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Showing posts from August, 2015

Two days of Libyan peace talks take place without one rival government sending representatives

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Bernardino Leon, the UN Special Envoy to Libya resumed talks on forming a Government of National Accord in Skhirat Morocco even though one of two rival governments did not show up. + Add Image The talks are set to finalize what is now called the Libyan Political Agreement, that includes agreeing on the structure and main officials in a Government of National Accord. The GNC informed Leon that they would not attend the present round of talks. The GNC claimed that it needed to reconstruct its negotiating team after two of its members resigned. The GNC said that it was still committed to the dialogue process and would participate in the next session. Leon said that the UN Support Mission in Libya would intensify its contacts with stakeholders in the coming days to help create the final push towards peace. A Reuters report suggests that there could be little prospect of progress without one of the main sides in the conflict present. This may not be true as the Tobruk government could discu…

Saudi-led bombing in Yemen exacerbates the humanitarian disaster

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Hodeida - White House National Security Council spokesperson Alistair Baskey said that the US is very concerned over recent Saudi-led air strikes on the Yemeni port city of Hodeida in Yemen.
+ Add Image The port is used by the UN as a key entrance to deliver aid to areas of Yemen controlled by the Houthi rebels. The strikes that are supposedly aimed at the Houthi rebels in control of Hodeida, reportedly killed dock workers and damaged infrastructure needed for the port to function properly. Baskey said:"We are deeply concerned by the August 18 attack on critical infrastructure at the port of Hodeida in Yemen.The port is a crucial lifeline used to provide medicine, food and fuel to Yemen's population."Saudi bombing has before interfered with delivery of aid. In the capital the runway at the Sanaa airport was bombed to prevent an Iranian aid plane from landing. The Saudis suspected the plane carried military equipment. However, the bombing prevented UN aid planes from landin…

Al Qaeda in Arab Peninsula occupying parts of Yemeni port of Aden

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A week ago, officials from exiled president's Mansour Hadi's government, claimed that Aden had been taken from Houthi rebels and that it would be the temporary capital for five years while the rest of the country was retaken from Houthi rebels. + Add Image So far, the Hadi government is still mainly located in Ryadh Saudi Arabia. Saudi-led bombing and supply of ground forces loyal to Hadi have forced the Houthis out of much of southern Yemen. The Houthis still control the capital Sanaa and many other areas. However, there has been an ominous development in Aden as Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula(AQAP) has taken control of a western sector of the port city. What is even more surprising is that there were no reports of any major battles with the group. AQAP has raised its flag over a number of government buildings including the port complex. A CBC report indicates that AQAP controls important areas of the city according to local officials:Fighters took Tawahi district, home to…

Libyan peace dialogue to resume on Thursday August 27

Bernardino Leon, UN special envoy for Libya, who directs the peace dialogue, has said, after two days of talks earlier in Geneva, that he wants to reach agreement on the fifth draft of a peace agreement by the end of August. + Add Image The Libya Observer, that favours the Tripoli-based General National Council(GNC) government and the Libya Herald that usually favours the internationally-recognized House of Representatives(HoR) based in Tobruk both report that talks, scheduled to start on Monday 24, will instead begin this Thursday 27 in Skhirat Morocco. Apparently the dialogue was postponed until Thursday after a request from the HoR to hold further discussions on the agreement and Government of National Accord or unity government. According to the Libya Observer, Leon met on Saturday with a 12 member delegation from the HoR to review the formation of the proposed government. Leon reaffirmed his view that international military support to Libya could only be done through the unity go…

Turklsh president Erdogan risks civil war in hopes of winning majority in elections

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While Turkey is facing huge economic problems and increasing civil strife, President Recep Erdogan seems intent on creating more conflict in order to boost his chance of forming a majority in an election that is expected to be called soon. + Add Image According to an article in the Independent, Erdogan is being encouraged by his prime minister:Egged on by a delusion of neo-Ottoman grandeur, created by his former foreign minister and now prime minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, Erdogan has been intent on creating what many see as his own caliphate, but was blocked in the June election by the Kurdish HDP (Peoples’ Democratic Party). While Turkey recently agreed to join the battle against the Islamic State and has allowed the US to use a Turkish base for bombing raids into Syria and Iraq, at the same time Erdogan has mounted an offensive against the Kurdish Worker's Party(PKK) in Iraq and also Turkey as described in a recent Digital Journal article. The HDP achieved a breakthrough in June el…

