May 01/2018
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani


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Bible Quotations
But as for that in the good soil, these are the ones who, when they hear the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patient endurance

Luke 08/04-15: “When a great crowd gathered and people from town after town came to him, he said in a parable: ‘A sower went out to sow his seed; and as he sowed, some fell on the path and was trampled on, and the birds of the air ate it up. Some fell on the rock; and as it grew up, it withered for lack of moisture. Some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew with it and choked it. Some fell into good soil, and when it grew, it produced a hundredfold.’ As he said this, he called out, ‘Let anyone with ears to hear listen!’Then his disciples asked him what this parable meant. He said, ‘To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God; but to others I speak in parables, so that “looking they may not perceive, and listening they may not understand.” ‘Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God.The ones on the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. The ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe only for a while and in a time of testing fall away. As for what fell among the thorns, these are the ones who hear; but as they go on their way, they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature. But as for that in the good soil, these are the ones who, when they hear the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patient endurance.”

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on April 30- May 01/18
Israeli PM presents 'conclusive proof' Iran lied 'big time' about nuclear ambitions/Ynetnews/Reuters/April 30/18
Israel Told U.S. and Russia It Will Retaliate if Iran Attacks From Syria/Haaretz/April 30/18
Turkey Calls on Europe to Criminalize "Islamophobia"/Uzay Bulut/Gatestone Institute/April 30/18
Flooding the Voter Rolls in US and Greece/Maria Polizoidou/Gatestone Institute/April 30/18
Kim the Playmaker/Ghassan Charbel/Asharq Al-Awsat/April 30/18
Have Trump and Macron Learned to Use Each Other/David Ignatius/The Washington Post/April 30/18
When Science Gets Demoted: The Case of Vitamins/Faye Flam/Bloomberg/April 30/18
What has Kim Jong-Un done to Khamenei/Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya/April 30/18
The reconstruction of Islamic Studies/Radwan al-Sayed/Al Arabiya/April 30/18
We cannot afford another endarkenment/Hassan Yassin/Al Arabiya/April 30/18
Titles For Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on April 30- May 01/18
Tripartite committee to focus on Israeli violations: Aoun
Aoun Meets UNIFIL Commander
Lebanon: Expat Voting Process Complete, Countdown Begins for Nationwide Elections
Parliament Voting for Lebanese Expats Ends
Bassil: Lebanese Expat Voting Record 59% Turnout
Mashnouq Says Beirut Vote an 'Arab-Persian Battle'
Report: Amid Security Concerns, Hariri ‘Advised’ to Limit Electoral Campaign Tours
Nadim Gemayel: I Am Proud to Be Representing Ashrafieh Voters
Salameh: Electoral Bribery in Full Swing in Keserwan
Kataeb's Electoral Machinery Pinpoints Diaspora Vote Flaws
Qassem Says 'Not in Hizbullah's Interest' to Start War with Israel
Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on April 30- May 01/18
Israel 'Closes Airspace' amid 'Panic' over Possible Iranian Retaliation
Pompeo Says Israel, Palestinian Peace Still a US Priority
Tehran Dismisses Pompeo's 'Unfounded' Accusations
Iran Mocks Netanyahu's Nuclear Claims as Trump Lauds Them
Iranian Official Says 'Project' of U.S. and Allies in Syria 'Defeated'
Future Saudi King Says Palestinian Leadership is Main Obstacle to Peace
Pompeo from Jordan: US Open to Two-Party Solution to Palestinian-Israeli Conflict
Syria: Heavy Clashes in Deir Ezzor Following Sudden Regime Attack
3 Arrested in Sweden on Suspicion of Preparing ‘Act of Terror’
Psychological Warfare to End as South Korea Removes Border Loudspeakers
Turkey's Erdogan Vows ‘Sweeping Victory’, Opposition Talks about Threats against Gul
Pakistan Paves Way for Release of Doctor Who Helped Hunt Down Bin Laden
Twin Kabul Suicide Blasts Kill and Wound Scores, Including Journalists
Mekhlafi: Iran Is Behind the Yemeni Crisis, Can’t Be Part of the Solution
Kuwait Seeks to Calm Philippines Crisis over Workers

Latest Lebanese Related News published on April 30- May 01/18
Tripartite committee to focus on Israeli violations: Aoun
The Daily Star/April 30/2018/BEIRUT: Israeli violations of the U.N. Security Council resolution that ended the 2006 war will soon be addressed again by the tripartite committee, President Michel Aoun told UNIFIL Force Commander Maj. Gen. Michael Beary during a Monday meeting. Aoun told Beary that the tripartite committee, which consists of representatives from the Lebanese Army, UNIFIL, and the Israeli army, are set to re-open the file on Israeli's routine violations of Lebanon's sovereignty, air, land, sea, and gas blocks, according to the statement from his media office. U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701 stipulated the cessation of hostilities and full respect for the Blue Line – the border zone between Israel and Lebanon – among other things. Lebanon has filed multiple complaints to the UNSC regarding Israel's violations of the resolution, with the latest one submitted by Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil earlier this month. However, the issue has been placed on the back-burner as Lebanon gears up to hold parliamentary elections Sunday – the country’s first such polls in nearly a decade. Aoun also reiterated his rejection of Israel’s plan to build a wall along the border and demanded that the tripartite committee pay attention to 13 specific points along the Blue Line that the Lebanese government has reservations about. Aoun stressed the need to maintain normal relations between UNIFIL and residents of towns and villages where the peacekeeping force is deployed, which could ease the force’s work in maintaining security and stability. Beary gave Aoun a brief update on the situation in the south and noted that positive results had stemmed from additional cooperation between UNIFIL forces and the Army. The president affirmed that Lebanon supports the extension of UNIFIL's mandate without any modification of its functions and warned that any reduction in its budget might adversely affect its effectiveness and role. UNIFIL's mandate was last extended in August 2017, with some minor adjustments, mostly related to Hezbollah. U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley demanded that UNIFIL focuses more on the group's activities.

Aoun Meets UNIFIL Commander
Naharnet/April 30/18/President Michel Aoun held a meeting on Monday at the Presidential Palace with UNIFIL Head of Mission and Force Commander, Major General Michael Beary, the National News Agency reported. Aoun highlighted Israel’s breach against Lebanese territory, stressing that “Israeli violations against 13 disputed points along the country’s border will be discussed.” On the UNIFIL’s mandate, he said that Lebanon backs renewing the term of UNIFIL “without any modification in its functions or reduction in its budget.”Aoun then met with a Norwegian-American delegation representing Swiss company "EWL", which is responsible for producing energy from waste.

Lebanon: Expat Voting Process Complete, Countdown Begins for Nationwide Elections
Beirut- Asharq Al Awsat/Monday, 30 April, 2018/The round of elections for Lebanese expatriates ended on Sunday in 33 countries, including the United States, Australia, Canada, Europe and Africa, and the countdown began for the main round of parliamentary polls in Lebanon, which will be held on May 6.
With some loopholes registered in some countries, there was a noticeable absence of Hezbollah representatives in polling stations, where the delegates of Amal Movement assumed their task, due the party’s classification as a terrorist organization, specifically in Europe and America.
After a 66 percent turnout in the Arab countries on Friday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced on Sunday afternoon that the turnout in Australia reached 52 percent. In Britain, 371 Lebanese cast their votes out of 1,824 registered voters; in Belgium 498 out of 1,053; in Sweden 662 out of 1,910; in Germany 2,151 out of 8,355; in France 2,073 out of 8,644; Ivory Coast 775 out of 2,345; Nigeria 489 out of 1,263, Brazil 96 out of 2,112; Canada 239 out of 11,443, and the United States 244 out of 999 registered voters. Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil announced on Sunday morning the start of the second phase of the polls, noting that there were 70,000 registered voters distributed in 200 polling stations in 33 countries (excluding Arab countries).Around 82,900 Lebanese in 39 countries have registered to participate in the elections. According to experts, the number of people of Lebanese origins living abroad is estimated at 8-12 million, but most of them do not take administrative measures to issue their Lebanese identity cards. Interior Minister Nohad al-Mashnouk described the expat elections as a pilot experiment that was carried out with great success, announcing that the Interior Ministry has completed 96 percent of its preparations for the elections in Lebanon on Sunday

Parliament Voting for Lebanese Expats Ends
Associated Press/Naharnet/April 30/18/The second round of Lebanese expats voting has ended on Monday at 8:00 Beirut time with the last ballot box closed in Los Angeles the United States, the National News Agency reported on Monday. NNA added that the voter turnout in each ballot box will emerge respectively according to the states in South and North Americas. According to the Foreign Ministry, the voter turnout until now has shown that an overall of 45,765 Lebanese expats have participated in the voting, that is %55.14 of registered voters. Lebanese expatriates began voting Sunday in the first parliamentary elections held by the tiny Arab country in nine years. The current legislature has extended its term several times, citing security threats linked to the war in neighboring Syria. Lebanon's political system distributes power among the country's different religious communities, and the main parties are led by political dynasties that fought one another during the 1975-1990 civil war. Sunday's vote in 33 countries comes two days after thousands of Lebanese voted in six Arab countries. The vote marks the first time that Lebanese are allowed to vote abroad. Millions of Lebanese live abroad, but Lebanon's state-run news agency says the number of registered voters is 82,970. The voting inside Lebanon will be held next Sunday. Australia has the largest number of registered voters, with about 12,000, followed by Canada with 11,438 and the United States with about 10,000.
In Brazil, home to hundreds of thousands of citizens of Lebanese descent, many were casting their ballots in Latin America's most populous nation. This year's vote is according to a new election law that is based on proportional representation, implemented for the first time since Lebanon's independence in 1943. Voters will choose one list of allied candidates, as well as a preferred candidate from among them. Lebanon's 128-member parliament is equally divided between Muslims and Christians. The house's term was supposed to expire in 2013, but lawmakers have approved several extensions since then.

Bassil: Lebanese Expat Voting Record 59% Turnout

Naharnet/April 30/18/Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil said in a press conference Monday that the turnout rate for Lebanese expats voting reached 59%, stressing that it “reflects the enthusiasm of Lebanese.”In a press conference he held at the foreign ministry concluding the country’s expats voting, Bassil said: “Lebanese expat voting has reflected the enthusiasm and interest of Lebanese,” to practice their national right, “although some media outlets were hinting otherwise.”“Official turnout statistics have shown 59% of people registered have cast their votes,” he said.
Bassil gave credit to the interior ministry and other institutions that helped make the process possible, he said: “The elections were conducted under the administrative supervision of the Ministry of Interior. There was great cooperation between the two ministries, and I think that in the history of Lebanon there has not been an electoral process held with such transparency. "He said the elections cost held around 40 Arab and foreign countries, “reached around $1.5 million.”Voter turnout in Australia reached 58%, in Europe 59.5%, in Africa 68%, in Latin America 45%, in Americas around 55%, in Arab countries around 69%, said the minister.

