SYRIA, A “NEW” LIBYA WITH VERY LITTLE TIME LEFT?

22libya-full-bleed-videoSixteenByNine3000                   Fotograph courtesy of the New York Times

 

There could be no more apt image to describe Libyan politics today than the prime minister himself, the beleaguered Mr Ali Zeidan, being kidnapped on Tuesday morning by a militia notionally allied to his own government. When he was released several hours later, he noted, with marvellous understatement, that “there are many things that need dealing with”. Indeed there are.

For one thing, Mr Zeidan’s was not the first abduction of the week. That came courtesy of American special forces, who strolled into Tripoli on Saturday to pick up Abu Anas al-Liby, a senior member of al‑Qaeda wanted for the 1998 bombings of US embassies in Kenya and Uganda. The Americans then made life immeasurably harder for the Libyan government by insisting that it had known about the raid. The predictable result was uproar.

But it’s no surprise that the US felt the need to step in. Libyan forces were neither able to prevent the 2011 attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, which killed Ambassador Chris Stevens, nor arrest anyone afterwards. If the US had simply put in an extradition request, the prospect of al-Liby being picked up or ever facing trial would have been vanishingly small.

In truth, the prime minister’s kidnapping and the US raid are both no more than symptoms of something that has been obvious for over a year: Libya’s post-Gaddafi state lacks the firepower to impose its will on an increasingly lawless country. The Italian consulate in Benghazi was attacked in January, the French embassy in April, the EU ambassador’s convoy in August, and Russia’s embassy last week. And those are just the foreign targets.

This is about much more than terrorist violence. The state in Libya, which Colonel Gaddafi eviscerated for his own despotic ends, is now being consumed by the same rebel groups that brought it into life back in 2011. Performing the most basic tasks of administration, such as making arrests or monitoring borders, can require a negotiation between the government and whichever militias happen to have accumulated enough guns in that particular area. It’s not just that the enfeebled police and army won’t take them on for fear of losing. It’s also that the state has decided to outsource these functions to its tormentors. Both the prime minister’s kidnapping and the attack in Benghazi were perpetrated by groups that have worked with the government and its ministries.

Why are militias challenging the government in the first place? There’s no simple answer, because there is a dizzying variety of groups with guns. Some are Islamist, others secular and nationalist. Some are formed around particular cities or provinces. Others formed in a jumbled way during the 2011 uprising, and claim a sort of Jacobin revolutionary legitimacy against what they see as a government tainted by corrupt, pro-Western stooges.

In March, a coalition of militias, with the typically self-important title of the Supreme Security Council, laid siege to the ministries of justice and foreign affairs for two weeks, insisting that parliament sign a wide-ranging law that would ban Gaddafi-era officials from serving in government. Remarkably, parliament capitulated. It had essentially been coerced into legislating at the barrel of a gun. The speaker of parliament himself was forced to resign.

Outside of Tripoli, the problem is no better. For the past two months, Libyan oil exports have plummeted to a fifth of their Gaddafi-era peak, after guards at eastern oil facilities and ports went on strike. Part of that dispute was a demand that eastern Libya, which chafes at Tripoli’s domination, be given more autonomy.

Wars, once won, tend to be forgotten. This was the fate of Afghanistan in the years after 2001, Iraq in 2003 and Libya in 2011. But Libya’s problems will not stay within its borders. Adding to all of these domestic concerns is the massive flow of arms across Libya’s long, porous borders. Libyan weapons, looted from Gaddafi’s armouries, have been smuggled across the region, turning up in places as diverse as Mali, the Sinai, Gaza and Syria. According to one estimate, around 3,000 shoulder-launched anti-aircraft missiles – capable of bringing down civilian airliners – remain missing.

The dilemma is clear: Libya’s government is too weak to fix these problems itself, but unilateral American or European steps – or assistance that is too public – risks tainting the government further in the eyes of Islamists and nationalists. A careful balance has to be struck. This government’s authority has been eroding for over a year, and it has now suffered the most grievous blow yet. Unless Mr Zeidan shows he can check the power of militias, he risks a continued slide into irrelevance.

The Attack on the American Mission in Benghazi, Libya

The American mission in Benghazi, Libya, was attacked twice on the night of Sept. 11, 2012. Below, the events that evening that resulted in the deaths of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans according to the latest information available.
 
The American mission in Benghazi, Libya, was attacked twice on the night of Sept. 11, 2012. Below, the events that evening that resulted in the deaths of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans according to the latest information available.
Sept. 11, 9:30 p.m. Benghazi time

Militants, firing guns and rocket-propelled grenades, attack the main compound, moving on multiple entrances at once. The main entrance is protected by three armed and four unarmed Libyan guards. No more than seven Americans are in the compound, including three civilians and four who have guns. Mr. Stevens is alone in the main building, according to guards interviewed later. The militants enter the compound, backed by truck-mounted artillery.

Libya Envoy’s Killing Was a Terrorist Attack, the White House Says

WASHINGTON — The White House is now calling the assault on the American diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya, a “terrorist attack.”

