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Surge of Russian influence in Middle East at US expense

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[yt_dropcap type=”square” font=”” size=”14″ color=”#000″ background=”#fff” ] A [/yt_dropcap] merican efforts to support the opposition by arming them directly and through Arab nations have brought Russian forces there and now Russia is firmly footed in Syria, influencing Arab nations and Israel. With which it coordinates certain terror operations.

Syria is unofficially divided and destabilized, thousands of Muslims have been murdered by all “stake holders” in Syria, both Muslim and non-Muslim as well as anti-Muslim forces – objective of global anti-Islamism and Islamophobia.

Fall of Aleppo

Shift in Russian policy for West Asia by joining the fighting foreign forces led by USA, destabilizing Sunni Syria misruled by a Shiite president, has worked miracles for president Putin as Russia is seen as a formidable force in the world to take on US militarism..

Syrian Aleppo has finally fallen to Russian forces favoring President Assad.

As Aleppo rebels are defeated in an asymmetric fight, and UN and Western leaders prove unable to protect civilians from what they expect to be retribution by the regime, comparisons abound to the Russian pounding of the Chechen capital, Grozny, in the 1990s, and the Serbs’ slaughter of 8,000 Muslim men in Srebrenica, Bosnia, in 1995.

Russian intervention in Syrian war has now almost ensured, thanks to president Putin’s firm commitment to dictatorial dynastic misrule of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad that he can just enjoy his remaining life without even holding any referendum, let alone elections, to continue his misrule and claim legitimacy for presidency for the rest of his life.

Apparently, for the Arab nations and Iran, fear of America would soon be the fact of the past as the ongoing Russian war maneuverings in Syria targeting Muslims in the Arab nation may have impressed the rulers in the region as well as Israel and, more importantly, Russian effort is helping Assad stay in power against the will of the world’s super power USA. Having complicated the conflictual situation in Syria, Americans do not seem to have clues to end the war and possibly looking to the Kremlin to find some solution, even if not a long term one.

Ending wars of course is not the US idea.

Syrian leader Assad’s key allies Russia and Iran could claim that the victory over rebels in Syria’s second city Aleppo advances their standing in the region in the globally.

The bombardment of rebel-held east Aleppo by Russian forces, the Syrian army, and Iran-led militias has been unprecedented in its intensity, even by the standards of Syria’s brutal six-year civil war. The blitz has also been effective at removing rebels – some of them backed by the USA, others Islamic jihadists ¬– from their most significant urban stronghold in Syria.

Russia dramatically stepped up its intervention in September last year, its first projection of hard power beyond former Soviet borders in decades, reportedly at Iran’s request. Soon after, Obama said “it just won’t work,” and predicted that Moscow would get stuck in a “quagmire.”

President Putin, however, has pointed to Western failures in Syria, and last week told the NTV channel that “the world balance is gradually being restored. The attempts to create a unipolar world failed.”

So Russia seems to have outsmarted its arch rival USA in Syrian war but with no quick end to the conflict, they are likely to push for a political solution if they sincerely seek peace in West Asia.

With Russia maintaining upper handling war operations in Syria, Arab nations could now rely on Russian terror goods instead of depending on costly US weaponry.

Iran’s challenges

For Iran, that means expanding the influence of its “axis of resistance” against the USA, Israel, and their allies. For Russia, it marks a critical step toward restoring past influence, even as American power projection and willingness to engage in the Middle East declines. “This is what really matters to Iran and Russia, that the political, geo-strategic project of the anti-Assad and anti-Iranian position has failed, and it has been buried in the Aleppo rubble,” says a Middle East expert at the London School of Economics who has studied the history of ISIS. “Syria really could be a signpost for the emergence of a new international system.”

Iran has supported Assad from the start with advisers – losing numerous high-ranking officers along the way – and mobilized the Lebanese Shiite Hezbollah. It has also marshaled thousands of Shiite militiamen from Iraq, Afghanistan, and even Pakistan to fight in Syria.

