Showing posts from May, 2017

Head of Libyan Unity government Faiez Serraj meets with opponents

(May 14)Faiez Serraj, head of the Presidential Council of the UN-brokered Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA), along with Fathi Majbri the deputy president, had talks in Tunis with a group of House of Representatives (HoR) members mainly from the east.
The Tunis talks focused on possible developments from the meeting Serraj had earlier with the commander of the forces associated with the HoR, the Libyan National Army (LNA), Marshal Khalifa Haftar. The talks were held over a week ago in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE). The meetings weredescribed by many as positive and a breakthrough although there was no joint statement after the meetings. Separate statements were made by each side emphasizing quite different aspects of a proposed agreement. Nothing has been signed. There were to follow up talks this week. An interesting article analysing the situation can be found here. It emphasizes that there is no deal yet. Issa-Al-Araibi a member of the group who is from Benghazi sai…

Southern Yemen Separatists threaten Saudi-backed government

Senior tribal, political and military leaders have formed a new council that seeks the secession of the south from the Yemen government of president Mansour Hadi,
The formation of the group was announced by former governor of the Port of Aden Aidaroos al-Zubaidi. The Hadi government backed by the Saudis, many Gulf States and the US has been fighting a lengthy battle against Houthi rebels who still control much of the north of Yemen including the capital Sanaa. The Houthis are Shia Muslims and have the support of Iran whereas the supporters of the Hadi government are Sunnis, However, the former president Saleh is also allied with the Houthis and those in the armed forces who support him.Zubaidi was recently fired as the governor of Aden, Before the Houthis drove Hadi out of power and into exile, there was already opposition to the Hadi government in the south but many in the movement rallied behind the Hadi government's offensive against the Houthis which recaptured Aden and much o…

US provides Kurds in Syria with wepapons to the dismay of Turkey

President Donald Trump has decided to provide the YPG Kurds in Syria with weapons. The YPG or People's Protection Units are key allies in fighting the Islamic State but are regarded as terrorists by the Turks.
The Turks worry that the Kurds will establish an independent or autonomous Kurdish area on the northern border of Syria with Turkey. This may provide Kurds in Turkey more encouragement to establish more autonomy or even independence in adjacent Kurdish areas of the Turkey. The arms are intended to help the YPG and its Arab allies carry out an offensive against Raqqa the de facto capital of the Islamic State in Syria. The Turks were hoping that they would be involved in the offensive. U.S. troops are helping out the Kurds. The YPG is part of theSyrian Democratic Forces (SDF)a multi-ethnic force that includes Arabs. The group has just recentlycaptured the town of Tabqaand the adjacent dam. The U.S. is to send heavy machine guns, anti-tank weapons, armored cars, and engineering…

Trump claims he is ready for "massive" renegotiation of NAFTA

(May 13) In an interview with the Economist, US president Donald Trump said that as soon as his trade czar is approved by the Senate he will start a major renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Act NAFTA.

Just today, theUS Senate voted in favor of approving Robert Lighthizer as the US Trade Representative. Lighthizer's nomination had been held up by his having to get a legal waiver as he had worked for foreign governments. Trump said he intends to file a 90-day notice with Congress and would work with it on negotiating priorities. Talks would start with Canada and Mexico later this year. Trum said that the clock started with Lighthizer's nomination. The Trump administration has already said it wanted significant changes in a number of areas that included dairy, auto, and pharmaceuticals as well as the dispute-resolution mechanism. Trump said that he wanted "massive changes" to the system. This may not sit well with either Canada or Mexico who could very well …

Unity Libyan government High Council of State names representatives for dialogue on Libyan Political Agreement

(May 11)The High Council of State (HCS) a mainly consultative body of the UN-brokered Government of National Accord (GNA) chose 13 members to represent it in discussions by the Libyan dialogue to amend the Libya Political Agreement(LPA).

The group was named as the "committee tasked with amending the political agreement'. The present head of the Presidential Council of the Faiez Serraj will lead the group. The committee is also to reach agreements with the HoR as set out in the LPA. The rival House of Representatives (HoR) government based in Tobruk earlier appointed a 22 member committee to represent its interest. Mohammed Emazzeb, the first deputy of the HCS is to supervise and follow up the committee's work and progress. According to the terms of the LPA signed in Skhirat Morocco in December of 2015, the HoR must vote confidence in the GNA and also amend the constitutional declaration of 2011 to incorporate the LPA before the GNA term starts and for it to be legitimate.…

Unity Government Foreign Affairs minister suggests rival commander Haftar should head armed forces of new government

