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The new Libyan government

Giancarlo Elia Valori

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The newly-established Libyan government is the result of an extremely complex political process. Not even the new government led by Faiez Al-Serraj shows signs of simplifying the political framework in Libya, following the unreasonable murder of Muammar Al Minyar El Gaddafi.

Obviously the cables collected by WikiLeaks have shown us what we already knew, namely that the advent of “democracy” in Libya was a forerunner of the more profitable entry of Total, in place of the de facto monopolist ENI, to process the abundant and valuable Libyan oil.

However, former President Sarkozy’s request regarded 32% of Libya’s crude oil, much less than the 43% the Italian company ENI processed every year.

Hence the implosion of a country with 140 tribal networks, as well as of the 20 major tribes – one of the easiest geopolitical predictions to be made – not to mention the strong interest of Egypt, which sends manpower to work in Libyan wells.

And not to mention Tunisia, which is deeply concerned about the presence on its own territory of the jihadist group Ansar al Sharia, the section of the terrorist group bearing the same name in Libya and first economic partner of Gaddafi’s Libya, which now hosts over one million refugees from jihadist and tribal post-Gaddafi wars (out of a Libyan population of nearly six million people).

Algeria is especially worried about the use of the Fezzan region as a base for Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, the spearhead of the whole Algerian radical Islamism.

Furthermore Prime Minister Al-Serraj is the same that Bernardino Leon, UN representative and Head of UNSMIL, appointed on October 9, 2015, shortly before being ousted because of the serious conflict of interest regarding this Spanish diplomat.

Following his appointment as Head of UNSMIL, Leon was said to have been paid a salary of $ 50,000 per month in the Academy for the training of diplomats organized by the United Arab Emirates. He was negotiating it while he led the UN agency for Libya.

Incidentally, the Spanish diplomat to the UN had soon endeavored to reach a solution “excluding Tripoli’s government” – a government which, in fact, is strongly opposed by the United Arab Emirates which, however, during Leon’s “mediation” decided to bomb Tripoli’s government.

But which is the complexion of Al-Serraj’s new government and what do the 32 appointments, including 4 deputy-Prime Ministers, mean?

Let us analyze them carefully.

Seven of the nine members of the Presidential Council, however, voted in favour of the government team and the two votes against it were Ali Gatrani’s and Omar Al-Aswad’s.

Gatrani is a man of Khalifa Haftar, the Head of the military campaign dubbed “Operation Dignity”, who is not liked by Tripoli’s government and hence has been sidelined.

Surely 32 Ministers for a country of six million inhabitants seem a bit too many, but it is obvious that many clan, tribe and party appetites had to be satisfied – not to mention the Ministers overtly being the point of reference of a foreign country or the other.

Hence the consideration made by some French analysts, whereby this unity government will de facto lead to three separate governments, is somehow grounded.

Meanwhile, Daesh/Isis is producing propaganda material asking Tunisian, Egyptian and Algerian jihadists to migrate as soon as possible to Libya, with the oil sites of Ras Lanuf and Sitra conquered and then lost by Islamic terrorists, with the subsequent Isis attack on a Turkish oil base in Maradah.

Omar Al-Aswad, the other member of Libya’s Presidential Council, did not vote in favor of the government for several reasons. In Aswad’s opinion, the new government is based not on competence but on cronyism – in addition to the fact that the number of Ministers was initially envisaged to be 10, then 24, and finally rose to 32 after a hard and exhausting night meeting in which neither Gatrani nor Aswad were present.

The latter has specifically criticized the appointment, as Minister for Foreign Affairs, of Marwan Ali Abu Sraiweil, former Head of the Social Affairs Department of that same Ministry (which is different from the Ministry for International Cooperation and for Arab and African relations).

The Minister for Internal Affairs, Al-Aref Al Khuja, the powerful police officer of Tripoli’s government, will probably be the strong man of this new regime, if he survives the specific and precise calculations of the two factions of Tobruk and Tripoli, wanted by UNSMIL and harbinger of an institutional block or of a government which will only be busy with its internal power struggles.

It is worth recalling that Aref had already been an adviser to his government in 2003, as well as Minister for Internal Affairs in the short-lived government of Ahmed Maiteegh.

Hence the laws drafted by Machiavelli in his book “The Prince” apply also to the North African territory.