Few predict that the departure of rebel forces from Aleppo means the end of the Syrian war, which will continue as a guerrilla fight on many other fronts. And analysts say there are limiting factors to the current ascending influence of Iran and Russia. The brief cease-fire that fell apart did so amid wrangling between Russia and Iran about how and whether rebel fighters – all of them considered “terrorists” by pro-Assad forces – and tens of thousands of trapped civilians could be evacuated from the remaining sliver of ground they control.

The Assad “victory” in Aleppo has also been dented by Islamic State (IS) fighters’ recent recapture of Palmyra, the ancient city held and damaged by IS earlier in the war that was reclaimed by Assad forces with great fanfare last spring. “There was big hope that this victory in Aleppo would shatter the morale of the Syrian opposition, and it would begin to crack, and there would be serious defections,” says a defense columnist for Novaya Gazeta in Moscow.

Iran faces its own challenges, not least because of uncertainty about how a new government under President Donald Trump may improve ties with Russia at Iran’s expense. So it, too, is inclined to seek a political solution. The perception in Tehran is there is no military ending in Syria.

In other words, since Assad has won the nasty battle and would stay forever, it is a good time to go for a negotiated solution, because from a position of strength it is easier to convince Assad to give concessions, rather than a position of weakness. Some conservative factions in Iran revel in the Aleppo victory of “resistance,” that view “is not going to be shared universally. Iranian forces are also overstretched. We know there is no light at the end of the tunnel. “Any tactical closeness of Russia and the US may hurt Iran, and so their preference would be to quickly turn that victory into a negotiated solution.

That is to say if USA, Russia and Syria think seriously about   ending war and rebuild the economy of Syria and strengthen Mideastern politics and economy.

Unfinished task?

However, even after seizing all of Aleppo, Assad still controls only one-third of the country. Russia and Iran therefore see the war in Syria as continuing, and are likely to press for a political solution to the conflict.

President Assad is celebrating his most significant battlefield victory so far, even though Iran-Russia squabbling interrupted what was supposed to be a final cease-fire, and images showed block after block of pulverized neighborhoods – punctuated by terrified citizens’ please on social media “save Aleppo.”

Assad told Russian television that liberating Aleppo doesn’t end with liberating the city itself, it needs to be secured on the outside. The next target, he said, “depends on which city contains the largest number of terrorists.” But the strategic reverberations of Aleppo’s fall reach far beyond Syria’s second city and signify a retooling of power dynamics in the Middle East.

It is here that Russia and Iran invested military power and orchestrated an outcome they desired, preserving the Assad regime and preventing a takeover by USA or ISIS and even greater chaos. At the same time, they defeated the half-hearted effort pursued by anti-Islamic USA and its allies Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar to remove Assad by backing rebel groups.

There was a triumphant tone in Iran, as well. “Resistance paid off; the horns of America and House of Saud broken,” ran one headline in the hard-line Kayhan newspaper. “The liberation of Aleppo is the defeat of all political, military and arrogant powers in one spot of the Muslim world, where the flag of resistance has been hoisted,” declared Brig. Gen. Hossein Salami, the deputy commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard.

The human cost continues to grow, with the fight for Aleppo and its years of regime barrel bombing in the city contributing heavily to the war’s death toll of some 470,000. Among reports of atrocities on both sides, the UN said that 82 civilians had been killed by pro-Assad troops as well. Heavy shelling of the city resumed with the collapse of a Russia-announced deal for the departure of rebel fighters. n“For Aleppo they gathered everything they could. Hezbollah brought in two fresh brigades.… The Russians organized a Grozny-type very heavy barrage that worked. But at the same time, the Syrian second-rate infantry was overrun in Palmyra, caches of weapons were seized, intervened in the morale-crushing effect of Aleppo.

Yet as Russia stepped up its intervention in Syria, the quagmire scenario grows, along with the risks. Russia waited a bit to launch the final hit on Aleppo. An official from the Kremlin had explained in May that it will be a bloodbath in Aleppo and Russia had to make a serious political decision. As the extent of that bloodbath sinks into the Sunni Muslim world, there can also be repercussions over murdering Sunnis in Syria. There is none indeed to shed tears over the genocides of Muslims anywhere in the world, including Syria or Turkey or Saudi Arabia. Millions have been slaughtered by fascist forces led by USA and EU and supported by Israel and its state terror ally India.

