[yt_dropcap type=”square” font=”” size=”14″ color=”#000″ background=”#fff” ] L [/yt_dropcap]ast mid-February both the leader of Libya’s Government of National Accord (GNA), Fayez al-Sarraj, and the leader of the Libyan National Army – that is the leader of “Operation Dignity” – Khalifa Haftar, were in Cairo, but no one can still today check whether they actually met. Indeed, as far as we know, they did not, considering the real allergy that Haftar has for the leader of Tripoli’s GNA.
Again last mid-February, in the Egyptian capital city, al-Sarraj met the Chief of Staff of the Egyptian Armed Forces, Mahmoud Egazi, who deals with the Libyan dossier for the Egyptian President.
Egypt supports Haftar for many reasons: the presence of over 750,000 Egyptian workers in Libya – and, at Gaddafi’s time, they were at least 1.5 million, mainly Copts.
The other reasons are the tension in Sinai, now being jihadised; 1,200 kilometers of borders with Libya, which are very hard to keep under control; remittances from Libya to Egypt to the tune of 33 million US dollars a year, as well as a 75% decrease of bilateral trade.
Egypt will keep Libya united as long as it can, but it will certainly avoid the spreading of the Muslim Brotherhood (siding with al-Sarraj) and the various derived jihadist fraternities.
Great Britain, foolishly happy to have finally weakened Italy, cannot but support al-Sarraj, while France, which thinks also about the Suez Canal, supports el-Sisi and hence also Haftar.
Haftar, however, did not meet with al-Sarraj, who was in Egypt – as we have seen – and the leader of “Operation Dignity” avoided seeing him.
Moreover, Tobruk’s Parliament has noted that “there is no moral nor material obligation” to respect the immigration memorandum between al-Sarraj’s government and Italy.
With whom are we talking in Libya? With the democratic-UN ghosts or with the “effectual truth of the matter” – just to quote Machiavelli?
Ultimately, we do not still know the reason why the United Nations, the European Union and many others take al-Sarraj and his government so seriously.
Furthermore, in honour of the mythical Western enlightened “secularism”, we wish to point out that respect for the Islamic law, namely the sharia, is the fifth of the 32 “principles” enshrined in the Libyan Political Agreement signed in Skhirat on December 17, 2015, which is at the basis of al-Sarraj’s current government.
On the other hand, al-Sarraj’s government relies on Turkey’s and Qatar’s support, while the Turkish diplomacy is led by Amrallah Ishlar, who travels perpetually back and forth between the various capital cities of current Libya.
Are we really sure that this strange Turkish activism is in Europe’s or, at least, Italy’s interest, considering that also France supports Haftar?
Are we sure that Turkey does not want also an Islamist pole on the Maghreb coast, graciously granted to it by Western stupidity – a pole controlling the Libyan African oil and the Mediterranean region?
The submission of NATO and EU interests to Turkey’s is now a painful mystery.
Do they want to support Turkey against the “tyrant” Assad, so that Syria becomes as pervious and porous as a sponge?
Do they want to imagine that instead of cooperating with Russia in Syria and the Middle East, Turkey is finally seduced by the immense Western stupidity?
Moreover Ahmed Mitig, one of al-Sarraj’s four deputies, does not consider important to fight Isis in Sirte which, for Tripoli’s government, clearly appears to be a useful buffer to protect itself from Haftar’s forces.
Now, with “Operation Dignity” in the Libyan oil crescent area, we realize all the importance of a power taking more action so as to have less UN-style talk and more military facts.
In 2011 only a perfect fool could imagine this Libyan scenario and both in France and Great Britain we found two useless idiots who, with a view to taking ENI away from us and putting an end to the disastrous project of the Union for the Mediterranean, set fire to the weakest point in Maghreb.
Moreover, as is well-known, al-Sarraj’s domestic allies in Tripoli are both the Salafists and the Muslim Brothers.
With a view to opposing Isis, we support its ideological progenitors, by trusting al-Sarraj’s red tie.
Since the insurgency against Gaddafi, the Muslim Brothers have systematically murdered at least 500 elite officers of the Libyan Armed Forces, in Benghazi only, while even today, in the United States, the obvious equation between Muslim Brotherhood and Islamist groups is denied by the US government.
