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28 October 2019  

Tunisia's sustainable democratisation: Between new and anti-politics in the 2019…

on Tunisia

By Larbi Sadiki On 13 October, the election of retired constitutional law professor, Kais Saied, as Tunisia’s new president triggered a wide array of reactions and energised hopes...

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04 October 2019  

The Africa-Palestine Conference: Why South Africa must lead the way

on Palestine

By Ramzy Baroud On 16 September, I visited South Africa, a country where many Palestinians have always felt welcomed, if not overwhelmed by the degree of genuine and meaningful so...

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14 September 2019  

Tunisia’s presidential elections: A fragmented field

on Tunisia

  By Larbi Sadiki The Tunisian presidential race is heating up. With several front-runners and twenty-six candidates, the upcoming early elections on 15 September reflects a...

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06 September 2019  

The war ahead: Netanyahu's election gamble will be costly for…

on Israel

By Ramzy Baroud On 1 September, the Lebanese group Hizbullah, struck an Israeli military base near the border town of Avivim. The Lebanese attack came as an inevita...

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04 September 2019  

Budding frenemies: The complicated US-Turkish relationship

on Turkey

When Donald Trump was elected the forty-fifth president of the USA in November 2016, the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, was among the first world leaders to congratulate ...

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14 August 2019  

Syria's security reshuffle highlights Russia's consolidation of power

on Syria

July began with a major shake-up in the Syrian military and intelligence apparatus. In an attempt to consolidate power after regaining territorial control over most of the country...

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28 October 2019  

Tunisia's sustainable democratisation: Between new and anti-politics in the 2019…

on Tunisia

By Larbi Sadiki On 13 October, the election of retired constitutional law professor, Kais Saied, as Tunisia’s new president triggered a wide array of reactions and energised hopes...

Read more

04 October 2019  

The Africa-Palestine Conference: Why South Africa must lead the way

on Palestine

By Ramzy Baroud On 16 September, I visited South Africa, a country where many Palestinians have always felt welcomed, if not overwhelmed by the degree of genuine and meaningful so...

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14 September 2019  

Tunisia’s presidential elections: A fragmented field

on Tunisia

  By Larbi Sadiki The Tunisian presidential race is heating up. With several front-runners and twenty-six candidates, the upcoming early elections on 15 September reflects a...

Read more

06 September 2019  

The war ahead: Netanyahu's election gamble will be costly for…

on Israel

By Ramzy Baroud On 1 September, the Lebanese group Hizbullah, struck an Israeli military base near the border town of Avivim. The Lebanese attack came as an inevita...

Read more

04 September 2019  

Budding frenemies: The complicated US-Turkish relationship

on Turkey

When Donald Trump was elected the forty-fifth president of the USA in November 2016, the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, was among the first world leaders to congratulate ...

Read more

14 August 2019  

Syria's security reshuffle highlights Russia's consolidation of power

on Syria

July began with a major shake-up in the Syrian military and intelligence apparatus. In an attempt to consolidate power after regaining territorial control over most of the country...

Read more
More from this category

04 October 2019  

The Africa-Palestine Conference: Why South Africa must lead the way

on Palestine

By Ramzy Baroud On 16 September, I visited South Africa, a country where many Palestinians have always felt welcomed, if not overwhelmed by the degree of genuine and meaningful so...

Read more

06 September 2019  

The war ahead: Netanyahu's election gamble will be costly for…

on Israel

By Ramzy Baroud On 1 September, the Lebanese group Hizbullah, struck an Israeli military base near the border town of Avivim. The Lebanese attack came as an inevita...

Read more

04 September 2019  

Budding frenemies: The complicated US-Turkish relationship

on Turkey

When Donald Trump was elected the forty-fifth president of the USA in November 2016, the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, was among the first world leaders to congratulate ...

Read more

14 August 2019  

Syria's security reshuffle highlights Russia's consolidation of power

on Syria

July began with a major shake-up in the Syrian military and intelligence apparatus. In an attempt to consolidate power after regaining territorial control over most of the country...