Another limit may be the cost for Russia, which one general recently said has shipped 700,000 tons of terror goods like military equipment and weaponry to Syria via the Bosporus waterway in Turkey. The problem is how long Russia can maintain such a policy, when it runs out of resources with Western sanctions remain in place and notwithstanding Russian efforts to end or at least ease they refuse to end the economic punishment of the Kremlin. And that is a serious burden on the Russian navy and the Russian budget. There is also the problem of Russian morale here just of American prestige.

Russia’s experience in other conflicts, therefore, is behind its push for a political settlement.

The Syrian army is thinly spread and dispersed in many areas. Assad can never impose his centralized control on all of Syria anymore. In fact, what we see today as a significant military gain for Assad, could, experts say, easily mutate in a year or so into Afghanistan of the 1990s. And Russia knows this.

Without a political settlement, Syria will remain a battlefield for many years to come.

What is Russia’s goal in Syria?

Hard pressed by its economic sanctions, Russia with its intervention in Syria has clearly challenged the imperialist unilateralism, any way and under President Trump no more such military misadventures could be expected. President Obama made a decision not to involve, not to entangle, not to invest major political and military capital in the Middle East. “It’s not the lack of capability; it’s the lack of will”. The frequent WH statements about ending US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and no desire to start new ones is encouraging. In contrast, Russian President Vladimir Putin has made a strategic investment, and so far the returns are excellent.

A year ago the Kremlin appeared to be stepping up its role in the Syrian crisis, possibly laying the groundwork for a new strategy against ISIS in the region. In order to achieve meaningful results on the ground, Russia would need to send thousands of well-trained troops to Syria as well as a significant amount of military equipment. Presently there are well less than one thousand of Russian personnel operating in the country, and judging by recent images of Russian landing ships crossing the Bosphorus, trucks and armored personnel carriers. The news of Russian troops appearing across Syria has appeared in numerous media outlets around the world in recent days.

The financial burden of engaging in fighting in order to help Assad’s army regain ground without any guarantee would be extremely heavy on the Russian budget. Some suggested that just as in previous years, Russian specialists are merely training Syrian President Assad’s army to use Russian equipment that Moscow keeps sending to Syria, while others went as far as to suggest that newly-arrived Russians are fighting on the front lines alongside the Syrian army.

Only a few months ago, reports suggested that Russia could have been changing its Syria strategy and might abandon Assad. Russia even withdrew its diplomatic staff from Damascus and stopped honoring its agreement with Syria to maintain Russian-made fighter jets. But now there is no denial that in recent months Russia has slightly intensified arms deliveries to the Assad government. In fact, the latest data shows that in the first 8 months of 2015 Russian southbound landing crafts passed the Bosphorus 39 times, compared to 36 times in the same period of 2014.

After Ukraine, Moscow can’t afford another major deployment of troops, both financially and politically especially with western sanctions in place. Moscow knows the price of such a policy all too well. The US reaction to initial reports of Russia boosting its presence in Syria was quite harsh. White House spokesman Josh Earnest suggested that Russia’s involvement would lead to an escalation in the conflict and even to direct confrontation with the coalition taking on the Islamic State of Iraq and the Greater Syria (ISIS). Direct involvement in this crisis is also risky due to Western sanctions that theoretically could be toughened over Syria.

Russia and Syria reactivated the 1980 “friendship” treaty that sees Moscow taking over the Latakia air base. Russia has reportedly delivered its newest BTR-82A armored personnel carriers (APCs), Ural trucks and shipments of firearms to the Syrian government. It has also allegedly started assembling prefabricated buildings for 1,000 military specialists in Latakia to establish a broad anti-ISIS coalition. Russia has been continuously delivering cargo to Syria, both humanitarian and military. As well, Russia could be setting up a mobile air traffic control unit.

