March 29/2018
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani


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Bible Quotations
No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth
Matthew 06/22-24/‘The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light; but if your eye is unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! ‘No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth."

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on March 28-29/18
Thursday of the Holy Mysteries: Sacraments, Humility and Temptation/ Elias Bejjani//March 28/18
Elections will change nothing in Lebanon/Diana Moukalled/Arab News/March 28/18
Saudi Nuclear Power Plants and the Danger of Proliferation/Simon Henderson/The Washington Institute/February 28/2018
Trump’s war cabinet is now complete/David Ignatius/Washington Post/March 27 /18
A 'Duty to Hate Britain'/Douglas Murray/Gatestone Institute/March 28/2018
Europe All Inclusive: Understanding the Current Migration Crisis/Václav Klaus/Gatestone Institute/March 28/2018
Why Iranian people welcome Bolton’s new position/Hamid Bahrami/Al Arabiya/March 28/18
Iran’s missiles shell Saudi Arabia/Mashari Althaydi/Al Arabiya/March 28/18
In spite of leftist propaganda, we shall continue to buy weapons/Mohammed Al Shaikh/Al Arabiya/March 28/18
The secret behind the success of the UAE and South Korea/Mohammed Al-Hammadi/Al Arabiya/March 28/18
Qatar takes one step forward, two steps back/Sawsan Al Shaer/Al Arabiya/March 28/18

Titles For Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on March 28-29/18

Jubeir: Iran and Hezbollah agents launched missiles from Houthi territory
Hariri receives Cypriot Foreign Minister
Hariri receives Estonian Prime Minister
STL Trial Chamber Schedules Presentation of Oneissi Defense Case
Mashnouq Says Beirut Won't Elect 'May 7 List', Slams 'Resistance Brigades'
Qassem: Do You Want Us to Give Up a Project that Has Proved Effective?
Raad Calls on State to 'Perform Its Duties in Defense Strategy'
Estonia PM Meets Aoun, Hariri after Visiting Blue Line, UNIFIL
Salameh Says Lebanese Currency 'Safe', Denies 'Bankruptcy' Remarks
Jumblatt criticizes Turkish power barge plan
Jumblat Criticizes Govt. Failure to Address Electricity File
Aoun offers condolences to Rouhani after Iranian family dies on Beirut seafront
Lebanon hails Estonia's participation in UNIFIL
Ratas: Estonia to go on providing humanitarian aid to refugees in Lebanon
US led coalition admits 14 more civilian deaths
Sarraf, Brazilian Ambassador tackle bilateral relations
Bassil discusses with Cypriot counterpart tripartite tourism agreement with Greece
Abi Khalil at OGE Forum: We are adamant to protect oil sector from corruption
Moussawi: Authorities must declare state of economic emergency
Aoun meets Prime Minister of Estonia
Geagea, Fatfat discuss upcoming elections
Riachy at conference on right to access information: Advertisements seek to control media
Gemayel: Budget Figures Distorted to Deceive People Ahead of Elections
Salameh Takes Part in Parents' Sit-In in Aintoura
Elections will change nothing in Lebanon
Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on March 28-29/18
Trudeau disappointed by Pope's decision not to apologize for residential schools
Syria: A Long Bus Ride and Hours of Waiting
Egyptian Man Arrested in Italy over ISIS Links
Mohammed bin Salman, Guterres Hold Productive Talks
Saudi-US CEO Forum Sees Signing of Agreements Worth $20 Billion
UN Chief Urges Saudi Prince to Seek Political Solution in Yemen
London Police Detain Man who Attacked Cars with Gulf-registered Plate Numbers
Bahrain Affirms Support to UAE
Iran’s Ahmadinejad says ally on hunger strike since ‘unjust’ arrest
Syrian army preparing ‘huge’ operation in rebel-held Douma
Saudi FM Jubeir says kingdom has the right to respond to Iranian threat
Post diplomat expulsion, Russia ‘remains open’ to Putin-Trump summit
Trump gives positive sign on talks with Kim, good review of Xi meeting
Israel Army Given Shoot Orders ahead of Gaza Border Protest
Egypt Votes on Final Day, With All Eyes on Turnout
Trump Says 'Good Chance' Kim Will Give Up Nukes
N. Korea's Kim Shows Unity with China's Xi in First Foreign Trip

Latest Lebanese Related News published on March 28-29/18
Thursday of the Holy Mysteries: Sacraments, Humility and Temptation
 Elias Bejjani
 On the Thursday that comes before the “Good Friday, when Jesus was crucified, Catholics all over the world, including our Maronite Eastern Church celebrates with prayers and intercessions the “Thursday of the Holy Mysteries”, which is also known as the “Washing Thursday “, the “Covenant Thursday”, and the “Great & Holy Thursday”. It is the holy day feast that falls on the Thursday before Easter that commemorates the Last Supper of Jesus Christ with His 12 Apostles as described in the gospel. It is the fifth day of the last Lenten Holy Week, that is followed by the, “Good Friday”, “Saturday Of The Light and “Easter Sunday”.
 Christianity in its essence and core is Love, Sacrifice, honesty, transparency, devotion, hard work and Humility. Jesus during the last supper with His 12 Apostles reiterated and stressed all these Godly values and principles. In this holy and message proclaiming context He executed the following acts : He, ordained His Apostles as priests, and asked them to proclaim God’s message. “You have stayed with me all through my trials; 29 and just as my Father has given me the right to rule, so I will give you the same right. 30 You will eat and drink at my table in my Kingdom, and you will sit on thrones to rule over the twelve tribes of Israel. (Luke 22/28 and 29)
 He, taught His Apostles and every body else, that evil temptation and betrayal can hit all those who detach and dissociate themselves from God, do not fear Him, lack faith, lose hope and worship earthly treasures. He showed them by example that even a disciple that He personally had picked and choose (Judas, the Iscariot) has fell a prey to Satan’s temptation. “But, look! The one who betrays me is here at the table with me! The Son of Man will die as God has decided, but how terrible for that man who betrays him!” Luke 22/21)
 He, washed His Apostles’ feet to teach them by example modesty, devotion and humility. “So when he had washed their feet and put his garments back on and reclined at table again, he said to them, “Do you realize what I have done for you? You call me ‘teacher’ and ‘master,’ and rightly so, for indeed I am. If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do. Amen, amen, I say to you, no slave is greater than his master nor any messenger greater than the one who sent him” (John 13/12-16).
 Modesty was stressed and explained by Jesus after His Apostles were arguing among themselves who is the greatest: “An argument broke out among the disciples as to which one of them should be thought of as the greatest. Jesus said to them, “The kings of the pagans have power over their people, and the rulers claim the title ‘Friends of the People.’ But this is not the way it is with you; rather, the greatest one among you must be like the youngest, and the leader must be like the servant. Who is greater, the one who sits down to eat or the one who serves? The one who sits down, of course. But I am among you as one who serves.” (Luke 22/24 till 27)
 Thursday of the “Holy Mysteries”, is called so because in His Last Supper with the 12 disciples, Jesus Christ established the Eucharist and Priesthood Sacraments when “He received a cup, and when he had given thanks, he said, “Take this, and share it among yourselves, for I tell you, I will not drink at all again from the fruit of the vine, until the Kingdom of God comes.” “He took bread, broke it and gave it to the disciples saying: This is my body which is given for you. Do this in memory of me. And when He Likewise, took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you”.
 Thursday of the Holy Mysteries (Secrets-Sacraments) is the heart of the last Lenten holy week, in which the Maronite Catholic Church lives with reverence and devotion the Lord’s Last Supper spirit and contemplation through prayers and deeply rooted religious rituals and traditions:
 The Patriarch prays over and blesses the chrism (Al-Myroun), as well as the oil of baptism and anointing that are to are distributed on all parishes and churches.
 During the mass that is held on this Holy Day, the priest washes the feet of twelve worshipers, mainly children (symbolizing the apostles numbers). Jesus washed His disciples feet and commanded them to love each other and follow his example in serving each other.
 Worshipers visit and pray in seven Churches. This ritual denotes to the completion of the Church’s Seven sacraments (Secrets) : Priesthood, Eucharist, Holy Oil, Baptism, Confirmations, anointing and Service.
 This tradition also denotes to the seven locations that Virgin Mary’s went to look for Her Son, Jesus, after she learned about His arrest. The detention place, The Council of the Priests, twice the Pilate’s headquarters, twice the Herod Headquarters, till She got to the Calvary.
 Some Christian scholars believe that this tradition was originated in Rome where early pilgrims visited the seven pilgrim churches as an act of penance. They are Saint John Lateran, Saint Peter, Saint Mary Major, Saint Paul-outside-the-Walls, Saint Lawrence Outside the Walls, Holy Cross-in-Jerusalem, and traditionally Saint Sebastian Outside the Walls. Pope John Paul II replaced St. Sebastian with the Sanctuary of the Madonna of Divine Love for the jubilee year of 2000.
 The Mass of the Lord’s Supper is accompanied by the ringing of bells, which are then silent until the Easter Vigil. Worshipers used to kneel and pray the rosary in front of the Eucharist (Blessed Sacrament) all Thursday night. The Blessed Sacrament remains exposed all night, while worshipers are encouraged to stay in the church as much as they can praying, meditating upon the Mystery of Salvation, and participating in the “agony of Gethsemane” (Garden at the foot of the Mount of Olives) in Jerusalem where Jesus spent his night in prayer before His crucifixion on Good Friday.
 After the homily washing of feet the service concludes with a procession taking the Blessed Eucharist (Sacrament) to the place of reposition. The altar is later stripped bare, as are all other altars in the church except the Altar of Repose.
 Thursday of the “Holy Mysteries”, is called so because in His Last Supper with the 12 disciples, Jesus Christ established the Eucharist and Priesthood Sacraments when “He received a cup, and when he had given thanks, he said, “Take this, and share it among yourselves, for I tell you, I will not drink at all again from the fruit of the vine, until the Kingdom of God comes.” “He took bread, broke it and gave it to the disciples saying: This is my body which is given for you. Do this in memory of me. And when He Likewise, took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you”.
 Jesus ordained His disciples as priests of the New Testament when he said to them during the Last Supper: “But you are those who have continued with me in my trials. I confer on you a kingdom, even as my Father conferred on me, that you may eat and drink at my table in my Kingdom. You will sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”
 Before Celebrating the Resurrection Day (Easter) worshipers live the “Paschal Mystery” through the Thursday Of the Sacraments, Good Friday and Saturday Of The Light.
 Because He loves us and wants us to dwell in His Eternal Heaven, Jesus Christ for our sake willingly suffered all kinds of torture, pain, humiliation and died on the Cross to pave our way for repentance and salvation.
 Let us pray on this Holy Day that we always remember Jesus’ love and sacrifices and live our life in this context of genuine, faith, love, meekness and forgiveness.
Jubeir: Iran and Hezbollah agents launched missiles from Houthi territory
Saudi foreign minister said that the Kingdom and the UAE will provide $930 million to the UN’s Yemen fund next week
Joyce Karam/The National/March 28, 2018
Saudi foreign minister Adel Al Jubeir accused “Iranian and Hezbollah agents” of launching the ballistic missiles at the Kingdom on Monday, reserving his country’s right to respond at the “appropriate time and place.”
Speaking to reporters at the United Nations following Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s meeting with UN secretary general Antonio Guterres, Mr Jubeir said “the Iranian ballistic missiles launched from Houthis' territory in Yemen by Iranian agents and Hezbollah agents is a stark violation of international law and UN resolution 2216.”He added that the Kingdom “reserves the right to respond on this hostile Iranian action at the right time and place.”In his first comments on the attack, Mr Jubeir said his country had captured and shown evidence to the international community that Iran is arming the Houthis with ballistic missiles, and that Iran’s denials “fly in the face” of what is happening on the ground in Yemen. He accused Tehran of violating the ballistic missile law, and UN resolution 2216, adding that UN efforts are improving to address arms smuggling into Yemen. The Saudis’ chief diplomat reaffirmed Riyadh’s support of humanitarian efforts in Yemen, and said his country and the UAE will provide $930 million to the Yemen humanitarian fund at the UN conference next Tuesday. Separately, Saudi Arabia will also provide an additional $70 million as infrastructure help to Yemen, according to Mr Jubeir. In a statement after the two-hour-long meeting, Mr Guterres expressed “his deep gratitude to the crown prince for delivering today on the generous pledge” that was made in January. The meeting also “discussed the obligations of all parties to the conflict under international humanitarian law to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure, and the critical need for humanitarian access across the country and for all of Yemen’s ports to remain open to both humanitarian and commercial movement,” the UN statement read. Mr Guterres and the crown prince “discussed the need for the parties to the conflict to work towards a negotiated political settlement through inclusive intra-Yemeni dialogue” and Mr Guterres “stressed that ending the conflict is the only way to resolve the ongoing humanitarian crisis.” In Washington, US secretary of defense James Mattis said on Tuesday that “the Iranian support to the Houthis that gives them this capability is clearly being countered.”He credited “in part the American systems that they [Saudi] bought and, more importantly right now, to the advisers we brought in to assist them in defence of the kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”

Hariri receives Cypriot Foreign Minister

Wed 28 Mar 2018/NNA - Prime Minister Saad Hariri chaired this afternoon at the Grand Serail the Council of Ministers. After the meeting, the Minister of State for Women’s Affairs Jean Ogassapian said: "The Council of Ministers held an ordinary session presided by Prime Minister Saad Hariri in the presence of the Ministers. The cabinet discussed the agenda and approved the majority of the articles including raising the minimum wage and the salaries of the National Council for Scientific Research. It approved the draft salaries scale for employees in the public institution that manages a general hospital and the public institution that manages the Rafic Hariri University Hospital. Provided that the observations of the Shura Council and the Civil Service Council are taken into consideration. The cabinet also approved the location of the Special Economic Zone in Tripoli and agreed to fill the vacancies in the Higher Council for Privatization." Question: What about Minister Hamade’s objection on the clause concerning the travelling of Minister Gebran Bassil? Answer: Minister Hamade expressed his reservation regarding the travelling of Minister Bassil, and the cabinet approved the clause. Hariri also met with the Cypriot Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulides and discussed with him the developments on the local and regional arenas and ways to strengthen the bilateral relations.