Mashnouq Says Beirut Vote an 'Arab-Persian Battle'

Naharnet/April 30/18/Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq on Monday described the upcoming electoral battle in Beirut's second district as an “Arab-Persian battle.”“The vote in Beirut is a battle of fate, dignity and resolution between Arabism and Persianism,” Mashnouq, who is running for a Sunni seat in the district, said during a meeting with Beiruti families. He reiterated that “political Velayat-e Faqih” will not take through ballot boxes “what it had failed to take through arms on May 7, 2008,” in an apparent jab at Hizbullah and Shiite Iran's form of Islamic rule. “This time the battle is through ballot boxes, not through arms, muscles or fiery rhetoric,” Mashnouq added. He noted that the presence of eight electoral lists competing against al-Mustaqbal Movement's list in Beirut is aimed at “scattering the votes of Beirut's people in order to lower the electoral threshold to the advantage of Hizbullah's list.”“No list, other than Hizbullah's list, has a single political sentence in its electoral platform, and all they are focusing on is services and development... Let them nominate themselves to Beirut's municipality!” Mashnouq went on to say, slamming rival lists formed by businessmen, independents, civil society figures and leftist and Nasserite parties.

Report: Amid Security Concerns, Hariri ‘Advised’ to Limit Electoral Campaign Tours

Naharnet/April 30/18/Prime Minister Saad Hariri has been reportedly “advised” to reduce his electoral tours to Lebanese regions “close to the border,” meanwhile security sources upped their measures although there is “no definite information about threats to the PM,” the pan-Arab Asharq al-Awsat reported Monday. Sources close to Hariri, head of al-Mustaqbal Movement, said security sources have asked him to “limit visits to Lebanese regions on the extremities” of the country, they told the daily. Meanwhile, Hariri circles said “electoral battles can’t be run through television appearances, but require ground interaction.” Security sources assured that needed “measures have been taken as if the threat stands,” although “there is no definite information about security threats to the Premier,” they said. PM Hariri has been touring several regions in the South, Bekaa and North Lebanon as part of an electoral campaign ahead of the parliamentary elections that will kick off on May 6. “Security services are placed in a state of constant alert, before each visit Hariri carries out to monitor any suspicious movements,” sources said. “The PM's tours to towns near the border doubles the responsibility of security services, which take pre-actions and tighten their measures hours before he arrives,” they added. Al-Mustaqbal Movement official Mustafa Allouch, said “Hariri has received an advice last week and the week before, warning him not to expand the circle of his movements because of security risks."But the Premier “can not wage the electoral battle from behind TV screens like Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah does. Communicating with people and hearing their demands is very important,” he said. Allouch added that al-Mustaqbal Movement “counts on Hariri’s love for his people, and his relation with them and his ability to attract them because he is honest,” added Allouch.
Nadim Gemayel: I Am Proud to Be Representing Ashrafieh Voters 30th April 2018/Kataeb MP Nadim Gemayel, who is running for another term in Ashrafieh, on Monday took pride in everything he has done over the past nine years, saying that the Kataeb party has stood against all malicious schemes that were plotted against the country. "The voters in Ashrafieh will grant me their trust and I am proud to be representing them," he said in an interview on Tele Liban. "Our list includes candidates who are against non-state arms, while the rival slate defends its presence."Gemayel called on the voters to make the right choice on Sunday, urging them to give their preferential vote to the candidate who has a project that would make a real change in the country. "I need your votes. I will hold onto the same constants and values to which I adhered during the past nine years," he pledged.

Salameh: Electoral Bribery in Full Swing in Keserwan 30th April 2018/Kataeb candidate for the Maronite seat in Keserwan, Chaker Salameh, said that people are yearning for change after all the disappointments they had experienced over the past years, voicing optimism over the election results on Sunday as the voters are believing in the ideas and stances of Kataeb leader Samy Gemayel. "People in Keserwan got tired with the fake promises made by the Free Patriotic Movement's lawmakers over the past 13 years. None of their pledges has been honored as no infrastructure has been established, no solutions have been reached either to the Zouk power plant or the public hospital in Bouwar, as well as no effort has been made to establish a Lebanese University branch in the district or to improve the Jounieh port," Salameh told the Kataeb website. "The FPM lawmakers have also failed to address the most chronic and frustrating problem that the people in Keserwan are suffering from: the traffic congestion along the Jounieh highway," he added. "Hopefully, people will holding them to account for all these failures on May 6."Salameh said that the Kataeb partisans in Keserwan are being subjected to pressure so as to prevent them from voting for the party, noting that electoral bribery is in full swing in said district. The Kataeb candidate called on the voters not to get drifted with all the fake slogans and platitudes that are being said ahead of the elections, stressing that it is time to let honorable and honest people to take charge.
"Vote for the Kataeb candidates who will spare no effort to make the real change that we are all aspiring to!" Salameh concluded.

Kataeb's Electoral Machinery Pinpoints Diaspora Vote Flaws 30th April 2018/As Lebanon's first-ever diaspora vote ended on Monday morning (Beirut time), the Kataeb's electoral machinery registered several remarks concerning the electoral process abroad. Below are the main flaws that marred the expats vote:
- Many voters couldn't cast their ballots after they had failed to find their names mentioned in the voters' lists at polling stations, despite having registered online correctly.
- Although voters were promised that the selection of the polling stations' location would take into consideration the distance from their homes, many of them were surprised to find out that the polling center where they should cast their ballots is far away from the place where they live.
An expat who registered to vote in Toulouse found only the names of his family members listed in the polling station in said city, while his name was registered in Marseille.
- A woman, hailing from Batroun, couldn't cast her vote at the Ohio's polling center given that her name had been registered in Falougha's polling station.
- While the voters were told that they can renew their expired passports on the spot at the polling stations, this promise wasn't honored at all times and in all the centers, thus depriving many expats of their right to vote.
- In some polling stations, voters were given wrong electoral lists that do not belong to the areas they hail from; a gap that could be intentional so as to force the voters to change their voting choices.
- Not all polling station officers seemed to have a full knowledge of the electoral law as they acted differently on the same issue and gave different answers to the same question asked by the voters.
Qassem Says 'Not in Hizbullah's Interest' to Start War with Israel
Naharnet/April 30/18/Hizbullah deputy chief Sheikh Naim Qassem announced Monday that his group has no plans to “start” a war with Israel despite the high tensions between Iran and Israel. “Israel takes the initiative to start wars and taking Lebanon to war is not in Hizbullah's interest and is not part of its plans,” Qassem said in an interview with LBCI TV when asked about the current Israeli-Iranian standoff and its possible repercussions on Lebanon. He also noted that Hizbullah will accept to discuss the issue of its arsenal of arms in any national defense strategy talks, although he said that the weapons are linked to “Israel's existence.” As for Hizbullah's military presence in Syria, Qassem said his group's fighters would return to Lebanon when a “political solution” is reached in the war-torn country. “We will return because we do not have ambitions there. We went there in defense of Lebanon and considered that the forefront in Syria would protect our front in Lebanon in the face of Israel,” Hizbullah number two explained.

Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on April 30- May 01/18
Israel 'Closes Airspace' amid 'Panic' over Possible Iranian Retaliation
Naharnet/April 30/18/Israel on Monday closed its airspace near Syria's border and over the occupied Golan Heights amid concerns over possible retaliation by Tehran to recent strikes that killed Iranians in Syria, Al-Jazeera TV said.
“The closure of Israel's airspace on Syria's border will continue until the end of next month,” Al-Jazeera reported. Al-Mayadeen television meanwhile quoted Israeli media outlets as saying that WhatsApp messages have sparked “panic” in Israel about an Iranian attack in the next 24 hours. Israel newspaper Haaretz meanwhile said that Israel has informed Washington and Moscow that it “will not stand idly by should Iran attack it from Syria.”
Missile strikes Sunday on central Syria killed 26 pro-regime fighters, most of them Iranians, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, in a raid that bore Israel's hallmarks. The strikes in the Hama and Aleppo provinces destroyed surface-to-surface missiles, the monitor said.
Israeli Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz told army radio on Monday morning that he was "not aware" of the latest strikes.
But, he said, "all the violence and instability in Syria is the result of Iran's attempts to establish a military presence there. Israel will not allow the opening of a northern front in Syria."Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was due to speak later Monday about a "significant development" on the Iran nuclear deal, his office said. Syria remains technically at war with neighboring Israel, which is concerned at the growing presence of Iranian forces and those of Tehran's Lebanese ally Hizbullah on Syrian territory. Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman vowed in an interview Thursday to strike at any attempt by Iran to establish a "military foothold" in Syria. Iran has forces deployed in Syria to support Assad's regime, as well as supervising the involvement of several Shiite militia groups it sponsors, some of them from other countries such as Iraq or Afghanistan. There was no immediate comment from Tehran on the Sunday strikes, but the reformist-linked ILNA news agency quoted a security official who did not deny the strike and said any reports on the military situation in Syria should come from Damascus. "The Syrians must announce the statistics as they are responsible. We are present in this country at the request of the government of Syria," said Hossein Naghavi Hosseini, spokesman for parliamentary national security and foreign policy commission.

Pompeo Says Israel, Palestinian Peace Still a US Priority
Associated PressNaharnet/April 30/18/U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Monday that a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict remains a priority for the Trump administration, despite its recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital and its planned move of the U.S. Embassy to the holy city over Palestinian protests. Pompeo also said the U.S. is "fully supportive" of Israel's right to defend itself and declined to criticize the Israeli military for its use of live fire against Palestinian protesters along the Gaza border. He spoke in the Jordanian capital of Amman as he wrapped up the Middle East leg of his first overseas trip as America's top diplomat. Pompeo called on the Palestinians to return to long-stalled peace talks with Israel. He said the United States is open to a two-state solution to the conflict if both parties agree, calling it a "likely outcome." But he would not agree with Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi's characterization of the conflict as "the main cause of instability" in the region. "The parties will ultimately make the decision as to what the correct resolution is," Pompeo told reporters at a joint news conference with Safadi. "We are certainly open to a two-party solution as a likely outcome."But, he said, the Palestinians had to return to a political dialogue to get there. "An important piece of achieving Middle East stability is to resolve this conflict," he added. "Precisely how to rank it among all the various challenges, I'll defer on that. Know that it is an incredible priority for the United States to provide whatever assistance we can to allow the two parties to come to a resolution." Safadi had opened the news conference with an apparent appeal for the U.S. to boost efforts to end the conflict. "This is the main cause of instability in the region and its resolution is the key to achieving the peace and stability we want," he said. "Yes, the two-state solution is being challenged. Yes, there are many obstacles. But what is the alternative? We cannot give up in our efforts and there is no viable alternative." Pompeo's comments came at the end of a two-day visit to Israel and Jordan during which he did not meet Palestinian representatives.
The Palestinians have essentially boycotted contacts with the U.S. since Trump announced in December that the United States was recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital. The Palestinians claim east Jerusalem — captured by Israel in 1967 and then annexed — as the capital of a future state.
Pompeo's visit is also taking place just two weeks before the planned May 14 opening of the new U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem and expected massive Palestinian protests the following day. Over the past month, 39 Palestinians have been killed and more than 1,600 wounded in weekly border protests along the Gaza border, prompting human rights groups to ask Israel's Supreme Court on Monday to restrict or ban the use of live ammunition. They say the military's use of lethal force against unarmed protesters is unlawful. Israel's military argues that the border protests are part of a long-running conflict with Gaza's ruling Hamas, which it considers a terror group, and that the rules of armed conflict apply. Asked about the situation, Pompeo demurred, referring to "activities in Gaza over the past days and weeks.""We do believe the Israelis have the right to defend themselves and we are fully supportive of that," he said. In addition to the Jerusalem decisions, the Trump administration has also angered the Palestinians in recent months by ordering their office in Washington closed, although it remains open for business related to negotiations, slashing funding for the U.N. agency that supports Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza and elsewhere in the region, and putting on hold all bilateral assistance to the Palestinians. Although the White House sponsored a conference on aid to Gaza last month, the Palestinians did not attend. And, a peace plan devised by Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner and his special envoy for international negotiations Jason Greenblatt appears to be on hold.

