuesday, which he kicked off by holding talks with President Donald Trump.

Turkey Targets PKK in Northern Iraq despite Warning
Asharq Al-Awsat/March 22/18/Turkish jets have attacked suspected Kurdish rebel camps across the border in northern Iraq, in an operation that reportedly "neutralized" nine militants despite Baghdad’s warning against an offensive on the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). Turkey's state-run news agency Anadolu Agency said the attack occurred early Thursday after drones detected a group of militants allegedly preparing to launch an attack against Turkey. Turkey regularly targets the PKK in northern Iraq, where they maintain bases. Anadolu said some 50 PKK rebels were killed or wounded in such operations since March 10. Turkey said this week that its military may mount an offensive against the PKK in Iraq's Sinjar region if the Iraqi government doesn't act against the group, which is considered a terrorist organization by Turkey and its allies. Turkey says Sinjar has turned into a PKK headquarters. But Thursday’s strike on the PKK came a day after Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari expressed “absolute rejection” of any violation by Turkish forces to Iraq’s borders.

Suspect in Palestinian PM Assassination Attempt Dies after Hamas Gunbattle
Asharq Al-Awsat/March 22/18/The main suspect in the assassination attempt against Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah died on Thursday from wounds he sustained during a battle with Hamas security forces in the Gaza Strip. Another gunman and two security officers were also killed in the shootout, a security official said. Hamdallah survived a March 13 roadside bombing against his convoy as he was visiting Gaza, which is controlled by Hamas. An AFP correspondent saw the bodies of two security force members at the hospital and a senior police officer at the scene also confirmed the deaths on condition of anonymity. A clash had erupted earlier in the day in Nuseirat in central Gaza as Hamas security forces engaged in a manhunt for the suspect. Dozens of new checkpoints were also erected throughout the Palestinian enclave and armed security forces were searching cars, an AFP correspondent said. Hamas had declared a $5,000 reward for anyone giving information about the suspect’s whereabouts. It provided no immediate details on his alleged motive or of an affiliation to any armed group. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Monday blamed Hamas for the assassination attempt. His remarks threatened reconciliation efforts to end a decade-old rift between his Fatah faction and Hamas. Abbas, who is based in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, has offered no evidence of the involvement of Hamas in the attempt against Hamdallah’s life. But he said he did not trust Hamas to investigate the incident honestly and that there had been “zero” progress in the Egyptian-brokered reconciliation. Hamas seized the Gaza Strip from forces loyal to Fatah in 2007.

Moscow Calls Johnson Likening Putin to Hitler 'Disgusting'

Asharq Al-Awsat/March 22/18/The Kremlin has denounced British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson's statement comparing the World Cup in Russia to the Olympics hosted by Nazi Germany as "utterly disgusting,” in an escalating war of words between Moscow and London over the poisoning of a former Russian spy. Sergei Skripal and his daughter were poisoned earlier this month with a military-grade nerve agent in the southwestern English town of Salisbury. They remain in a critical condition. British Prime Minister Theresa May has accused Russia of the first known offensive use of a nerve toxin in Europe since World War Two and expelled 23 Russians whom she said were spies working under diplomatic cover. Russia has repeatedly denied any involvement in the attack, and in a reciprocal gesture, expelled 23 British diplomats as well as closing the British Council in Russia. Johnson agreed Wednesday with a Labour lawmaker who had suggested that Russian President Vladimir Putin is going to use Russia's World Cup "in the way Hitler used the 1936 Olympics", as a propaganda exercise. Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov described it Thursday as "the utterly disgusting statement which is unworthy of a foreign minister of any country." He called Johnson's words "insulting and unacceptable." Putin has dismissed allegations of Moscow's involvement as "drivel, rubbish, nonsense", while Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Wednesday urged the British government to "respond calmly" to the Skripals' attempted murder.

Saudi Arabia Combats Radical Ideology by Reforming National Curriculum
Riyadh - Nayef al-Rashid/Asharq Al-Awsat/March 22/18/Saudi Arabia is saving no effort in combating extremist ideologies, especially those spread by the Muslim Brotherhood. The Kingdom announced on Wednesday that it was taking new measures to address shortcomings of some educational curricula.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told CBS television in an interview Sunday that elements of the Muslim Brotherhood, designated as a "terror group" by the Kingdom, had infiltrated Saudi schools. The government will "fight extremist ideologies by reviewing school curricula and books to ensure they are free of the banned Muslim Brotherhood's agenda", Saudi Education Minister Ahmed bin Mohammed al-Issa said in a statement. It also seeks to "ban books attributed to the Muslim Brotherhood from all schools and universities and remove all those who sympathize with the group", he added. Former Shura Council member, academic scholar Dr. Mohammed Al-Mafrah explained that the Crown Prince's speech confirms that the current phase is focused on reviewing curricula and developing new policies that serve the Kingdom’s Vision 2030. All programs will be put under revision along with the objectives they relay and all content aimed attracting some ideological schools will be purged, he told Asharq Al-Awsat.“Time has proven the greed of these political groups and their eagerness to spread their poison and feed hatred in society,” he added. He said that the government will aim to uproot radical tendencies and set the Kingdom’s society on the road to moderation, away from political rivalries and ideological extremism. Moreover, the Education Ministry emphasized that university administrators, ministry officials and education monitors throughout the Kingdom have been warned against rolling back in fighting this ideology. It encouraged them instead to exert every effort possible to clean up the education system from radicalism.The ministry has been working on a number of measures that promote moderation, including reformulating curricula and developing textbooks and ridding them of any skewed thought. The ministry had already banned all Muslim Brotherhood related books.

6 Dead in Czech Chemical Factory Explosion
Asharq Al-Awsat/March 22/18/At least six people were killed and several others were seriously injured in an explosion Thursday at a Czech chemical plant in the northern town of Kralupy-nad-Vltavou, firefighters said. "We have received information about six dead and several others seriously injured," regional firefighter spokeswoman Vladimira Kerekova said, quoted by the CTK news agency. The Prague-Vinohrady hospital has triggered its emergency plan and is getting ready to receive a "significant number" of patients, she added. Petr Holecek, the town's mayor, told Czech public television a tank with an unspecified substance exploded. Speaking from the site of the explosion, Holecek also said he believed there was no danger to the town. Emergency services spokeswoman Petra Effenbergerova said six people were injured. Kerekova said the factory belongs to the Polish firm Synthos, which manufactures synthetic rubber and polystyrene. "We have launched an investigation to determine the circumstances and causes," police spokeswoman Marketa Johnova said. She said police had learnt of the explosion at 10 am local time. No dangerous substances have leaked out, according to Jonova.
Two people were injured in an explosion at the same factory in 2015.

EU International Donors Sponsor Gaza Water Treatment Plant
Asharq Al-Awsat/Asharq Al-Awsat/March 22/18/A two-day donor conference in Brussels approved a 456 million euros ($560 million) desalination plant to supply drinking water to besieged Gaza Strip people, in hopes of alleviating a severe humanitarian crisis. The plant will provide drinking water to some 2 million Palestinians. At a pledging conference in Brussels on Tuesday, the EU offered more than 77 million euros, which combined with other donations, will meet over 80 percent of the plant’s costs. The European International Bank (EIB) has signed a letter of intent confirming its support for the Gaza Desalination Program. This includes a technical assistance grant for the Palestinian Water Authority, backed by the European Commission. The EIB will launch the tendering procedure for the provision of technical assistance on April 15. “This project will meet the most urgent water needs in Gaza, providing drinking water and at the same time contributing to economic growth, environmental sustainability and stability. I'm proud that the EU pledged €70 million for the desalination plant plus 7.1 million euros for management costs,” EU Commissioner for Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn said.
“Today’s successful pledging conference takes us a step closer to making a reality of this project and to improve living conditions in Gaza, and remove obstacles to economic development there,” he added. “This conference carries a message of hope to our people in Gaza, stressing that the international community is not neglecting their suffering, but diligently working to design interventions to address the dire water situation in Gaza. The project will contribute to the political stability of the region as water scarcity can have grim repercussions and spark further tensions,” Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah said.

Khamenei Criticizes ‘Political Tribalism’, Failure to Fight Corruption
London - Adil Al-Salmi/Asharq Al-Awsat/March 22/18/Iran’s Spiritual Leader Ali Khamenei criticized Iranian officials for failing to fight corruption and disregarding the country’s dynamics. “The most important challenge in the country is the challenge of the mentality and the lack of awareness of the public and some officials about human and natural resources,” he stated, blaming certain officials of being lazy and inactive, hampering the development of the country. Khamenei also pointed to “the existence of political tribalism” as a behavior that prevents progress. He considered the failure to “seriously combat corruption” a main obstacle in Iran, but at the same time denied the spread of corruption in state institutions. In his second speech following the Iranian New Year (Nowruz), Iran’s spiritual leader tackled on Wednesday a long list of local and international issues, sending warnings to officials and international parties.
Khamenei claimed that Iran “played an important role in defeating ISIS,” adding that it “restored stability to an important part of the region.” He also said that his country has prevented the US from implementing its plans in the region. “Without a doubt, the United States will not reach its goals in the region and, thank God, we will achieve ours,” he noted. His comments came after US President Donald Trump angered Iran over a message to its people on the occasion of the Nowruz New Year celebrations. “I wish a beautiful and blessed Nowruz to the millions of people around the world who are celebrating the arrival of spring,” Trump said. He added, however, that the Iranian people were burdened by “rulers who serve themselves instead of serving the people.”The US President added that Iran’s Revolutionary Guard had spent more than $16 billion to support Syria’s regime and back militants and terrorists in Syria, Iraq and Yemen.