Are Russian forces really fighting for Assad? Vladimir Putin’s intentions with regards to Syria are both domestic and foreign, particularly . Despite reports claiming that Russian troops were seen taking part in action in Syria, engaging in direct fighting is off the table for the Kremlin, at least for now. Probably the most important reason why Russia would think twice before sending its troops into battle in Syria is that it would certainly be used for PR purposes in Russia’s North Caucasus by ISIS to recruit new Russian-speaking fighters. But it would be even more detrimental to the Kremlin if ISIS captured a Russian soldier in Syria whose brutal execution would set large groups of Russians against the Kremlin’s irresponsible strategy.

The Russian Foreign Ministry confirmed that Moscow continues to provide military equipment per previously signed contracts; in addition, Moscow continues to send Russian military specialists to train the Syrian army to use this equipment. Some reports suggest that most equipment that Russia delivers to Syria these days is intended for the military base in Latakia.

Observations

By increasing its military presence in Syria, Russia may also be raising the ante in the ongoing negotiating process with the Assad government. So much so, now Western governments would have to deal with Russia instead of Assad regarding Syrian future or military deals. .

The big question now is whether the USA under Trump will continue to push Europe to hold Russia accountable — something that is currently in doubt, given President-elect Donald Trump’s open admiration for Russian President Vladimir Putin and his selection of Russia-friendly Exxon Mobil boss Rex Tillerson for very important post of secretary of state. President-elect Donald Trump’s Russian sympathies have raised the possibility of a shift in US foreign policy vis-a-vis Moscow.

The devastation in Aleppo and the rollover of sanctions against Russia was part of the EU summit agenda on December 15.   While the summit ultimately sent a strong message to Moscow about the EU’s willingness to extend sanctions and support Ukraine, in reality EU foreign policy towards Russia is predicated on what happens next in terms of US foreign policy and the ongoing political maneuverings in Syria. European Union leaders recently decided in Brussels to extend sanctions against Russia until July –sanctions that were imposed after the annexation of Crimea in the spring of 2014

The moot question is will the anti-Islamic nations , condign Arab countries, leave Syria even without going for the rebuild costly operations from Syrian resources by dividing the construction-destruction works   among all of them, and China and Israel- the anti-Islamic nations waiting for orders?

Clearly Russia has firmly stay put in West Asia including Mideast and the Sunni Gulf states are already singing military deals with Moscow, pushing the US super power, the traditional shareholder in the region, to sideways.

Russia’s expanded role in Syria is yielding some benefits. Moscow is being courted by Persian Gulf countries like Saudi Arabia, and is rebuilding ties with Turkey and Egypt – all of them traditional US allies. Palestinian leaders have also requested Putin’s help in convincing arrogant Israeli PM B. Netanyahu to resume peace talks – a role long played by Washington. Israel just wants bogus talks and it abruptly cancels by putting conditions, difficult for the Palestinians to accept. .

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The Muslim world’s changing dynamics: Pakistan struggles to retain its footing

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Increasing strains between Pakistan and its traditional Arab allies, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, is about more than Gulf states opportunistically targeting India’s far more lucrative market.

At the heart of the tensions, that potentially complicate Pakistan’s economic recovery, is also India’s ability to enhance Gulf states’ capacity to hedge their bets amid uncertainty about the continued US commitment to regional security.

India is a key member of the Quad that also includes the United States, Australia and Japan and could play a role in a future more multilateral regional security architecture in the Gulf.

Designed as the backbone of an Indo-Pacific strategy intended to counter China across a swath of maritime Asia, Gulf states are unlikely to pick sides but remain keen on ensuring that they maintain close ties with both sides of the widening divide.

The mounting strains with Pakistan are also the latest iteration of a global battle for Muslim religious soft power that pits Saudi Arabia and the UAE against Turkey, Iran, and Asian players like Indonesia’s Nahdlatul Ulama, the world’s largest Islamic movement.

