Thursday, December 31, 2015

HoR meets twice but both times fails to vote on GNA due to lack of a quorum

The internationally-recognized Libyan government, the House of Representatives (HoR), met today to vote support for the Libyan Political Agreement (LPA) brokered by the UN and signed on December 17 in Skhirat, Morocco.

The LPA was signed by members of the Libyan political dialogue. The dialogue was intended to reach agreement on a political solution to the division of Libya between the internationally-recognized HOR in the east in Tobruk, and the General National Congress (GNC) in the west in Tripoli. Neither the former UN Special Envoy to Libya, Bernardino Leon, nor his successor, Martin Kobler, were able to convince either parliament to agree to Leon's final draft of the LPA. Kobler was able to circumvent the parliaments and simply gather together representatives of the dialogue in Skhirat, including members of the two rival parliaments, and have them sign the agreement. This underhanded, devious process was subsequently given the blessing of the UN Security Council and a large meeting of foreign ministers in Rome.
There are huge incentives for those who did not sign on to the LPA to do so, as explained in a recent article. HoR members, no doubt with the encouragement of the UN, met today to approve the LPA and associated Government of National Accord(GNA). The Libya Herald says it was called by the majority group, presumably the 92 members who issued a statement some time ago supporting the LPA but with the proviso that Haftar remain as commander in chief of the Libyan National Army and that some of the names for the GNA be changed.
Again, according to the Herald, the meeting was called in opposition to the "minority dissenting group led by HoR president Ageela Salah." The HoR was forced to postpone this session because there was lack of a quorum. There is no mention of what the quorum is or how many were present. Just recently the LPA garnered many more supporters in the HoR area including the support of hard liners and even perhaps the support of Salah as well:Moreover, at least one news source has gone further and reported that Saleh had given his initial approval to their request for GNA support and has gone as far as to say that he would hand in his resignation as HoR president if that was what was wanted.
One of the options today's meeting was considering was to vote Salah out of office. They apparently do not have enough support even to obtain a quorum. This is rather strange since they were supposed to be a majority to begin with and recently gained more supporters. Given that Salah seems to have changed his own position and has given no sign that he supports the alternative Libya-Libya dialogue anymore, it is not clear how the dissenters still have enough members to prevent a quorum.
Even those in the HoR who want to vote support for the LPA will do so only on condition that Haftar remain as commander in chief of the LPA a position shared by elders and mayors in the east who have also given conditional support for the LPA and GNA. Haftar has said nothing through all this turmoil. However, the prime minister designate of the GNA, Faiez Serraj, has the support of the Egyptian president Abdel el-Sisi, a strong supporter of Haftar. Yet it seems Haftar might still be blocking approval of the GNA.
Within a month of the LPA being signed, the GNA program and a list of all its members must be presented to the HoR for a vote of confidence. That vote must take place within 10 days. The HoR has to receive the material before January 17 and has 10 days to vote on it, but presumably this is not that vote. It is unlikely that the program and membership has already been determined but who knows? If the LPA is approved by the HoR, the UN may very well declare that as the vote of confidence. Perhaps Haftar is demanding clarity for his position in the GNA before any vote goes forward. However, I do not see that the vote would go ahead except as containing provisos that violate the draft LPA that Kobler insists cannot be changed. Senior officials take over the function of commander in chief of the Libyan National Army immediately the GNA is given a vote of confidence by the HoR according to the existing draft. There is always the possibility the draft has changed but this has never been revealed. Originally everyone understood that both parliaments would need to approved the draft, but that rule was jettisoned when it did not achieve what the UN and international community desired. There will be no vote until Haftar is assured that he will remain as commander in chief of the Libyan National Army after the vote..
On Libya Analysis, Jason Pack claims the GNA is leaning towards the HoR and Haftar. I would think Kobler and the UN, with the backing of many powerful international bodies, are doing so. Pack notes: After meeting with the presidents of both Tunisia and Egypt, Serraj got a major breakthrough after he met directly with the hard-line, federalist opposition to the GNA obstructing the majority vote in the HoR, reportedly striking a deal to keep Haftar as the commander of the LNA in exchange for the HoR endorsement of his cabinet. Unfortunately, this quid pro quo would sap the GNA of even more legitimacy than it would bring it.Pack suggests the recent events indicate that "an official and binding vote of endorsement of the GNA by the HoR may actually happen in the next few days." It is not clear if this would be interpreted as the "vote of confidence" required by the LPA or not. I expect that it would be but who knows what these types of people might be planning. As today's events show, the fix may not quite be in as yet.
Pack remarks that the alternative Libya-Libya dialogue appears to be unraveling. While the GNC may be weakened, as he also points out, the compromise with the HoR that appears to be happening will make the GNA less and less appealing to GNC members, as the compromises are pro-Haftar and pro-HoR. This is likely to produce conflict and divisions between the HoR, the GNA legislative body, that is pro-Haftar , and those within the GNA on the State Council, who are from the GNC. It will also be duplicated in the presidential council. Pack believes that to have more support for the GNA there must be more compromises, ones that do not work just in favor of the HoR and Haftar. Haftar, however, has strong international backers such as Egypt, the UAE,and Arab League. Libya appears headed for more civil war if Haftar remains as head of the Libyan National Army. This may very well suit Haftar's own aims but it is hard to see how the GNA can survive. Haftar may suggest a military council as a substitute for the GNA.
UPDATE: It is another day now in Libya and again the HoR could not vote because there was no quorum. Only 25 members showed up but these included the president Ageela Salah who in the past has been accused of preventing a vote on the LPA. The Herald speculates that there will now be no meeting until Monday the 4th of January. The Herald appears to take the vote as representing the vote of confidence by the HoR in the GNA as required by the LPA. I believe there are about 188 members of the HoR. The article did not say how many would constitute a quorum. If there were 92 members supporting the LPA some time ago and more jumping on board all the time, where are they?

UN-supported GNA gains more supporters but with conditions attached

Opposition to the UN-sponsored Government of National Accord(GNA) appears to be evaporating within the membership of the internationally-recognized House of Representatives (HoR) based in Tobruk.