German firm takes over 14 privatized Greek airports

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The Greek government gazette reveals that a German company Fraport AG has been given the rights to operate 14 regional airports. Fraport AG also runs the Frankfurt airport in Germany among others. + Add Image This is just the first of many expected privatization moves as agreed to as part of the bailout deal. Syriza the major party in the Greek coalition government had opposed such privatizations during the election campaign but now has agreed to an extensive program that will be overseen by technical staff from the lenders. Several of the airports are on popular tourist islands. The deal represents the first privatization decision since the signing of Greece's third bailout deal worth 86 billion euros. Far from being able to repeal the austerity conditions and privatization programs of the earlier bailout deals, the new deal contains an even more extensive and more controlled privatization program than the first two deals and imposes even harsher austerity conditions. Rather than…

Tripoli-based General National Congress government to boycott scheduled Libya peace talks

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The Tripoli-based General National Congress(GNC) government has decided that it will not attend upcoming dialogue talks that will be held to further implementation of an agreement on the formation of a Government of National Accord. + Add Image The dialogue process has been directed by the UN special envoy to Libya, Bernardino Leon. Two days of dialogue last week brought all the parties together after the GNC had received assurances from Leon that its suggested amendments to the draft agreement would be incorporated in any final agreement. While the meetings ended on a positive note with no parties leaving until the end, the GNC remains unconvinced that its proposed amendments will be included in any final draft. Until Leon provides such assurance, the GNC will boycott upcoming meetings to further the implementation of the agreement. The latest fifth draft of the agreement is an amended version of the fourth draft and includes amendments supported by the internationally recognized Hou…

Fierce fight in Yemen for key city of Taiz as Houthi rebels lose ground

Although early reports claimed forces loyal to the Yemen government-in-exile had retaken Taiz, it appears only parts of the city are under their control. + Add Image Taiz is the third largest city in Yemen and has been called "the gateway to Sanaa," the capital which is still occupied by the Houthi rebels. An entire 24 hours of fighting has killed at least 81 people, 50 Houthis and 31 loyal to the Saudi-based government-in-exile of President Hadi. The civilian toll in the fighting is unknown. The loyalists are backed by Saudi air strikes. The city has been contested for some time. Recent reports indicate the loyalist forces captured intelligence headquarters in the city and also command a mountaintop nearby that they had captured earlier. However, Houthis and their allies are said to still occupy two military bases in the city. With the advance of the Saudi-supported forces throughout the south following the capture of Aden, the country increasingly looks to be divided between…

Baghdad and Kurdish autonomous zone in Iraq feuding over oil again

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In spite of a deal with the Iraqi government last December, the Kurdish autonomous government in Iraq is selling oil independently of the Baghdad government. + Add Image Last year, when the Kurds sold oil independently of the central government, the federal government froze all payments to the Kurdish autonomous government. The Baghdad government also took legal action resulting in a tanker anchored off Galveston, Texas for months waiting to unload only to leave after a court found in favour of the Baghdad government's claim to the oil. The Baghdad government has been very slow and stingy in disbursement of funds from exported oil to the Kurdistan government. With lower oil prices both governments are strapped for cash. The Kurds insist they must export their own oil because of the huge costs of fighting the Islamic State and the lack of funds coming from Baghdad. Jordan Perry, lead Iraq consultant with Verisk Maplecroft a UK-based risk consultancy firm said: “It’s quite a provoca…