Tehran Dismisses Pompeo's 'Unfounded' Accusations
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 30/18/Iran on Monday dismissed "unfounded" accusations by new US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo over its "ambition to dominate the Middle East". Pompeo lashed out at Tehran on Sunday during a rapid tour of Middle East allies ahead of a crucial White House decision on whether to quit a landmark 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. Speaking during a visit to Iran's arch-rival and key US ally Saudi Arabia just days after he took office, Pompeo accused Tehran of destabilising the Middle East through its support for Syria's President Bashar al-Assad and for rebels in Yemen. "The US secretary of state's remarks on the presence and role of the Islamic Republic of Iran in certain countries in the region are a repetition of absurd and unfounded accusations," Iran's foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Ghassemi said in a statement Monday. Iran's presence in Syria and Iraq is in response to requests from the two countries' governments and is part of "the fight against terrorism in the region", he said. "This assistance will continue as long as (these) governments need help in this fight," he said. Ghassemi also reiterated previous government statements denying Saudi and US accusations that Iran is supplying weapons to Yemen's Huthi rebels, backed politically by Tehran. Such charges are "a false problem, created solely for the purpose of diverting the attention of international public opinion from the atrocities committed by Saudi Arabia in its daily attacks" in Yemen, he said. Shiite-dominated Iran and Sunni heavyweight Saudi Arabia, which cut diplomatic ties in January 2016, are engaged in a region-wide struggle for influence and back rival sides in Lebanon, Syria and Yemen. Tehran has deployed "military advisors" and thousands of Iranian and Afghan "volunteer" fighters to Syria and Iraq. Saudi Arabia launched a military coalition in 2015 to battle Huthi rebels in Yemen who had seized the capital Sanaa the previous year. The United Nations and rights groups have slammed the Saudi-led campaign for causing civilian casualties and sparking a humanitarian crisis.

Iran Mocks Netanyahu's Nuclear Claims as Trump Lauds Them
Associated Press/Naharnet/April 30/18/Iran's state-run media on Monday mocked Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's latest allegations that Tehran once pursued nuclear weapons. In a presentation Monday that made use of large visual aids, Netanyahu said Israeli intelligence had uncovered a trove of documents from Iran's "nuclear archives." Iran's state-run IRNA news agency said Netanyahu is "famous for ridiculous shows." The semi-official Fars news agency, believed to be close to the Revolutionary Guard, dismissed Netanyahu's speech as a "propaganda show." Iran has denied ever seeking nuclear weapons. U.S. President Donald Trump meanwhile praised Netanyahu's presentation. Trump said the presentation and other recent events show that the U.S. president has been "100 percent right" about Iran. He said he watched part of Netanyahu's presentation and that it was "good." Trump added that Iran's behavior is "just not an acceptable situation." He pointed to missile tests, saying Iran is "not sitting back idly." Trump has declined to say whether he will withdraw the U.S. from the 2015 nuclear deal. But he said Monday that if the U.S. does pull out, he still may negotiate a "real agreement." He added that the U.S. "got nothing" for the sanctions relief granted Iran under the accord. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif meanwhile said Trump is “jumping on a rehash of old allegations already dealt with by the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) to 'nix' the deal.”
“How convenient. Coordinated timing of alleged intelligence revelations by the boy who cries wolf just days before May 12. But Trump’s impetuousness to celebrate blew the cover,” Zarif added, in an English-language tweet.

Iranian Official Says 'Project' of U.S. and Allies in Syria 'Defeated'
Agence France PresseAssociated Press/Naharnet/April 30/18/Syrian President Bashar Assad has met with a visiting Iranian official who claimed "the project" of the United States and its allies in Syria has been defeated. Alaeddin Boroujerdi, who heads Iran's parliamentary committee on national security and foreign policy, spoke hours after reports of a missile attack that killed dozens of Iranian fighters in northern Syria on Monday. Syrian state media reported the meeting of the two and Boroujerdi's remarks. The report did not did not mention Monday's missile attack but referred to the March 14 joint attack by the United States, Britain and France on Syria. Assad said the international map is being redrawn, adding that the recent "escalation of the aggression against Syria" is a sign that insurgents have failed and this will only make Damascus more determined "to wipe out terrorism."
Future Saudi King Says Palestinian Leadership is Main Obstacle to Peace
Monday, April 30, 2018 | Israel Today Staff/Saudi Arabia's future king, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, apparently sees the Palestinian leadership as the primary obstacle to peace in the Holy Land. That according to an Israel Channel 10 News report on the prince's meeting with Jewish leaders in New York last month. According to remarks attributed to the Saudi leader, he mercilessly criticized the Palestinian Authority for failing to make peace with Israel over the 40 years of the current peace process. "For the past 40 years, the Palestinian leadership has missed opportunities again and again, and rejected all the offers it was given," bin Salman reportedly said. "It’s about time that the Palestinians accept the offers, and agree to come to the negotiating table — or they should shut up and stop complaining."The prince's remarks partially echoed the famous quote by legendary former Israeli diplomat Abba Eben that the Palestinians "never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity."The report is also further evidence that the mainstream Arab world is losing its patience with the Palestinian leadership and certainly no longer views the "Palestinian cause" as central to the wider Arab agenda.

Pompeo from Jordan: US Open to Two-Party Solution to Palestinian-Israeli Conflict
Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 30 April, 2018/US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stressed on Monday the need for Palestinians and Israelis to hold political talks, saying the “two-party solution” was likely the best outcome to the conflict. "With respect to the two-state solution, the parties will ultimately make the decision. We are certainly open to a two-party solution as a likely outcome," he said at a news conference in Jordan after a visit to Israel. “We urge the Palestinians to return to political dialogue," he added during a press conference with Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi. "(The Mideast peace) is an incredible priority for the United States to provide whatever assistance we can to allow the two parties to come to a resolution on this incredibly long standing and important conflict,” he continued. Palestinians have boycotted contacts with the US since President Donald Trump announced in December that Washington was recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital. The Palestinians claim east Jerusalem — captured by Israel in 1967 and then annexed — as the capital of a future state. Trump has said he would support a two-state solution if the two sides agree. The White House is preparing a new Israeli-Palestinian peace plan. Pompeo would not agree with Safadi's characterization of the conflict as "the main cause of instability" in the region. "Precisely how to rank it among all the various challenges, I'll defer on that. Know that it is an incredible priority for the United States to provide whatever assistance we can to allow the two parties to come to a resolution,” he remarked. Safadi had opened the news conference with an apparent appeal for the US to boost efforts to end the conflict. "This is the main cause of instability in the region and its resolution is the key to achieving the peace and stability we want," he said.
"Yes, the two-state solution is being challenged. Yes, there are many obstacles. But what is the alternative? We cannot give up in our efforts and there is no viable alternative."Pompeo's visit is taking place just two weeks before the planned May 14 opening of the new US Embassy in Jerusalem and expected massive Palestinian protests the following day. Over the past month, 39 Palestinians have been killed and more than 1,600 wounded in weekly border protests along the Gaza border, prompting human rights groups to ask Israel's Supreme Court on Monday to restrict or ban the use of live ammunition. Amman was Pompeo's last stop before he returns to Washington, where he has not yet entered the State Department. Moments after being sworn in as Secretary of State on Thursday, Pompeo immediately left for a meeting in Brussels, followed by a visit to Saudi Arabia, Israel and Jordan. Turning to Syria, he said the US was "in perfect accord" with Jordan on Syria, including the preservation of a "de-escalation zone" in the south. Pompeo said: "We believe there are many countries, including the United States, who will play an important political role in achieving the de-escalation and ultimate political resolution in Syria."

Syria: Heavy Clashes in Deir Ezzor Following Sudden Regime Attack
Beirut - Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 30 April, 2018/In a surprise attack on Sunday, fierce battles broke out in Deir Ezzor countryside, east Syria, between Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and regime forces, which led to the latter's control of four villages, before SDF succeeded in regaining it backed by Coalition air force. SDF considered the attack as an "obstruction of the battle it is preparing to liberate the remaining areas under ISIS control."Meanwhile, Head of Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) Rami Abdel Rahman told Agence France-Presse: "The regime's aim is to protect Deir Ezzor city by pushing back SDF fighters from the eastern bank."Incidents between both sides have occurred in the past, but Abdel Rahman said it was the first time the regime had launched an operation to seize territory from the SDF. State news agency SANA said the army seized control over four villages in the eastern province, where SDF alliance has been. After hours of fighting in the region, SDF announced it liberated the villages, while the Observatory said it had recovered three out of the four. Ahmed Ramdan, an activist of, told Asharq Al-Awsat that Kurdish forces had retrieved most of the villages supported by the Coalition and military reinforcements. In a statement, SDF asserted the villages had been restored "after the regime and its militias - backed by Russia - launched an attack on our sites in Deir Ezzor countryside" aiming to disrupt operation Island Storm and fight on terrorism. The Forces pointed out to the ongoing attempts of the regime to advance towards the villages. Military expert Mamoun Abu Nawar, set this attack within the context of the Russian messages to the US, which will continue between the two parties until a solution is found on the Syrian crisis.
He explained to Asharq Al-Awsat that "Moscow's message to Washington is that its presence in this region must come to an end, at a time US preferred not to escalate by not resorting to direct military response, as happened earlier, because the most important goal is to reduce the capabilities and control of the regime." President of the Center for Kurdish Studies, Nawaf Khalil, agrees with Abu Nawar, and even goes as far to say that the regime's attack would not have happened had it not been approved by Russia. Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat Khalil indicated that Moscow is determined not to accept the rules of engagement agreed between Presidents of US and Russia, in order to create more confusion and say that the regime is the only one capable of fighting terrorism. Earlier on Saturday, the Observatory reported SDF and Coalition alertness in eastern and northern countryside of Deir Ezzor and the southern countryside of al-Hasakah, backed by air alertness witnessed in the area east of the Euphrates River, as part of the preparations for a massive military operation aiming to end ISIS presence in the entire east of the Euphrates River. SOHR indicated that ISIS is concentrated in an enclave that includes 4 villages and towns on the eastern bank of the Euphrates River which are al-Bahra, Hajin, Abu al-Hassan, Shaafah, al-Baghuz, and the organization is also in the north-eastern countryside of Deir Ezzor, which is connected with the southern countryside of al-Hasakah and includes 22 villages and areas. Currently, the regime controls Deir Ezzor and the entire West Bank of the Euphrates River, while SDF are deployed on its eastern side. In February, about 100 pro-regime fighters were killed in strikes by the international coalition in Der Ezzor. Washington confirmed at the time, that the raids were to repel an attack by pro-regime forces targeting the headquarters of the Syrian Democratic Forces. In September 2017, SDF accused Russia of bombing a site, killing one of its fighters and injuring others. SDF, mostly formed of Kurdish People's Protection Forces, have controlled much of the area east of Euphrates River in Deir Ezzor since last year, as part of a major campaign that drove ISIS out of east Syria on the Iraqi border. Regime forces rarely engage with SDF, focusing more on the restoration of land from ISIS west of the river.