The GNA is part of the Libyan Political Agreement(LPA) signed on December 17 by members of the Libyan political dialogue, a group assembled by the UN to negotiate a political agreement between the two rival Libyan governments. The internationally-recognized government, the House of Representatives (HoR), is located in the east in Tobruk. The rival government is based in the west in Tripoli, the General National Congress (GNC).
While members of both rival governments signed the LPA, none were authorized to do so by their respective parliaments and neither government approved the LPA. In a sense there was no agreement at all but in its place an LPA was imposed on the two rival governments.
The whole process for quite a long time has been staged by the UN, which ever since Martin Kobler took over from Bernardino Leon on November 17, has not involved any dialogue at all, simply attempts to get agreement on the last draft of the LPA sent by Leon to the two legislatures for approval that never came. Kobler has insisted there can be no amendments to the draft, even though both parliaments demanded changes. Long before the December 17 signing, the UN acted as if the members named by Leon were actual officials just waiting for the GNA to come into being. Probably this resulted mostly from international demands for one government that the international community could deal with, and could ask for intervention to fight the Islamic State — soon be Daesh in the world of politically correct nomenclature, as properly vilifying. The GNA still has to be given a vote of confidence by the HoR, the legislative body of the GNA. before its term even begins.
Kobler insists a majority of the HoR support the GNA although this is only "in principle." Kobler long ago, at the final failure of the HoR to pass the LPA, welcomed the declaration by 92 members of the HoR that they supported the HoR in principle. What he did not mention is that as the Libya Herald reported:However, they also effectively said that there could be no changes in the leadership of the Libyan National Army (LNA) (in other words General Khalifa Hafter) and that the names announced by former UN special envoy Bernardino Leon for the proposed presidency council needed modifications.These members will be involved in a vote of confidence on the GNA some time in January. Unless they have changed their position, they will no doubt demand Haftar remain as commander in chief of the Libyan National Army. The group also demanded lifting of the ban on arms shipments to Libya, a key Haftar demand as well.
Faiez Serraj, the prime minister designate of the GNA, met with a key group of members of the HoR from Benghazi in Cairo. The three said last October that they would support the GNA only if Hafar remained at his post. The Libya Herald claims it was informed that at this meeting Haftar was not an issue. One might ask why this would be so? Is it because the group changed their position or because there has been some arrangement made with Haftar?
Haftar met with Kobler just before the signing of the LPA on December 17. Haftar said nothing about opposing the LPA, which he has opposed all along. The Kobler report on the meeting lacked any information about the status of Haftar after the signing. The very fact that Haftar has been mum for ages now — when he usually condemns the LPA dialogue as negotiations with terrorists, that is the GNC and its armed Islamist supporters — appears to indicate the situation has changed. This is a person who continually has tried to sabotage the peace process to such a degree that he was named by the EU as being subject to sanctions.
The Herald notes there were similar demands to the Benghazi group made by eastern mayors and elders who had earlier rejected the LPA and GNA. They however, explicitly added the demand that Haftar remain as the head of the Libyan National Army. At a tribal meeting, the president of the HoR, Ageela Saleh, was told that should Haftar remain as head of the LNA, he also had to support the GNA. Saleh had been meeting with the GNC president Nuri Sahmain on a parallel Libya-Libya dialogue that rejected the UN LPA, and was searching for a GNA arrived at by a purely Libya-Libya dialogue. Saleh now appears to have been pressured into accepting the GNA. The Libya Herald reports:
Moreover, at least one news source has gone further and reported that Saleh had given his initial approval to their request for GNA support and has gone as far as to say that he would hand in his resignation as HoR president if that was what was wanted.
Serraj, also met with Egyptian president Abdel el-Sisi, a great admirer and supporter of Haftar. El-Sisi congratulated Serraj on his appointment and promised that Egypt would back his government. El-Sisi would like the UN arms embargo to end so that his friend Haftar can receive more equipment for his Operation Dignity waged against Islamists of all stripes, including the members of the GNC government. Yet the GNA takes away the function of commander in chief of the Libyan National Army from Haftar and gives it to senior officials of the GNA. UN envoy Kobler refuses to acknowledge what is part of the LPA as it was last released. His answer to a question on Haftar's status after the GNA might as well be a lie since it refuses to acknowledge this key part of the LPA. Perhaps it has been written out of the agreement since the UN has not yet released the text of the LPA as signed at Skhirat on December 17th. Still no sign of the text on the UN website.
Given Haftar's silence, and that the majority of those in the HoR who will vote for the GNA will also demand that Haftar remain in his position, Kobler is going to face a difficult situation. He claims the present LPA and GNA cannot be altered, but it would seem that to get a vote of confidence in the HoR he must at least allow that Haftar remain as commander in chief of the LNA. Anyone associated with the GNC will be outraged at this development and the nascent GNA will be so badly divided it is unlikely to be able to function.
There is tremendous pressure on members of the HoR and GNC who do not support the GNA at present to change their minds. Those who accept from the HoR are guaranteed their positions in the new HoR that is part of the GNA. Even those in the GNC who sign on will probably get positions in the associated State Council that is made up of GNC members. Those who try to sabotage the process could be faced with sanctions. The old parliaments will lose many of their members to the GNA. Once the GNA gains control of the Libyan Central Bank and National Oil Company, there will be no money for salaries. Another powerful incentive is that there are $67 billion in frozen funds from the Gadaffi era that will likely be released to the GNA. Who can resist such a honey pot? Militia who sign on will be integrated into the Libyan National Army with guaranteed paychecks. Kobler has stressed that the UN resolution on the GNA makes it clear that after the GNA gets up and running it will be the only recognized government.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Martin Kobler SRSG for Libya holds press conference on situation in Libya

The Special Representative of the UN Secretary General(SRSG) in Libya, Martin Kobler, held a press conference on the situation in Libya including an extensive question period. A video of the entire event is appended.