Hariri receives Estonian Prime Minister
Wed 28 Mar 2018/NNA - The President of the Council of Ministers Saad Hariri received this afternoon at the Grand Serail the Estonian Prime Minister Jüri Ratas in the presence of the Secretary General of the Council of Ministers Fouad Fleifel. After the meeting Ratas said: "We had a very useful bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Hariri. I am very happy that we had the possibility to visit this beautiful country. Estonia fully supports Lebanon’s stability, security and territorial integrity. The accompanying delegation and I had the possibility to meet our troops serving in the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) yesterday and this morning, and to personally see the blue line and the situation on the southern part of Lebanon. I told Premier Hariri that Estonia commends Lebanon’s extraordinary support and the efforts to host Syrian refugees. I also conveyed an invitation to the Prime Minister to visit Estonia. These three days were useful and today I met with the President. I would like to thank everyone for the hospitality. I really hope that our countries will improve their relations particularly in the economic, cultural and digital sectors."
Parliament Convenes to Tackle, Approve 2018 Budget
Naharnet/March 28/18/Lawmakers convened in a Parliament session on Wednesday dedicated to discussing and approving the 2018 state budget.
Speaker Nabih Berri has called for two consecutive sessions, Wednesday and Thursday, for budget discussions. Before the session began, Speaker Nabih Berri held separates talks with Prime Minister Saad Harri and Chairman of the Parliamentary Finance and Budget Committee Ibrahim Kanaan.
Kanaan had announced on Tuesday that the committee has approved the budget and referred to the Parliament. He assured in a statement that the state is serious about combating the waste of public money.

STL Trial Chamber Schedules Presentation of Oneissi Defense Case
Naharnet/March 28/18/The Trial Chamber of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) ordered the hearing of the Defense case for the Accused Hussein Hassan Oneissi between 10 and 20 April 2018, the STL said in a statement on Wednesday. In its scheduling order, the Trial Chamber held that the Oneissi Defense case could be completed within a two-week period, but that it would consider any applications for adjournment or extension of this period. Counsel for Oneissi informed the Trial Chamber that they intended to call two witnesses: Professor Siegfried Ludwig Sporer as an expert in eyewitness identification, and Jamil El Sayyed to testify on the political situation in Lebanon preceding former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri’s assassination. The Prosecution has until 6 April to notify the Trial Chamber if it accepts the expert witness statement, it wishes to cross-examine the expert, or it challenges his qualifications as an expert or the relevance of all or parts of his report. The Defense’s estimate for El Sayyed’s examination-in-chief is three days. The Trial Chamber asked the Oneissi Defense to file a summary setting out the scope of El-Sayyed’s evidence by 29 March 2018 to assist the Trial Chamber and the Prosecution in the preparation for the witness’s evidence. El-Sayyed informed the Oneissi Defense that he would not be available to testify before the week of 25 June 2018. The Trial Chamber directed counsel for Oneissi to contact El Sayyed again to find a suitable date for his testimony and suggest to him the possibility of video-conference link testimony, which may take place over different days and varied sitting hours.

Mashnouq Says Beirut Won't Elect 'May 7 List', Slams 'Resistance Brigades'
Naharnet/March 28/18/Beirut on May 6, 2018 “will not elect the May 7, 2008 list,” Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq stressed on Wednesday, as he launched a blistering attack on the Hizbullah-affiliated Resistance Brigades.“Let no one think that he can seize control of Beirut's decision, after he attacked it with arms ten years ago,” Mashnouq said, referring to Hizbullah's armed takeover of parts of Beirut in May 2008. “Beirut's decision was created in the year 2000 by the martyr Rafik Hariri... It made him Lebanon's first leader and from here he started his battle against the Lebanese-Syrian security apparatus and he emerged victorious, but he was martyred as a result of this victory,” the minister added, referring to Hariri's win in Beirut in the 2000 parliamentary elections. “Beirut's decision in 2009 is what consolidated Saad Hariri's leadership and gave him the ability to protect it, along with entire Lebanon, from the sectarian madness and blazes that are ravaging the region,” Mashnouq went on to say. He noted that Beirut's decision is “a decision to defend the State, the law, the constitution, the army and the Internal Security Forces.” Turning to remarks attributed by the press to Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, Mashnouq added: “These remarks were voiced in the past and we thought that they have become behind us, but it seems that they were hidden for usage during this period. These are remarks about 'a domestic threat that surpasses Israel's threat' and about 'people whose deeds are worse than Israel's deeds.'”In an apparent reference to Hizbullah, the minister emphasized that “what's more dangerous is the group that is involves in aggressing against Arabs in all the sedition wars, from Syria to Iraq and Yemen.”“What's more dangerous is the sponsor of bombing cells everywhere and what's more dangerous is the proliferations of the arms of the so-called Resistance Brigades – the brigades of sedition in Beirut, Aramoun and Bshamoun,” Mashnouq added.

Qassem: Do You Want Us to Give Up a Project that Has Proved Effective?
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/March 28/18/Hizbullah deputy chief Sheikh Naim Qassem stressed Wednesday that the so-called army-people-resistance equation “has proved effective.”“Our disputes are political and they mainly revolve around the army-people-resistance trio,” Qassem said during a rally organized by Hizbullah's electoral campaign in the Bekaa. “We believe in this trio and they don't believe in it. It is our right to defend our viewpoint and it is their right to criticize this viewpoint. We leave the choice to people to say their word,” Hizbullah number two added. “Do you want us to give up this project which has proved effective, not to mention that it is a righteous project?” Qassem went on to say. Last Wednesday, Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said his party does not have “reservations” over President Michel Aoun's call for post-polls defense strategy talks. The issue of Hizbullah's huge arsenal of weapons has long been a thorny issue in Lebanon. Since 2006 several national dialogue meetings have failed to make progress on the topic.

Raad Calls on State to 'Perform Its Duties in Defense Strategy'
Naharnet/March 28/18/The head of Hizbullah's Loyalty to Resistance parliamentary bloc MP Mohammed Raad called on the Lebanese state on Tuesday to “perform its duties in the defense strategy.” “As for the defense strategy, we are ready for it,” Raad said, referring to President Michel Aoun's call for defense strategy talks after the elections. “We hope the state will perform its duties in the defense strategy, seeing as we are offering the lives of our young men to protect the country. This is our religious and national duty and no one can prevent us from defending our country through all means should we face danger,” the lawmaker said. “This is a right for every citizen in Lebanon,” Raad emphasized. The issue of Hizbullah's huge arsenal of weapons has long been a thorny issue in Lebanon. Since 2006 several national dialogue meetings have failed to make progress on the topic.

Estonia PM Meets Aoun, Hariri after Visiting Blue Line, UNIFIL
Naharnet/March 28/18/Estonian Prime Minister Jüri Ratas held separate talks Wednesday in Lebanon with President Michel Aoun and Prime Minister Saad Hariri. Speaking to reporters from the Grand Serail, Ratas said his country fully supports Lebanon's security, stability and sovereignty. The visiting premier lauded Lebanon's hosting of Syrian refugees and its efforts in this regard, revealing that he invited Hariri to visit Estonia.And describing his visit to Lebanon as good, fruitful and interesting, Ratas hoped to see imporvement in the ties between the two countries, especially in the economic field. The Estonian premier had on Tuesday inspected his country's troops who are serving within the UNIFIL peacekeeping force and also visited the U.N.-demarcated Blue Line on Lebanon's border with Israel.

Salameh Says Lebanese Currency 'Safe', Denies 'Bankruptcy' Remarks
Naharnet/March 28/18/Governor of Banque Du Liban Riad Salameh assured on Wednesday that the Lebanese currency is “safe and there is no crisis,” slamming reports of “bankruptcy,” LBCI said. “The Lebanese currency is doing fine. Rumors about bankruptcy are merely political bidding,” he said on the sidelines of an annual meeting of the Union of Arab Securities held in Beirut. “Lebanon is safe because it does not have high assets in foreign currency, and its banking sector enjoys liquidity, capital and capitalization. There is a large group of investors who believe in investing in Lebanon,” he assured. On Friday, President Michel Aoun said during talks with Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi that Lebanon was “bankrupt”, as he urged the need to control the country's finances.

Jumblatt criticizes Turkish power barge plan
The Daily Star/March 28/18/BEIRUT: MP Walid Jumblatt Wednesday criticized renewed discussions over leasing more power barges to boost Lebanon’s electricity provision, one day after President Michel Aoun criticized officials for not presenting an alternative. “The Turkish power barges are back in force because the alliance of the central authorities does not want to take [into consideration] the opinion of the Tenders Department,” Jumblatt tweeted early Wednesday. The Progressive Socialist Party chief said that if a book of conditions had been put in place a year ago for bidding on electricity contracts, “we would have one or more power plants [already].”Jumblatt, who has spearheaded the opposition to a controversial proposal put forth by the Free Patriotic Movement and endorsed by Prime Minister Saad Hariri, said the idea of using the Kuwaiti Fund for Development to aid the electricity sector may be the best solution in order “to avoid intermediaries.”This comment was an apparent reference to deals allegedly being made under the table that would secure a commission for different local and international parties on any deal struck. “But it appears that Edison is originally Ottoman, he’s from south of the Chouf,” Jumblatt tweeted, in an apparently sardonic reference to the Turkish barges. President Aoun urged the ministers at a Cabinet meeting Tuesday to present “practical proposals” to solve the electricity crisis. Lebanon has been suffering from power rationing since the end of the 1975-1990 Civil War. “No one said Lebanon was forced to use power barges, but no one has proposed an alternative, and I am not marketing [the barges],” Aoun said, referring to Energy Minister Cesar Abi Khalil’s controversial plan to lease two additional power barges as an interim solution to the long-running electricity problem. Abi Khalil belongs to the Free Patriotic Movement, which was founded by Aoun. The president was reported to have initially supported Abi Khalil’s plan to lease the barges, but the plan has been opposed by the Lebanese Forces, Hezbollah, the Amal Movement, the Kataeb Party and Jumblatt’s bloc. The major criticisms leveled against the plan are that it is too expensive and lacks transparency. Lebanon already rents two Turkish barges, which are anchored seperately off the coast of Jiyyeh, south of Beirut, and off the Zouk Mikael coast, to the north of the capital.

Jumblat Criticizes Govt. Failure to Address Electricity File

Naharnet/March 28/18/Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumbalt criticized on Wednesday the government’s failure to help the country's ailing electricity sector, one day after the cabinet highlighted the crisis and decided to hold a special ministerial session to address the issue. “The file of Turkish power generating ships strongly resurfaces because the coalition of the central authority does not want to take the opinion of the Tenders Department,” said Jumblat in a tweet. He was referring to a plan to rent power generating ships that was rejected by several government components, citing cost and voicing concern over suspected corruption. Jumblat added that Lebanon would have had more than one new power plant by now “if a book of terms was placed a year ago.”At the cabinet meeting in Baabda, President Michel Aoun “unexpectedly” raised the file of electricity and urged the ministers to find a solution, saying “I want to provide the Lebanese with electricity, and I don't care how you get it done.”Chronic power shortages since the end of Lebanon's 1975-1990 civil war have been a main source of grievance among Lebanese who have had to put up with daily cuts.

Aoun offers condolences to Rouhani after Iranian family dies on Beirut seafront
The Daily Star/March 28/18/BEIRUT: President Michel Aoun called his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani Wednesday to offer his condolences after three Iranians died earlier this week in Lebanon, a statement from Aoun’s media office reported Wednesday. The state-run National News Agency reported Sunday that the victims had fallen while taking pictures on rocks on Beirut’s seafront that sit below a railed-off walkway overlooking the Pigeon Rocks. A father and mother and their three daughters and 23-year-old son were on the rocks taking pictures when a high wave struck and they fell into the water. A fisherman was able to rescue the parents and one of the daughters while a Civil Defense unit worked to remove the bodies of the two other daughters, aged 15 and nine. The body of the young man was found Tuesday morning, local media LBCI reported at the time.

Lebanon hails Estonia's participation in UNIFIL
BEIRUT, March 28/18/(Xinhua) -- Lebanese President Michel Aoun expressed Wednesday appreciation for the role played by the Estonian battalion of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) in maintaining peace and stability in south Lebanon. Lebanon is commited to strengthening relations between the two countries, Aoun said during meeting with Estonian Prime Minister Juri Ratas, according to the National News Agency (NNA). For his part, Ratas expressed his satisfaction about current stability in Lebanon, and the role assumed by the president in leading the country towards further progress and prosperity.