Well done. Who do you think has spread the concept of Qur’an as the only law? Fear makes you do unthinkable things, but stupidity is even worse.
Furthermore, rumors are rife that in early 2016 the Muslim Brotherhood and al Qaeda in Libya reached a political agreement – something which would only surprise the many people disinformed about the “sword” jihad.
Hence what is it? Blindness? Ignorance? Amateurism? A mix of all three.
The West – in the hands of the last master and of ruling classes and politicians who only see the poor (Arab) money – leaves to its enemies the lines of its final penetration and its complete defeat.
Moreover, so far al-Sarraj’s government – so dear to the United Nations and to the European Union – has failed to muster the support of Tripolitania’s Islamist militia led by Khalifa al-Ghweil or of Tobruk’s “House of Representatives” or, finally, of Cyrenaica’s government led by Al Thinni.
Hence, what is it for? For making Turkey do business? For supporting Qatar, which invests massively in our companies?
Furthermore, “Libya Dawn” militias do not support al-Sarraj yet, but only obey to al-Ghweil, while both Haftar and Tobruk’s forces have successfully countered, with weapons in their hands, any attempt by Al Sarraj’s few military forces – especially those of the Muslim Brotherhood – to conquer Cyrenaica’s oil districts.
And, indeed, we paid al-Sarraj’ soldiers.
Hence, even assuming it may lead to some results, the Abu Dhabi meeting will be a success only for General Khalifa Haftar, who will show to al-Sarraj such a mediation line not to make him be overthrown (no one has an interest in replacing an absolute nobody) and avoid his uprising in Tripoli, which – however – would not go beyond the second floor of the building – in front of the port – hosting the GNA, so dear to the United Nations and its ignorant leaders.
Nobody knows what would happen if al-Sarraj were to go to the bathroom on the first floor without being protecting by his bodyguards.
According to some anonymous sources, during the two hours of private talks in Abu Dhabi, the two leaders accepted to hold Parliamentary and presidential elections within 2018.
Again according to these sources, Al-Sarraj accepted to support the appointment – by March 2018 – of General Haftar to serve as provisional President of the new future Libyan Republic, in addition to leading a national unity government with all the forces on the field to manage the upcoming elections.
Al-Sarraj feels he is weak and understands that – as Mao Zedog would have said – the EU and the UN are two “paper tigers”. Hence he is endeavouring to survive his non-existent Tripoli’s government.
Moreover, the crime organizations which handle migrant trafficking have been fully eradicated from the coastal areas where Haftar’s “Operation Dignity” rules, while they thrive on the other shores.
This too would be a sign to consider if a quite responsible a skillful government ruled in Italy.
Nevertheless, we doubt that – despite the professional competence and intelligence of the Minister for Internal Affairs, Marco Minniti – the current government wants to get to the root of the matter.
They are too weakened by the talk about al-Sarraj’s “legitimate power”, created only upon their own request.
As many readers may recall, al-Sarraj’s Libyan Presidential Council, created in March 2016 and located in the base of Abu Sittah, near Tripoli, relied on the Libyan Political Agreement signed on December 17, 2015, which appointed only nine members of al-Sarraj’s government, with no other signatures in support of it.
Westerners are divided like the Libyan forces inside the country. In its magnificent blindness, the United States supports only Tripoli’s Government of National Accord (GNA) and its President, al-Sarraj.
Do not ask us why – it is just a leap of faith.
Tripoli-Abu Sittah’s government also wants “to fight against people’s traffickers and to repress ISIS in Sirte”, but we know that so far these two goals have only been reached by Haftar.
France supports Haftar because it wants to avoid spreading the contagion to Senegal, Gambia, Niger and Morocco.
And it still has interests between the Horn of Africa and the Suez Canal.
No UN nonsense or foolishness will distract France’s attention from its bilateral relations with Egypt.
As is well-known, also the Russian Federation supports Haftar and there will soon be a Russian base in Cyrenaica and a Russian power projection onto the Western Mediterranean region.
Hence, with Tripoli-Abu Sittah’s government, it is as if Andorra wanted to rule over France or Spain.