There were only a few reporters at the press conference but they were allowed ample time to ask questions. While some of the questions brought up significant issues and Kobler's answers added to our information of what is to happen and UN plans, there were also questions that were not asked that I would have expected.
For some time now I have been watching the UN site for any release of the text of the Libyan Political Agreement (LPA) that was signed on December 17 in Skhirat, Morocco. Surely this is a significant document. The most recent text released of the LPA is from July 2. The UN does post the text of the recent UN Security Council Resolution supporting the LPA and the Government of National Accord. One would think reporters would be anxious to have the signed LPA text released and the UN as well, since this is a key document.
No one asked any questions about the process leading up to the signing of the LPA in Skhirat. The two parliaments were bypassed. All.of a sudden their approval was no longer required and the LPA was signed by members of the House of Representatives(HoR) and General National Congress(GNC) who had no authorization to do so. There are plenty of critical articles on the issue. Reporters present must have known about these critiques. Why did they ask nothing about it? Were they told the parameters within which questions would be asked?
There is also a parallel Libya-Libya dialogue being carried on by the head of the GNC and of the HoR. No mention of this or questions about it that I noticed. Kobler did make it clear that the door is "wide open" for those who so far have rejected the agreement. No doubt they are being offered all sort of carrots. Kobler mentioned aid for municipalities. Militia groups will be offered jobs in the armed forces. Kobler does not mention sticks but they are clearly there as in the UN resolution: Confirms that those individuals and entities engaging in or providing
support for acts that threaten the peace, stability or security of Libya, or that
obstruct or undermine the successful completion of the political transition to a
stable, sccure and prosperous Libya under a Government of National Accord, must
be held strictly accountable, and in this regard, recalls the travel ban and asset
freeze measures reaffirmed in paragraph 11 of resolution 2213 (2015);
There has been no dialogue since Kobler took over. He insisted there be no change to the final draft LPA of his predecessor Bernardino Leon, nor any changes to the names he suggested for the Government of National Accord(GNA). The door has long been closed on any dialogue, it is open only for joining in support. No doubt the parallel Libya-Libya dialogue participants could be subject to sanctions along with anyone else who works to prevent the GNA from going ahead. Dialogue is now replaced by carrots and sticks.
There was one question about Khalifa Haftar — at 9:52 on the video — but it was phrased so Kobler could answer it in a way that ignored one of the most important aspects of the situation. Kobler was asked what the status of Haftar would be when the GNA came into effect. Kobler said it depended upon the GNA. Eventually yes, but immediately upon coming into force, the GNA senior officials take on the role of commander in chief of the Libyan National Army and the duties that Haftar now has. Here is the section of the LPA from July 2:2. Terms of Reference of the Presidency Council of the Council of Ministers:
a. Assume the functions of the Supreme Commander of the Libyan army
The question on Haftar was combined with another question about whether Kobler would commit not to take a high-paying job in some country such as the UAE that had an interest in the negotiations as Kobler's predecessor Bernardino Leon had done. A pointless question that Kobler had no trouble responding to. Even if he eventually does so, he and the UN will probably claim there is no conflict of interest, just as in the Leon situation. The UN has never replied yet to the GNC that demanded an explanation of the Leon affair. If the questioner had cited the section of the LPA that gives senior officials of the GNA the functions of commander-in-chief of the LNA and then asked Kobler if Haftar had accepted this, it would have put Kobler more on the spot, although he could just respond that he did not know. It would be significant that he not know something as crucial to the process as this.
Kobler makes it clear that he wants the GNA to meet in Tripoli. He clarified some of the reasons why it would be good to have it meet there. Headquarters of key institutions such as the Libyan Central Bank, and National Company and others are in Tripoli. However, it remains to be seen whether his assistant will be able to arrange security arrangements adequate to hold meetings in Tripoli. Some militia have signed on or pledged neutrality but Misrata elders and others support the rival Libya-Libya dialogue. More significantly, the president of the GNC and the prime minister of the GNC continue their opposition to the LPA. GNC president Nur Sahmain said that he was in no position to accept dictations. Prime Minister Al-Ghawiel at Independence celebrations called the GNA "the trusteeship government."
Even more significant still are the statements of the military forces associated with the GNC: During the celebration, the military brigades of the General Staff of the GNC refused to deal with Sirraj government, saying imposing it through a foreign dictation would only lead to more violence and instability.
The brigades vowed their support for the GNC and HoR initiatives to solve the crisis and select a national government that meet the aspirations of all Libyans.
Commander of the National Mobil Force, Said Gojeel said he would only follow orders of the GNC General Staff.
A question was asked about who would provide security for the GNA. Kobler said that it would be Libyans rather than foreigners, although he did admit that Italian trainers might come to help train Libyans. Kobler said that in the first instance it would be the Libya regular police and army. Presumably regular Libyan police and army would mean those from the internationally-recognized Al-Thinni, House of Representatives based in Tobruk at present. They are commanded by Haftar. If they come to Tripoli to defend the GNA, that is just asking for trouble.No one asked significant follow-up questions, so Kobler was let off without any great challenges.
Kobler confirmed that the HoR must give a vote of confidence in the GNA before it becomes operative. He has yet to announce a date for this to happen or the location. I presume he would like it to be held in Tripoli. If so he will need to provide good security as there are many in Tripoli who oppose many members of the HoR. This meeting could be quite dramatic.

January oil export from Texas first in 40 years from US as ban lifted

Enterprise Products Partners LP, a Texas energy company, plans to load 600,000 barrels of light sweet crude from South Texas into a tanker at its terminal in the Houston Ship Channel during the first week of January.