The Defense Minister, Mahdi Al Barghati, was the Commander of the 204 Brigade, one of the major forces that fought against the jihadists in Benghazi, and escaped an assassination attempt on November last.

The Justice Minister is Abdelsalam Al-Jnaidi, a lawyer from Sebha, Southern Libya.

There are only two women in this government, namely the Labour Minister, Fahdi Al-Shafei, coming from Uwainat, Southwestern Libya, and the Culture Minister, Asma al-Ustra, a writer, journalist and university Professor from Tripoli.

The oil Minister is Abdessadeq Khalifa, a man who, as the Defense Minister, comes from the government of Tobruk.

Hence true or alleged asymmetry between the two constituent factions; excessive organizational complexity of the new government; statements made against Al-Serraj’s government by the authorities of either previous government; difficult resolution, if any, of the division between the financial foundations which managed Gaddafi’s liquidity and his investment.

Once again Machiavelli’s lessons, whereby discord “destroys the wealth and the strength of Principalities”, hold true also in the Islamic region.

Advisory Board Co-chair Honoris Causa Professor Giancarlo Elia Valori is an eminent Italian economist and businessman. He holds prestigious academic distinctions and national orders. Mr. Valori has lectured on international affairs and economics at the world’s leading universities such as Peking University, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Yeshiva University in New York. He currently chairs “International World Group”, he is also the honorary president of Huawei Italy, economic adviser to the Chinese giant HNA Group. In 1992 he was appointed Officier de la Légion d’Honneur de la République Francaise, with this motivation: “A man who can see across borders to understand the world” and in 2002 he received the title “Honorable” of the Académie des Sciences de l’Institut de France. “

Middle East

Israeli contrasts: Likud’s favoured soccer teams veers left as Bibi turns further right

Dr. James M. Dorsey

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The contrast could not be starker. As Israel plays a dangerous game of US politics by restricting or banning visits by controversial Democratic members of Congress to seemingly please President Donald J. Trump’s prejudiced electoral instincts, the owner of a notorious Jerusalem soccer club draws a line in the sand in confronting his racist fan base.

The contrast takes on added significance as prime minister Benyamin Netanyahu woes Israel’s far-right in advance of elections on September 17 given that storied club Beitar Jerusalem has long been seen as a stronghold for his Likud party.

Mr. Netanyahu’s barring of Congresswomen Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar was as much a response to Mr. Trump’s tweeted suggestion that they should not be allowed to visit Israel as it was catering to his right-wing base that includes Beitar’s fans.

Beitar is the only Israeli squad to have never hired a Palestinian player. Its fans, famous for their racist slogans and bullying tactics, have made life impossible for the few Muslim players that the club contracted in its history.

Messrs. Netanyahu and Moshe Hogeg, the Beitar owner and tech entrepreneur who founded social mobile photo and video sharing website Mobli and crypto transactions platform Sirin Labs, are both treading on slippery ground.

Mr. Netanyahu, who initially raised out of respect for the US Congress no objection to the planned visit by Ms. Tlaib and Ms. Omar, has ensured that Israel for the first time in decades can no longer be sure of bi-partisan support in the Congress and beyond and is likely to become a partisan issue in the run-up to next year’s US presidential election.

His pandering to Mr. Trump sparked rare criticism from the American Israel Political Action Committee (AIPAC), Israel’s most powerful and influential lobby in the United States even though AIPAC agrees that Ms. Tlaib and Ms. Ilham support the Boycott, Diversification and Sanctions (BDS) movement that targets Israel.

“We disagree with Reps. Omar and Tlaib’s support for the anti-Israel and anti-peace BDS movement, along with Rep. Tlaib’s calls for a one-state solution. We also believe every member of Congress should be able to visit and experience our democratic ally Israel first hand,” AIPAC tweeted.

A breakdown of bi-partisan support for Israel may not be what Mr. Netanyahu wants, but it may be, in a twist of irony, what Israel needs. It would spark a debate in the United States with a potential fallout in Israel about whether Mr. Netanyahu’s annexationist policy and hard-line approach towards Palestinian aspirations serves Israel’s longer-term best interests.

Israel’s toughening stand was evident on Tuesday when police broke up an annual soccer tournament among Palestinian families in East Jerusalem on assertions that it was sponsored by the Palestinian Authority, which is barred from organizing events in the city. The tournament’s organizer denied any association with the Authority.