Ratas: Estonia to go on providing humanitarian aid to refugees in Lebanon
Riigikantselei/Triin Oppi/March 28/18/Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Center) confirmed after his meeting with Lebanese President Michel Aoun and Prime Minister Saad Hariri on Wednesday that Estonia will continue to support the Syrian refugees in Lebanon. “Lebanon has made an extraordinary effort letting up to 1.5 million Syrian refugees into the country according to different estimates. These people have been forced to leave their homes to survive. The organisations of the United Nations provide security and support to them. In recent years, Estonia has also increased the amount of humanitarian aid provided to Lebanon,” Ratas said. The war in Syria, currently in its seventh year, has caused the largest humanitarian and refugee crisis of the decade. 13.1 million people require daily humanitarian aid. The European Union has been the most important provider of aid since the beginning of the crisis, so far having contributed more than €10.6 billion. Between 2012 and 2018 Estonia has supported the improvement of the lives of refugees in Syria as well as its neighbouring countries with a total of more than €7.1 million. This year and next, Estonia will contribute an additional €1.3 million.
Gallery: Ratas, Terras visit Estonian peacekeepers in Lebanon
Estonia has allocated €950,000 to efforts in Lebanon since 2013. The money goes towards receiving refugees, providing food and shelter and medical services, continuing education, and paying the salaries of teachers. In his meeting with the Lebanese president and prime minister, Ratas also talked about the security situation of Lebanon and the successful fight against Daesh. Estonia is part of the activities of the Global Coalition Against Daesh formed by the United States in 2014. The economic relations of Estonia and Lebanon are modest. Lebanon has expressed interest in Estonia's e-government services. “Estonia is always glad to share the success stories and lessons of the development of a digital country. As approximately 18 million Lebanese people live outside their country, Lebanon is particularly interested in our e-voting,” Ratas said after the meeting.
Editor: Dario Cavegn
US led coalition admits 14 more civilian deaths
Wed 28 Mar 2018/NNA - The US-led coalition fighting the IS group in Syria and Iraq acknowledged Wednesday the deaths of another 14 civilians, increasing the overall toll of non-fighters killed to at least 855. The coalition said in a statement that it had completed a review in February of 84 reports of potential civilian casualties from air and artillery strikes, of which all but six were deemed not credible. These six incidents occurred in Syria between May 2017 and January 2018. "The investigation assessed that although all feasible precautions were taken and the decision to strike complied with the law of armed conflict, unintended civilian casualties unfortunately occurred," officials said in a statement. Investigators were still looking at another 522 reports from the campaign. The coalition conducted a total of 29,225 strikes between August 2014 and the end of February 2018 in Iraq and Syria. Monitoring group Airwars says the number of civilian deaths acknowledged by the US-led coalition is well below the true toll of the bombing campaign, estimating that at least 6,238 civilians have been killed.--AFP

Sarraf, Brazilian Ambassador tackle bilateral relations
Wed 28 Mar 2018/NNA - National Defense Minister, Yacoub Riad Al-Sarraf, on Wednesday welcomed at his ministerial office Brazilian Ambassador to Lebanon, George Giraldo Al-Qadri, with talks between the pair reportedly touching on the bilateral ties, notably the ongoing preparations for signing a military cooperation agreement between the two countries. Discussions also covered means of bolstering the general situation in Lebanon and the broad region, in addition to the outcome of the Rome II Conference.

Bassil discusses with Cypriot counterpart tripartite tourism agreement with Greece
Wed 28 Mar 2018/NNA - Foreign Affairs and Expatriates Minister, Gebran Bassil, welcomed on Wednesday Cypriot Foreign Minister, Nicos Christodoulides. We have discussed a tripartite tourism agreement between Lebanon, Cyprus and Greece, which we will work on in the near future to secure joint tourist visits between our countries," Bassil said after the meeting. The Minister added that he had asked for Cyprus's assistance, in its capacity as a European country, handling the refugee crisis. "Lebanon can no longer bear this situation. 16 out of 18 governorates in Syria are moving towards a state of calm. In the wake of the most recent events in Ghouta, there are some places where calm and stability prevail, so Syrians can go back to these safe regions. Lebanon cannot possibly help the international community, including the European Union, by having refugees stay in Lebanon. Those who would like to help Syrians, let them do this on Syrian soil because keeping them in Lebanon is a conspiracy," Bassil said. On the other hand, the Minister added that the easiest way for those who wanted to help Lebanon was to encourage Lebanese exports and enable them to enter European markets. "This way, Lebanon will receive help promoting its products instead of drowning its economy under the heavy weight of the Syrian refugee crisis. For his part, Minister Cristolodides thanked Minister Bassil for this meeting. "We have discussed very important issues of common concern between the two countries," he said. "I have received my duties as head of the Foreign Ministry since less than a month. It is my duty to visit Lebanon and to convey my country's strong support for it. We, by the virtue of being neighbors, face common problems and challenges, and we must face the difficult situation we are witnessing through cooperation," the Cypriot Minister said. He added that his country had participated in Rome 2 conference and decided to support Lebanon through military equipment to the Lebanese Army worth 15 million euros. "The Government of Cyprus will participate in Paris Conference as a sign of support to the Lebanese government," he added. On the other hand, Minister Bassil discussed with US Ambassador to Lebanon, Elizabeth Richard, the relations between Lebanon and the United States. Talks between the pair also touched on the changes that the US administration has undergone and its implications concerning the region's affairs.

Abi Khalil at OGE Forum: We are adamant to protect oil sector from corruption
Wed 28 Mar 2018/NNA - Water and Energy Minister, Cesar Abi Khalil, on Wednesday sounded adamant to protect the oil sector from corruption and corrupters.Minister Abi Khalil was speaking at the inaugural session of the "Oil and Gas in the EastMed Forum (OGE)," representing Prime Minister, Saad Hariri, at the Hilton Beirut Habtoor Hotel. The Forum, held under the patronage of Premier Hariri, is organized by "Al-Iktissad Wal-Aamal Group" in cooperation with the Energy and Water Ministry and the Lebanese economic associations.More than 250 representatives of international and regional organizations and oil companies, as well as scores of gas and oil experts from Lebanon, Arab countries and the world attended said event. In his delivered word, Abi Khalil said that the Lebanon Petroleum Administration shall study the aspects of exploration submitted by the oil companies, which shall be forwarded to the Energy Minister for either approval or introducing amendments that the Administration and the Ministry deem appropriate. The Energy Minister pointed out that the launching of the offshore oil and gas licensing round intended to anchor Lebanon's right to invest in its petroleum resources across the entire Lebanese maritime waters and attain rapid commercial discovery. Abi Khalil noted that the Energy minister gave up his powers in favor of the Council of Ministers opting transparency in the structure of the Lebanese governance system in the petroleum sector. "This was developed through the publication of the model of exploration and production agreement in the Official Gazette No. 4, 2017 signed by companies," he corroborated. He also brought to attention that Lebanon was the first country to announce its intention to join the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) even before the oil sector was fully fledged. "This initiative is a partnership between three parties: Lebanon Petroleum Administration, oil companies awarded exploration and production licenses, and civil society," he said. Abi Khalil underlined that the Ministry was determined to protect the oil sector from corruption and corruptors.

Moussawi: Authorities must declare state of economic emergency
Wed 28 Mar 2018/NNA - MP Nawaf al-Moussawi on Wednesday highlighted during the discussion of the draft budget law at the House of Parliament the substantial need to reconsider the state budget of 2018. "All authorities must declare a state of economic emergency," the lawmaker stressed. "We are a state living under the poverty line yet remains in a state of denial of the situation," Moussawi added, stressing the need for swift action to remedy the situation.

Aoun meets Prime Minister of Estonia
Wed 28 Mar 2018/NNA - President of the Republic, Michel Aoun, welcomed at Baabda Palace on Wednesday the Prime Minister of Estonia, Jüri Ratas. Aoun relayed to his visitor Lebanon's great appreciation for the role played by the Estonian battalion of UNIFIL maintaining peace and stability in south Lebanon, pursuant to international Security Council resolution #1701. The President emphasized Lebanon's commitment to strengthening relations between the two countries, particularly in the IT sector, given Estonia's experiences in this field. Aoun also hoped that Estonia would take part in the conferences planned in support of Lebanon, notably at the "Cedre" and Brussels conferences. He also welcomed the positions taken by Estonia in the UN General Assembly, refusing any change in the legal status of the city of Al-Quds. In turn, the Estonian prime minister handed the president a letter from his Estonian counterpart calling on Lebanon to support his country's request to be elected as a non-permanent member of the Security Council for the years 2020-2021. The Estonian official also expressed his satisfaction vis-a-vis the current stability in Lebanon, and the role assumed by the President of the Republic leading the country towards further progress and prosperity. According to Ratas, his visit to south Lebanon has reinforced his conviction about the need to maintain the strength of his country in UNIFIL. Separately, the President received the delegation of the Episcopal Commission formed by the Council of Catholic Patriarchs and Bishops in Lebanon and charged with following up on Law 46 and its effects on private schools. The delegation gave Aoun a copy of the communiqué issued after the 2nd meeting on Education, which was held in Bkerke under the chairmanship of the Maronite Patriarch.

Geagea, Fatfat discuss upcoming elections
Wed 28 Mar 2018/NNA - Leader of the Lebanese Forces Party, Samir Geagea, met with MP Ahmad Fatfat for one hour after which the latter said "the visit is to discuss the overall political situation and the upcoming elections.""We are here to listen to Dr. Geagea's opinions and concerns regarding the present political affairs and issues, especially those that were discussed today at the Council of Ministers," Fatfat said. On the other hand, Geagea received the candidate for the Maronite seat in Kesrwan, Numan Murad, in the presence of the "LF" candidate for the Maronite seat in Kesrwan, Shawki Daccache, and coordinator of the Kesrwan region, Jean Chami. Murad hoped all would participate in this electoral battle, "not only to make it a success, but also to continue to work on securing the interests of our [kesrwan] region."
Means of strengthening the capabilities of the Lebanese naval forces were also discussed.

Riachy at conference on right to access information: Advertisements seek to control media

Wed 28 Mar 2018/ NNA - Information Minister, Melhem Riachy, said on Wednesday that the world was experiencing "the tragedy of media control through advertisements," stressing that the role of the media was to spread news and to show the truth. "The traditional media outlets are not the only ones to disseminate information; social networks are quite active, but they have not yet proven themselves in the professional world," Riachy said in a lecture he delivered at a news conference on "the right to access information", at the Sisters of Holy Hearts School in Kfarhbab.
Riachy explained that all citizens have the right to access information about their lives and their fate, "except in certain cases relating to national security and the fight against terrorism." "In this case, information is confidential and can only be received through specific laws," he said. Regarding the National News Agency, he said that it ensures the veracity of information before publishing, hence the low margin of error in its news. "The whole world experiences the tragedy of media control through advertising, which deceives the public opinion. We receive a lot of unclear information every day, and for this reason we have used the services of a company that trains journalists on how to secure information, especially electronic ones," he continued, warning students not to believe everything they hear, "because rumors spread quickly, even if they're short-lived." "We have a lot to do in terms of media progress and the presentation of a better image of Lebanon in the world. Media, at the world level, is expensive, but it is different in Lebanon because it has a mission," he added, focusing in conclusion on the importance of objectivity and respect for others in journalistic work.

Gemayel: Budget Figures Distorted to Deceive People Ahead of Elections 28th March 2018/Kataeb leader Samy Gemayel on Wednesday said that it is up to the Lebanese to make the right choice in the upcoming parliamentary polls after they witnessed the ruling authority's performance over the past two years and saw what the opposition has proposed for the sake of the country. "The decision is in your hands on May 6 because Lebanon has the ability to rise again," Gemayel said during the Parliament session dedicated to discuss the 2018 state budget. "Over the past period, people got to see who was speaking the truth and who was hiding it. It's now their right to enforce accountability accordingly," he said. "Everything that happened lately proved that we were right to describe the waste crisis as an environmental disaster. Likewise, almost all media outlets proved that we were right about our stance against the tax hikes. Half of the government, observers and the Tenders Department also proved that we were right about the power barges project. Despite all this, some are still saying that the opposition does not base its stances on facts.""We were accused of being populist when we spoke up against the power barges deal, while, today, half of both the government and the Parliament are opposing it."Gemayel stressed that one cannot be labeled as populist for simply speaking the truth, downplaying such an accusation as frivolous. He also said that the ruling political class doesn't have the will or the capacity to devise solutions to the country's problems, stressing the need to renew the political life in Lebanon by giving new people, with a new vision and a new approach, the chance to step in. The Kataeb lawmaker criticized the government's hasty and reckless approval of the 2018 state budget, saying that such an important and essential law must not be handled this way.
"This is an insult to our minds and dignity, as well as to the Lebanese themselves." "I was surprised to hear several of my fellow lawmakers who have comrades inside the government criticizing the budget draft, noting that all the ministers were partners in the endorsement of the bill which was voted unanimously," he said. Gemayel blasted the government's failure to launch an economic state of emergency given the challenges that are jeopardizing the country, adding that it has instead chosen to hastily approve the budget and conceal the truth by altering the figures included in it.
The Kataeb leader said that the authority is trying to polish up its image ahead of the elections, deeming the upcoming Paris conference as a means to do that. "The conference should have taken place after a new government is formed, unless the ruling class is certain that it will come back to power after the polls."
Commenting on the alteration of figures mentioned in the budget draft, Gemayel pointed out that the 20% spending reduction that the government was boasting turned out to be mere "deferred payments", as the same due sums will be paid later in 2019. "The revenues were also amplified knowing that the economy minister himself admitted that the state's earnings have been less than expected," he added. Gemayel also questioned the purpose behind approving mass tax exemptions, saying that certain criteria should be applied. "For instance, stumbling or indebted companies can be exempted so as to help them not to shut down completely. Otherwise, is it logical to exempt all companies and individuals equally?"Gemayel also voiced surprise over the exclusion of the power sector's deficit ($6.1 billion) from the state's overall deficit ($4.7 billion). He also pointed out that the government's decision to freeze employment in public institutions has been violated, saying that the economy minister himself revealed that overstaffing has caused the total cost of the salary scale to rise from $1.2 to $1.9 billion.