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Vitol Group, a Dutch firm, is buying the crude. The crude will be sent to a refinery in Switzerland where a subsidiary of the company owns a refinery according to a source familiar with the company. Jim Teague, chief operating officer, of Enterprise's general partner said:
“We are excited to announce our first contract to export U.S. crude oil, which to our knowledge may be the first export cargo of U.S. crude oil from the Gulf Coast in almost 40 years.”
Shell Oil also welcomed the lifting of the export ban and said it considered the move "beneficial to government, industry and consumers, alike." Republicans in Congress argued the ban was obsolete due to the huge increase in U.S. production, much of it due to fracking. The ban was imposed back in 1975 when there was an acute oil shortage in the U.S.
Some environmentalists claimed lifting the ban would be disastrous for the planet since it would increase production. Oil Change International's executive director, Stephen Kretzmann, said:Just days after we all were given new hope in Paris, the empire has struck back. Congress’s response to an historic climate deal? Incentivise further oil production. It’s hard to imagine a clearer example of how far politics still has to go on climate in order to catch up with the science.
This deal to lift the export ban is a disaster for the climate and for American communities that our children will view as a cynical indictment of a corrupt political system not yet willing to confront the powerful interests behind the climate crisis.
However, alternative energy proponents, did get some welcome news as well. Republicans in Congress agreed to extend subsidies for wind and solar energy projects for another five years. The 30 percent tax credit was due to expire next year. The tax credit for wind lapsed in 2014. This will mean $25 billion for the industries. The Republicans also will not block a $500 million payment to the UN Green Climate Fund.
The export ban removal was part of a $1.1 trillion spending measure that will avert a US government shutdown. The bill passed the House by a vote of 316 for versus 113 against. The Senate vote was 65 for to 33 against. The bill will ensure government financing until September of 2016. President Obama signed the bill.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Libya Herald provides useful time-line of formation of Libyan Government of National Accord

Sam Zaptia, journalist and co-founder of the Libya Herald, has provided a useful outline and diagrams sketching the projected process of setting up the new Government of National(GNA) and then the approval of a new constitution and subsequent elections.

The Libya Herald published the outline based on UN documents. Unfortunately, the documents are out of date. They must have been prepared while Bernardino Leon was UN Special Envoy to Leon since there are specific dates in late October mentioned in which certain events were to take place, but nothing happened at that time! Nevertheless, Zaptia's outline still gives a good overall picture of what the UN plans. The diagrams are small within the article but if you click on them, they appear separately and in large enough format to read easily.
The Libya Political Agreement(LPA) was signed on December 17 in Skhirat, Morocco, by some members of the Libyan Political Dialogue sponsored by the UN, including members from the two rival parliaments, the internationally-recognized House of Representative (HoR) based in the east in Tobruk, and the General National Congress (GNC) based in the west in Tripoli. The Dialogue was designed to have negotiators from the two rival governments along with other stakeholders agree to a unity government and a solution to the political crisis. It was intended that the two rival parliaments would approve the LPA. However, during the period that Leon was UN Special Envoy this did not happen. Subsequently when Martin Kobler took over as head of the dialogue he too failed to get approval of the LPA by the two parliaments. The agreement signed at Skhirat was not approved by either parliament. The UN decided to change the rules and gather together members of the dialogue who supported the UN-drafted LPA. None of the members of either the HoR or the GNC who signed the LPA had any authorization to do so. The presidents of both parliaments rejected the LPA and began a separate Libya-Libya dialogue without the UN. The text of the latest LPA signed at Skhirat has yet to appear on the United Nations Support Mission in LIbya(UNSMIL) website. The only text I can find of the LPA is from July 2. The press should be demanding release of the signed text of the LPA. Zaptia does not mention this issue.
The LPA calls for an immediate ceasefire. There still appears to be fighting by the HoR's commander in chief Khalifa Haftar but no doubt he would claim this is part of the war against terrorism which is excluded from ceasefires I assume. However, Haftar considers all his opponents terrorists including the armed forces of the rival GNC government. Haftar will just carry on as usual. Zaptia notes what is an exceedingly important point about the LPA: It requires that the HoR endorses the GNA and its political programme born out of the LPA.The Constitutional Drafting Authority(CDA) is also to present a draft of a new constitution to the GNA for approval and terms of a public referendum on the constitution. Assuming the referendum passes, a timeline would then be set out to hold general elections to form a new legitimized legislature and government.
Zaptia speaks of the GNA having a one-year term from December 17. This appears to be in error according to the text of the LPA of July which says:The term of the Government of National Accord shall be one year as of the date of granting it a vote of confidence by the House of Representatives.
The HoR has a definite timeline for approval of the LPA:Article (3)
The Prime Minister, within a period that does not exceed one month of the adoption of this
Agreement, shall submit a full agreed list of the members of the Government of National
Accord and its programme to the House of Representatives to fully endorse it, grant it a vote
of confidence and adopt its program in accordance with the legally stated procedures within a
period that does not exceed ten (10) days of its submission to the House of Representatives.
One wonders what happens if the HoR insists on a longer period for discussion or fails to give a vote of confidence in the GNA.
According to Zaptia the GNA has 30 days, or until January 16, to agree to and implement security arrangements for it to operate in the capital. Discussions of this issue are already taking place with at least one Tripoli militia group agreeing to stay neutral but support the GNA: The Tripoli Revolutionaries’ Brigade (TRB), representing Tripoli’s militias have announced that they will not support either of the conflicting political Libyan parties but will support one government of national unity.
This group is not connected with Libya Dawn, the main militia group associated with the GNC. We should have reports soon on the progress of the security arrangements. Unless there is agreement with the main militia groups associated with the GNC it will be hazardous to meet in Tripoli. The GNA may decide to meet elsewhere as is allowed under the LPA.
Another key section of the LPA concerns the powers of the senior officials of the GNA: All the competencies of senior military, civilian and security positions are transferred to the Presidency Council. Libya Herald understands this to mean that Presidency Council has complete and total authority and sovereignty to appoint or dismiss the Central Bank f Libya Governor or the Libyan Investment Authority chairman or the Attorney General or the Chief of Staff of the Libyan National Army etc.
The text of the LPA on July 2 is actually rather explicit saying of the Presidential Council's functions: a. Assume the functions of the Supreme Commander of the Libyan army
b. Appointment and removal of the Head of the General Intelligence Service upon
the approval of the House of Representatives.
c. Appointment of ambassadors and representatives of Libya in international
organizations based on a proposal from the Minister of Foreign Affairs, according
to Libyan legislations in force.
d. Appointment and removal of senior officials.
In other words, in the case of the Supreme Commander of the Libyan Army, the Presidential Council assumes the function of the commander as well as having the power to appoint or dismiss the commander. The present commander is CIA-linked Khalifa Haftar who has up to now rejected the LPA, a ceasefire with the GNC forces, and negotiations with the GNC or its armed forces. As soon as the GNA is given a vote of confidence and comes into being, Haftar is relieved of his position. Haftar no doubt rejects entirely being relieved of his duties when the GNA comes into force. The HoR majority who signed a statement supporting the LPA in principle, also demanded he be allowed to stay on. Zaptia does not discuss this key problem. The meeting of the HoR to vote confidence in the GNA will be high drama when it happens. So far no announcement has been made as to when this meeting may happen. It is possible that there could be no quorum if there are too many opponents of the deal who boycott the meeting. There are other aspects of the timeline and political roadmap that Zaptia discusses but this article is already long. The entire article is worth reading to gain a good idea of the political process to come.