Read more

23 June 2019  

Strategic implications of the 'deal of the century' and the…

on Palestine-Israel

Aisling Byrne interviews Abdel Bari Atwan Donald Trump’s ‘Deal of the Century’ (DoC) - whether in its actual or conceptual form - is ushering in a new strategic era, providing cov...

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14 June 2019  

Postponed: Unveiling of Trump's 'deal of the century' frozen as…

on Palestine-Israel

Touted by its architects as the ‘deal of the century’, US president Donald Trump’s plan for Palestine and Israel has had to again be kept hidden as Israel heads back to elections a...

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23 October 2018  

Jamal Khashoggi, small spark for a large fire

on Saudi Arabia

By Hassan Aourid Until last Saturday, I was hopeful that the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at his country’s consulate in Istanbul was not more than a case of c...

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19 October 2018  

Khashoggi murder: Killing dissent even from within

on Saudi Arabia

The gruesome murder of exiled Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul was designed to be a clear and firm message for Saudi dissidents, and reflected th...

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08 July 2018  

As Hudaida falls to Saudi-Emirati coalition, peace for Yemen seems…

on Yemen

The recent and ongoing Saudi-Emirati offensive on the Yemeni port city of Hudaida will render UN special envoy Martin Griffiths’s ‘new’ solution to the five-year-long Yemeni crisis...

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18 May 2018  

Beyond Tradition and Modernity: Dilemmas of Transformation in Saudi Arabia

on Saudi Arabia

By Madawi Al-Rasheed Introduction The dominant narrative through which many observers understand Saudi Arabia depicts a progressive and modernist leadership struggling to gra...

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27 April 2018  

Chaotic Yemen: The deconstruction of a failed state and regional…

on Yemen

by Helen Lackner Yemen remains in the grip of its most severe crisis ever: the civil war between forces loyal to the internationally-recognised government of President Abd Rabbuh ...

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12 December 2017  

How the Saudis Escalated Yemen Struggle Beyond All Control

on Yemen

By Justin Podur Yemen is a small, poor country in a region empires have plundered for centuries. This civil war is a local struggle that has been escalated out of control by the a...

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28 October 2019  

Tunisia's sustainable democratisation: Between new and anti-politics in the 2019…

on Tunisia

By Larbi Sadiki On 13 October, the election of retired constitutional law professor, Kais Saied, as Tunisia’s new president triggered a wide array of reactions and energised hopes...

Read more

14 September 2019  

Tunisia’s presidential elections: A fragmented field

on Tunisia

  By Larbi Sadiki The Tunisian presidential race is heating up. With several front-runners and twenty-six candidates, the upcoming early elections on 15 September reflects a...

Read more

30 July 2019  

Geopolitics of Sudan Revolution - Presentation to AMEC

on Sudan

Sudan lies in the hotbed of the Horn of Africa, a region that has been plagued by decades of instability and ruin as a result of intense conflicts perpetuated by post-colonial vest...

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30 July 2019  

The December 2018 revolution and Sudanese professionals in the diaspora

on Sudan

WE LEFT SUDAN In drovesIn the late 80’s and 90’sIndeed, my generation of educated Sudanese professionals are scattered around the globe(Out of 200 medical graduates from Khartoum ...

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29 July 2019  

Geopolitics of Sudan Revolution - Presentation to AMEC

on Sudan

By Zeenat Adam 17 July 2019 Sudan lies in the hotbed of the Horn of Africa, a region that has been plagued by decades of instability and ruin as a result of intense conflicts per...

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17 April 2019  

Bashir falls but the security apparatus maintains control

on Sudan

Since the military ouster of Sudan’s President Omar Al-Bashir, early on Thursday, 11 April, after three months of protests, different military factions have been jos...

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12 October 2018  

Ethiopia, Eritrea: An unlikely peace deal in a fractious region

on Ethiopia

The recent peace deal between Ethiopia and Eritrea, signed 16 September 2018, is set to have lasting consequences for both countries and for the Horn of Africa ...

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06 April 2017  

Ensuring Somalia remains in conflict: Trump’s expanded ‘war on terror’

on Somalia

By Afro-Middle East Centre The 29 March decision by the administration of US president Donald Trump declaring Somalia an ‘area of active hostility’ will likely ensure an escalatio...