Salameh Takes Part in Parents' Sit-In in Aintoura 28th March 2018/Kataeb's candidate for the Maronite seat in Keserwan, Chaker Salameh, on Wednesday took part in the sit-in staged by the committee of parents at the Saint Joseph School in Aintoura to protest against the tuition fees hike aimed at funding the pay increase granted to teachers as per the new salary scale law. Salameh said that it is the state's duty to deal with such a problem, blaming the authority's reckless fiscal policy for the ongoing bottleneck. Salameh urged the school's administration to understand the parents' concerns and demands, blasting the ruling authority for not turning a blind eye to the people's economic suffering. "What we are witnessing today is the result of the authority's performance over the past two years."

Elections will change nothing in Lebanon
Diana Moukalled/Arab News/March 28/18
The deadline to publish electoral lists for the May 6 parliamentary elections in Lebanon has passed. With the introduction of the new electoral law requiring voting for lists and not independent members, many candidates withdrew from the parliamentary race after they failed to form a list or join bigger lists.
The electoral law and the alliances it imposed have erased a lot of political figures, destroying principles and making the calculations all about alliances. The Lebanese people discovered that the political sides that were rivals for years, almost leading the country to wars, have found common ground, allowing them to succeed in the elections even if they were not consistent with their principles and history. The elections in Lebanon are suitable to awaken people’s ugliest instincts, as voting does not imply calculating the interests of these groups as much as it represents a sectarian race toward promoting power and influence.
In this context, we can invoke the statements of Lebanese Minister of Foreign Affairs Gebran Bassil regarding the draft law he proposed allowing Lebanese women married to non-Lebanese nationals to pass their citizenship to their children, with the exception of those from “neighboring countries,” specifically Syria and Palestine. The discrimination in the draft law is clear in addressing the concerns of the Lebanese Christian community, which in fact was highly responsive to it. This was a discriminatory draft law proposed in an electoral moment. The Lebanese groups are contesting the elections along these lines. For instance, Hezbollah told Shiite voters that people who vote for another party would be electing Daesh or Al-Nusra Front.
The vote on May 6 will result in the same political class being in power, an inevitable consequence of campaigning along racist and sectarian lines.
As for Michel Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement, the party of the President of the Lebanese Republic, which is calling for the restoration of “Christians’ rights,” is waging a battle with the Muslim Brotherhood in some parts, dropping a lot of slogans it had adopted earlier. FPM used to claim it was fighting political Islam to preserve the place of Christians and their pioneering role, but is now resorting to forming an alliance with the Islamic group, thus dragging itself and its entourage into a great paradox.
The tragic thing in these Lebanese elections is that each group is allowing its opponent the right to use its ugliest tools. For instance, when Bassil proposed his racist draft law, none of his electoral opponents, whether from his sect or any other, condemned it, and no one from the Lebanese political class took the initiative to debate the proposal. Similarly, when Hezbollah said people voting for another party would be electing Daesh, no one responded, although the elections require a response.
The elections will not renew Lebanese life, and will not represent an opportunity to make a significant change. They will not limit the role of Hezbollah in the regional civil wars it has dragged Lebanon into. The elections will not offer adequate laws providing equality for women as long as Bassil prioritizes sectarian concerns over humanitarian and civil issues.
The forthcoming elections will once again result in the same political class being in power, with some insignificant minor changes, meaning that we will remain prisoners of the big equations keeping the political situation in Lebanon pending.
• Diana Moukalled is a veteran journalist with extensive experience in both traditional and new media. She is also a columnist and freelance documentary producer. Twitter: @dianamoukalled
Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on March 28-29/18
Trudeau disappointed by Pope's decision not to apologize for residential schools
The Canadian Press-OTTAWA/March 28/18/ — Justin Trudeau says he is disappointed with the Pope's decision not to apologize for the Catholic Church's role in residential schools and the trauma experienced by their students.
The prime minister says reconciliation is not just between government and Indigenous people, but must also involve non-government actors as well. A letter released Tuesday by the president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops says Pope Francis has not shied away from recognizing injustices faced by Indigenous peoples around the world, but that he can't personally apologize for residential schools. An apology from the church was one of the 94 recommendations from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the prime minister asked the Pope to consider the gesture when he visited the Vatican last year. The church has offered apologies in the past, including in 2010 to Irish victims of sexual abuse and in 2015 to Indigenous peoples in the Americas for the "grave sins" of colonialism. Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett says the government will keep pushing for a papal apology.
Syria: A Long Bus Ride and Hours of Waiting
Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 28 March, 2018/As the bus sets off, a young Syrian girl glues her face to the window to watch the ruined buildings of her hometown in Syria's Eastern Ghouta slip by one last time. After weeks of deadly bombardment, she is among thousands of people -- rebels and civilians -- to have left the crumbling rebel enclave outside Damascus under a Moscow-brokered deal, Agence France Presse reported. Russia-backed regime forces have retaken more than 90 percent of the former bastion in a five-week assault on the enclave, forcing rebels in two of the three last holdouts into deals to leave. In the bombed-out town of Arbin, men, women and children wait by mounds of broken concrete, carrying blankets and scant belongings stuffed in bags. The enclave's residents have hidden in basements from the relentless air strikes and shelling, while thousands have fled into regime-held territory.
Others have chosen to leave under the evacuation deals.Under Russian escort, the bus the little girl sits on embarks on a 12-hour northbound trip through regime-held areas to Idlib, the last province largely outside regime control. On board the buses are civilians and rebels, and each comes under strict Russian and Syrian military inspection. "They searched us, they took our names, and they took several ammunition from each fighter," passenger Mohammed Omar Kheir, 20, tells AFP as he prepares to leave. "The Russian military police was overseeing the whole operation," he says. On the main road outside Damascus, it takes hours before the bus sets off. Plastic grapes hang from the ceiling. A Russian soldier steps onto the bus as he oversees the Syrian troops carrying out one last inspection. Among the passengers, the atmosphere is relaxed. "He doesn't speak a word of Arabic," one says. The bus then stops for a second time for volunteers from the Syrian Arab Red Crescent to hand out biscuits, pistachios and water. Finally, the bus is off. It hurtles through the green landscape of the countryside around Damascus and heads north to Idlib. Beside the bus, Russian military vehicles take turns accompanying it. As their bus speeds on, the children fall asleep and the adults -- physically and emotionally exhausted -- fall silent. Finally, after hours of waiting and more still on the road, the bus arrives in Qalaat al-Madiq in the central province of Hama, at the gates of mostly rebel-held Idlib. On the ground, the travellers rest briefly before either stepping into the cars of relatives who have been waiting for them, or boarding buses that will take them to camps for the displaced. Eastern Ghouta "was really difficult," says Mohammed, a passenger who has just arrived and does not give his last name.

Egyptian Man Arrested in Italy over ISIS Links
Rome - Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 28 March, 2018/Italian police arrested on Tuesday an Egyptian-born man, who is the head of an Islamic center in the southern city of Foggia, for indoctrinating young children so that they become terrorists. Police said in a statement they believed the man, who is married to an Italian woman and has obtained Italian nationality, was linked to ISIS and has spread militant propaganda. "I invite you to fight the unbelievers, with your swords cut off their heads, with your explosive belts blow up their bodies," he was recorded telling a group of children, police said.As part of their investigation, which was code-named "bad teacher", police said they had seized some 370,000 euros ($458,000) in financial assets.

Mohammed bin Salman, Guterres Hold Productive Talks
New York – Ali Barda/Wednesday, 28 March, 2018/Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman held “very fruitful and constructive” talks with UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres that touched on bilateral relations and focused on the crisis in Yemen. Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir said the meeting was “very fruitful and constructive”, noting that the two leaders discussed relations between the United Nations and Saudi Arabia, which is a founding member of the international organization. A statement issued by the UN said Guterres expressed “very deep gratitude and appreciation” for Prince Mohammed’s “generosity and the generosity of the Government and the people of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and for your trust in the UN.” The Saudi Crown Prince and the UN Secretary General attended the signing of the joint executive program between Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and the UN to support and fund the UN Humanitarian Response Plan for Yemen in 2018. “The memorandum, the voluntary contributions that have been signed, represents an extremely important contribution by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates of practically one billion dollars to support the humanitarian cause in Yemen and to support the humanitarian response platform,” Guterres said in his statement. “We know that there is no humanitarian solution for humanitarian problems. The solution is political and we are entirely at your disposal to work together to find a political solution when that becomes possible, and to allow to end the suffering of the Yemeni people at the present moment,” he added. The head of the UN underlined the importance of humanitarian aid provided by Saudi Arabia and the UAE, expressing hope that other donors would follow the example of the two Gulf countries. “Your generous contribution is of extreme relevance, as 22 million people are in need of humanitarian aid. And we hope and we are very appreciative of the recent operations planned, that was put in place, that will help to have full humanitarian access; it will help to have respect for all aspects of humanitarian law and protection of civilians that are necessary in this context, and to say that we want to work together with Saudi Arabia for these objectives,” Guterres stated. In remarks following the meeting, Jubeir noted that in addition to the $930 million grant offered by Saudi Arabia and the UAE, the Kingdom would provide the amount of $70 million in direct support to Yemen to expand port capacities and infrastructure, with a view to improving the delivery of humanitarian assistance.

Saudi-US CEO Forum Sees Signing of Agreements Worth $20 Billion
New York - Ali Barda/Wednesday, 28 March, 2018/The Saudi-American CEO Forum 2018, which kicked off in New York on Tuesday, witnessed the signing of around 36 MoUs with a total value of over $20 billion. The forum, which was attended by a number of ministers and officials from both countries and more than 200 prominent Saudi and American businessmen, was held in conjunction with the visit of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to New York and reviewed Saudi-US economic relations and the means to promote bilateral trade and expand cultural awareness and understanding. The MoUs covered partnerships in various sectors, including health care, manufacturing, entertainment, education and ICT. Among the most important agreements signed on Tuesday were a partnership between Aramco and Google focusing on national cloud services and other technological opportunities, a five-year initiative between Ithraa and National Geographic and a partnership between Aramco and Raytheon to establish national cybersecurity services, as well as an MoU between the Saudi Development Fund and JPMorgan for cooperation in industrial finance in Saudi Arabia and a partnership between Al-Rashid International Company and SOS to provide medical services in the Kingdom with emphasis on clinics in remote areas. The forum stressed that Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030, launched by Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, provided broad economic and social reforms in Saudi Arabia, noting that these reforms were already translated in the rapid investment, economic and social growth in the Kingdom. Saudi Finance Minister Mohammed Al-Jadaan said in his opening remarks: “Saudi Arabia’s path forward is a challenging and comprehensive one - encompassing financial and fiscal sectors”, adding: “Vision 2030 aims to deliver an expanding economy with sustainable momentum that generates business opportunities for our companies and our business partners in the US.”Wilbur Ross, the US secretary of commerce, urged US businesses to support Saudi Arabia in its Vision 2030 strategy to transform the Kingdom and help it achieve its ambitious program. “I believe Saudi Arabia has a very high probability of succeeding in its transformation, and to the extent that people here in this room get involved, Saudi will have a far higher chance of success,” Ross said.

UN Chief Urges Saudi Prince to Seek Political Solution in Yemen
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/March 28/18/Saudi Arabia on Tuesday presented a $930 million check to the UN for humanitarian aid in Yemen as the UN chief pushed for an end to the war in which Riyadh leads a military coalition. United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres thanked Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for the contribution, but stressed that the war in Yemen requires a political solution, and not just a humanitarian response. "There is no humanitarian solution for humanitarian problems," Guterres said after receiving the check, which also came from the United Arab Emirates. The Emirates plays a major role in the coalition, which intervened militarily three years ago to support Yemen's government against Iran-backed Huthi rebels. Civilian casualties from coalition air strikes have drawn criticism from rights groups, and in October the UN placed the alliance on a "blacklist" for killing and maiming children.Riyadh insists the coalition respects its obligations under international humanitarian law. "The solution is political and we are entirely at your disposal to work to find a solution" that will "end the suffering in Yemen," Guterres said. The United Nations is making a fresh push for peace talks in Yemen, where the coalition acted to support the internationally-recognized government after the Huthis seized the capital. About 10,000 Yemenis have been killed in the war. The UN calls it the world's worst humanitarian crisis, with 22.2 million people in need of aid, a growing risk of famine, and a severe outbreak of cholera. - 'Stupid war' -It was the second meeting between the UN chief and the crown prince, who has bristled at Guterres' description of Yemen as a "stupid war" that is harming the interests of the countries involved. Prince Mohammed said Saudi Arabia was working to uphold UN principles which he said meant "not interfering in the affairs of other countries," an apparent reference to Iran's support for the Huthis. "We try as much as we can to solve the problems of the Middle East politically and if things get out of control, we try as hard as we can to avoid all the other impacts," said the crown prince, speaking through a translator. "We will continue to comply, as we always have, with international law," he said. The UN chief has appointed a new peace envoy, Martin Griffiths, who was in the rebel-held capital Sanaa this week for talks on kick-starting the political process, following a first round of meetings in Riyadh. UN diplomats believe the new effort could succeed because Iran has sent signals that it is willing to pressure the Huthis to seek a settlement. Guterres on Tuesday will travel to Geneva for a donors' conference hosted by Switzerland and Sweden to raise funds for Yemen.

