Interviews, News, opinion 0 comments on Libya watchers see signs of progress toward reconciliation

Libya watchers see signs of progress toward reconciliation


The North African country was plunged into bloody violence following Muammar Gaddafi’s ouster
UN official hopes for an agreement ‘by mid-June’ to hold elections before the end of this year
TRIPOLI: Oil-rich but war-scarred Libya has for years been ruled by two rival governments, but now some analysts see faint signs of progress toward reconciliation between them.
They point to discord within one of the camps, based in the east and backed by military strongman Khalifa Haftar, where the parliament last week suspended its former premier Fathi Bashagha.
Paradoxically, the observers say, Bashaga’s political demise could signal that the Haftar camp is moving toward rapprochement with the internationally recognized government in the capital Tripoli.
Some observers even suggest this could aid United Nations-led efforts urging new elections this year in the country that has been torn by bloody chaos since the 2011 overthrow of dictator Muammar Gaddafi.
The political rupture in the east has reversed the fortunes of Bashagha, who a year ago launched an attack on Tripoli that was repelled after a day of deadly street fighting.
Bashagha was suspended on May 16 by the eastern-based parliament, which also announced an investigation against him for unspecified reasons.
The move against Bashagha “sealed the end of the political life of this former strongman,” said analyst Hasni Abidi of the Geneva-based Institute for Arab and Mediterranean Cultures.
His “humiliating departure … reflects the differences in the eastern camp, in particular between the Haftar clan represented by his children and the parliament,” Abidi said.
Tripoli-based interim Prime Minister Abdulhamid Dbeibah has meanwhile used the “paralysis of the eastern government to consolidate his grip on political and economic life in Libya,” he said.
The North African country was plunged into more than a decade of bloody violence following Gaddafi’s ouster in a NATO-backed popular uprising in which the veteran dictator was killed.
The ensuing chaos drew in warlords, militants and foreign mercenaries and claimed countless lives while leaving the country awash with guns.
Haftar, a Gaddafi-era soldier turned exile, and since backed by Egypt and other foreign powers, launched an assault on Tripoli in 2019 that left thousands more dead but ultimately failed.
The warring parties reached a formal cease-fire in October 2020.
Since then, the United Nations has resumed its efforts for new elections, to bring stability to the troubled country, but these have been repeatedly delayed.
Bashaga, from the port city of Misrata and formerly a political heavyweight in the western camp, had sought Haftar’s support in late 2021, vowing to work for “national reconciliation.”
Bashagha’s suspension comes ahead of a mid-June deadline declared by the United Nations for the rival political forces to agree on a framework to hold elections before the end of the year.
Bashagha “always had an expiry date,” said Emadeddin Badi of the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime, a Switzerland-based research body.
“His usefulness ended the day he lost the possibility of establishing himself in Tripoli,” the analyst said.
Libyan media have meanwhile reported that talks have been held between representatives of Haftar and Dbeibah.
Dbeibah’s nephew and one of Haftar’s sons “have been in almost continuous talks for months,” researcher Jalel Harchaoui said.
“The desire of these two Libyan personalities to accommodate one another is one of the reasons for Bashagha’s fall,” he said.
Badi said Haftar had offered to suspend Bashagha, a move that had the “blessing” of Egypt.
The head of the UN Support Mission in Libya, Abdoulaye Bathily, has said he hopes for an agreement “by mid-June” to hold elections before the end of this year.
He told the UN Security Council last month that “intensive consultations have taken place among security actors” and said “there has been a new dynamic in Libya.”
Libyan political analyst Abdallah Al-Rayes said the rival camps’ new understandings are the culmination of “discreet negotiations in Cairo” with a view to “forming a new coalition government.”
“This is a step that precedes any agreement on the polls,” he added.
Harchaoui, however, was less optimistic and said “the elites already well in place today … have absolutely no intention of leaving power in order to allow credible and authentic elections.”

Interviews, News, opinion 0 comments on Exclusive: Tons of uranium missing from Libyan site, IAEA tells member states

Exclusive: Tons of uranium missing from Libyan site, IAEA tells member states

VIENNA, March 15 (Reuters) – U.N. nuclear watchdog inspectors have found that roughly 2.5 tons of natural uranium have gone missing from a Libyan site that is not under government control, the watchdog told member states in a statement on Wednesday seen by Reuters.

The finding is the result of an inspection originally planned for last year that “had to be postponed because of the security situation in the region” and was finally carried out on Tuesday, according to the confidential statement by International Atomic Energy Agency chief Rafael Grossi.

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IAEA inspectors “found that 10 drums containing approximately 2.5 tons of natural uranium in the form of UOC (uranium ore concentrate) previously declared by (Libya) … as being stored at that location were not present at the location,” the one-page statement said.

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The agency would carry out “further activities” to determine the circumstances of the uranium’s removal from the site, which it did not name, and where it is now, the statement added.

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“The loss of knowledge about the present location of nuclear material may present a radiological risk, as well as nuclear security concerns,” it said, adding that reaching the site required “complex logistics”.

In 2003 Libya under then-leader Muammar Gaddafi renounced its nuclear weapons programme, which had obtained centrifuges that can enrich uranium as well as design information for a nuclear bomb, though it made little progress towards a bomb.

Libya has had little peace since a 2011 NATO-backed uprising ousted Gaddafi. Since 2014, political control has been split between rival eastern and western factions, with the last major bout of conflict ending in 2020.

Libya’s interim government, put in place in early 2021 through a U.N.-backed peace plan, was only supposed to last until an election scheduled for December of that year that has still not been held, and its legitimacy is now also disputed.