3 Arrested in Sweden on Suspicion of Preparing ‘Act of Terror’

Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 30 April, 2018/Swedish police arrested three people on Monday on suspicion of preparing "an act of terror" and took in several more for questioning after raids in northern Sweden and the Stockholm area, the security police said. It added there were no indications that any attack was planned for the next few days. "Preparations for the suspected crime have been ongoing for some time," the security police said. The terrorist threat level remained unchanged at three on a scale of five, which is "an increased threat." Security police declined to give further comment. But the domestic intelligence agency SAPO said the suspects had been on the agency's radar for a while. The agency said several other people have been brought in for questioning. In April last year an asylum seeker killed five people and injured 14 others when he mowed down pedestrians with a truck on a busy Stockholm street. He is on trial and has admitted to driving the truck.

Psychological Warfare to End as South Korea Removes Border Loudspeakers
Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 30 April, 2018 /South Korea will remove loudspeakers that blared propaganda across the border with North Korea this week, officials said Monday, as the rivals move to follow through with their leaders' summit declaration. During their historic meeting Friday at a Korean border village, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in agreed to end hostile acts against each other along their tense border, establish a liaison office and resume reunions of separated families. They also agreed to achieve a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula, but failed to produce specific time frames and disarmament steps. Seoul's Defense Ministry said it would pull back dozens of its front-line loudspeakers on Tuesday before media cameras. Ministry spokeswoman Choi Hyunsoo said Seoul expected Pyongyang to do the same. South Korea had already turned off its loudspeakers ahead of Friday's summit talks, and North Korea responded by halting its own broadcasts. The two Koreas had been engaged in Cold War-era psychological warfare since the North's fourth nuclear test in early 2016. Seoul began blaring anti-Pyongyang broadcasts and K-Pop songs via border loudspeakers, and Pyongyang quickly matched the South's action with its own border broadcasts and launches of balloons carrying anti-South leaflets. Seoul's announcement came a day after it said Kim told Moon during the summit that he would shut down his country's only known nuclear testing site and allow outside experts and journalists to watch the process. As a conciliatory gesture after the summit, North Korea also said it will move its clocks 30 minutes forward to unify with the South's time zone starting this Saturday. The two countries on the divided peninsula have had different time zones since 2015 when the North suddenly changed its standard time to 30 minutes behind the South. Pyongyang cited a nationalistic rationale, saying it would return the North to the time zone used before Japan's 1910-45 colonial rule of the peninsula to mark the 70th anniversary of its liberation from Tokyo.

Turkey's Erdogan Vows ‘Sweeping Victory’, Opposition Talks about Threats against Gul
Ankara - Saeed Abdul Razek/Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 30 April, 2018 /Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has refused to comment on former President Abdullah Gul’s decision not to run for the June 24 snap presidential elections, saying that the field of competition was “open to all.”At the same time, Erdogan vowed that the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) would achieve a “sweeping historic victory” in the parliamentary elections that will be held on the same day of the presidential polls. Meanwhile, Gul said he would not run for the upcoming elections, despite weeks of speculation that he would stand against Erdogan. Erdogan said during a press conference at Istanbul’s Ataturk airport before leaving on a visit to Uzbekistan: “I will not comment on the statements of Mr. Abdullah Gul. He stated his position.” “The field of elections is open to all, and we hope political parties will quickly declare their candidates.”Meanwhile, sources in the Turkish opposition revealed that Erdogan had sent the head of the military to convince Gul not to stand in upcoming polls. They said that the chief of general staff, Hulusi Akar, arrived at Gul’s office in Istanbul via a helicopter, in what was interpreted as an intimidation tactic against the former president and an implicit threat against the opposition. The news of his visit was withdrawn one day after it was published in the Turkish daily Haberturk, and the editor of the newspaper’s website was sacked. On a different note and for the first time in the history of Turkey’s elections, the Supreme Electoral Council would provide mobile ballot boxes for people with special needs to cast their votes in the upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections. This service will allow the voters to ballot from their homes. Relatives of the voter with a disability should fill in a special form and send it to the electoral committee for this purpose.

Pakistan Paves Way for Release of Doctor Who Helped Hunt Down Bin Laden
Islamabad – Omar Farouk/Asharq Al-Awsat/April 30/18/Pakistani authorities are expected to release Shakil Afridi, a Pakistani doctor who helped the CIA hunt down Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, after being transferred to the city of Rawalpindi from Peshawar, where he has been jailed for seven years now. The authorities arrested Afridi and later sentenced him to life imprisonment after the execution of Abbottabad operation, which ended in the death of bin Laden in May 2011. His attorney said on Saturday that his jail transfer could be a prelude to his release. Afridi was accused of treason after word spread he had helped the CIA collect genetic samples of the bin Laden family, paving the way for a US Navy SEAL raid in the town of Abbottabad that killed him. The continued imprisonment of Afridi has long been a source of tension between Pakistan and the United States, which cut military aid over accusations Islamabad continues to shelter Taliban militants fighting US and Afghan soldiers across the border in Afghanistan. A jail official in the northwestern city of Peshawar said Afridi was transferred to Adiala prison in Rawalpindi, near the capital Islamabad, but said the reasons were unclear and could simply be security-related. Afridi’s lawyer, Qamar Nadeem, confirmed the transfer of his client but said he was not sure where he was now. Judicial officials could not be reached on Saturday nor could embassy officials for the United States, which has for years called on Pakistan to release Afridi, according to Reuters. Bin Laden was accused of plotting the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States that killed nearly 3,000 people. Afridi was arrested days after the US operation – which Pakistan called a violation of its sovereignty – and charged with aiding terrorists.
He was sentenced to 23 years jail for financing terrorism. That conviction was overturned in 2013, but he is still serving time for other terrorism-related convictions, his lawyer said. He also faced a murder trial related to the death of a patient more than a decade ago. However, the lawyer said Afridi had recently had his latest sentence reduced to seven years in a clemency action and had served about that amount of time already. “So I think he can be released very soon,” Nadeem told Reuters. Pakistani officials refused to comment on the developments, considering it an extremely sensitive issue. "I can not comment on that issue at the moment," a senior Pakistani official told Asharq Al-Awsat. A US State Department official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, called on the Pakistani government to ensure Afridi’s safety. “We are aware ‎of reports that Afridi has been transferred to another prison and call on the government of Pakistan to take all necessary measures to ensure his safety,” the official said.

Twin Kabul Suicide Blasts Kill and Wound Scores, Including Journalists
Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 30 April, 2018/A coordinated double suicide bombing hit central Kabul on Monday morning, killing 25 people, including an Agence France Presse photographer and three other journalists, in an attack claimed by ISIS. Also, at least 45 people were wounded, according to Wahid Majroh, the public health ministry's spokesman who gave the latest casualty tolls. AFP reported that the news agency's chief photographer in Kabul, Shah Marai, was among those killed. The news agency said Marai died in a blast that was targeting a group of journalists who had rushed to the scene of the earlier suicide attack in Kabul. A cameraman from the local TOLO TV and two journalists from 1TV, along with four policemen, were also among those killed. The suicide attacks took place in the central Shash Darak area, which is home to the NATO headquarters and a number of embassies in Afghanistan. The second was meant to hit those rushing to the scene of the attack to help the victims of the first blast. The local ISIS affiliate and the more firmly established Taliban carry out regular attacks around the country. But in a statement issued via its propaganda agency Amaq on Monday, ISIS said two suicide bombers had targeted the Kabul headquarters of Afghanistan's intelligence services. An Afghan official also said Monday that a suicide bomber targeting a NATO convoy in southern Kandahar province killed 11 children at a religious school located just by the roadside from where the explosion occurred. Matiullah Helal, deputy spokesman for the provincial police chief, says the attack in the district of Daman also wounded 16 people, including five NATO soldiers, nine civilians and two policemen.

Mekhlafi: Iran Is Behind the Yemeni Crisis, Can’t Be Part of the Solution
Cairo- Sawsan Abu Hussein/Monday, 30 April, 2018/Yemeni Foreign Minister Abdul Malak al-Mekhlafi said that Iran’s interference in Yemen “represents an additional disaster to the Yemeni people’s sufferings,” stressing that the Persian State would not be part of a solution to the crisis in the country. In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat on Sunday, following talks with Egyptian officials, Mekhlafi underlined the Yemeni government’s commitment to the three approved references, which include the handover of arms, the release of detainees and the formation of a transitional government on the basis of the Gulf Initiative.The Yemeni minister, who visited Cairo on Sunday, met with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry to discuss the need for the militias to hand over their weapons and means to promote coordination to stop the Iranian interference in Yemen. Asked about the outcome of his meetings, Mekhlafi said: “We agreed on the importance of implementing the three references to the political solution, which include removing the militias’ arms, stopping the Iranian intervention, releasing the detainees and supporting the UN envoy in his next round of talks.” The minister emphasized that the UN envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths, was currently making attempts to bring the Houthis back to the negotiating table, adding that he was about to conduct a visit to Sanaa and to a number of regional countries, including Oman, before returning to Riyadh to meet with Yemeni President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi. On the party that is responsible for hampering a political solution to the crisis, Mekhlafi stressed that the Houthis were committed to the Iranian agenda to impose more pressure on the Arab coalition and the legitimate government. “Houthis are betting on time, and they believe that prolonging the crisis can impose the fait accompli and that citizens will recognize their coup. In the end, they will have no choice but to respond to the peace initiatives,” he stated. Asked about the humanitarian situation in Yemen, the foreign minister said that Houthis “show no interest in the suffering of the people, but have instead stolen humanitarian aid and delayed the entry of relief into the affected areas.”Mekhlafi, on the other hand, highly valued efforts deployed by the Arab coalition led by Saudi Arabia, to promote the humanitarian and economic conditions in Yemen. On the means to curb the Iranian influence, he said: “There are already concerted efforts by the international community to get Iran out of the scene in Yemen, but Tehran is trying to convince everyone that it can contribute to the solution in an attempt to ease the pressure exerted by the United Nations.”“Everyone knows well that Iran’s intervention in Yemen is an additional disaster for the suffering of the people. We have spoken with the European Community very frankly that Iran is the problem in Yemen and cannot be part of the solution,” the minister said.

Kuwait Seeks to Calm Philippines Crisis over Workers

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 30/18/A senior Kuwaiti official on Monday sought to calm a crisis with the Philippines over the treatment of domestic workers in the oil-rich Gulf state. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte in February prohibited workers heading to Kuwait following the murder of a Filipina maid whose body was found stuffed in her employer's freezer. The resulting row deepened last week after Kuwaiti authorities ordered Manila's envoy to leave the country over videos of Philippine embassy staff helping workers in Kuwait flee allegedly abusive employers.
"This is largely a misunderstanding and exaggeration of some minor or one-off cases," Deputy Foreign Minister Nasser al-Subaih told reporters in Kuwait City. "We have taken a serious stance ... but we do not believe in escalation and want to remain in direct communication to resolve the problem," Subaih added.
Kuwait has also detained four Filipinos hired by the Philippine embassy and issued arrest warrants against three diplomatic personnel. Subaih said those suspected of participating in the operation to help workers escape were not accredited diplomats and that they were now holed up in the Philippines' embassy in Manila. The foreign ministry was "awaiting cooperation" for their handover to carry out an investigation. The two nations had earlier been negotiating a labor deal that could have resulted in the lifting of the ban on Filipinos working in Kuwait. But after the fresh escalation in tensions, Duterte said on Sunday that the temporary ban on Filipinos going to work in Kuwait was now permanent. Around 262,000 Filipinos work in Kuwait, nearly 60 percent of them domestic workers, according to the Philippines' foreign ministry. Duterte said workers returning from Kuwait could find employment as English teachers in China, citing improved ties with Beijing.

Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on April 30- May 01/18
Israeli PM presents 'conclusive proof' Iran lied 'big time' about nuclear ambitions
Ynetnews/Reuters/April 30/18
Delivering speech in defense ministry in Tel Aviv on ‘significant development’ regarding Iranian nuclear project, Netanyahu presents massive archive obtained by Israel in ‘great intelligence achievement’, he says proves Tehran has for years been developing the bomb, despite ‘terrible agreement ‘based on lies’; says he’s sure President Trump will ‘do the right thing’ on its fate.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu revealed Monday evening what he said was “conclusive proof” of a secret project underway in Iran for the development of a nuclear weapon—evidence that he said proved that Tehran had lied “big time” to the international community. “Tonight I will show you something that the world has never seen,” Netanyahu told an audience during what he said was a “significant development regarding the nuclear agreement with Iran” at the Kiryah military headquarters in Tel Aviv.
Israel had obtained, he said, in a “great intelligence achievement,” secrets comprising 55,000 pages that prove “Iran has been hiding for years from the international community.”Netanyahu spoke by phone with US President Donald Trump over the weekend about Iran, according to the White House.
A statement on Sunday said: "The two leaders discussed the continuing threats and challenges facing the Middle East region, especially the problems posed by the Iranian regime's destabilizing activities."
Netanyahu met in Tel Aviv with new US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Sunday and both spoke in strong terms about Iran."We remain deeply concerned about Iran's dangerous escalation of threats towards Israel and the region," said Pompeo at a joint press conference.
Netanyahu told Pompeo that "I think the greatest threat to the world and to our two countries, and to all countries, is the marriage of militant Islam with nuclear weapons, and specifically the attempt of Iran to acquire nuclear weapons."
Trump has threatened to withdraw from the 2015 agreement reached between Iran and global powers, which granted Tehran relief from economic sanctions in return for curbs to its nuclear program.
Israel has long opposed the agreement. Washington's major European allies have urged the Trump administration not to abandon it and argue that Iran is abiding by its terms.
Iran is the foremost Shi'ite Muslim power in the Middle East. Israel has courted better ties with Sunni Muslim Arab states that also oppose Iranian influence.
Earlier Monday Israeli lawmaker Michael Oren, a deputy minister in Netanyahu's office in charge of public diplomacy, accused Iran of using the nuclear deal to help it "systematically" cleanse Syria of Sunni Arabs, and replace them with Shi'ites.
"One of the ways they are able to do this is through the Iran nuclear deal, which provides them with both the cash and the legitimacy to do it," he said in Jerusalem.
"One of the ironies is that the cash that Iran gets from European deals it uses to cleanse Syria of Sunnis. And where do the Sunnis go? To Europe. Talk about a boomerang."
The head of Iran's Atomic Energy organization said on Monday that Iran has the technical capability to enrich uranium to a higher level than it could before the multinational deal was reached.
"Technically, we are fully prepared to enrich uranium higher than we used to produce before the deal was reached ... I hope Trump comes to his senses and stays in the deal," Ali Akbar Salehi was quoted by Iranian state television.
Israel is widely believed to be the only nuclear-armed state in the Middle East, though it neither confirms nor denies possessing atomic weapons.
Israel has also said it would do whatever is necessary to prevent Iran from establishing a military front against it in Syria, though both countries recently played down prospects they could go to war over Syria.
However missile strikes against several government military bases in Syria on Sunday—which were not claimed by any party despite speculation in Israel that its military was responsible—underscored the risks of a wider escalation.
Israel has previously carried out strikes in Syria to stop Iran getting stronger there or transferring weapons to the Lebanese Shi'ite terror group Hezbollah. Israeli officials did not comment on Sunday's missile strikes.

Israel Told U.S. and Russia It Will Retaliate if Iran Attacks From Syria
هآرتس: إسرائيل ابلغت أميركا بأنها سترد في حال تعرضت لأي هجوم ايراني من سوريا

Haaretz/April 30/18
Officials believe Israel should strike Iran if Tehran carries out attacks against population centers through Syria or Hezbollah. Defense officials, on the other hand, caution against taking the conflict out of Syria's borders
Defense and political sources told Russia and the United States, following Iran's threats to react against attacks on their assets in Syria overnight, that if Iran attacks Israel from Syria, either itself or through its proxy Hezbollah, Jerusalem will not hold back and will respond forcefully, targeting Iranian soil.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will issue a statement Monday at 8 PM on a significant development regarding the nuclear agreement with Iran. Netanyahu said he will give a speech tonight to reveal "new intelligence information on Iran," information officials said he has shared with U.S. President Donald Trump.
The comments come amid Iran's threats to react against attacks on their assets in Syria, allegedly by Israel. According to the Israeli officials, Israel will attack broadly, aiming to significantly damage Iranian interests in Syria. The main target would be bases where Iranian forces have been located since the Syrian civil war began. These bases serve as conduits to transfer weapons and gear up for further Iranian establishment in Syria.
In recent weeks, Israeli political and military circles have been deliberating how to respond if Iran reacts to the raids ascribed to Israel. Officials say that if Iran hits population centers inside Israel, even if it does so through Syria or with the assistance of Hezbollah or other militias, the response should be on Iranian soil.
Conversely, military sources opine that the reaction should be confined to Syria, while causing damage to Iranian interests, arguing it would not be right to widen the conflict to encompass Iran directly
Despite the tension, the Israel Defense Forces continues to operate according to the existing policy regarding fighting in Syria, under which convoys transporting arms to Hezbollah will continue to be attacked and efforts to thwart Iran's bid to establish itself in Syria will continue.
On the other hand, defense officials fear Moscow is less understanding towards Israel than it was in the past. Russia's statements on its plans to transfer advanced air defense systems to Syria and Lebanon allow the possibility that Israel would attack Assad's regime in response. For the time being, these ideas do not have enough support, due to fear of the Russian response.

Turkey Calls on Europe to Criminalize "Islamophobia"
Uzay Bulut/Gatestone Institute/April 30/18
Given Turkey's inhospitable treatment of non-Muslims throughout the ages, it is the height of hypocrisy for its foreign minister to complain about Europe's attitude towards Muslims, which has been the opposite of Islamophobic.
To refresh Çavuşoğlu's memory, a review of Turkey's record is in order.
By proposing to block all criticism of Islam on the grounds that it is "extremist, anti-immigrant, xenophobic and Islamophobic," Çavuşoğlu is revealing that he would welcome banning free speech to protect a religious ideology.
At an event held in on April 11 to unveil the 2017 European Islamophobia Report -- released by the Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research -- Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Çavuşoğlu called on EU governments to criminalize Islamophobia.
"There is no ideology or terminology called 'Islamism'; There is only one Islam and it means 'peace,'" he declared -- incorrectly: salaam means peace; Islam means submission. He also claimed that populist politicians are "increasingly engaging in extremist, anti-immigrant, xenophobic, and Islamophobic rhetoric to get a few more votes," and that "centrist politicians are... using a similar rhetoric to get back the votes they have lost."
Urging all politicians to recognize Islamophobia as "a hate crime and a form of racism" in their constitutions, Çavuşoğlu accused European judiciaries of applying a double standard by not paying as much attention to Islamophobia as they do to anti-Semitism. Using the Holocaust as an analogy, he continued: "There is no need to relive Auschwitz or wait for Muslims to be burned in gas chambers like Jewish people."
Çavuşoğlu's view is not new, but it is a gross distortion of past and contemporary history; it seems shaped by a notion that Islam is superior to other religions, as well as from surah 9:33 of the Quran:
"It is He who has sent His Messenger with guidance and the religion of truth to manifest it over all religion..." (Sahih Translation)
Çavuşoğlu's views also echo those of the Turkish government, headed by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Non-Muslims, as we all have been seeing, are persecuted throughout the Islamic world. Muslims in Europe, on the other hand, enjoy equal rights and religious liberty. Unfortunately, many radical imams use the freedoms granted to them by European democracies to preach Jew-hatred and violent jihad, to recruit fighters and to establish sharia (Islamic) law courts in their neighborhoods.
Some Muslims, inspired by the teachings of and atmosphere created by these imams, engage in gruesome, religiously motivated crimes against non-Muslims. A disabled 85-year-old Holocaust survivor, for instance, was recently raped, tortured and murdered in her Paris apartment by an extremist Muslim.
Çavuşoğlu, in his talk against Islamophobia, did not mention the atrocities committed by radical Islamists in Europe. Those abuses are at the root of the debate about how to tackle the calls to violence in Islam without hampering the civil liberties of law-abiding Muslims. By proposing to block all criticism of Islam on the grounds that it is "extremist, anti-immigrant, xenophobic and Islamophobic," Çavuşoğlu is revealing that he would welcome banning free speech to protect a religious ideology.
Given Turkey's inhospitable treatment of non-Muslims throughout the ages, it is the height of hypocrisy for its foreign minister to complain about Europe's attitude towards Muslims, which has been the opposite of Islamophobic. To refresh Çavuşoğlu's memory, a review of Turkey's record is in order.
Non-Muslims in Turkey have been exposed to severe persecution and attempts at annihilation, such as the 1914-1923 Christian genocide; the 1941-1942 conscription of the "twenty classes," of all male Christians and Jews, including the elderly and mentally ill; and the 1942 Wealth Tax, which aimed to impoverish non-Muslims and transfer their wealth to Muslims.
Today, only 0.2 percent of Turkey's population of nearly 80 million is Christian or Jewish. The following is a brief account of how Turkish governments have rid the country of its non-Muslim citizens:
Greeks: There are fewer than 2,000 Greeks left in Istanbul, which, until the 15th century Ottoman Turkish invasion, was the Greek city of Constantinople. Even despite its tiny size, the community still suffers from violations of its rights. Among these was the forced closure in 1971 of the Orthodox Halki Seminary, the only school for training the leadership of Orthodox Christianity. Since that time, the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, the spiritual center of Orthodox Christianity, based in Turkey, has been unable to train clergy and potential successors for the position of patriarch.
It is also important to note that the cities in Asia Minor or Anatolia, which were established by Greeks during the 9th and 8th centuries B.C., no longer have any Greeks. They were either murdered, deported or forced to flee severe persecution, including the anti-Greek pogrom of September 1955 in Istanbul, and the 1964 expulsion of Greeks from all over Turkey.
Armenians: Even after the 1915 genocide, in which 1.5 million Armenians perished, the persecution of Armenians in Turkey did not end. Since then, the remaining Armenians have witnessed the continued seizure of their property and other assets. In addition, verbal and physical attacks against Armenian community members, schools and the only Armenian newspaper in the country by the Turkish public and the media are still common.
Jews: Since 1923, when the Turkish Republic was established, Jews have been exposed to systematic discrimination and various pressures. The laws that excluded Jews and other non-Muslim citizens from certain occupations in the 1920s and blocked the Jews' freedom of movement; the 1934 anti-Jewish pogrom in eastern Thrace, and the continued anti-Jewish hate speech in the Turkish media and certain political circles are among the forms of persecution and discrimination against Jewish citizens of Turkey.
Assyrians: According to the Minority Rights Group International, Assyrian Christians in Turkey
"suffered forced evictions, mass displacement and the burning down of their homes and villages, abductions (including of priests,) forced conversions to Islam through rape and forced marriage, and murder. These pressures, and other insidious forms of persecution and discrimination, have decimated the community."
Today, there are only around 20,000 Assyrians left in the country. And they are still struggling to open an elementary school in Istanbul, as the government refuses to grant them any financial support. Meanwhile, both the government and some Muslim Kurdish locals in southeast Turkey continue to seize their lands and property illegally.
Protestants: The Turkish government does not recognize the Protestant community as a "legal entity." Hence, according to a 2017 human rights violations report by Turkey's Association of Protestant Churches, Protestants are still devoid of the right freely to establish and maintain places of worships. Other problems encountered by Protestants include but are not limited to hate crimes and speech, verbal and physical attacks and workplace discrimination.
Yazidis: The Turkish government does not recognize Yazidism as a religion. Therefore, the "religion" box on the ID papers of Yazidis in Turkey is either left blank or marked with an "X." Due to continued persecution and pressure from the government and society, many Yazidis from Turkey have fled to Europe. Their privately-owned lands were reportedly invaded and their owners threatened. Some of their abandoned villages have become uninhabitable. Most of the former Yazidi villages in Turkey have been completely Islamized. The estimated population of Yazidis in the country today is approximately 350 -- excluding the recent asylum-seekers from Iraq and Syria. Recently it was reported:
"The Yazidis, who were recently the target of massacre, rape and sex slavery by Isis, are now facing forcible conversion to Islam under the threat of death from Turkish-backed forces which captured the Kurdish enclave of Afrin on 18 March."
Alevis: The Turkish government does not recognize Alevism, another minority faith. Alevis in Turkey have been subjected to perpetual massacres and pogroms, including: the 1937-1938 Dersim (Tunceli) Massacres, the 1978 Malatya Massacre, the 1978 Sivas Massacre, the 1978 Maras Massacre, the 1980 Corum Massacre, the 1993 Sivas Massacre and the 1995 Gazi Massacre. Today's Alevis in Turkey are still often exposed to threats and arbitrary arrests.
The faces of many of the victims who were murdered in the 1993 Sivas massacre of Alevis are featured on this poster, used in a 2012 commemoration in Germany. (Image source: Bernd Schwabe, Wikimedia Commons)
Since the 11th century -- when Turkic tribes originally from Central Asia, who had converted to Islam and began occupying cities in Asia Minor and the Armenian highland -- Turks seem to have had a tradition, as above, of being unneighborly to non-Muslims. The West needs to be reminded that this tradition is alive and well in modern Turkey.
Çavuşoğlu's critique of Europe may have been an attempt to cloud his country's sordid past and precarious present, but it should serve as a warning about the danger posed to liberal democracies the world over.
*Uzay Bulut is a journalist from Turkey and a fellow with the news and public policy group Haym Salomon Center. She is presently based in Washington D.C.
© 2018 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

