March 27/2018
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani


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Bible Quotations
All who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.’
Luke 18/09-14:" Jesus also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt: ‘Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax-collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, "God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax-collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income." But the tax-collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, "God, be merciful to me, a sinner!" I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.’"

Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion
Letter to the Hebrews 03/14-19/04/01-04/We have become partners of Christ, if only we hold our first confidence firm to the end. As it is said, ‘Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion. ’Now who were they who heard and yet were rebellious? Was it not all those who left Egypt under the leadership of Moses? But with whom was he angry for forty years? Was it not those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, if not to those who were disobedient? So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief. Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest is still open, let us take care that none of you should seem to have failed to reach it. For indeed the good news came to us just as to them; but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened. For we who have believed enter that rest, just as God has said, ‘As in my anger I swore, "They shall not enter my rest" ’, though his works were finished at the foundation of the world. For in one place it speaks about the seventh day as follows: ‘And God rested on the seventh day from all his works.’

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on March 26-27/18
Lebanon's new electoral law could spell trouble for traditional parties
Mona Alami/Al Monitor/March 21/2018
A Natural Part of the World/Ghassan Charbel/Asharq Al Awsat/March 26/18
Behind 'Trade War' Slogans, a Few Routes to Peace/Daniel Moss/Asharq Al Awsat/March 26/18
Bolton’s Plan to Kill the Iran Nuclear Deal/Eli Lake/Bloomberg View/March 26/18
Palestinians: Why Hamas Will Not Disarm/Khaled Abu Toameh/Gatestone Institute/March 26/2018
"Supply and Demand" in Mass Migration/A Conversation with former Czech President Václav Klaus/Grégoire Canlorbe/Gatestone Institute/March 26/2018
H.R. McMaster – half a hawk, half a dove/Mamdouh AlMuhaini/Al Arabiya/March 26/18
The stubborn jurist and the fate of extremists/Mansour Alnogaidan/Al Arabiya/March 26/18
Trump, Putin and the disturbed left!/Ahmad al-Farraj/Al Arabiya/March 26/18
A brief history on Oman and Iran/Mashari Althaydi/Al Arabiya/March 26/18

Titles For Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on March 26-27/18

The American Mideast Coalition for Democracy (AMCD Congratulates Ambassador John Bolton on his Appointment as National Security Advisor
Report: Registration Deadline Looms, Signs of 'Heated' Election Battle ahead
Jumblat: We've Become Part of 'Greater Syria', U.S. Reshuffle 'Alarming'
Civil Society Announces Electoral Coalition in Nine Districts
Karami Announces Tripoli Alliance with al-Ahbash, Marada, al-Samad
Geagea Says LF Has 'Full Chance' to Win in Batroun Elections
EU Commissioner Hahn Addresses Students, Academics at AUB Conference
Aoun Says International Pledges for Lebanon Must Be Put into Action
Lebanese Democratic Party Withdraws Candidate from Electoral Race
Report: Parliament Expected to Discuss 2018 Budget ahead of Cedre Conference
Report: Bombs Disguised as Rocks in Yemen, Lebanon Show Iranian Aid
Report: Lebanese-American in Mueller Probe Aided UAE Agenda in Congress
Open EU markets to Lebanese goods: Aoun to EU official
Lebanon Prepares for Brussels Conference, Sets Refugee’s Return as Priority
Lebanon's new electoral law could spell trouble for traditional parties

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on March 26-27/18
Statement byCanadian Foreign Affairs Minister on Seven Years of Conflict in Syria
Saudi-Led Coalition Threatens Retaliation against Iran over Missiles
Saudi forces shoot down 7 Houthi missiles; one expat killed in attack
US expels 60 Russian ‘spies’ over UK nerve attack
Russia Vows to React to 'Provocative' Expulsions of Diplomats
U.S., EU States Expel Dozens of Russian Diplomats over UK Nerve Attack
Russia says deal expected with more rebels in Syria’s Ghouta
UNICEF Official Overlooks Child Recruitment in Yemen
Erdogan: Tal Rifaat Next Target of Operation Olive Branch
Political, Economic Meetings on Saudi Crown Prince's Agenda in New York
Arab Coalition to Prove Iran’s Involvement in Smuggling Missiles
Jordan Foils ISIS Plot Targeting Intelligence, Police
Egypt Heads to Polls to Choose between Sisi and 'Rival'
Egyptians Head to Polls amid Heightened Security
Egypt: 6 Militants Linked to Alexandria Bombing Killed in Raid

Latest Lebanese Related News published on March 26-27/18
The American Mideast Coalition for Democracy (AMCD Congratulates Ambassador John Bolton on his Appointment as National Security Advisor
التحالف الأميركي الشرق أوسطي للديموقراطية يهنئ السفير جون بولن على موقعه الجديد
Ambassador Bolton is an excellent choice for National Security Advisor.
WASHINGTON, DC, USA, March 26, 2018 / -- The American Mideast Coalition for Democracy (AMCD) lends its full support and sends congratulations to Ambassador John Bolton on his recent appointment as National Security Advisor to President Donald Trump.
Ambassador Bolton combines extensive government and foreign policy experience with a refreshing candor and a willingness to entertain unorthodox positions on many issues. Like President Trump, Bolton is not easy to categorize, but is nonetheless highly pragmatic. Like Secretary of Defense Mattis, he is a student of history and like Secretary of State designate, Mike Pompeo, he has a deep and broad intellectual understanding of the competing forces and factions in the world today. He is a strategic thinker who takes the long view and this is exactly what is needed in a National Security Advisor.
“I think this is an excellent move on the part of President Trump,” stated AMCD advisor, Dr. Walid Phares, “Initially Ambassador Bolton would have been one of the logical choices for Secretary of State in view of his experience at the UN. But in the present circumstances as the US has been and is facing significant challenges worldwide from North Korea to Iran and still dealing with ISIS in addition to tensions with Russia, the choice of John Bolton for the national security advisor position is the right one. The White House and Congress both need him there at this particular junction.”
“This is the right appointment at the right time,” said AMCD President John Hajjar. “Having worked with Ambassador Bolton in the past, we know how effective he can be.”
“Concerning Lebanon, Ambassador Bolton was instrumental in getting UNSCR 1559 passed while he was at State Department,” added AMCD Co-Director Tom Harb. “He also pushed UNSCR 1701, but unfortunately, Lebanese politicians didn't live up to those resolutions to stand up against Iran.”
“Ambassador Bolton is the must have national security advisor who has the courage and ingenuity to fully implement the Trump foreign policy agenda,” said Iranian-American AMCD board member Hossein Khorram. “Ambassador Bolton's uncompromising position on preserving our liberties here at home is most remarkable. As to our foreign policy, Ambassador Bolton believes that America, a benevolent superpower, is capable of leading the world to peace and prosperity through strength.
"Ambassador Bolton correctly believes that we no longer can wait for the Iranian and North Korean existential threat to the United States to go away on its own," continued Mr. Khorram. "I congratulate President Trump for this courageous appointment."
“Out of the box policies John designed, such as the Proliferation Security Initiative, helped lay the groundwork for an international consensus against Iran and North Korea’s deadly WMD programs. Because of this work, John was co-nominated along with me for the Nobel Peace prize in 2006,” said AMCD advisor, Kenneth R. Timmerman. "Americans can sleep better at night knowing John will be helping the President to guide our nation through the challenges that face us. It is a great honor to support him as our national security advisor.”
AMCD will support Ambassador Bolton in every way possible as he works to advance the policies of President Donald Trump.
**Rebecca Bynum
The American Mideast Coalition for Democracy
615 775 6801
Report: Registration Deadline Looms, Signs of 'Heated' Election Battle ahead
Naharnet/March 26/18/With the registration deadline looming at midnight on Monday, political parties and Parliament hopefuls have rushed over the weekend to announce their electoral lists in various Lebanese districts to begin a countdown for the May 6 parliamentary elections. Various “mosaic” electoral lists will be “fiercely” competing in Lebanon's 15 electoral districts, where once-rival parties are joining unified lists in order to garner winnings in the polls, al-Joumhouria daily reported. According to Lebanon's new electoral law approved in 2017, candidates are not allowed to run individually. They are supposed to be included in lists. Lebanon will stage its May elections based on a new complex representational system that replaces a majoritarian 1960 winner-takes-all system. Many of the lists that have taken shape so far, have shown no “homogeneity” among the components, said the daily. Electoral war of words have repeatedly broken out between political rivals, the latest was Sunday between Prime Minister Saad Hariri and former Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi and former PM Najib Miqati. The men traded tirades in connection with heated electoral battle in the northern city of Tripoli. Various political parties, some having opposite political orientations, have agreed to be named on the same electoral lists in order to garner “definite” win in the upcoming legislative polls. Based on the formed electoral lists and political statements made over the weekend, unnamed sources said political mobilization “is going to make the approaching elections a heated and unprecedented battle.”

Jumblat: We've Become Part of 'Greater Syria', U.S. Reshuffle 'Alarming'
Naharnet/March 26/18/Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat announced Monday that Lebanon has become “a part of greater Syria,” as he voiced alarm over U.S. President Donald Trump's latest reshuffle of his top officials.
“The Syrian regime has managed to expand its control over greater Damascus due to Russian and Iranian support,” Jumblat said in an interview with France 24 television.
“Today the regime, backed by its allies, has improved its situation in greater Damascus, and therefore Lebanon will become increasingly encircled,” Jumblat added. “The great friend and scientist, Professor Antoine Kurban who teaches at the Saint Joseph University, says we have become a part of the Latakia province,” the PSP leader went on to say. “According to this grand equation – from Homs to the (Syrian) coast in addition to the international equation in the presence of Russia and Iran – we have become a part of greater Syria,” Jumblat pointed out.
Turning to the new appointments in Washington, the PSP leader warned that “the U.S. developments are alarming, because they point to a confrontation.”
“The confrontation will not be in Iran but rather in Lebanon, at least politically, and we will pay the price,” Jumblat said. He warned any Lebanese party against “betting on the new hardline and pro-Zionist U.S. team,” noting that “the changes might also target the U.S. defense secretary.” “I'm talking politics, because militarily, we have become used to America's policies and its support for Israel. In the event of a military strike, Lebanon will be destroyed, but they will not win, because there is a popular, national, Islamic resistance – call it what you want – that is stronger,” Jumblat said. He added: “I warn against Lebanese alignment with the new U.S. team under the excuse of fighting Iran or fighting Hizbullah's influence, because we cannot withstand a conflict of axes in Lebanon.”

Civil Society Announces Electoral Coalition in Nine Districts
Naharnet/March 26/18/Civil society groups and the Sabaa Party on Monday announced an electoral coalition spanning nine districts for the upcoming parliamentary elections. The coalition, dubbed 'Kollona Watanti', is the result of “more than a year and a half of serious work,” the groups said in a statement. “The lists comprise 66 candidates from all sects across the country... This is the biggest electoral coalition in Lebanon's modern history. Through this move, the civil society is sending a powerful message that the citizen now has a serious alternative to the ruling class,” the groups added.
This coalition “can become a parliamentary majority that can assume power if citizens want this,” the Kollona Watanti coalition said. “The coalition will announce its candidates in a unified mass rally within days,” it added. According to the statement, the coalition comprises seven candidates from the Mouwatenoun-wa-Mouwatenat group, 20 from Sabaa, one from 'You Stink', five from Li Baladi, one from the Identity and Sovereignty Gathering, two from Mutaheddoun, five from Li Haqqi, five from Sah, three from We Want Accountability and 17 independent candidates.

Karami Announces Tripoli Alliance with al-Ahbash, Marada, al-Samad
Naharnet/March 26/18/Former minister Faisal Karami on Monday announced an electoral alliance in the Tripoli-Minieh-Dinniyeh district with the Association of Islamic Charitable Projects (al-Ahbash), the Marada Movement and ex-MP Jihad al-Samad. The young ex-minister is the son of late PM Omar Karami and the nephew of slain PM Rashid Karami. “What we need in parallel with reform plans is quick and urgent rescue initiatives aimed at backing the resilience of Lebanese individuals and families, in order to prevent any imminent social explosion,” Karami said at a Tripoli rally. “A blue evil eye cannot protect the country from the repercussions of such an explosion,” Karami added, referring to al-Mustaqbal Movement's electoral logo. The electoral list led by Karami also comprises Jihad al-Samad, Taha Naji (al-Ahbash), Saffouh Yakan, Abdul Nasser al-Masri, Ahmed Omran, Ayman al-Omar, Adel Zureiqa and Rafli Diab (Marada).

Geagea Says LF Has 'Full Chance' to Win in Batroun Elections
Naharnet/March 26/18/The Lebanese Forces' candidate has a “full chance” to win in the upcoming parliamentary elections in Batroun, the hometown and stronghold of Free Patriotic Movement chief Jebran Bassil, LF leader Samir Geagea said on Monday. “Some consider this a battle between giants and wonder what this new doctor, Fadi Saad, has got to do with this battle, seeing as he is competing against dinosaurs. They are questioning his chances but I stress that their opinion is unrealistic, because we have full chances in the Batroun region,” Geagea added. “If you want a real state, you only have to vote for the LF,” Geagea urged. He also noted that the LF has allied with the Kataeb Party and the National Bloc in some regions and that his party “shares the same principles and values with Kataeb.”Batroun has been joined with Zgharta, Koura and Bsharri in a single electoral district under the new electoral law.