Interviews, News, opinion 0 comments on Saudi Arabia and Iran Agree to Restore Ties, in Talks Hosted by China .. By By Vivian Nereim

Saudi Arabia and Iran Agree to Restore Ties, in Talks Hosted by China .. By By Vivian Nereim

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — After years of open hostility and proxy conflicts across the Middle East, Saudi Arabia and Iran have agreed to re-establish diplomatic ties, they announced on Friday, in a significant pivot for the two regional rivals that was facilitated by China.

China hosted the talks that led to the breakthrough, highlighting Beijing’s growing role as a global economic and political power, and counterbalance to Washington — particularly in the Middle East, a region that was long shaped by the military and diplomatic involvement of the United States.

Seven years after cutting formal ties, Iran and Saudi Arabia will reopen embassies in each other’s countries within two months, and confirmed their “respect for the sovereignty of states and noninterference in their internal affairs,” they said in a joint statement published by the official Saudi Press Agency. Iran’s state news media also announced the deal.

The two countries agreed to reactivate a lapsed security cooperation pact — a shift that comes after years of Iranian-backed militias in Yemen targeting Saudi Arabia with missile and drone attacks — as well as older trade, investment and cultural accords.

Whether the shift leads to a deep or lasting détente between governments that have long been in conflict remains unclear, but there have been signs that both nations wanted to find a way to step back from confrontation. Saudi and Iranian officials had engaged in several rounds of talks over the past two years, including in Iraq and Oman, but without significant steps forward.

For the United States, the agreement signals that it cannot take for granted the pre-eminent influence it once wielded in Saudi Arabia — an ally that is charting a more independent diplomatic course — and elsewhere, as China, a rising superpower, builds trade and diplomatic relations around the world.

While Washington views Iran as an adversary, Beijing has cultivated close ties to both Iran and Saudi Arabia, and unlike U.S. officials, it does not chastise them about human rights. Iran’s president, Ebrahim Raisi, visited Beijing last month, and China’s top leader, Xi Jinping, visited Riyadh, the Saudi capital, in December. Mr. Xi’s state visit was celebrated by Saudi officials, who often complain that their American allies are too critical, and are no longer reliable security partners.

John Kirby, a spokesman for the National Security Council, rejected the notion that the United States had left a void in Middle East affairs, now being filled by China. “I would stridently push back on this idea that we are stepping back in the Middle East,” he said, adding that Saudi Arabia had kept the United States informed of the talks with Iran.

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“We support any effort there to de-escalate tensions in the region,” Mr. Kirby said.

China’s most senior foreign policy official, Wang Yi, indicated on Friday in a statement on the Chinese foreign ministry website that Beijing had played an instrumental role in the resumption of diplomatic ties.

“This is a victory for the dialogue, a victory for peace, and is major positive news for the world which is currently so turbulent and restive, and it sends a clear signal,” he said.

Mohammed Alyahya, a Saudi fellow at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard, said the agreement was a “reflection of China’s growing strategic clout in the region — the fact that it has a lot of leverage over the Iranians, the fact it has very deep and important economic relations with the Saudis.” He added: “There is a strategic void in the region, and the Chinese seem to have figured out how to capitalize on that.”

After years of tensions, Saudi Arabia cut ties with Iran completely in 2016, when protesters stormed the kingdom’s embassy in Tehran after Saudi Arabia’s execution of a prominent Saudi Shiite cleric.

The rivalry between the two Islamic nations, which are less than 150 miles away from each other across the Persian Gulf, has long shaped politics and trade in the Middle East. It has a sectarian dimension — Saudi Arabia’s monarchy and a majority of its populace are Sunni, while Iran’s people are overwhelmingly Shiite — but has predominantly played out via proxy conflicts in Yemen, Iraq and Lebanon, where Iran has supported militias that Saudi officials say have destabilized the region.

Tensions hit a peak in 2019, when a missile and drone assault on a key Saudi oil installation briefly disrupted half of the kingdom’s crude production; the Iran-backed Houthi movement in Yemen claimed responsibility, but U.S. officials said that Iran had directly overseen the attack.


A satellite image of smoke rising from a critical oil plant in Abqaiq, Saudi Arabia, in 2019.
Credit…Planet Labs Inc, via Associated Press
A satellite image of smoke rising from a critical oil plant in Abqaiq, Saudi Arabia, in 2019.

In Yemen, a Saudi-led coalition has been at war with the Houthis since 2015. Saudi officials have also repeatedly expressed fear over Iran’s nuclear program, saying that they would be the foremost target for any attack by the Islamic Republic.

China wants stability in the region, with more than 40 percent of its crude oil imports coming from the Gulf, said Jonathan Fulton, a nonresident senior fellow for Middle East programs at the Atlantic Council.

“Beijing has adopted a smart approach using its strategic partnership diplomacy, building diplomatic capital on both sides of the Gulf,” he said. “Unlike the United States, which balances one side against the other, and is therefore limited in its diplomatic capacity.”

Ali Shamkhani, the head of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, told Iran’s NourNews Agency that President Raisi’s visit to China in February had helped create the opportunity for the negotiations to move forward.

Mr. Shamkhani described the talks as “unequivocal, transparent, comprehensive and constructive.” He said he was looking forward to relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia that foster “the security and stability of the region.”


Xi Jinping, president of China, with President Ebrahim Raisi of Iran in Beijing last month, in a photo released by the Chinese state news media.
Credit…Yan Yan/Xinhua, via Associated Press
Xi Jinping, president of China, with President Ebrahim Raisi of Iran in Beijing last month, in a photo released by the Chinese state news media.

For Iran, mending ties with a regional enemy would be a welcome relief after months of internal turmoil marked by antigovernment protests that Iranian officials have blamed in part on Saudi Arabia. The Iranian government spokesman, Ali Bahadori Jahromi, tweeted that “the historic agreement of Saudi-Iran negotiated in China and led entirely by Asian countries will change the dynamics of the region.”

