On Monday, November 9, the talks that should decide Libya’s future began in Tunis.
After almost a decade of unrest, chaos and civil war, probably the United Nations – with the direct commitment of the new “special envoy”, Stephanie Wilson, will succeed in reasoning with the various factions that have fought one another, with no holds barred, in recent years and in organizing the first national election from which the new Libya after Gaddafi should come out, as hoped for by the whole international community.
During the opening ceremony of the peace conference, before the Tunisian President Kais Saied, Mrs. Williams stated flat out that “the road to the agreement will not be paved with roses and it will not be easy to achieve a good outcome. The conference, however, is the best opportunity in the last 6 years to put an end to civil war”.
Seventy-five delegates, chosen by the United Nations to represent an array of political viewpoints, regional interests and social groups, sit at the negotiating table as the main warring sides that have opposed one another since in 2014 General Khalifa Haftar – in an attempt to put an end to chaos and contain the aggressiveness of Islamist militias – founded the “Libya Liberation Army” and launched “Operation Dignity”, which actually led to the splitting of Libya into three macro geographical areas that roughly correspond to the Velayat, the three regions into which the Ottoman rulers had divided the country: Tripolitania, Fezzan and Cyrenaica.
In Tripolitania the following entities are present: the “Government of National Accord” (GNA) established in 2015 under the aegis of the United Nations, recognized (but not supported, as we will see later on) by the international community and led by Fayez al-Sarraj, that controls part of Tripolitania; the Tobruk government that occupies the whole Cyrenaica with Haftar’s troops; a conglomerate of tribal militias representing the independent municipalities of Fezzan.
The key players on the scene are, of course, Haftar and al-Sarraj. A few days ago, the latter – after announcing his resignation last September – announced his intention to hold office until an agreement is reached.
As said by Mrs. Williams, the road is not “paved with roses”, for the additional reason that at the negotiating table there are the long shadows of the external sponsors of the two main warring factions. These sponsors have actually turned the Libyan civil war into a low-intensity international conflict which, however, is potentially very dangerous for the stability of North Africa and the whole Middle East.
General Haftar is openly supported by Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, France and Russia, while al-Sarraj can count on the support of Erdogan’s Turkey, Qatar and – in its small way – Italy.
Turkey and Qatar support Tripoli for ideological and religious reasons, as all the militias that have so far kept al-Sarraj’s fragile government alive are strongly Islamist, while Italy – with an uncritically “legitimist” position – has sided with the “Government of National Accord” (GNA) to emphasize its loyalty to the UN decisions.
As we will see later on, however, not only religious or nationalistic interests are at stake, but also the interests linked to Libya’s wealth, thanks to its huge oil and gas fields, which are still partly untapped.
The external sponsors of the civil conflict have come out since last spring, when General Haftar’s “Libyan Liberation Army” launched an offensive on the West, with the aim of conquering Tripoli and getting rid of al-Sarraj and his government once and for all. Faced with this prospect, the Turkish President Tayyp Recep Erdogan – who had already signed an agreement with the Tripoli government for the joint exploitation of oil and gas resources in Libya’s “exclusive economic zone” (practically the whole South-Eastern Mediterranean) – sent his own military and – with a very severe and dangerous move for the region’s future stability – he transferred to the Libyan territory 13,000-20,000 Syrian militiamen, veterans of the anti-Assad civil war, all fierce and experienced veterans and, above all, siding with the most intransigent front of Islamic extremism.
Thanks to Turkey’s decisive support at military level and Qatar’s at economic level, al-Sarraj managed to stop General Haftar at Tripoli’s gates and, since the end of last August, the front has stabilized west of Sirte and a fragile “ceasefire” has brought some calm to a country that is beginning to suffer also under the Covid-19 blows. On October 23, in the Geneva UN headquarters, the truce on the ground was formalized with a “ceasefire” agreement.
While al-Sarraj could rely on Turkey’s active support, throughout last spring’s offensive General Haftar was supported by the Russian mercenaries of the “Wagner Group” – an organization of former members of the Russian special forces that was very active during the Syrian civil war – and on the fundamental support of the United Arab Emirates, which, together with Jordan, constantly supplied the “Libyan Liberation Army” with sophisticated and modern armaments.
From Abu Dhabi, fundamental help has been provided to Haftar’s troops by the parastatal company International Golden Group (IGG), an armament company that has close business relations with similar Western groups, first and foremost the French Thales.
The International Golden Group is in partnership with the “Royal Group”, a holding company owned by Tahnoon Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the powerful National Security Advisor of the Arab Emirates.