However, the agreement finally signed in Rome on March 28 last between the Tuaregh, Tebu and Awlad Suleiman tribes – all operating south of Libya – to stop the trafficking of human beings and stabilize the country is good news.
Nevertheless the Russian Foreign Minister, Lavrov, is perfectly right in supporting “inclusive dialogue and avoiding betting on a single force only”.
What is surprising, however, is the fact that the United Nations and, above all, the European Union have not yet realized it.
The Italian Foreign Minister, Angelino Alfano, believes that “dialogue is positive” and that “also Haftar should be given a role”.
He is certainly right, but the role played by the General of “Operation Dignity” is now clear, while al-Sarraj’s role remains inevitably on the back of the stage.
Hence what should be done?
Simple actions should be taken. Convening a Conference in Rome, whether the UN or the pro-EU useless hierarchies like it or not.
Negotiating a clean-cut and militarily clear delimitation of internal lines and strictly order all Libyan parties to hold elections by and no later than October 2017.
Defining one single national unity government, which shall be established after the local elections.
Creating not a multitude of sympathetic amateurs at war, but a series of effective NATO outposts between the various factions.
Thanks to the idiots that have fragmented and disrupted it, Libya is now only a land of factions.
We should know it and try to separate the military groups, even harshly.
Libya is no longer the country created by Italo Balbo’s Mazzinian genius or the nation built by Gaddafi’s iron will.
Certainly, the leader of Tripoli’s government, Khalifa al-Ghweil, did not allow al-Sarraj and the UN envoy, Kobler, to land in Mitiga, the only airport in the capital city.
While Tripoli’s President does not rule even in his city, Italy and the other naïve supporters of Kant’s perpetual peace refuse to have relations with the only Prince having Weapons – just to quote Machiavelli – namely Haftar, because Cyrenaica’s government, to which the General refers and reports, is a friend of the Russian Federation.
Cyrenaica has already established an “Eastern” branch of the National Oil Company (NOC), the only company authorized by the UN to sell Libyan oil, which – on April 25 last – immediately ordered a sale of 650,000 barrels, loaded on the Indian ship Distya Ameya in the port of Malta, to be sold through a company of the United Arab Emirates.
After UN pressures, the Indian ship returned to Libya, but now the oil split is an objective fact.
In all likelihood, the idea of General Haftar and of Tobruk’s leader, Al Thinni, is to set the precedent of Cyrenaica’s autonomy similar to that of Iraqi Kurdistan.
The fallacy of soccer’s magical bridge-building qualities
Imagining himself as a peacemaker in a conflict-ridden part of the world, FIFA President Gianni Infantino sees a 2022 World Cup shared by Qatar with its Gulf detractors, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, as the magic wand that would turn bitter foes into brothers.
It may be a nice idea, but it is grounded in the fiction that soccer can play an independent role in bringing nations together or developing national identity.
The fiction is that soccer has the potential to be a driver of events, that it can spark or shape developments. It is also the fiction that sports in general and soccer in particular has the power to build bridges.
Mr. Infantino’s assertion that if foes play soccer, bridges are built is but the latest iteration of a long-standing myth.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Soccer is an aggressive sport. It is about conquering the other half of a pitch. It evokes passions and allegiances that are tribal in nature and that more often than not divide rather than unite.
In conflict situations, soccer tends to provide an additional battlefield. Examples abound.
The 2022 World Cup; this year’s Qatari Asian Cup victory against the backdrop of the Gulf state’s rift with the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt; the imprint the Palestinian-Israeli conflict puts on the two nations’ soccer; or the rise of racist, discriminatory attitudes among fans in Europe.
The Bad Blue Boys, hardcore fans of Dinamo Zagreb’s hardcore fans, light candles each May and lay wreaths at a monument to their comrades who were killed in the Yugoslav wars in the 1990s. They mark the anniversary of a riot during the 1990 match against Serbia’s Red Star Belgrade, their club’s most controversial match, as the first clash in the wars that erupted a year later and sparked the collapse of former Yugoslavia.