Women Rally in Sanaa Agitates Houthi Militias, Recalls Dec. 4 Unrest
Asharq Al-Awsat/March 22/18/Yemen’s General Popular Congress (GPC) party leadership led a women's protest in front of late former President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s Sanaa residence, recalling the atmosphere that pervaded the city on December 4 shortly before his murder. The rally was staged on the occasion of Saleh’s birthday. Iran-backed Houthi militias did not shy away from suppressing the protests carried out by their former coup partners, employing brute violence in the process. Although GPC leaders officially stated that the rally was aimed at commemorating Saleh’s birthday, the Houthis interpreted the demonstration as an unprecedented security threat. Hundreds of gunmen were deployed in the vicinity of Saleh's house, witnesses told Asharq Al-Awsat. Along with a number of armored and military vehicles, Houthis also deployed their female security forces, known as the Zeinabiyat to the scene, the witnesses said. Despite stringent measures imposed by the Houthis, hundreds of women loyal to the former president and his party showed up for the protests. They had reached the main street right across Saleh’s residence just before the militias fired live ammunition to disperse them. When an attempt to intimidate the demonstrators failed, the gunmen began assaulting them with batons and carried out a number of arrests. Several protesters were injured, including leading GPC female figures Faiqa al Sayyed and Wafaa al Dayees. A number of youths loyal to the former president, who resisted Houthis’ attempts to arrest the women, were also rounded up by militiamen. GPC sources said that the detainees were taken to unknown locations. Brigadier General Tariq Salih, Saleh’s nephew, praised the female demonstrators and described them as fighters. “Thank you to all the Yemeni women, and we will not let you down,” he said in a tweet. Observers said that the tweet referred to the continued preparation by forces under his command to avenge the killing of Saleh. In December, Saleh was murdered by the Houthis after he announced that he was severing ties with them and called for opening a new chapter of relations with the Arab-led Coalition. The militias have held his body, fearing a big turnout at his funeral that could turn into another uprising against their rule.

US approves $1bn in Saudi defense contracts
AFP/ Thursday 22 March 2018/WASHINGTON: The United States formally approved defense contracts totaling more than $1 billion with Saudi Arabia on Thursday, as the kingdom’s crown prince continued his American tour.
The State Department confirmed it had green-lighted a $670 million deal for anti-tank missiles, a $106 million contract for helicopter maintenance and $300 million for ground vehicle parts. An official said the deals had been in the pipeline since President Donald Trump agreed more than $100 billion in contracts on a visit to Riyadh last year, but were now formalized.

Mattis tells Saudi Crown Prince: Urgent need to find end to Yemen’s war
Arab News/March 22/18/WASHINGTON: Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on Thursday said Saudi Arabia was “part of the solution” in Yemen, where the Saudis are leading a US-supported military campaign against Houthi rebels. Mattis told reporters at the Pentagon on Thursday that there was an urgent need to find a political solution to Yemen’s war, as he voiced hope for a UN special envoy’s peace efforts. “We must also reinvigorate urgent efforts to seek a peaceful resolution to the civil war in Yemen and we support you in this regard,” Mattis said, offering his firm backing to Riyadh. Asked by reporters at the start of his talks whether he would raise the issue of civilian casualties in Yemen, Mattis said: “We are going to end this war, that is the bottom line. And we are going to end it on positive terms for the people of Yemen but also security for the nations in the peninsula.”Mattis spoke at the start of a Pentagon meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is on a three-week US visit. Earlier this week the Senate debated and then shelved a resolution calling for an end to US support for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen. Mattis had opposed the measure, saying it would be counterproductive by increasing civilian casualties, jeopardizing counterterrorism cooperation and emboldening Iran to increase its support for Houthi rebels. During the photo-taking session with the crown prince, Mattis was asked by a reporter whether he would raise concerns about casualties in Yemen. Mattis said the US is working with the UN’s new envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths of Britain, in pursuit of a political solution to the civil war in Yemen. “We believe that Saudi Arabia is part of the solution,” Mattis said. He added: “They have stood by the United Nations-recognized government, and we are going to end this war. That is the bottom line. And we are going to end it on positive terms for the people of Yemen but also security for the nations in the peninsula.”In prepared remarks, Mattis said the US has a strong relationship with Saudi Arabia in fighting extremists and deterring malign activities by Iran. He said a political settlement in Yemen would protect Saudi Arabia and deny safe haven to terrorists. “Your significant amounts of humanitarian aid is critical to help the innocent caught up in this conflict (and) we applaud you for that,” he told the crown prince. The Saudi Press Agency reported that the meeting between the Saudi Crown Prince and Mattis discussed their countries’ strategic cooperation and means to improve bilateral relations according to Saudi vision 2030. The two leaders also reviewed their efforts to combat terrorism and extremism, as well as ways to improve secutrity and stability in the Middle East region.

Saudi crown prince woos US media with promises of reform
Arab News/March 22/18/WASHINGTON: Photos of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Donald Trump meeting at the White House were published on the front pages of The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday, in what some commentators saw as a public relations coup for Saudi Arabia. The New York Times headlined its story: “Saudi Prince’s White House Visit Reinforces Trump’s Commitment to Heir Apparent.” The crown prince has dominated a significant amount of the capital’s attention this week and the glowing headlines would have been warmly welcomed by the Kingdom’s officials. “The early judgment appears to be that US opinion hopes that MBS’s social and economic reforms will succeed, for the benefit of the Kingdom and the wider Middle East,” said Simon Henderson, director of the Gulf and energy policy program at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
Trump was effusive in his welcome of the Saudi royal, in remarks that received wide press coverage in the US. The US president hailed the US-Saudi relationship as “probably the strongest it has ever been.” “We understand each other,” Trump told reporters. “Saudi Arabia is a very wealthy nation, and they’re going to give the United States some of that wealth, hopefully, in the form of jobs, in the form of the purchase of the finest military equipment anywhere in the world.” The US public has been suspicious of Saudi Arabia, largely since the attacks of 9/11. In reality, the two countries have long been allies, and working in close cooperation on issues of security and economics.
The Kingdom has been trying to remake its public image in the United States to reflect that fact. Dov Zakheim, board director at the Atlantic Council, a leading US think tank, said Saudi Arabia would be delighted with the coverage. “All of this is a clear public relations victory for Saudi and for MBS,” he said.
Zakheim cited an interview with the crown prince on the CBS flagship “60 Minutes” show on Sunday. The show, known for its critical and hard-hitting investigations, gave a highly favorable portrayal. “There is a change there. It’s not a major change, but it’s enough of a change for American policymakers to feel comfortable doing what America has been doing for years, which is cooperating (with Saudi Arabia),” Zakheim said. Trump and the crown prince held talks in Washington on Tuesday. Appearing together before the press, Trump talked at length about arms sales and business deals between Saudi and the US, which he said would create jobs for American workers. The crown prince seemed relaxed and happy as he and the US president fielded questions from the media in a televised appearance. “The optics are all good,” said Jim Smith, a former US ambassador to Saudi Arabia under President Barack Obama. But he expressed concern that Trump’s preoccupation with weapons deals was not the best way for the US to support Saudi reform efforts. “All the White House wanted to talk about was defense sales and the political message of jobs in the US,” he said. On Tuesday evening, the crown prince had dinner with Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, together with Michael Bell, a senior National Security Council official, and Jason Greenblatt, Trump’s Middle East peace envoy.
They talked about Trump’s hopes to start a new Middle East peace process. Experts agree there is little appetite among the Israelis and Palestinians for talks on terms set by the Trump administration. Public relations successes aside, confusion remained about the exact outcome of the US-Saudi talks within the US foreign policy establishment and among Middle East watchers in the US capital. “How does one measure success in Washington? The meeting with President Trump appeared to go well, but the president is fickle,” Henderson, of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said in an emailed response to questions from the Arab News.

Saudi FM: Yemeni crisis can only be solved through political process

Arab News/March 22/18/WASHINGTON: Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister reiterated on Thursday that the crisis in Yemen can only be solved through a political process. Speaking at the Brookings Institution in Washington, Adel Al-Jubeir said the war in Yemen was imposed on Saudi Arabia and is not a war of choice, adding that Saudi Arabia has been dealing with Iranian meddling in the region since the 1979 revolution. “Iran is the problem in the region, it is the source terror and extremism.”Al-Jubeir said the Kingdom is cooperating with the US to contain Iran, who are the backers of the Houthis in Yemen, insisting that Tehran must be held accountable for supplying ballistic missiles to the militias there. “Houthi militia in Yemen are connected to Iran, they have staged a coup against the internationally recognized government and the peace process supported by the UN”  Al-Jubeir said that Iran's nuclear deal with the west needs to be reviewed, specially the inspection mechanism. 'The deal doesn’t solve all of the problems with Tehran", warned Saudi Arabia’s top diplomat. “Tehran has supplied ballistic missiles to the Houthi militia, this is not a responsible act” said Al-Jubeir as he answered questions after his keynote address at the institute.
Al-Jubeir also blamed Iran for the failure to end the war in Syria, he said that “shia militia and Iran’s influence obstruct the political settlement in Syria.”The Saudi Foreign Minister added that “the tragedies in Syria affected millions of Syrians” and the only way out to end the suffering is through a political transition.
Al-Jubeir reiterated his country’s commitment to finding a peaceful settlement between the Palestinians and the Israelis according to the Arab Peace Initiative of 2002. He also reiterated his country’s commitment to reform and gave examples that illustrate the will of the kingdom to be more transparent and work to improve human rights and women rights. In terms of investment, Al-Jubeir elaborated the importance of the economic cooperation between the two allies and he explained that "Saudi Arabia has close to $800 billion invested in the US" and that “We intend to take our economic relationship with the US to a higher level.” Al-Jubeir said

Saudi intelligence sharing ‘has saved American lives,’ former Homeland Security adviser Frances Townsend tells Arab News
Arab News/March 22/18/WASHINGTON: The strength of the US counterterrorism relationship with Saudi Arabia “rivals” that with its historic ally the UK — although this has yet to register with the American public, a former homeland security adviser told Arab News. Information provided by the Kingdom has prevented several terror attacks and helped save American lives, said Frances Townsend, who worked in the administration of former US President George W. Bush. Saudi Arabia has stood “shoulder to shoulder” with the Americans in combating terrorism, Townsend said. “This relationship has developed in terms of counterterrorism — in particular, information sharing and intelligence sharing — which from the United States’ point of view rivals (what we share with) Britain, our longest historic ally,” she said. “We have a critical information and intelligence-sharing relationship that is almost unparalleled with any of our other partners. She cited two terror plots that were prevented specifically due to intelligence from Saudi Arabia. “The intelligence exchange between Saudi and American officials has saved American lives,” Townsend said. “It is a very important ... partnership. It is critical to protecting the American homeland.” Yet this is not something recognized by many Americans, who are still acutely aware that 15 of the 19 hijackers in the 9/11 terror attacks were Saudi citizens, Townsend said. “That ... single fact is what has stuck in people’s minds,” she said, adding that the attacks sought to “drive a wedge” between the Kingdom and the U. “We had to work very hard during the Bush administration, when I was in the White House, to repair that relationship,” she said. Townsend, speaking to Arab News during the visit by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to Washington, said that the royal visit could help address some of these concerns. “What you would hope is that people see this longstanding historic relationship is not just about oil, it is not just about money. But this is about economics, it is about security, it is ... a bigger, broader, stronger relationship,” she said. The White House said earlier this week that the US, Saudi Arabia and UAE were planning a tripartite security forum that would meet regularly to address issues such as the alleged threat posed by Iran. This agreement would help to strengthen intelligence ties, Townsend said “That sort of a dialogue, at a strategic level, can be very productive,” she said.
“Our partners in the region — the Emiratis, the Saudis — have suffered from Iranian aggression, whether that is in Yemen, Syria, Iraq or Bahrain. “I think the (Saudi) crown prince, in particular, has shown real leadership in terms of confronting and addressing that threat. And so I think that it is beneficial to all three parties to share intelligence, both tactical and strategic,” she said.