The Israeli foreign ministry declined to immediately comment. But the news complicates the Israeli assumption that shared fears of a nuclear Iran would help Israel forge a formal relationship with Saudi Arabia. Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, has repeatedly stated in recent months that he hoped to seal diplomatic ties between Israel and Saudi Arabia for the first time.

Saudi Arabia has pressed the United States to lower restrictions on selling it arms, and to help it build a civilian nuclear program, as its price to normalize relations with Israel, according to people familiar with the exchanges.

The agreement comes as China has been trying to play a more active role in global governance by releasing a political settlement plan for the war in Ukraine and updating what it calls the Global Security Initiative, a bid to supplant Washington’s dominant role in addressing the world’s conflicts and crises.

Political analysts took mixed views of the implications for the United States.

Mark Dubowitz, the chief executive of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a Washington-based research institute, described the renewed Iran-Saudi ties resulting from Chinese mediation as “a lose, lose, lose for American interests.”

He added: “It demonstrates that the Saudis don’t trust Washington to have their back, that Iran sees an opportunity to peel away American allies to end its international isolation and that China is becoming the major-domo of Middle Eastern power politics.”


President Biden meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Saudi Arabia last year.
Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times
President Biden meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Saudi Arabia last year.

But Trita Parsi, an executive vice president of the Quincy Institute, a Washington research group that advocates U.S. restraint overseas, called the agreement “good news for the Middle East, since Saudi-Iranian tensions have been a driver of instability in the region.”

Saudi officials are not looking to replace the United States with China, said Yasmine Farouk, a nonresident scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a Washington research group.

When it comes to defense and security, “Riyadh still thinks in English,” she said. But after years of feeling that the United States has become a less reliable ally, the Saudis are expanding their alliances wherever they can.

Reporting was contributed by Keith Bradsher, Patrick Kingsley, David Pierson, Christopher Buckley, Michael Crowley, Farnaz Fassihi, Zolan Kanno-Youngs and Leily Nikounazar.

Interviews, News, opinion, Perspectives 0 comments on Final déclaration of the forum “Changes in Tunisia and the European Maghreb Countries in 2023: The economic and security situation new Threats.”

Final déclaration of the forum “Changes in Tunisia and the European Maghreb Countries in 2023: The economic and security situation new Threats.”

The closing statement of the forum “Changes in Tunisia and the European Maghreb Countries in 2023: The economic and security situation threatens to explode and collapse.”

– 35,000 Tunisians immigrated illegaly to Europe in 2022
A new regional order and distancing the region from “proxy wars”

A forum on economic and geostrategic changes in Tunisia and the European Maghreb region was organized in Tunisia, with the participation of elite diplomats, experts in economists, international relations, media and strategic studies, at the initiative of the organizations “Tunisia for Competencies”, “Ibn Rushd Forum for Strategic Studies” and “Association of Democrats in the Arab World” ..
Lecturers from the five Maghreb countries, Jordan and the European Union participated in this forum, in person or via electronic platforms. Their interventions warned of multiple indicators of social and security explosions due to the economic and political collapse and the serious repercussions of conflicts, the war in Ukraine, and the continuation of conventional and “cold” wars in the region, especially in Libya. And between Morocco and Algeria and in Palestine and the Arab East…
After diagnosing the situation, this forum resulted in many recommendations, including:

First, in the socio-economic field:
The forum recommended the adoption of “urgent and structural” and “unconventional” solutions: to contain the accumulated economic, social and political crises, which have increased in severity and seriousness due to the complications of the Ukraine war and its development into very serious conflicts between Russia and its allies and NATO countries, including European countries, the main partner of Tunisia and the Maghreb countries. And the Mediterranean..
The forum recommended good governance and the political and administrative reforms required to improve the economic and social reality and the conditions of youth and the popular classes that are about to explode and revolt against everyone … with an emphasis on the relationship between development and democracy and on the fact that the paths of the “democratic transition” in Tunisia and the Arab countries faltered as a result of the accumulation of politicians’ mistakes since 2011 Domestic, regional and international conspiracies and agendas.

Secondly, in the Maghreb field:

Participants recommended containing internal crises, especially in Libya, in all Maghreb countries through negotiation and political solutions, and excluding all scenarios of fighting, violent clashes, and security explosions of unknown consequences.
They also called for containing the old and new differences between Algeria and Morocco, restoring relations between them, opening closed borders, and purifying the climate between the five countries to activate bilateral and collective agreements for economic partnership and integration in all sectors, which will contribute to improving annual growth rates in Tunisia and every Maghreb country. At least two points.
The interventions also called for the exit of foreign forces from Libya and the region, and for the exclusion of foreign interference that impedes the paths of national reconciliation and comprehensive development throughout the region.

Third, in the Euro-Mediterranean field:
Participants from Arab and European countries recorded that the economic cost of the Corona epidemic and the war in Ukraine made the European Union countries retreat from their programs to support development, democracy and reforms in “neighboring countries”. Budgets were transferred to support Ukraine and finance the reception of millions of refugees fleeing the war. Brussels and the Arab and Mediterranean countries to activate partnership agreements and facilitate the movement of travelers, investors and goods in both directions… “And that the role of the countries of the southern Mediterranean is not reduced to protecting the southern European coasts from the waves of illegal immigrants, Tunisians, Arabs and Africans.”
The parliamentarian and former leader of the Democratic Current Party, Majdi al-Karbaei, recorded in his intervention from Italy and the journalist Moncef al-Sulaimi from Germany that the number of Tunisian immigrants “surreptitiously” towards Italy in 2022 was in the range of 18,000 from the sea, while the candidates for immigration to it via Turkey and Serbia were estimated at 15. Thousands… meaning that their number in one year hovered around 35 thousand… while the number of those who died by drowning or were imprisoned in very harsh conditions was estimated to be 1,000 Tunisians…

Fourth, in the international field:
The forum recommended decision makers in the world to take advantage of the suffocating global crisis triggered by the conflicts between the NATO countries on the one hand and Russia and its

News, opinion 0 comments on At Least 10 Killed in Mass Shooting near Los Angeles

At Least 10 Killed in Mass Shooting near Los Angeles


Ten people were killed and at least 10 others were injured in a mass shooting in the city of Monterey Park, California, while festivities were taking place for Chinese New Year, officials and witnesses say, as the exact numbers of casualties are not yet known.

