MENASource|News, Analysis, Perspectives

Six years ago on March 19, 2011, the United States started its military intervention in Libya. In 2009, President Obama, in his inauguration speech, addressed the world’s dictators asking them to “unclench their fist” and said  that “America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity.” This was not just a statement by the Democrat president; it was a renewed commitment from the leader of the free world. In 2005, President George W. Bush in his second inauguration speech also said, to those living under tyranny that “… the United States will not ignore your oppression, or excuse your oppressors. When you stand for your liberty, we will stand with you.” To the people living under dictatorships, these promises matter.

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A great deal of media attention to Russian involvement in Libya arose as a result of a March 14 Reuters report that Moscow “appears to have deployed special forces to an airbase in western Egypt near the border with Libya.” These forces, reportedly consisting of a 22-man unit, deployed to support General Khalifa Haftar, who controls much of eastern Libya. Haftar is at odds with the UN-backed (and thus Russian-approved) Libyan government based in the western part of the country headed by Fayez al-Sarraj.

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Russian and American action in Syria is fundamentally at odds with Turkish interests. The two international actors have both backed the People’s Protection Units (YPG), the armed wing of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), in ways that harm Turkish interests. The PYD is the Syrian branch of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an insurgent group that has fought the Turkish government, first for Kurdish independence, and later for political autonomy.

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Libya risks a new escalation and a deepening of the division between the eastern region under General Khalifa Haftar and the rest of the country nominally under the control of an ever-weaker UN-backed government headed by Fayez Serraj. On March 3, fighting started in the Oil Crescent, the part of Libya’s central coast where 60 percent of the country’s oil exports transit. 

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In the town of Baiji in central-northern Iraq, a senior police commander has been recording attacks by extremists – almost every day. “Before, extremist attacks were more rare,” the police chief, Saad al-Azzawi, told NIQASH. “But over the past few weeks, the numbers have increased in a very frightening way.

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Former US Special Envoy to Libya, Ambassador Jonathan Winer spoke at a panel event on Libya at the Rafik Hariri Center on March 9, 2016 and gave a short interview afterwards describing the priorities for ending the Libyan crisis. Below is a summary of his comments and the Facebook Live interview. 

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The Benghazi Defense Brigades (BDB)’s recent successful offensive conducted against the Libyan National Army (LNA) in the Gulf of Sidra—in which it seized the oil ports and terminals of Ras Lanuf and Es Sider—leads one to consider its effects on the Skhirat agreement. This is the agreement that produced the Libyan Political Agreement (LPA) and a Presidential Council (PC) and was negotiated under the leadership of the United Nations by a plethora of Libyan actors, with support from most countries involved in Libya.

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Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud is currently engaged in a tour in Asia, which will last about a month. Five out of six of the countries he is visiting are Muslim majority nations (the sixth, China, has a significant and ancient Muslim minority population). While there is undoubtedly a financial and economic aspect to this trip, there is also a deep quasi-cultural element to it as well that bears close attention as this powerful Sunni Arab Gulf nation, underpinned by a purist Salafi religious establishment, continues to make waves.

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The United States has launched more than 40 air strikes since March 3 on suspected al-Qaeda sites in Yemen, more air strikes than all of 2016. The Trump administration hopes to boast of progress in stopping the advance of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which has seen significant gains since the outbreak of Yemen’s war nearly two years ago. Doing so could bolster the administration’s emphasis on stopping “radical Islam.”

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The collapse of the Libyan government under Gaddafi, exposed a lack of transparency and accountability that were part of Gaddafi’s oppressive and corrupt economy. The post-revolution political bickering weakened Libyan institutions further and left no clear system of governance or way of managing competition over Libyan oil, financial, and security sectors.

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