EU Commissioner Hahn Addresses Students, Academics at AUB Conference
Naharnet/March 26/18/Commissioner for European Neighborhood Policy & Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn delivered a keynote speech on Monday during the regional ‘Bridging the Gap: Higher Education and Beyond’ conference organized by SPARK, in partnership with the EU Madad Trust Fund and the American University of Beirut (AUB). The conference, which was held at AUB, focused on how to further improve and support the access of young people in the region to quality training, higher education, and entrepreneurship, while their countries are affected by conflict, mass displacement and economic stalemate. Notable keynote speakers included Jan Waltmans, Ambassador of the Netherlands for Lebanon; M.İ. Safa Kapıcıoğlu, Deputy President of YoK (Council of Higher Education), Turkey; and Marwan Hamadeh, Minister of Education and Higher Education, Lebanon.
In the wake of the Syria refugee crisis, SPARK has awarded almost 7,700 scholarships to vulnerable young people in the region under its Higher Education program, out of which 2,484 are funded by the European Union, including for Technical and Vocational Education and Training.
“It is now time to consider the next steps for these young, qualified people: how can scholarship, exchange and other support programs work to benefit both refugees, the future reconstruction of Syria and Iraq and local hosting economies? How to provide sustainable solutions for economic development in a region with high rates of youth unemployment? What options for job creation in the region?” said a statement distributed by the EU Delegation to Lebanon. Commissioner Hahn said: “Students and Higher education institutions have been and will remain a key sector for assistance of the European Union and it member states as we believe that they are the actors of change in the quest for a more prosperous era, and a peaceful region. Beyond education and skills development additional measures are needed to allow for more jobs to be created and to increase the employability of graduates. Entrepreneurship and start-ups are new tools to be used. An enabling environment and policies to allow the reduction of inequalities, the increase the number and competitiveness of SMEs and the promotion of sustainable growth are key.” A series of keynotes from important, regional stakeholders tackled the major issues facing higher education and economic empowerment of youth in the region. The participants heard directly from Lebanese, Jordanian and refugees from Syria and Palestine about the impact of current and new educational programs. Knowledge-sharing and sustainable solutions were also defined in a range of morning and afternoon workshops; with networking opportunities available throughout the day to share ideas and establish connections. The EU's Regional Trust Fund in Response to the Syrian Crisis has devoted nearly EUR 59 million almost exclusively for supporting opportunities to access Higher Education. This support, also including the SPARK project, has awarded around 3,847 full scholarships, 5,741 language courses and over 40,000 counseling sessions. Girls and women represent an important number of its beneficiaries. This support goes to Syrians in their country as well as to refugees and host communities in neighboring countries, including Lebanon. This comes on top of EU traditional support through Erasmus+.

Aoun Says International Pledges for Lebanon Must Be Put into Action
Naharnet/March 26/18/President Michel Aoun said during a meeting with Johannes Hahn, the Commissioner for European Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, that aid promises made by the international community “must be put into practical steps,” the Presidency media office said. Aoun called for “turning the promises made by the international community into practical steps to be translated at the Cedre Conference (ParisIV) on April 6.”He was referring to the international community's significant financial and political commitments to address the massive scale of a refugee crisis, and an upcoming conference in Paris set to boost investments and finances for Lebanon. Aoun has also told Hahn that the European countries “must open their markets for Lebanese exports which conform to European standards and specifications, to strengthen the partnership agreement between Lebanon and EU countries according to the priorities set.”He said Lebanon has launched a package of reform projects and strengthened anti-corruption measures, and has also approved the Public-Private Partnership Law to stimulate productive economy. The President described the issue of Syrian refugees in Lebanon “as an existential threat, especially that Lebanon can no longer afford to keep them for indefinite periods due to the security, economic, social and health consequences due to their presence.”He considered the “return of the displaced to the safe places in Syria, if only gradually, is an urgent need, because it is not possible to wait for the completion of a political solution in Syria to achieve this.”For his part, Hahn said : “The EU stands by Lebanon and continues to provide the necessary support in all areas, especially supporting the Lebanese position on the principle of dissociation policy.”He pointed out that the “ EU is actively participating in the international conferences to be held in Paris and Brussels.”

Lebanese Democratic Party Withdraws Candidate from Electoral Race
Naharnet/March 26/18/The Lebanese Democratic Party announced on Monday the withdrawal of its Druze candidate from the electoral race in Beirut's second electoral district, it said in a statement. “The Lebanese Democratic Party has become certain that its allies plan to keep the Druze seat in Beirut second district vacant in favor of the party's candidate. Out of our conviction to wage the elections through electoral lists of our allies, head of the party and Minister of the Displaced Talal Arslan has decided to withdraw his candidate Nasib al-Jawhari,” said the statement.
The party also urged its “friends and supporters” to stand in the face of “unfair combination.”Arslan was reportedly hoping to have his candidate, Jawhari, included in the electoral list in Beirut second district formed by the Shiite duo AMAL and Hizbullah, but did not happen. On the other hand, the Progressive Socialist Party's Druze candidate, Faysal al-Sayegh, is listed on al-Mustaqbal Movement electoral list running in a competition with Hizbullah's. On Sunday, the Lebanese Democratic Party also withdrew its candidate from the electoral race in West Bekaa-Rashaya district.

Report: Parliament Expected to Discuss 2018 Budget ahead of Cedre Conference

Naharnet/March 26/18/Speaker Nabih Berri is expected to invite the Parliament to session this week to discuss the 2018 governmnet budget, before the country's delegation heads to France for the Cedre Conference (Paris IV) aimed at boosting investments and economic finances in Lebanon, media reports said on Monday. Al-Joumhouria daily said there is a possibility that Berri would call the Parliament to session for two consecutive meetings on Wednesday and Thursday, before the donor conference launches on April 6. In preparation for this conference, a ministerial and administrative gathering between Lebanese and French parties will be held in Paris on Monday, said the daily. From Lebanon, it will include ministers Jamal al-Jarrah, Raed Khoury, Governor of Banque du Liban Riad Salameh, Chairman of the Council for Development and Reconstruction Nabil Jisr, Director-General of the Ministry of Finance Alain Bifani, Director of Political Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Ambassador Ghadi Khoury, and a delegation including Mireille Aoun al-Hashem and Fadi Asali (advisers to the president), advisers to the Premier (Saad Hariri) Nadim al-Manla and Hazar Caracalla, and a third from the Ministry of Energy and Water, it added. French presidential envoy, Pierre Duquesne, in charge of ongoing preparations for the Paris IV, is expected to be waiting for the Lebanese delegation to hold preliminary talks in the presence of representatives of the countries that will participate in the conference in preparation for his work, said al-Joumhouria. On March 12, Lebanon's Cabinet agreed the government's 2018 budget and passed it to Parliament for approval.

Report: Bombs Disguised as Rocks in Yemen, Lebanon Show Iranian Aid
Associated Press/Naharnet/March 26/18/Roadside bombs disguised as rocks in Yemen bear similarities to others used by Hizbullah in southern Lebanon and by insurgents in Iraq and Bahrain, suggesting at the least an Iranian influence in their manufacture, a watchdog group said Monday.
The report by Conflict Armament Research comes as the West and United Nations researchers accuse Iran of supplying arms to Yemen's Shiite rebels known as Houthis, who have held the country's capital since September 2014. Those weapons allegedly included ballistic missiles used to target Saudi Arabia, which leads a military coalition of Arab nations backed by the U.S. that is stuck in a stalemate war with the Houthis. A barrage of Houthi missile fire late Sunday killed one person in Riyadh and wounded two others. Iran has long denied supplying arms to the Houthis, and its mission to the United Nations is dismissing the new report. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has derided such weapons research as "fabricating evidence." The report is just the latest sign of how the conflict in Yemen, the Arab world's poorest country where over 10,000 people have been killed, has changed from a civil war to a proxy fight among Mideast rivals. The Saudi-led war there turned three years old Sunday. "What we're hoping this does is make plausible deniability not very plausible," said Tim Michetti, head of regional operations for Conflict Armament Research. "You can't really deny this anymore once the components these things are made with are traced to Iranian distributors." Michetti's organization, an independent watchdog group that receives funding from the United Arab Emirates, Germany and the European Union to research weaponry recovered in Yemen, said it examined a fake rock bomb in January near Mokha, some 250 kilometers (150 miles) southwest of the capital, Sanaa. The fiberglass-encased bomb, packed with explosives, could be armed by radio and triggered by an infrared beam, the group said. It said there were three varieties, including anti-personnel mines and so-called explosively formed projectiles, which can penetrate armored vehicles and were used with lethal effect against U.S. troops following the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Electrical circuitry in the bombs mirrored those manufactured by militants in Bahrain, while the bombs bore markings suggesting one workshop mass-produced the explosives, the report said. Such bombs, however, have yet to be used in Bahrain, an island kingdom off Saudi Arabia in the midst of a crackdown on all dissent.
Investigators also found a type of Chinese-manufactured wire covering used in other Iranian materiel, the report said.
It said independent experts also examined the explosives. Those experts said that "construction indicates that the bomb maker had a degree of knowledge in constructing devices that resembled, and possibly functioned in a manner similar to (explosively formed projectile bombs) that have been forensically tied to Iran and Hizbullah," the report said. Alireza Miryousefi, a spokesman for Iran's mission to the United Nations, dismissed the report, saying the Houthis had no need for such weapons as they control stockpiles of arms purchased under former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh. The Houthis killed Saleh, their one-time ally, in December. "President Saleh was the sweetheart of America and Saudi Arabia," Miryousefi told The Associated Press. "It seems petro-dollars are promoting such reports in order to rationalize war crimes in Yemen as well as the oppression of Bahrain's completely civil and popular protests."Told of the Iranian response, Michetti invited officials from Tehran to take part in his organization's research in the future. This is not the first time Iran has been accused of arming the Houthis. The U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet, based in Bahrain, has repeatedly said Iran sends arms into Yemen. It points to seizures over a four-week period in early 2016, when coalition warships stopped three dhows, traditional ships that ferry cargo in the Persian Gulf. The dhows carried thousands of Kalashnikov assault rifles as well as sniper rifles, machine guns, rocket-propelled grenade launchers, anti-tank missiles and other weapons.
One dhow carried 2,000 new assault rifles with serial numbers in sequential order, suggesting they came from a national stockpile, a previous Conflict Armament Research report said. The rocket-propelled grenade launchers also bore hallmarks of being manufactured in Iran, the group said.
The group has also said drones used by the Houthis to crash into Patriot missile batteries in Saudi Arabia share "near-identical design and construction characteristics" of Iranian drones. The weapons transfers also allegedly include ballistic missile technology. The United Nations, Western countries and the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen all say the Houthis' Burkan or Volcano missile mirrors characteristics of an Iranian Qiam ballistic missile. They say that suggests Tehran either shared the technology or smuggled disassembled missiles to the Houthis who then rebuilt them.
Iran denies sharing missiles with the Houthis, though such a move would fit a pattern followed by the Islamic Republic since its 1980s war with Iraq. Iran largely has avoided direct confrontation with its foreign adversaries, instead relying on proxy groups that it arms through the hard-line Revolutionary Guard's expeditionary Quds Force or other middlemen. The latest accusation comes as the Saudi-led coalition faces intense international criticism for its airstrike campaign that has struck hospitals and markets, killing numerous civilians. The U.N. also says a Saudi-led blockade on Yemen's ports is "essentially using the threat of starvation as a bargaining tool and an instrument of war" in a country already facing diphtheria and cholera outbreaks while on the verge of famine. Iran's weapons transfers to Yemen bleed Saudi Arabia, its regional rival, at a low cost while providing deniability for Tehran, analysts say.
"This has been just a golden opportunity for Iran to have this access and to do it so cheaply and continue to be this thorn in Saudi Arabia's throat," said Fatima Abo Alasrar, a senior analyst at the Washington-based Arabia Foundation and a Yemeni national critical of the Houthis. "It's been a huge win for them."