UN Security Council for LPA could facilitate foreign intervention in Libya

Today, the UN Security Council passed a resolution supporting the Libya Political Agreement (LPA) together with the associated Government of National Acoord (GNA).Several articles now suggest the GNA will ask for foreign aid in fighting the Islamic State.

The Guardian notes that while the UN resolution is intended to give support to the GNA, it could also pave the way for potential military intervention against the Islamic State. The GNA could request such intervention. The UN resolution was sponsored by the UK. Britain has already reported that it is ready to send 1,000 troops but the RAF could make bombing runs sooner. Perhaps there could be more bombings by mystery planes as happened over the IS-controlled city of Sirte at the end of October.The mass media did not bother to investigate whose planes they might have been. The Guardian claims no parliamentary approval would be required for the UK to send troops since they would go at the invitation of the Libyan GNA. An RT article also argues the UN resolution will facilitate the sending of foreign troops to Libya.
While the Libyan ambassador to the UN, Ibrahim al-Dabashi, told the news outlet Asharq Al-Awsat that he expected airstrikes soon, he gave no timeline. He cited the U.S., UK, France and Italy as countries preparing for strikes. Dabbashi said that UN resolution 2214 gave clear authorization for a military strike. “[It] asks all countries to fight terrorism in Libya, which represents a clear-cut authorisation only requiring of different countries to inform the government in Libya in advance, and coordinate with it." However, the GNA needs to be approved by the HoR and will probably not take power until about the middle of January. A source in the senior Foreign Office said that there would be no contribution of combat troops and the UK was not at the current time considering air strikes.
The narrative Dabbashi gave Reuters was quite different. As of now, Dabbashi is still representing the Al-Thinni House of Representatives (HoR) internationally-recognized government in Tobruk, not the GNA which still does not exist.Some readers might not realize this due to the manner of reporting on the issue and the fact that the UN has acted as if its existence was just a matter of time, since long before the signing of the LPA on December 17. There have been several meetings to coordinate aid for the GNA and the prime minister designate Serraj has for a long time been visiting foreign capitals. Dabbashi told Reuters that Libya has no intention of requesting Western air strikes against the Islamic State anytime soon. He is speaking for a government that is supposed to dissolve come the middle of January when the GNA takes over although the HoR will remain as a re-legitimized legislature for the GNA. He can hardly speak for what the GNA might do. Certainly the international community is expecting the GNA to give approval for intervention.
What Dabbashi wants is for the UN to lift the arms embargo against Libya. This would give more power to Khalifa Haftar the armed forces commander of the HoR government. He is fighting not just against the Islamic State but also the militia of the rival General National Council(GNC) goverment, forces he considers Islamist terrorists. Dabbashi said: "No one is thinking about requesting foreign intervention at the moment. We are willing to fight ISIS (Islamic State) ourselves. I always said that we need to strengthen our capabilities, our capability to fight ISIS on the ground."Once the GNA is established, it will be the sole recognized Libyan government. The present government in Tobruk will supposedly be dissolved and the HoR will survive only as the legislature of the new GNA. The function of commander in chief of the Libya National Army will be carried out by senior officials of the GNA not the present commander Khalifa Haftar.
For some reason there has been no announcement of when the HoR will meet to give a vote of confidence in the GNA. Until this happens, the GNA cannot really function and its term is set to be begin from that date according to the last version posted of the LPA. The latest version that was signed on December 17 at Skhirat has not been released on the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) website. Perhaps there are changes the UN would not like to reveal to the public. Those from the HoR who agreed to sign the LPA also earlier issued a statement indicating that they supported it only on condition that Haftar keep his job. It will be interesting to see if the HoR demands that Haftar keeps his position in return for their giving a vote of confidence in the GNA. Somehow the UN does not want to talk about this issue or the coming drama in the HoR when the vote of confidence issue comes up.

Egypt signs oil deal with rival to independent Libyan National Oil Company

International oil companies so far have dealt only with the National Oil Company(NOC) based in Tripoli that has maintained a position of neutrality between the two regimes.