First Rebels Quit Syria Enclave under Russia-Brokered Deal

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/March 22/18/Syrian rebels and their families began leaving Syria's Eastern Ghouta on Thursday under the first evacuation deal in the shrinking opposition enclave outside Damascus. The agreement, announced on Wednesday and brokered by regime ally Russia, could empty one of three rebel-held pockets in the region and mark a major advance in government efforts to secure the nearby capital. It could also increase pressure on rebels to follow suit in the two other opposition-held pockets of the besieged enclave, where tens of thousands of civilians remain trapped under relentless bombardment. State television said around 1,824 people -- including 319 fighters -- had boarded buses from the Eastern Ghouta town of Harasta, until now held by the Ahrar al-Sham rebel group. A military source told AFP the rebels and accompanying civilians had boarded buses and were in a buffer zone, waiting to cross into regime-controlled territory. Another military source said around 2,000 people are expected to leave in total, including around 700 fighters on Thursday. Ahrar al-Sham spokesman Munzer Fares said the evacuations could last several days. They followed renewed air strikes in Ghouta early on Thursday which killed 20 civilians, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Since February 18, a devastating Russian-backed offensive on Eastern Ghouta has sliced the shrinking enclave into three isolated pockets.
Rebels cut off
Central Damascus lies within mortar range of Eastern Ghouta, and the evacuation deal came after the deadliest rebel rocket attack on the capital in months killed 44 civilians on Tuesday. Rebel fire on Thursday killed four people in Damascus, state television said. The regime's offensive on Ghouta has killed more than 1,500 civilians since February 18, according to Observatory. The rebels and their families will be transported to the northwestern province of Idlib, which is held by a myriad of jihadist, Islamist and secular groups, many with links to Turkey. The evacuation from Harasta will further isolate the rebel groups that control the remaining two pockets of Eastern Ghouta and pile pressure on them to accept similar deals. Syrian Reconciliation Minister Ali Haidar told AFP that Ahrar al-Sham had negotiated with the Russian Center for Reconciliation and that Damascus was not directly involved. Nawar Oliver, an analyst at the Turkey-based Omran Center, said fighters in Harasta "were not able to impose a single one of their conditions."
'Tragic' conditions -
Opposition figures in Ghouta said talks were under way for a deal to evacuate rebels from the enclave's main town, Douma. Douma is controlled by the Jaish al-Islam group, while a pocket of territory around the town of Zamalka, closer to the capital, is held by Faylaq al-Rahman with a small jihadist presence. Air strikes on Zamalka killed 16 civilians on Thursday, the Observatory said. An AFP reporter in Douma said hundreds of civilians were fleeing the town. Similar evacuation deals have seen the government retake a string of former rebel bastions. A May 2014 deal saw rebels pull out of third city Homs, once labeled the "capital of the revolution" that sparked Syria's seven-year civil war. In December 2016, the army retook the whole of second city Aleppo as rebels withdrew in one of their worst defeats of the war. Those agreements also followed devastating bombardments that took a heavy toll on trapped civilians. The assault on Ghouta has sparked a mass exodus of civilians from the shrinking rebel enclave. Some 50,000 people have reached shelters in government-controlled territory in the past week, according to the United Nations. On Wednesday, the U.N.'s humanitarian coordinator in Syria said those displaced were living in "tragic" conditions. "People may have escaped fighting, fear and insecurity but they find themselves in a place without anywhere to wash themselves," Ali al-Zaatari said.

Beginning of the end for Ghouta rebels: Thousands flee relentless regime assault
Arab News/March 22/18/JEDDAH: Hundreds of Syrian opposition fighters and their relatives began evacuating a key besieged town in Eastern Ghouta on Thursday. Their departure was the first rebel surrender from the region east of Damascus where more than 1,500 people have been killed in one of the most ferocious regime onslaughts of the Syrian conflict. Syrian TV broadcast footage showing dozens of white buses, with opposition fighters and civilians on board, driving out of the Harasta. Among the 1,580 evacuees were 413 gunmen, reports said. More are expected to leave in the coming days. Yahya Al-Aridi, spokesman for the Syrian opposition, told Arab News he did not see it as a “surrender” because of the overwhelming firepower used by the government military and the “superpower” supporting them — Russia. Iran also backs President Bashar Assad with dozens of heavily armed militias. The devastation wrought on Eastern Ghouta shows that the world appears to have lost its conscience, Al-Aridi said. “The (UN) Security Council is being hijacked by Russia. The power of Iran has no deterrence. We hear words, we hear statements, we hear claims, we hear screams and cries from the West, but nothing happens,” he said. The departure from Harasta of opposition fighters from the Ahrar Al-Sham group could serve as a blueprint for other militants in other towns, bringing Assad’s regime closer to recapturing the entire territory following years of siege. The regime assault has sparked a tide of displacement in the Damascus suburbs as civilians try to escape the violence. Some have moved deeper into the opposition-held enclave, while some 50,000 others have crossed the front-lines, to regime-controlled areas. They included dozens of civilians who appeared to be wounded, some hobbling on crutches, another with an eye injury. Regime airstrikes pummelled parts of Eastern Ghouta in the morning, striking Arbin and Zamalka and killing 19 people, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. Later, opposition fighters fired rockets from Eastern Ghouta into Damascus, killing two people, state media reported. Between 18,000 and 20,000 people were expected to stay in Harasta under government rule, a military source told Reuters. The air and ground attack, which escalated on Feb. 18, has seen the once sprawling territory at the doors of the capital shrink to three disconnected opposition-held islands. The international medical charity Doctors Without Borders said the advancing regime forces had captured or destroyed 19 of the 20 hospitals the group was supporting just one week ago. It said medical staff were fleeing the approaching front lines. The opposition holds just 20 percent of the Eastern Ghouta territory they held one month ago, according to the Syrian Observatory. But that territory includes several densely populated residential zones including Douma, the largest town in Eastern Ghouta. Al-Aridi said the rebels had been “defending their lands, their families and their honor, while Russia, along with 80 Iranian militias and the remnants of the Assad regime, is targeting people who are trying to protect themselves. “We try to save as many Syrians as possible because no one else cares about Syrians. This has been going on for seven continuous horrible years.”
Sarkozy Says Will Clear Name, Has 'Finished' in Politics
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/March 22/18/Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy vowed to clear his name on Friday after being charged for financing his 2007 election campaign with money from late Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi, but said he was "finished" in politics.
"It might take me one, two, 10 years but I'll smash this group (of accusers) and will restore my honor," he said during an emotion-charged prime-time television interview. "I don't plan to give an inch!"Having already stepped back from a front-line public role in 2016 after he failed with a bid to run again for president, Sarkozy added that for himself "politics is finished." In a half-hour performance that saw him shake with indignation at times, Sarkozy frequently referred to his accusers from Gadhafi's regime as "sinister", "liars" and a "group of killers.""If you had told me that I would have problems because of Gadhafi, I would have said: 'What are you smoking?'" Sarkozy said at one point, claiming that investigators had not found a single piece of evidence against him. "I am hurt deeply as a person, not for me, for my country," Sarkozy said in his concluding remarks. "You can't drag people into the mud because some killers wanted to do it. I can't let them get away with it." Sarkozy, who served as president from 2007 to 2012, has been charged with corruption, illegal campaign financing and concealment of Libyan public money, a judiciary source told AFP. Under the French system, charging a suspect means that investigators believe they have strong and corroborated evidence against them, but the investigation will continue. Investigating magistrates, who have been looking into alleged Libyan financing for five years, will decide at the next stage of the probe whether to recommend Sarkozy goes to trial.