Report: Lebanese-American in Mueller Probe Aided UAE Agenda in Congress
Associated Press/Naharnet/March 26/18/A top fundraiser for U.S. President Donald Trump received millions of dollars from a political adviser to the United Arab Emirates last April, just weeks before he began handing out a series of large political donations to U.S. lawmakers considering legislation targeting Qatar, the UAE's chief rival in the Persian Gulf, an Associated Press investigation has found. George Nader, an adviser to the UAE who is now a witness in the U.S. special counsel investigation into foreign meddling in American politics, wired $2.5 million to the Trump fundraiser, Elliott Broidy, through a company in Canada, according to two people who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter. They said Nader paid the money to Broidy to bankroll an effort to persuade the U.S. to take a hard line against Qatar, a long-time American ally but now a bitter adversary of the UAE.
A month after he received the money, Broidy sponsored a conference on Qatar's alleged ties to Islamic extremism. During the event, Republican Congressman Ed Royce of California, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, announced he was introducing legislation that would brand Qatar as a terrorist-supporting state. In July 2017, two months after Royce introduced the bill, Broidy gave the California congressman $5,400 in campaign gifts — the maximum allowed by law. The donations were part of just under $600,000 that Broidy has given to GOP members of Congress and Republican political committees since he began the push for the legislation fingering Qatar, according to an AP analysis of campaign finance disclosure records. Broidy said in a statement to AP that he has been outspoken for years about militant groups, including Hamas. "I've both raised money for, and contributed my own money to, efforts by think tanks to bring the facts into the open, since Qatar is spreading millions of dollars around Washington to whitewash its image as a terror-sponsoring state," he said. "I've also spoken to like-minded members of Congress, like Royce, about how to make sure Qatar's lobbying money does not blind lawmakers to the facts about its record in supporting terrorist groups." While Washington is awash with political donations from all manner of interest groups and individuals, there are strict restrictions on foreign donations for political activity. Agents of foreign governments are also required to register before lobbying so that there is a public record of foreign influence. Cory Fritz, a spokesman for Royce, said that his boss had long criticized the "destabilizing role of extremist elements in Qatar." He pointed to comments to that effect going back to 2014. "Any attempts to influence these longstanding views would have been unsuccessful," he said. In October, Broidy also raised the issue of Qatar at the White House in meetings with Trump and senior aides. The details of Broidy's advocacy on U.S. legislation have not been previously reported. The AP found no evidence that Broidy used Nader's funds for the campaign donations or broke any laws. At the time of the advocacy work, his company, Circinus, did not have business with the UAE, but was awarded a more than $200 million contract in January. The sanctions bill was approved by Royce's committee in late 2017. It remains alive in the House of Representatives, awaiting a review by the House Financial Services Committee.
The backstory of the legislative push is emerging amid continuing concerns about efforts by foreign governments or their proxies to influence American politics. While reports about possible Russian links to Trump's campaign and his presidential administration have been making headlines since 2016, questions are now arising about efforts during the Trump era to influence U.S. policy in the Middle East. The U.S. has long been friendly with Saudi Arabia and the UAE as well as Qatar, which is home to a massive American air base that the U.S. has used in its fight against the Islamic State. But as political rifts in the Gulf have widened, the Saudis and Emiratis have sought to undercut American ties with Qatar. Qatar and UAE have also exchanged allegations of politically motivated hacks. Scores of Broidy's emails and documents have leaked to news organizations, drawing attention to his relationship with Nader. Broidy has alleged that the hack was done by Qatari agents and has reported the breach to the FBI. "It's no surprise that Qatar would see me as an obstacle and come after me in the way it has," he said in a statement. A spokesman for the Qatari embassy, Jassim Mansour Jabr Al-Thani, denied the charges, calling them "diversionary tactics." Representatives of the UAE did not respond to requests for comment. The timeline of the influx of cash wired by Nader, an adviser to Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, the de facto leader of the UAE, may provide grist for U.S. special counsel Robert Mueller's legal team as it probes the activities of Trump and his associates during the 2016 campaign and beyond. However, it is not clear that Mueller has expanded his investigation in that direction. Mueller's investigators are looking into two meetings close to Trump's inauguration attended by Nader and bin Zayed. The pair joined a meeting at New York's Trump Tower in December 2016 that included presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner and Steve Bannon, who was Trump's chief strategist at the time. A month later, Nader and bin Zayed were a world away on the Seychelles island chain in the Indian Ocean, meeting with Erik Prince, the founder of the security company Blackwater, and the Kremlin-connected head of a large Russian sovereign wealth fund, Kirill Dmitriev. Nader, a Lebanese-American businessman, agreed to cooperate with Mueller's team after investigators stopped him at Dulles International Airport, according to a person familiar with his case. That person and others who spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity said they could not be identified because of the sensitivity of the issues surrounding the Mueller investigation. A lawyer for Nader declined to comment for this story.
Broidy and Nader first met at Trump's presidential inauguration on Jan. 20, 2017, according to a person with knowledge of the matter. Both men have checkered legal histories. Nader was convicted in a Czech Republic court in 2003 of multiple counts of sexually abusing minors. Broidy, a businessmen and prolific Republican fundraiser, was sidelined for a few years after he pleaded guilty to bribery in a case stemming from an investment scheme involving New York state's employee pension fund. Broidy later re-emerged as a player in the Republican Party's politics. During the 2016 Republican presidential primary, he raised money for U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, Sen. Marco Rubio and Sen. Ted Cruz. After Cruz bowed out of the race, Broidy signed on to help Trump during the 2016 election and beyond, co-hosting fundraisers across the country. The meeting between Broidy and Nader at the dawn of Trump's presidency soon led the two to work together in an effort to shift U.S. policies on the Middle East. On April 2, 2017, Nader asked Broidy to invoice his Dubai-based company for $2.5 million, according to someone familiar with the transaction who spoke on condition of anonymity.
On the same day, Broidy attached an invoice for that amount from Xiemen Investments Limited, a Canadian company directed by a friend. The money was forwarded to his own account in Los Angeles from the Canadian account, the person said. It was marked for consulting, marketing and advisory services, but was actually intended to fund Broidy's Washington advocacy regarding Qatar, two people familiar with the transaction said. The financial transaction and the White House meetings were first reported by The New York Times. It was on May 23, 2017, when Royce, a 13-term Congressman, appeared at a conference on Qatar's ties to the Muslim Brotherhood and announced that he was introducing the sanctions bill that would name Qatar a state sponsor of terrorism. The Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, a think tank that hosted the conference, said Broidy had approached it about organizing the event. Broidy bankrolled that conference and contributed to the financing of a second conference hosted on a similar theme in October by another think tank, the Hudson Institute. Both organizations said Broidy said that no money from foreign governments was involved. FDD says it does not accept money from foreign governments and Hudson only accepts money from Democratic countries allied with the U.S. "As is our funding policy, we asked if his funding was connected to any foreign governments or if he had business contracts in the Gulf. He assured us that he did not," FDD said in a statement. Broidy donated millions of his own money to efforts to fight Qatar, in addition to the $2.5 million from Nader, according to someone close to him, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss Broidy's private finances.
Broidy's behind-the-scenes efforts unfolded as animosity was growing between the UAE and Qatar. These tensions came to a head when the UAE and Saudi Arabia launched an embargo with travel and trade restrictions against Qatar less than two weeks after Royce introduced the sanctions legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Weeks later, Trump himself waded into the fracas, accusing Qatar of funding extremism in tweets on June 6. Royce and a staff member met with Broidy at Washington's Capitol Hill Club to discuss the bill, according to someone who was at the meeting. An associate, who Broidy paid for some of the work, also had frequent contact with congressional staff.
Broidy's effort to cultivate allies in Congress extended beyond Royce. Broidy has personally given hundreds of thousands of dollars to Republicans over the past decade or more. But he gave nothing during the 2012 and 2014 election cycles and just $13,500 during the 2016 cycle. Things changed after Trump's election as Broidy ramped up his advocacy on Middle East policy. Broidy has given nearly $600,000 to Republican candidates and causes since the beginning of last year when he began his advocacy push— more than in the previous 14 years combined. Campaign finance records going back two decades show Broidy had not given any money to Royce — until he gave the lawmaker a pair of $2,700 donations on July 31, 2017. By then, the sanctions bill was on a fast track. The original draft considered by the Foreign Affairs Committee contained language singling out Qatar as a supporter of Hamas, a Palestinian organization that has been designated as a terrorist group by the U.S. State Department. "Hamas has received significant financial and military support from Qatar," the draft bill states. Soon Qatar was lobbying hard to have that language excised. Nikki Haley, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, declared in a statement to the committee that Qatar does not fund Hamas. According to two people familiar with the committee deliberations, both Republican and Democratic staff members reached a consensus that because of the tensions in the Gulf, the language would look like the lawmakers were taking sides. They agreed to take it out of the bill. Qatari officials and lobbyists thought the matter had been settled, according to one lobbyist and a committee staffer. But just before the bill was to be put up for debate ahead of the committee's vote, Royce ordered the language on Qatar not only reinstated, but strengthened, they say. The bill was approved by the committee in November with the stronger language on Qatar intact. A Royce aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to comment, denied that Royce had ever considered removing the Qatar language. In January, Royce announced that he would not seek re-election, saying that he wanted to focus on his committee in the last year of his chairmanship rather than a political campaign. In the same month, Broidy's company signed the hefty contract with the UAE government for gathering intelligence, according to someone familiar with the work.
Open EU markets to Lebanese goods: Aoun to EU official
The Daily Star/March 26, 2018/BEIRUT: President Michel Aoun Monday urged a top EU official to open the union’s markets to Lebanese exports in order to strengthen bilateral partnership, a statement from the presidency’s office said.
During a meeting with Johannes Hahn, European commissioner for Neighborhood Policy and Expansion Negotiations, Aoun said Lebanon’s products conform to EU standards and specifications. According to the statement, Hahn welcomed an increase in Lebanese imports where specifications are met. The impact of Lebanon’s hosting of over 990,000 Syrian refugees was also discussed. Aoun reiterated his stance that “the return of the displaced Syrians to safe places in Syria, even if gradual, is an urgent need,” even if it comes before “the completion of the political solution in Syria.” Aoun added that refugees now posed an “existential threat” to Lebanon. Moving on to the upcoming CEDRE conference to be held in April in Paris in support of Lebanon’s economy and infrastructure, Aoun said Lebanon had “launched” reforms and “strengthened anti-corruption measures,” in addition to approving a public-private partnership law to “stimulate the productive economy.” “Promises” from the international community should be translated into “practical steps” at the conference, he said. Hahn was quoted as saying that the EU appreciated the care provided by Lebanon to Syrian refugees – adding that the assistance provided in this regard from the international community “is not enough.” Hahn promised to raise the issue during the upcoming Brussels conference, which will also be held in April in an effort to boost support for Syrian refugee communities and the countries hosting them. “Meeting with the President of #Lebanon, General Michel #Aoun. I underlined that #EU is ready to support #Lebanon’s own development. Expressed also my deep respect for #Lebanon’s role hosting so many #refugees,” Johannes Hahn tweeted after meeting Aoun at Baabda Palace. Hahn’s meeting with the president came before a scheduled sit-down with Prime Minister Saad Hariri.Hahn was also set to meet with Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil and speak at an event at the American University of Beirut. On Tuesday, he is scheduled to visit Tripoli’s port and special economic zone.

Lebanon Prepares for Brussels Conference, Sets Refugee’s Return as Priority
Beirut - Paula Astih/Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 26 March, 2018/Lebanon is finalizing its documents to the forthcoming Brussels conference, which will be held on April 24 under the title, “Support for the future of Syria and the region”, amid expectations that the country will prioritize the return of Syrian refugees, in conjunction with preparations for the Cedar Conference to rally economic support, which will take place in Paris on April 4.The ministerial committee in charge of the refugee issue is preparing the documents, which, according to official Lebanese sources, have not yet been finalized, due to the heavy stream of conferences in which Lebanon is participating this spring. After the recent Rome Conference to support the security institutions, priority is now given to prepare for the Paris Conference, with a subsequent focus on the Brussels Conference. In remarks to Asharq Al-Awsat, the official sources noted that the return of refugees to their country would be the main issue politically, in addition to the repercussions of the displacement crisis on the economic situation, especially in terms of worsening unemployment rates and the great challenges facing public schools, hospitals and the electricity sector, as the refugees consume 18 percent of total power production. According to the records of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), there are currently 995,512 regitered refugees living on the Lebanese territories, while the number reached 1.5 million in the past years. According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Lebanon bears the burdens of the displaced, estimated at about $7 billion, while the Lebanese state suffers from an economic deficit. Before the Syrian crisis, the growth rate reached 8 percent, while today it is around 1.1 percent. Former Interior Minister Marwan Charbel said that it was “illogical and impermissible to link the return of the displaced Syrians to their country to a political solution in the Syrian crisis.”In remarks to Asharq Al-Awsat, Charbel noted that most of the Syrian areas were safe and therefore could welcome their citizens back.

Lebanon's new electoral law could spell trouble for traditional parties
Mona Alami/Al Monitor/March 21/2018
With the new electoral law in Lebanon expected to fragment traditional parties' representation in parliament, Lebanese are divided over how the May 6 vote will change the legislature.
REUTERS/Omar IbrahimPosters of Lebanese candidates that were running in Tripoli's municipal and mayoral elections line the streets in Tripoli, Lebanon, May 30, 2016.
Lebanon will hold parliamentary elections on May 6, for the first time in nine years. Lebanese parties are gearing up for the coming popular vote, with many fearing that the new electoral system that is based on proportional representation across 15 electoral districts might fragment their representation. Even Hezbollah seems wary of the parliamentary outcome, with experts believing the group may be facing challenges in several districts.
On Feb. 19, Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah announced the group’s candidates for the elections. Hezbollah fielded 13 candidates, including former head of General Security Jamil al-Sayyed for the Baalbek-Hermel electoral district.
Political expert Ali Abdallah Fadlallah, who is close to Hezbollah and the author of “Hezbollah: Change of Discourse,” told Al-Monitor that Hezbollah introduced five new candidates, namely Ibrahim Ali Moussawi, Ihab Hamadeh, Anwar Hussein Jomaa, Houssein Jishi and Hussein Zeaiter. “The group did not push for younger figures or women, as it was concerned with the candidates’ experience and because it believes parliamentarian life to be less suitable for women,” he said.
Lebanese parliament approved the new electoral law last June. It stipulates that each voter shall vote for one of the competing lists and shall be entitled to cast one preferential vote for a candidate of the same chosen list, with the country divided into 15 electoral constituencies.
Michael Young, senior editor at the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut, believes the new electoral law’s greatest winner may be Hezbollah. In a November 2017 article published in The National, Young said, “One of the main backers of the new law was Hezbollah, which anticipated that proportional representation would fragment parliament and in that way, ensure that the party would face no concerted opposition to its political priorities in the future.”
The large traditional blocks dominate the current parliament and were favored by the previous majority law. Young continued, “Indeed, the biggest relative losers are expected to be two of the politicians who once were part of the March 14 alliance opposed to Hezbollah, namely Mr. [Walid] Jumblatt and the current prime minister, Saad Hariri."
Jumblatt heads the Progressive Socialist Party and Hariri is the head of the Future Movement.
Pollster and election specialist Kamal Feghali concurred, telling Al-Monitor that the Progressive Socialist Party could face a tough competition by civil society candidates in the areas where it previously garnered massive votes, while the Future Movement will see its number of seats recede more specifically in Tripoli, where Hariri is challenged by former Internal Security Forces head Ashraf Rifi.
However, other experts disagree. Talal Atrissi, a political analyst and professor of sociology at the Lebanese University, told Al-Monitor, “The new electoral law is complicated and does not guarantee total victory to any Lebanese party. Hezbollah, for instance, may be challenged in the Bekaa-Zahleh districts where a small number of votes can also yield influence. The new law is not reassuring to anyone and confusion is reigning over all the Lebanese political parties."
Atrissi said that while Hezbollah may lose in one constituency, it may gain in other areas, citing the example of the possible victory of Osama Saad, Hezbollah’s ally in Sidon. It is still not clear on what list he will be running, but if elected, he will be taking one seat away from the Future Movement.
Fadlallah explained that other areas that could prove challenging include the large Baalbek-Hermel constituency that has 10 seats, where Hezbollah’s rivals — such as the Christian Lebanese Forces and the Future Movement — could secure the necessary 10% threshold. Jbeil could also be taxing. Hezbollah and its Christian ally the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) still disagree over the candidacy of Zeaiter, who is running in a majority Christian area. “The FPM has refused to endorse Zeaiter because they would prefer a more neutral candidate,” Atrissi said.
Both Fadlallah and Atrissi agree that Hezbollah will win with its Shiite Amal ally all seats in their bastion of south Lebanon, running against the communists and independent lists. “Hezbollah had to exert more pressure on its constituency to convince it to participate in the next poll. There has been an evolution in Hezbollah’s audience that is now more preoccupied with service and development issues than war. Expectations are high and people feel that the group is not prioritizing issues related to livelihood. Shiites support Hezbollah’s struggle against Israel, but when it comes to the group’s management of social and developmental dossiers, not everyone is satisfied with its parliamentarians' performance,” Fadlallah added.
War has been at the heart of Hezbollah’s discourse in Lebanon. In his book “Hezbollah: The Story from Within,” Naim Qassem, Hezbollah’s deputy secretary-general, underlined holy war as one of the group’s three main foundations, besides the belief in Islam and loyalty to Iran's velayat-e faqih.
“Hezbollah’s engagement in Syria is significant. At times its members were fighting on several hundred front lines, which means that the preoccupation of some of its citizens with social issues is secondary to the group, given the massive war effort they are engaged in across the border,” Fadlallah noted.
Regardless of the election results, Atrissi believes that the priorities of the next government will not shift much from the previous ones. He said, “Internally no one wants to shake up Lebanon’s stability, and Prime Minister Saad Hariri wants his economic agenda to succeed. The only way I see changes in the next government is if Western or Arab powers decide to destabilize the country by either putting international pressure on Lebanon or by using local proxies."
It will nonetheless be interesting to see if Hezbollah’s hegemony over its constituency may be broken during the elections in May, not by traditional rivals such as the Future Movement, but by less likely ones such as prominent Shiite figures or the Communist Party, which were able to secure a limited victory in the 2016 municipal elections. The formation of final electoral lists at the end of March could be telling in that regard.
**Mona Alami is a French-Lebanese journalist and analyst who writes about political, security and economic issues in the Arab world. She focuses on non-state armed actors in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Jordan such as Hezbollah, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and the Islamic State. Alami is a nonresident fellow at the Atlantic Council's Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East, as well as Trends Research and Advisory and an Associate fellow at the King Faysal Center for Research and Islamic Studies. Alami is a regular contributor to a number of American and Arab publications including Asharq Al-Awsat, Al-Monitor and The New Arab, among many others. She has produced several documentaries for Al Aan TV on jihadism and Hezbollah. Alami holds an MBA from the Lebanese American University. She writes in English, French and Arabic and is currently completing her PhD in geopolitics at Lyon 2.

Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published
on March 26-27/18
Statement byCanadian Foreign Affairs Minister on Seven Years of Conflict in Syria
March 26, 2018 - Ottawa, Ontario - Global Affairs Canada
The Honourable Chrystia Freeland, Minister of Foreign Affairs, today issued the following statement:
“This month marks seven years of conflict and tragedy in Syria, and the plight of the Syrian people remains as dire as ever.
“Throughout the month of March alone, we have seen new waves of violence, with over 200,000 Syrians forced out of their homes in eastern Ghouta and Afrin. It is estimated that over 1,600 civilians have been killed in eastern Ghouta alone. We have also seen continued reports of the use of chemical weapons by the regime in Syria and indiscriminate attacks against civilians and humanitarian workers.
“Any use of chemical weapons is a violation of international law. Canada calls for the perpetrators of these barbaric acts to be brought to justice.
“March also saw the release of a devastating report, by the UN Human Rights Council’s Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, detailing evidence that Syrian government forces and other parties to the conflict have made widespread use of rape and sexual violence as a weapon of war. Such acts are war crimes. The report’s authors have recommended that the UN Security Council refer their findings to the International Criminal Court for possible prosecutions. We agree.
“The international community is watching and the perpetrators must be held accountable. Canada is actively engaged in efforts to hold perpetrators accountable. We are providing essential financial support to the collection and preservation of evidence in the region. This includes funding for sexual and gender-based violence investigators via UN Women, the Commission for International Justice and Accountability, and the International, Independent and Impartial Mechanism on International Crimes Committed in the Syrian Arab Republic. In addition, Canada has provided $12 million for groups in Syria, such as the White Helmets, that are saving lives by providing communities with emergency response services and removing explosives. We encourage the international community to join Canada and continue to finance this important work.
“Russia and Iran, allies of the Syrian regime, bear moral responsibility for the continued suffering of the people of Syria.
“After seven years, there are simply no words left to describe the extent of human suffering in Syria. History will look unkindly on us all if we do not take collective action to end this conflict. We cannot allow what is happening in Syria to be normalized, as too often it is today.
“Canada calls on all parties to this conflict to respect their obligations under international humanitarian law, cease attacks on civilians and humanitarian workers and allow rapid, safe and unhindered humanitarian access to populations in need. Millions of people in Syria remain in need of lifesaving assistance seven years into this conflict.”
Media Relations Office
Global Affairs Canada
Saudi-Led Coalition Threatens Retaliation against Iran over Missiles
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/March 26/18/A military coalition led by Saudi Arabia on Monday threatened retaliation against Iran, accusing the Shiite power of being behind a barrage of Yemeni rebel missile attacks on the kingdom.
Saudi forces said they intercepted seven missiles on Sunday, including over the capital Riyadh, in a deadly escalation that coincided with the third anniversary of the coalition's intervention in Yemen. Displaying wreckage at a news conference in Riyadh of what it said were fragments of those missiles, the coalition claimed forensic analysis showed they were supplied to Huthi rebels by their ally Iran.
We "reserve the right to respond against Iran at the right time and right place," coalition spokesman Turki al-Malki told reporters. The missile strikes resulted in the first reported fatality from Huthi fire in the Saudi capital. Egyptian national Abdul-Moteleb Ahmed, 38, died instantly in his bed when what appeared to be burning shrapnel struck his ramshackle room in Riyadh's Um al-Hammam district, leaving a gaping hole in the roof, witnesses told by AFP at the site. Three other Egyptian laborers in the same room were wounded and hospitalized, they said. The Huthis said on their Al-Masirah television that Riyadh's King Khalid International Airport was among the targets. Malki alleged the Iran-aligned Huthi rebels in Sanaa were using the airport there to launch missiles on Saudi territory, adding the coalition had targeted a "missiles shipment" at the facility. Iran has repeatedly rejected claims it is arming the rebels.
Show of strength
A Saudi-led military coalition intervened in Yemen on March 26, 2015 to try to restore the government of President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi after the Shiite Huthis and their allies took over large parts of the country, including the capital Sanaa. Hours after the missile attacks on Saudi Arabia, hundreds of thousands of Huthi rebel supporters flooded the streets of Yemen's capital Monday to mark three years of war. Sanaa's Sabaeen Square was a sea of Yemeni flags as rebel authorities ordered all schools and government offices shut for the anniversary. Huthi supporters carried portraits of rebel chief Abdulmalik al-Huthi and speakers blasted out a fiery speech by Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, leader of Lebanon's powerful Hizbullah Shiite movement, praising the "steadfastness" of the Yemeni people. War songs, poems and speeches condemning the United States, the main arms supplier for the Saudi-led coalition, echoed across the square. "No one can speak on behalf of the Yemeni people. The people taking to the streets today are the real voice," Ibtisam al-Mutawakel, head of a Huthi cultural committee, told AFP. About 10,000 Yemenis have been killed and 53,000 wounded since the start of the coalition intervention in Yemen, which triggered what the United Nations has called the world's worst humanitarian crisis. Despite the intervention the rebels remain in control of the capital, northern Yemen and the country's largest port.
'Possible war crime' 
Amnesty International, which has criticized both sides in the Yemen war for neglecting civilian safety, on Monday said the "indiscriminate" Huthi missile attack "could constitute a war crime."The rights group has also slammed the Saudi-led alliance for possible war crimes in Yemen. Britain urged Iran to "stop sending in weapons which prolong the conflict," while Tehran accused London -- a key arms supplier for Saudi Arabia -- of hypocrisy. The U.S. State Department said Washington would support the Saudis' "right to defend their borders against these threats". Rebel leaders have sought to highlight the role of the United States in the Saudi-led intervention. At Monday's rally, Saleh al-Sammad, head of the rebels' Supreme Political Council, said the rebels were "ready to reach an understanding" to end the intervention and the coalition's blockade of Yemen. "It is the Americans who are directing this aggression and participating directly on a number of fronts," Sammad told the rally.The Hadi government, for its part, said Monday that the overnight attacks on Saudi Arabia amounted to "an open rejection of peace."The U.S. Senate last week rejected a bipartisan bid to end American involvement in Yemen's war, voting down a rare effort to overrule presidential military authorization. The U.S. has provided weapons, intelligence and aerial refueling to the Saudi-led coalition. Washington formally approved defense contracts worth more than $1 billion with Riyadh last Thursday during a high-profile visit by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman..
Saudi forces shoot down 7 Houthi missiles; one expat killed in attack
Arab News/Monday 26 March 2018/RIYADH: Saudi air defenses intercepted seven ballistic missiles fired by Houthi militia in Yemen toward various targets in Saudi Arabia on Sunday night, the Arab Coalition helping Yemen's legitimate government said. Three of the missiles were fired toward Riyadh, two toward Jazan, and one each toward Khamis Mushayt and Najran, Saudi state news channel Al Ekhbariya quoted a coalition spokesman as saying. Missiles were targeted at residential areas and one Egyptian civilian worker was killed and two were injured, said the news channel. It did not mention which place the casualties were based. Witnesses reported loud explosions and bright flashes in the sky in Riyadh, apparently caused by missiles being shot down. Since November, Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi militias have fired multiple missiles into Saudi Arabia, all of which Saudi forces had successfully intercepted without causing any damages to lives or properties. The Houthis launched a missile at Riyadh on Nov. 4, targeting King Khalid International Airport. Royal Saudi Air Defense forces intercepted the missile and shot it down, and there was no damage. A UN Security Council-appointed panel confirmed the missile was manufactured in Iran, along with three other missiles fired from Yemen toward the Kingdom this year.
US expels 60 Russian ‘spies’ over UK nerve attack
Arab News/Monday 26 March 2018/LONDON: The United States has expelled 60 Russian diplomats, and ordered the Seattle consulate shuttered in response to the UK spy case. The White House says the expulsion of Russian diplomats and closure of the Russian consulate in Seattle will “make the United States safer.” White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders says in a statement Monday President Donald Trump is responding to “Russia’s use of a military-grade chemical weapon on the soil of the United Kingdom.”She says the move will reduce “Russia’s ability to spy on Americans and to conduct covert operations that threaten America’s national security.”The administration expelled 60 Russian diplomats and ordered Russia’s consulate in Seattle to close, as the United States and European nations sought to jointly punish Moscow for its alleged role in poisoning an ex-spy in Britain. Sanders says the United States and allies want to send a message to Russia that “actions have consequences.” Ukraine has followed suit by expelling 13 Russian diplomats as part of the response to the attempted assasination of Sergei Skripal on UK soil. Germany’s foreign minister on Monday said Berlin had ordered the expulsion of four Russian diplomats over the poisoning of a former spy in England, as EU nations step up the pressure on Moscow. “After the Salisbury poisoning Russia has still not helped clarify the situation. We did not take this decision lightly,” Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said on Twitter. The move comes as part of a coordinated effort by EU nations and the US to punish Russia over the brazen nerve agent attack on ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia on March 4. European Union chief Donald Tusk says 14 member nations are expelling Russian diplomatic staff over the poisoning of ex-spy Sergei Skripal in Britain. Tusk said Monday that there may be additional measures including further expulsions in the coming days and weeks. In coordinated announcements of expulsions on Monday, the Czech Republic said it is kicking out three staffers from the Russian embassy. Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis calls the measure an expression of solidarity with Britain. The Netherlands said it is expelling two Russian intelligence officers, while Estonia said it was expelling the Russian defense attache. The Italian Foreign Ministry announced that Italy would expel two Russian diplomats assigned to the embassy within a week. Russia hit back; implying that the US is destroying relations between the two countries.  Russia’s Foreign Ministry said on Monday it would respond to the decision by a large number of Western states to expel Russian diplomats and it accused their governments of blindly following their British allies into confrontation with Moscow. The ministry said in a statement that it viewed the expulsions, ordered in response to the poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal in the English city of Salisbury, as an unfriendly act and a provocative gesture. Britain has blamed Russia for the poisoning of Skripal and his daughter Yulia, a charge Moscow denies. British Prime Minister Theresa May welcomed on Monday the action of other countries to expel Russian diplomats after an attack on a former Russian spy in England, saying it sent a strong signal to Moscow that it cannot flout international law.“We welcome today’s actions by our allies, which clearly demonstrate that we all stand shoulder to shoulder in sending the strongest signal to Russia that it cannot continue to flout international law,” a statement from May’s office said.

Russia Vows to React to 'Provocative' Expulsions of Diplomats
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/March 26/18/Civil society groups and the Sabaa Party on Monday The Russian foreign ministry on Monday vowed to retaliate against the expulsions of its diplomats by the United States and Canada, as well as 14 European Union countries and Ukraine over the poisoning of a former spy in Britain. "We express a decisive protest over the decision taken by a number of EU and NATO countries to expel Russian diplomats," the ministry said in a statement, calling the moves a "provocative gesture." Moscow vowed that this "unfriendly step by this group of countries will not pass without trace and we will respond to it."Russia said the move went against the interests of identifying those guilty for the attack in the English city of Salisbury on ex-double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia, who are both unconscious in hospital after being poisoned by a nerve agent developed in the Soviet Union. It accused the countries who took part in expulsions of "pandering to the British authorities" and "not bothering to look into the circumstances of what happened," saying this was part of a confrontational dynamic aimed at "escalating the situation." Moscow said the British authorities have issued "groundless accusations" against Russia and taken "a prejudiced, biased and hypocritical position."It complained that it had received no information on the "attempted assassination of Russian citizens."

U.S., EU States Expel Dozens of Russian Diplomats over UK Nerve Attack
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/March 26/18/The United States joined Britain's allies in Europe and around the world Monday in expelling scores of suspected Russian spies in an unprecedented response to a nerve agent attack. At least 113 alleged agents working under diplomatic cover were ordered out by 21 governments, dwarfing similar measures in even the most notorious Cold War spying disputes, and marking a British diplomatic victory.  Washington led the way, ordering out 60 Russians, in a new blow to U.S.-Russia ties less than a week after President Donald Trump congratulated Vladimir Putin on his re-election. Canada, Ukraine, Albania and most European Union states matched the move with smaller-scale expulsions, after Britain urged allies to respond to the poisoning of double agent Sergei Skripal. Russia has denied it was behind the attempted assassination, which left Skripal and his daughter gravely ill in perhaps the first nerve agent attack in Europe since World War II. And it warned that there would be a tit-for-tat response to those countries "pandering to British authorities" without, Moscow claims, fully understanding what had happened. But Western officials made it clear in announcing the expulsions that they share Britain's assessment that only the Kremlin could have been behind the March 4 incident in Salisbury, England. White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said Washington and its allies were acting "in response to Russia's use of a military-grade chemical weapon on the soil of the United Kingdom."
The strong language contrasted with the warm words Trump shared with Putin last week, when he overrode his advisers' concerns and congratulated his opposite number Putin on his election win. "The United States stands ready to cooperate to build a better relationship with Russia, but this can only happen with a change in the Russian government's behavior," Sanders said.
Consulate closed
U.S. officials said that 48 "intelligence officers" attached to Russian diplomatic missions in the U.S. would be expelled, along with 12 accredited to the United Nations in New York. Trump's ambassador to the U.N., Nikki Haley, welcomed the move and said: "Here in New York, Russia uses the United Nations as a safe haven for dangerous activities within our own borders."Spokeswomen for the White House and the State Department, along with Haley and U.S. ambassador to Moscow Jon Huntsman condemned the alleged Russian attack. But Trump himself, who usually likes to tweet or hold a press event for major announcements, was silent. In addition, the Russian consulate general in Seattle will be closed, the White House said, because of its proximity to a U.S. submarine base and a plant run by private aerospace giant Boeing. This represents the largest U.S. expulsion of Russian or Soviet agents ever and comes after Trump's predecessor Barack Obama expelled 35 in late 2016 over alleged election meddling. Russia's foreign ministry warned that the "unfriendly step by this group of countries will not pass without trace and we will respond to it."And the Russian embassy in Washington appeared to hint at what this response would be. In a tweet, the Russian mission asked followers to vote on which U.S. consulate should be closed, listing those in Vladivostok, St Petersburg and Yekaterinberg as options. Russia's ambassador to the United States condemned the decision and told state-run Sputnik News: "A serious blow to the quantitative and qualitative composition of the Russian embassy in Washington, DC." It was not immediately clear how many Russians are assigned to its various U.S. missions, but in 2016 Putin ordered the United States to reduce its Moscow personnel to 455 to achieve parity. Before the measures were announced, Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov had accused Britain of "feverishly trying to force allies to take confrontational steps."Canada confirmed it was expelling four Russians, Ukraine 13, Albania two and Norway two. At least 16 EU member states were kicking out agents.
An unofficial AFP tally brought the total number of suspects to 112. They are due to leave in the days and weeks to come. Britain welcomed its allies' decision as a diplomatic and moral victory, after concerns that some would prefer not to offend Moscow despite international horror over the attack.
'Extraordinary response' "I have found great solidarity from our friends and partners in the EU, NATO, America and beyond," Prime Minister Theresa May told parliament. "Together, we have sent a message that we will not tolerate Russia's continue attempts to flout international law and undermine our values."More than three weeks after the attack, which Britain says was carried out by a nerve agent exclusively developed by Russia, the Skripals are still in a coma in hospital.A British policeman who was exposed to the nerve agent when he responded to the attack on the former Russian officer has now been released from treatment. A British judge ruled last week that blood samples from former Russian spy Skripal and his daughter Yulia could be taken for testing by the world chemical weapons body (OPCW)