The shooting took place on Saturday night in Monterey Park, just east of Los Angeles in the US state of California, around the location of a Chinese Lunar New Year celebration that had taken place earlier in the evening.

According to initial reports, at least 16 people have been shot, including multiple victims who succumbed to their injuries. Police have yet to confirm the exact number of dead and injured but reports are claiming that 10 people have been killed at the scene.

Two witnesses said they heard gunfire but initially assumed it was fireworks to mark the Lunar New Year. When officers arrived at the scene, many of the victims were found inside one of the businesses as the area is home to multiple Asian businesses.

Tens of thousands of people had attended the festival earlier in the day for a two-day long Monterey Park Lunar New Year Festival of the “Year of the Rabbit” downtown, which is considered one of the largest in the region.

Chinese New Year officially begins on January 22nd, 2023, and ends on February 1st.

Details about the circumstances of the shooting were also not yet known.

The incident is the latest in a spate of attacks targeting Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) across the United States.

Crimes against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders soared in recent years, especially during the coronavirus pandemic with experts blaming this in part on discriminatory rhetoric from former US president Donald Trump, who repeatedly used racist terms against Asians. Trump repeatedly referred to COVID-19 as the “China Virus”.

Between March 2020 and March 2022, more than 11,400 hate incidents against Asian Americans have been reported across the United States, according to a report by Stop AAPI Hate, a national coalition that tracks such incidents and advocates for combatting hate crimes against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

Mass shootings are another specific concern as domestic violence and gun violence have also risen during the last year. The US experienced more than 600 mass shootings in 2022, nearly double the number recorded four years ago when there were 336, according to Washington-based Gun Violence Archive.

The rate of deaths caused by firearms is getting worse as the population of the US goes up. This is while firearm purchases rose to record levels in 2021 and 2022. The changing legal landscape for firearms comes as gun ownership continues to grow in the United States.

Analysts see a link between bias-motivated gun violence and a rise in hate groups and toxic discourse in the United States targeting vulnerable, often marginalized population.

News, opinion, Perspectives 0 comments on Chemical Weapons Probes Can Expose Western Plots against Syria

Chemical Weapons Probes Can Expose Western Plots against Syria

The UN and its sunsets that for a decade along with the Western-Arab-Israeli triangle backed the Syrian opposition and terrorists fighting the Syrian government now admitted they found documents that show the ISIS terrorist group was the party that used chemical weapons in the past years.

UN experts said they have cited digital evidence and witness evidence that all confirm the use of chemical weapons by the terrorist group in Iraq between 2014 and 2019. The UN investigation team confirmed that ISIS had produced and used rockets, chemical mortars, chemical ammunition for rockets, chemical warheads, and homemade chemical bombs. The report specifically mentions the ISIS attack on Tuz Khurma town in Kirkuk province on March 8, 2016.

This report is while the Iraqi government in July 2014, when ISIS occupied many western regions of the country, confirmed in a report that a center related to the country’s former chemical weapons program had fallen into the hands of terrorists and expressed concern about this issue.

In the past years, the issue of using banned weapons, especially chemical weapons, has been very controversial and at times it became a tool for the propaganda campaigns and the political pressure of the Westerners on the Syrian government. The UN has not submitted a report on the use of unconventional weapons by the terrorists so far, but now that the crimes of ISIS have been exposed to everyone, it had to disclose some realities.

Scenario of chemical weapons use in Syria

The UN has confirmed the use of chemical weapons by ISIS in Iraq while it refuses to prepare such reports in Syria. This is while ISIS was present in Syria before it rose in Iraq and occupied the border areas of the two countries and could easily move such weapons between the two countries and there are reports published by Moscow and Damascus that disclosed the use of chemical weapons by terrorists. A number of chemical attacks in Syria may have been carried out by ISIS, but since dozens of terrorist groups were present in the Syrian provinces at the same time, it is difficult to confirm which one was behind the attacks and this requires a comprehensive investigation.

The use of chemical weapons is not limited to ISIS, and other Takfiri groups have also committed these crimes many times. Terrorist groups based in Syria have committed such crimes in different regions in the past years, but the UN has always accused the Syrian government of using chemical weapons instead of the Takfiris under the pressure of the Americans and Europeans. Even when all Syrian chemical weapons were removed from the country under the UN supervision in 2013, accusations against the Syrian government continued.

In October 2013, a year after outbreak of conflict, the UN inspectors reported that from the seven areas they inspected, in five areas, chemical weapons were used. Ghouta, Khan Ersal, Juber, Sargheb, and Ashrafia were areas in which these weapons were used, but the UN report did not specify which party, the government or the terrorists, used them. The ambiguity of reports paved the way for backers of terrorists to point the fingers at the Syrian government. Even former US President Barack Obama planned to attack Syria with the help of NATO in September 2013 under the pretext that the Syrian government was attacking terrorists and civilians with chemical weapons, but he eventually abandoned this plan as Damascus agreed to hand over its chemical weapons.
In another report, the UN claimed that the Syrian government used chlorine gas chemical weapons in the attacks on Idlib city in March 2016, and this substance was embedded in barrel bombs. In 2017, the UN claimed that the Syrian government used chemical weapons against armed groups in Khan Sheikhoun. In April 2018, when the use of chemical weapons in the Duma city in the Damascus suburbs was raised by the Western powers, Bashar al-Jaafari, the permanent representative of Syria to the UN, stressed that his country would not accept any results published by the investigation team of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons regarding the incident in Duma, adding: “Some countries are trying to repeat what happened in Iraq and find excuses with the aim of starting an aggression against Syria, but we do not allow the falsification of reality.”