IGG is therefore at the forefront in supporting the policy of intervention in Libya decided by the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan. It is also at the forefront in arms procurement for General Haftar’s faction, since it is able to purchase heavy and sophisticated armaments in Russia, such as T-72 tanks, SA-3 surface-to-air missiles, S-300 anti-aircraft batteries, all weapons that Abu Dhabi is firmly intent on delivering to General Haftar’s troops.
According to reliable local sources, considering their complexity, these weapons should be entrusted to the Russian mercenaries of the Wagner Group, some of whom have already been seen driving Mi-24 helicopters during the spring offensive against Tripoli. These helicopters come directly from the Arab Emirates’ arsenals.
An important source of armaments for the Emirates – and indirectly for General Haftar – is Serbia.
Thanks to the personal commitment of Mohamed Dahlan – former Head of the Palestinian intelligence service and protagonist of reckless joint operations with Israel against Hamas, who currently holds the position of advisor for the special operations of Crown Prince Mohamed Al Zayed – the “Serbian connection” was able not only to ensure a constant supply of weapons to Haftar’s troops, but also to provide 80 French Leclerc tanks to Jordan, after the Jordanian State company Med Wave Sippinghad been subject to heavy sanctions by the European Union for violating the arms embargo to Libya on September 21 last.
Jordan, however,is still very active in supporting the Tobruk troops, thus managing to provide to Haftar also a substantial supply of South African Mbombe 6X6 armoured vehicles, which are very useful for fast movements in the desert.
This is the situation at the beginning of the peace talks in Tunis.
The front has stabilized along the border between Cyrenaica and Tripolitania that the Egyptian President, Al Sisi, another supporter of Haftar, declared to be a “red line” that if it were to be crossed by al-Sarraj’s troops, or by Turkish soldiers and Syrian militiamen, would force Egypt to deploy its troops on Haftar’ side.
The most important stakeholders of what in the past was a civil war – later degenerated into an international conflict – side with their protected, in Tripoli and Tobruk, and they will set the time schedule of a possible, but extremely difficult solution to a ten-year crisis, which is infecting the whole Mediterranean basin.
At the centre of this basin there is Italy which, almost unconsciously, under the formal UN umbrella, actually sides in Libya with Turkey and Qatar, two countries which have never made any secret of their sympathies for jihadists and the Muslim Brotherhood, as well as protagonists of unscrupulous operations in Syria to support Isis.
With these troublesome and embarrassing travel companions, Italy is now facing not only the sensitive issue of protecting its interests in Libya, starting with ENI’s commitment in that region, but also having to manage the delicate affair of the 18 fishermen from Mazara del Vallo, kidnapped by Haftar’s Navy for many weeks and thrown into a prison near Benghazi.
Considering that the Italian government – overwhelmed by the problems related to the spreading of the Covid-19 pandemic –seems unable to carry out – let alone to conceive – an operation for the liberation of the Sicilian fishermen using its excellent special forces, the only way to achieve their liberation is a negotiation with General Haftar, either directly or indirectly, possibly with the support of France, Russia or Jordan, not to mention Egypt, which has spent itself so much to support the Tobruk government’s demands.
The Italian media have leaked news that the fishermen of Mazara del Vallo could be exchanged for a Libyan smuggler and trafficker detained in Italy.
The news appears unreliable, because it is known that all the boats transporting illegal migrants which sail daily from Libya to the Italian coast, leave from the beaches and small harbours of Tripolitania, all controlled – at least theoretically – by the forces of al-Sarraj we support because “recognized and backed” by the United Nations.
In all likelihood, General Haftar detains our fishermen to convince us to have milder political and geopolitical views, certainly not to obtain the release of a Tripolitan thug.
We have talked about the chessboard on which the pieces of the Libyan game are placed.
If we want to positively influence the final outcome of the game and do our best to protect the national economy and the safety of our fellow citizens, unjustly kidnapped and detained in the prison of Benghazi, probably we should give up the role of mere pawns and try to gain more influence in a game in which the key players are Turkey, France, Russia, Egypt, Jordan and the Arab Emirates.
A game in which you cannot participate simply by reiterating slogans such as “we need to protect the international legality enshrined by the United Nations”, but which would require the same good dose of realism and courage as France has proved to have.
