Death sentences for Gadhafi’s son, eight others, another bad move by Tripoli, says Atlantic Council’s Karim Mezran

The decision by a Tripoli court to sentence a son of late Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi to death by firing squad is the latest in a series of “self-defeating maneuvers” by authorities in Libya’s capital, says the Atlantic Council’s Karim Mezran.

Tripoli’s Court of Assize convicted thirty-two defendants July 28. Gadhafi’s son and onetime heir apparent, Seif al-Islam Gadhafi, was convicted of murder and inciting genocide during Libya’s civil war in 2011. Eight others, including Libya’s former spy chief Abdullah al-Senussi, and two former Prime Ministers—Al-Baghdadi Ali al-Mahmoudi and Abuzeid Dorda—were also sentenced to death. Twenty-three others were sentenced to prison terms ranging from five years to life imprisonment.

“This was a mock trial,” said Mezran, a Resident Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East.

“These are worrisome signals of a further unraveling of Fajr Libya’s control of territory in the west. It leaves the international community in a harder position,” he added.

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How would the West react to a major escalation of the war in eastern Ukraine? What would Brussels and Washington do if Russia continues to send troops there?

Even though analysts often suggest arming Ukraine with defensive weapons, what people sometimes forget is that the West is still, by far, Russia's largest trade and investment partner. Current sanctions against Moscow only forbid the export of a limited number of services and technology to Russia—leaving most of Russia's trade with the West intact. In particular, they do not limit Russia's crucial energy exports to the European Union.

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Deal envisages creation of ‘safe zone’ in Syria, allows US jets to use Turkish base

A landmark agreement between the United States and Turkey—that allows US jets to use a Turkish air base to launch strikes against Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) militants and envisages the creation of a “safe zone” in war-ravaged Syria—is a step in the right direction, but also raises some important questions.

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Ukraine officially has 1,381,953 internally displaced persons (IDPs), the country's Ministry of Social Policy (MoSP) reported July 10. Overall, more than 2.3 million Ukrainians—including IDPs and those seeking refuge abroad—have been uprooted by conflict since March 2014.

Yet the actual number of IDPs remains unknown and is likely to be higher, since the official figure includes neither displaced people living in the non-government controlled area (NGCA) of Donetsk and Luhansk, nor IDPs whose registrations have been cancelled.

In fact, internal displacement is a relatively new phenomenon for Ukraine. Until fighting broke out in eastern Ukraine more than a year ago, the country's experience with forced migration had been limited to relatively small numbers. Any government faced with such a rapid and large-scale displacement would be hard-pressed to respond quickly and effectively. Unfortunately, experience suggests that displacement is likely to become a long-term problem.

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On July 24, Ukraine paid a $120 million coupon to service its sovereign debt. In many ways, this event is a moment of truth: it signals that there is a prospect of reaching an agreement with Ukraine's creditors.

Earlier this year, Ukraine signed a major deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The IMF agreed to loan $17.5 billion over the course of the next few years in exchange for sweeping reforms and restructuring of the country's sovereign debt. While progress on the reform front is reasonably steady—the IMF is expected to approve the next $1.7 billion tranche at the end of July—negotiations with creditors turned out to be harder than anticipated.

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In June, Japanese energy officials released an eagerly anticipated draft report outlining plans for the country’s 2030 energy mix. Here’s the proposed breakdown:

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Western leaders pressing Ukraine to give into Russian demands and offer the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk People's Republics autonomy would be well-advised to take note of the other parts of Ukraine which, according to Russian media, are also demanding self-rule.

On July 17, approximately twenty people in Lviv staged a blitzkrieg demonstration with banners demanding greater autonomy for Halychyna in western Ukraine. The action lasted no more than five minutes, but was presented on Russian pro-Kremlin channels as a 300-strong demonstration blocking one of the city's central streets. Rossiya 24's report deemed it "Kyiv's new problem."

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Ukrainian paramilitaries pose an increasingly existential threat to Kyiv. Earlier this year, Kyiv launched an initiative to bring them under their direct control. But despite their nominal subordination to Kyiv's security services, these groups operate with minimal supervision and maintain financial independence. Their fighting capacity breeds instability and violence. More recently, Right Sector is undermining Kyiv with acts of violence, battles over contraband, and even direct challenges to Kyiv's legitimacy on a political level. Ukraine and its partners must act to disarm the paramilitaries and to address the corruption which they exploit.

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Atlantic Council’s J. Peter Pham says President has important reasons to visit Kenya and Ethiopia

US President Barack Obama’s decision to visit Kenya and Ethiopia this week underscores the strategic significance of these two sub-Saharan nations to the United States, says the Atlantic Council’s top Africa analyst.

Obama arrives in Kenya, his late father’s homeland, July 23.

“Beyond that personal tie to Kenya, this is arguably the most strategic itinerary of the President’s four trips to sub-Saharan Africa,” said J. Peter Pham, Director of the Atlantic Council’s Africa Center.

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On July 15, 2015, Mexico announced the results of the first phase of “Round One,” or a series of auctions providing foreign companies access to oil and gas acreage after over seventy-five years of state control of upstream exploration and production. Only two of the fourteen shallow water blocks on offer were awarded—far below the government’s publicly stated expectation that at least five blocks would be awarded. But for those two blocks, the share of the project the winning bidder offered the Mexican state far exceeded the government-stipulated minimum share. So was the round a success or failure?

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