In Syrian crisis, the UN has always tried to take the Western-backed terrorists’ side, and this is why it does not admit crimes by the terrorist groups— a behavior drawing strong-toned reaction from Damascus. Syria’s deputy UN envoy during a meeting of the Security Council on Monday, in a speech lashed out at the body’s “politically-motivated”

Uncategorized 0 comments on U.N. climate summit turns awkward for Egypt .. by Ishaan Tharoor

U.N. climate summit turns awkward for Egypt .. by Ishaan Tharoor

You’re reading an excerpt from the Today’s WorldView newsletter. Sign up to get the rest free, including news from around the globe and interesting ideas and opinions to know, sent to your inbox every weekday.

An activist holds a banner at the entrance of the Sharm el-Sheikh International Convention Center during the U.N. climate summit in Egypt on Monday. (Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Reuters)

Not since the 2013 coup that brought its current leader to power has Egypt been this much in the global spotlight. Egyptian authorities are hosting the U.N. Climate Change Conference, known as COP27, at the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh. The major annual summit convenes governmental delegations from most of the world’s countries, as well as leaders from nongovernmental organizations, civil society and major businesses.

“This is a defining moment in the life of our planet,” declared Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi as proceedings got underway earlier this week. “There’s no room for retreat or excuses. Missing the opportunity means the loss of our legacy and the future of our children and grandchildren.”

But a gloomy pall has been hung over the conference from the onset. Climate activists like Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg have already turned their back on COP27, insisting it’s an exercise in “greenwashing” by laggard governments and cynical corporations. Few governments have followed through on ambitious pledges to accelerate their cuts to emissions. Some wealthy nations have failed to fund a planned vehicle of financial aid for developing countries, many of which are experiencing the front-line effects of a warming planet with limited capacity to mitigate against them. And in a year of economic instability and energy price volatility, many countries have sunk public funds into the cultivation and acquisition of carbon-emitting fossil fuels.

“Some of the splashiest COP26 pledges have been derailed by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and upheavals in the global economy,” wrote my colleague Sarah Kaplan. “Catastrophic climate disasters hampered countries’ abilities to invest in renewable energy and resilient infrastructure, even as they exposed the urgency of preparing for a warmer world.”

A climate change report card for the world

For Sissi, though, the summit’s legacy may have nothing to do with climate action. Egypt’s autocratic government was powerless to prevent political activists from taking center stage in Sharm el-Sheikh on Tuesday and highlighting the plight of Alaa Abdel Fattah, a 40-year-old British Egyptian activist on hunger strike. A prominent, popular figure involved in the 2011 Arab Spring uprising, Abdel Fattah was imprisoned in 2014 by Sissi’s autocratic regime on dubious charges for protesting without permission and later sentenced in 2021 to five more years in prison for “spreading fake news,” a charge weaponized by Egypt’s authorities to silence their critics.

On Sunday, according to Abdel Fattah’s relatives, he took his last sip of water, escalating a hunger strike that could lead to his death. His plight has overshadowed proceedings at COP27 and led to rights groups and international organizations calling out Egypt’s appalling human rights record, including the detention of tens of thousands of political prisoners. On Tuesday, U.N. human rights chief Volker Türk urged Egypt to release Abdel Fattah from prison and give him medical attention.

“I call on the Egyptian authorities to fulfill their human rights obligations and immediately release all those arbitrarily detained, including those in pretrial detention, as well as those unfairly convicted,” he said. “No one should be detained for exercising their basic human rights.”

Sissi’s regime has largely enjoyed the support of the West, which did little to push against the coup he led in 2013 against a democratically elected, politically Islamist government. This week, Sissi has already met with French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak — all three of whom are said to have pressed the Egyptian leader on the urgent need to release Abdel Fattah. But they put forward no clear threat of repercussions should Cairo resist their appeals. President Biden is expected to also lobby Sissi on human rights when they meet Friday.

U.N. chief calls for global climate pact, warning of ‘highway to climate hell’

For now, the small space afforded to dissenters in Sharm el-Sheikh is proving costly to Egypt’s regime. On Tuesday, Egyptian lawmaker Amr Darwish interrupted a news conference featuring Sanaa Seif, Abdel Fattah’s sister, with an outburst from the crowd. “You are here summoning foreign countries to pressure Egypt,” Darwish said in Arabic, berating Seif in front of dozens of international journalists. “You are here to call for a presidential pardon for a criminal inmate.”

Darwish was escorted out by blue-shirted U.N. security personnel. “His disruption may have been an attempt to defend the government’s jailing of Abdel Fattah,” wrote my colleagues Siobhán O’Grady and Sarah Kaplan. “Instead, human rights advocates said it perfectly exemplified to a crowd of foreign observers a side of Egypt that officials here have tried to conceal from COP27 delegates.”

“This kind of intimidation and harassment is the least we have to experience. The only reason we actually had the press conference at all is because it happened in the area under U.N. control,” Hossam Bahgat, executive director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, told my colleagues. “A press conference for Sanaa Seif would have been unimaginable in Cairo or anywhere else had it not been for COP27 taking place in Egypt.”

That message was echoed by climate campaigners. “There is such an intrinsic connection between human rights and climate justice,” Jean Su, a board chair for Climate Action Network International, told The Post. “The credibility of COP27 and its outcomes will be at stake if Egypt fails to respond to the call for the release of Alaa and other prisoners of conscience.”

Allison McManus, research director at the Freedom Initiative, a human rights organization focused on the Middle East and North Africa, urged the Biden administration to hammer home the message about freeing Abdel Fattah and not otherwise enable the “greenwashing” of Egypt’s image at the climate summit.