London Police Detain Man who Attacked Cars with Gulf-registered Plate Numbers
London - Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 28 March, 2018/An Emirati young man was attacked in a London street as he sat in his Mercedes G-class SUV on Saturday. The attack was launched by another man from Arab origins. The British police (Scotland Yard) told Asharq Al-Awsat that the attacker, Adnan Musa Basim, 24, had drugs when he was arrested. It added that the arrest took place on Saturday, and Basim has been charged with assault and criminal damage on Sunday. A video went viral on social media showed an unknown Arab man, wearing a military outfit, approaching the Emirati citizen Abdullah al-Hosani, beating the latter on the head and spraying paint on the car, as he did with other cars holding Gulf-registered plates. Reportedly, Basim wrote the expressions “war” and “ya Ali” on Hosani’s SUV. The Emirati citizen resisted the attack which took place near the Harrods. Lebanese people, who were in a nearby restaurant, helped get control over the 24-year-old attacker until the police arrived. Sources in London confirmed that Hosani lives in the British capital and works as a university instructor. They said the Emirati man didn’t recognize the man who hit him, but he said he threatened him. Looking at the Basim’s accounts on social media, Asharq Al-Awsat found that he introduces himself as a Londoner, and that he has Lebanese and Iraqi origins. On his Instagram account he wrote: “I am a mad man, and proud of it”. Most of the pictures and expressions he posted on his accounts are related to marital arts such as karate and boxing. He also shared many pictures for Boxer Mike Tyson. The British authorities are currently investigating whether the attack had racist backgrounds. On Tuesday, the charged man stood before the Westminster Court, which refused to announce the verdict.

Bahrain Affirms Support to UAE
Manama - Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 28 March, 2018/Bahrain affirmed its full support to the United Arab Emirates in all measures taken to maintain its rights, security and stability, in response to Qatar's irresponsible actions towards civil air traffic, which follows specific civil routes known to the International Civil Aviation Organization. It strongly condemned the reckless approach of two Qatari fighter jets from two civilian aircraft, registered in UAE, in Bahrain’s airspace. Doha affirmed that the repetition of such provocative acts reflects the clear determination of the State of Qatar to disregard the safety of civilian aircraft and air navigation, adding that this is a violation of relevant international conventions and laws.

Iran’s Ahmadinejad says ally on hunger strike since ‘unjust’ arrest

AFP, Tehran/Wednesday, 28 March 2018/Former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Wednesday that his ally Hamid Baghaie was on hunger strike and in deteriorating health after being imprisoned on what he said were politically motivated charges. Ahmadinejad, who served as president from 2005 to 2013, made the claims in a letter to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, published on the Dolatebahar website run by his supporters. It is the latest volley in a bitter feud with his former colleagues in the Iranian establishment -- particularly the conservative-dominated judiciary -- which has led him to demand wide-ranging reforms, including fully free elections. “The judicial apparatus, without any documents or proof or legal citation... under the cover of financial accusations and in a closed trial -- has condemned (Baghaie) to the severest possible punishment,” Ahmadinejad wrote in his latest letter. Baghaie, who served as his vice president, was jailed this month for 15 years for embezzling 3,766,000 euros and $590,000. Prosecutors said the cash was given to him by General Ghasem Soleimani, feted head of the external operations arm of Revolutionary Guards, the Qods Force, and earmarked for “affairs to do with African countries”. “Mr Baghaie has never accepted these accusations and he’s been on hunger strike for 14 days in protest at this injustice by the judicial apparatus,” Ahmadinejad said in the letter. “It is heard that his physical situation is deteriorating. He’s been kept in solitary confinement since the first day of his arrest,” Ahmadinejad added, calling on Khamenei to step in to avoid a “big catastrophe and irreparable damage”. In an earlier report on the Dolatebahar website, Baghaie was quoted as saying: “Suppose this impossible, fabricated story is true -- should I be blamed, or should it be General Ghasem Soleimani as the authorized official in the Qods Force who has delivered the said foreign currency?” Ahmadinejad and Baghaei claim no proof of the alleged transactions was presented at the trial in December.

Syrian army preparing ‘huge’ operation in rebel-held Douma
Reuters, Beirut/Wednesday, 28 March 2018/The Syrian army is preparing to launch a “huge” operation against the last rebel-held town in eastern Ghouta unless the Jaish al-Islam insurgent group agrees to hand over the area, a pro-Syrian government newspaper reported on Wednesday. Routed by the Russian-backed Syrian army, rebels in other parts of eastern Ghouta are leaving in convoys to insurgent-held areas in the northwest under withdrawal deals that are restoring President Bashar al-Assad’s control.But the Jaish al-Islam group says it will stay in Douma, where tens of thousands of civilians are sheltering in an enclave surrounded by government forces. “The forces deployed in Ghouta are preparing a huge military operation in Douma if the Jaish al-Islam terrorists do not agree to hand over the city and depart,” al-Watan newspaper said. A Syrian official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the situation was in a critical phase. “These two days will be decisive,” the official told Reuters, without giving further details. Jaish al-Islam said on Tuesday that Russia had yet to give its answer to proposals regarding Douma, and accused Damascus and Moscow of seeking to impose demographic changes on the area by forcing out its people.

Saudi FM Jubeir says kingdom has the right to respond to Iranian threat
Staff writer, Al Arabiya English/Wednesday, 28 March 2018/The Saudi Minister for Foreign Affairs, Adel al-Jubeir, said on Tuesday that the Saudi Arabia has the right to respond to the Iranian threat. Jubeir’s statement comes after the Houthi militia in Yemen launched ballistic missiles towards the kingdom on Sunday. The minister noted the Saudi forces’ efforts in intercepting the seven missiles which also targeted the capital, Riyadh. The minister, who is accompanying the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during a state visit in New York, said that Iran is breaking international laws and supplying the Houthi militia with missiles. As such, “the kingdom reserves the right to respond to the Iranian threat,” he added.  Last-ditch effort Meanwhile, the Saudi crown prince said that the Houthi missiles attack on Riyadh and other Saudi cities was nothing more than a “last-ditch effort”. He made the comments on Tuesday during his meeting with editors and reporters at the New York Times when he dismissed the Houthi missiles attacks on Riyadh, Khamis Mushait, Najran and Jazan and said it had showed the Yemeni militias’ weakness.

Post diplomat expulsion, Russia ‘remains open’ to Putin-Trump summit
AFP, Moscow/Wednesday, 28 March 2018/The Kremlin said Wednesday that President Vladimir Putin was still ready to hold a summit with US counterpart Donald Trump despite the mass Western expulsions of Russian diplomats in a spy row. “This depends on the American side, but the Russian side remains open,” Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters. “Putin is ready and the Russian side is ready for mutually beneficial and mutually trustful relations with all countries including the US to the extent that our opponents or partners are ready for this,” Peskov added. He added that Russia currently had no information about Trump’s readiness to meet with Putin following Washington’s decision to expel more than 60 diplomats. At least 25 countries decided to expel Russian diplomats in response to the March 4 attack on former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the English city of Salisbury. London and its allies have blamed Moscow, citing the use of a Soviet-designed nerve agent dubbed Novichok, Russia’s record of targeting dissidents and its history of aggression in recent years, from Crimea to cyber-attacks. Washington led the way in responding, ordering out 60 Russian diplomats in a new blow to US-Russia ties less than a week after Trump congratulated Putin on his re-election and raised the prospect of a summit “in the not-too-distant future.”
Kremlin’s denial
The Kremlin has repeatedly denied Russia’s involvement in the nerve agent attack and Peskov played down Wednesday the extent of the diplomatic fallout. “Twenty or 30 countries are just a part of the global community and it is much bigger and varied and includes many more countries,” Peskov said. He claimed that some of the countries that backed London still believed that Britain had not provided enough evidence to prove Russia’s involvement. Separately, Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Moscow would respond to all the expulsions “appropriately”.“The measures are being worked out for each country,” she told reporters. Moscow, she added, views the expulsions as a “provocation which will have very serious long-term consequences for global peace and stability.”

Trump gives positive sign on talks with Kim, good review of Xi meeting
Reuters, Washington/Wednesday, 28 March 2018/US President Donald Trump said on Wednesday that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un looked forward to meeting with him, indicating the planned landmark talks between the isolated Asian leader and Republican president will go forward. “Received message last night from XI JINPING of China that his meeting with KIM JONG UN went very well and that KIM looks forward to his meeting with me,” Trump said on Twitter. “In the meantime, and unfortunately, maximum sanctions and pressure must be maintained at all cost!”
Trump also tweeted: “Look forward to our meeting!”
After two days of speculation, China announced on Wednesday that Kim had visited Beijing and met Xi, who elicited a pledge from Kim to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula. The trip was Kim’s first known journey abroad since he assumed power in 2011 and is believed by analysts to serve as preparation for upcoming summits with South Korea and the United States.
Maximum pressure
The White House said on Tuesday that China briefed Trump on the meetings and that the denuclearization pledge was “further evidence that our campaign of maximum pressure is creating the appropriate atmosphere for dialogue with North Korea.”
“For years and through many administrations, everyone said that peace and the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula was not even a small possibility,” Trump tweeted on Wednesday. “Now there is a good chance that Kim Jong Un will do what is right for his people and for humanity.”Earlier this month, Trump surprised the world by agreeing to meet Kim at a place and time to be determined. South Korea’s national security chief said the first-ever meeting between US and North Korean presidents would take place in May but details of potential talks have not been made public and the White House has said they will only happen if North Korea keeps “several promises.”

Israel Army Given Shoot Orders ahead of Gaza Border Protest
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/March 28/18/Israeli chief of staff Lieutenant General Gadi Eisenkot has warned the army has been given authorization to open fire ahead of mass protests on the Gaza border planned for Friday. Eisenkot said reinforcements, including special forces snipers, had been deployed to the border to counter what he said was the most serious risk of conflict since he took up his post in 2015. A series of incidents in recent days, including two infiltrations, one by three armed Palestinians who penetrated some 20 kilometers (12 miles) inside Israel, has already sent tensions soaring on the volatile frontier.Friday's mass rallies near the border fence mark the start of more than six weeks of planned protests leading up to the inauguration of the new U.S. embassy in Jerusalem around May 14. U.S. President Donald Trump's recognition of the disputed city as Israel's capital in December has infuriated Palestinians who claim its annexed eastern sector as the capital of their future state. Gazans are being urged to set up a string of protest camps along the Israeli border, each some 100 meters (yards) from the security fence, and the army is braced for attempts to break through.
"We won't allow mass infiltration into Israel and to damage the fence, and certainly not to reach the communities," Eisenkot told the mass-circulation Yediot Aharonot newspaper. "The instructions are to use a lot of force," he said.
"We've deployed more than 100 snipers who have been drafted from all the army's units, mainly from the special units. In the event of mortal danger, there is authorization to open fire."Hamas, the Islamist group which controls Gaza, has fought three wars with Israel since 2008, the most recent of which in 2014 ended with a fragile truce. Asked whether he feared a new conflict, Eisenkot said: "The chance of that happening is greater this year than it was in the first three years of my term.
"There are a lot of negative vectors in the region that are pushing towards a conflict."Eisenkot gave a similar warning in a separate interview with left-leaning newspaper Haaretz. "An explosive, sensitive situation is developing in the entire Middle East, but especially among the Palestinians," he said.

Egypt Votes on Final Day, With All Eyes on Turnout
Agence France Presse/Associated Press/Naharnet/March 28/18/Egyptian authorities have warned people to vote or risk paying a fine, as they look to boost turnout in a lackluster election that is virtually guaranteed to hand President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi a second four-year term. El-Sissi faces only a token opponent in the vote, which resembles the referendums held by autocrats for decades before the Arab Spring uprisings of 2011 briefly raised hopes of democratic change. Serious challengers were forced out or arrested, including former Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq, who showed up late Tuesday at a polling center to cast his ballot. It was his first public appearance since he announced his intention to run in December from the United Arab Emirates, where he had gone after narrowly losing the 2012 election to the Islamist Mohammed Morsi. The UAE deported Shafiq after the announcement, and he was met at the Cairo airport by unidentified security men who escorted him to a hotel on the city's outskirts. He decided against running soon thereafter. On Tuesday, he told reporters that voting was a "national duty," without elaborating. The government is hoping for high turnout to lend the election legitimacy, and has staggered the voting over three days, with polls closing Wednesday at 9 p.m. (1900 GMT). Official results are expected on April 2. The state-news agency MENA quoted unnamed election officials as saying that the law penalizes boycotters, with a fine of around $30. Similar warnings have been issued in previous elections, with no real enforcement. Nearly 60 million Egyptians are eligible to vote at some 13,700 polling centers. Turnout appears to be low so far, with short lines in front of some polling stations and others virtually empty. El-Sissi's only opponent is Moussa Mustafa Moussa, a little-known politician who supports the president and made no effort to campaign against him. Local media, which are dominated by pro-government commentators, have urged people to come out and vote, saying they have a national obligation to resist foreign plots aimed at sowing discord. Groups of loyalists can be seen clapping and dancing in front of some polling stations, as patriotic music plays from loudspeakers. Outside a polling station in Cairo's Manial neighborhood, about two dozen voters, mainly older people, lined up in front of the gates shortly before polls opened. "I am here because I need security and stability," said 44-year-old government employee Amina el-Sayed. She said her manager gave her and her colleagues a day off to vote. Sayada Fathi, a 62-year-old voter, said she wasn't bothered by the lack of competition. "Our beloved el-Sissi will win easily," she said.