The internationally-recognized House of Representatives (HoR) has set up its own rival National Oil Corporation in the east in the hope of keeping all the oil revenues for itself no doubt. So far over the course of almost a year none of the larger international oil companies have been willing to deal with this HoR creation. However, now the eastern -based NOC has reportedly signed a deal to export 2 million barrels of oil to Egypt a month to the Egyptian General Petroleum Company.
The UN and the international community have called for respecting the neutrality of the two main sovereign bodies that give Libya whatever unity it still has, the NOC and the Central Bank of Libya(CBL). This move is particularly worrisome since with the advent of the new Government of National Accord(GNA) the UN and the international oil companies will expect that the NOC will come under the control of the new GNA. Egypt says it supports the GNA. This action directly challenges the GNA by signing a deal with a company under the control of a government that should dissolve and the HoR would become part of the new government. The move makes it appear that Egypt thinks that there might be an actual split of Libya into two separate areas. As a Libya Herald article puts it:The international community are fearful that an effective duplication of sovereign institutions would further weaken the Libyan state and make the current political split of Libya irreversible.
The NOC that is based in Tripoli has the right to take legal action against the eastern oil company and the party in Egypt that signed the deal, the Egyptian General Petroleum company. The NOC(Tripoli) said: “Any operations that are conducted outside the legal validity represented in the National Oil Corporation whose headquarters are located in Bashir Sadawai Street in Tripoli are considered an explicit breach of the law.” It is not clear how the NOC could enforce any decision against the eastern NOC at present. The Tripoli NOC is recognized by such large international traders as Glencore and the Vitol Group. They may have problems loading crude at eastern ports as the HoR wants tankers to register with their eastern NOC.
Oil production in Libya is down about 80 percent from 2011 when the Gadaffi government was toppled. In November Libya pumped about 375,000 barrels a day. The decline in oil prices is creating a budget crisis for both rival governments..
The Italian oil major Eni's CEO met with the chair of the Tripoli-based NOC and both said they were pleased with the recent LPA and the new Government of National Accord. Both felt the new GNA might help stabilize the country. Chair of the NOC Mustafa Sanalla said: "I am very pleased that the collaboration with such an important partner as Eni continues without interruption,"

Friday, December 25, 2015

CIA-Linked Khalifa Haftar may stay on as Commander in Chief of National Libya Army

On December 17th in Tunis, the UN-sponsored Libya Political Agreement(LPA) was signed by some members of the internationally-recognized House of Representatives(HoR) based in Tobruk and the rival General National Congress(GNC) based in Tripoli.

Neither of the two parliaments approved of or even voted on the LPA, nor did those who signed from the two bodies have any authorization from either body to do so. The LPA has subsequently been endorsed by the UN Security Council and a large ministerial meeting in Rome. Most press coverage has praised the LPA but also expressed reservations about whether the attempt to establish the new Government of National Accord(GNA) associated with the agreement will be successful. Lately there have been more critical articles. Surprisingly the formerly pro-HoR Libya Herald and the pro-GNC Llibya Observer both published the same critical article by Richard Galustian. Two new critical articles were just released on Libya Analysis by Jason Pack a well-known commentator on Libya. Pack says:
My consulting/advisory work has consisted of frequent meetings with the MoD, DoD, FCO, State Department, NATO and the UN, concerning the need to formulate multilateral policies towards Libya focused on mediating between Libya’s many stakeholders and building governance capacity.His recent two articles on Libya can be found here.
In this article, I will concentrate on the important issue of General Khalifa Haftar's role in the new Government of National Accord(GNA). Haftar is the commander of the Libyan National Army, the armed forces of the HoR. He has been an outspoken critic of the LPA and rejected it all along. He refuses to agree to a ceasefire with or to negotiate with the main militia of the GNC Libya Dawn or Fajr Libya. He has been carrying out a military operation called Operation Dignity since May of last year. This included burning down the parliament buildings at the beginning of Operation Dignity as show on the appended You Tube video.The operation continues but it is never talked about as Operation Dignity by the UN or the mainstream press:
Haftar and his buddy the head of the Air Force were both to be subject to sanctions by the EU but all coverage of this has disappeared:
Two military leaders in the east of Libya, who say their forces will not respect any peace accord, also face sanctions. They are General Khalifa Haftar, commander in chief of the eastern forces and air force head Fakir Jarroushi.
The cover of a recent US commando landing in Libya was recently blown on the Libyan Air Force Facebook page complete with photos. The commandos were forced to leave.
Pack claims that the LPA signing in Skhirat was possible only because of Kobler's meeting with Haftar a day before the signing on December 16th:Looking back, it is now clear the Skhirat deal was final made possible on Dec 17 after last minute efforts by the UN-envoy, Martin Kobler to assuage the HoR, Haftar and the Tubroq faction. He did this by obtaining the nomination of Ali Al-Gutrani (HoR Rep), for the position of Deputy PM in the GNA presidential council. Gutrani’s role will be to safeguard the interests of the Haftar.
Pack claims that Hatar gave his implicit blessing to the LPA and the GNA since it was needed to combat terrorism. However, he noted Haftar disagreed with the LPA in its current form. Pack is quite critical of what happened and concludes:
This statement showed that Kobler is merely continuing the biased pro-Tobruq policies of his predecessor Bernardino Leon.
Leon took a well-paying job in the UAE back in June and emails also revealed that he was in effect accepting direction from officials there, that would strengthen the HoR and weaken the GNC. Kobler said that he would not change the names of those Leon had nominated for the GNA but if Pack is correct it would appear he broke this promise to get support from Haftar. The UN has yet to release the text of the exact document signed at Skhirat. I wonder why?
There are two very important issues that Pack does not even discuss. One is the fact that the present LPA has a section that gives senior members of the GNA the function of commander in chief of the Libyan National Army depriving Haftar of his position. He will never stand for this I should think. If the GNA is to gain the support of Haftar, he must remain as commander in chief of the Libyan National Army. The other crucial point that Pack fails to mention is that the LPA requires a vote of confidence by the HoR, which is the legislature of the GNA, before the term of the GNA begins. When what Kobler called a majority of the HoR signed a statement that supported the GNA in principle, it was with the proviso that Haftar remain as commander in chief. These are the people who supported the signing. They will not vote confidence in the GNA until Haftar is allowed to stay on as commander in chief of the Libyan National Army. However, if this happens, almost all of the GNC supporters of the agreement will refuse to work with the GNA creating even more division.
Perhaps, Kobler altered the LPA in order to do away with the requirement of a vote of confidence by the HoR. It seems unlikely that he has though, since the HoR representatives would be furious. Pack is pessimistic about any chance of success of the LPA:In fact, the GNA is likely to represent the same failings of the HoR with the same alliances with international powers, except possibly worse as the GNA appears to be signalling a phase of greater international intervention in Libyan affairs rather than a movement to an organic solution over which Libyan ownership can be exerted.At present, it is the UN and much of the international community that has ownership of this mess.

Articles by Richard Galustian critical of Libyan Political Agreement

While western media have from the first noted the difficulties involved in implementing the terms of the Libya Political Agreement(LPA) recently signed by some members of each of the rival parliaments, the process itself has had less scrutiny.