British PM May says Russia poses threat to all of Europe

Thu 22 Mar 2018/NNA - British Prime Minister Theresa May said she would tell other European Union leaders on Thursday that Russia posed a threat to the whole bloc, not only to Britain, following an attack using a military-grade nerve agent in England. “Russia staged a brazen and reckless attack against the United Kingdom,” May told reporters on arriving at an EU summit. “It’s clear that the Russian threat does not respect borders and indeed the incident in (the town of) Salisbury was a pattern of Russian aggression against Europe and its near neighbors.” -- REUTERS

At least 14 killed in Mogadishu car bombing
Thu 22 Mar 2018/NNA - At least 14 people were killed and several others wounded on Thursday when a car bomb blew up outside a popular hotel in the Somalia's capital Mogadishu. The Al-Qaeda aligned Shabaab group said it was responsible for the blast in front of the Weheliye hotel in the city centre, claiming it had targeted a gathering of government officials, army and intelligence officers. A government spokesman said 14 people had died but the toll could rise as rescuers search through the debris. "There was a heavy blast here and the number of casualties we have is so far 14 killed and a number of others wounded," said Abdiazis Ali Ibrahim, a security ministry spokesman. "The toll could be higher," he added. Witnesses described a big explosion on Makkah al-Mukarama street, one of the city's busiest running through central Mogadishu, which was packed with people heading home from work at the time.--AFP

Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on March 22-23/18
The Relationship between Money, Oil and Weapons

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed/Asharq Al-Awsat/March 22/18
Relations between states are based on interests; this sentence is frequently repeated and remains valid in understanding politics. Saudi Arabia’s relationship with the United States - the region’s most established and longest lasting with Washington - is no exception.
The Americans discovered oil in Saudi Arabia about 80 years ago, while other countries’ explorations failed. They established a new oil entity in Saudi Arabia in the 1930s, led by Standard Oil. The relationship between the two countries has continued; Riyadh has considered the US a strategic partner since the 1950s, and vice versa. Naturally, the two partners cannot agree on all the issues and interests, but the relationship has been beneficial for both sides. However, it suffered a setback under the previous US administration, when US interest in this region declined and Washington’s interests in the Asia-Pacific countries were thought to be more important than those in the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia. That view did not persist after Donald Trump became president; although the relationship remains within the context of interests, regardless of expectations and the president’s identity.
Moreover, it is not true that the US is an open market for whoever wants to buy weapons, as some comments on President Trump’s statement — when he talked about arms sales in the presence of the Saudi crown prince — suggested. The US had refused to sell arms to Saudi Arabia in 1987, even though large amounts of money were involved, as well as in 2008 under the Bush administration. President Obama also stopped arming Saudi Arabia a month before he left office. But despite these setbacks, Saudi Arabia for the most part has succeeded in winning the arguments over the supply of armaments from one of the most important manufacturers of the best weapons in the world, America. Saudi Arabia had a famous battle over AWACS aircraft in the early 1980s, which it won by a small margin of votes in Congress. Many countries’ requests to buy American weapons were refused; others failed to get the approval of Congress, while some were formulated in an impossible way, as was the case with Pakistan, which Senator Rand Paul described as a “frenemy.” Some requests were even rejected outright, as was the case with Taiwan.
The biggest challenge to Saudi Arabia was when the previous US administration decided to stop supplying ammunition and providing military intelligence, without which the air war in Yemen would be almost impossible. Together with military deals comes the special political relationship, which is just as important, and which makes countries such as Iran take extra care when dealing with the Kingdom. Consequently, interests, viewed as a balance that holds the relationship, remain generally in our favor. A relationship between two countries that is based on economic and military cooperation delivers the most desired outcome. What distinguishes Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s visit to the US is that he represents a new Saudi project — or, perhaps more accurately, a new Saudi Arabia; a country that is heading toward change, and government and community development. His project has nothing to do with America or Britain. The project of change is directed toward Saudi Arabia and the Saudis, as he himself says. This resolves the crisis of a stereotypical image and societal relations, and represents one of the problems of Saudi relations with the world as a whole. It sees him as a state modernizer and a pragmatic reformer.
The reason why he was warmly welcomed on his visit to Britain, and is now welcomed in the US, is because he began implementing his planned program two years ago. Even opponents of Saudi Arabia received him with appreciation and recognition of his seriousness. Thus, it does not matter how some may try to explain the quest to improve relations with major powers, especially, the US.
Indeed, these relations are based on historical and pragmatic foundations, including important interests and a realistic view in which each side does not expect what the other side may not be able to deliver.

A New Term for a New ‘Tsar’

Eyad Abu Shakra/Asharq Al Awsat/March 22/18
Vladimir Putin won Russia’s presidential elections… again!
An ‘electoral’ victory for the ‘Kremlin Tsar’ was not actually in doubt; and if the obvious reason is the lack of well-organized opposition, there are no less significant other reasons.
Without any prejudice against Russian political history and great heritage, and keeping in mind the fact that it was the power that came close to dominating the world, and is still capable of exterminating mankind and destroying our planet tens - even hundreds - of times over, Russia has never experienced democracy.
Yes, Russia has neither experienced nor practiced democracy, at least as defined and conceived in the West.
Russia moved from the primitive state of the Volga ‘Rus’, as depicted by the Arab traveler Ahmad Ibn Fadlan, the envoy of the Abbasid Caliph Al-Muqtadir (ruled between 908 and 932 AD) to the Volga Bulgars, to the Tsarist era. During that time, and thanks to three Tsars - Ivan ‘The Terrible’, Peter ‘The Great’ and Catherine II (or ‘The Great’) - Russia became a European and global power.
The Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 ended the Tsarist era; and subsequently, the Communist Bolsheviks assumed absolute power albeit in the name of the people, indeed, the people’s working class.
Between 1917 and the collapse of the Soviet Union (USSR) in 1991 many faces, slogans and principles changed; however, nothing really changed in Russia’s imperialist ambitions and its authoritarian style of government.
In practice, the old Tsar - then the nation’s leader and the Orthodox Church protector - remained a virtual ‘tsar’ who retained absolute power. The ‘comradery’ spirit was rarely in view during leadership changes among its ‘commissars’, ‘ideologues’ and ‘peoples’ heroes’. The accepted norm was either: execution, deposition or exile … whether in Mexico where Leo Trotsky was murdered, or Siberia where several leading ‘comrades’ ended working in ‘collective farms’, energy generation stations, and other ‘retirement’ homes.
However, the USSR, this giant of a country, with a land area of more than 22 million square km – making it by far the World’s largest –, eventually collapsed after it failed to regenerate itself, cure its economic ills, and improve its view on human rights.
This great country, which pioneered space exploration and dominated almost half of the our planet, failed when it became clear that its ‘Communist’ leaders, such as Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin – as well as the KGB man Vladimir Putin – had nothing to do with Socialism, ‘peoples’ friendship’ or ‘proletariat’ lifestyle. It was gone when its ‘red tsars’ turned against their own slogans, idealism, and sermons broadcast across the world to millions, who eventually believed in them, and even fought and died attempting to fulfill them. The irony is that Soviet ‘Communism’ fell in Moscow but has remained alive and well in Havana, the capital of Cuba!
Following the demise brought about by former ‘comrades’, a new regime dawned. It has been a ‘hybrid system’ comprised of former Communist Party ‘apparatchiks’ brought to the top by nepotism and personal loyalties, a hotchpotch of ‘mafias’, and ‘front men’ of Western capital rushing to penetrate the ‘new’ Russia through wholesale privatization. The aim was to occupy what was the ‘heart’ of the falling giants and its largest and richest constituent.
It is fair to say the demise of the USSR began with Gorbachev’s accelerating concessions to the West’s most belligerent anti-Moscow leaderships. Dancing to tune of cynical Western praise of his ‘vision’ and ‘courage’, Gorbachev went too far in a naive and premature ‘opening up’. His actions were bound to worry the ‘Old Guard’ about selling out both Socialist ideals and the USSR power.
In the meantime, there was the rising star, Boris Yeltsin. The former Moscow Communist Party’s boss shocked many observers in April 1990, during his visit to London, when he showered Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, the staunch anti-Socialist and avowed ‘enemy’ of trades unions, with admiration!
The ‘Old Guards’ unsuccessful desperate coup attempt during the summer of 1991 in the faint hope of ‘rescuing’ the USSR, actually, accelerated its collapse; more so when Yeltsin rode the wave against it. The attempt, itself, showed beyond doubt the fragility of the political, intellectual, and economic structure of a regime that had passed its sell by date.
With the rise of Yeltsin and demise of the USSR, Russia began a new phase in its history, virtually in every respect except its distance from true democracy. The aforementioned ‘hybrid system’ inherited, in fact, all the ills of the former Communist regime, but not its promotion of socialism and ‘peoples’ friendship’. However, it was never in the interest of the victorious West - after a long and fierce confrontation with USSR - to uncover the full truth about the new regime. On the contrary, the West was ready to overlook strident corruption, growth of diverse ‘mafias’, and fake democracy; as the West regarded Yeltsin merely as a receiver of a failed business. Actually, it was vital for Western capitals that Yeltsin continued his destruction of a the very power that threatened Western interests for so long.
Still, Russia remains much larger than any individual; and as time passed, seasoned political and well-connected ‘loyalists’ moved to reclaim their presence; among those was the ambitious and steely ex-KGB man Vladimir Putin, who stealthily managed to find his way to Yeltsin’s inner circle.
Ruthlessly putting down the Chechen second uprising (1999-2000) was the ‘blood baptism’ of the new leader rising from the intelligence community’s dungeons. Putin who hails from St. Petersburg, the old Tsarist capital built by Peter the Great - Russia’s greatest emperor - and made an architectural gem and a window to Europe, before becoming the birthplace of the Bolshevik Revolution, is a man with a strong memory and formidable willpower.
He embodies almost all the elements of Russia’s identity, and its nationalistic and religious pride. His psyche is infused with its imperial voracity, pains of its defeats and besiegement through the centuries. Thus, after his ‘coronation’ yet again, nobody should ever expect from Putin anything different from his systematic destruction of Syria under the pretext of confronting extremists.
Furthermore, amid America’s confusion and Europe’s distraction, it is worth recalling one of Putin’s quotes: "No one should have any illusions that it's possible to achieve military superiority over Russia; we will never allow it!” …
So, we have witnessed the confirmation of a new kind of ‘Tsars’, albeit through the ballot box.