Trump Says 'Good Chance' Kim Will Give Up Nukes
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/March 28/18/U.S. President Donald Trump, who has agreed to meet with Kim Jong Un, said Wednesday there is a now a good chance the North Korean leader will give up his country's nuclear weapons. "For years and through many administrations, everyone said that peace and the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula was not even a small possibility," Trump wrote in an early morning tweet. "Now there is a good chance that Kim Jong Un will do what is right for his people and for humanity. Look forward to our meeting!," Trump added. His comments came as Kim completed a secretive and unprecedented visit to Beijing on Wednesday as the two countries seek to repair frayed ties before Pyongyang's landmark summits with Washington and earlier with South Korea. On his first trip abroad since taking power, Kim and his wife were greeted by an honor guard and a banquet hosted by President Xi Jinping, according to state media, which confirmed the three-day visit on Wednesday only after Kim had returned by train to North Korea. The two men held talks at the Great Hall of the People and Kim pledged he was "committed to denuclearization" on the Korean peninsula, according to China's Xinhua news agency. Kim also expressed willingness to hold the summits with Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae-in, it said. Analysts said Xi likely wanted to see Kim in order to ensure North Korea does not cut a deal with Trump that hurts Chinese interests during their summit, expected to be held in May.

N. Korea's Kim Shows Unity with China's Xi in First Foreign Trip
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/March 28/18/North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was given a lavish welcome by Chinese President Xi Jinping during a secretive trip to Beijing as both sides seek to repair frayed ties before Pyongyang's landmark summits with Seoul and Washington.
On his first trip abroad since taking power, Kim and his wife were greeted by an honour guard and a banquet hosted by Xi, according to state media, which confirmed the "unofficial" visit on Wednesday only after Kim had returned by train to North Korea. The two men held talks at the stately Great Hall of the People during which they hailed their nations' historic relations, with Kim pledging he was "committed to denuclearisation" on the Korean peninsula, according to China's Xinhua news agency. Kim also expressed willingness to hold the summits with US President Donald Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae-in, it said. "There is no question that my first foreign visit would be to the Chinese capital," Kim said, according to North Korea's official KCNA news agency. "This is my solemn duty as someone who should value and continue the DPRK-PRC (North Korea-China) relations through generations."
KCNA said Xi accepted an invitation to visit Pyongyang, which would be his first trip to the North Korean capital since he took power in 2012. The two men had not met since Kim took over after the death of his father, Kim Jong Il, in December 2011, and relations have been strained as China has backed a series of UN sanctions against Pyongyang over its nuclear and missile tests. But Xi underscored the importance of developing ties, saying it was "a strategic choice and the only right choice" and that he was willing to maintain frequent contact with Kim "under the new circumstances", according to Xinhua.
Xi and Kim shook hands and sat across from each other at a long conference table, both flanked by officials, at the Great Hall of the People, according to television images which showed the North Korean leader taking meticulous notes.
Later, Xi and his wife, Peng Liyuan, waved goodbye while Kim and his spouse, Ri Sol Ju, smiled as they left in a black car. Chinese and North Korean state media said the visit started Sunday and ended Wednesday. Analysts said Xi likely wanted to see Kim to ensure North Korea does not cut a deal with US President Donald Trump that hurts Chinese interests during a summit expected to be held in May. Kim's visit puts China back in the diplomatic game after appearing sidelined by Pyongyang's approaches to Seoul and Washington. "It shows that at this crucial juncture, Kim and Xi believed that it was time to seize the opportunity to consult," Bonnie Glaser, a China expert at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, told AFP.
"Both likely concluded that further deterioration in relations would be harmful."
Deng Yuwen, an independent Chinese international relations scholar, said North Korea needed to turn to its old ally ahead of the US summit, as Kim will be sceptical that Trump will provide his regime with security guarantees."North Korea needs the big brother to protect it at a crucial moment," Deng said.
Trump informed -"The issue of denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula can be resolved, if South Korea and the United States respond to our efforts with goodwill, create an atmosphere of peace and stability while taking progressive and synchronous measures for the realisation of peace," Kim said, according to Xinhua. South Korea said last month after talks with Kim in Pyongyang that he would consider abandoning his nuclear weapons in exchange for US security guarantees, and would halt weapons tests while talks were under way. White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said Trump received a personal note from Xi about Kim's visit on Tuesday. "We see this development as further evidence that our campaign of maximum pressure is creating the appropriate atmosphere for dialogue with North Korea," Sanders said. Chinese special envoy Yang Jiechi will travel to Seoul on Thursday to brief Moon about the Kim-Xi summit, the South's presidential office said. Confirmation of the visit ended 24 hours of speculation about the identity of a mysterious North Korean visitor after Japanese media spotted a green train, similar to the one used by Kim's father, arriving in Beijing on Monday and departing the following day. Despite the news blackout a heavy police presence at key venues, barricades and mysterious motorcades hinted at his presence. North Korea's official Rodong Sinmun newspaper on Wednesday featured photos of Chinese officials greeting Kim and his wife with flowers at the train station, and his motorcade being escorted by police motorbikes in front of the Forbidden City.
Frayed ties -His visit to China came as a surprise given the state of relations between the Cold War-era allies, which fought together in the 1950-53 Korean War. China chaired six-party talks on North Korea that collapsed in 2009, but its calls to revive that forum have not been heeded so far and Beijing appeared to be on the margins when South Korea announced that Kim had offered to meet Moon and Trump. Frustrated by its neighbour's nuclear weapons programme and under pressure from Trump, China has used its economic leverage to squeeze Kim's regime. At the same time, Beijing fears the collapse of the regime in Pyongyang and the instability it would bring, potentially sending waves of refugees into China and the possibility of US troops stationed on its border in a unified Korea. But Kim's visit appears to have put relations back on track, with Xi inviting Kim and his wife to visit China again.

Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on March 28-29/18
Saudi Nuclear Power Plants and the Danger of Proliferation
Simon Henderson/The Washington Institute/February 28/2018
Riyadh's continuing closeness to Pakistan could prevent Washington from allowing the export of nuclear technology to the kingdom.
Sometime in March, Saudi Arabia is expected to announce favored bidders for multibillion-dollar contracts for two nuclear power projects. The need for nuclear power in the kingdom, which has the world's largest easily recoverable oil reserves, is justifiable in terms of freeing more oil for export and providing a baseload of electricity generation not achievable by solar power. A U.S. consortium led by Westinghouse is competing with bids from Russian, Chinese, French, and South Korean companies for orders eventually projected to total sixteen reactors over the next twenty-five years. In order to improve American chances of winning, the Trump administration is reported to be considering weakening or not applying proliferation controls.
If Saudi Arabia were, say, Denmark, this would merely be a matter of ensuring conformance with U.S. law, but in the Middle East, fears prevail that any concession of such controls would open the floodgates of proliferation. Apart from Israel's longstanding, implicitly acknowledged nuclear arsenal, the only other regional power with nuclear weapons is Pakistan, whose strategic focus tends to be in the other geographic direction, on India. But Pakistani uranium-enrichment centrifuge technology was sold to Libya and Iran, and similar equipment was delivered from Europe to Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq. In the cases of Iraq and Libya, the technology was destroyed, respectively, in 1991 and 2003. Iran's program, which Tehran claims was and remains nonmilitary only, is now constrained by the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, as the nuclear deal with the United States and its partners is known. But crucially, the JCPOA allows Iran to continue to enrich—although it is neither allowed nor technically able to use this process to produce weapons-grade uranium. Under the agreement, Iran cannot reprocess plutonium either, an alternative path to a nuclear explosive.
Riyadh is believed to want, at least in theory, the right to either enrich or reprocess. In 2009, Washington persuaded the United Arab Emirates to forsake both technologies before the Gulf state signed an agreement with South Korea for four nuclear power reactors. But, if another country in the region avoids such a restriction, the UAE retains the right to revisit its "123 Agreement"—a reference to Section 123 of the U.S. Atomic Energy Act, which requires the conclusion of a peaceful nuclear cooperation deal for significant transfers of nuclear material, equipment, or components from the United States.
The UAE-U.S. agreement is held up as a gold standard and a reflection of the Emirates' maturity and responsibility. U.S. achievement of the restrictions was particularly striking given the UAE's checkered history with A. Q. Khan, the Pakistani nuclear scientist and proliferator. For many years, Abu Dhabi allowed Khan to operate his front companies out of nearby Dubai. Aided by Emirati officials who smoothed his entry and exit, Khan—until his arrest in 2003—used Dubai as both a cutout for technology destined for Pakistan's nuclear weapons program and a transshipment point for technology being smuggled to Libya and Iran. Khan had close relations with the UAE leadership and also hosted them in Pakistan.
Of equivalent concern with respect to Saudi Arabia is a visit then defense minister Prince Sultan made to the Pakistani enrichment plant at Kahuta, outside Islamabad, in 1999, a year after Pakistan conducted nuclear tests with bombs containing high-enriched uranium. A published photograph commemorates Prince Sultan's visit, showing him sitting alongside then Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif and Dr. Khan. The head of the Pakistan Army, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, who later overthrew Prime Minister Sharif and later still arrested Khan, is also pictured. The visit, in which the Saudi delegation was reportedly shown and allowed to handle parts of a Pakistani nuclear weapon, led to a formal U.S. diplomatic protest and boosted the still-prevailing rumor that the kingdom has an understanding with Pakistan for the transfer of nuclear-tipped missiles during a period of crisis. (Since 1988, Saudi Arabia has had Chinese nuclear-capable but conventionally armed missiles that could reach Tehran.)
That was then. The question is what, since the JCPOA conceded Iran's right to enrich, is the operating premise now. Such a judgment is rendered more challenging by the two visits to Pakistan, in January and August 2016 made by Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman, aka MbS, who is also the Saudi defense minister, since his father became king in 2015. In turn, Pakistani leaders have made a series of top-level visits to the kingdom. Earlier this month, the Pakistan Army's chief of staff, Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa, visited Riyadh to meet MbS "to discuss matters of mutual interest and military ties." It was Bajwa's second sojourn in the kingdom within two months. In the current politics of Pakistan, Bajwa is not only the lead on foreign and security policy but a more dominant figure overall than either the president or prime minister. On February 10, the Pakistan military announced an agreement wherein a thousand Pakistani military personnel will be sent on an unspecified training mission to the kingdom. This news prompted an outcry in the Pakistani National Assembly, which three years ago blocked a Saudi request for Pakistani troops to fight in Yemen. During the debate, it also emerged that an additional 1,600 Pakistani troops are already in the kingdom and 10,000 Saudi personnel have been trained at unspecified Pakistani military academies and institutions. Just last week, a further indication arose regarding the closeness of the ties, and the extent to which Riyadh acts independently of Washington's wishes, when Saudi Arabia was briefly involved in blocking a U.S.-led attempt to put Pakistan on an international terrorism-financing watch list.
The question of whether the United States will make any nuclear concession to win a lucrative deal comes just before a lengthy U.S. visit by MbS, aimed at showcasing the strength of the bilateral relationship and encouraging American businesses to partner with Saudi Arabia in the crown prince's Vision 2030 plans for economic and social transformation. Despite the uncertain status of the JCPOA, given repeated doubts expressed by the Trump administration, the dilemma is simple: can Saudi Arabia be persuaded to forsake, perhaps even temporarily, enrichment and reprocessing in return for choosing U.S. technology for its ambitious nuclear power plans? The wrong business deal could undermine the current fragile status quo and elevate regional antagonisms to a new level.
**Simon Henderson is the Baker Fellow and director of the Gulf and Energy Policy Program at The Washington Institute.