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10 October 2016  

South Sudan: Beyond the logjam of UNSC Resolution 2304

on South Sudan

By Majak D’Agoôt and Remember Miamingi No country is entirely self-contained or lacking in interdependencies. These interlocking interests form the critical part of any country’s ...

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28 April 2015  

Nigeria’s elections and future challenges

on Sub-Saharan Africa

By Afro-Middle East Centre The election of General Muhammadu Buhari as Nigeria’s president will see a renewed focus by the government on domestic challenges posed by endemic...

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26 September 2013  

Kenyan hostage crisis: The desperation of al-Shabab

on Sub-Saharan Africa

By Afro-Middle East Centre The hostage drama at the Westgate Mall in Nairobi over the past week has raised a number of questions about the Somali organisation al-Shabab. After the...

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23 January 2013  

French military intervention will add to Mali’s problems

on Sub-Saharan Africa

By Afro-Middle east Centre   The north of Africa was plunged into yet another international conflict with France’s invasion of Mali on Friday, 11 January. Without im...

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23 April 2019  

India in Kashmir: Risking peace as an antidote to war

on South Asia

By Ranjan Solomon On 14 February 2019, a convoy of vehicles carrying security personnel on the Jammu Srinagar National Highway was attacked by a vehicle-borne suicide bomber ...

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28 August 2015  

Does Pakistan’s refusal to join Saudi Arabia in Yemen indicate…

on Pakistan

By Afro-Middle East Centre Allegedly, the current Saudi-led onslaught on Yemen has already caused destruction that resembles the destruction wrought in Syria over the la...

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31 March 2012  

The feasibility of a continued United States presence in Afghanistan

on South Asia

By Alex Strick van Linschoten and Felix Kuehn Recent events in Afghanistan have fuelled speculation over the ability of international forces to continue their presence in the coun...

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28 February 2012  

Dangerous uncertainty in Pakistan

on South Asia

By Junaid S. Ahmed With relations between Pakistan's civilian government and military incredibly tense, speculation is rife in the Pakistani and international media of a looming m...

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30 May 2011  

Pakistan-USA relations in the post-Usama era

on South Asia

By Junaid S. Ahmad The assassination of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan by US Special Forces was supposed to have been a landmark triumph that would bring peace and stability to the r...

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13 December 2010  

Kashmir and Obama's Indian appeasement

on South Asia

By Mohammad Abdullah Gul Obama's recent jive with school children in Delhi symbolises the nature of the new relationship that is emerging between India and the United States of Am...

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26 April 2017  

IS reorganising to face new challenges

on Political Islam

Reports in January 2017 that the leader of the Islamic State group (IS), Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, had been killed, reports that he had been captured by Russian troops in Syria, and th...

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07 March 2017  

IS in Africa: Containment and fragmentation

on Political Islam

By Afro-Middle East Centre With the Islamic State group (IS) losing territory in Syria and Iraq, many believe that the group will use the territory it controls in Africa as a fall...

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14 May 2016  

The Paradox of Survival and Expansion: How the Islamic State…

on Political Islam

Omar Ashour This paper examines the reasons for the military steadfastness of the Islamic State group (IS) in the face of local and international forces that are larger in numbers...

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19 December 2015  

ISIS in Africa: Reality far different from IS propaganda

on Political Islam

By Afro-Middle East Centre The revelation that the alleged mastermind of the 13 November Paris attacks claimed by the Islamic State group (IS) was of Moroccan descent, the tur...

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20 July 2015  

Remaining and expanding: Measuring the Islamic State group’s success in…

on Political Islam

By Afro-Middle East Centre Since its declaration of a ‘caliphate’ on 29 June 2014, the Islamic State group (IS), the brutal successor to al-Qa'ida, has gone from stren...

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31 January 2012  

The rise of 'Ikhwanophobia': Fear of the Muslim Brotherhood

on Political Islam

By Dr. Mohsen Saleh Introduction Fear of the Muslim Brotherhood (Ikhwanal-Muslimoon), the leading Islamist movement, has gained unprecedented international prominence since the b...

