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Saudi Arabia, Iran and the probable end of the JCPOA

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John Bolton, the current national security adviser of Trump’s Presidency who has replaced the already dismissed Gen. McMaster, believes that the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran is a “strategic defeat” for the United States.

Bolton also believes that it would always be better to follow the example of the Osirak attack on June 7, 1981 with the Israeli Operation “Opera” (or Babylon) or the Israeli attack of 2007 on the alleged Syrian nuclear reactor in the Deir-ez-Zor area.

A reactor, however, manufactured by North Korea.

That was the operation Israel named “Outside the Box”.

Hence, to quote again Bolton, “to stop Iran, bomb it”.

Not so long ago, the idea of the US national security adviser was also to bomb North Korea just to stop its nuclear activity.

How can the activities of immediate revenge on the South Korean territory be considered in the US strategic equation?

“Collateral damage”, i.e. the destruction of the only credible ally, apart from Japan, throughout Southeast Asia.

Now the agreement between the two Koreas and Kim Jong Un’s request for direct talks with President Trump have materialized – certainly not for fear of Bolton’s simplistic bomb religion.

Arms, however, never make politics.

Nevertheless they can be used, as little as possible, if you still have a political strategy in mind vis-à-vis countries, such as Iran and North Korea, which have never been afraid of the US carpet bombing.

If, however, the most reluctant countries with respect to Bolton’s brilliant ideas are destroyed, what would be the political result?

It would simply be the total loss of value of the US word towards all and each of the other members of the P5 + 1;  the likely and relevant residual counteraction by both North Korea and Iran on South Korea, the Lebanon and (obviously) Israel; finally, the almost inevitable trigger of a chain of actions and reactions that would set fire to the whole Greater Middle East.

What is the first goal? Just think about it for a moment.

It is obviously the total insularization of Europe, which still believes that its union and its single currency are not against US long-term interests.

The EU and Great Britain will soon realize that the strategic automatism inherited from the end of the Second World War has no longer value in the relations between the two shores of the Atlantic.

However, what could the rational goal of this military action against North Korea and Iran be, apart from Doctor Strangelove-style libido of some US decision makers?

Very probably no goal at all or the worst possible one, i.e. the closure of the whole system between Suez and the Persian Gulf, and finally the strategic non-viability of the entire Islamic Shi’ite or Sunni world, as well as the total block of the energy, political, strategic and defensive link between the European Union and the Koranic universe.

This would not be good even for the United States.

The fact is that, strangely, the well-known and very old mistakes of the US intelligence on the North Korean,  Syrian, Iraqi or even Libyan arsenals, make most of the US defense establishment even think that it is necessary to bomb more, and not less, the Axis of Evil- as Bolton clearly says.

The less we know about Syria, Iran and North Korea, the more we destroy them. A very logical idea. Hence also the wrong places would be bombed.

Let us also imagine to what extent a tactical bombing on North Korean positions would weigh and be impactful, just now that North Korea is starting a meaningful, verifiable and useful dialogue with South Korea and its strategic allies, namely Japan and the United States.

The logical consequence would be at least the US abandonment on the part of South Korea and Japan.

All this while President Trump is declaring from the rooftops  he wants to leave Syria and thus make his Sunni allies engage on the ground – although we can easily predict they will refuse flatly.

Hence they are all very dangerous options for the United States and the whole West, which would find themselves to no longer have credibility, clout and role throughout Asia.

For a power like the United States the fact of losing face and the value of its word, as well as always and often unreasonably choosing to resort to weapons, even when this is not devoid of dangers, are satanic temptations that the United States must avoid throughout the Middle East and Asia.

Hence the counter-arguments relating to Bolton’s “carpet bombing” are even obvious.

Firstly, as shown by the data provided in the last meeting (held around March 20, 2018) of the P5 + 1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, Great Britain, United Kingdom and the United States), i.e. the group that reached the nuclear deal with Iran in 2015, the Shi’ite Republic of Iran has so far fully implemented the rules enshrined in the eaty – as evidenced by the IAEA official data.

The IAEA report of February 22 was also accepted by all the JCPOA members, including the United States, who took note of Iran’s “continued adherence” to the letter and spirit of the 2015 deal.

What is the meaning of destroying with bombs – if they ever succeed in doing so without setting fire to its borders -a country that all signatories (including the United States) consider officially compliant with the implementation of the rules enshrined in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action?

To possibly achieve Syria’s cantonization?

Paraphrasing Voltaire, a great evil for a little good.

If anything, with a view to putting an end to the Sunni jihad on the Syrian territory, the E3 -i.e. the group of the three European countries belonging to the P5 + 1 – immediately pointed out, in a confidential report, that we could sanction other new people and entities – already identified -that collaborated in the Iranian (conventional) missile tests, in the framework of the seven-year cooperation between Iran and Syria.