“There is something truly perverse in Sissi’s assumption that the world would ignore Alaa’s plight because we were so impressed with Egypt’s ability to hold an international conference,” McManus said in an email statement. “As we are seeing, he grossly miscalculated: this COP will be remembered as Alaa’s COP.”

News, opinion 0 comments on ‘It’s done’: Did Liz Truss text Antony Blinken after Nord Stream attack?

‘It’s done’: Did Liz Truss text Antony Blinken after Nord Stream attack?

Former UK Prime Minister Liz Truss allegedly sent a text message saying ‘it’s done’ to the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken immediately after the Nord Stream attack, according to an online commentator.

It should be recalled Russia’s defense ministry claimed on October 29 that British navy personnel blew up the Nord Stream gas pipelines last month, a claim that London said was false and designed to distract from Russian military failures in Ukraine.

The government has been urged to open an investigation into claims former Prime Minister Liz Truss’s phone was hacked while she was foreign secretary.

Moreover, the Mail on Sunday reported private messages between Ms. Truss and foreign officials, including about the Ukraine war, fell into foreign hands. The hack was discovered during the summer Tory leadership campaign, but the news was suppressed, the paper said.


However, Kim Dotcom, a self-proclaimed ‘Internet Freedom Fighter’, claims the text message is the reason Russia believes the United Kingdom was involved in blowing up the gas pipeline.

“Liz Truss used her iPhone to send a message to Secretary Blinken saying ‘it’s done’ a minute after the pipeline blew up and before anybody else knew,” he told his nearly one million Twitter followers.

Dotcom, who was born Kim Schmitz in West Germany, suggested the data was obtained through an iCloud hack.

“It’s not just the Five Eyes that have backdoor admin access to all Big Tech databases,” he said.

“Russia and China have sophisticated cyber units too. The funny thing is Govt officials with top security clearance still prefer using iPhones over their NSA & GCHQ issued encrypted shit-phones.”

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Interviews, News, Perspectives 0 comments on Perspectives: OPEC+ and U.S.-Saudi Relations

Perspectives: OPEC+ and U.S.-Saudi Relations

A Fractious, if Enduring Partnership

Professor David Des Roches, Non-Resident Senior Fellow at Gulf International Forum and an Associate Professor at Near East South Asia Center for Strategic Studies

Like any close bilateral relationship, the U.S.-Saudi partnership has experienced peaks and troughs, and due to misperceptions on both sides, Washington and Riyadh are currently in a trough. The Biden administration believed that meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in July would wipe the slate clean and return relations to a familiar pattern, wherein the Kingdom responds favorably to American requests regarding the global oil market. The Saudis, on the other hand, seem to feel that Biden’s discussion of the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi immediately after the meeting was a breach of protocol, negating any positive effect the meeting may have had. The Biden team returned to Washington, having irritated much of their domestic base while mistakenly feeling they had improved their relationship with the Kingdom when in reality they had not.

On the other hand, the Saudis seem to have once again mistaken their demonstrable influence in American security and foreign policy circles for influence over America at large. Outside of narrow government and foreign policy elites, there is no constituency in America —outside of narrow government and foreign policy elites—that is sympathetic to Saudi Arabia. The Saudis also appear to have missed the widely held American conviction that high energy prices only bolster Vladimir Putin, and maintaining these high prices serves only to perpetuate Russia’s war in Ukraine.

The pressures of upcoming midterm elections have only exacerbated the rift between Washington and Riyadh. The upcoming vote has always looked difficult for the ruling Democratic Party—the opposition party has gained ground in every midterm election since 2006— but now price increases in that most inelastic and price-visible commodity, gasoline, have only fueled their electoral worries. Having prematurely drawn from the strategic petroleum reserve over the summer, the Biden administration appears to have no option other than to weather the storm. This is cold comfort for legislators such as Rep. Tom Malinowski, who is considered by pollsters to be the most vulnerable Democratic member of Congress and who, perhaps not entirely coincidentally, has proposed legislation aimed at curtailing U.S.-Saudi ties. More reckless legislation has been proposed in Congress by other legislators, most of whom lack Malinowski’s long commitment to human rights work, in the full knowledge that these performative acts stand little chance of passage.

When misperceptions collide, the results are rarely pretty. Both sides will feel aggrieved and may speak out against each other in less-than-diplomatic terms. Bills that restrict the United States’ relations with the Kingdom will be opposed by the administration on institutional grounds, as the executive generally resists restrictions on its conduct of foreign policy. The few Saudis who speak on behalf of the Kingdom’s leadership will continue their customary silence. Both sides recognize the strategic importance of the bilateral relationship, and both sides know that the relationship is one based on interests, not sentiment, and that the partnership must endure moments of friction and disagreement such as this.

At the same time, both sides must remain free to signal their displeasure to the other, as well as to their respective publics. The difficulty both sides face lies in announcing dissatisfaction without causing permanent damage to the relationship. It is unlikely that drastic actions that permanently alter relations will take place today; the U.S.-Saudi partnership has been carefully developed and maintained over decades, and survived extreme Congressional and bureaucratic scrutiny in the past. Observers can expect to see the suspension of high-level visits and talks, which many within the U.S. government already regard as burdensome and ineffective. Though cold winds may be blowing now, this weather will change with a new season, and the shared interests which bind the United States and the Kingdom will continue to bring the two countries together. The relationship may need calibration, but it will endure.