A combination of geo- and domestic politics is complicating efforts by major Muslim-majority states in Asia to walk a middle line. Pakistan, home to the world’s largest Shiite Muslim minority, has reached out to Turkey while seeking to balance relations with its neighbour, Iran.

The pressure on Pakistan is multi-fold.

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan charged recently that the United States and one other unidentified country were pressing him to establish diplomatic relations with Israel.

Pakistani and Israeli media named Saudi Arabia as the unidentified country. Representing the world’s second most populous Muslim nation, Pakistani recognition, following in the footsteps of the UAE and Bahrain, would be significant.

Pakistan twice in the last year signalled a widening rift with the kingdom.

Mr. Khan had planned to participate a year ago in an Islamic summit hosted by Malaysia and attended by Saudi Arabia’s detractors, Turkey, Iran and Qatar, but not the kingdom and a majority of Muslim states. The Pakistani prime minister cancelled his participation at the last moment under Saudi pressure.

More recently, Pakistan again challenged Saudi leadership of the Muslim world when Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi complained about lack of support of the Saudi-dominated Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) for Pakistan in its conflict with India over Kashmir. The OIC groups the world’s 57 Muslim-majority nations. Mr. Qureshi suggested that his country would seek to rally support beyond the realm of the kingdom.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, on a visit to Pakistan earlier this year, made a point of repeatedly reiterating his country’s support for Pakistan in the Kashmir dispute.

By openly challenging the kingdom, Mr. Qureshi was hitting Saudi Arabia where it hurts most as it seeks to repair its image tarnished by allegations of abuse of human rights, manoeuvres to get off on the right foot with incoming US President-elect Joe Biden’s administration, and fends off challenges to its leadership of the Muslim world.

Pakistan has not helped itself by recently failing to ensure that it would be removed from the grey list of the Financial Action Task Force, an international anti-money laundering and terrorism finance watchdog, despite progress in the country’s legal infrastructure and enforcement.

Grey listing causes reputational damage and makes foreign investors and international banks more cautious in their dealings with countries that have not been granted a clean bill of health.

Responding to Mr. Qureshi’s challenge, Saudi Arabia demanded that Pakistan repay a US$1 billion loan extended to help the South Asian nation ease its financial crisis. The kingdom has also dragged its feet on renewing a US$3.2 billion oil credit facility that expired in May.

In what Pakistan will interpret as UAE support for Saudi Arabia, the Emirates last week included Pakistan on its version of US President Donald J. Trump’s Muslim travel ban.

Inclusion on the list of 13 Muslim countries whose nationals will no longer be issued visas for travel to the UAE increases pressure on Pakistan, which relies heavily on exporting labour to generate remittances and alleviate unemployment.

Some Pakistanis fear that a potential improvement in Saudi-Turkish relations could see their country fall through geopolitical cracks.

In the first face-to-face meeting between senior Saudi and Turkish officials since the October 2018 killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul, the two countries’ foreign ministers, Prince Faisal bin Farhan and Mevlut Cavusoglu, held bilateral talks this weekend, on the sidelines of an OIC conference in the African state of Niger.

“A strong Turkey-Saudi partnership benefits not only our countries but the whole region,” Mr. Cavusoglu tweeted after the meeting.

The meeting came days after Saudi King Salman telephoned Mr. Erdogan on the eve of a virtual summit hosted by the kingdom of the Group of 20 (G20) that brings together the world’s largest economies.

“The Muslim world is changing and alliances are shifting and entering new, unchartered territories,” said analyst Sahar Khan.

Added Imtiaz Ali, another analyst: “In the short term, Riyadh will continue exploiting Islamabad’s economic vulnerabilities… But in the longer term, Riyadh cannot ignore the rise of India in the region, and the two countries may become close allies – something that will mostly likely increase the strain on Pakistan-Saudi relations.”

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Assassination of top Iranian Nuclear Scientist: A big Tragedy

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Image source: Wikipedia

On the sad incident of the assassination of a top Iranian nuclear scientist, the UN spokesman said, “We urge restraint and the need to avoid any actions that could lead to an escalation of tensions in the region.” Turkey termed the assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh as an ‘act of terrorism’ while the EU calls it ‘criminal’ and urges ‘maximum restraint.’ Anger can be seen in Iran and the region. The whole region is worried and mourning.