In a dismissive statement, Israeli public security minister Gilad Erdan’s office scoffed: “We’re talking about scofflaws who lie and blame the agency that enforces the law when they know full well that the Palestinian Authority is involved in the event that Minister Erdan ordered halted.”

The incident was emblematic of an environment that prompted columnist and scholar Peter Beinart, writing in The Forward, a more than 100-year old, left-wing Jewish weekly, to argue that “the United States has a national interest in ensuring that Israel does not make permanent its brutal occupation of the West Bank and blockade of the Gaza Strip.

By taking on La Familia, a militant Beitar Jerusalem fan group that has driven the club’s discriminatory policy, Mr. Hogeg is going not only against Mr. Netanyahu’s policies that emphasize Israeli Jewish nationalism at the expense of the rights of Palestinians with Israeli citizenship as well as those subject to occupation.

He is also challenging a global trend spearheaded by civilizational leaders like Indian prime minister Narendra Modi who, two weeks after depriving Kashmiri Muslims of their autonomy, is planning to build detention camps for millions of predominantly Muslim Indians suspected of being foreign migrants, Victor Orban who envisions a Muslim-free Hungary, and Xi Jinping who has launched in China’s troubled, north-western province of Xinjiang the most frontal assault on Islam in recent history

The degree of polarization and alienation that civilizational policies like those of Messrs Netanyahu, Modi, Xi and Orban is highlighted by the fact that Mr. Hogeg’s battle with his fans is over a name.

Ali Mohammed is Beitar Jerusalem’s latest acquisition. The only Muslim thing about him is his name. Mr. Mohammed is a Nigerian Christian.

That wasn’t good enough for the fans who demand that he change his name. During Mr. Mohammed’s first training session fans chanted “Mohamed is dead” and “Ali is dead.”

Unlike his predecessors, Mr. Hogeg seems unwilling to back down. He has threatened to sue the fans for tarnishing Beitar’s already battered reputation and demand up to US$500,000 in damages. Lawyers for Mr. Hogeg have written to fans demanding an apology.

“They are very good fans; they are very loyal. They love the club and what it represents … but they’re racist and that’s a big problem,” Mr. Hogeg said.

Convinced that the militants are a minority that imposes its will on the majority of Beitar fans, Mr. Hogeg takes the high road at a time that the likes of him threaten to become an endangered species.

“I was surprised to find that Mohamed is not Muslim, but I don’t care. Why should it matter? He’s a very good player. As long as the player that comes respects the city, respects what he represents, respects Israel, can help the team and wants to play then the door will be open. If those radical fans will fight against it, they will lose. They will simply lose,” Mr. Hogeg said.

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Middle East

“Today Saudi Arabia finally lost the war on Yemen.”

Eric Zuesse

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On August 17th, an anonymous German intelligence analyst who has perhaps the world’s best track-record of publicly identifying and announcing historical turning-points, and who is therefore also a great investigative journalist regarding international relations (especially military matters, which are his specialty) headlined at his “Moon of Alabama” blog, “Long Range Attack On Saudi Oil Field Ends War On Yemen”, and he opened:

Today Saudi Arabia finally lost the war on Yemen. It has no defenses against new weapons the Houthis in Yemen acquired. These weapons threaten the Saudis economic lifelines. This today was the decisive attack:

Drones launched by Yemen’s Houthi rebels attacked a massive oil and gas field deep inside Saudi Arabia’s sprawling desert on Saturday, causing what the kingdom described as a “limited fire” in the second such recent attack on its crucial energy industry.  …

The Saudi acknowledgement of the attack came hours after Yahia Sarie, a military spokesman for the Houthis, issued a video statement claiming the rebels launched 10 bomb-laden drones targeting the field in their “biggest-ever” operation. He threatened more attacks would be coming. 

New drones and missiles displayed in July 2019 by Yemen’s Houthi-allied armed forces

Today’s attack is a check-mate move against the Saudis. Shaybah is some 1,200 kilometers (750 miles) from Houthi-controlled territory. There are many more important economic targets within that range.  …

The attack conclusively demonstrates that the most important assets of the Saudis are now under threat. This economic threat comes on top of a seven percent budget deficit the IMF predicts for Saudi Arabia. Further Saudi bombing against the Houthi will now have very significant additional cost that might even endanger the viability of the Saudi state. The Houthi have clown prince Mohammad bin Salman by the balls and can squeeze those at will.