Russia says deal expected with more rebels in Syria’s Ghouta
AP /Monday 26 March 2018/BEIRUT: Russia troops said Monday they expect to reach an agreement with a major Syrian rebel group to arrange its exit from the last rebel-held town in eastern Ghouta in another key victory for Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces as they push to gain control of the region on the edge of Damascus. Douma is the only town on the eastern outskirts of the Syrian capital still held by rebels, after government forces captured all other opposition areas they had besieged for years. The town, controlled by the powerful Army of Islam, is also home to tens of thousands of people, including many who were displaced over the past weeks of fighting as government forces pushed deeper into eastern Ghouta. Lt. Gen. Stanislav Gadzhimagomedov told Russian news agencies on Monday in Syria that Russia’s military is in talks with the Army of Islam rebel group for the leave Douma. Gadzhimagomedov, who is the deputy head of the Chief Operational Department at the Russian General Staff, said he expects the Russian military to “take them out soon” and that the rebels have reportedly indicated their willingness to lay down their arms. However, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said there are divisions among the group regarding negotiations over Douma, with some hard-liners refusing any talks with Russians and those will likely be taken to the central Qalamoun region. The Observatory said some fighters asked to be allowed to go to the southern province of Daraa but that the Russians rejected this request. Syria’s pro-government Al-Watan daily said the Army of Islam and the Russians have reached an “understanding,” adding that each side will study a draft agreement within the next three days and if they agree on it, the agreement will be signed. Al-Watan quoted Syrian legislator Mohammed Kheir Seiryoul, who is originally from Douma, as saying that the understanding could lead to an agreement to dissolve the Army of Islam. During this period, its members would hand over their heavy weapons and the Syrian government would assume control of state institutions in the town. A civilian committee representing Douma said in a statement released late Sunday after meeting Russian officials that the negotiations “are extremely difficult and no quick results should be expected.”Talks with the Russians will resume within three days, it said. Douma-based opposition activist Haitham Bakkar said the town was subjected to some artillery shelling early on Monday that wounded several people. The negotiations on Douma came after thousands of rebel fighters and their families left three other eastern Ghouta pockets in the past weeks, after years of siege and weeks of heavy bombardment by the Syrian army and Russia’s air force. The government-controlled Syrian Central Military Media said 18 buses carrying 1,100 people, including 238 opposition fighters from different rebel factions, were getting ready Monday to leave the towns of Jobar, Zamalka and Arbeen toward Idlib. The Russian Defense Ministry’s Center for Reconciliation in Syria said in a statement that more than 400 people left Douma early Monday. It put the total figure of civilians and rebels evacuated from the area since the Russia-sponsored “humanitarian pauses” were announced at 114,000 people. Army of Islam spokesman Hamza Bayraqdar blasted their former allies in Ghouta of Faylaq Al-Rahman group, accusing them of helping government forces in capturing more than 80 percent of the once rebel-held districts after they dried out artificial swamps set up by insurgents to slow down the army’s offensive. “We had defensive plans prepared, but regrettably Faylaq Al-Rahman cut the water that was brought from Barada River,” Bayraqdar told the Dubai-based Al-Arabiya TV. “This sped up the regime’s advance.”

UNICEF Official Overlooks Child Recruitment in Yemen
London- Badr Al-Qahtani/ Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 26 March, 2018/An official from the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) urged allocating $350 million needed for the organization to operate in Yemen in 2018. Geert Cappelaere, Middle East and North Africa director at the UN children's fund UNICEF, made the comments in Amman, Jordan after a visit to Yemen. “UNICEF is asking for 2018 alone for its humanitarian program close to $350 million. That is peanuts compared to the billions of dollars that are currently invested in fighting war,” Cappelaere said.
"I was shocked last week in Sanaa by the hundreds... thousands of children who are begging in the streets," he added. Sanaa was Yemen’s former capital before Iran-allied militias overran and seized control over the territory, forcing the government to relocate to the temporary capital, Aden. "It is incredibly heartbreaking to see very small children stretching out their hands for some food or money", Cappelaere said. “I am appreciative of what the UNICEF official had to say about the suffering of children since the coup d'état,” Yemeni Human Rights Dr. Mohammed Askar told Asharq Al-Awsat. Nevertheless, Askar pointed out that the international body is overlooking a very serious issue: Houthi militias continuing their recruitment of children. According to UNICEF itself, Houthi militias are responsible for the vast majority of child recruitment in Yemen. “It is better to call on these militias to stop recruitment, and they must be punished,” he said. UNICEF regional communications chief Juliette Touma had previously pointed out in a statement that 2,500 children were recruited to fight in Yemen. For his part, Yemeni Information Minister Muammar al-Iryani confirmed in a phone conversation with Asharq Al-Awsat that the government is confident world institutions “will give child recruitment a wider span of concern as it is a major crime against children.”“I visited the rehabilitation center, sponsored by the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief, attending children recruited to fight in Marib,” Iryani said. They have helped out more than a single group of kids lead a normal life, he added. According to child testimonies, Houthi militants threaten to kill them if they do not fight—once more proving the brutality of the Tehran-guided militias against children in Yemen. KSReleif provides shelters to displaced people from provinces of Sanaa and Amran in Marib. According to the center, the process of aiding Amran and Marib targeted 300 displaced people under the inclusive humanitarian process plan in Yemen. These assistances come in in the framework of the relief and humanitarian project provided by the center across Yemen. “Child recruitment is not a new topic, but it has been ignored by a number of international and humanitarian organizations,” KSRelief spokesman Samer al-Jatili said. Jatili said that the King Salman Center contributed to the rehabilitation of 2,000 children, and now more than 200 children have been accommodated. “In 2017 militias continued to recruit and use children in battles,” he wrote in a letter to Asharq Al-Awsat. “Houthi militias used children under the age of 17 as fighters, of whom 268 were killed during the war, 58 were wounded and 122 others were captured—another 454 children continue to fight for the militias.”

Erdogan: Tal Rifaat Next Target of Operation Olive Branch
Ankara - Saeed Abdelrazek/ Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 26 March, 2018/Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has stressed that military Operation Olive Branch will not be confined to Afrin, which now falls under its control, but it will extend to Manbij, Idlib and other areas in northern Syria. Speaking at his ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party’s 6th ordinary provincial congress in the Black Sea province of Trabzon on Sunday, Erdogan said that the ongoing operation in Syria will achieve its goal when Tal Rifaat in northern Aleppo is brought under Turkish control. “God willing, we will achieve this operation’s goal by taking control of Tal Rifaat within a short period,” he said. The Turkish president said 302 members of Free Syrian Army (FSA) have been killed since the launch of the operation on January 20. Turkey has repeatedly underscored that its military advance is aimed at "clearing" the Turkish-Syrian border from the terrorist threat of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), a Kurdish political party in northern Syria, and the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) that are linked to the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which Ankara considers a terrorist organization. Erdogan also urged the US to transfer control of Manbij to the city’s “real owners." "If the PKK/YPG terror group is not cleared from Manbij, we will be forced to clear them from the city with the support of the local Syrian people," Erdogan said. “Our brothers are sending messages demanding Turkey to bring security and stability, starting from Tal Rifaat, Manbij, Tal Abyad, Ras al-Ayn and all the areas there... We will meet their request," the president stressed. In another conference, held in the northern Turkish province of Giresun province, Erdogan said a total of 3,747 terrorists have been 'neutralized' since the start of Operation Olive Branch in Afrin.

Political, Economic Meetings on Saudi Crown Prince's Agenda in New York
New York– Ali Bardi/Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 26 March, 2018/Upon his arrival in New York after a busy day in Boston, Massachusetts, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense, launched a series of intensive activities to open new horizons of cooperation and investment between the major financial and economic institutions in Saudi Arabia and the United States. The Crown Prince will hold meetings with CEOs, senior US businessmen and representatives of major Wall Street banks, as well as a Tuesday afternoon meeting with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. Crown Prince's long program includes meetings with prominent political, financial and economic figures starting on Monday, including high-level meetings with international corporate executives of the hospitality and hotel industry partners of the Red Sea Beach Tourism Project. Reports stated that Prince Mohammed is set to meet Monday former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg during a dinner banquet. Bloomberg is considered one of the world's prominent businessmen and business leaders.
Tuesday will be the highlight of the Crown Prince's activities, as major financial institutions in New York are looking forward to his sponsorship and participation in the Saudi-US CEO Forum. The forum will be attended by influential economic figures, like CEO of JPMorgan Jamie Dimon, CEO of KKR and Co. Henry Kravis, and CEO and president of NASDAQ Adena Friedman. Reuters quoted a person familiar with the matter as saying that BlackRock senior executives Philipp Hildebrand and Mark Wiseman will attend the event. DowDuPont Executive Chairman Andrew Liveris, who is listed as co-chair of the Saudi-US forum, will also be in attendance. Furthermore, the Saudi Crown Prince is set to meet Tuesday afternoon with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and senior UN officials. Asharq Al-Awsat learned from a UN source that the talks will focus on "the tense situation in several Arab countries and the role of Saudi Arabia in establishing stability in the region." On Thursday, Blackstone Group LP CEO Stephen Schwarzman will host an event for the Crown Prince. During his last day in New York, the Crown Prince will hold several meetings in the morning and later he will meet with technology companies like SoftTech. Crown Prince Mohammed has lined up stops in Houston, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle to cultivate investments. Saudi Arabia's Minister of Energy and Mineral Resources Khaled al-Falih said his country would go ahead with Aramco's initial public offering (IPO) on a global stock market such as London or New York during the second half of 2018, in spite of previous reports about possible shelving till next year.On the sidelines of Crown Prince's visit to New York, Misk Institute of Arts will hold its second exhibition at the Philips Expo Center. The four-day exhibition will showcase art and cultural works reflecting Saudi heritage under the title “Saudi Contemporary Art”. It will also screen a documentary entitled “Reframe Saudi”, which talks about the current Saudi life through the eyes of Saudi young men and women. Executive Director of Misk Institute of Arts Ahmed Mater indicated that the institute works on helping Saudi youth show their talent, represent their country in international exhibitions and present their country’s culture and arts, It also encourages cultural exchange and interaction with others within the Kingdom and abroad, he explained. Speaking on "Reframe Saudi", Mater stated that the documentary is based on virtual reality technology, adding: "it talks about a society that has a rich diversity. It presents the picture through the perspective of the new generation of contemporary artists on the new stage the Kingdom is witnessing socially and economically.” Misk Institute of Arts, part of the Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Foundation "Misk Foundation", aims to promote cultural production at the local level, and promote cultural diplomacy and knowledge exchange.

Arab Coalition to Prove Iran’s Involvement in Smuggling Missiles
Riyadh- Asharq Al Awsat/Monday, 26 March, 2018/The spokesperson for the coalition forces fighting to restore legitimacy in Yemen Col. Turki Al Maliki will hold on Monday a press conference to showcase evidence of the Iranian regime's involvement in providing and smuggling ballistic missiles and weapons to the terrorist Houthi militias. Col. Maliki will demonstrate, at the Armed Forces Officers Club, Irans’s engagement in acts that jeopardize regional and international security and its role in spreading chaos. The coalition’s air defense forces intercepted on Sunday seven ballistic missiles that targeted Saudi territories from Yemen. According to Maliki, three of the missiles were directed at Riyadh and the others were fired toward the southwestern cities of Khamis Mushait, Najran and Jazan, near the Yemen border. Maliki reiterated that this hostile and indiscriminate action by the Iran-backed Houthi group proves the continued involvement of the Iranian regime's support for the armed militia with qualitative capabilities in a clear and explicit challenge to UN Resolutions (2216) and (2231) in order to threaten the security of Saudi Arabia.