Is the United Kingdom an Islamist Colony?
Tom Quiggin/Gatestone Institute/March 22/2018
If the gang members were "Asian," records were not kept. Such is the cowardice and criminal negligence of the police involved.
These Sharia courts mean that the legal system of a foreign political ideology, Islam, has created a parallel legal system in which Sharia is placed above English common law. It is thought that some 30 to 85 Sharia courts are operating in England and Wales alone.
"The Muslim Brotherhood's foundational texts call for the progressive moral purification of individuals and Muslim societies and their eventual political unification in a Caliphate under Sharia law. To this day the Muslim Brotherhood characterises Western societies and liberal Muslims as decadent and immoral. It can be seen primarily as a political project." — Prime Minister David Cameron, 2014, regarding a report withheld from the public [Emphases added].
The United Kingdom, once an imperial power, now sounds more like a colonial vassal. The actions of British government officials suggest that the will of the government has collapsed in the face of terrorist and ideological assaults by the forces of political Islam. The ideology is being spread by, among others, the Muslims Brotherhood, according to a major report of the British government itself. A number of Muslim Brotherhood front groups have been identified as such by government reports such as those of the United Arab Emirates. These include the UK based Cordoba Foundation, the Muslim Association of Britain, and Islamic Relief UK. All three of these organization are listed as terrorist entities in the United Arab Emirates as well.
Those officials who have submitted to the Islamist cause include Prime Minister May, formerly the Home Secretary, who had responsibility for police, immigration, and intelligence activities. Having been Home Secretary from May 12, 2010 to July 13, 2016, she cannot argue she is unaware of the UK's internal problems. She was also Home Secretary when the damning Jay Report on the mass rape of girls in Rotherham was made public.
The problem has become so widespread, it can now be asked if the British government has moved into a colonial mindset. In other words, the UK now appears to have the status of a dhimmi: those who live in Islamist conquered lands but through submission are allowed to keep their original faith. The British government appears more willing to respond to the demands of the Islamist ideological offensive than it does to protecting its own subjects against mass rapes, honour killings, Female Genital Mutilation, terrorist attacks and the generalized oppression of women by Sharia councils (courts).
After the June 2017 Islamist terrorist attack, which killed seven persons, Prime Minster May appeared in public and stated that "enough was enough." She said that there was "far too much tolerance of extremism." On the surface, it appeared that the Prime Minister had actually had enough of the Islamist ideology, extremism and terrorism in the UK.
Alas, the words turned out to be just the usual empty platitudes from No 10. Shortly after the PM's statement, Hezbollah and Hamas flags were openly flown in London during the Al Quds Day March on June 18, 2017. Not only did the UK government fail to attempt to stop this Hezbollah inspired march; the UK police assisted them by providing security and protection.
It is not just the Prime Minister who is the problem. In Manchester last May, after the suicide bombing which killed 22 and injured hundreds at the door of a music concert, the mayor, Andy Burnham, had some advice: what was needed was for everyone to "work together" and "terrorists will never beat us." Mayor Burnham also said that the best plan was to "carry on with day to day life". How come he failed to say that the best plan was not to "carry on"; that perhaps the best plan was to cease submitting to the will of a foreign ideology and act to counter its schools, proxies, fundraisers, apologists and front groups?
The problem in the UK is not just the fear instilled in the body politic by terrorist attacks. The well-documented sexual assaults by South Asian and Muslim mass-rape gangs attacking children in the UK is another major crime wave crushing the confidence of the British in their own government.
In March of 2018 another coverup was exposed concerning a series of mass rapes, druggings, sex trafficking and murders in Telford. The report identifies that the problem began in the 1980s, was identified by social workers in the 1990s; and only in 1996, a resident went to police with information about a key abuser who was selling underage girls for sex Police, social workers, and the town council covered up the widespread abuse for decades as they were afraid of being called "racist." The eleven-year-old girls involved were identified as "prostitutes" as though children can even be said to make such a choice. If the gang members were "Asian," records were not kept. Such is the cowardice and criminal negligence of the police involved.
The counter-extremism think-tank Quilliam, run mainly by Muslims of South Asian origin, says that 85% of those convicted of mass rape are of South Asian origin. Seven in ten of those convicted are believed to be of Pakistani-Muslim heritage. Of note, Asians make up only 7% of the total UK population.
The first major case of rape gangs grooming children apparently took place in Rotherham, UK. The Jay Report noted that some 1,400 mainly white children, aged 11 to 14, had been drugged, raped, and forced into sexual slavery while being trafficked throughout the region between 1997 and 2013. A variety of civic officials, town councilors, police, and the local Member of Parliament had evidently been aware of the abuse for years but had remained silent. Those who spoke out were silenced.
In the English town of Rotherham (population ca. 258,000), at least 1,400 children were sexually abused by a gang of Muslim men of Pakistani descent.
Three of the previous inquiries from 2002, 2003 and 2009 had found similar issues, but those reports were "effectively suppressed." At the time, UK Home Secretary Theresa May described it as "institutionalized political correctness." The Member of Parliament for Rotherham, Denis McShane, said that as a "Guardian reading lefty," he thought that there was a culture of not wanting to rock the multicultural community boat, if I may put it like that.
The mass rape problem is endemic but is not limited to Rotherham and Telford. It has also affected, among others places, Bristol, Derby, Rochdale, Peterborough, Newcastle, Oxfordshire, Bradford, Keighley, Banbury, Halifax, Leeds, Birmingham, Norwich, Burney, High Wycombe, Dewsbury and Middlesbrough.
The common link in all these cases is that the grooming gangs are of south Asian origin and that the responsible authorities chose silence over the risk of "offending" them by appearing racist or "Islamophobic." If mass rape of a country's children over a period of decades is not enough to force a government to act, the question is, what is?
Silencing Dissent
Meanwhile, as reports of the latest mass rape scandals in Telford were spreading, Brittany Pettibone and Martin Sellner were attempting to enter the United Kingdom. They had planned to present themselves at the Speaker's Corner in London's Hyde Park and to interview Tommy Robinson, the former leader of the English Defence League. Martin Sellner is a well known Austrian activist and student who is also the leader of the "new right" Identitarian Movement. Brittany Pettibone is a self-described "American nationalist". Both were refused entry by UK officials on suspicion of "inciting hatred and tension between local communities".
The eminent scholar of Islam Robert Spencer was also banned from entering England in 2013, at the same time as "the UK Home Office admitted the Pakistani Muslim cleric Syed Muzaffar Shah Qadri, whose preaching of hatred and jihad violence is so hardline that he is banned from preaching in Pakistan.
Dr. Martin Parsons, head of research at the Barnabas Fund, which helps Christians escape persecution, pointed out that Britain grants visas to Islamic leaders who demand the execution of Christians accused of blasphemy against the Islamic faith, and it routinely grants asylum to senior members of the Muslim Brotherhood despite the fact that they repeatedly incite violence against the Egyptian Coptic Christians.
This month, Canadian citizen Lauren Southern was also detained. Ms. Southern is a political activist and Internet personality with known right wing views. She had run for the Libertarian Party in the 2015 Canadian federal election and worked for Rebel Media. Her entry to the UK was refused as she poses a threat to the "fundamental interests of society" and was further identified as a threat to the "public policy of the United Kingdom." She was denied entry under anti-terrorism legislation (Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act of 2000) even though no association to terrorism was made.
The UK government seems incapable of tackling the mass rape gangs in the UK and yet they willfully allowed Youssef Zaghba to enter the UK, despite his being on a security watchlist and authorities warned that he was a terrorist. Mr. Zaghba then proceeded to help carry out the terrorist attack in June of 2017 on a London Bridge.
The same UK government, however, stops journalists and activists from entering as they are supposedly a threat to the "fundamental interests of society."
Women and Power
Ironically, even women in positions of power such as Prime Minister May submit to jihadi threats and aid in silencing the ensuing criticism. Another example, Joyce Thacker, was the £130,000-a-year (USD $180,000) Strategic Director of the City of Rotherham's children's services department for five years, while the ongoing rapes and sex trafficking of eleven to fourteen-year-old girls was proceeding apace. Not only did the child services department do nothing to help the 1400 girls being raped and forced into prostitution, she and others went out of their way to silence anyone who tried to speak out against it. The reason for the enforced silence over a period of years was identified in the UK government report as "institutionalized political correctness." Of note, Joyce Thacker, after being exposed, received a £40,000 pay-off from the local Labour-run authority when she left her position.
Female Labour Member of Parliament Naz Shah also apparently supports the position of the rapists over that of girls who were raped. In a rather startling tweet, she stated that the abused girls in Rotherham and elsewhere just need "shut their mouths for the good of diversity." For her, the ideology of diversity is more important than the mass rape and trafficking of girls.
The female head of the London Metropolitan Police Force, Cressida Dick, has also tried to downplay the mass rape of girls by stating that rape gangs have "been part of our society for centuries." The problem with her statement is that no evidence exists to support her position.
In addition to women in government who hold such toxic positions on the rape of girls, it seems that Lily Allan, a British singer, actor and TV presenter, also does. When she was questioned on the idea of whether thousands of young British girls (11 to 14) would have avoided being raped if their rapists had not been allowed to immigrate into the UK, she replied, "Actually, there's a strong possibility they would have been raped and abused by somebody else at some point. That's kind of the issue."
Free Speech Crushed
The Lord Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, claims that the London Met Police are heavily engaged in the attacking hate crimes. This appears to have been confirmed by the London Met who stated on their own website that "Currently, we have over 900 specialist hate crime investigators working across London's dedicated hate crime Community Safety Units (CSUs)." These officers are apparently working on "hate crimes" such as Facebook postings and other social media platforms, while London suffers from terrorist attacks, acid attacks, moped gang swarmings and an increasing number of young people dying in the emerging plague of knife crimes. The question must be asked about priorities here and whether the Mayor and the London Met are more interested in tackling real crimes or in suppressing the blow-back they create.
The UK's Two Legal Systems
It has become a common practice that marriages in some mosques in the UK are not registered with the civil authorities. When Muslim women living in the UK are faced with issues of child support, divorce and wife beating, they often find that their marriage was not legally recorded.
When they try to work with Sharia tribunals, these women then find out they have few rights and are often told that the fault is their own and they need to return to their abusive husbands. As reported in The Telegraph:
"When Aisha approached a Sharia council in the UK about divorcing her husband, she faced a barrage of questions. 'Have you been supportive to him?' she was asked. 'Are you meeting his needs? Cooking and cleaning?' She was told to go back and be 'a better wife'. Her husband had repeatedly assaulted her."
These courts mean that the legal system of a foreign political ideology, Islam, has created a parallel legal system in which Sharia is placed above English common law. It is thought that some 30 to 85 Sharia courts are operating in England and Wales alone.
Female Genital Mutilation
Girls in the United Kingdom are being taught to put spoons down the front of their underwear if they fear they are being shipped to Africa or South Asia to suffer Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) at the hands of their parents. The spoons will trigger metal detectors at the airport and allow the girls to explain to security (in private) why they fear going abroad.
Thousands of cases of FGM have been reported with little being done. Some 5,500 cases of FGM were reported in 2016 alone, including 1,268 newly recorded cases from October to December of 2016 compared with 1,240 in the previous quarter. No cases have been successfully prosecuted and only one has gone to trial, despite the practice being banned more than 30 years ago. Why does the UK government fear attacking such an issue, given that young British girls are being sexually mutilated? Votes?
An Assault on the Basic Principle of the State
Emanuel Kant believed that the "safety of the republic is the highest law" (Salus Rei Publicae Suprema Lex Esto). John Locke argued that what is most important is the security of the people. Jean-Jacques Rousseau believes that the object of government is the good of the people and that a social contract is required to defend and protect the common good.
The foundation of international law says that each country, or nation state, has sovereignty over its own territory and domestic affairs, to the exclusion of all external powers. The basics of the Westphalian state are that two factors are incumbent on a sovereign state: defense of the national territory and defense of the population. This, of course, means enforcing and defending the borders while maintaining in the country an effective security, police and justice system.
When government leaders from the town council to the Westminster Parliament prefer the mass rapes of their own girls to the possibility of "offending" rapists, it can be safely stated that a corrosively submissive attitude has taken over the government. When girls are being advised to put spoons in their underwear to avoid FGM, social standards in the UK have clearly collapsed. When police refuse to record the names of suspected rapists because they are "Asian the outcome of criminal investigations is being enforced not by law but by political correctness. When terrorism rips open the bodies of children and civic officials say that the inhabitants of the town should just "carry on," it is a sign that politicians can no longer govern.
The long-term plan of the Islamists, led by the organizations such as the Muslim Brotherhood –the full report on which was suppressed and withheld from the public is coming to fruition.
The UK government is aware of these issues as its own investigation into the Muslim Brotherhood revealed as much. Theresa May was the Home Secretary when this report was released.
Prime Minister David Cameron's statement in 2014 on this issue was:
"Aspects of the Muslim Brotherhood's ideology and activities therefore run counter to British values of democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, equality and the mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs. The Muslim Brotherhood's foundational texts call for the progressive moral purification of individuals and Muslim societies and their eventual political unification in a Caliphate under Sharia law. To this day the Muslim Brotherhood characterises Western societies and liberal Muslims as decadent and immoral. It can be seen primarily as a political project." (Emphases added)
The Muslim Brotherhood does not attempt to hide this objective. Yusuf Qaradawi, identified as the leading inspirational cleric of the Muslim Brotherhood, makes this clear when he states:
"This means that Islam will come back to Europe for the third time, after it was expelled from it twice... Conquest through Da'wa, that is what we hope for. We will conquer Europe, we will conquer America! Not through sword but through Da'wa."
When Theresa May, the Prime Minister and former Home Secretary of the UK, will not take substantive action against any of this ideological and physical assault, it is reasonable to say that the decades long incursion on the British government by Islamist ideologists is likely gaining ground. Little to no action is being taken against the proxies, charities, fundraisers and front groups, even though they are generally well known and have even been identified by other governments which are well placed to make the assessments.
With Westminster brought to its knees, the drive to reduce the United Kingdom to a colonial satrapy seems well underway.
**Tom Quiggin is a former military intelligence officer, a former intelligence contractor for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and a court appointed expert on jihadist terrorism in both the Federal and criminal courts of Canada. Much of the material for this article comes from the recently published book, "SUBMISSION: The Danger of Political Islam to Canada – With a Warning to America", written with co-authors Tahir Gora, Saied Shoaaib, Jonathon Cotler, and Rick Gill with a foreword by Raheel Raza.
© 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.