Masses are demanding to investigate the assassination act thoroughly and punish the responsibles. It is a straight forward criminal act and a direct threat to Iran’s sovereignty. The whole world is upset and can not forgive.

It was well-known that the US assassinated General Qasim Sulymani in Baghdad just a few ago. The retaliation from Iran was just appropriate, and the US could not digest it yet. Top nuclear Scientist’s assassination is not accepted under any circumstances, and any retaliation will be justice.

Iran has the capability and will to retaliate. Although we all – peace-loving people request Iran to cool down and observe restrains, at the same time, we understand, if the aggressors are not checked, it will happen again and again, and maybe in more intensity and frequency. If the retaliation is severe, then the aggressor may not dare to attempt again in the future. A minimum level of deterrence is required to maintain. Otherwise, further assassinations are encouraged.

The ruthless assassination of Dr. Fakhrizadeh on Friday 27 November is not just ‘another’ routine incident—it’s causality is more significant than it’s aftermath. The Western world engaged Iran under JCPOA in October 2015. Things were smooth, and Iran was in full compliance with the deal. Internation Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was regularly monitoring Iran’s nuclear facilities and confirmed the fullcompliance. All the signatories of JCPOA were also satisfied, except President Trump. Even his administration has not noticed any deviation from Iran, but after having a close presentation from the Israeli prime minister Netanyahu, President scrapped the JCPOA in 2018. The unilateral withdrawal of President Trump from the nuclear deal was widely criticized but was celebrated by Israel. Since then, Iran was under immense pressure from the US as well as Israel.

Highly classified speculations are that the final decision to eliminate Fakhrizadeh was perhaps taken last Sunday 22 November, in a semi-secretive meeting in the Saudi coastal resort of Neom—attended by Mike Pompeo, Benjamin Netanyahu, Yossi Cohen, and Prince MBS.

There are other views that Fakhrizadeh’s assassination is another big conspiracy to destabilize global peace and stability, which might hinder the transition of power to newly elect-president Joe Biden. As a result, President Trump remains in control. Strong possibilities are that the outgoing President Trump will make the most of the power transfer transition period—taking big decisions to please his external partners/friends (Isreal and anti-Iran Arab states). Some say this killing will reduce Iran’s negotiating powers—should Joe Biden/Tony Blinken revive the JCPOA. Some global security pundits comment, this assassination was aimed at infuriating Iran, instigating it to react with military force against Israel, prompting the US and its regional allies (Israel, KSA, UAE, and Bahrain) to declare an all-out direct war on Iran.

It is relatively early to say something precisely, that what happen? How happened? And What will happen next? All are view points, and no authentic opinion is concluded. But one thing is very much clear, the region is a cooked volcano and may burst any moment.

It may destabilize the whole region; the oil-rich region may halt oil supply to the Western world. The Oil prices may shoot up; Industrial growth may be harmed, inflation may hike up, the global economy may suffer adversely.

It is also possible that the Arab and non-Arab Muslim world be divided visibly and further harm the Muslim world. Irrespective of any country or nation, or religion, humankind will suffer at the end of the day. Irrespective of race, religion, ethnicity, we must urge the safety of human lives.

The world community must proactively play a positive role in saving humankind and the loss of precious lives. Bloodshed is not permissible in any religion, society, or law, especially because we claim to be a civilized world and should act as civilized.

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Libya: Lights and shadows of the peace process

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After six days of intense closed-door talks between the 75 delegates of the various Libyan factions summoned to Tunis by the Acting Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General (SRSG), Stephanie Williams, the first round of negotiations that ended on November 15 confirmed the “ceasefire”, but failed to reach an agreement on the mechanisms and criteria for selecting the candidates for a new “national unity” government.

Acting SRSG Stephanie Williams has decided to reconvene in the coming days – via video conference – a second round of what has been called the “Libyan Political Dialogue Forum” (LPDF), with the ambition of succeeding in forming a government able to manage the national elections scheduled for December 24, 2021.