A German idea immediately supported by France, which fears the disruption of its positions in Syria and elsewhere.

Germany has already made clear that it will not participate in any military operation in Syria jointly with the other Western powers.

Moreover, in Bolton’s mind – following his statements  to the letter – the only alternative to the so-called Syrian-Iraqi Caliphate would be a new Sunni State in Syria.

However, how could we be sure that this new Sunni State would not soon be turned into a safe haven for the Caliphate’s jihad, which has not yet been defeated between Syria and Iraq?

Nevertheless Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar have always had quite different ideas on how this new Sunni State should be, which would probably still be at the mercy of jihadist extremism.

Said extremism would immediately expand to Iraq and Jordan, thus undermining the lopsided strategic equation left on the ground by the United States after the hasty and ambiguous victories against Saddam Hussein.

What operational option would the United States choose, if Syria were destroyed to cantonizeit ethnically and according to religious fault lines?

A divided Syria and, indeed, cantonized as a Swiss valley is of no use to anyone, certainly not to Assad, but not to the various participants in the war against him, including the Caliphate’s jihad.

But not even to the United States, if you think about it.

In the first phase of the war against Assad, Saudi Arabia had placed all its eggs in the basket of a Lebanese Shi’ite, namely Okab Sakr, an old client of the Hariri family.

As is well-known, however, this family does not currently enjoy the favour of the new master of Saudi Arabia, namely Prince Mohammed Bin Salman.

In the Syrian theater, Qatar operated with a defector from  Assad’s regime and two other aides with minor roles and the new Qatari acquisition was Abdulrahman Suwais.

Nevertheless the geopolitical (and economic) clash between Saudi Arabia and Qatar immediately moved to the local Syrian clients of the various Arab powers, with Qatar using forces linked to the Muslim Brotherhood and Saudi Arabia using Sakr, its broker and intermediary for the war against Assad, that – however – collected battalions of jihadists not yet linked to the so-called Al Baghdadi’s Caliphate.

But in a quite haphazard way.

Moreover, all the three Arab and Muslim countries that supported Assad’ Sunni enemies have always thought that – apart from their rivalries – sooner or later the United States would have arrived to solve the Syrian issue for them.

This perception is the only rational factor we can note in President Trump’s current positions.

Former President Obama, however, did not claim the criterion of his “red line” in September 2013, after Bashar al-Assad allegedly using chemical weapons against a “rebellious” – i.e. Sunni and para-jihadist – part of his population.

Only in the summer of 2014 – immediately after Prince Bandar bin Sultan’s resignation as Head of the Saudi  intelligence-did real collaboration begin on the Syrian territory between Saudi Arabia, CIA and the US State Department.

Before the closure of the Syrian-Iraqi border, carried out by the so-called Caliphate in the summer of 2014, the many Sunni groups operated only with the huge resources provided by the various private donors, without much support from the Saudi government.

However, after the expansion of the Caliphate, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey agreed to support one single Sunni-jihadist movement, namely Jaysh-al Fatah(the “Army of Conquest”).

Nevertheless, some money still reached the multifarious and chaotic Sunni opposition to Assad’s Alawite and pluralist regime.

The “Conquest” movement was coordinated by the Saudi Koranic scholar, Abdullah Al Muhaysini, and the Jaysh forces operated mainly in Idlib and in Hama and Latakia.

Hence the jugular veins of the Russian-Syrian system.

In an interview of early April 2018 released to Time, however, Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman said: “Bashar can stay”.

The Saudi Prince’s reasoning is obvious: Saudi Arabia  wants to fund (possibly with a trillion US dollars)  Bashar al-Assad’s regime, even if he considers it takfir (apostate) so as to avoid Iran’s further penetration into Syria.

A Saudi strategic flexibility going as far as even creating a new relationship with the Jewish State.

What about the United States? Has it the same fantasy and creativity as Saudi Arabia?

However , the new “Sunni military alliance” – also created in 2015 around the Saudi forces – cannot replace the US military and strategic clout in the region.

Hence, according to Bolton and many of his aides, the United States should foot the bill and pay the price of the Islamic Military Alliance, an Arab NATO aimed against the Shi’ites and designed to favour the current oil balance of the OPEC Sunni system.

Hence why should the United States bring all this grist to the Saudi mill, just when the shale oil and gas make the United States autonomous from an energy viewpoint?

Moreover, during the last meeting of the “Sunni NATO” held at Manama in October 2017, the Head of this Alliance, namely Pakistani General Raheel Sharif, did not  mention any ongoing operation between Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan.

Therefore the limit of the Sunni engagement in Syria has  already been tacitly achieved.

Hence if the United States commits itself to fighting Iran – passively and in vain – after the manipulated destruction of the JCPOA, it will only serve the Saudi interest and not its own.