Little Time, Even Less Political Capital

Dr. Courtney Freer, Non-Resident Senior Fellow at Gulf International Forum and Provost’s Postdoctoral Fellow at Emory University

In light of the recent U.S.-Saudi spat over oil prices, Saudi Arabia has two paths forward. Riyadh may continue its policy of determining oil production and pricing independent of Washington, while deflecting criticism that this policy aims to influence American domestic politics, or it may side more decisively with Russia to achieve its own economic and geostrategic objectives. The problem is, however, that the trust deficit between the two countries has grown so great that either course of action is unlikely to change U.S. perceptions. Indeed, the Saudi delegation at the UN General Assembly last month voted in favor of a U.S.-drafted resolution condemning Russia’s invasion, occupation, and annexation of parts of Ukraine. Earlier this month, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman promised Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky $400 million in non-lethal humanitarian aid. In spite of these actions, seemingly calibrated toward currying favor in the United States as much as helping Ukraine, American political leaders and media institutions have continued to argue that the recent OPEC+ production cuts have imperiled the U.S.-Saudi relationship.

In an attempt to move beyond the recent impasse, the Saudi leadership could try to change the conversation about the U.S.-Saudi strategic partnership, as the bilateral relationship rests on shared strategic interests, not simply oil prices. Focusing on multilateral security cooperation in the Gulf, or attempting to mediate between Russia and Ukraine, could be useful in this regard. Thus far, however, each side seems insistent on emphasizing its right to pursue independent and self-serving foreign policies, rather than seeking a means to work through their differences.

The Twilight of American Power in the Gulf

Dr. Mohammad Alrumaihi, Former Advisor for Kuwait’s Council of Ministers and Professor at Kuwait University and Professor of Sociology at Kuwait University

The current diplomatic crisis between the United States and Saudi Arabia over the price of oil is not the first bilateral schism and will not be the last. In the 1980s, I published a volume that analyzed the politics of oil and international relations. The work discussed the relationships between oil-producing countries and British and American oil companies, with an emphasis on how interests affected the durability of these relations. Production of oil in the last century was subject to the whims of British and American oil companies. This dynamic had a significant impact on the relations between the West and non-Western oil-producing states. For instance, in the last century when Saudi Arabia requested that the Arabian American Oil Company (Aramco) reallocate oil dividends more fairly, Aramco agreed. However, when other oil producing countries made similar requests of British oil companies, they were often rejected. This deprived these fledgling states of economic resources vital to their development. In turn, oil-producing states suffered from political unrest and revolutions, and they often took the drastic step of nationalizing their oil sectors. During this era, the U.S. was at the peak of its power in the Middle East and was comfortable making concessions and reaching compromises with the states it favored. By contrast, the UK was a declining power—a fact that led to intransigence from London, which felt that it had to preserve its fleeting status through tough negotiations and stonewalling.

Today, the U.S. is acting like the UK of the 20th century. In its dealings within the Middle East, it has been stubborn, loath to compromise, and suspicious of a wider erosion of American power. The last few administrations have exhibited an increasing tendency toward obstinacy. Many internal and international developments—the rise of China, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and domestic inflation chief among them—have led to the relative decline of American power, prompting Washington’s harsh reaction to the OPEC+ oil production cuts.

It is also noteworthy that Saudi Arabia is only one of 14 countries in OPEC+. In their public statements, Saudi officials have emphasized the collective decision-making of the group and argued that Riyadh has been unfairly singled out for criticism by Washington. At the same time, the United States continues to benefit from increased natural gas exports to Europe while gas prices are at a record high, leading some U.S. partners in Europe to complain about high U.S. gas prices.

In the end, the overreaction to the OPEC+ decision is the clearest indication yet of a political bubble that has enveloped Washington. If the Biden administration views the OPEC+ production cuts as a tool to weaken the White House ahead of the midterm elections, it has sorely misjudged the situation.

What to Expect From the Re-evaluation of U.S.-Saudi Ties

Charles W. DunneNon-Resident Scholar at the Middle East Institute

Is this a crisis point in US-Saudi relations? President Joe Biden promised to review bilateral relations with the Kingdom after it recently sided with Russia within OPEC+ to restrict global oil supplies, ignoring pleas from Washington to delay the move. The Saudis, in their own passive-aggressive way, have made clear their disdain for Biden, and today appear to be drawing closer to both Russia and China. The fabric of bilateral relations between the two long-term partners has been frayed as never before. Where do the United States and Saudi Arabia go from here?

If it is to be taken seriously by Riyadh, the Biden administration must make good on its pledge to impose “consequences” for the OPEC+ decision. There are a number of levers Washington could pull to punish Saudi Arabia. Suspending all arms sales while reviewing whether these support broader U.S. regional goals, instead of simply fulfilling royal wish lists, would be one course of action. Another would be a serious, public consideration of downsizing the U.S. military and training presence in the Kingdom and transferring assets elsewhere in the region—, for example to Qatar, which already hosts the largest U.S. military base in the Middle East and was recently declared a major non-NATO ally. A third would see the United States push back more aggressively against Saudi repression at home and intimidation of dissidents abroad, both of which are affronts to international human rights standards and the Biden administration’s foreign policy goals. Such actions should be accompanied by a comprehensive review of the overall Saudi-American political-military relationship, analyzing whether it continues to serve U.S. interests to the extent it once did.

We should not expect fundamental changes to America’s relationship with the Kingdom, however. The accumulated weight of decades of U.S. acquiescence to Riyadh’s wishes, and the largely unquestioned linkage of U.S. and Saudi interests, may prove highly resistant to strategic restructuring. In spite of surface-level tensions between Washington and Riyadh, most policymakers at the State Department and the National Security Council continue to assume that Riyadh remains an indispensable bulwark of regional stability and will obligingly support the United States on the most important issues. These voices find support from the U.S. defense industry, as well as the dozens of former senior American military officials who have found lucrative employment in the service of the Kingdom. In any case, the Biden administration’s promised “review” of U.S.-Saudi relations appears to have no structure, momentum, or timetable at present, and may very well fail to get off the ground.