Biological warfare: A global security threat
Biological warfare is not a new concept in arena of international politics as it has been used as a tool to sabotage enemy in previous centuries. Biological weapons are a sub-category of Weapons of Mass destruction (WMDs) in which there is a deliberate use of micro-organisms like pathogens and toxins to cause disease or death in humans, livestock and yields.Form its usage in 14th century by Mongols to its usage by imperial Japan during 1930s-40s against Chinese, it has always been a threat to global security. The evolution of bio-weapons can be broadly categorized into four phases; first phase includes the post WWII developments with the evident use of chlorine and phosgene in Ypres.The second phase was marked by the use of nerve agents like tabun, cholinesterase inhibitor and anthrax and plague bombs. The initiation of third phase was marked by the use of biological weapons in Vietnam war during 1970s where deadly agents like Agent orange were used. 4th and last phase include the time of biological and technological revolution where genetic engineering techniques were at their peak. Traditionally they have been used in wartime in order to defeat enemy but with the emergence of violent non-state actors, bioterrorism is another potential threat to the security of states. There are certain goals that are associated with the use of biological weapons. Firstly, it is purposed to hit to economy of the targeted country, breaking down government authority and have a psychological effect on masses of the targeted population. It is also a kind of psychological warfare as it may hit a smaller number of people but leaves impact on wider audience through intimidation and spreading fear. It also creates natural circumstances under which a population is induced with disease without revealing the actual perpetrator.
With the advancement in genetic engineering techniques more lethal biological weapons are being produced everyday around the world. Countries which are economically deprived are more likely to pursue such goals as it is difficult for them to go for heavy military sophistication keeping into consideration their poor economic conditions. Biological weapons serve as inexpensive tool for developing countries to address their issues in prevailing international security environment. During the initial decades of cold war, united states of America (USA) and Soviet Union went for acquiring tons of biological weapons alongside nuclear proliferation.
The quest for these weapons reduced during 1970s with the formation of Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BWC). This convention was presented in 1972 before countries and finally came into force in 1975 with 150 countries who signed this convention and 140 countries who fully joined this treaty. This convention prohibits any biological weaponization in order to promote peace and stability around the world. But this convention has obvious defects as it is unable to address many issues like it doesn’t prevents itself the use of biological weapons but just reinforces 1925 Geneva Protocol which forbids the use of bio-weapons. Convention allows ‘defensive research’ to which there are many objections that what is incorporated into this defensive research. It is non-binding to the signatory states and in case if countries are proliferating it lacks the effective oversight techniques to look after them either they are pursuing these biological weapons capabilities or not. Since the inception of this convention till now it has clearly failed in stopping the countries from acquisition as well as usage of these weapons. This is evident as there were many cases after 1975 where these weapons were used as in 1980s when Iraq used mustard gas, sarin and tabun against Iran and many other ethnic groups inside Iran. Another incident which was highlighted was Sarine nerve gas attack in Tokyo subway system leaving thousands injured and many got killed. In post-cold war era, however, the number of these attacks reduced as much attention was shifted to terrorism after 9/11 attacks with the change in global security architecture.
“Anthrax letters” in post 9/11 attacks revealed yet another dimension of bio-weapons which was the threat of bioterrorism from non-state actors. US became a victim of bio-terrorism when in 2001 a powder was transported through letters containing bacterium called anthrax infecting many people. One purpose which terrorists have is to make general masses feel as if they are unsafe in the hands of their government which can be best achieved through the use of these weapons. The fact that biological weapons are cheaper and more devastating than conventional weapons make it more likely for biological weapons to be used by terrorists. Also, the fact that they are easy to hide and transport and a smaller quantity can leave long-lasting impacts on larger population makes these weapons more appealing. Now that we are facing a global pandemic in the form of COVID-19 which according to some conspiracy theories is a biological weapon pose even more serious challenge to the international security in coming decades. There is no such scientific research which proves Corona Virus as a biological weapon but the realization here is that whether or not it is a biological weapon but world was least prepared for it. Not only the developing countries but also developed states suffered more despite having enormous medical infrastructure. The fact that there has been decline in the incidents related to bioterrorism should never let us think that there is no possibility of such attacks. The fact that world failed to handle Covid-19 puts a question mark on the credibility of measures if we are faced with bio-terrorism. The medical community as well as general population needs to develop an understanding of how to respond if there is such attack. At the international level there is a dire need to develop some strong norms which discourage the development and use of such weapons in any capacity.
The ‘Post-Covid-19 World’ Will Never Come
On May 3rd, the New York Times bannered “Reaching ‘Herd Immunity’ Is Unlikely in the U.S., Experts Now Believe” and reported that “there is widespread consensus among scientists and public health experts that the herd immunity threshold is not attainable — at least not in the foreseeable future, and perhaps not ever.”
In other words: the ‘news’-sources that were opposing the governments’ taking action against Covid-19 — libertarian ’news’-sites that oppose governmental laws and regulations, regardless of the predominant view by the vast majority of the scientists who specialize in studying the given subject — are looking wronger all the time, as this “novel coronavirus” (which is what it was originally called) becomes less and less “novel,” and more and more understood scientifically.