Jordan Foils ISIS Plot Targeting Intelligence, Police
Amman - Mohamed Al-Daameh/Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 26 March, 2018/Jordan announced on Sunday that it has foiled an ISIS plot to target police stations and the intelligence bureau in the city of Ruseifa, 15 kilometers northeast of Amman. Next week, the military-run state security court will begin examining a list of charges against a dormant cell of 15 ISIS-linked members for planning terrorist attacks on employees at the Intelligence Bureau, the Police directorate and a security center in Russeifa.The dormant cell also planned to target security patrols on the Amman-Zarqa highway by the end of 2017. The suspects face seven charges: Plotting to carry out terrorist attacks, possession of weapons to use them in terrorist activities, spreading the ideologies of terrorist groups, selling weapons for illegitimate use and not reporting information linked to terrorist operations. According to the charges, the suspects had been informed of an ISIS fatwa allowing them to carry out military operations in Jordan. The 15 suspects, who originate from Russeifa, were all arrested by the Jordanian intelligence between November 24 and 27, 2017. According to the list of charges, the suspects had pledged allegiance to the first suspect as the Emir of the cell, representing ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Based on this pledge, the first four suspects agreed to carry out attacks on members of the Ruseifa intelligence office. The third suspect had planned the attacks to take revenge from members of the intelligence office, who had previously arrested him on criminal charges. In recent years, Jordan has been targeted by several terrorist attacks, particularly since becoming a leading member of the US-led coalition fighting ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

Egypt Heads to Polls to Choose between Sisi and 'Rival'
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/March 26/18/Egyptians headed to the polls Monday in a presidential election to choose between incumbent Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and a little-known politician who has struggled to make the case he is a serious contender.Polling stations opened at 9:00 am (0700 GMT) for the three-day vote, in which Sisi is all but guaranteed to win a second four-year term. The president was among the first voters, shown on Egyptian television casting his ballot at a school in Cairo's Heliopolis district under tight security. Security forces were deployed across the country to protect polling booths and armoured vehicles were stationed at several points around Cairo. The Islamic State group's Egyptian affiliate, which has killed hundreds of soldiers and civilians, has threatened attacks on election infrastructure. On Saturday, two policemen were killed in a car bomb attack targeting the provincial head of security for the Alexandria governorate. The security chief was unharmed. Some 60 million people in Egypt, the most populated Arab country, are registered to vote on March 26, 27, and 28. Official results are expected on April 2. They will have the choice between Sisi and Moussa Mostafa Moussa, who registered immediately before the close date for applications, saving the election from being a one-horse race. Moussa, who has denied he is a "puppet", had been leading a Sisi re-election campaign until the moment he registered as a candidate. Other opponents have been sidelined, including former military chief of staff Sami Anan, who was detained in January, shortly after announcing his candidacy. The military said the reserve general broke the law by illegally declaring his candidacy. In an interview broadcast on Egyptian television last week, 63-year-old Sisi said the lack of serious opponents was not his doing. "I wish we had one, or two, or three, or 10 of the best people and you choose however you want," he said. Sisi had won his first term in 2014, a year after the former army chief ousted his predecessor Mohamed Morsi following mass protests demanding the divisive Islamist's resignation. In that election, Sisi faced Hamdeen Sabbahi, an established left-wing politician much better known than Moussa. Sisi won with 96.9 percent of the vote. With Sisi's victory effectively guaranteed, authorities will be hoping for a large turnout to enhance the vote's legitimacy.
Sisi has stressed in his pre-election appearances the importance of voters turning out in large numbers. In 2014, about 37 percent of voters participated in the two-day election, prompting authorities to add a third day to obtain a final participation rate of 47.5 percent. It is unlikely that this year's turnout will even reach the 37 percent threshold, said analyst Mostafa Kamel al-Sayed. "The result is known in advance, and this does not encourage Egyptians to go out and vote," he said. During the campaign, Sisi appeared frequently on television and in newspapers, hailing factories and infrastructure projects built over the past four years. Egyptian cities, especially Cairo, are flooded with banners featuring photographs of Sisi and messages of support from business owners. Posters vowing support for Moussa, 65, are rarely seen. But with an economic crisis and gruelling price hikes -- and the return of a regime seen as at least as authoritative as that of ex-leader Hosni Mubarak -- support for Sisi appears to be slightly in decline.
Egyptians Head to Polls amid Heightened Security
Cairo - Mohamed Nabil Helmy/Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 26 March, 2018/Polls for the presidential elections opened in Egypt on Monday amidst a nationwide security alert hoping to hold a three-day presidential race without “surprises.”Ballots opened at 9 a.m. local time on the first of three days of voting. President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi cast his vote in Cairo as the polls opened, state TV reported. Army spokesman Tamer Rifai said the deployment of security forces will ensure that committees and polling stations are “a safe environment for Egyptians to cast their votes.”The candidate most likely to win is Sisi, setting him for a second four-year term. Election mass publicity and campaigning spread across Egypt, with conferences being extensively organized over the past period. Pro-Sisi voters say that he is on his way to a landslide victory against his only rival, Ghad Party head Mousa Mustafa Mousa. Some 60 million Egyptians are entitled to vote, and an encouraging atmosphere is expected to yield in a huge voter turnout. Health and Population Minister Ahmed Rady decided to “fully raise the level of readiness in all hospitals.”He said that 2,400 ambulances are equipped and distributed in the vicinity of the main and sub-electoral committees, main roads and highways in all governorates. He pointed out that “deploying ambulances” was arranged in a way so that each car covers from 5 to 7 electoral committees in each province. He reported preparing 71 hospitals in all Egyptian governorates, which will be receiving any emergency case during elections, and medical assistance to voters. He pointed out that there “has been a review of blood units” and that 20,000 units of all blood types are made available across the voting nation. The government, which has about 95,000 employees in all sectors, has helped 13,000 judges in the election administration to “complete all preparations, in coordination with the provinces.”Maj. Gen. Abu Bakr al-Jundi said Sunday that “all headquarters of electoral committees in the governorates were equipped and provided with means of comfort to receive voters casting their votes.”
Egypt: 6 Militants Linked to Alexandria Bombing Killed in Raid
Cairo - Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 26 March, 2018/Egypt's Interior Ministry said Sunday that security forces have killed six militants believed to be involved in Saturday’s bombing in the city of Alexandria. The militants are members of Hasm movement, the armed wing of the banned Muslim Brotherhood. On Saturday, an explosive device placed under a car detonated as the convoy of Alexandria's security chief Mostafa el-Nimr passed through el-Moaskar el-Romany Street. He was not harmed in the blast that left two policemen dead. Following the attack, Egyptian Minister of Interior Magdy Abdulghaffar announced that authorities had information about the persons responsible for the attack, saying appropriate measures will be taken to continue the investigation. In its official statement, the interior ministry said the terrorists were killed at dawn Sunday following a shootout in a residential apartment in Beheira governorate, about 89 kilometers from Alexandria. "The interior ministry has dealt an effective blow to the armed wing of the Muslim Brotherhood ... and exchanged fire with its elements, which led to the killing of six" militants, the statement said. The ministry identified three of the terrorists wanted by the authorities in a 2017 Supreme State Security case linked to the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood's "militant wing."The ministry identified Hasm members as: Imam Fathi Imam Khuraibah, Mahmoud Mohamed Hassan Abdel Hamid Mabrouk, and Ahmad Magdi Ibrahim Mohamed Zahra, adding that four automatic rifles, four safes, a cartridge, ammunition, and six explosive devices were found during the raid. The members of the cell were led by Brotherhood leader Bassem Gad, who is on the run in an Arab country. The interior ministry said Gad is responsible for ordering Saturday's attack on el-Nimr’s convoy. According to National Security information, Gad purchased the car used in the incident on January 17, 2017. The car, a silver colored Mitsubishi Lancer bearing fake plate number 402076 Alexandria, was bought at a dealership in the city by a woman claiming to be Gad's wife. The cell has also received orders from leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood abroad to target a number of prominent figures and vital facilities in Alexandria, Beheira and Kafr el-Sheikh, according to the interior ministry.

Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on March 26-27/18
A Natural Part of the World

Ghassan Charbel/Asharq Al Awsat/March 26/18
It was indeed an exceptional occasion. It is true that the presence of Prince Mohammed bin Salman makes the talks focus on the future and its horizons, but it is also true that the near past was present in the talks as if it has become a bridge to ensure the transition to deep and open partnerships.
A journalist’s curiosity grows when he takes part in an event that attracts figures who have played a prominent role in major episodes that rocked his own region. This is what happened at the dinner in Washington to celebrate the Saudi-US partnership on the occasion of the Saudi Crown Prince’s visit.
Attendees included, in addition to prominent congressional figures, men who left their marks on America’s relations with the Middle East and its relations with Riyadh: Dick Cheney, James Baker, George W. Bush, the son of George HW Bush, William Cohen, Prince Bandar bin Sultan and the daughter of the late General Norman Schwarzkopf accompanied by his grandson.
The journalist cannot but recall images and dates: I remembered the day when Asharq Al-Awsat sent me to Geneva to follow James Baker’s meeting with Tariq Aziz. The world held its breath for hours. The Iraqi army was occupying Kuwait. Baker was calm and clear. But Aziz could not receive the warning message delivered by the US Secretary. Aziz knew that Saddam Hussein had become the prisoner of his own image and preferred disaster to withdrawal. This is how the Desert Storm broke out. The sin of the occupation of Kuwait will generate other tragic chapters, including the overthrow of the Iraqi regime by overwhelming American force after Osama bin Laden provided the wounded America with the opportunity to embark on a campaign of extensive discipline.
Speakers delivered their speeches successively with high proficiency. Some secrets attracted the audience, especially when talking about turning points in the development of major and difficult decisions. But let us leave history to itself and to its admirers. A sense of optimism characterized speeches about the future of Saudi-US relations. It was evident that Saudi Arabia’s new look has saved its relations from previous obstacles after overcoming difficult tests.
Osama bin Laden believed that cutting the thread that links America to Saudi Arabia would smooth the way for a coup against the latter, along with shaking the pillars of stability of Arab and Islamic countries. Undeniably, this attempt has caused many difficulties and harmed the image of Saudi Arabia, especially that some parties focused on portraying the Kingdom as the source of terrorism and extremism.
All this has become part of the past. Speakers spoke about the new Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia, which witnessed over the past two years a workshop that raised hopes and turned the Saudi youth from colliding with the world, towards a project of reconciliation with the world and the building of mutually beneficial relations.
The past period, which saw extremists and obscurants control mosques, schools and minds, has ended. That period that would make the Arabs feel they are vulnerable and marginalized, and that the option is either retreat and isolation or forging ahead towards collision.
The story went farther: there are those who believed that Arabs and Muslims have become a burden to the world and a bomb waiting to explode in others; that they want nothing more than to stick to the past and fortify its caves, and that they repine about a world where others have manufactured its aircraft, refrigerators, cars, medicines and films. Proponents of hatred came to rub salt into the wound of anxious souls. Everyone who does not resemble us is our enemy. The other is a threat to our beliefs and existence. We kill him or he will kill us. The language of hatred prevailed and the minds of children and the emotions of young people were manipulated. All this has become part of the past. In his foreign visits, Mohammed bin Salman has a clear and conclusive message. Saudi Arabia has taken an irrevocable decision by asserting that it is a natural part of this world. It took a firm decision to hop on the train traveling to the future, turning the page of the dominance of ideas of attachment to the past.
To be a natural part of the world means to accept the right to be different. To recognize that you don’t have the right to impose your color on others as long as you refuse to give them the right to impose their color on you.
It means mutual recognition and meeting on the bridge of coexistence. The idea of considering others as a permanent and existential threat has fallen. There is no choice but coexistence, on the basis of reciprocal respect, mutual interests and partnership in jointly building a world that has room for all. Hate is a force of destruction that afflicts its conveyor before affecting the supposed target.
Today, Saudi Arabia heads confidently towards the world. It has overcome the stage of fighting terrorism to reach the episode of eradicating extremism, which leaked to books and institutes, and poisoned the local daily life and the language of communication with the outside. Trying to immunize people against the extremism epidemic is no longer enough.
The solution is a project of prosperity and stability, making Saudi youth feel that windows are open and opportunities are available.
A learning opportunity that establishes the values of progress, competitiveness and innovation. Saudi youth feel that their country is able to be prosperous and strong and be a partner in shaping the future of the region and the world, as a driver of prosperity and stability.
Saudi Arabia now goes to the world carrying “Vision 2030”: a profound and broad transformation project in society. A comprehensive rehabilitation process for a strong presence in the economy and politics.
That’s why Saudi Arabia is no longer thinking of airplanes without thinking about universities. It is seeking economic and defense partnerships. It wants to win investor confidence and provide technological and educational support to the reform program. It is the language of today's world. The language of mutual interests and the common journey on the train heading towards the future.
The fear of boarding the train with others and partnering with them has ended. Saudi Arabia wants to open doors for investment in all areas from military industries to tourism and leisure. Its wealth is not limited to oil. Another wealth is emerging. It is the youth, who are now attracted to the dream of becoming a natural part of the world and the struggle for progress and improvement of people’s living conditions. The success of the Saudi experiment will provide a model that encourages all Arabs and Muslims to engage in the world as a natural partner in rights and duties.

Behind 'Trade War' Slogans, a Few Routes to Peace
Daniel Moss/Asharq Al Awsat/March 26/18
The flashy term “trade war” is being thrown around with abandon, but thankfully for now it’s actually more of a frontier skirmish.
While announcements fly back and forth between Washington and Beijing, what's been said -- and not said -- offers opportunities to de-escalate.
Consider the Trump administration's announcement of tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. The exemptions granted are significant: Mexico, Canada, the EU, Australia, Brazil and no doubt more to come. They now look more like they are aimed at China, but the process allowed for lots of room to maneuver.
The same anti-climax may follow the White House’s announcement this week of tariffs against imports from China (and Beijing’s proposal to levy tariffs on certain items from the US). In short, everybody calm down and take a cool shower. First: A fact sheet from the US trade representative shows the measures are far from immediate. USTR has 15 days to publish a proposed list of products to be subject to the tariffs. There is then a 30-day period of public comment on the proposals. The trade representative then reviews the comments and takes some time to conclude matters.
Second: The White House has called for a 25 percent tariff on certain Chinese imports. Um … 25 percent of what, exactly? Watch that space. Let’s assume the timing and the implementation details are, like everything in Washington, subject to lobbying.
One group that has surely swung into action is multinational companies, many of them US-based. A lot of what the US buys “from China” does not originate there, but is assembled there from components made in other places. Deutsche Bank AG economists estimate that well over a third of American imports from China are produced in third countries. Can you think of any multinational corporations that might start to grumble? Apple Inc., for example, is based in Cupertino, California. The pieces that come together as an iPhone, though, tread a complex path to the door of your local Apple store.
Two other things Trump announced will take time. The Treasury Department has two months to piece together a response to China's investment practices in sensitive technology. Don’t expect big changes from this review. Even under existing rules, does any Chinese company now seriously think it has a chance to buy an American tech firm?
And I love this: The US will object to China's technology licensing rules through the World Trade Organization (another long process). Isn't the WTO up there with the press as a globalist enemy of the American people? As Trump might tweet: Interesting!
China's much-ballyhooed “hit back” proposal to tax imports from the US is only in response to the earlier Trump tariffs on steel and aluminum. Given the timing, it would be easy to conflate it all, but China was careful. The “hit back” over steel and aluminum could be read as a signal along the lines of: We are watching and waiting and showing we won't be pushed around, but we aren't going to get into some self-harming spat unless we really, really have to. None of this is to say that China deserves praise for trade practices -- far from it -- or that the US should just sit on its hands. For both sides, there’s plenty of room to maneuver here and still claim victory.

