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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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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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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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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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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  

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14 August 2019  

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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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10 June 2019  

Teaching Palestine in South Africa

on Palestine

By Diana Block Reaffirming Internationalism in the Twenty-first Century In March 2019 I traveled to Johannesburg, South Africa to attend a conference – Teaching Palestine: P...

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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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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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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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16 April 2019  

Haftar's march on Tripoli

on Libya

Khalifa Haftar’s 4 April announcement declaring his march on Tripoli, and the subsequent attack on the Libyan capital by his forces, threaten to gravely impact the a...

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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

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20 July 2015  

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on Political Islam

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31 January 2012  

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on Political Islam

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18 February 2018  

Africa and the problem of foreign military bases

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21 November 2015  

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

on 'War on terror'

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28 May 2010  

Al-Qaeda in the New National Security Strategy

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16 February 2010  

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

on 'War on terror'

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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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The pitfalls of weaponry: Undermining legitimacy in Libya

According to a report by the National Security Committee of the General National Congress, the number of employees of the Ministry of the Interior exceeds 200 000, including more than 130 000 commissioned and non-commissioned officers.[i] However, there are no clear signs of the presence of security, despite this spread of police and traffic officers. With all this immense manpower, the Ministry of the Interior is unable to impose security, as policemen hesitate to execute warrants of arrest and criminal prisoners repeatedly escape. The police argue that their inability to confront suspects is due to the proliferation of arms and that the armed men are daring in using their weapons, even against the police and army.

The current security situation strongly affects the general population, and it both fuels and is fuelled by the political crisis. Some powers consider a stronger Libyan state a threat to their interests, so they use the armed factions to weaken state authority, while other powers believe that a stronger state serves their interests – but they oscillate between building the armed forces of the state and using armed factions to implement their decisions. All of this exacerbates internal conflict and contributes to a significant loss of confidence in the state’s abilities to control security. On the eve of 26 February 2014, after the assassination of a number of policemen and soldiers, crowds of protesters in Benghazi demanded the formation of a protection committee to protect their city. They also demanded that this committee be given full financial support, and that police and other security forces be placed under its authority.

The state’s inability to ensure security, the growth of armed groups that gained legitimacy from their participation in the revolution against Gadhafi, the lack of sufficient legitimate and elected political leadership to spread the state’s authority across the territory, and the growing calls for the kind of regional autonomy that existed in the past, have made it possible for some forces to refuse recognition of the state – even going so far as to call for the use of force against the state, if necessary. Retired General Khalifa Haftar’s call to overthrow the General National Congress after its mandate is over has been the most prominent example of such developments.

Change by force

Many of those concerned with affairs in Libya have commented on the severe polarisation caused by the general’s call, between those who saw it as a revolutionary attempt against the legitimate regime, and his supporters, who claimed Haftar offered a political initiative to get out of the deadlock at the end the National Congress’s mandate.

Haftar’s movement depends on military force to overthrow an elected and legitimate regime and establish a new regime based on armed forces, and, as such, it resembles a military coup. Haftar has rejected this characterisation, and on various occasions has used the terms ‘course correction’, and, on television, ‘an initiative’ (like any other initiative that was launched six months ago) to address the critical situation. However, leaders of military change are unlikely to use the term ‘coup’, as they usually describe their actions as a response to the will and demands of the people.

On the other hand, the appearance of Haftar delivering a statement in his military uniform, on Al Arabiya TV channel on the morning of 7 February 2014, brought to mind the recent leading role played by General Abdul Fattah el-Sisi in the coup in Egypt). Breaking news revealed the control by Haftar’s forces of vital sites in Libya’s capital, Tripoli; information that was not denied by Haftar in any of his following statements. This confirms that Haftar is operating from a revolutionary starting point.

The trend towards change by force is made clear in the statement read by Haftar, which emphasised the end of the role of the General National Congress and the Libyan government and the freezing of the Constitution. The content of the statement showed consistency with steps followed by military coups; it is well known that the first decision of revolutionary movements is to abolish existing authority and the constitutional basis on which it is based and from which it derives its legitimacy.

In a later interview with Free Libya TV, Haftar denied that his scheme was a coup, but he confirmed that he was in contact with soldiers, rebels and tribal components, and that he and his supporters were ready to protect the people in case they decided to overthrow the Congress.