While admitting the partial failure of the Tunis talks, the U.S. diplomat declared frankly that it was not “realistically possible to find solutions to a ten-year conflict in a simple round of negotiations”. Nevertheless, Acting SRSG Stephanie Williams has stressed that “there seems to be the possibility of an agreement on three important sensitive aspects of the negotiation, i.e. the tasks and duties of the new government; the criteria for appointing those who will take up the government posts and the roadmap for the peace process.

She added that “Libyan politicians now have the opportunity to effectively occupy centre stage or end up going extinct as dinosaurs”.

Tough words that convey the disappointment for a negotiation that sees the parties involved (the Tripoli government led by Fayez al-Sarraj; the Tobruk faction commanded by General Khalifa Haftar and the Fezzan independent tribes) willing to respect the armed truce, but little inclined to make political concessions to their counterparts.

Certainly it was not easy to make the Libyan stakeholders – who, until last summer, had been fighting one another in open field -converge on a political dialogue path

It was not easy also due to the behind-the-scenes activism of the international sponsors of the opposing factions: Turkey and Qatar in favour of al-Sarraj; Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States, Egypt and Russia supporting the “Libyan National Army” led by General Haftar, while President Macron’s France is openly siding with the Fezzan tribes.

During the Tunis talks, all delegates systematically leaked to the press fake drafts of possible agreements, in view of thwarting the proposals of their counterparts.

According to “Agenzia Nova”, apparently official documents were circulated containing references to the topics actually under discussion, “polluted” by totally invented parts: “real poisoned drafts received from Libyan sources close to General Haftar”.

 Malicious rumours have also spread about the possible corruption of some delegates, bribed with many dollars to favour the appointment of Abdullh al-Dabaiba -the powerful “warlord” of Misrata and founder of the “Future for Libya” movement – to the new government. It should be recalled that, thanks to Turkish weapons and Islamist mercenaries brought by President Erdogan to Libya from Syria, Misrata’s militias rescued al-Sarraj’s government from collapse when last April General Haftar’s militias had arrived at Tripoli’s gates.

However, despite the difficulties, in her report to the UN Security Council, Acting SRSG Stephanie Williams also highlighted some positive aspects of the situation on the ground.

First of all, the military truce is holding out: there are no significant violations of the “ceasefire”, while “the exchange of prisoners continues, facilitated by the Council of Elders, with the support of the Joint Military Commission.

Another important result has been achieved in the oil sector: with the agreement of all the parties involved, the National Oil Company has resumed oil production in full swing, which has quickly returned to last year’s level of 1.2 million. However, the transparent distribution of oil revenues must be postponed until an agreement is reached between all the parties involved, pending which the National Oil Company shall set aside the proceeds from oil sale in a special UN-controlled account.

This is a sensitive aspect regarding directly Italy: the resumption of crude oil extraction means much for ENI which – albeit left alone by national institutions to operate in the dangerous situation of tension between the opposing Libyan factions – has managed to establish itself as a credible and reliable counterpart and to maintain its extraction, production and refining activities in Libya.

While concluding her briefing to the UN Security Council, Acting SRSG Stephanie Williams underlined: “Seventy-five Libyans came together in Tunis …in a good faith effort to start the process of healing their nation’s wounds. …they extended their hands, if not their hearts, to each other”.  

“Not their hearts”: this is the deepest shadow hanging over the Tunis talks, casting uncertainty over a peace process in which the role of the national players is often influenced and manipulated by the various international sponsors – and the sponsors certainly do not act for “heart” reasons.

On the Tripoli government’s front, the two key allies are President Erdogan’s Turkey and Qatar ruled by young Emir Tamin bin Hamad Al Thani.

Despite the accession of the former to NATO and of the latter to the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), the two countries have embraced the cause of Muslim extremism by more or less openly supporting jihadist militias during the civil conflicts in Syria, Iraq and, most recently, Libya.