Bolton’s Plan to Kill the Iran Nuclear Deal
Eli Lake/Bloomberg View/March 26/18
If you want to get a sense of just how the next national security adviser, John Bolton, fits into Washington's foreign policy ecosystem, consider his lobbying last year against the Iran nuclear deal. The details here tell us a lot about how President Donald Trump's next national security adviser understands America's place in the world.Trump of course campaigned against the deal and publicly bemoaned the fact that he was required to keep certifying Iran's compliance with it. But a hasty exit from it carried its own risks. Could America effectively impose secondary sanctions on foreign banks and companies without cooperation at least from allies? So eventually Trump settled on the current US strategy: threaten to walk away unless America's European allies agree to address its weaknesses, namely its sunsets, Iran's missile programs and the weak inspection regime.Even that strategy did not go over well inside the Washington establishment, or for that matter with Trump's former secretary of state, Rex Tillerson. The argument was that the deal was working, so why rock the boat?
Not everyone agreed. Bolton wanted to rock the boat. With the help of his longtime collaborator, Fred Fleitz, Bolton crafted a policy paper on how to exit the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the formal title of the agreement intended to secure international monitoring of Iran’s nuclear development in exchange for lifting certain sanctions against the regime.  Bolton urged the Trump administration to pursue a diplomatic and political strategy that presented a paper on findings on how Iran was in breach of the agreement. He called for coordinating the decision with allies, but leaving Russia and China (two countries that negotiated and agreed to the deal in 2015) out of these consultations until the last minute. Bolton also laid out options that come very close to regime change. He urged the White House to encourage discussions in Congress to consider pressing allies to end landing and docking rights for Iranian vessels and aircraft; demand Iran pay US court orders in favor of the victims of terrorism; announce US support for Iran's democratic opposition; and provide assistance to Iranian minority groups such as the Balochis, Khuzestan Arabs and Kurds as well as "internal resistance among labor unions, students and women's groups."
White House officials at the time told me that Bolton briefed Trump on the plan (he has had access to Trump since his campaign in 2016). But eventually the president went with the strategy to try to fix the Iran deal instead of killing it altogether. Next month, when Bolton comes into his new job, he will have a chance to make his case again to the president -- this time as national security adviser.

Palestinians: Why Hamas Will Not Disarm
Khaled Abu Toameh/Gatestone Institute/March 26/2018
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas wants to extend his authority to the Gaza Strip, while Hamas is seeking to take over the West Bank.
Abbas is fortunate to have Israel sitting with him in the West Bank. Otherwise, Hamas would have succeeded in its effort to topple his regime and "transfer" its weapons to the West Bank.
Meanwhile, Abbas will continue to dream of returning to the Gaza Strip, while Hamas will continue to prepare for war against Israel and removing the Palestinian Authority from power.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is living in an illusion if he thinks that his rivals in Hamas would ever agree to lay down their weapons or cede control over the Gaza Strip.
Hamas has no intention of dismantling its military and security apparatus. It also does not have any intention of allowing Abbas's security forces to be stationed in the Gaza Strip. This refusal is why the "reconciliation" deal that Abbas signed with Hamas in Cairo in October 2017 will never be translated into facts on the ground.
Hamas is prepared to give Abbas anything he wants in the Gaza Strip except for security control. Hamas has no problem allowing Abbas and his government to function as a "civil administration" in the Gaza Strip by providing funds and various services to government institutions there.
If Abbas wants to pay salaries to civil servants in the Gaza Strip, that is fine with Hamas. If he wants to pay for fuel, water and electricity supplies to the Gaza Strip, that is also fine with Hamas.
Security control, however, is the last thing Hamas wants from Abbas. For Hamas, security is a red line not to be crossed.
What is behind Hamas's fierce opposition to relinquishing security control over the Gaza Strip?
Hamas wants to retain its weapons and security control of the Gaza Strip for two reasons: first, it wants the weapons so that it can continue the "armed struggle" against Israel; second, Hamas knows that the moment it hands over security control of the Gaza Strip to the Palestinian Authority (PA), many of its leaders and members will either be killed or imprisoned by Abbas's security forces.
Ahmed Bahr, a senior Hamas official in the Gaza Strip, described Abbas's demand that Hamas dismantle its security and military apparatus as "idiotic."
In a sermon he delivered during Friday prayers at Al-Mahata Mosque in the central Gaza Strip on March 23, Bahr said that the issue of disarming Hamas and other Palestinian terror groups was "non-negotiable." Hamas, he added, will not hand over its weapons to a Palestinian Authority government that conducts security coordination with Israel in the West Bank. "The weapons of the Palestinian resistance are legitimate weapons that will be used to restore our rights and liberate our lands," the Hamas official said. "The armed struggle [against Israel] is a right guaranteed by international laws."
Bahr's statements show that Hamas still does not trust Abbas and his Palestinian Authority, mainly because of their close security ties with Israel. For Hamas, security coordination with Israel is a form of treason, and there is no way Hamas would agree to cooperate with any Palestinian party that works with the Israelis.
Hamas continues to accuse the PA security forces and Israel of jointly cracking down on its members in the West Bank.
In a recent statement, Hamas accused the Palestinian Authority of arresting 10 of its members there. The arrests were carried out in the West Bank cities of Tulkarem, Nablus, Kalkilya, Hebron and Ramallah, according to Hamas. Among those taken into custody was a Palestinian journalist, Osama Shahin. Hamas said that two of the detainees have gone on hunger strike to protest their "illegal" incarceration.
Hamas fears that many of its leaders and members will face the same fate if it allows Abbas's security forces to deploy in the Gaza Strip. Those who are fortunate will only end up behind bars. Those who are less fortunate will be executed in public squares by Abbas loyalists.
Hamas still has agonizing memories of the days between 1993 and 2007, when the Palestinian Authority was in control of the Gaza Strip. Then, many Hamas leaders and senior officials found themselves either in prison or under house arrest.
Back then, one of the PA's favorite methods of "torture" -- and humiliating Hamas leaders -- was shaving the beards of Hamas leaders. Several Hamas leaders, including Mahmoud Zahar, had their beards shaven by their Palestinian interrogators while in prison.
This was the Palestinian Authority's technique of punishing the Hamas leaders. Muslims believe that, according to Islamic teachings, it is mandatory for men to grow a beard. Prophet Mohammed was even quoted as saying, "Be distinguished from disbelievers, grow your beards and shave your moustache."
The Hamas leaders' fear of what awaits them should they cede control over the Gaza Strip is not unjustified.
In a March 19 speech before Palestine Liberation Organization leaders in Ramallah, Abbas threatened to "pour shoes on the heads" of the Hamas leaders. The shoes, he said, will hit the heads of the most senior and most junior man in Hamas.
Abbas's threat came in response to the apparent assassination attempt targeting his Prime Minister, Rami Hamdallah, and General Intelligence Chief Majed Faraj, during a visit to the Gaza Strip earlier this month. The two senior Palestinian officials escaped unharmed when a roadside bomb exploded near their convoy in the northern Gaza Strip -- an area controlled by Hamas. Abbas has held Hamas "fully responsible" for the attack, while Hamas has denied any responsibility.
The attack on the convoy has led to a serious crisis between Abbas and Hamas, and destroyed the Egyptian-brokered "reconciliation" agreement between the two sides. Under the current circumstances, any talk about Hamas giving up its security control of the Gaza Strip sounds more like a joke, especially in light of Abbas's accusation that the terror group had tried to kill his prime minister and intelligence chief.
Pictured: Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas talks with then Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh on April 5, 2007 in Gaza City. Since 2007, Hamas and the Palestinian Authority have announced at least four "reconciliation" agreements to end their rivalry. (Photo by Mohamed Alostaz/PPM via Getty Images)
Hamas has spent the last decade arming itself to the teeth. With the help of Iran and other Islamic and Arab terror groups, Hamas managed to smuggle large amounts of weapons into the Gaza Strip through dozens of tunnels along its shared border with Egypt. According to some reports, many of the weapons, including missiles and rockets, were smuggled during the period when Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood was in power between June 2012 and July 2013. Some of the rockets and missiles were later used by Hamas and other Palestinian groups to attack Israel.
In addition, Hamas has thousands of security officers and militiamen who will never agree to serve under Abbas's security forces. This does not mean, however, that they will not accept salaries from Abbas's government.
Abbas, for his part, will never agree to incorporate the Hamas men into his security forces. He cannot, on the one hand, accuse Hamas of being behind the botched assassination attempt on Hamdallah and Faraj, and at the same time include Hamas militiamen and policemen within his security forces.
Ironically, while Abbas is demanding that Hamas disarm and hand over to his government security control of the Gaza Strip, Hamas is talking about its desire to "transfer" its weapons to the West Bank. Abbas wants to extend his authority to the Gaza Strip, while Hamas is seeking to take over the West Bank.
Hamas wants to "transfer" its weapons to the West Bank for two reasons: to overthrow Abbas's regime and to pursue the "armed struggle" against Israel.
Fighting Israel is Hamas's declared goal. Toppling Abbas's regime is its undeclared goal.
The weapons of Hamas are a red line not "to be crossed," said Khalil Al Haya, a senior Hamas official.
"Everyone should stop talking about these weapons, because they will remain to fight Israel. The weapons in the Gaza Strip give power to all Palestinians, including Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. These weapons will be transferred to the West Bank. The transfer of the weapons [to the West Bank] will not be enough. They will be used to fight Israel."
Abbas is fortunate to have Israel sitting with him in the West Bank. Otherwise, Hamas would have succeeded in its effort to topple his regime and "transfer" its weapons to the West Bank.
Fortunately for the Palestinians, Israel is sitting in the middle between the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Otherwise, Hamas and Abbas loyalists would be dispatching rockets and suicide bombers against each other. Instead of marching towards "reconciliation" and "unity," Abbas and Hamas have brought their people a new model of the "two-state solution": a Hamas-run emirate in the Gaza Strip and a mini-PLO state in the West Bank. Meanwhile, Abbas will continue to dream of returning to the Gaza Strip, while Hamas will continue to prepare for war against Israel and removing the Palestinian Authority from power.
**Khaled Abu Toameh, an award-winning journalist, is based in Jerusalem.
© 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.

"Supply and Demand" in Mass Migration/A Conversation with former Czech President Václav Klaus
Grégoire Canlorbe/Gatestone Institute/March 26/2018
"Mass migration also has the effect of changing the objectives of migrants. The goal is no longer to assimilate to the new world, but to strengthen one's old way of life... What is new with mass migration... often is the wish to extend one's home world to one's host country and to transform it gradually according to one's own tradition." — Václav Klaus, former President of the Czech Republic.
"As an economist, I always try to analyze a given situation in terms of supply and demand. The demand for mass migration does not come from the ordinary citizens, but from the European officials. The supply in mass migration, which comes from the migrants, exists only as a result of this policy intended to change the structure of the European society." — Václav Klaus.
"I am convinced that the solution [for the Israel-Palestine conflict] could not come from abroad: not from the United Nations Security Council, or I do not know who else. It must be the result of negotiations... It was my job to manage the split [of Czechoslovakia] and I understood that it was necessary to negotiate, not to ratify the decision from Brussels or somewhere else." — Václav Klaus.
Václav Klaus is a Czech economist and politician who served as the second President of the Czech Republic from 2003 to 2013. He also served as the second and last Prime Minister of the Czech Republic, federal subject of the Czech and Slovak Federative Republic, from July 1992 until the dissolution of Czechoslovakia in January 1993, and as the first Prime Minister of the newly-independent Czech Republic from 1993 to 1998. He is known for his euroscepticism, denial of man-caused global warming, opposition to mass immigration, and support of free market capitalism.
Grégoire Canlorbe: People are often defined by a common worldview rather than by genetics or where they live. In view of the situation in the Czech Republic, do you agree?
Václav Klaus: I would return the issue to the defense of the Nation-State. I truly believe in the Nation-State, therefore I am so critical of the continental ambitions of many European officials. I do not believe in the European Union or the European integration. This is for me the starting point.
For me, the Nation-State is the only possible way to have democracy. Democracy simply cannot exist at a higher level, as in continents, let alone global democracy in the world. So, my starting point is the Nation-State, the defense of the Nation-State, and the fighting continental integration.
In this respect, I am in favor of Trump. Donald Trump is not my cup of tea personally, intellectually, but his position on many issues is a positive one. I especially think of his refusal to sign the Paris Agreement, his important speeches like that in Warsaw in the summer or that in the United Nations in September, defending the Nation-States, culture, traditions, habits, mores and behaviors, lifestyles. It is something that I feel is with Trump, something that Hillary Clinton would never, never say.
Canlorbe: It is sometimes argued that mass immigration in the West is slowly changing class struggle into race struggle, substituting race consciousness for class consciousness. In addition, the dominant form of the class struggle would not be anymore that between "labor and capital" within each nation, but that between the "cosmopolitan" elites of the EU and the European peoples.[1] Your thoughts?
Klaus: For me, the "race struggle" is not the issue, and especially the "class struggle" is a term non-existent in my thinking. We were educated in terms of discussing the class struggle, because our teaching was based on the Marxist political economy. We finally understood how wrong the whole ideology is. I believe that after the fall of communism, I never used the word "class." Maybe it is an overstatement, but the term "class" is for me intellectually forbidden and non-existent. For the same reason, I would never speak of the "race struggle."
I am, however, absolutely critical of the mass migration in Europe. It is clearly not a spontaneous process. It is something which is organized by the European Union's political elites. If you have read my book Migration of Peoples (not yet translated into English), you will probably have realized that I stress a distinction between mass migration and individual migration. Mass migration creates cultural, social and political conflicts, shocks and tensions. It undermines the structure of society that has been gradually developed over centuries, maybe even millennia.
Individual migration is evidence of considerable individual courage and of a certain taste for adventure. Usually, it is an act prepared in the long term and the product of an individual or family will. It means, for an individual, that he would like to get out of a cultural, civilizational, religious, geographical, or climatic entity with the full consciousness of a migrant who leaves for another world, an environment that will be foreign to him, to which he will have to adapt, and in which he will have to integrate and evolve.
Mass migration is a totally different phenomenon. The gregarious nature of mass migration makes decision making much less important than it is during individual migration. Mass migration remains a risky act, but mass migration increases the courage in an individual that is necessary for any migration. Mass migration also has the effect of changing the objectives of migrants. The goal is no longer to be assimilated into the new world, but to strengthen one's old way of life.
What is new with mass migration, is the willingness of migrants to benefit only from the advantages available to them. Also at work often is the will to extend one's home world to one's host country and to transform it gradually according to one's own tradition. Such a transformation is not the primary intention of every migrant. But this intention encourages political or religious activists.
The mass migration that we are witnessing today in Europe does not involve the individual, but the crowd, the collective, the group. Mercy towards the migrant's individual suffering makes sense only with individual migration. Crowd, mass behavior does not deserve the same consideration. Though, I should remind that I am not fighting the migrants. I am fighting the European political elites, starting with Jean-Claude Juncker and Angela Merkel. Those are my opponents, my enemies.
The poor man coming from Somalia or Syria is not my enemy. He is a victim, and not just a victim of the tragic situation in his own country, but the victim of the wrong assumptions of the multiculturalist European elites who are organizing the mass immigration into Europe. As an economist, I always endeavor to analyze a given situation in terms of supply and demand. The demand for mass migration does not come from the ordinary citizens, but from the European officials. The supply in mass migration, which comes from the migrants, exists only as a result of this policy intended to change the structure of the European society. The goal of the European elites is not to favor the propagation of Islam or the rise of Islamic terrorism. It is to create a new European man. They have understood that they will not be able to do it out of the material at their disposal. People like you and me are not the right persons to become the new European man. When I want to provoke the European elites, I say that they want to create a Homo Bruxellarum. This is, I believe, a strong term. [Laughs.]
Canlorbe: In my humble opinion, a rational and morally acceptable solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would be to re-emigrate the so-called Palestinian citizens into Jordan, which is where they come from and belong. How do you judge this idea?
Klaus: I do not want to trivialize the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, its history and current situation. I am basically in favor of talks, negotiations. I am convinced that the solution could not come from abroad: not from the United Nations Security Council, or I do not know who else. It must be the result of negotiations.
We have good experiences. I negotiated the peace for the split of Czechoslovakia. It was my job to manage the split and I understood that it was necessary to negotiate, not to ratify the decision from Brussels or somewhere else. I discussed once with the ex-President of South Africa F. W. de Klerk, and he told me the same. "I understood that, if I want to find a solution, I have to stand in the shoes of my opponents." And I found his answer excellent. It seems to me that both the Palestinians and the Israelis should stand in the shoes of the other side, be able to find a solution. No masterminding from abroad. That is my only conclusion.
This conversation with Grégoire Canlorbe, a senior official of the French Parti National-Libéral ("National-Liberal Party," conservative, nationalist, and free-marketist), took place in Paris in December 2017. This is an abridged version.
[1] Expressions such as "class struggle" or "class consciousness" may sound as outdated Marxist terminology. Yet, they prove very popular still today in France and other European countries, both among right-wing and left-wing circles.
© 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.