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18 February 2018  

Africa and the problem of foreign military bases

on 'War on terror'

At the establishment of the African Union (AU) in May 2001, discourses about human security and counter terrorism were ubiquitous both globally and on the continent. In Africa, the...

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21 November 2015  

The Paris attacks: Aftermath and the Islamic State group’s future

on 'War on terror'

By Afro-Middle East Centre The terror unleashed on Paris streets on 13 November reverberated throughout the world. From the G20 summit in Antalya to social media debates about how...

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28 May 2010  

Al-Qaeda in the New National Security Strategy

on 'War on terror'

By Mark Lynch The Obama administration's new National Security Strategy has been released today. It goes a long way towards providing a coherent framework for American foreign pol...

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16 February 2010  

Pakistan’s attitude towards Obama’s plan to negotiate with the Taliban

on 'War on terror'

By Dr. Ijaz Shafi Gilani U.S. President Barack Obama's plan to negotiate with the Taliban in Afghanistan has generally been welcomed in Pakistan. It is being seen as a vindication...

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07 February 2010  

Mission Absolute: American hegemony in space

on 'War on terror'

By Sourav Roy Come April 2010, officials from the sleepy Polish municipality of Morag will be gearing up for perhaps their most critical assignment in the new decade. Their job wi...

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Regional dimensions to the Libyan conflict

Political fallout from Gaddafi’s ousting

NATO’s ousting of the Gaddafi regime had many implications. Four key issues continue to impact on the region. First, thousands of armed Tuareg fighters, previously employed by Gaddafi, have caused instability across the Sahel. In 2012, northern Mali was overrun by Tuareg rebelling against the discrimination meted out to them by the Malian government. The fact that some Tuareg groups, such as Ansar Dine, subscribe to a radical ideology was used to sanction a French-led intervention. While this forced a Tuareg retreat, it did not deal with the underlying problem; conflict could flare up again.

Second, the new Libyan regime’s inability to secure its southern and western borders means Libya has become a hub for arms smuggling to and from areas as far afield as Lebanon and Syria.

Third, gridlock within Libya’s parliamentary body, the Libyan General National Congress (GNC), led to the formation of extra-governmental organisations. Several of these, such as Ansar al-Sharia in Libya (ASL), are radically militant, and hold no truck with democracy.

Fourth, the Gaddafi regime kept its security forces weak, and the new state has so far been unable to retrain or re-equip its forces. Instead, various militia groups have stepped into the vacuum. Some operate within the Ministry of Defence, but others are funded by various regional states and act as proxies in furthering their funders’ interests. Reportedly numbering over 250 000 fighters, these militias have been able to force the GNC’s hand at times. For example, in May 2013, the GNC and other state institutions were besieged and forced to enact a ‘political isolation law’, resulting in several parliamentarians being forced out of office for supporting the former regime. And in October 2013, the prime minister, Ali Zeidan, was kidnappedby militia, although he was released the same day.

Libya and Egypt

The ousting of Egyptian president, Mohamed Morsi, caused significant consternation among militants in Libya, including the ASL, which had reportedly smuggled arms from Libya to militant Egyptians in the Sinai, where Egyptian soldiers and checkpoints are under attack. While the Libyan government has remained neutral about upheavals in Egypt, Libyan parties such as the Islamist Justice and Construction Party (JCP) condemned the coup. This worried the post-Morsi regime.

Further Libya’s vast oil resources, which are located close to the Egyptian border in the east, have been touted as a means of solving Egypt’s current energy crisis. This was all the more achievable in light of the secessionist tendencies of many tribes residing in Eastern regions. Forces comprising the Petroleum Facilities’ Guards (PFG) under the command of Ibrahim Jathran had actively halted oil exports causing losses of over thirty-five billion dollars of government revenue, and a Barqa political office to agitate for more autonomy in the East/Cyrenaica was established.

Thus in an effort to secure his country’s oil interests, Egyptian general, Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, warned against the dangers from Libya in his first televised speech after his presidential nomination. In a later interview he called for western involvement in Libya under the guise of acting against terrorism. Egyptian officials and media have also touted the notion of a rebel ‘Free Egyptian Army in Libya’, possibly to pave the way for future Egyptian incursions into Libya.