How Facebook and Social Media Promote Terrorism
Uzi Shaya/Gatestone Institute/March 22/2018
The failure by the social media networks to enforce the prevention of terror-related content on their sites is, in fact, a direct violation of the Antiterrorism Act and the Material Supply Statutes; the general public is also in its right to have the protections of the Community Decency Act of 1996 cover content on social media.
The conclusion is that the social media companies are adopting an adversarial case-by-case approach to enforcing a ban on terror incitement on their platforms.
The nature of Islamic terrorism throughout the world has changed in recent years. Alongside the established and organized groups -- such as Hezbollah, Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and even ISIS -- a new and different type terror has been created, one that is nourished ideologically, spiritually, and intellectually by these groups, yet shows no connection -- organizationally or operationally -- to them.
This terror is defined by what we refer to as "lone wolves." These are individuals whose nationalistic motives, religious incitement or psychological needs propel them to commit acts of terror without being a member of an organized group or cell. The one unifying aspect for all these lone wolves is social media.
Social media networks enable any individual to have his voice and his opinions heard so that his proclamations can resonate with audiences that are far-reaching. Unfortunately, the existing freedoms on social media have been manipulated by terrorist groups to create a threat that poses a clear and present danger to citizens around the world.
Terrorist groups around the world have recognized the potential of social media and these networks have become an essential component -- in fact, an unhindered course of action -- in allowing the global terrorist networks greatly to expand the operations of terror groups and their supporters worldwide, and affect billions of people around the world. These operations and activities include disseminating "open messages," the recruitment of new members and supporters, but most importantly to advertise and promote the essence of their terror movement and the glorified aftermath of attacks that they have perpetrated. In the process, the terrorist groups can reach a potential army of a million possible soldiers without any direct connection to them.
This is how lone wolves are born.
Under the guise of protecting free speech, the social media conglomerates have not risen to the challenge of stemming the use of their networks and platforms by terrorist entities and have, instead, turned a blind eye to the growing and menacing phenomenon. Equally harmfully, under illusion of virtue-signaling and "political correctness" to show they are not "racist," they have been censoring material that warns the public about these current dangers.
As a direct result of several high-profile terrorist attacks and the outcry from victims, along with an increased global profile of ISIS and subsequent legal action brought against these companies, social media networks have only marginally addressed the issue of limiting terrorist recruitment and incitement on their platforms.
Sadly, it must be noted that these efforts are neither timely nor aggressive enough to stop the use of these platforms to promote terror, and stem solely as preemptive efforts to stop public outcry and legal action.
The social media networks have the ability and the means dramatically to limit the manipulation of their services by terrorist groups, but they do not exercise this control. Instead, they rely on users to report any unsavory activity. The social media networks continue to permit terrorist groups to use their services openly and brazenly to promote their groups and their hate-filled doctrines. The propaganda arms of many terrorist organizations continue to use the social media networks, primarily Facebook, to spread their messages to ever expanding audiences. Organizations and individuals who are designated as terrorists on U.S. and international watch-lists are able flagrantly to open social media accounts even though virtually all the social media companies are headquartered in the United States.
The conclusion is that the social media companies are adopting an adversarial case-by-case approach to enforcing a ban on terror incitement on their platforms.
Beyond the rhetoric and the pleas for action, the social media applications have not -- and it appears will not -- self-enforce common-sense restrictions prohibiting terrorist groups from disseminating their radical messages and criminal exploits online, and they continue to shirk their own responsibility for these posts.
The failure by the social media networks to enforce the prevention of terror-related content on their sites is, in fact, a direct violation of the Antiterrorism Act and the Material Supply Statutes; the general public is also in its right to have the protections of the Community Decency Act of 1996 cover content on social media.
It goes without saying that the laws along with their subsequent enforcement must adopt to this fairly new mass communications and mass media reality to force these platforms to assume complete responsibility or else be regulated by the government as if they were a utility, so that this unmitigated threat to the safety of millions of people around the world can be stopped.
Uzi Shaya is a former senior officer in the Israeli Intelligence community; former head of financial warfare operations in the Israeli intelligence community and an expert in social media warfare.
© 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.

The US liquidates its two main Mid East air bases at Incirlik and Al-Udeid
DEBKAfile/March 22/2018
Plans to speed up the transfer of the big US CENTCOM base in Qatar to Saudi Arabia were approved by President Donald Trump and Saudi Crown Prince Muhamed bin Salman when they met at the White House on Tuesday, March 20. This is an earthshaking event for the Middle East, which far transcends US-Saudi relations, say DEBKAfile’s military sources.
They also disclose that, despite repeated denials, the Trump administration is in the process of another momentous move, packing up its air force and quitting Incirlik in southern Turkey, the biggest air base in the region.
The two moves are interconnected. Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has become an avid supporter of the Emir of Qatar, Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, who is locked in a feud with the Saudi rulers. Turkey recently established a large military base in the oil emirate. The Saudi Crown Prince and his ally, the UAE ruler Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al-Nahyan, are close friends and President Trump’s leading allies in the Gulf region. The two Gulf rulers view the Turkish president and Qatari emir as arch-foes.
The relocation of the two US bases stems additionally from the sharp reduction in fighting against ISIS in both Iraq and Syria. There is therefore less need for US air force operations in those parts. The US facilities and aircraft based in Incirlik are already being shifted to bases in East Europe, our military sources report. The Pentagon is also looking at Andravida in southern Greece as a replacement for Incirlik.
US installations are being shipped out of Al-Udaid in Qatar to the Prince Sultan Air base in central Saudi Arabia near Al Kharj, which lies 77km south of Riyadh. Fifteen years ago, this base was the main US air force hub for the oil-rich Gulf region, home at times to more than 60,000 US service personnel. When the US invaded Iraq in 2003 and captured Baghdad, the Saudi rulers insisted on the evacuation of US troops. Now they are returning.
The relocation of the two big US air bases in the Middle East is bound to shake up the region’s strategic dynamic. American soldiers are now in place to defend the Saudi kingdom. This will no doubt convey a clear message to Iran that the Trump administration has the back of the royal regime in Riyadh.