“It is self-evident that what happened in Benghazi was a terrorist attack,” the White House press secretary, Jay Carney, told reporters aboard Air Force One on Thursday. “Our embassy was attacked violently and the result was four deaths of American officials.”

Until now, White House officials have not used that language in describing the assault. But with the election less than two months away and President Obama’s record on national security a campaign issue, they have come under criticism from Republican lawmakers who say the administration is playing down a threat for which it was unprepared.

Mr. Carney offered the new assessment in response to a question about remarks by Matthew G. Olsen, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, who told a Congressional committee Wednesday that J. Christopher Stevens, the United States ambassador to Libya, and three other Americans had died “in the course of a terrorist attack.”

Asked if the president drew a connection between the Libyan attack, which occurred on Sept. 11, and the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon 11 years before, Mr. Carney said, “The attack occurred on Sept 11, 2012, so we use the same calendar at the White House as you do.”

In a highly charged political atmosphere, the mere use of the term “terrorist” is loaded, not least, as one administration official acknowledged privately, because the phrase conjures up an image of America under attack, something the White House wants to avoid.

Beyond that, different government agencies have different definitions for what defines terrorism, said Brian Fishman, a counterterrorism expert at the New America Foundation, a nonpartisan research group.

The classic definition, Mr. Fishman said, “is an attack by a nonstate group on noncombatants with the intent to intimidate people.” He said that another reason the administration was shying from using that term is because “they really didn’t know who did it.”

And the president, campaigning in Florida on Thursday, did not use the word terrorism when asked about the attacks.

Mr. Carney maintained on Thursday that Obama administration officials still were not calling the attack preplanned.

“According to the best information we have now, we believe it was an opportunistic attack on our mission in Benghazi,” he said. “It appears that some well-armed militants seized on that attack as the events unfolded that evening. We do not have any specific intelligence that there was significant advance planning or coordination for this attack.”Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said earlier in the week that there had been no intelligence warnings that an attack was imminent.

Mrs. Clinton said that F.B.I. investigators had arrived in Tripoli and that the United States, with the Libyan authorities, would find those responsible. She did not discuss any potential ties to Al Qaeda, but blamed extremists opposed to the democratic changes in places like Libya, Tunisia and Egypt for the violence and protests around the region generally.

Mrs. Clinton announced the creation of a panel to investigate the attack. The panel, called an Accountability Review Board, will be led by Thomas R. Pickering, a veteran diplomat and former under secretary of state. The board is authorized by a 1986 law intended to strengthen security at United States diplomatic missions.

“We are concerned first and foremost with our own people and facilities,” Mrs. Clinton said in an appearance at the State Department with the Indonesian foreign minister. “But we are concerned about the internal security in these countries, because ultimately, that puts at risk the men, women and children of these societies on a daily ongoing basis if actions are not taken to try to restore security and civil order.”

Midnight in Damascus

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MIDNIGHT IN DAMASCUS

Imagine you are part of a hardcore, heavily weaponized Islamist outfit in Syria.

You would have had until noon this Friday to contact the US and/or Russia military and win a prize; be part of a “cessation of hostilities,” ersatz “ceasefire” that does not apply to ISIS/ISIL/Daesh and Jabhat al-Nusra, a.k.a. al-Qaeda in Syria, as well as assorted remnants of the former Free Syrian Army (FSA) who are for all practical purposes embedded with al-Nusra.Compounding the drama, as background noise you have US Secretary of State John Kerry bluffing that Plan B is the partition of Syria anyway. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov once again had to call for order in the court.

So what do you do? You’re a Washington-approved “moderate rebel”. So you re-label yourself as FSA. Will you fool the task force set up by the US and Russia — hotline included — to monitor the “ceasefire”? Well, at least you’ve got a shot. The “ceasefire” mostly applies to the Syrian Arab Army (SAA), unspecified “moderate rebels” and the Syrian Kurds. Everyone must de-weaponize by midnight this Friday.

If you’ve skipped the deadline, you may be in serious trouble. Because for the Russians, that qualifies you as an ally of Salafi-jihadis. You will be bombed to smithereens. And there’s nothing Uncle Sam can do to save you.

This positively Dadaist development is what passes for a road map to peace in Syria — even though odds are on Washington and Moscow will be seeing red on virtually every noon and cranny of it.

What this might spell out though goes way beyond Syria; it’s all about the White House, the Pentagon and NATO’s spectacular demise as exceptionalist arbiters and executioners — using Shock and Awe, R2P (responsibility to protect) or straight-up regime change — of geopolitical tangles.

Or is it?

Position of Syrian army at village of Salma and city of Zabadani
© Sputnik/ Michael Alaeddin

A hefty case can be made whether the “ceasefire” benefits Damascus and Moscow — considering the “4+1” (Russia, Syria, Iran, Iraq plus Hezbollah) has been heavily on the offense. The “ceasefire” may certainly benefit Washington if the hidden agenda — to re-weaponize gaggles of “moderate rebels” — still applies. After all Pentagon supremo Ash “Empire of Whining” Carter, Marine General Joseph Dunford and CIA Director John Brennan are terminal Russophobes who will never admit defeat.The vague terms of the “cessation of hostilities” do not explicity specify that Washington, London and other members of the US-led-from-behind “coalition” should stop bombing Syrian territory. And there’s nothing about suicide bombs and chemical weapons routinely used by any outfit, from ISIS/ISIL/Daesh to “moderate rebels”, against the civilian Syrian population.