The “herd immunity” advocates for anti-Covid-19 policies have been saying that governments should just let the virus spread until nature takes its course and such a large proportion of the population have survived the infection as to then greatly reduce the likelihood that an uninfected person will become infected. An uninfected person will increasingly be surrounded by people who have developed a natural immunity to the disease, and by people who don’t and never did become infected by it. The vulnerable people will have become eliminated (died) or else cured, and so they won’t be spreading the disease to others. That’s the libertarian ’solution’, the final solution to the Covid-19 problem, according to libertarians.
For example, on 9 April 2020, Forbes magazine headlined “After Rejecting A Coronavirus Lockdown, Sweden Sees Rise In Deaths” and reported that, “Sweden’s chief epidemiologist Anders Tegnell has continuously advocated for laid back measures, saying on Swedish TV Sunday that the pandemic could be defeated by herd immunity, or the indirect protection from a large portion of a population being immune to an infection, or a combination of immunity and vaccination. However, critics have argued that with a coronavirus vaccine could be more than a year away, and insufficient evidence that coronavirus patients that recover are immune from becoming infected again, the strategy of relying on herd immunity and vaccinations [is] ineffective.”
The libertarian proposal of relying upon “herd immunity” for producing policies against this disease has continued, nonetheless.
CNN headlined on 28 April 2020, “Sweden says its coronavirus approach has worked. The numbers suggest a different story”, and reported that
On March 28, a petition signed by 2,000 Swedish researchers, including Carl-Henrik Heldin, chairman of the Nobel Foundation, called for the nation’s government to “immediately take steps to comply with the World Health Organization’s (WHO) recommendations.”
The scientists added: “The measures should aim to severely limit contact between people in society and to greatly increase the capacity to test people for Covid-19 infection.”
“These measures must be in place as soon as possible, as is currently the case in our European neighboring countries,” they wrote. “Our country should not be an exception to the work to curb the pandemic.”
The petition said that trying to “create a herd immunity, in the same way that occurs during an influenza epidemic, has low scientific support.”
Swedish authorities have denied having a strategy to create herd immunity, one the UK government was rumored to be working towards earlier on in the pandemic — leading to widespread criticism — before it enforced a strict lockdown.
FORTUNE magazine headlined on 30 July 2020, “How parts of India inadvertently achieved herd immunity”, and reported that, “Around 57% of people across parts of India’s financial hub of Mumbai have coronavirus antibodies, a July study found, indicating that the population may have inadvertently achieved the controversial ‘herd immunity’ protection from the coronavirus.” Furthermore:
Herd immunity is an approach to the coronavirus pandemic where, instead of instituting lockdowns and other restrictions to slow infections, authorities allow daily life to go on as normal, letting the disease spread. In theory, enough people will become infected, recover, and gain immunity that the spread will slow on its own and people who are not immune will be protected by the immunity of those who are. University of Chicago researchers estimated in a paper published in May that achieving herd immunity from COVID-19 would require 67% of people to be immune to the disease. Mayo Clinic estimates 70% of the U.S. population will need to be immune for the U.S. to achieve herd immunity, which can also be achieved by vaccinating that proportion of a population.
On 27 September 2020, Reuters bannered “In Brazil’s Amazon a COVID-19 resurgence dashes herd immunity hopes”, and reported that, “The largest city in Brazil’s Amazon has closed bars and river beaches to contain a fresh surge of coronavirus cases, a trend that may dash theories that Manaus was one of the world’s first places to reach collective, or herd, immunity.”
Right now, the global average of Covid-19 intensity (total cases of the disease thus far) is 19,693 persons per million population. For examples: Botswana is barely below that intensity, at 19,629, and Norway is barely above that intensity, at 20,795. Sweden is at 95,905, which is nearly five times the global average. Brazil is 69,006, which is around 3.5 times worse than average. India is 14,321, which is slightly better than average. USA is 99,754.
However, the day prior, on May 2nd, America had 30,701 new cases. Brazil had 28,935. Norway had 210. India had 370,059. Sweden’s latest daily count (as-of May 3rd) was 5,937 on April 29th, 15 times Norway’s 385 on that date. Sweden’s population is 1.9 times that of Norway. India’s daily count is soaring. Their population is four times America’s, but the number of new daily cases in India is twelve times America’s. Whereas India has had only one-seventh as much Covid-19 intensity till now, India is soaring upwards to become ultimately, perhaps, even worse than America is on Covid-19 performance. And Brazil is already almost as bad as America, on Covid-19 performance, and will soon surpass America in Covid-19 failure.