The rise of Libya’s General Khalifa Haftar has been good for Egypt. Like Sisi, Haftar couches his operations in terms of counter-terrorism, and actively seeks Egyptian assistance in his fight against Islamists. In numerous statements he has reiterated his support for Sisi, and called on Egypt to deal with issues related to the Libyan-Egyptian border as it sees fit. He even welcomed Egyptian air strikes in Libyan territory.

Egypt has partially obliged. Egyptian intelligence assisted Haftar – holding a meeting in July2014 to discuss ways of reversingHaftar’s lack of support in Tripoli and Benghazi. Egypt also encouraged other states to strengthen Haftar. Sisi met Algerian president Abdelaziz Bouteflika to discuss joint ‘counter-terrorism’ measures, and said Egypt’s forces should be able to reach Algeria in ‘just three days’ - crossing Libya.

Meanwhile, Egypt has closed its Libyan border. Haftar acknowledged that Sisi had offered to send troops to protect the Red Valley and Dak regions, where most of Libya’s oil is located. While this may have simply been an attempt to elicit further Egyptian support, Egypt’s oil shortages do make this a real possibility.

However, Egypt’s troops are not in Libya yet, and this seems unlikely to change soon with Egypt’s military resources already stretched by responding to rebel groups in the Sinai. The situation in Libya is very fluid, and Egyptian forces will probably only be dispatched if Haftar has a good chance of victory. For now, Egypt’s assistance to Haftar will remain limited to intelligence sharing plus diplomatic and logistical support.

The role of other powers

Saudi Arabia and the UAE

The popular uprisings in the Middle East–North Africa region in 2011 reconfigured the regional power balance: with Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states losing influence, the so-called ‘moderate axis’ was weakened, and its backbone, Egypt, bent.

The leaders of the Gulf kingdoms base their legitimacy on their Islamic credentials, and on the notion that Islam and democracy are incompatible. Thus the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, the JCP in Libya and Ennahda in Tunisia – which advocate an Islamic form of democracy – undermines the hegemony of these kings.

To prevent Islamist groups from spreading further, the Gulf states adopted various measures. They helped depose Morsi, backing the Egyptian military diplomatically and financially to the tune of overUS$20 billion, and supporting the crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood. They urged foreign non-Arab powers not to interfere, and encouraged the Egyptian military to reject US/EU-brokered negotiations that might have led to a reconciliation between the regime and the Brotherhood. In Tunisia, the UAE has continually been funding the opposition Nidaa Tounes movement, thus helping to oust the Ennahda-led government. Further, when Qatar refused to abide by the categorisation, in March 2014, of the Muslim Brotherhood as a ‘terrorist’ organisation by certain Gulf states, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Bahrain withdrew their diplomatic representatives from Qatar. Another measure became manifest on the sidelines of a Mediterranean foreign ministers meeting in Paris in June 2014, when the UAE’s Crown Prince Mohammad Zayed reportedly met Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman, and offered to financially back an Israeli invasion of Gaza if Hamas could be oustedd in the process. Lieberman then publically disagreed with Netanyahu’s refusal to send troops into Gaza, thus ending the alliance between Israel’s Likud and Yisreal Beiteinu parties.

The success of these measures encouraged the Gulf states, led by the UAE, to try to influence developments in Libya by maintaining relations with various Libyan opposition figures residing in the UAE. Mahmoud Jibril, Aref Nayed, and Abdel Majid Mlegta are key in this regard. Jibril heads the National Forces Alliance (Libya’s largest political party by parliamentary seats) and was the de facto prime minister during the 2011 uprising. Mlegta is one of his closest associates and brother to Othman Mlegta, who is head of one of Libya’s militia groups, the al-Qaqa brigade. Nayed is Libya’s ambassador to the UAE, and a staunch critic of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Haftar’s coup attempt in February 2014 was funded by the UAE through these figures. Following Libya’s low-key response to Haftar’s coup attempt, the UAE began funding his ‘Operation Dignity’ (launched in May 2014) to the tune of over US$800 million. In addition, the al-Qaqa and al-Suaiq brigades use armoured personnel carriers and ammunition manufactured in and procured from the UAE. (It is interesting to note that with Libya awash with weapons, the UAE promotes its interests there by funding the purchase of ammunition and paying soldiers’ salaries, rather than by supplying them with new arms. It is also noteworthy that Libya’s political isolation law passed in May 2013, and cutbacks in military posts and made former politicians and soldiers (such as Jibril) susceptible to the UAE’s agenda.)