Yet another long war that will lead to nothing, but only to an increase in the US military budget – the now well-known North American military Keynesianism.

Real interests of the United States – no longer servants to  the House of Al Saud – which would be the interest of stabilizing the Middle East system to the lowest possible nuclear and conventional potential, possibly with a Conference between the P5 + 1 and Iran also meant for the new strategic redesign of the whole region, to be agreed also with Israel.

Nevertheless the European sanctions against Iran – the substitute for the US break with the JCPOA which, in all likelihood, will take place after May 12 – should anyway  be supported by all 28 EU Member States.

This would be the project of the E3, the EU countries of P5 + 1.

This is clearly just a way to avoid the May 12 deadline  proposed by President Trump – a snack of good European cuisine offered to the United States with a view to preventing it from reaching the bad military lunch against Iran.

However, how would the other non-European signatories of the 2015 deal react, when seeing that the United States increasingly behaves as a semi-legal actor and as a fully selfish element in the international geopolitical concert?

Obviously if the United States unilaterally withdraws from the JCPOA, the chances of a war against Iran will increase significantly, but is it certain that the United States will  win it quickly and without extensive damage? Not at all.

Moreover, are we sure that the future world is still unipolar like the one immediately after 1989, as some residual and naive theorists of US operations in Iraq and Afghanistan still think?

Should we not currently say that both the great operations for “exporting democracy” have been a clear military, strategic, economic and geopolitical failure?

Iraq was almost given away to Iran which, in fact,is already using the Shi’ite majority of the Iraqi population as leverage. Afghanistan is still a strategic void where nothing has been decided yet, after almost two decades of war, while China is building its own Beijing-Kabul railway.

Hence if the EU accepts President Trump’s diktat on Iran to limit or abolish Iran’s missile activities, including the conventional ones, and its support for Bashar al-Assad’s regime, it will not achieve any of its goals.

Not even in this case is it conceivable that the United States limits their demands on Iran.

Iran, however, could choose to remain in the perimeter of the July 2015 deal, by stopping any regional agreement with Western powers and reacting immediately to local threats.

Another option – already partially verified in the recent meetings between the Iranian Foreign Minister and the  British government – could be to collaborate with the individual European countries of P5 + 1 on issues other than those pertaining to the nuclear deal as – in this case –  for the resolution of the Houthis’ Shi’ite insurgency in Southern Yemen.

A further option could be President Trump’s walking out of the JCPOA agreement- without saying goodbye – but  not preventing the European countries to keep on having economic relations with Iran, and avoiding secondary and non-territorial sanctions, especially in the financial and banking sector.

An unlikely scenario – the war in the Middle East is also a war against Europe, for its final disruption and destructing as a US ally that believed to be more important than the United States.

However, anything can happen. The instability and volatility of the current US Presidency bode well.

Furthermore, if China, Russia and the EU remain party to the 2015 deal, Iran will have every reason to stay within the JCPOA perimeter and thus remove any US justification for a military attack on Iran or for a further phase of US sanctions only.

Moreover, considering the unreasonable and never decisive  US presence in Yemen, Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East, Iran could also play the card of further military pressure on US targets in all these regions, thus making the US actions extremely costly and, above all, harmful to one or more US Sunni allies.

Conversely, if President Trump re-imposes all sanctions, including the secondary ones, but walking out of the  JCPOA, also Iran could withdraw from the July 2015 deal but remain in the nuclear non-proliferation system led by IAEA – and the two things are not connected at all.

Once again, what would be the rationale of a future US  military attack on Iran?

In all likelihood, Russia and China would maintain  relations with Iran, thus giving away the entire Shi’ite arc to Russia and China, which will use it excellently to ban all US presence beyond the Persian Gulf.

Hence the US strategic subjection to Saudi Arabia would be complete.

Moreover, Iran could make some surprise moves like the recent one by Kim Jong Un and inevitably make the United States sit at the bilateral table of talks on nuclear and even conventional weapons – and from a position of strength.

Having played all its cards on the fight against Iran, Saudi Arabia would be definitely taken aback and could not opt for a blind support to the United States during the new talks.

There is no guarantee it would be such as to serveall the Saudi regional interests.

Finally, the most unlikely scenario could be a EU that succeeds in convincing the United States to fully remain in the JCPOA, without any additional or already envisaged sanctions.

It is very unlikely and it is now clear that the US deep state wants to “bring democracy” also to Iran and, possibly, to the Shiite-Alawite part of Syria, thus destabilizing the most important Middle East buffer State and ultimately playing Russia’s and China’s game.

Clearly they will firmly keep the non-Sunni areas of the Syrian cantonization and will operate on them to reach the Arabian peninsula, thus heavily influencing the Sunni canton dreamed of by Bolton.

Obviously this will not happen with the war, but with the economic and infrastructural agreements we already see at work.

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. “

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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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