So there’s got to be some heavy-duty horse-trading between Washington and Moscow behind all the shadowplay. And none of it has leaked, at least not yet.

Daddy Stole My Invasion

Meanwhile, the much-ballyhooed joint invasion of Syria by Turkey and Saudi Arabia is not going to happen because His Masters’ Voice vetoed it — as Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu was forced to explain. He essentially admitted that the invasion would need the agreement of all members of the US-led-from-behind coalition fighting ISIS/ISIL/Daesh. Unfortunately, they are scared to death of being decimated by the Russian Air Force. So they might as well cozily revert to the “cessation of hostilities” charade.

On what really counts — the Syrian theatre of war — the most pressing issue is whether the SAA will finally be able to control Aleppo and environs, continue to rule in Latakia, and manage to configure Idlib as a Saudi remote-controlled Army of Conquest enclave cut off from almost all sides and depending solely on Ankara, which for its part won’t dare a face-to-face with the Russian Air Force.

It’s no wonder Turkey’s Sultan Erdogan fears this ceasefire business like the plague. Because he’s got nothing; at best a vague promise, extorted by Team Obama, that Syrian Kurds won’t keep advancing to smash either ISIS/ISIL/Daesh along the border, or pockets of al-Qaeda in Syria.In return, Ankara shall desist from its Syrian invasion and that dream of a 10 km “safe zone” inside Syrian territory to keep away the Kurds and facilitate the re-weaponizing of its Islamist proxies. Ankara’s favorite Jabhat al-Nusra, by the way, remains active north of Aleppo, and in the Turkmen regions of Latakia and Azaz (in the Turkish-Syrian border).

What Team Obama seems to have finally understood — and “seems” is the operative word — is that neither ISIS/ISIL/Daesh nor al-Nusra could ever “unify” Syria; assuming 60% of Syria’s population is Sunni, what matters is that over half are secular and do support Damascus against all those Turk/Saudi-supported Salafi-jihadi crazies.

Will this all be enough to assure the success of the “cessation of hostilities” charade? Hardly. Keep calm and carry on (watching). Plan B remains Return of the Living Dead material.

The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do notnecessarily reflect the official position of UNRULY HEARTS.

 

Unholy Alliance: Why US Hawks, Islamists are Bummed Out by Syrian Ceasefire
Ceasefire Agreement to ‘Radically’ Change Syria, Middle East
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WikiLeaks’ Saudi Cables Reveal Riyadh Wanted to Pressure Russia on Syria
Tags:
cessation of hostilities, forecast, military, ceasefire, Daesh, United States, Damascus, Russia, Syria

Estimated war dead World War II

 

AXIS MILITARY CIVILIAN TOTAL
GERMANY

3,500,000

700,000 4,200,000
JAPAN 2,000,000 350,000 2,350,000
ROMANIA 300,000 160,000 460,000
HUNGARY 140,000 290,000 430,000
ITALY 330,000 80,000 410,000
AUSTRIA 230,000 104,000 334,000
FINLAND 82,000 2,000 84,000
AXIS TOTAL 6,582,000 1,686,000 8,268,000
ALLIED MILITARY CIVILIAN TOTAL
SOVIET UNION 10,000,000 10,000,000 * 20,000,000
CHINA 2,500,000 7,500,00 10,000,000
POLAND 100,00 5,700,000 5,800,000
YUGOSLAVIA 300,000 1,400,000 1,700,000
FRANCE 250,000 350,000 600,000
CZECHOSLOVAKIA 200,000 215,000 415,000
UNITED STATES 400,000 400,000
UNITED KINGDOM (ENGLAND, SCOTLAND, WALES, AND  NORTHERN IRELAND) 326,000 62,000 388,000
NETHERLANDS 12,000 198,000 210,000
GREECE 20,000 140,000 160,000
BELGIUM 12,000 76,000 88,000
CANADA 37,000 37,000
INDIA 24,000 13,000 37,000
AUSTRALIA 23,000 12,000 35,000
ALBANIA 28,000 2,000 30,000
BULGARIA 10,000 10,000 20,000
NEW ZEALAND 10,000 2,000 12,000
NORWAY 6,400 3,900 10,300
SOUTH AFRICA 7,000
ETHIOPIA 5,000 5,000
LUXEMBOURG 5,000 5,000
MALTA 2,000 2,000
DENMARK 400 1,000 1,400
BRAZIL 1,000 1,000
ALLIED TOTAL 14,276,800 25,686,900 39,963,700
EST. TOTAL 20,858,800 27,372,900 48,231,700

* The majority of Soviet Union civilian casualties were Ukrainian.

Sources

Gregory Frumkin, Population Changes in Europe Since 1939 (European estimates)

B. Urlanis, Wars and Population (Soviet Union and the Far East)

Singer and Small, Wages of War (the Americas and Ethiopia)

I.C.B. Dear, editor, The Oxford Companion to World War II (British Commonwealth)