Haftar’s claiming responsibility for the August air strikes on Tripoli was disingenuous, and was an attempt to create panic among rival militia groups which control the area around the airport. The efficiency and timing of the attack were far too sophisticated for Libya’s air force, now controlled by Haftar, which comprises less than a dozen poorly-equipped craft. The UAE, on the other hand, has the region’s best-equipped air force (excluding Israel). With over sixty F-16 Block 60 fighter planes, French Mirages, various soviet craft, well-trained pilots, and a few Airbus 330 refuelling jets, the UAE has the capacity to dominate the skies over a wide area.

Qatar

To enhance its diplomatic status, and implement a foreign policy independent of Saudi Arabia, Qatar has provided asylum to dissidents from, and funded political groups in, post-uprising MENA states. For example, Hamas’s politburo head Khaled Meshaal now lives in Qatar, which also partly funds and maintains close relations with the Egyptian and Syrian Muslim Brotherhood. Similarly, Qatar provides military and financial support to militia groups in Libya, especially Libya Dawn, and maintains close relations with the JCP. The 2013 UNSC report on Libya also accused Qatar of supplying arms to various groups without notifying the UN.

Algeria

Following reports that Algerian militant Mokhtar Belmokhtar was in Libya, and fearing militant infiltration, the Bouteflika regime deployed over 3 500 Algerian paratroopers and 1 500 logistics personnel to Libya’s western regions. Together with US and French forces, the Algerians have secured water and electricity infrastructure in this region, and created a security corridor. The aim is to extend this corridor to Sabha and possibly the city of Nalut. To this end, the Algerian regime has met with Sisi’s government. Algeria and Egypt seem to be implementing a pincer-type operation to stem the growth of militant groups.

Nevertheless, Algeria’s position on Libya is generally more neutral and nuanced. Algeria’s political system has incorporated Islamists, and its government is therefore less threatened by Islamist participation in politics. Thus, while Bouteflika would probably like Haftar to be victorious, he is mindful of the influence Sisi might gain if Libya Dawn were destroyed.

What Algeria seeks above all is regional stability, and Bouteflika can be expected to try to ensure this. Before Gaddafi was overthrown, Algeria was one of the last countries to recognise the National Transitional Council (NTC), preferring to side with and support the Gaddafi regime until the very end. Bouteflika’s regime denies that its forces are in Libya, but its deployment of forces in the past (in Egypt in 1973, Amgala in 1976, and Mali in 2012) illustrates that Algeria is willing to participate in conflicts beyond its borders no matter what its official policy might be.

Conclusion

If left unchecked, the actions of the UAE and Egypt will prolong Libya’s crisis. UNSC Resolution 2174, adopted in August 2014, seeks to tighten the Libyan arms embargo and sanction militia forces. Its implementation will be the key to containing further conflict. Failure to act against the activities of the UAE and Egypt could encourage them to expand their operations. The recent convening of the Libyan House of Representatives after the June election may further complicate matters. The poor performances by Islamists – who gained only around thirty of the 200 available seats – coupled with the institution’s apparent preference for the Zintan militia resulted in the GNC being reconstituted. This led to the existence of two centres of power. The House of Representatives is recognized by the international community while the GNC still has support on the ground. The international community thus needs to be extremely wary of militarily intervening, especially if that means backing certain militia over others. France’s recent calls for such need to be opposed –it was the French advocated NATO intervention which led to the current situation, a different response needs to be conceptualised at this juncture.

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20 October 2019  

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An Evening With Ramzy Baroud - Journalist /…

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