One thing is certain: Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is undertaking his own re-evaluation of the bilateral relationship, and he appears to be working from a different set of assumptions. Biden and his administration would do well to hasten their own review before MBS makes all the decisions for them.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Gulf International Forum.

Uncategorized 0 comments on Why the Turkish-Libyan MOU has enraged Libyans and regional countries

Why the Turkish-Libyan MOU has enraged Libyans and regional countries

On Monday, 3 October, Tripoli received a large, high-level Turkish delegation headed by Foreign Minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, and included Turkiye’s Energy, Defence and Trade ministers. In a news conference following the talks, it was announced that both sides have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on hydrocarbon between the two countries Cavusoglu described the deal as a “win-win” for both sides.

The MOU gives Ankara the right to prospect for oil and gas in Libya’s territorial waters in the Mediterranean Sea. Libya’s Foreign Minister, Najala El-Mangoush, standing next to her Turkish counterpart, Cavusoglu, explained that the MOU is not a legally binding “agreement” and can be cancelled within three months if any party decides to withdraw from it for any reason. But that has not calmed suspicious Libyans.

The very fact that such a document has been signed has ignited a fierce debate among members of the public, who took to social media to express their anger and frustration. Most people accused the Government of National Unity of selling out to Ankara and that the MOU was signed covertly, without the knowledge of Oil Minister, Mohammed Aoun, who was on a business trip in South Africa at the time. They allege that he had, on a previous occasion, refused to sign the deal, prompting Prime Minister, Abdul Hamid Dbeibeh to appoint Minister of Economics and Trade, Mohammed Al-Huweij, as acting Oil Minister specifically to sign the deal. A few days later, Al-Huweij was forced to appear on TV, defending the MOU as a non-binding document and that it did not harm Libya in any way. He called on conflicting politicians to avoid mixing the economy in their political struggles, further poisoning domestic politics. His boss, Dbeibeh, also came to his defence by claiming that the deal is within Libya’s right and that hundreds of such MOUs have been signed before to “promote cooperation with other States.”

READ: Turkiye, Libya sign agreements on hydrocarbon, gas

The government was also accused of breaking its commitment, as stated in the political agreement that brought it to power in February 2021, after the United Nations sponsored lengthy talks in Geneva. Indeed, the political roadmap was produced by Libya’s Political Dialogue Forum – a group of 75 individuals representing most factions. The roadmap bans the interim government from signing any such deals with other countries. In fact, clause 10 of article six of that document reads “during the preparatory phase, the executive authority shall not consider any new or previous agreements or decisions that harm the stability of foreign relations of the LibyanState or impose long-term obligations on it.” The idea here is to make sure that local politicians, most of whom are proxies for foreign powers, do not burden Libya with any long-term obligations until a new government is elected, that has full legitimacy and legal capacity to sign bilateral agreements with other States.

Many commentators also pointed out that the MOU is giving Ankara a favourable economic status, harming any future competition for oil exploration. Turkiye is not the best choice when it comes to oil and gas development. It is not among the world’s top oil producers which have the experience, technology and know-how in the oil industry. Other criticisms included questions about why Libya’s National Oil Corporation was not consulted before signing the deal with Ankara.

Who benefited from the Libya conference in Berlin? - Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

Who benefited from the Libya conference in Berlin? – Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

Outside Libya, the reaction to the MOU has been one of rejection and condemnation. Greece, France and Egypt have all described the deal as “illegal”. The Foreign Minister of Greece, Nikos Dendias, after urgent talks with his Egyptian counterpart, Sameh Shoukry, said the deal is “a threat to regional stability”. Athens and Ankara have, for years, been locked in dispute over who has the right to drill for oil and gas in the Eastern Mediterranean, thought to be rich in hydrocarbon. Paris, which is supporting Nicosia and Athens in their dispute with Turkiye, issued a statement on 8 October saying that the MOU “is not in accordance with international law of the sea”, reiterating its position of 2019 when Libya and Turkiye signed a maritime and security deal granting the latter the rights to explore for oil and gas in Libya’s territories, both off-shore and onshore.

The European Parliament also stepped in with a warning to Tripoli and Ankara “not to implement any clause” on hydrocarbon, including the latest bilateral agreement. It also said that the 3 October MOU “foresees illegal drilling activities in other countries’ exclusive economic zones, including those of Cyprus and Greece.” The recent controversy is rooted in another deal signed three years earlier. In 2019, Tripoli and Ankara signed maritime and security deals by which Ankara provided military support to fend off General Haftar’s attack on Tripoli. In June 2020, Haftar was defeated, thanks to Turkish military assistance. That deal, signed by Tripoli’s then Government of National Accord, gave Ankara the right to establish military bases in western Libya. Thousands of Syrian mercenaries and hundreds of Turkish troops are still in Libya, despite domestic and international calls, including from the United Nations, to remove all foreign troops from Libya as a way to help national reconciliation that, hopefully, will lead to elections. But this has never happened. The UN estimated that some 20,000 foreign troops and fighters, including Russian mercenaries, are still on Libyan soil.

OPINION: Why Africa needs Turkish drones

Dbeibeh, Libya’s current interim Prime Minister, has been accused of being loyal to Turkiye, counting on its military and political assistance to stay in power, despite the fact that he was dismissed by the Parliament and replaced by Fathi Bashaga last February. He has, repeatedly, vowed not to hand over power except to a newly elected government. There is very little prospect that such elections will take place any time soon, after the 24 December, 2021 polls were shelved, without any new date announced.

Turkiye is keen to maintain and implement any deals made with Libya, given its potential. The country is rich in oil and gas, has great potential for other minerals and is strategically located on the southern Mediterranean banks, with a very long coastline and a large Exclusive Economic Zone – far bigger than Turkiye’s. In fact, Ankara will never relinquish its influence in Libya where it is already enjoying considerable clout, thereby making it a major player in deciding Libya’s future course.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.


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