Fact of the matter is that sports like ping pong in Richard Nixon’s 1972 rapprochement with China or the improvement of ties between North and South Korea in the most recent Summer Olympics served as a useful tool, not a driver of events.
Sports is a useful tool in an environment in which key political players seek to build bridges and narrow differences.
The impact of soccer in the absence of a conducive environment created by political not sports players, is at best temporary relief, a blip on an otherwise bleak landscape.
The proof is in the pudding. Legend has it that British and German soldiers played soccer in no-man’s lands on Christmas Day in 2014, only to return to fighting World War One for another four years. Millions died in the war.
Similarly, Kurds, Sunnis and Shiites poured into the streets of Iraqi cities hugging each other in celebration of Iraq’s winning in 2007 of the Asia Cup at the height of the country’s sectarian violence only to return to killing each other a day later.
Soccer’s ability to shape or cement national identity is no different. In other words. football can be a rallying point for national identity but only if there is an environment that is conducive.
The problem is that soccer and the formation of national identity have one complicating trait in common: both often involve opposition to the other.
That is nowhere truer than in the Middle East and North Africa where soccer has played and plays an important role in identity formation since it was first introduced to the region in the late 19th and early 20th century.
Qatar has been in some ways the exception that proves the rule by plotting its sports strategy not only as a soft power tool or a pillar of public health policy but also as a component of national identity. That element has been strengthened by the rift in the Gulf and bolstered by this year’s Asian Cup victory.
Qatar’s efforts to strengthen its national identity benefits from the fact that the Gulf state no longer operates on the notion that Gulf states have to hang together. Today its hanging on its own in a conflict with three of its neighbours.
Soccer’s role in identity formation in the Middle East and North Africa was often because it was a battlefield, a battlefield for identity that was part of larger political struggles.
Clubs were often formed for that very reason. Attitudes towards the country’s monarchy in the early 20th century loomed large in the founding of Egypt’s Al Ahli SC and Al Zamalek SC, two of the Middle East and North Africa’s most storied clubs.
Clubs in Algeria were established as part of the anti-colonial struggle against the French. Ottoman and Iranian rulers used sports and soccer to foster national identity and take a first step towards incorporating youth in the development of a modern defense force.
Zionists saw sports and soccer as an important way of developing the New Jew, the muscular Jew. To Palestinians, it was a tool in their opposition to Zionist immigration. And finally, soccer was important in the shaping of ethnic or sub-national identities among Berbers, Kurds, East Bank Jordanians and Jordanian Palestinians.
In other words, soccer was inclusive in the sense of contributing to the formation of a collective identity. But it was also divisive because that identity was at the same time exclusionary and opposed to an other.
The long and short of this is that soccer is malleable. Its impact and fallout depend on forces beyond its control. Soccer is dependent on the environment shaped by political and social forces. It is a tool that is agnostic to purpose, not a driver or an independent actor.
Edited remarks at Brookings seminar in Doha: Lessons from the 2019 Asian Cup: Sports, Globalization, and Politics in the Arab World
Syrian Coup de Grâce
The Middle Eastern land has a diverse blend of history with conflicts and developments in knowledge. Where on one hand Baghdad was considered as the realm of knowledge on the other hand Constantinople was a symbol of power and domination. But now it seems that all has been shattered completely with conflicts.
The Middle Eastern landscape is facing its worst time ever: a phase of instability and misery. The oil ridden land is now becoming conflict ridden, from Euphrates to Persian Gulf; every inch seems to be blood stained nowadays. The region became more like a chess board where kings are not kings but pawns and with each move someone is getting close to checkmate.
Starting from the spring which brought autumn in the Middle Eastern environment, now the curse is on Assyrian land where blood is being spilled, screams have took over the skies. The multi facet conflict has caused more than 400,000 deaths and 5 million seeking refuge abroad whereas 6 million displaced internally.