On Syrian reactor, how about some modesty, gentlemen?
Alex Fishman/Ynetnews/March 23/18
Op-ed: Suddenly, years after the strike on Syria's nuclear reactor, everyone claims to have been there. They all offered advice, planned, sat in the ‘pit,’ knew and said something to someone at the top. Luckily, the ego trip festival was momentarily interrupted by former Mossad chief Tamir Pardo, who reminded us that the Deir ez-Zor affair was an intelligence fiasco.
Our fears have been realized. It seems the story of the Israeli strike in Deir ez-Zor is going to leave behind a pile of mud: Smearing, gossip and mutual accusations.
Within a single day, the strike turned into the modern version of the legendary Altalena ship. Suddenly, years later, everyone claims to have been there. They all offered advice, they all planned, they all sat in the “pit,” they all knew and said something to someone at the top. There wasn’t a single moment on Wednesday when I didn’t hear the word “I”: I said, I decided, I was at the prime minister’s home, I was sent, I was the only one who knew that everyone was wrong. It was me, me and me.
Luckily, the ego trip festival that took place here on Wednesday was momentarily interrupted by former Mossad Director Tamir Pardo, who reminded us that the emperor has no clothes. Because the Deir ez-Zor affair was, first of all, an intelligence fiasco.
The al-Kibar reactor. If it wasn’t for the Mossad’s intelligence division, which managed to bring the golden piece of information at the very last moment, we would be dealing with a Syrian nuclear reactor today
The al-Kibar reactor. If it wasn’t for the Mossad’s intelligence division, which managed to bring the golden piece of information at the very last moment, we would be dealing with a Syrian nuclear reactor today
The people who were in charge of the intelligence information, of providing the warning, the people who were supposed to prevent a situation in which Israel would face an existential threat—those people failed. And those were more or less the senior General Staff members who had been responsible for the colossal “success” in the Second Lebanon War, under the same prime minister.
Wednesday’s show was an opportunity for all those who weren’t particularly flattered by the Lebanon war’s legal and professional commissions of inquiry to rehabilitate themselves while receiving a share of the credit cake.
The State of Israel invested a fortune in intelligence, agents, satellites. Every Syrian division was surveyed microscopically. But they knew nothing about a nuclear project that was being built in Syria for six years, with external aid.
Today, everyone says that they knew, they suspected, they started checking in 2004. Nonsense. They accidentally stumbled upon North Koreans. If it wasn’t for the Mossad’s intelligence division, which executed a series of operations which were mostly unsuccessful, and managed to bring the golden piece of information at the very last moment, we would be dealing with a Syrian nuclear reactor today.
So exercise some modesty, gentlemen—the politicians, the retired generals, the deputies and the rest of the people who were in on the secret and are now devouring the credit.
Censorship played an instrumental role in this story. When an appeal was made to the High Court of Justice about two years ago to release interviews that former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and late Mossad Director Meir Dagan had given to Channel 10, the Military Censor faced a dilemma. The High Court agreed to keep the gag order in place, but recommended looking into the possibility of clearing some parts of the affair for publication.
The military censorship took its time, and when the officials in charge of confidentiality in the security systems asserted that there was no longer a threat in the affair’s publication, it was decided in November 2017 to clear it for publication. The implementation of this decision was postponed too under different excuses, primarily operational events in the north which the publication might have exacerbated. Olmert’s book waited for an implementation of the decision too.
Contrary to claims made by Knesset members, secrets related to the operation which the defense establishment wishes to keep confidential have not been revealed so far, but the whole affair did inflict damage on the Israeli society.
Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, currently on a trip to Africa, said Wednesday that he regrets letting the censorship release the story. He’s right. He had been thinking in terms of deterrence against the Iranians and in terms of morale ahead of the State of Israel’s 70th Independence Day celebrations. He just failed to consider the fact that Israel, as late legendary Air Force Commander Benny Peled once defined it, isn’t a state yet but a small remote Eastern European town. It’s only in a shtetl that an event with such important national, operational and deterrence implications can turn into an opportunity to settle small scores and express so much hatred.

Exporting Iran’s Revolution’: A pleasant euphemism for regional chaos
Mohammed al-Sulami/Al Arabiya/March 22/18
In an article published on, “Does Iran’s Constitution Promote the Export of the Iranian Revolution?” February 27, 2018, Eldar Mamedov stated that “exporting the revolution” of Iran is essentially baseless allegations with no clear origin, denying the presence of any constitutional articles concerning this issue in the Iranian constitution. In the same article, however, Mamedov contradicts this statement, writing that the closest the Iranian constitution comes to the idea of exporting the revolution is in the constitutional preamble in the paragraph, which states: “The constitution provides a basis for the continuation of this revolution both inside and outside the country to build one single nation in the world.” Despite these mutually contradictory statements, Mamedov justifies this paragraph in the constitutional preamble by asserting that it is simply theoretical and should be categorized more as a declaratory principle than as a straightforward statement. This suggests that Mamedov lacks basic knowledge about the general values and principles underpinning the Iranian constitution.
In another section of his article, Mamedov states that Iran’s constitution includes no “judicial order about exporting the Iranian political system,” which he says raises an important question about the relationship between constitutional provisions and judicial orders or rules of law. In fact, constitutional provisions are prescriptive and concern general principles while the rules of law change these provisions into bills, procedures, and policies.
Selective retrospection
From reading Mamedov’s article, it seems that he is attempting to retrospectively and selectively ‘reimagine’ the constitution to make it appear more palatable to external perceptions in defense of the Iranian regime. In another instance, he quotes a clause from Article 154 of the Iranian constitution, “Iran completely abstains from any kind of intervention in the internal affairs of other nations” – whilst omitting to mention the preceding text elsewhere in the same article, which focuses on Iran’s “supporting the just struggles of the oppressed against tyrants anywhere in the globe.”
Mamedov also dismisses that part of the Iranian constitution preamble, which mentions the “continuation of the revolution both inside and outside the country” and avoids reference to those sections in Articles 152 and 154 that clearly promote the principle of exporting the Iranian revolution. In order to ensure objectivity and impartiality on the observer’s part, if we are to give credence to Mamedov’s assertion that this “export of the revolution” is only theoretically implied and that the goal of the 1979 revolution was simply to provide moral support for the oppressed, we must disregard numerous Arab, European and American analysts’ understanding of the Iranian regime’s nature and the constitution’s provisions, as well as the understanding of Iranian dissidents, who have covered this subject in exhaustive detail, formulating diametrically different interpretations to those of Mamedov.
Disseminating the Iranian regime’s ideologies
In order to assess Mamedov’s interpretation, we must analyze the statements by senior Iranian regime officials and prominent figures involved in the revolution, as well as examining the methods by which Iran claims to have exported its revolutionary principles, and the results of this export. It’s necessary to ask whether this dissemination of the regime’s Islamic revolutionary ideology has been solely intended to provide humanitarian and moral support or if there is a less wholesome, more expansionist objective behind this core constitutional principle. If Mamedov acknowledges these verified statements, will he recognize the conclusions which inevitably result from them?
To begin, the preamble of the Iranian constitution state, “People strive to build an ideal model society reliant on Islamic principles. Hence, the message of question that arises here in the constitution is to create ideological grounds for development and find suitable circumstances to teach people the highest Islamic international values.” This clearly indicates that the regime is aspiring to create a “model” society and state embodying the supposed Islamic ideal to inspire emulation. Indeed, Velayat-e Faqih (Leadership of the Jurist) doctrine, which is the foundation of the so-called Islamic Republic of Iran is quite literally the direct translation of this theoretical principle; the state is founded upon and centered on the Islamic Jurist’s leadership. According to the constitution, this model establishes an ideological regime and form of theocratic rule under which the powers of the Supreme Leader extend universally, bringing all the world’s Twelver Shiites under his rule. These universal powers which transcend all borders pave the way for implementing the principle of exporting the revolution on the ground regionally and globally.
The regular speeches by Iranian regime leadership figures make it very clear that the country’s clerical leadership has not only authorized military forces to spread Iran’s theocratic doctrine, but is promoting this at every level as a core component of its foreign policy.
Based on this fundamental defining element in the regime’s composition, as expressed in its own constitution, it is clear that Iran’s efforts to build and enhance relations with Shiite groups in the region are predicated on an objective of creating a global system of governance, with the Supreme Leader nominally responsible for liberating all oppressed peoples and defeating tyranny, as stated in the constitutional provisions. Indeed, the doctrine of Velayet-e Faqih does not recognize geographic borders, once again helping to endorse its principle of exporting the revolution, both spiritually and practically.
In order to fully understand the principle of exporting the Iranian revolution, it is important to examine the speeches and statements of the Iranian regime’s leaders, including the former and current Supreme Leaders who have imposed absolute constitutional power since the victory of the 1979 revolution. Until his death in 1989, Khomeini repeatedly promoted and endorsed the principle in numerous speeches. In a speech on February 11, 1980, Khomeini said, “We work on exporting our revolution to the world.” In another speech on February 21, 1980, he said, “We have to export our revolution to the world and abandon the idea of forsaking our export of this revolution.” On March 21, 1980, Khomeini said, “We have to do our best to export our revolution to the other parts of the world and relinquish the idea of keeping it within our borders.” On January 9, 1984, Khomeini again underlined the same point when he said, “Being Islamic, our revolution becomes more universal. To us, external activities are not for tactical purposes only, but part of our general policy and our main responsibilities.”
Mahmoud Taleghani, a pioneering iconic figure of the Iranian revolution, said, “Since Islam called for supporting the oppressed on earth, it means that this is an obligation for Iran because it is the home of the oppressed people not only in the Muslim world, but also in every corner of the world.”
This tendency in Iran has not been confined to the Khomeinist fundamentalists but has also been espoused by leading reformists within the regime, such as the Speaker of the Shura Council (Parliament) at that time of Hashemi Rafsanjani, who said on September 23, 1983, “One of our missions is exporting the revolution…it was normal that we exported our revolution to Iraq more than to any other country in the world because it’s the source of our inspiration.” Surely this and countless other statements by the regime’s leaders suggest that the legitimacy of the Iranian revolution, for Khomeini, his companions and the Reformists, was embodied by disseminating the revolution across all borders worldwide?
Meanwhile on the second anniversary of the Iranian revolution in 1981, Khomeini announced the establishment of an extraterritorial ‘international liberation army’ (the ‘army of 20 million fighters’) specifically for international missions, naming it the ‘Quds Force’ in honour of Jerusalem, home of the third holiest site in Islam, Aqsa Mosque. In his speech announcing the new force, Khomeini said, “Religion and righteousness must rule. We must not allow these governments to continue in all countries. We have to topple these unjust and treacherous governments.” That bald statement of the regime’s intention to topple foreign governments as a core component of “exporting the revolution” surely indicates that this is no hypothetical objective as stated in Mamedov’s article but is very much a real-world policy. The Quds Force is openly an extraterritorial force established explicitly to export the revolution by force, as clearly outlined in the preamble to the Iranian constitution.
'Purely theoretical'
The aforementioned statements and the regular speeches by Iranian regime leadership figures make it very clear that the country’s clerical leadership has not only authorized military forces to spread Iran’s theocratic doctrine, but is promoting this at every level as a core component of its foreign policy. Iran’s political and military leadership has not only acknowledged the regime’s intervention in regional nations, but openly boasts of its regional influence and control in Arab and non-Arab nations. This overwhelming evidence must make it exceptionally difficult for Mamedov to maintain, as he suggests, that Iran’s export of its revolution is purely theoretical. Meanwhile, the regime’s claim to be exporting the revolution as a means of extending moral support to oppressed peoples is strained to the point of wild implausibility by the alleged involvement of Iranian troops and militias in multiple crimes against humanity across the region, including large-scale ethno-sectarian cleansing. Iran’s claims to respect the sanctity of national borders are contradicted by its own forces’ disregard for these borders.
For example, the Commander of the IRGC, Mohammad Ali Jafari said in September 2012 that Iran had dispatched senior military advisors to Syria to support President Assad. Another senior officer in the IRGC, Hussein Hamedani said in May 2014 that Iran was fighting in Syria to defend the interests of Khomeini’s revolution, asserting that Tehran was ready to dispatch 130,000 Basij elements to fight in the Arab nation; Hamedani himself was killed in fighting in Syria a year later. The Commander of the aforementioned Quds Force, General Qassem Suleimani, said, in 2015 that the indicators of exporting the Iranian revolution were spread all across the region, from Bahrain to Iraq, Syria, and Yemen, and extending to North Africa.
In January 2016, meanwhile, the General Commander of the IRGC, Major General Ali Jafari acknowledged the presence of around 200,000 fighters linked to the IRGC in five countries- Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. Even before the beginning of the Arab Spring, Iran’s former Foreign Minister, Ali Akbar Velayati, now a close advisor to the Iranian Supreme Leader on international affairs, said in 2010, “Our southern coast, the Gulf, Hormuz Strait, and Ajman are our most important strategic borders. To us, these are vital territories we cannot ignore.” The commander of Iranian ground forces, Ahmad Reza Bordistan, spoke at some length at the start of 2016 about the presence of Iranian army elements in Iraq, who he explained were working in coordination with the Iraqi government.
Mamedov also apparently failed to notice Iran’s mobilization of tens of thousands of military and non-military personnel in Syria, Iraq, and other nations, even this was acknowledged and even the subject of some bragging by various Iranian senior officials, with Commander Suleimani Qassem Suleimani appearing regularly on TV posing with Iranian troops and proxy militias on battlefields in these countries. How might Mamedov explain the announcement on August 18 2016 by the IRGC Commander in Syria, Brigadier Mohammad Ali Falaki, of the formation of a cross-border Shiite military force under the name, the ‘Shiite Free Army” in Syria under the leadership of Qassem Suleimani?
Mamedov might also be hard-pressed to come up with a convincing explanation of the distinctly non-theoretical deaths of hundreds of Iranian troops in fighting in Syria and Iraq in recent years, including senior military officers such as Generals Hussein Hamedani, Hamid Taqavi, and Sadiq Yari. Speaking about Taqavi’s death in Iraq, the chairperson of Iran’s Higher Council for National Security, said, “Had the blood of the people like Taqavi not been shed in Samara, we would have shed blood here in Iran.”
While Mamedov also claims to be unable to find even a single document proving the Iranian regime’s role in the establishment of the Lebanese Hezbollah, the open acknowledgment and even celebration of Iran’s central role in Hezbollah of the group’s leaders and their regular photo-ops alongside Ayatollah Khamenei and other senior Iranian officials offer irrefutable evidence of the symbiotic relationship between Iran’s regime and the Lebanese group.
The UN’s report issued at the beginning of 2018 detailing Iran’s violation of the 2015 Security Council Resolution 2216 which banned the sale of weapons to the Houthis, the late former Yemeni President Saleh, his son, and to all Iranian proxy militants in Yemen provides yet more extremely clear evidence of Iran’s region-wide ‘export of the revolution’ by military force.
In order to maintain his suggestion that Iran’s export of the revolution is hypothetical, Mamedov also has to disregard the 2017 letter from Ayatollah Khamenei, to the Iraqi Prime Minister, instructing him to declare the Iranian-funded Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) or Hashd Shaabi as officially part of the Iraqi army, which has now been confirmed.
According to all the well-documented statements, quotes and reports cited above, which are only a small sample of the available information cataloguing Iran’s massive military and political intervention across the region, it is clear that only by disregarding facts and evidence can one claim that the Iranian regime’s export of its revolution is theoretical. Whilst one might argue with the Iranian regime’s definition of revolution and point out that what Iran’s regime is actually exporting chaos and oppression, Mamedov can only maintain the fiction that the Iranian regime’s regional involvement is theoretical by ignoring the reality and discounting the regime’s own statements.