Haftar’s communication with officers, soldiers, rebels, and tribal leaders in the east, west, and south of Libya, indicates that – similar to the scenario with Sisi in Egypt – he betted on a broad popular movement on 7 February, with Haftar and his supporters as its military tool. The broad popular movement would then become the deterring force against armed entities supporting the General National Congress and rejecting the ‘No to Extension’ demonstrations. These entities have pledged to protect ‘legitimacy’ and to respond to any military action against the General National Congress. Haftar has publicly connected his role and the will of people: ‘the ball is now in the range of our people, and we are waiting their response to us; and we are ready’.[ii]

These events must be seen in the context of the joint position assumed by the head of the General National Congress, the prime minister and the chief of staff, all of whom have strongly rejected Haftar’s call – despite evident tensions between the Congress, the joint chiefs of staff and the prime minister. They all agreed to consider Haftar’s movement as a coup attempt, and instructions were issued by the prime minister and chief of staff to arrest him.

Bridges and cracks

It is clear that Haftar’s call to overthrow the General National Congress and Libyan government has not received popular response. In addition, the support from officers and armed groups is still limited and confined to modest numbers in the eastern region and some supporters in the west. Even with increasing public sentiment that a strong personality is required to control the security situation in Libya, recent celebrations of the anniversary of the revolution showed popular attachment to its democratic promises and popular rejection of change by force – particularly by someone who was sharply criticised for his role in the civil war in Chad. Moreover, Haftar was one of the officers who helped Gadhafi gain access to power. But continued political confusion, increasing polarisation between different groupings and discontent with the performance of current leadership may give Haftar’s move some momentum, particularly in view of the wave of rejection against the General National Congress by a section of the elite and by rebels.

On the other hand, the regional orientation in the eastern region may be fuelled by Haftar’s move. Hafter’s reliance on this dimension was made clear in his speech before those who gathered in front of his house on 28 February 2014, when he threatened to arrest members of the General National Congress and the Prime Minister if they arrived at any of the airports of the eastern region.[iii]

The impact of Haftar’s move was also clearly manifested in the antagonism between the two political camps represented by the National Forces Alliance and Justice and Construction Party. On the one hand, the chairman of the Justice and Construction party, Mohamed Sowan, described Haftar’s statement as an attempted ‘coup’, as he announced the cancellation of legitimate institutions. On the other hand, the chairman of the Steering Committee of the National Forces Alliance, Abdul Majid Milaiqtah, considered what Haftar offered to be one of the visions put forward by various parties.[iv] The impact of the two parties’ opposing positions on aggravating polarisation and on weakening efforts to contain Haftar is obvious.

There are also indications that Haftar’s move may consolidate struggles and competition for symbols and influence outside the circle of the democratic process and its electoral mechanisms, a factor that will increase the problems of the transitional period and contribute to its obstruction.

It is not expected that repercussions of Haftar’s move will constitute a direct and strong threat to the General National Congress and the government, or to Libyan political processes. However, similar moves to turn away from the state’s authority could take place, such as recent attempts of some armed factions to export oil without permission from the Libyan government. These moves fall within the context of some powers’ bet on arms rather than acceptance of elections to achieve their interests. However, the Libyan state is persistent in its efforts to impose its authority. Prime Minister Ali Zeidan, ousted by the GNC on 11 March through a vote of no-confidence, arrived in Benghazi just two days after Haftar’s threats, without being exposed to any harm. The election of the constituent body of the Libyan constitution, a major factor in the transitional road map, is an additional victory for the state and, undoubtedly, a success in consolidating the legitimacy of elections over resorting to arms and evidence that the nascent Libyan state has managed, despite its weakness, to overcome the forces that want to overthrow it.

 

Endnotes:


[i]‘Evaluating the performance of the Ministry of Interior: A Report of the Committee on Security Affairs in January 2014’.

[ii](الشرقالأوسط،) The Middle East, 23 February 2014.

[iii](الشرقالأوسط،) The Middle East, 2 March 2014.

[iv](موقعالعربية) Arab Location, 15 February 2014.

 

* This article was first published by Al Jazeera in Arabic and then translated into English by AMEC

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