What began with a mere peaceful civil uprising, has now become a world stage with multiplayers on it. Tehran and Moscow are playing their own mantra by showing romance with Assad while Washington has its own way of gambling with kings in their hand. Involvement of catchy caliphate from 2014 is worsening the complexities of the Syrian saga. The deck is getting hot and becoming more and more mess, chemical strikes, tomahawk show, carpet bombing, stealth jets and many more, Syrian lands is now a market to sell the products exhibiting fine examples of military industrial complex. While to some, Syrian stage seems to be a mere regional proxy war, in reality it seems like a black hole taking whole region into its curse. One by one every inch of the country is turned into altar as the consequence of war. A country is now ripped into different territories with different claimants, but the question still remains as “Syria belongs to whom?”
The saga of Syrian dusk has its long roots in past and with each passing moment it is becoming a spiral of destruction. What is being witnessed in current scenario is just a glimpse of that spiral. It has already winded the region into it and if not resolve properly and maturely it can spread like a contagious disease that can take whole Middle East into its chakra.
With recent development in Iran nuclear deal which left whole world into shock; and house of Sauds forming strong bond with western power brokers and Israel, to counter Tehran (because kings of holy desert have so much engraved hatred towards shiaits, that they prefer to shake hands with Jews and establish an unholy alliance) is making matters worse. This all has the potential to push the region into further more sectarian rifts. With Syrian stage already set. The delicacy of the situation is not secluded from the palette of the world.
Despite the condemnations from across the globe, humanitarian watch remains blind and failed to address the issues in Syria leaving Syrians in long lasting agony and despair The symphony of pain and suffering continues in the Middle Eastern region while world watches like a vicious sadist, the region becomes a playground for major powers as ‘Uncle Sam” has their own interests in engaging, Kremlin have their own concerns same goes for every single actor who is party to the conflict.
The panacea to the Arabian pain is simple “a sincere determined approach” to the disease. Even if every party with draws from the conflict the situation can get worse due to the generated power vacuum and can make Syria a replica of Iraq. The Syrian grieve needs to be addressed through proper management skills, if not the curse is upon whole region.
The battle for leadership of the Muslim world: Turkey plants its flag in Christchurch
When Turkish vice-president Fuat Oktay and foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu became this weekend the first high-level foreign government delegation to travel to Christchurch they were doing more than expressing solidarity with New Zealand’s grieving Muslim community.
Messrs. Oktay and Cavusoglu were planting Turkey’s flag far and wide in a global effort to expand beyond the Turkic and former Ottoman world support for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s style of religiously-packaged authoritarian rule, a marriage of Islam and Turkish nationalism.
Showing footage of the rampage in Christchurch at a rally in advance of March 31 local elections, Mr. Erdogan declared that “there is a benefit in watching this on the screen. Remnants of the Crusaders cannot prevent Turkey’s rise.”
Mr. Erdogan went on to say that “we have been here for 1,000 years and God willing we will be until doomsday. You will not be able to make Istanbul Constantinople. Your ancestors came and saw that we were here. Some of them returned on foot and some returned in coffins. If you come with the same intent, we will be waiting for you too.”
Mr. Erdogan was responding to an assertion by Brenton Tarrant, the white supremacist perpetrator of the Christchurch attacks in which 49 people were killed in two mosques, that Turks were “ethnic soldiers currently occupying Europe.”
Messrs. Oktay and Cavusoglu’s visit, two days after the attacks, is one more facet of a Turkish campaign that employs religious as well as traditional diplomatic tools.
The campaign aims to establish Turkey as a leader of the Muslim world in competition with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and to a lesser degree Morocco.
As part of the campaign, Turkey has positioned itself as a cheerleader for Muslim causes such as Jerusalem and the Rohingya at a moment that Saudi Arabia, the UAE and other Muslim nations are taking a step back.
Although cautious not to rupture relations with Beijing, Turkey has also breached the wall of silence maintained by the vast majority of Muslim countries by speaking out against China’s brutal crackdown on Turkic Muslims in the troubled north-western province of Xinjiang.
Mr. Erdogan’s religious and traditional diplomatic effort has seen Turkey build grand mosques and/or cultural centres across the globe in the United States, the Caribbean, Europe, Africa and Asia, finance religious education and restore Ottoman heritage sites.
It has pressured governments in Africa and Asia to hand over schools operated by the Hizmet movement led by exiled preacher Fethullah Gulen. Mr. Erdogan holds Mr. Gulen responsible for the failed military coup in Turkey in 2016.