How culture and arts enhance Saudi diplomacy
Hassan Al Mustafa/Al Arabiya/March 22/18
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s recent visits to Egypt and Britain were of political, economic and security significance as they addressed matters that are often discussed between governments through the usual official channels, i.e. ministries of foreign affairs, economy, defense and others.
What was interesting were the cultural activities that accompanied these visits particularly the activities sponsored by the MiSK Foundation through its several cultural initiatives, visits, forums and discussions. This is in addition to forging partnerships and agreements with museums, research institutions and various scientific and technical companies. Arts and cultural activities strengthen countries’ foreign policies and pave the way for new areas of cooperation which other fields, like politics and economy, cannot do. This is because arts and culture reinforce common values between people
Diplomacy of art
These initiatives led by MiSK are nothing new as the foundation has done them in the past, like the event it organized at the World Economic Forum in Davos to acquaint the audience with the culture and traditions of the Arabian Peninsula.
The Saudi Ministry of Culture and Information also organized musical evenings, fine arts exhibitions and cultural forums. All of these events show the intellectual and aesthetic aspects of the Saudi society, which was hijacked by extremism and which fundamentalism sought to silence for years.
The MiSK Foundation initiatives may be more bold and eclectic than other government initiatives since they cut through the bureaucracy and have a clearer vision than other institutions. MiSK also includes the dynamism of young cadres that allows it to grow faster than other institutions.
Enhancing citizen potential
All these initiatives are important for strengthening the values of the new Saudi Arabia, which seek the development of Saudi citizens and to enhance their potential, making them capable of effectively contributing to the change taking place in the country. These initiatives are thus an effective tool in forging foreign relations, not just in strengthening the kingdom internally. Arts and cultural activities strengthen countries’ foreign policies and pave the way for new areas of cooperation which other fields, like politics and economy, cannot do. This is because arts and culture reinforce common values between people and create powerful, sustainable partnerships that go beyond borders, sects or races. Modern diplomacy should have a strong vision for culture, art and civil society institutions and for their role in resolving conflicts, easing tensions, making alliances and strengthening relations inside the state. Certainly this is not only a marketing campaign or a public relations exercise. It envisions a long term partnership, a sharing of experiences and an opportunity where the youth can build the world the way they see it. The youth have the wisdom of previous generations and an eagerness to take risks without fear of losses. This is the innovative spirit and the most important element of diplomacy.

Menace of corruption and election showdown in Malaysia
Dr. Azeem Ibrahim/Al Arabiya/March 22/18
Malaysia was once one of only two fully developed Muslim countries in the world, alongside Turkey. But in recent decades, economic progress has stalled, and the country’s politics has descended into farce.
Government corruption is a good measure of how developed a country and a society are. Developed countries have relatively low tolerance for corruption. What is more, open, transparent and uncorrupted politics is a good indicator of future economic development. Whereas a politics that descends into corruption is a portend of a slowing economy, as well as of future social disruption.
Malaysia may become emblematic of either one of these dynamics. For the Malaysian government has, in recent years, distinguished itself as the perpetrator of the most brazen incident of corruption in modern history that we are aware of: the 1MDB Affair.
In this scandal, still incumbent Prime Minister Najib Razak set up 1MDB as a sovereign investment vehicle all the way back in 2009, and seeded it with taxpayer money. Since then, some $4.5 billion have gone missing from the sovereign wealth fund.
And some $681 million have materialized in the Prime Minister’s private account in the same period – income that has not been accounted for, and which the Prime Minister, when pushed to explain it, suggested it was a no-strings-attached donation. To say nothing of the various other sums that appeared in the private accounts of some other members and friends of the Prime Minister’s family.
If the people of Malaysia choose to punish the blatant corruption of their current leaders and resist these leaders’ attempts to buy them off, they can put their country back on the path of progress
Political landscape
You would expect that such a scandal would upend the political landscape in Malaysia – an ostensibly democratic country. And you would be almost correct.
Certainly the people of Malaysia have been up in arms and on the streets for the past two years since these revelations became public, including a rally in 2016 that drew thousands of yellow-clad protestors into Kuala Lumpur’s usually docile streets.
But despite all this, the Prime Minister is expecting to be re-elected in the upcoming general election in Malaysia. And not for being extraordinarily popular.
In the previous general election in 2013, Najib’s Barisan Nasional party won 60 percent of the 222 seats in parliament. This despite the fact that it won only 47 percent of the vote to the opposition’s 51 percent.
This was courtesy of a severely gerrymandered electoral map. Gerrymandering which the incumbent government has had the opportunity to further reinforce in their latest term in office.
The missing billions
But of course, even such gerrymandering cannot guarantee Najib’s political survival. He lost the popular vote to the opposition even before the astonishing revelations of the missing billions, at a time when his personal popularity was over 60 percent. Pollsters now suggest his approval ratings are below 40 percent and potentially as low as 20 percent. A further swing in popular opinion against him is to be expected. So the ruling party is leaving as little as possible to chance: it is currently in an ongoing campaign to buy the loyalty of the civil servants in the public administration with a special bonus promised to them soon after the date of the election. These will be many of the people who will be overseeing the election process and the counting of votes, of course. Other similar cash incentives are being offered to the general population and to segments of the economy. The Malaysian people are thus at a crossroads. This election will be by no means fair. The ruling party’s popularity has been in sharp decline for 10 years. The unlikely alliance between jailed opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim and former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamed to dislodge the current government throws a major spanner into the gears of conventional wisdom that incumbent rule in authoritarian systems is invincible. If the people of Malaysia choose to punish the blatant corruption of their current leaders and resist these leaders’ attempts to buy them off, they can put their country back on the path of progress and economic development. If instead they choose complacency, things will only get worse.
And who knows if they will be given the same opportunity to re-assess their choice in five years’ time. If I were Mr Najib or any one of his associates, I would certainly not be looking forward to losing parliamentary immunity from prosecution.