He went on to say that the drones aren’t from Iran but are copies from Iran’s, “assembled in Yemen with the help of Hizbullah experts from Lebanon.”

He has been predicting for a long time that this war couldn’t be won by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman al-Saud (MbS). In the present report, he says:

The war on Yemen that MbS started in March 2015 long proved to be unwinnable. Now it is definitely lost. Neither the U.S. nor the Europeans will come to the Saudis help. There are no technological means to reasonably protect against such attacks. Poor Yemen defeated rich Saudi Arabia.

The Saudi side will have to agree to political peace negotiations. The Yemeni demand for reparation payments will be eye watering. But the Saudis will have no alternative but to cough up whatever the Houthi demand.

The UAE was smart to pull out of Yemen during the last months.

If he is correct (and I have never yet found a prediction from him turn out to have been wrong), then this will be an enormous blow to the foreign markets for U.S.-made weapons, since the Sauds are the world’s largest foreign purchasers of those, and have spent profusely on them — and also on U.S. personnel to train their soldiers how to use them. So (and this is my prediction, not his), August 19th might be a good time to sell short U.S. armament-makers such as Lockheed Martin.

However: his prediction that “the Saudis will have no alternative but to cough up whatever the Houthi demand” seems to me to be the first one from him that could turn out to have been wrong. If the Sauds have perpetrated, say, $200 billion of physical damage to Yemen, but refuse to pay more than $100 billion in reparations, and the Housis then hit and take out a major Saudi oil well, isn’t it possible that the Sauds would stand firm? But if they do, then mightn’t it be wrong to say, at the present time, that: “Today Saudi Arabia finally lost the war on Yemen.”? He has gone out on limbs before, and I can’t yet think of any that broke under him. Maybe this one will be the first? I wouldn’t bet on that. But this one seems to me to be a particularly long limb. We’ll see!

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Middle East

The message behind the release of Iranian oil tanker

Mohammad Ghaderi

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The Gibraltar court ordered the Iranian oil tanker Grace 1 to be released. The tanker was seized by the British Royal Marines about a month ago. 

This verdict was the ending of an elaborate game designed by John Bolton National Security Advisor of the United States and Mike Pompeo, carried out by the Britain government. 

With seizing the tanker, Bolton was trying to put psychological and political pressures on Iran and force other countries to form a consensus against Iran, but he couldn’t fulfill any of these goals. 

Iran’s firm, logical and wise answer to the seizure of Grace 1 (like making solid legal arguments) and the seriousness of our country’s armed forces in giving a proper response to Britain’s contemptuous act, made the White House lose the lead on reaching its ends. 

Washington imagined that the seizure of Grace 1 will become Trump’s winning card against Iran, but the release of the tanker (despite disagreement of the U.S.) became another failure for the White House in dealing with Iran.  

Obviously, London was also a total loser in this game. It is worth noting that U.S. was so persistent about keeping the oil tanker in custody that John Bolton traveled to London and insisted on British officials to continue the seizure of the ship. Their failure, however, clearly shows that the White House and its traditional ally, Britain, have lost a big part of their power in their relations with Iran. 

Clearly, the illegal seizure of the Iranian oil tanker by Britain proceeded by the seizure of a British tanker by Iran and the following interactions between the two countries is not the whole story and there is more to it that will be revealed in coming days. 

What we know for sure is that London has to pay for its recent anti-Iran plot in order to satisfy Washington; the smallest of these consequences was that Britain lost some of its legal credibility in international arena as it illegally captured an Iranian oil tanker. 

The order of the Gibraltarian court revealed that London had no legal right to seize the Iranian oil tanker and nobody can defend this unlawful action. Surely, Iran will take all necessary legal actions to further pursue the matter.  

In this situation, the Islamic Republic of Iran is firm on its position that it doesn’t have to follow the sanctions imposed by the European Union on other countries (including Syria). 

No entity can undermine this argument as it is based on legal terms; therefore, Iran will keep supporting Syrian nation and government to fight terrorism. This is the strategic policy of the Islamic Republic and will not be changed under the pressure or influence of any other third country. 

Finally, it should be noted that the release of Grace 1 oil tanker was not only a legal and political failure for Washington and London and their allies but it was also a strategic failure. Undoubtedly, the vast consequences of this failure will be revealed in near future. 

From our partner Tehran Times

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