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In September 2017, on the sidelines of a gathering of global leaders at the UN General Assembly (UNGA), Special Representative of the UN Secretary General to Libya Ghassan Salame presented an “action plan” for Libya that aimed to surmount Libya’s political stalemate and address persistent instability. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres expressed optimism at the General Assembly regarding the crisis in Libya, calling on all parties to “seize” the moment to move the country forward. However, one year later the situation in Libya is characterized not by progress, but by further deterioration and insecurity.

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The Saudi government shelved plans in late August for an initial public offering (IPO) of shares in Saudi Aramco, the state’s mammoth oil company. King Salman and his son, Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman had intended the proceeds from the sale of a portion of the company’s stock to underwrite their “Vision 2030” program, an ambitious roadmap to move the Kingdom beyond its dependence on oil by building a more diversified economy, more robust society, and a more effective government.

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There is no denying that Libya is in a far worse state than at any time since the 2011 revolution. In a country of vast oil and gas wealth, basic services are frequently interrupted as armed gangs control the capital in the west. In the east, once feared leaders like Khalifa Haftar find their forces cornered in an uneasy truce with militias that were the corner stone of his quest for power. Meanwhile, southern Libya is now overrun by Touareg and Toubou migration as well as African mercenaries. In short, Libya is not one failed state, but more closely resembles three failed states with dozens of groups vying for control.

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On the night of September 2nd, most of the personnel from the Italian embassy in Libyathe only operating embassywere quickly evacuated on a ship bound for Malta. Only a handful of diplomats remained to ensure minimum efficiency. The fate was the same for most of ENI’s technicians, the Italian oil giant that has been active in Libya for decades and one of the few remaining private companies in Libya after 2011. These are clear indications of the increased perception of danger that members of the international community felt after the clashes that have occured in the Libyan capital after August 27th when a militia from the city of Tarhouna launched an attack against the cartel of militias that control Tripoli in order to assure for itself a controlling position in the city.

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The American alliance with Turkey is in crisis. The two NATO allies have divergent interests in the Middle East, stemming from differing policies towards non-state actors. The United States, as the dominant external power in the Middle East, has made counter-terrorism the focal point of its Middle East strategy. American policy is linked to pervasive beliefs about the causes of the 9/11 attacks and the idea that Sunni jihadist groups are most effective when they have safe havens to plan and then execute plots against the US homeland. For Turkey, the threat of Sunni Jihadist non-state actors is secondary to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The PKK is a Kurdish insurgent group that has been active in Turkey since 1984.

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Internet censorship around the world, including in the Middle East, is not a new phenomenon. Freedom of expression facilitated by the internet can pose a threat to authoritarian leaders around the world who seek to maintain strict control over both the content their citizens consume and the content they post. A clear pattern of authoritarian use of the internet to limit citizens’ freedoms can be viewed across the Middle East. Yet most recently, it is in Egypt in particular that this practice appears to be most egregious.  

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The F-35 is the next generation fighter jet designed to ensure NATO’s air superiority for the next twenty to thirty years. The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter development program is a nine-country international consortium, which includes a tiered system of states that collectively contributed to the aircraft’s development and manufacture. Turkey is a Level III partner, meaning it invested an initial $125 million in the program. This investment affords Turkey a program office staff member in the F-35 office, but also means that Turkey has no direct vote on the F-35’s basic engineering and mission requirements. Ankara has invested $1.25 billion in the program since 2002, and Turkey manufactures several key components of the F-35. Despite these investments, Turkey’s future involvement in the F-35 program is no longer certain.

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Recently the World Bank published its annual world income categorization of 189 countries and 28 other economies. Jordan, Syria, and Yemen were among the nine countries whose status climbed or fell to reflect changes in gross national income (GNI). Jordan progressed from a lower-middle income to an upper-middle income country ($3,896–$12,055 per capita). The effects of the civil wars in Syria and Yemen unsurprisingly caused the two countries to drop from lower-middle income countries ($996–$3,895 per capita) to the lowest rung on the ladder: low-income ($995 or less per capita). The deterioration of the economies of Syria and Yemen is significant. Mass displacement of populations, large reductions in production, and physical destruction have caused billions of dollars in damages. In both countries, industries that once gave people a livelihood are absent due to ongoing fighting.

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Protests raging in southern Iraq foretell the potentially dire consequences if political leaders in the country are unable to form a government in the coming months. Unrest has culminated, after subsequent summers with widespread power outages and frustration in a government widely perceived as corrupt, in at least fourteen demonstrator deaths since early July and protester clashes with Iraqi security forces.

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For the past seven years, this writer has viewed the Syrian uprising largely through the lens of civilian protection, because civilian slaughter has defined the conflict and dictated its dire political consequences. Although one may ascribe vastly different motives to the President of Syria on the one hand and the leaders of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates on the other, war in Yemen is producing similar slaughter that may, if left unaddressed and untreated, haunt the combatants and their external supporters—led by the United States—for decades to come.

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