The resulting agreement and the associated Government of National Accord(GNA) have been endorsed by the UN Security Council, and also a large group of foreign ministers meeting in Rome. I have written numerous articles critical of the whole process and the result as well. Back on December 12, I wrote an article predicting the UN would in effect force the LPA on Libya in preparation for and to legitimize foreign military intervention in Libya against the Islamic State. Recent announcements of plans for military intervention by the UK and Italy confirm this viewpoint. I also argued there was in effect no LPA because neither of the two rival governments, the internationally-recognized House of Representatives(HoR) located in the east in Tobruk, nor the rival General National Congress(GNC) located in the west in Tripoli supported the LPA or approved it. The original plan was to forge an agreement between the two rival parliaments to be approved by them. This never happened. Instead the UN did an end run around the two parliaments and had members from each of the two governments sign the LPA.
recent article in the Libya Herald by a Libyan affairs commentator from Malta, Richard Galustian, makes a number of quite caustic criticisms of the UN process. He begins by noting the UN broke its own rule book in that it had been maintaining all along that both rival governments should sign on to the deal. This is not strictly true in that at one stage when the GNC was not taking part in the process, Bernardino Leon was continuing with the dialogue and had representatives from the HoR initial a draft even though the GNC had boycotted the meeting and did not agree to the draft. No doubt members of the UN team convinced him to try and get the GNC involved again.
Galustian notes that while the world was watching for a foreign intervention of a military kind in Libya, the UN made one of a political kind. The UN engineered a foreign intervention using a political weapon, the formation of the Government of National accord that is part of the LPA: ​On 17 December, the United Nations announced that, despite both Libya’s warring parliaments disagreeing, it was going ahead and forming a new united government. By forming a third government that risks being seen as a puppet, the UN is taking a gigantic risk that may blow back in its face. First of all, the UN has no right to dictate Libya’s government – the mandate of its special envoy runs only to mediation, not government-forming
Of course, the UN apologists will reply that it was the 40 brave and courageous Libyans from the two rival bodies who signed the agreement and created the GNA by signing the agreement not the UN which was just a facilitator. However, none of those members had the authority to sign as both parliamentary heads have pointed out. As Galustian mentioned earlier, the UN broke its own rule book. This is little mentioned or even noticed by most in the mainstream press. Leon often noted that both parliaments must sign the LPA and tried for months to get them to do so as did Kobler after November 17th when he took over.
Because of the security situation and the advances of the Islamic State, and no doubt the refugee problem as well , many countries wanted a unity government to request military assistance to battle IS. According to Galustian, John Kerry US Secretary of State demanded at the Rome conference on 13 December that the diplomats form the GNA any way they could. At that point though, the LPA was already signed to it was just a question of supporting it and then setting up mechanisms to have it become a reality. Galustian claims;With both Tripoli and Tobruk adamant they would not agree to foreign intervention, the UN’s solution has been to create a third administration, the GNA, which will agree to foreign intervention.
Galustian sums up the situation which is in line with my own views on the signing of the LPA:In fact the GNA is approved only by Libya Dialogue, whose members were tasked not with agreeing it, but negotiating it and reporting back to their parliaments. Until the Rome conference, these people had no authority to actually sign the plan. That came, last minute, from the UN changing the rules.Actually, it was at the original Tunis signing that the rules were changed. The consequent UN Security Council meeting and then the Rome conference were meant to legitimize the signing. Galustian notes as well, that the GNA will no doubt receive the $100 billion in Libya assets that have been frozen since the fall of Gadaffi.
Galustian thinks that UK and Italian troops will establish a sort of Green Zone such as the US had in Iraq within Tripoli. Apparently, the UN is trying to negotiate security arrangements with the GNC and its main militia Libya Dawn and with other Tripoli and Misrata militia to enable the GNA to function in Tripoli. The UN has given notice that with the formation of the GNA it will stop all contact with the existing GNC and HoR governments.
Neither of the two rival governments have indicated they are prepared to dissolve. For the GNA term to even begin there must be a meeting of the HoR ,which is the legislative body of the GNA, to give a vote of confidence to the GNA government. There is not a word about this requirement from the UN or any mention of when this meeting will take place. Perhaps the UN intends to change the terms of the LPA to avoid this requirement. The world main stream press will never notice because they probably have not read the LPA. It can be accessed here, at least the last draft the UN bothered to reveal to the public.
Galustian wrote another critical article that can be found at the Times of Oman. The opinion piece is titled " Frankenstein's monster option for Libyan peace." In this article, he refers to the GNA as NUG the Natilonal Unity Government. He repeats his argument that the events made the international community anxious to have a NUG in Libya to authorize military intervention.
He notes that the Central Bank of Libya(CBL) and Libyan National Oil Company(NOC) should soon function openly with the new NUG. Money from these sources together with the$100 billion in frozen assets that will be released will give the NUG a huge fund to buy off militias, factions, and tribes. Galustian gives his prediction of the sort of establishment that NUG will set up in Tripoli: Dr Frankenstein—read here the UN and the West—are setting the stage for a military intervention to support their creation. Their base of operations in Libya may very well be the securely created salubrious residential city (adjacent to a UN Military Residential Compound) to instal and protect this new Seraj government. That residential complex is big enough to accommodate members of the new government, soldiers and embassies as deemed necessary. It is the ultimate Iraqi-type styled 'Green Zone' which sits next to the militarized UN facility as described.The real problem may be the reaction of the GNC the HoR and their military forces to the NUG. Galustian thinks that General Haftar head of the HoR armed forces could very well go along with the NUG. He fails to mention that the NUG requires senior members of the government to fill the role of the commander in chief of the Libyan Army. Haftar would never allow that. Perhaps the rules on the matter are being changed as well. No one even asks about this issue. Haftar has been strangely quiet even after meeting with Kobler. In spite of his critique Galustian still concludes that the NUG is the best chance for peace that Libya has.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Russian city wants to elect cat as mayor

The Russian city of Barnaul is to get a new mayor next week. The city with about 650,000 residents is about 2,900 kilometers or 1,800 miles to the east of Moscow.