Planned Syrian Safe Zone still not clearly defined

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Ever since the U.S. and Turkey announced an agreement that would see Turkey fight the Islamic State(IS) and grant the U.S. use of a Turkish air base to launch attacks, there has also been talk of a "safe zone" in northern Syria along the Turkish border. + Add Image The zone is to be a little more than 60 miles long. Now many weeks later it is still not clear who will be in power in the zone, how it can be kept safe, or even how it can happen given that both Turkey and the U.S. have ruled out using ground troops. Rebel groups will be the proxy force used to capture and run the zone. However, Al-Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front has ruled out any cooperation with the plan and announced it will withdraw from its front lines with IS in the area. The Front is angry at the continued U.S. bombing of its positions. It has also attacked U.S.-trained rebels who now have refused to fight back against the group. Many rebel groups are incensed that the U.S. attacks the Front. It is not only bat…

Geneva Libya dialogue talks end on positive notes with all sides present

After meeting for two days at the UN offices in Geneva, participants in the latest round of the Libyan Political Dialogue concluded discussions yesterday. Bernardino Leon, the UN special representative to Libya, presided over the talks. + Add Image At first, it appeared the dialogue would take place without the presence of one of the main rival governments, the General National Congress(GNC) government located in Tripoli. At the last moment, the GNC decided to send delegates after Leon assured them in a letter that the amendments they wanted in the draft would be considered at the meeting. The main purpose of the meeting originally was to deal with annexes to the draft that other parties have initialed. Leon, to his credit, was able to hold two days of talks without any party leaving in a huff, as often has happened in the past. As often is the case, the UN news release radiates optimism:The talks were held in a positive atmosphere, with the different parties emphasising the need to s…

US-trained rebels in Syria refuse to fight against Al-Qaeda-linked Al Nusra Front

Most Syrian rebel groups have as their first priority defeat of the Assad government. However, they will defend themselves against other more radical Islamist rebel groups if they are attacked which has happened with the Islamic State and Al Nusra front. + Add Image The US policy has been to emphasize first and foremost the battle against the Islamic State in Syria. The result is not only outright tension between US trained and supported groups but even attacks on them by other rebels. The most recently trained group of rebels was attacked and routed by the Al Nusra front. The US program to train and equip rebels to fight IS began in May. Early on in the U.S.-led bombing campaign against IS back in November of 2014 the Al-Qaeda-linked Al Nusra Front has been a target as well with disastrous results as far as US relationships with other rebel groups is concerned. The US has continued this policy even though the Al Nusra Front itself has fought against IS and is also a key force fightin…

US angry at Turkish bombing of PKK Kurds in Iraq

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Recently relations between the U.S. and Turkey seemed greatly improved as Turkey joined the battle against the Islamic State and allowed U.S. planes to use a Turkish air base to launch operations against the Islamic State. + Add Image However, at the same time as Turkey joined the battle against the Islamic State, it also began attacks against the Kurdish Kurdistan Workers' Party(PKK) group in northern Iraq and within Turkey. A ceasefire between the PKK and Turkey is shattered and Turkey now faces attacks within Turkey from both the PKK and the Islamic State as well as other radical groups.Turkey has been in conflict with the PKK since the early 1980s but is also attacking a different Kurdish group in northern Syria, the YPG. A Turkish pro-Kurd party did very well in recent Turkish elections and President Recep Erdogan's party lost its majority. Erdogan is now using the internal attacks and the battle against IS and the PKK as a means of building up support. Polls show the str…

Former president of anti-nuclear Iran group resigns and supports deal

Dr. Gary Samore, president of United Against Nuclear Iran(UANI), a lobby and education group whose aim is to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, has resigned as he now supports the deal.
+ Add Image The UANI describes itself as: "..a non-profit, non-partisan education and advocacy group aimed at preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. An outspoken and tireless advocate for implementation of a robust sanctions regime against Iran, UANI has been at the vanguard of efforts to ensure that any U.S. agreement with Iran is solidly in the national security interests of the United States and precludes Tehran's efforts to develop nuclear weapons. "Dr. Samor believed the UANI should support the new deal but take on the role of monitoring its implementation to ensure Iran is in compliance with its terms.
This position was obviously not acceptable to the group and sponsors such as Sheldon Adelson, a billionaire funder of the organization. Adelson insists the U.S. sho…