Flooding the Voter Rolls in US and Greece
Maria Polizoidou/Gatestone Institute/April 30/18
In principle, the idea is no different from George Soros's 220-page guide seemingly to create a permanent voting majority for the Democratic Party by "enlarge[ing] the U.S. electorate by 10 million voters by 2018."
Greece's ruling Syriza coalition appears to be adopting a strategy of garnering votes from immigrants by expediting their naturalization process. It will be easier to obtain Greek citizenship than a fishing license.
A total of 800,000 immigrants -- almost one-tenth of the native Greek population -- will soon become citizens. Transposed to the United States, that would be the equivalent of 32,000,000 new voters.
As Greece struggles with accelerating economic decline and an increasing lack of public faith in the political leadership, the ruling Syriza coalition appears to be adopting a strategy of garnering votes from immigrants by expediting their naturalization process.
According to a recent report in the Greek daily Parapolitika, Interior Minister Panos Skourletis is laying the groundwork to enable hundreds of thousands of immigrants to become citizens and vote in the next elections. Although the mandate of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras ends in September 2019, some analysts have been predicting a call for elections by the end of 2018.
Until now, candidates for Greek citizenship had to be vetted by a committee. Under the new system, applicants will be granted citizenship automatically if they correctly answer 20 out of 30 questions online. In addition, the government is planning to allow immigrants over the age of 65 to obtain Greek IDs, without testing their knowledge of the Greek language. In other words, it will be easier to obtain Greek citizenship than a Greek fishing license. As a result, a total of 800,000 immigrants -- almost one-tenth of the native Greek population -- will soon become citizens. Transposed to the United States, that would be the equivalent of 32,000,000 new voters.
In principle, the idea is no different from George Soros's 220-page guide, released by DC Leaks, seemingly to create a permanent voting majority for the Democratic Party by "enlarge[ing] the U.S. electorate by 10 million voters by 2018."
Easing citizenship requirements may be a calculated electoral ploy, but it is also in keeping with an overall European multiculturalism. The current leadership is not interested in the origins of the country's illegal immigrants, many of whom hail from Afghanistan, Pakistan and sub-Saharan Africa and do not respect the Judeo-Christian roots and culture of modern Greek civilization. Nor does the government appear to concern itself with the danger involved in allowing huge numbers of migrants from terrorist-ridden Muslim-majority countries to become citizens, without vetting them.
Meanwhile, as its immigrant population increases, Greece is simultaneously undergoing a brain-drain. Over the past 8 years, for example, 500,000 skilled and educated young people left the country and have chosen to remain abroad rather than return home and contribute to the economy, the culture and society in general.
According to recent opinion polls, if elections were held in Greece today, the opposition party, New Democracy, would win. It is likely for this reason that the incumbent Syriza coalition has been stepping up its efforts to stay in power. Let us hope that its maneuver to do so by hastily granting voting rights to immigrants will fail. If not, the future of Greece and other countries where there are visible efforts to undermine democratic processes -- as in America's politicized, seemingly criminalized Department of Justice and Federal Bureau of Investigation and the efforts of U.S. Democrats to try to prevent the president from forming a government -- could be dangerously bleak.
*Maria Polizoidou, a reporter, broadcast journalist, and consultant on international and foreign affairs, is based in Greece. She has a post-graduate degree in "Geopolitics and Security Issues in the Islamic complex of Turkey and Middle East" from the University of Athens.
© 2018 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

Kim the Playmaker
Ghassan Charbel/Asharq Al-Awsat/April 30/18
The football World Cup will take place this year and fans of the game are highly anticipating the Russia-hosted event. We are bracing for and rejoicing at this fever that is preparing to invade the world after a few weeks. I said to myself that I should take a break from political news, which are often smeared in blood.
The world would be a beautiful place if it indeed was held captive by the World Cup. It would be beautiful if it were preoccupied with “General” Lionel Messi instead of generals who destroy cities and their residents. It would be beautiful if it were preoccupied with “General” Ronaldo and his invasions that do not leave behind scores of orphans, widows and refugees. It would be beautiful if the world shifted its gaze to Neymar’s skill, wealth and future projects or if it turned to Mohamed Salah and his transformation into a global symbol and a trademark back home.
I will not hide the fact that I occasionally envy sports journalists. They cover clean and beautiful wars. They interview men who do not kill. They spend their time chasing the ball and its fans. They are not concerned with nuclear ambitions that ensnare fearsome and fearful regimes. They are not obsessed with ballistic missiles, especially when they are in the hands of men who ignore international borders and treaties. They cover victories that do not tear up maps or spark catastrophes. They spend their time following news about clubs, teams, transfers and astronomical player wages, while we spend our time between intimidating and misleading statements and militia innovations.
The world however was suddenly shaken by a development that took me out of my football holiday. Someone has proven to be more adept than Messi, Ronaldo and co. Kim Jong Un invaded the stage and stole the spotlight. The world was glued to television screens. For the first time since the Korean war, which ended some seven decades ago, a North Korean leader crossed the border in the Demilitarized Zone that separates his country from the South. Kim walked over with a handshake, dialogue and promises.
The world was shocked. This was the same man who made countries near and far hold their breath several times last year. He rejoiced at the success of the nuclear test just like a father rejoices at the birth of a long-awaited child. With a provocative flamboyant smile, he oversaw ballistic missile tests, making sure that they can reach American territories. Fate would have it that Pyongyang would be ruled by a man whose future actions are unpredictable and that Washington would be ruled by a newcomer whose reactions are unpredictable. When the verbal war broke out between them, the world feared for the worst. Donald Trump upped his pressure on Kim Il Sung’s grandson. He reminded him of the potential heavy prices and that all options were on the table.
It was difficult for the Chinese president to find excuses for its reckless neighbor. Comrade Vladimir Putin appeared distant and busy with the liberation of Ghouta and Damascus’ suburbs. Kim may have sensed that he would not have the necessary support in the looming storm, so he decided to flip the course on its head, especially after he completed his arsenal and fulfilled his pledges to the military and his friends in the party.
If Kim really means what he said in the summit statement with South Korean President Moon Jae In, then we are definitely standing before a historic development that would change the picture, balances and the fate of millions of people. The statement spoke of an agreement to continue international talks in order to announce an end to the Korean War, reach “permanent” and “lasting” peace and work for the “complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.”
The prevalent belief was that Kim had no choice but to flounder further by joining the nuclear club and considering the bomb as his “insurance policy.” Some firmly believed that he would be sitting on a rocket arsenal until the collapse of his regime due to foreign sanctions and the people having grown fed up with poverty, oppression and slogans that had died since the days of his father. Kim, however, sprung the surprise and flipped the script.
It is hard to predict what went on in his head and persuaded him to alter his course. Was he convinced that improving the economy would be impossible without establishing a normal relationship with the world? Did someone recount to him the story of the collapse of the Berlin Wall and how East Germany was forced to throw itself in the lap of its Western half? Did he realize that the time of nuclear and rocket blackmail is over and that Donald Trump is not at all like Barack Obama? Was he taken aback by how far the South had advanced technologically and democratically, so he decided to at least open a window? Did he receive Chinese advice to offer concessions to the other Korea instead of offering them at the table of his expected meeting with Trump? Did he dream of receiving a pledge from the US similar to the one Fidel Castro obtained after the Cuban Missile Crisis in which Washington vowed not to attack it militarily in return for him to stop playing the part of the world’s evil child rocket-promoter?
These are many questions that should be approached with caution because the game of peace is not easy for a regime built on fear and whose absolute leader has an unlimited capacity to change course.
A country can no longer completely shut its windows and numb people with old formulas. The fortress is no longer a fortress. Isolation chips away at walls and pollutes the air. The nuclear bomb is not enough to satiate the hungry. The images of the beloved leader cannot replace the three daily meals. The rockets themselves are aging rapidly without new technology. Why would a poor Korean be appeased when the other Korean enjoys latest technological advances? The new world is seeping in without permission through the internet, telephone and television.
It is very hard for a fortress to surrender. Transforming into a normal state is not an easy task. Kim, however, may have spared his country the downward spiral, suicide and collapse if he chose the systematic change and followed the Chinese example, regardless of the differences between them.
The Korean example is not limited to itself. Can Iran, for example, shift from the revolution to a normal country? What went through President Hassan Rouhani’s mind when he saw Kim cross over to the South?
The world is waiting for Kim’s meeting with Trump. A meeting of two difficult nuclear leaders, but if Kim could continue normalizing ties with the world, then he may earn the Nobel peace prize, which he would share with Trump. The scene-stealer won the first round. It is also likely that he stole the title of “playmaker” from Messi and Ronaldo.