The mayor is to be picked not by vote but the city council together the regional governor will make the choice from six candidates. However, in a poll in which a cat named Barsik ran against the six official candidates, Barsik was the choice of more than 90 percent of those who voted. The cat naturally is somewhat of a media sensation. Residents are fed up with the corrupt city government. As the regional governor, Alexander Karlin, put it: "Through the image of Barsik the cat, our people are sending definite wishes to the future head of Barnaul." Ivan Karpov, a local Communist Party official said more bluntly: "The conclusion has been made that there's absolutely no trust among voters for any of the candidates."
Barsik, a blue-eyed Siamese cat, is probably more photogenic than the six human competitors. In spite of his Siamese background, the Russian social media website Vk's added Barsik to the mayoralty ticket. More than 2,000 people voted in the poll on the website which turned out to be a landslide for Barsik. However, no doubt Kim Jong-Un could easily beat the cat in North Korea. Petr Frisen is at present the mayor after his predecessor was fired for corruption.
The administrator of the poll, who goes by the pseudonym Altai Farmer has launched a crowd-funding initiative that will be used to have a billboard put up in the city center depicting Barsik with the slogan: "Only mice don't vote for Barsik". Barsik can be seen as a kitten here.
The Russians are far behind the Americans in the race to elect a cat as a mayor. Sixteen years ago the unincorporated village of Talkeetna in Alaska elected their feline Mayor Stubbs. Stubbs has managed to survive several events that might have ended his career as described on the appended video. Perhaps if the Russian authorities refuse to recognize Barsik as mayor of Barnauf, Barsik could be shipped to Talkeetna to take over from Stubbs who is due to retire soon. Stubbs appears in good health with clean paws in the appended video.

Many countries waiting in line for new Libyan government to request troops to fight the Islamic State

Since the UN-sponsored Libya Political Agreement(LPA) was signed recently, the international community is looking forward to dealing with the new Government of National Accord(GNA)

Many countries are waiting to send troops to deal with what is portrayed in the media as a huge and growing threat from the Islamic State or Daesh even though the group lost one of its main Libyan bases in Derna last June and has not regained it but has been driven into the nearby mountains. As long ago as early last August, there were plans being made to intervene long before the LPA was signed. The UN and the international community thought that the GNA would be agreed to long before now and the plans were to get permission from the newly minted and legitimate GNA to send their troops.
The plans had to be put on hold, as the former UN Special Envoy to Libya Bernardino Leon was unable to get either the internationally-recognized government the House of Representatives(HoR) located in Tobruk in the east, or the rival General National Congress(GNC)j located in the west in Tripoli to approve the LPA. When his successor, Martin Kobler, took over on November 17th he refused to change the LPA that Leon had presented to the rival parliaments or to change the names he had suggested for the GNA. Kobler was no more able to get even one of the rival parliaments to sign than Leon. Kobler decided to call together a select group including members of both the HoR and GNC governments that supported the dialogue. He had the group sign the LPA. He then got the support of the UN Security Council and later a huge ministerial meeting in Rome to endorse his actions giving a veneer of legitimacy to his underhanded and unprecedented stratagem to bypass both parliaments. Theoretically the GNA and LPA has to receive a vote of confidence by the HoR before it can begin its term but it remains to be seen if there is the least bit of attention paid to that requirement of the LPA. However, already countries such as the UK have announced their intention of sending hundreds of troops to Libya since the LPA was signed. One of the main reasons for pushing through the LPA even though neither parliament signed on was to create one Libyan government that would grant permission for foreign intervention.
The US did not wait for GNA permission. They sent 20 commandos into the eastern area where General Khalifa Haftar is commander of the Libyan National Army. Their arrival and subsequent departure when a militia group at the base would not let them leave was reported on the Facebook page of the Libyan Air Force complete with photos.US authorities must be livid with anger but accounts of what happened are muted. Already Haftar is sending international authorities a clear message that he is in charge and that proper clearance through him and his close buddy who is chief of the air force is a must or the whole secret operations of the US will be not only revealed but stopped.
As well as the UK, other countries are preparing to intervene in Libya: Italy is drawing up plans to lead a military coalition, including troops and special forces from Britain, France and Germany, which would seek to stabilize Libya but have no combat role, two Italian officials with knowledge of the matter said.
The officials said that the force would focus on training and logistical support for the Libyan-armed military and police. The Libyan-armed military at present are under the control of Khalifa Haftar who has consistently rejected the LPA and GNA. although of late he has been mum on the issue and recently met with Martin Kobler. Neither the Libyan National Army nor the rival Libya Dawn militia support the GNA. Libya Dawn and its allies control Tripoli. The GNA wants to locate in Tripoli and Kobler has asked Tripoli authorities to guarantee security. Kobler has plenty of chutzpah. He has just done a run around the GNC and is now asking them to please allow a competing government that they do not approve come to Tripoli and set up a government to rule the area the GNC controls. He is asking for a fight between some Misrata militia and Libya Dawn and allies. Perhaps, he is intending to call in help from Haftar allies and his Operation Dignity. The LPA allows for the possibility of the GNA meeting in any city. Presumably they could even operate out of Tunis if the security situation makes it impossible to meet in Libya. Note that the LPA was signed in Skhirat Morocco not in Libya due to security concerns.
Frederic Wehrey, a Libya specialist at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said of the GNA: “The danger is that it becomes yet another third body that has to meet outside the capital or even worse outside the country." There is always the possibility that the GNA could operate as a government in exile as with the Hadi government in Yemen. The international community could get permission to bomb the Islamic State and could also train and protect armed groups loyal to the GNA who would also fight IS. Eventually, supporters of the GNA might be strong enough for the government to return to Libya. This would be analogous to what is happening with the Saudi-led operations in Yemen.

Ireland's Data Protection Commissioner investigating Twitter over data privacy concern.

Irish privacy regulators are launching an investigation into precisely how much data Twitter collects from, its URL-shortening system....