H.R. McMaster – half a hawk, half a dove
Mamdouh AlMuhaini/Al Arabiya/March 26/18
Skills, competence and political stances are not the only thing that determines US presidents’ relations with members of their administration. This was clearly seen in the relation between the departing Tillerson and President Trump. There was zero chemistry between the two men. Relations took a turn for the worse when Tillerson publicly insulted Trump and they fell apart due to Tillerson’s stubborn approach against Trump and opposition of his public stances. Tillerson reportedly told his counterparts in closed meetings to ignore Trump’s tweets and statements as they mean nothing. Tillerson crossed the line and eventually Trump fired him via a Twitter post while still lying in bed. In his farewell speech to the Department of State employees, Tillerson warned them of Washington which he described as a “very mean-spirited town” and advised them to maintain their values no matter what the circumstances are. It’s clear whom he meant with these statements. Tillerson appeared like a destroyed and pathetic man with tearful eyes although his fortune is well-over $320 million. Trump’s story with National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster is less tragic than his story with Tillerson but it’s similar. The absence of personal acceptance and the different stances quickly brought Trump’s relation with McMaster to an end. McMaster’s appointment was compulsory as he replaced Michael Flynn whom Trump personally liked and admired for his fiery temperament. During the electoral campaign, for instance, Flynn echoed Trump’s famous statement against Hillary Clinton, “lock her up,” for deleting 30,000 e-mails from her personal e-mail. McMaster was different than Flynn in his temperament and appearance as he resembled – as one journalist described him –a boastful bodyguard in a bar in Philadelphia which he hails form. Trump, however, did not like McMaster’s academic approach and school-like style during presentations and proposal of solutions and perceptions. Trump who quickly gets uninterested was bored of his daily meetings with McMaster which resembled lectures. Trump does not like long meetings. When US Secretary of Defense James Mattis wanted to convince Trump that torture was ineffective to extract confessions from terror convicts, he did not lecture him but simply said that he can do better with “a pack of cigarettes and a couple of beers” than he does with torture. There was no psychological glue to bind Trump with McMaster. Trump actually seemed resentful of McMaster whom he once described as boorish and arrogant. Once while McMaster was preoccupied with a presentation, Trump interrupted him and told the participants: “Look at him, he looks so serious,” – meaning he is arrogant and he admires his tone while he echoes big words.
Appointing Bolton, and Pompeo as secretary of state, confirms that Trump is heading towards withdrawing from the nuclear deal on May 12 or towards imposing strict sanctions and restraints that will suffocate the Iranian regime
‘Smart power’
Disputes between McMaster, the lecturer and the writer, were regarding several major issues. McMaster was tough against North Korea and moderate towards Iran. He was a hybrid bird, half a hawk and half a dove. It’s clear that this is the main reason he was quickly fired especially that Trump, who has been president for more than a year now, has become more confident and more aware of his vision and he does not want any opposing voices.
McMaster opposes the president’s stance on the nuclear deal with Iran and obstructs categorizing the Muslim Brotherhood as a terror group as he long argued against this view. He wanted to act based on “smart power” as an alternative to soft power and hard power. Trump does not want any of this academic sophistication so he released all the doves. He only wants flying hawks like Pompeo and Bolton in the White House. Just like Tillerson, McMaster exited his post as a broken man and decided to retire instead of resuming military work.
Bolton’s role
It’s now John Bolton’s turn to be the new national security adviser. Appointing him felt like announcing doomsday for the Iranians and the leftists who detest him for well-known reasons. Trump thus appointed Bolton whom he personally likes. The president also admires Bolton’s comments to Fox News as he agrees with most of them except for those on Russia which Trump seems peaceful towards while Bolton seems rather offensive against. Unlike McMaster’s lengthy explanations and presentations, Bolton briefly outlines his major stances using clear and memorable short terms. He once mocked the United Nations’ 38-story Secretariat building in New York and said: “If it lost 10 stories, it wouldn't make a bit of difference.”Despite all the ongoing fierce campaigns against him, Bolton believes that diplomacy is useless and a waste of time if not backed with power. This is pretty much what Trump, who threatened North Korea’s leader with “fire and fury like the world has never seen,” thinks. This statement provoked Trump’s opponents who warned he will trigger a new world war; however, this rhetoric is what brought Kim Jong-un to the negotiations table for the first time. Bolton’s remarks on the nuclear deal with Iran were right. He said it was full of major gaps which Tehran will use to produce its ballistic missiles. This is literally what happened. Appointing Bolton, and Pompeo as secretary of state, confirms that Trump is heading towards withdrawing from the nuclear deal on May 12 or towards imposing strict sanctions and restraints that will suffocate the Iranian regime, which, for the first time ever, all of the US administration's top officials agree is the source of an epidemic and grave threats that must be quickly addressed.

The stubborn jurist and the fate of extremists
Mansour Alnogaidan/Al Arabiya/March 26/18
In the Spring of 1991, several angry youth gathered around sheikh Mohammed Bin Saleh al-Athemein following the Asr (afternoon) prayer. The sheikh agreed to meet the persistent guests in a mosque room. Three of the guests had previously set a police chief’s car ablaze because it was “secular” according to them, and set a video rental shop on fire in two different cities. They did not need a fatwa from Bin Athemein to carry out their deeds, but they required one for recruiting purposes. The conversation with the sheikh was exhausting and sarcastic with moments of raised voices. At one point, one of the men asked the sheikh why he was a coward and denying the clear righteous path? The sheikh simply smiled. Another guest said “We have weapons. It is time to forcefully bring down disobedience to Islam”. The sheikh calmly answered: “No, no. This is unacceptable”. He then turned to the most passionate among them and gripped his hand: “Don’t you ever raise your gun. Do not ever think of doing that again”.From August 1990 to September 1994, amid the pinnacle of political Islam’s madness, the Sheikh proved his loyalty despite the continuous ridicule and slandering. He was a true mystic. Greed and earthly riches were not what he sought
Bin Athemein's unconventional concepts
During the 60s, Sheikh Bin Athemein was rebuked along with Bin Baz by the grand mufti, sheikh Mohammed bin Ibrahim al-Sheikh, for their fatwa on the triple utterance of divorce. The grand mufti was discontent that they differed with him.
Bin Athemein inherited the school of Bin Sa’adi and his former clerics which gave him a different shade of Islamic jurisprudence, and because he sculpted unconventional concepts for conventional discourses in doctrines, names and attributes, 1984 was a turbulent and cruel year for him.
However, the following years saw an increase in his popularity. The king trusted the sheikh after he was fulfilled following a royal visit to his home in April 1988. None of his detractors and rivals could doubt his knowledge and “righteous doctrine”, and he was later conducted as member of the “council of senior scholars”.
Bin Athemein and another fundamentalist Meccan Islamic jurist, Abdul Wahab Abu Suleiman, were two members of the council of senior scholars who caused whimper among other colleagues. Abu Suleiman maintained his differences from the crowd appearing at times a bit of a stranger. As the habit went, once a scholar is part of the Council, the new status imposes a minimum degree of conservatism that aligns with the spirit of the institution.
Maintaining his stance
This compelled the Sheikh to adapt to less openness in his stances. However, the stubborn Sheikh could not be deceived by political Islam. This is particularly important to understand another group of clerics who sought to join the Council by utilizing popular sentiments to rival the official members in an unofficial manner. They began appealing to religious currents that slightly supported political opposition and gradually these currents made significant gains and impacts on government institutions. Bin Athemein, however, remained resilient. From August 1990 to September 1994, amid the pinnacle of political Islam’s madness, the Sheikh proved his loyalty despite the continuous ridicule and slandering. He was a true mystic. Greed and earthly riches were not what he sought. In September 1994 and at the front door of his own home he was subjected to some of the harshest, cruelest words any cleric could possibility tolerate. During those hard days he issued an important fatwa: “A Muslim may not disobey a non-Muslim leader or president, because that will lead to an upheaval in stability”.

Trump, Putin and the disturbed left!

Ahmad al-Farraj/Al Arabiya/March 26/18
Just when US President Donald Trump overcomes a problem, or thinks he has, the leftist media creates another! It looks like this media’s sole aim is to annoy Trump rather than seek the truth. So far, no one has been able to prove that Trump had anything to do with the issue of Russian interference in the US elections. Trump definitely makes mistakes as for instance he unjustifiably insists that he can defeat the brutal American media. A prudent politician knows pretty well the importance of appeasing the media, at least relatively, especially since all politicians make mistakes and it’s the media’s role to highlight them and exaggerate them. No politician can defeat the media, no matter how popular and distinctive he is. Most politicians are aware of this and deal with the media accordingly.
These days, the US media is talking about Trump’s intention to dismiss Robert Mueller, the head of the Special Counsel investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 elections. Trump, however, has said he does not intend to dismiss Mueller. Trump is certainly not friends with Mueller. It’s also certain that Mueller is not completely neutral in his investigations. Trump, however, knows that dismissing Mueller would be a real dangerous step as it would be interpreted as an obstruction of justice, which is a red line that might have drastic consequences.
I have no doubt that the leftist media, Trump’s vicious enemy led by CNN and the New York Times, wishes that Trump dismisses Mueller as this provides them with rich material which they can skillfully exaggerate to achieve their bigger dream to overthrow Trump. That’s why the media keeps provoking Trump about his intention to dismiss Mueller!
Trump’s opponents would find thousands of ways to attack him, even if they have to give up their solid principles, as seen in their current hostile position towards Russia.
Ironically, the US left, the traditional alliance of all the socialist political regimes around the world, is currently criticizing Trump because he congratulated Russian President Putin for winning the presidential elections few days ago. The left argues that Putin won in a dictatorial way, thus he does not deserve to be congratulated! It’s such a strange irony that the ideologized left is more concerned about hostility towards Russia than the Republican right-wing! The Republican right-wing, to which Trump belongs, was the first one to opt for escalation towards Russia. It actually hasn’t been a long time since the Star Wars program was initiated under President Ronald Reagan. In conclusion, Trump’s opponents would find thousands of ways to attack him, even if they have to give up their solid principles, as seen in their current hostile position towards Russia. We do not know what the next case which the leftist media will promote against Trump will be but it will not be difficult for it to come with something up!

A brief history on Oman and Iran
Mashari Althaydi/Al Arabiya/March 26/18
One of the books I bought from this year’s Riyadh Book Fair is “Four important letters exchanged between Ottoman Sultan Abdul Hamid I and Oman’s Imam Ahmed bin Saeed” by Saudi historian Mohammed al-Zalfa. The book was published by Dar Belad AlArab.
After explaining why he copied these documents from the Ottoman archive, al-Zalfa said: “Oman was powerful during the reign of its powerful ruler Ahmed bin Saeed, who died in 1783. His biggest role was maintaining the Gulf’s Arabism and his strong confrontation of Persian attempts – and they were many – to harm the Gulf’s Arabism.”Persia was greedy and had its eye on Omani land and water long before Ahmed bin Saeed, the grandfather of the current al-Busaidi family, reigned, as when the Yaruba dynasty ruled, Persia interfered in Oman’s internal affairs
The Persian interference in Oman
Persia was greedy and had its eye on Omani land and water long before Ahmed bin Saeed, the grandfather of the current al-Busaidi family, reigned, as when the Yaruba dynasty ruled, Persia interfered in Oman’s internal affairs. Al-Zalfa notes: “Nader Shah, who died in 1747, was well-known for his hostile tendencies and expansive policies. He found a way to interfere in Oman when a power struggle emerged within the Omani Yaruba family. Unfortunately, this power struggle led Persia to militarily interfere and side with one of the parties involved in the conflict. In his book Clear Conquest, Omani historian Ibn Zurayq described the brutality of the Persian occupation soldiers and which Omani people suffered from.”
When Nader Shah’s reign came to an end, and following some chaos, Karim Khan Zand, who died in 1779, reigned and decided to resume invading Arab territories. Thus came the siege or destruction of the famous Basra. Karim Khan Zand said he wanted Basra to be a land route towards Oman as he and his predecessors from the Safavid dynasty rulers could not battle the famous Omani fleet.
The Oman resistance
This Persian aggression against Basra, which was an Ottoman vilayet (administrative district), angered Othman Sultan Abdul Hamid I who died in 1789. Oman’s Imam Ahmed bin Saeed thus rushed to help using a massive fleet led by his son Hilal. This is the reason behind the letters exchanged between Oman’s imam and the Othman sultan in 1779. Explaining to Abdul Hamid I why he decided to militarily aid the Othman sultan against the Persian army which controlled besieged Basra, Ahmed bin Saeed said: “Basra and Oman have the same enemy and will suffer the same fate in the case of corruption or good conditions.”Commenting on Karim Khan Zand’s claim that he wants to invade Oman via land routes beginning from Basra, Ahmed bin Saeed said: “It’s impossible for them to do so in deserts which even skilled guides get lost in. Their attempts and tricks (to invade us) by sea have failed. Haven’t they been such tyrants but (the decree of Allah) came upon them from where they had not expected and Allah has made them fall back (into error and disbelief) for what they earned.”
The question now is: Have the Shahs Abbas, Nader and Karim’s ambitions changed towards Arab territories and waters?