Have Trump and Macron Learned to Use Each Other?
David Ignatius/The Washington Post/April 30/18
At times during President Emmanuel Macron’s visit to the United States last week, he may have seemed like President Trump’s French blind follower. But by the end, it was clear that he has his own character.
The French newspaper Le Monde captured the ambiguity with an editorial Thursday headlined: “A double-edged visit.” Macron’s touchy-feely encounter with Trump last Monday and Tuesday was “gesture,” the paper argued, but the baseline was in Macron’s speech to a joint meeting of Congress on Wednesday that was “on the edge of brutality” in its critique of Trump’s policies. Le Figaro put it more gently in a headline Thursday: “Macron seduces Congress.”
Macron emerges from his Washington trip as a clever, somewhat devious French counterpoint to Trump — a flatterer, manipulator and charmer. Most of all, Macron is an opportunist who sees a way, at a moment when Britain is down and Germany mute, to put France at the center of European diplomacy for the first time in many decades.
I asked Macron at a small gathering of journalists Wednesday afternoon whether he truly found the mercurial Trump a trustworthy partner. “Yes, I trust him very much,” he answered, “because I want him to move” to be a protector of multilateralism and Western values. In other words, Macron trusts Trump to the extent he thinks he can maneuver him.
Even some of Macron’s French diplomatic colleagues are skeptical that this new “entente cordiale” will end happily. Most people come away from Trump’s embrace tarnished by the encounter. During this visit, Macron’s stature was both diminished (by Trump’s domineering over-familiarity) and enhanced (by Macron’s undeniably charismatic public performances).
Macron already seems to have lost his battle to persuade Trump to remain within the Iran nuclear deal. His “bet” is that Trump will announce May 12 that he’s withdrawing from the pact. Macron is focusing on what comes next. He told us he accomplished two main things with Trump: getting his support for continued US “involvement” in stabilizing Syria; and encouraging his “openness to a new comprehensive deal” on Iran — a “bigger deal,” in Trump’s words, that would replace the “terrible” deal President Barack Obama signed and would last longer, cover ballistic-missile testing and address Iran’s regional behavior.
Macron is coaxing Trump toward a very big idea. He’s talking about a grand bargain that would draw in all the major players — Russia, Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the United States — to create a regional security architecture that would start with an agreement to revive Syria. This isn’t a new idea; diplomats have been exploring versions of it ever since the Syrian civil war began in 2011. And it has a kind of inevitability; when the Syrian war ends, it will surely be through some such formula.
But who can take on such a daunting project? Here’s where the weird synergy of Trump and Macron is interesting. A Middle East grand bargain is exactly the kind of “big deal” that Trump dreams of doing. Yet to get anywhere, he needs a smart, smooth-talking but unthreatening helper. Enter Macron.
The French president told us he sees his role as an “honest broker,” facilitating US diplomacy with Russia, Turkey and Iran. On his flight to Washington, he telephoned Russian President Vladimir Putin. After he left, he planned to call Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.
Listening to Macron spin his strategy, I was reminded of another smart, manipulative man whose diplomacy rescued a European status-quo power in decline: Count Metternich of Austria, who crafted the Congress of Vienna of 1814-1815, which stabilized Europe for nearly a century.
Henry Kissinger unforgettably described Metternich in “A World Restored,” his 1957 book based on his Harvard University doctoral dissertation: “His genius was instrumental, not creative; he excelled at manipulation, not construction.” Metternich was a man who “preferred the subtle maneuver to the frontal attack” and sometimes “confused policy with intrigue.” Does that sound like anyone who visited Washington this week?
Macron told us that he sees himself as a man like Trump, because both are “mavericks” within their systems. He might have added that both men are also users, and that they may have found a way to use each other.

When Science Gets Demoted: The Case of Vitamins
Faye Flam/Bloomberg/April 30/18
Proponents of science-based medicine are fond of saying that there’s a name for alternative treatments that pass scientific tests: medicine. But what they don’t mention are those parts of long-established medicine that get demoted to “alternative” status — or should be.
For years, doctors pestered me — and apparently many other people — to take a daily multivitamin and a calcium supplement. There was nothing wrong with me; doctors said it was a kind of insurance. The calcium was to protect against fractures, and the multivitamin … well, the doctors were never too clear on that, but they were adamant.
And now, Kaiser Health News is reporting that most older Americans are “hooked” on vitamins. The story, which ran in the New York Times, detailed a litany of scientific studies showing vitamin supplements either failed to deliver benefits or caused harm. Experts quoted in the story presented all this as if consumers were buying into some egregious form of pseudoscientific quackery — as if this were never part of established medicine.
Paul Offit, a pediatrician at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, included vitamins alongside homeopathy and “energy healing” in his book on quack medicine, “Do You Believe in Magic?”. He notes that indeed, the medical establishment did once assume everyone should take vitamins, and universally recommending them has been a hard habit for the doctors to break.
The benefit of supplemental vitamins for healthy people was, he said, based more on assumptions than data, as are many other common practices in medicine. And even as 21st-century medicine advances at lightning speed, with precision genetic testing, immunotherapy and robotic surgeries, it can slow to a crawl in discarding outdated practices. Doctors were slow to stop pushing low-fat diets, Offit said, and are still reluctant to acknowledge data pointing to the downsides of the standard mass screenings for prostate and breast cancers. The notion that people should take antibiotics long after they feel better was never based on testing, he said. That’s now being called into question.
Unlike many forms of alternative medicine, vitamins can have real benefits for some people. It was a giant leap for public health when scientists discovered that foods contained essential trace compounds — named vitamins in 1912. For the first time, doctors understood why people got sick from an unbalanced diet even if they consumed enough calories to keep from starving. There’s no doubt early sailors and explorers living on nothing but hardtack would have done much better with a few bottles of One-A-Day in the hold.
Now many foods are already fortified with vitamins, and it’s rare for people without unusual health conditions to have vitamin deficiencies, even if they eat a less-than-perfect diet. But somewhere around the 1980s, doctors became soured on food as a source of nutrition. We were told it was unsafe to eat fat of any kind, or anything with salt. We were supposed to avoid shrimp, shellfish, nuts, eggs and cheese. Vegetables were still on the list of acceptable foods, but they were pretty grim fare when cooked with no oil, butter or salt.
And then there was the demonization of calories, which are a measure of energy — of how much food is in food. While calorie counts can be useful in protecting us from massive portions of low-quality food, some experts have said the whole obsession with calorie counting is premised on the notion that food is bad. Vitamins, meanwhile, are for the most part calorie-free and fat-free, and doctors assumed they couldn’t be harmful.
Gradually, scientific studies started to show that food was not nearly as dangerous as thought, and that vitamin and mineral supplements could do harm. There was data showing that calcium supplements did not decrease the risk of fracture and might increase the risk of kidney stones. A large-population study found that less than 3 percent of subjects were deemed deficient in iron, but around 13 percent had levels that were dangerously high.
In other studies, vitamin A supplements increased the risk of death among lung cancer patients, and vitamin E increased deaths among people with prostate cancer. These were doses higher than what’s in multivitamins, but low enough that scientists assumed they were safe. Here’s one of the doctors quoted in the recent Kaiser Health News piece:
“Vitamins are not inert,” said Dr. Eric Klein, a prostate cancer expert at the Cleveland Clinic who led the vitamin E study. “They are biologically active agents. We have to think of them in the same way as drugs.”
Considering that larger doses of certain vitamins can cause harm, isn’t the safest course of action to eat some spinach and avoid the pills? Back in 2008, physician Harriet Hall posed the same question regarding her own use of vitamins in a post for the blog Science-Based Medicine. She wrote that she considered her past use of multivitamins “irrational,” and that she continues to take calcium and vitamin D to address a problem, but has dropped the daily multivitamins. She told me she still agrees with what she wrote back then:
There are two philosophies: to take everything that is suggested just in case, or to wait for scientific validation before taking anything. Based on long experience, I consider the latter course more reasonable. I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve heard strong recommendations for something that was later shown to be useless or harmful.
Perhaps the enthusiasm for vitamins was also a product of that techno-optimism that was such a part of 20th-century culture. We were in the space age, and soon food would be replaced with technologically superior substances. But food is back in vogue, and finally, doctors are recommending people get their vitamins by eating it. If doctors are now concerned that too many people are hooked on vitamin pills, they might want to admit they were wrong.

What has Kim Jong-Un done to Khamenei?

Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya/April 30/18
Tehran’s supreme guide and officials are definitely going through a difficult test. Apart from the US administration’s threats to reapply economic sanctions on the regime, the collapse of its major nuclear ally, North Korea, is a loss that’s tantamount to a disaster.
True, as until now I have not heard one serious commentator who is pleased with the meeting and the historical reconciliation between the North Korean and South Korean leaders or who believes that this reconciliation will achieve the end of war and tensions, as announced by both leaders.
Although skepticism is the master of the situation, developments in the Korean Peninsula are among the Iranian regime’s calculations. What if the North Korean president really decides to end the state of war – although until now, we still do not understand why he altered his policy, that is if he really did?
Let’s assume that what he said expresses a new policy and that North Korea made up its mind and decided to transform into a nuclear-free peaceful country and reconcile with its sister South Korea, what will happen to Iran?
What’s happening is tantamount to a massive political coup and is a major international affair which repercussions will reach faraway areas, including our region.
Two countries have preoccupied the international community and threatened peace: North Korea and Iran. With Pyongyang’s withdrawal, Tehran will remain on its own and it will be easy to pressure it and force it to stop its nuclear program and amend its bad regional behavior. The impact of the news alone will weaken Iran and strengthen the US and its allies.
However the problem that everyone confronts is the North Korean leaders’ intentions which many doubt.
A charade?
In politics, trust and credibility are two rare currencies and as precious as gemstones. Since North Korea lied about the previous pledges which it had made in exchange of lifting the western economic siege, we fear it’s repeating that same charade via a more interesting performance.
Three reasons make Kim Jong-Un a liar in the eyes of his rivals. First of all, last time he promised to stop his nuclear program in exchange of ending the economic siege but he did not keep his word. Secondly, he succeeded in developing his military capabilities and it’s thus difficult to imagine that he decided to give them up. Finally, he relies on superior military power and technology to guarantee his rule and it’s thus difficult to believe that he will subject his governance to demise by giving up on this power.
Some think China is behind this change. US President Donald Trump has noted China’s role and acknowledged that this major breakthrough would not have been if it hadn’t been for the support of the Chinese leadership. Beijing can provide the required guarantees but he’s aware that China is not a guaranteed guarantor.
Therefore, with the absence of information about the justifications of the white North Korean coup, we are confused and skeptic but we hope this dream is true and that the world gets rid of this threat represented in the North Korean nuclear power. We hope the Iranian command benefits from this experience, learns from Kim Jong-un and gets rid of its nuclear weapons, gives up its military adventures and transforms into a major civil economic power in the region and competes with us in education, construction, manufacture and entertainment.