Trump’s war cabinet is now complete
David Ignatius/Washington Post/March 27 /18
John Bolton is a bit like the barking dog that finally catches the car: What does he do now?
Bolton surely has never once imagined himself as an “honest broker,” the quality that usually defines a successful national security adviser, the post he’s about to assume. Instead, Bolton has cultivated the image of a provocateur, bureaucratic infighter and permanent enfant terrible . He has seen his role as challenging policy, rather than sustaining it.
Bolton will take control of a foreign policy process that needs something more than the incendiary rhetoric of a Fox News commentator. Many insiders say the interagency process is as dysfunctional now as at any time in recent decades. The problem isn’t so much that the administration is stuffed with menacing ideologues, but that it is an empty suit.
The fiery Bolton is a worrying match for his new boss, who displays many of the same combative qualities. A bellicose president now has a person with similar traits as his chief White House foreign policy adviser. That scares people, at home and abroad.
Bolton’s former colleagues describe a more complicated person than some news accounts have suggested. During the George H.W. Bush administration, Bolton was a pupil of Secretary of State James A. Baker III , perhaps the master bureaucratic player of modern American politics. Bolton’s contemporaries describe a “results-oriented” Yale Law graduate who shaped the U.N. resolutions that took the United States into the 1991 Persian Gulf War and then framed a cease-fire. Colleagues in later years remember a more inflexible and manipulative Bolton.
“I learned a lot of bureaucratic skills in the Baker years that I was later able to use many times to confound the bureaucracy,” Bolton wrote in his 2007 memoir , “Surrender is Not an Option: Defending America at the United Nations and Abroad.” He described Baker’s key precept: “Yield on process issues in order to hold the line on substantive questions.”
Bolton’s test as national security adviser is that he will now be the person responsible for overseeing a process he instinctively mistrusts. It will be an awkward fit for someone who (much like President Trump) sees his mission as a disrupter of conventional wisdom. Bolton must realize that the interagency structure isn’t working well. But can he fix it under a president who seems to like the chaos — whose operating style is undamped oscillation?
Bolton relishes his confrontational reputation. By his own account, he doesn’t worry about being seen as a “nice person.” In his memoir, he referred to advocates of traditional foreign policy views as “High Minded accommodationists,” “EUroids ” and the “Risen Bureaucracy.” Interestingly, the only national security adviser in memory who had a comparable suspicion of the bureaucracy was Henry Kissinger.
Bolton opens his memoir with a quote from the French revolutionary Georges Danton: “Audacity, and more audacity, and always audacity, and the nation will be saved.” It is the essence of Trumpism. But amid all this audacity, who’s going to run the railroad?
Arguably, Bolton has been preparing through his career for the three major challenges he will face as national security adviser: arms-control confrontations with North Korea, Iran and Russia.
Bolton’s hawkishness toward North Korea now looks prescient. He argued that Pyongyang would betray its nuclear-disarmament promises under the 1994 Agreed Framework and the 2003-2009 six-party talks. He also wrote that it was a mistake to “let North Korea escape” from sanctions without verifiable steps to denuclearization. He will face precisely this issue as Trump begins face-to-face negotiations with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
Maybe Bolton’s appointment sends Pyongyang a message that Trump isn’t bluffing. That enhances leverage, but it also increases the risk of conflict.
On Iran, with Trump already close to abandoning the nuclear agreement, Bolton’s appointment looks eerily like the last nail in that coffin. But Bolton should ponder one last time whether U.S. and Israeli security truly will be enhanced by the agreement’s collapse. Four former Israeli military leaders argued no in a statement last weekend.
Bolton’s biggest stretch may be managing the accommodation that Trump apparently wants with Russia. Trump proposes arms-control talks with Moscow; Bolton will bring to that effort a deep and perhaps useful skepticism.
The final test for Bolton will be to maintain America’s strong alliances in Europe and Asia. Stroking allies is not his métier , to put it mildly. In his memoir, Bolton attacks diplomats’ predilection for “accommodation and compromise with foreigners.” This pugnacious approach amplifies that of the president.
With Bolton, the war cabinet is complete. Trump will now be constrained only if he believes deep down that you can’t make America great again and also go to war.

A 'Duty to Hate Britain'

Douglas Murray/Gatestone Institute/March 28/2018
At Brooklands College in July 2017, Ahmed Hassan was awarded a prize as "student of the year". He used the £20 Amazon voucher he received to purchase the first of the ingredients he needed to build his bomb.
Mr Justice Haddon-Cave seems almost to suggest that "violating" the law of the Quran and Islam is an offense in itself -- one worth noting alongside the crime of putting a bomb on a packed commuter train.
That the judge's pronouncement was superfluous is obvious. That it is incorrect is at least equally so. But worst is that it will further erode the belief of the citizenry in their lawmakers.
Last week, Ahmed Hassan was sentenced to a minimum term of 34 years in prison. The previous September, he had stepped onto the District line of the London Underground and left a homemade bomb on the train. At Parson's Green tube station, the device detonated. Fortunately for the commuters, which included many children on their way to school, only the detonator of the bomb went off. On its own, it created a fireball which ran along the roof of the carriage, singeing the hair of many passengers and causing an immediate stampede away from the blast and a number of injuries. The main explosive material the of bomb, however, which was packed with shrapnel, including bolts, nails and knives, failed to detonate. Had it done so, the United Kingdom would have seen -- for the fourth time in a few months -- dozens more dead victims, including school children, carried out in body bags.
London police outside Parsons Green Underground station, following the Ahmed Hassan's terrorist bombing there on September 15, 2017.
All this happened because of a young man of Iraqi origin, who should never have been in the UK in the first place. Hassan moved into Europe among the migrant flows of 2015. He ended up at the "Jungle" migrant camp in Calais -- a place to which celebrities in the UK consistently go in order to implore the British people to take in the people who are living there. A particular cry of these celebrities (figures such as the actress Juliet Stevenson) is that the "child migrants" in particular should be taken in by the UK. The call is flawed, not least, in that it suggests that anybody who breaks the existing asylum procedures of the European Union and simply pushes their way to the front of the queue is somebody who will be rewarded for this act.
At the Calais camp, Hassan did not bother to wait for the British government to invite him. Most likely aided by the anti-borders NGOs who work in the camp, Hassan found out how to get around the system. In 2015, smuggled in the back of a lorry, Hassan arrived in the UK. If he had been a genuine asylum seeker, he could have -- and should have (under the terms of the Dublin Treaty) -- applied for asylum in the first European country where he set foot. Certainly, if there had been any legitimate reason for him to gain asylum, there was no reason why he should not have applied for asylum in France.
Once he arrived in the UK, it took some time for the British authorities to catch up with him. When they eventually did, and he was questioned by Home Office officials, he told them he had been a member of ISIS and had been trained by the group to kill.
He claimed to be 16 years old, although the authorities believed he was probably older. The open-borders NGOs are able to advise people in Calais and elsewhere that claiming to be a "child migrant" increases the likelihood of being able to stay.
A week later, housed at a Barnado's children's home, he was seen by a member of the staff looking up ISIS videos on his phone, and later, to be listening to extremist songs (nasheed).
Nevertheless, the British authorities helped him find a school. At Brooklands College, a teacher observed him reading a WhatsApp message which said "IS has accepted your donation." He told a teacher that it was his "duty to hate Britain". The state also placed him with a foster family, whom they failed to inform about his ISIS past.
Every effort continued to be made for this young man who had broken into the country. At Brooklands College in July 2017, he was even awarded a prize as "student of the year". Hassan used the £20 Amazon voucher he received to purchase the first of the ingredients he needed to build his bomb.
At every stage, the British state helped Hassan in every way it could. It took in a person who had no right to be in the country -- who indeed had entered the country illegally. It housed him, fed him, educated him and encouraged him. He repaid this by building a bomb at the home of his foster parents and trying to bring carnage to the rush-hour commuters on the London Underground.
Now that Hassan has been tried, convicted and sentenced for his crime, the British people may be surprised at the priorities of the authorities who are meant to keep them safe. But at the final stage of that process, the state produced one final insult against the people of the country.
This is how The Honourable Mr Justice Haddon-Cave concluded his sentencing on March 23:
Finally, Ahmed Hassan, let me say this to you. You will have plenty of time to study the Qur'an in prison in the years to come. You should understand that the Qur'an is a book of peace; Islam is a religion of peace. The Qur'an and Islam forbid anything extreme, including extremism in religion. Islam forbids breaking the "law of the land" where one is living or is a guest. Islam forbids terrorism (hiraba). The Qur'an and the Sunna provide that the crime of perpetrating terror to "cause corruption in the land" is one of the most severe crimes in Islam. So it is in the law of the United Kingdom. You have, therefore, received the most severe of sentences under the law of this land. You have violated the Qur'an and Islam by your actions, as well as the law of all civilized people. It is to be hoped that you will come to realise this one day. Please go with the officers.
First, what business is it of a judge to make such a statement? Why should Mr Justice Haddon-Cave think that being a judge in a British court also permits him to expound on Islamic theology? And what if he is wrong in his theological pronouncements? What if it is not the case that Islam "forbids anything extreme"? What if a lot of British subjects who are not Muslims discover that this judge is telling an untruth? What if he is wrong, and that the cure for a jihadist like Ahmed Hassan is not in fact confinement with the Quran and Sunna?
Mr Justice Haddon-Cave seems almost to suggest that "violating" the law of the Quran and Islam is an offense in itself -- one worth noting alongside the crime of putting a bomb on a packed commuter train. That his pronouncement was superfluous is obvious. That it is incorrect is at least equally so. But worst is that it will further erode the belief of the citizenry in their lawmakers.
In his sorry and violent life, Ahmed Hassan had already proven the incompetency of Britain's border-police and the ignorance or naivety of its Home Office officials. His final gift to the state that allowed him in was to bring about the over-reach -- and presumption and lack of awareness -- of its judiciary.
Douglas Murray, British author, commentator and public affairs analyst, is based in London, England. His latest book, an international best-seller, is "The Strange Death of Europe: Immigration, Identity, Islam."
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Europe All Inclusive: Understanding the Current Migration Crisis
Václav Klaus/Gatestone Institute/March 28/2018
"Multiculturalism and human-rightism promote the notion that migration is a human right, and that the right to migrate leads to further rights and entitlements including social welfare hand-outs for migrants." — Former Czech President Václav Klaus and economist Jiří Weigl, writing in their book, Europe All Inclusive.
"Europe is weakened by the leftist utopia of trying to transform a continent that was once proud of its past into an inefficient solidaristic state, turning its inhabitants from citizens into dependent clients." — Václav Klaus.
"There are plenty of arguments suggesting that the contemporary migration crisis is connected with the post-democratic character of the EU. That it is a by-product of the already long time existing European crisis, of the systemic errors and misconceptions of European policies, of the built-in defects of EU institutional arrangements, and of the ideological confusions and prejudices of European multicultural political elites." — Václav Klaus.
Europe All Inclusive, a book by former Czech President Václav Klaus, co-authored by the Arab-speaking economist Jiří Weigl, recently published by Hungary's Századvég School of Politics Foundation, has already been translated into six languages. The Századvég School of Politics Foundation is connected to the think tank Századvég, which, in turn, is close to the FIDESZ party led by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. In the book, the authors write:
"What we see today is a similarly fundamental challenge to the future of Europe... and especially its 'integrated' part, is riddled with hypocrisy, pseudo-humanism and other dubious concepts. [When] the most dangerous of them are the currently fashionable, and ultimately suicidal, ideologies of multiculturalism and human-rightism...These ideologies promote the notion that migration is a human right, and that the right to migrate leads to further rights and entitlements including social welfare hand-outs for migrants... Europe is weakened by the leftist utopia of trying to transform a continent that was once proud of its past into an inefficient solidaristic state, turning its inhabitants from citizens into dependent clients."
In February 2018, Former Czech President Václav Klaus (left) delivered a copy of the Hungarian translation of his book, Europe All Inclusive, to Viktor Orbán (right), the Prime Minister of Hungary. (Image source: Václav Klaus Institute)
The following are excerpts of a speech, "Is Our Membership in the EU a Real Blessing?", delivered by Václav Klaus at the Corvinus University of Budapest on February 22, 2018:
I came to Budapest to participate in the launching of the book about the recent mass migration to Europe. Its formal launching took place yesterday in the Hungarian Academy of Sciences.
Our ambition in writing the book was to contribute to the refutation of the false and misleading interpretations of the current European migration crisis. They have been promoted and propagated by the European political and intellectual elites with their progressivist, multicultural, politically correct views and attitudes. Their thinking is based on the untenable assumption that the mass migration is a positive social phenomenon. We strongly disagree. It is not a positive phenomenon, it destabilizes Europe, it endangers the peaceful and quiet developments in individual European countries.
History teaches us that any mass migration creates considerable cultural, social and political conflicts, shocks and tensions. Its costs have always been much higher than its benefits. We see it in Europe these days. The costs connected with it are high and visible and – to be frank – we have not been able to find any benefits from of it. It is evident that Europe does not need any mass migration.
We are aware of the specifics regarding the current mass migration, of the Hungarian stance, which is the result of the courageous -- and in Europe singular and isolated -- position of Prime Minister Orbán. We can assure you that his views are greatly supported in the Czech Republic. I am glad to say that my own views are very similar to Prime Minister Orbán's views.
There are plenty of arguments suggesting that the contemporary migration crisis is connected with the post-democratic character of the EU: it is a by-product of the already long-existing European crisis; systemic errors and misconceptions of European policies; built-in defects of EU institutional arrangements, and the ideological confusions and prejudices of European multicultural political elites.
My criticism is based on the fact that we are – due to our EU membership – once again masterminded from abroad and that our sovereignty is again considerably constrained.
The substance of my polemics with the EU arrangements is based both on the criticism of the negative effects of the ambitions to centralize economically and excessively unify the European continent. It is also based on those who underestimate the negative consequences of undemocratically suppressing nation-states in favor of a pan-European governance.
In the communist era, our dream was to be free citizens, not just inhabitants of our non-free states. Regarding mass migration, the issue of citizenship has become crucial again. Citizenship reflects that one belongs to a particular political community. I strongly disagreed with a well-known and often quoted statement by President Obama, when he famously announced that he is "a citizen of the world". The European political elites similarly keep saying that they are citizens of Europe. Yet, it is impossible to be a citizen of Europe. Europe is not a political community. One can only be an inhabitant of Europe.
I want to live in a Europe with less of the EU and with more of the nation-states. The currently prevailing EU ideology (I call it Europeism) systematically undermines the traditional, historically proven building blocks of the European society: the nation state, the family, the man.
I am very much in favor of the increased openness of the European society. It was attained in the first phase of the European integration process (in the era of the EEC and the EC). I am, however, very critical of the increased bureaucratic centralization, of the permanently growing regulations that suppress human activity, and of the frustrating de-democratization that is connected with the second phase of the European integration process (with the era of the EU), with the European unification. To sum it up, our membership in such an entity is a very mixed blessing. We should have the courage to say it loudly.
*Václav Klaus is the former president and former prime minister of the Czech Republic and author more than 40 books, including: Europe All Inclusive: A Brief Guide to Understanding the Current Migration Crisis" (2017), Blue Planet in Green Shackles: What Is Endangered: Climate or Freedom? (2007) and Renaissance: The Rebirth of Liberty in the Heart of Europe (1997). The excerpts were shortened by Josef Zbořil and are reprinted here with the kind permission of the author.
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Why Iranian people welcome Bolton’s new position
Hamid Bahrami/Al Arabiya/March 28/18
Iranian people have begun the new year with three messages from Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and the US President Donald Trump. In his remark, Khamenei, humiliated the Iranian people, especially the poor, by connecting their demands of improved living standards raised during the nationwide uprising early this year, which continue desultorily across the country, to western countries. Instead, he praised activities of the Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) in the Middle East while blaming protesters for refusing to support it.  On the other hand, the US President congratulated Iranian people on the new Persian year, while slamming the theocracy and its paramilitary force, IRGC. The Iranian youth and activists embraced President Trump’s message on social media because it acknowledged their rich history as compared to the clerics’ hostility against Iranian national symbol.
Bolton’s appointment
The most impressive new year message was, however, President Trump’s appointment of John Bolton as the US National Security Adviser (NSA). It was received by both the regime and the people but in different ways.  According to Iran’s state media the Secretary of the regime's Supreme National Security Council (SNS) Ali Shamkhani harshly criticized Bolton as he attacked the main Iranian opposition coalition, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) and its leader Maryam Rajavi, who has appeared on many conventions and conferences with Bolton and other prominent US officials.
In contrast, Iranian activists have created hashtags in both Farsi and English on Twitter “#JohnBolton #جان_بولتون” in order to support the appointment.
Now one may ask how Iranians judge Bolton and why they welcome his new appointment.
During and after the recent uprising in Iran, Khamenei blamed the NCRI and Mrs Rajavi for organizing the anti-regime protests.
The prime concern is how to bring about necessary democratic change to their country and as such they welcome a firm policy against their oppressors. Rajavi is a vividly debated politician who leads the organized resistance against the fanatic religious regime in Iran. While the theocracy views women as second-class citizens, the Iranian society acknowledges Rajavi for her firm stands to overthrow the mullahs regime. As a social activist and journalist who lived in Iran for 27 years and being actively involved in politics since 2009 both inside and outside Iran, I admit that Rajavi has a great influence and social charisma among the young generation and marginalized women who seek a democratic and secular Iran. The new NSA partook in several NCRI gatherings in Paris and New York and spoke in support of the coalition’s demands for a free Iran. Bolton believes Mrs Rajavi’s 10-point plan is the most appropriate alternative to the Ayatollahs’ regime, according to an interview with Fox News. In his latest remarks in Paris in July 2017, he said that “the US policy should be determined that the regime [in Iran] will not last until its 40th birthday in February 2019.” John Bolton has come to the attention of Iranian people only because of his support for the organized resistance. Indeed, the nuclear deal is no longer the main issue for people in Iran. The prime concern is how to bring about necessary democratic change to their country and as such they welcome a firm policy against their oppressors. Now, the Iranian society and oppressed people of Iran have a friend in White House, whose believe converge with their legitimate demands for change.