There is no “herd immunity” against Covid-19, yet, anywhere. It’s just another libertarian myth. But libertarians still continue to believe it — they refuse to accept the data.
Application of Cyber Security: A Comparative Analysis of Pakistan and India
In today’s world, communication is controlled by the internet. The Internet is what links the communication protocol of a state to its cyber domain. Cyber security encompasses techniques, technologies, methods and blueprints made to secure networking systems from potential cyber-attacks. Efficient systems of cyber security therefore mitigate and reduce the danger of network systems being attacked or accessed by unauthorized systems.
Despite the existence of such robust networks and security protocols, the exploit of such systems is always a click away, due to the integration of the internet as a worldwide network, and in times of global outbreaks and crisis, internet activity also inevitably increases. This was particularly observable with the spread of the Covid-19 as a global pandemic, which also saw an increase in over-the-web activity, and gave a new breathing space for cyber-criminals. According to estimates, Covid-19, as a pandemic, can already be classified as the largest ever existing threat to cyber-security across the globe, since the induction of the world wide web as a global chain of networks. Thus, it would be fair to say that the effects of the covid-19 were not selectively felt by developing states only, but also encapsulated great powers of the contemporary era.
While contextualizing Pakistan and India in the cyber-security debate following the events of the covid-19 scenario, the trend in increased virtual cyber-attacks and espionage was no different to the rest of the world. The real question mark lies in the ability of both countries to effectively deal with the overwhelming cyber-activity in the post-pandemic era. The government of Pakistan established the National Center for Cyber Security (NCCS) in June 2018, and continues to strengthen its cyber-security domain, with a dynamic change in policy making, centric to cybersecurity and threats to cybersecurity from its immediate adversary, India. The current Prime Minister of Pakistan, Mr. Imran Khan, also launched ‘Digital Pakistan Vision’, with the primary objectives of increasing connectivity, rectifying digital infrastructure, and investing in the awareness of digital skills and promotion of entrepreneurship. Pakistan also approved the first ‘Digital Pakistan Policy’, aiming to focus on investment opportunities by IT companies and building the framework necessary for a digital ecosystem. Although a sustained effort has been made to strengthen the cyber-domain of Pakistan, there are many technicalities and loopholes that must be addressed with high priority. One, the lack of an effective communication method, that is free from external intrusion, and allows for the restriction of unwanted network traffic on its master server. In more recent times, an intrusion occurred during the webinar of Institute of Strategic Studies (ISSI) due to non-encrypted internet connection, which allowed unspecified individuals access to the digital webinar. Two, the lack of stable internet connectivity, which prevents effective implementation of security protocols and acts as a hindrance to critical data packets, that must be sent between cyber-security officials in an event of a cyber-attack or espionage of any degree. Three, the existence of exploitable source code in key governmental websites and pages that are always prone to cyber-attacks, and must be revisited in the near future.
On the other hand, India saw a 37% in cyber-activity in the wake of the covid-19 pandemic; an eye-opener for state officials, who have prioritized cybersecurity as the next immediate threat to Indian National Security. In recent developments, India has also launched several directives to its cyber-security strategy in the post-pandemic era, including the initiative launched by The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MEITY), namely ‘Cyber Surakshit Bharat’ with the coordination and support of the National E-Governance Division. According to MIETY, 44 training and mock drills are being given to 265 organizations from different states of the world, a landmark achievement in Indian cyber-security history. However, just like its South Asian neighbor Pakistan, India is also equally overwhelmed by the threat and emergence of hostile cyber-activity. With a 45% ratio of internal cyber attacks, and a 38% ratio of external intrusions from proposed adversaries, China and North Korea, India has strengthened its ties with Israel to revamp its cyber-security strategy, in order to mitigate the immediate threat to its cyber-domain, both internally and externally.
Conclusion and Recommendations
There is an immediate need to extend and further research the cyber capabilities of both Pakistan and India, which would primarily define the different types of technologies and how they are being actively made a part of the National security policy of both Pakistan and India. These efforts must be the immediate need of the hour, with the uncertainty of the Covid-19 and its irregular patterns becoming an inevitable fate of regional and global politics, in the times to come. While India seems to have its primary bases covered, there is no denying that the Covid-19 pandemic did not have a sparing effect on its cyber-domain, either, leaving the door open for Pakistan to make significant improvements to its cyber domain and cyber-security strategy, in order to effectively deter the threat faced from its adversary. Moreover, Pakistan can also seek inspiration from a potential integrated tri-service defense cyber strategy, that is being highly considered by Indian cyber-security and state officials, which would aid in keeping any form of cyber-hostility at bay in upcoming times.
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