The reconstruction of Islamic Studies
Radwan al-Sayed/Al Arabiya/April 30/18
For the last 10 years, Arabs and Muslims have been preoccupied with fighting extremism and terrorism. Perhaps, they may continue fighting for the next 10 years as well.
Institutional reforms
As a result of the 10 years’ bitter experience in dealing with this issue that is dangerous on religion, societies and countries, I have sought to comprehend it via two concepts: qualification and rehabilitation. By qualification, I mean cooperation among institutions to better comprehend the world, the phenomena of modernity and changes in societies. This will make our religious, cultural and media institutions qualified with the necessary knowledge. What must be qualified is the structure of institutions and entities so that they are better equipped to confront dangerous phenomena.
Simultaneously, educational programs must be rehabilitated, religious discourse must be renewed and imams and teachers must be trained. The public must be addressed to prevent the emergence of a new generation of extremists after what has happened in various regions in Afghanistan, Somalia, West Africa, Syria, Iraq and Libya which witnessed the activities of al-Qaeda and ISIS.
The discipline of Islamic Studies
However, there is another dimension to the issue that has not drawn the same attention due to its relative neglect in universities and academic and quasi-academic institutions. The study of Islamic studies arose in Western culture and matured in the hands of orientalists. There are hundreds of departments and dozens of institutes and magazines that have thrived upon this discipline for more than a hundred years. It is well known that this discipline was highly criticized by Edward Said in his book Orientalism (1977), since he considered that such an expression had colonial overtones.
But between Edward Said's criticism and today, fractures have emerged in the academics of these institutions due to two contradictory trends. The first one is the emergence of new commentators or new orientalists who have drifted apart from the traditions of Orientalism and decided to alter the image of the Quran and Islam by employing deconstruction to the texts from the historical context. The second one is represented in new Arab and Muslim commentators who criticized textual traditions and did not only work through militias but also via preaching ceremonies and specialties in the Sharia and Islamic studies colleges to conclude the full-scale implementation of Sharia.
Educational programs must be rehabilitated, religious discourse must be renewed and imams and teachers must be trained.
While the new orientalists used academic instruments to vandalize what they considered was a stereotype, reaching for support not only from revolutions in the social and human sciences, but also from the Islamophobic movements in the West and the world, fundamentalists in Sahwa movements and religious universities wanted to highlight the urgent need to make us more Islamic and more keen on enforcing Islam.
As such, in the middle of these two zealot approaches, the western and eastern doctrines, there is no longer free space for contemplation and research! During the 1980s and 1990s, we, the ones who were teaching Islamics in universities of the West and East, suffered from these two tendencies. Therefore, all we did in Europe and the US was answer the question of when the Qur'an appeared and whether it is a text or a collection of narratives that were arbitrarily assembled a century or more after the death of the prophet (peace be upon him). Meanwhile, everyone in Arab and Muslim countries were busy answering how to restore Islam in societies and nations, why sharia is not implemented, what the meaning of the victory of the Islamic Revolution in Iran is and what the repercussions of the Salafist eruption in Arab and Islamic countries are.
Sahwa’s misreading
I was among the few that considered that the questions of the new commentators and Sahwa movements were spurious. Sharia is implemented, and it does not need implementation; religion is ever present and does not experience estrangement. As for the Qur'an, it is a text that has been present in the life of the community since the days of the Prophet, peace be upon him. We are tired of looking into the origins of the book and its relationship with the Old and New Testaments for over 200 years! As for Islamic history, it has never witnessed the events forged and claimed by people from both doctrines, nor did orthodoxy change the image of religion or history.
After four decades of reciprocal repudiation and contradictory conflicting stubbornness, not only among ordinary people but also in universities and academic departments, it can no longer be denied that the damage has occurred and the cracks have widened due to disputes over major ideas about what Islam, sharia and history are, what the meaning of modern Islamic movements is, why there is animosity towards the new national state, what the phenomena of Al Qaeda and ISIS are exactly and why there is ongoing violence in the name of Islam. Evidently, these questions can only be addressed in research centers, workshops, and departments of Islamic and Arab studies.
Reconstruction of religious thought
Therefore, the Sheikh Zayed Chair for Arab and Islamic Studies at the American University in Beirut organized a workshop entitled Towards the Reconstruction of Islamic Studies. It will include dozens of renowned scholars in the field of Islamic Studies from the East and West and will discuss issues related to the reassessment and reconstruction of Islamic studies and the new contexts for new syllabi and even new texts. We hope that all of this will create a consultative approach over the origins and tasks of this discipline and status within human, social and historical sciences. We do not only have hope in the new syllabi and in the exposure and suppression of fundamentalists on both sides but also in the new generations of Arab and Muslim students who are now present in the universities of the West and East as they are establishing new horizons for Islamic Studies.
The rewards of research
In methodical research and the requirements of academia, we should not cede to the terms of certainty and prohibition as this will be tantamount to surrendering to dictatorships and violence. Methodical research calls for freedom, courage and responsibility and for challenging fabrications as well as everything taken for granted.
The Qur'an says: “Arguing with you concerning the truth after it had become clear, as if they were being driven toward death while they were looking on.” (Anfal: 6) It is absurd, unreasonable and even inhumane neutrality that we see today when we meditate on the body of the nation going to ruin. In our consciousness or unconsciousness, we look at this body as if it wasn’t ours and as if we have no relationship with it. The Qur'an says: “Do not throw [yourselves] with your [own] hands into destruction.” You must not do so, whether adventurously or out of cowardice. There is no might nor power except with Allah.

We cannot afford another endarkenment
Hassan Yassin/Al Arabiya/April 30/18
I have recently tried to take a small step back from events to gain some perspective on our world and where we are going. My mind keeps returning to the darkest period in our collective history: the two world wars that stained the first half of the 20th century. More than 100 million people, mostly civilians, were killed in those two wars – a mass slaughter and destruction that is almost unimaginable today. The hopes of Europe’s Enlightenment and revolutionary ideals born in the 18th century were obscured during the two world wars in a long Endarkenment. Darkness, hatred, malice and tribal warfare of the meanest kind cast a long, dark shadow over Europe and the world at the time. The hopes and the great minds of Europe were directed towards death and destruction on a massive scale, developing rockets, atomic bombs and the most terrible and terrifying projects of ethnic cleansing. During that darkness, we all fell into a deep sleep, our humanity was probed and our usual waking defenses lay disabled. Understandably, it took some time for humanity to regain faith in humanity.
The lethal trenches and abhorrent chemical warfare of World War I, the mass bombing of civilians and the genocidal acts of World War II, the flattening of entire cities such as Coventry or Dresden, this Endarkenment of humanity still weighs heavily in our minds and on our consciences. Thankfully, the extremism and the emperors of destruction were eventually defeated, but our genetic predisposition towards hatred and destruction could not be expiated. Regrettably, injustices and burgeoning hatreds were also carried forwards, with the parcelling out of lands, continued Western interference in a disjointed Arab world, the stolen territories of the new Israeli state, the division into two Chinas, two Koreas, two Vietnams, and a self-mutilating Soviet Union that would later be dismembered. The period from 1990 gave the world some hope for a new enlightenment, but those hopes were rapidly dashed as the new century opened.
America’s military adventures in Afghanistan and Iraq
What worries me today is that I see the same forces of darkness and aggression at play again, all while acting through different means and going almost unnoticed or unopposed. President Woodrow Wilson’s 14 Points that were supposed to neutralize the darkest instincts of World War I lie all but forgotten today – one could say they were never truly applied even at the time, particularly regarding the right of peoples to self-determination. In this young 21st century we have seen Russia grab Crimea, challenging Ukraine’s integrity; Israel holding on to Arab territories and drastically expanding illegal settlements; China grabbing any land it can, enforcing suzerainty over its neighbors and even expanding into the sea with newly-built islands; and Iran imposing its control over Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Yemen. These are clear forms not only of aggression but of dictatorial powers negating the recognized rights of other states and peoples. America’s military adventures in Afghanistan and Iraq have also robbed entire populations of their lives and right to self-determination, with both countries now in the throes of permanent chaos and fragmentation. There may be no formal world war raging, but the violence and pervasiveness of these acts of aggression are just a slow-burning version of the tragedies of the early 20th century, lacking international reaction.
We must be more creative in our thinking, shining some light into the darkness in order to spread a new enlightenment. We should not be scared to seek new ideas to prevent further endarkenment of our world, instead bringing some light and hope back into it.
We have fallen under penumbra in which we have all taken our tranquilisers, as even the United Nations is unable to utter more than a whimper. Our telescopes and microscopes are exploring every corner of the universe down to the tiniest elements of being, yet we are unable to look at ourselves, at our world and the forces of multiple hatred and aggression that are casting a darkness not unlike the impulses we witnessed during two nightmarish world wars. We can see these impulses even in the state of the European project, where division and the reaffirmation of xenophobic nationalisms are the order of the day. Our consciences are asleep, and no world power or embodiment of an international community is present to keep any of this in check. While America is busy dismantling itself politically and ideologically, Israel, Russia, Iran, China and others are given free rein. In Africa and Latin America, similar forces are at work. Those of us who have lived through a long 20th century history are rather concerned, but no one else seems to be paying any attention. It is time we woke up from our sleep and actively remembered what all of our past struggles were for.
Those who benefit from the penumbra and our sleepiness today are the autocratic land-grabbing powers of aggression mentioned above. They are following an imperial instinct, the lines appear blurred only because there is no distinct emperor at work, nor any explicit empire we can identify. Meanwhile, America is paying little heed to the proto-empire they built last century, reneging on the principles of free trade they spent decades imposing on the world and denying their continued role in Iraq, Afghanistan and American dependencies. These are two more of Woodrow Wilson’s points that now lie disregarded by the country that expounded them. It is a complex and changing world, but this must not prevent us from trying to understand it better and to draw attention to phenomena that are intrinsically disturbing. We have not even mentioned the greater issues that we face when we take a further step back: our continued disregard for the environment and our over-exploitation of resources has to be at the top of our concerns, for the consequences will otherwise be absolutely devastating for the planet that gives us all life. Instead of milking it, we must feed it and care for it.
Path forward
While the United Nations and its Security Council have seemed somewhat toothless in the midst of this period of unhinged international relations, its many agencies continue to do some very important work. There is great potential, and a great need, for the UN to lead a programme teaching the children and youth of the world the principles of peace, cooperation and respect for others and our environment. A universal course that would be willingly integrated into the curriculum of every nation could be jointly put together by several UN programmes and agencies such as the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the UN Environmental Programme (UNEP), the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF). Children around the world would be taught to be respectful and accepting of all genders, religions, ethnicities and skin colours; they would learn to respect the environment, to reduce waste and to pick up any abandoned waste they encounter; they would be given capacities to understand the world around them and the need for cooperation, preparing them to be true citizens and custodians of the world.
We must be more creative in our thinking, shining some light into the darkness in order to spread a new enlightenment. A United Nations Educational Programme for Youth Awareness and Empowerment is one such potentially transformative idea that could disperse the dark clouds of hatred and aggression. To some, this may sound like fantasy, but everything that humans have ever achieved began as a simple idea, just as humanity emerged from a single cell in the ocean, or from Adam and Eve, whatever your beliefs may be. We should not be scared to seek new ideas to prevent further endarkenment of our world, instead bringing some light and hope back into it.