On the diplomatic front, Turkey has in recent years opened at least 26 embassies in Africa, expanded the Turkish Airlines network to 55 destinations in Africa, established military bases in Somalia and Qatar, and negotiated a long-term lease for Sudan’s Suakin Island in the Red Sea.
The Turkish religious campaign takes a leaf out of Saudi Arabia’s four decade long, USD 100 billion effort to globally propagate ultra-conservative Sunni Islam.
Like the Saudis, Turkey’s Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet) provides services to Muslim communities, organizes pilgrimages to Mecca, trains religious personnel, publishes religious literature, translates the Qur’an into local languages and funds students from across the world to study Islam at Turkish institutions.
Turkish Muslim NGOs provide humanitarian assistance in former parts of the Ottoman empire, the Middle East and Africa much like the Saudi-led World Muslim League and other Saudi governmental -non-governmental organizations, many of which have been shut down since the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington.
Saudi Arabia, since the rise of crown prince Mohammed bin Salman in 2015, has significantly reduced global funding for ultra-conservatism.
Nonetheless, Turkey is at loggerheads with Saudi Arabia as well as the UAE over the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi; Turkish support for Qatar in its dispute with the Saudis and Emiratis; differences over Libya, Syria and the Kurds; and Ankara’s activist foreign policy. Turkey is seeking to position itself as an Islamic alternative.
Decades of Saudi funding has left the kingdom’s imprint on the global Muslim community. Yet, Turkey’s current struggles with Saudi Arabia are more geopolitical than ideological.
While Turkey competes geopolitically with the UAE in the Horn of Africa, Libya and Syria, ideologically the two countries’ rivalry is between the UAE’s effort to establish itself as a centre of a quietist, apolitical Islam as opposed to Turkey’s activist approach and its support for the Muslim Brotherhood.
In contrast to Saudi Arabia that adheres to Wahhabism, an austere ultra-conservative interpretation of the faith, the UAE projects itself and its religiosity as far more modern, tolerant and forward looking.
The UAE’s projection goes beyond Prince Mohammed’s attempt to shave off the raw edges of Wahhabism in an attempt to present himself as a proponent of what he has termed moderate Islam.
The UAE scored a significant success with the first ever papal visit in February by Pope Francis I during which he signed a Document on Human Fraternity with Sheikh Ahmad al-Tayeb, the grand imam of Egypt’s Al-Azhar, the revered 1,000-year-old seat of Sunni Muslim learning.
The signing was the result of UAE-funded efforts of Egyptian general-turned-president Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi to depoliticize Islam and gain control of Al Azhar that Sheikh Al-Tayeb resisted despite supporting Mr. Al-Sisi’s 2013 military coup.
To enhance its influence within Al Azhar and counter that of Saudi Araba, the UAE has funded Egyptian universities and hospitals and has encouraged Al Azhar to open a branch in the UAE.
The UAE effort paid off when the pope, in a public address, thanked Egyptian judge Mohamed Abdel Salam, an advisor to Sheikh Al-Tayeb who is believed to be close to both the Emiratis and Mr. Al-Sisi, for drafting the declaration.
“Abdel Salam enabled Al-Sisi to outmanoeuvre Al Azhar in the struggle for reform,” said an influential activist.
The Turkey-UAE rivalry has spilt from the geopolitical and ideological into competing versions of Islamic history.
Turkey last year renamed the street on which the UAE embassy in Ankara is located after an Ottoman general that was at the centre of a Twitter spat between Mr. Erdogan and UAE foreign minister Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan..
Mr. Erdogan responded angrily to the tweet that accused Fahreddin Pasha, who defended the holy city of Medina against the British in the early 20th century, of abusing the local Arab population and stealing their property as well as sacred relics from the Prophet Muhammad’s tomb,. The tweet described the general as one of Mr. Erdogan’s ancestors.
“When my ancestors were defending Medina, you impudent (man), where were yours? Some impertinent man sinks low and goes as far as accusing our ancestors of thievery. What spoiled this man? He was spoiled by oil, by the money he has,” Mr. Erdogan retorted, referring to Mr. Al-Nahyan.
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