At the side of these awkward travel companions, in a quiet and secluded corner, we can find Italy which, in 2016, with an undoubtedly politically correct move, followed the United Nations, which imposed a neo-colonialist governmental solution on Libya, by establishing al-Sarraj’s “Government of National Accord” (GNA), at first in Tunis and later in Tripoli. A “neo-colonialist” solution because the GNA has not been recognised by any of Tripoli’s and Tobruk’s Parliaments and has never been legitimized by elections or supported by the people.

Over the last four years, while al-Sarraj barely controlled the capital, the Italian diplomacy has not seemed able to find a clear policy and line of action, in a region of vital importance for the country, other than that of “respect for UN resolutions”, a formal pretext used also by the European Union to justify its inaction.

 As said above, faced with Turkey’s and Qatar’s political and military commitment to support al-Sarraj, but above all the Islamist militias of Tripoli and Misrata, the Gulf States have broken diplomatic relations with Qatar, accusing its Emir of an adventurous conduct in favour of the “Muslim Brotherhood” throughout the region.

Furthermore, together with Egypt, France and Russia, the Gulf States have actually established an alliance to protect two of the three Libyan political-military components, i.e. General Haftar’s”Libya Liberation Army” and the militias linked to the Fezzan tribes with whom France has established an almost exclusive partnership.

While the diplomacies interested in the Middle East are playing on several tables – just think of the new relations between the Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and above all Saudi Arabia, with Israel-Italy and Europe – probably also because of the pandemic – seem to be immobilized and bogged down into passive positions of principle on the positive aspects of “multilateralism”.

Indeed. the other countries are taking action also in view of possible political and economic dividends in the future, while Italy and Europe, with their wait-and-see attitude, remain on the sidelines to watch – as mere spectators – the development of events that will have a decisive impact on the new Mediterranean equilibria of the near future.

Nevertheless, there seem to be no good news about U.S. international commitments in the “after-Trump era”.

The new President, Joe Biden, has appointed Antony Blinken as the new Secretary of State.

 Despite his being an educated, cosmopolitan and polite person, we cannot forget that, during Obama’s Presidencies, Blinken was a close aide of Hillary Clinton, at first, and of John Kerry, later, i.e. two negative protagonists of international relations and foreign policy who, with their naïve support for the fake “Arab Springs”, contributed to upset North Africa and the Middle East in the name of a mirage that saw an unattainable goal of Western democracy for the countries experiencing Islamist civil uprisings and unrest.

After having fomented and militarily supported the revolt against Colonel Gaddafi, the U.S. Department of State led by Hillary Clinton, had to face the sacrifice of its ambassador in Libya, Chris Stevens, who was killed on September 11, 2012 in Benghazi, where he had been sent for a confused and botched negotiation with the Islamists of Ansar Al Sharia.

Under Kerry’s leadership, with Blinken at his side as Deputy Secretary of State, the United States managed the Syrian crisis in a politically and militarily unwise manner, thus finally leaving the field open to Russia and Turkey.

Against this backcloth, the prospects for a return to action of U.S. diplomacy (partly put to rest by Donald Trump) are not particularly fascinating, in an area such as Libya where Italy, in its own small way, is not even able to sketch out a credible negotiation for the release of the eighteen fishermen from Mazara del Vallo, kidnapped by General Haftar’s forces for over two months.

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Future Economy: Micro-Manufacturing & Micro-Exports

Recovery now forces economies to emerge as dynamic entrepreneurial landscapes; today, the massively displaced working citizenry of the world may...

Africa9 hours ago

Scientific and trade cooperation between China and Africa

China was crumbling into misery, degradation and despair, in the middle of that 109-year period (1840-1949) known as the era...

Defense11 hours ago

The Need to Reorient New Delhi in the Indo-Pacific

Beijing’s overt expansionism in South Asia and the South China Sea (SCS) continues to threaten India’s maritime security. The rise...

Environment13 hours ago

EU greenhouse gas emissions fell in 2019 to the lowest level in three decades

The Commission today adopted its annual EU Climate Action Progress Report, covering the EU’s progress in cutting greenhouse gas emissions...

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