Iran’s missiles shell Saudi Arabia
Mashari Althaydi/Al Arabiya/March 28/18
The Houthi-Iranian missiles which were fired towards Riyadh and other Saudi cities reveal why fighting the Houthis in Yemen is an existential matter and an inevitable choice, contrary to those demanding to halt the war or doubting its usefulness. We are before a terrorist group that takes orders from the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and that does not even aim to serve the interests of the Houthi Movement itself. Just like its masters in Tehran, this terror group frankly states that it wants death and destruction for Saudi Arabia and the Saudi people. It’s important to clarify this for the thousand time and note that this is not only Saudi Arabia’s war but the war of an Islamic Arab coalition that has international legitimate support. The summary of the argument of Turki Al-Maliki, the spokesman of the Arab coalition, is that it’s Iran which actually shelled some Saudi cities while the Houthis are just a nickname, like when one uses a fake name on online interactive platforms! All this happened as US President Donald Trump’s team integrated and the political mood towards Iran was unified by appointing Mike Pompeo as US Secretary of State and John Bolton as national security advisor. It’s also happened as Saudi-Emirati-American coordination strengthened as seen by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s current tour to the US.
The conclusive evidence that Iran has supplied the Houthis with the missiles used to target Saudi Arabia and sent Revolutionary Guards, and perhaps Hezbollah experts as well, to Yemen, make the confrontation with Iran, whatever its form is, imminent, that is if the decision to confront it had not been already taken! Will this reckless missile attack expedite the pace of the “great confrontation” with Khomeini's Iran that nurtures all evils in the region? Commenting on the Houthi-Iranian missiles which targeted Saudi Arabia, Emile Ameen wrote in an article published in Asharq al-Awsat newspaper: “There must be quick efforts in the UN to look into how it can confront Iran, and the Americans must prepare the required responses to these power tests they’ve been subjected to. After the Iranian missiles were fired towards Saudi Arabia, the Saudi cabinet chaired by King Salman said: “The Iranian-backed Houthi militias’ criminal aggression proves that the Iranian regime continues to support the Houthis. This is a clear violation of UN Security Council Resolutions 2216 and 2231. It also shows the destructive role Iran is playing in Yemen by smuggling missiles to terrorist militias to use them against civilians in Yemen and the kingdom.”
The spokesman of the Arab coalition Colonel Turki Al-Maliki said the kingdom “reserves the right to respond to Iran.” Commenting on the recent Houthi attack on Saudi Arabia, Rebecca Rebarich, the US Department of Defense spokesperson, accused Iran of supplying the Houthis with weapons.
Will this reckless missile attack expedite the pace of the “great confrontation” with Khomeini's Iran that nurtures all evils in the region?

In spite of leftist propaganda, we shall continue to buy weapons
Mohammed Al Shaikh/Al Arabiya/March 28/18
Arab leftists and those influenced by their defeated culture have been criticizing Saudi Arabia for strengthening its military to develop it into a powerful deterrent force against any threats to its security and stability, such as the ones posed by the theocratic state of Iran. They concoct devious insinuations that imply military purchases are imposed on us by Western countries, especially the US. Saudi Arabia is a major regional power with huge financial resources. Its geographical spread is equivalent to that of a continent, and all Muslims around the world aspire to perform pilgrimage in the two Holy Mosques situated here. The country is located at the center of the global human populace, between the East and the West, which gives it a great advantage. It is for all these factors that Saudi Arabia is being targeted, whether directly as the Persian clerics aspire or indirectly by other international powers aspiring to have a foothold in our country. Our deterrent military power is thus a top priority. The purchase of weapons will undoubtedly contribute to deterring the avaricious countries. Western countries are also keen to sell us weapons for purely economic reasons as these sales would boost their economy. Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s signing of new deals for advanced weaponry with the US, the UK and other Western countries, makes us proud. The world nowadays only respects the powerful, and we happen to have the financial and human capacities needed to make the Saudi deterrent force capable of curbing the greedy.
Betting on the right horse
Saudi Arabia has had the political acumen of betting on the right horse, since the time of Abdulaziz till the reign of Salman bin Abdulaziz, which is the West that is now headed by the US. Meanwhile leftist Arabs have historically sided with the eastern camp, specifically with the defeated Soviet Union. In the end, all those who placed their hopes on the eastern camp failed. This defeat was not only related to the military but also to economic development. This is evident on any visit to Syria, Iraq, Libya or southern Yemen. One can easily see the huge gap between what we have been able to accomplish in terms of construction and services and what these countries achieved. It is not that the other side was not endowed with natural resources, because Iraq and Libya have rich petroleum deposits, financial resources and capabilities that could have made their countries develop on par with Riyadh, Abu Dhabi or Kuwait. However, their futile slogans and allegiance to the decadent left, brought them misery and suffering. In the end I wish to tell those influenced by the vanquished leftist ideology that we will deal with the West, and we will benefit from its superior civilization and its accomplishments — both its military feats and its other cultural achievements. These mainly deliver deterrence to our communities and also enhance welfare and services. As for you, your media, your intellectuals, and your criticism, these are nothing but the groans of a defeated force as it falls in the battle of civilizations.

The secret behind the success of the UAE and South Korea
Mohammed Al-Hammadi/Al Arabiya/March 28/18
Relations between the UAE and South Korea are historic and date back three decades. The secret behind these strong relations lie in two common factors; first is that both countries’ development plans focus on their respective people. Education, health, humanitarian and lifestyle concerns and issues are always given priority by these countries. The second factor is the mutual trust and respect between the leadership and people of these countries, wherein both sides appreciate the other’s efforts and experiences. This is what makes the joint work between both countries run smoothly and quickly.
People-centered progress
The UAE has a strategic vision for its relations with South Korea, regardless of the leader of that country or of the ruling party. The interest of the two states and their people remain at the heart of decision making on both sides. This is reflected in the number of projects undertaken by the two states. It is also noteworthy that the UAE was the first country in the region to have relations with the Republic of Korea. Thus, it is not strange when His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, spoke with the current President of the Republic of Korea by phone and congratulated him on winning last year's elections. The UAE-Korea relations are strong and would be further strengthened after the current visit of President Moon Jae-in, especially as South Korea had expressed its desire to develop the strategic relationship between the two countries to “special strategic partnership,” which would make cooperation between the two countries more distinctive and advanced.As for the economic aspect, partnership has strengthened, particularly in the energy, investment and technology sectors. The UAE-Korean joint economic committee enhances economic collaboration in different fields.
Tourism, investment
The number of South Koreans visiting the UAE over the last decade and the UAE's investment in South Korea have both significantly increased. This underscores the growing understanding, friendship and trust between the two countries. The South Korean President considered this a positive sign and noted: “All this would be a strong base that would support the development of relations between both countries to turn from ‘companion’ to ‘brother’ in the next 100 years journey.”Both the UAE and South Korea have succeeded in achieving their dreams in a short time, and have become developed countries within a few decades. This is all thanks to right planning, hard work, focus on building a strong economy, and above all because of believing in human capabilities.

Qatar takes one step forward, two steps back
Sawsan Al Shaer/Al Arabiya/March 28/18
The Gulf will never allow Qatar to be ripped from it, regardless of its behavior and how astray it goes. The Gulf will always embrace Qatar.
The shortest way to get somewhere is through a direct route. My advice is to seize the opportunity and not further complicate the matter for itself.
Qatar has recently acknowledged that it shelters 20 terrorists and 8 terrorist entities on its territories. Then it said that this list is nothing new but publishing it is! When did Qatar ever say that ISIS-Sinai Province (ISIS-SP) is a terrorist group? This is the first time that Doha describes the groups which are practicing terrorism in Egypt, and in Sinai in particular, as terrorists. The list is thus new but Doha continues to play arrogant. Then through a tweet by Hamad bin Jassim, he hinted that the acceptance of the solution might be in Riyadh and we don’t know how he would later retract from his statement. Will he also claim that his account was hacked?
Why take this long route? Haven’t the Qatari regime learned audacity, frankness and direct talk? Hasn’t it realized that our problem with is originally due to it endless elusive tactics? If Doha has kept its word and committed to it, there wouldn’t have been any problems.
Why does it think that being devious can succeed? Why is Doha overcomplicating this for itself and its people? Hasn’t Qatar realized that it no longer poses a problem for the Anti-Terror Quartet after it decided to boycott it to “shut the door from which the wind blew”?
Now, after the dismissal of Rex Tillerson as secretary of state and the appointment of John Bolton as national security advisor, Qatar will not be included in any agenda or discussed in any meeting between US officials and any officials from the quartet.
Qatar widened the gap with the quartet after Azmi Bishara tempted it to resume its policies. Bishara managed the crisis for Qatar while taking his own agenda – which Doha has not yet realized – into account.
The Qatari regime’s trial balloons to observe reactions to the possibility of "a partial solution" are a waste of time. They actually show that the regime hasn’t learnt anything and also prolong the crisis. There is no difference between this time and previous tricks, including their “pledge” to implement and this ended in 2014. Hamad bin Khalifa said it himself that it was over after King Abdullah died and gave himself the right to betray the pledges made. So how can we guarantee or respect any future pledges Qatar makes? After violating signed agreements, what sort of verbal reassurances can Doha offer us?
Qatar cannot resolve this crisis via partial solutions such as by buying cattle, buying Neymar and football clubs, or pasting posters on cabs in London or even buying votes in the congress and pursuing planes and threatening navigation. Qatar spent billions on these deceitful approaches and it was all in vain. The solution has, since day one, been to implement all the demands of the anti-terror quartet and then sit down in Riyadh.
Very simple, easy solution
Qatar widened the gap with the quartet after Azmi Bishara tempted it to resume its policies. Bishara managed the crisis for Qatar while taking his own agenda – which Doha has not yet realized – into account. He kept Doha away from us and separated it from its embrace. He drowned Qatar and complicated its process of swimming back to the surface. The solution was actually very simple and easy, and it would have greatly benefitted Doha and rectified the deteriorating situation caused by those who had managed to convince Qatar that it will one day rule the Arab order. At the beginning, the quartet was still lenient while addressing its disputes with Doha but Bishara advised the latter to expand the circle of dispute and gave it hope that Donald Trump will be removed. He also misguided Qatar into thinking that its money can solve the crisis. Days went by, Qatar has wasted billions and it has now found itself back to square one! One last advice to Qatar: Do not wait any longer to resolve the crisis because this will only widen the gap. Do not expect that there will be negotiations and verbal commitments. They’ve tried this before but it didn’t work. Wise men once said: The shortest distance between two points is a straight line.