(May 10) At a press conference in Algiers, Mohammed Siyala the foreign affairs minister of the UN-backed Government of National Accord issued a controversial statement about Marshal Khalifa Haftar commander of the armed forces of the rival eastern government.
Siyala said thatHaftar, commander of the Libyan National Army(LNA) as he calls the armed forces of the House of Representatives' government, would also be head of the army of a unified Libya if he recognized the UN-brokered Government of National Accord (GNA). Siyala said that Haftar was "the commander in chief of the Libyan Army" but later qualified that by adding that before becoming such he must recognize the GNA as the sole authority, not the government of the HoR. Siyala was an official in the Gadaffi government. However, the present Libya Political Agreement (LPA), section 8, makes the Presidential Council(PC) of the GNA not Haftar commander in chief of the Libyan Army. Haftar has been a key figure in rejectin…

Six point plan for peace in Libya by UN envoy Martin Kobler

Martin Kobler, head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) yesterday tweeted the outline of a six-point "road map for peaceful Libya".
As he has said many times he regards theLibyan Political Agreement(LPA)signed in Skhirat, Morocco in December of 2015 as the core of any forthcoming peace talks. Yet the LPA has been one of the main roadblocks keeping the eastern-based House of Representatives (HoR) from voting confidence in the rival Government of National Accord (GNA) and its Presidency Council (PC). The last vote was on August 22, 2016 and failed to pass. There has been little progress since. Though there has been a meeting recently between head of the PC Faiez Serraj and head of the armed forces of the rival HoR government, Khalifa Haftar, and it was claimed to have been positive and resulted in an agreement. However, no formal statement was issued after the meeting, and the two sides ultimately issued separate statements that differed considerably. A num…

Canadians' opinion of the United States hits an all time low

In 2012 nearly 70 percent of Canadians had a favorable opinion of the U.S. Today that has dropped to 44 percent, less than half. This is the lowest value recorded since polls began way back in 1982
The poll was just released by Environics Institute on Monday. The entire poll can be foundhere. Donald Trump`s election had a dramatic impact on Canadian opinion about the U.S. the report claims. 20 percent of Canadians now say they have a 'very unfavorable' opinion of the U.S. and 33 percent said they had a 'somewhat unfavorable' opinion of the country. The changed attitudes will have an economic impact through reduced travel to the U.S. Almost 20 percent said they had already changed travel plans because of the political situation in the U.S. Another eight percent were contemplating doing so. The survey was of 2,002 Canadian resident contacted by phone between April 3 and 15, 2017. Results are accurate within 2.2 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. In a poll last month,…

Taliban take another area in Northern Afghanistan

(May 8)After announcing their spring offensive just a week ago, the Taliban have captured a second area in Afghanistan, a district in the northern Kunduz province
Mahfoozullah Akbari, a spokesman for the police in Kunduz, claimed that Taliban fighters attacked the district of Qala-e Zal "from several directions" on Friday. They took full control of the district by mid-morning on Saturday. He said there had been fierce resistance from security forces but they were driven back before reinforcements arrived. The Taliban said on their website that they had killed a number of soldiers, police and pro-government militia members and seized a huge cache of weapons and ammunition. The Afghan forces beset by killings, desertions and declining morale is already stretched to its limits as the Taliban are fighting in many different areas not just the traditional southern strongholds. As shown on the appended video border police were brought to help defend a provincial capital. The casual…

Nine Pakistani census takers killed near Afghan border

(May 6) Pakistani security officials claim that at least nine people have been killed and 33 wounded when they came under fire from Afghan forces. Those attacked were conducting a census near the Afghan border. Casualty accounts vary.

The attack Friday was near the Chaman border crossing into Pakistan's Balochistan province. The attack prompted security forces to ask people on the border to evacuate. The incident resulted in the Chaman border crossing being closed. Pakistani military spokesperson,Asif Ghafoor,said that firing was still going on. Chaman is one of only two main border crossings from Afghanistan to Pakistan. Ghafoor added: "Since April 30, Afghan Border Police had been creating hurdles in conduct of census in divided villages of Killi Luqman and Killi Jahangir in Chaman area, on Pakistani side of the border." Ghurzang Afridi, an Afghan spokesperson claimed that the Pakistani census team had been working on the Afghan side of the border. Pakistan is in the s…

No final agreement after key meeting between rival Libyan officials

(May 3) There was no official statement after Khalifa Haftar, commander of the Libyan National Army associated with the eastern-based House of Representatives (HoR) government met with Faiez Serraj head of the Presidential Council (PC) of the rival GNA.
According to Reuters:" Rival Libyan camps issued separate statements on Wednesday promising to calm tensions in southern Libya and fight terrorism, but offering no shared way forward for a political deal to unify the North African country." There are also conflicting reports about what was agreed to according to pro-Haftar sources some of which are described in a recentDigital Journal article.Reuters says that Seraj's statement does not mention the plans reported by pro-Haftar media to restructure the GNA government as well as hold elections next year. The two sides apparently tried but failed to agree on a joint statement. Reuters claims: Conflicting accounts of initial agreements and leaks of documents neither side signe…

Al Qaeda leader insists it fights along with US-supported Sunni groups in Yemen

The leader of Al Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula (AQAP) claims that his group fights alongside Sunni fighters loyal to the government of Mansour Al-Hadi supported by the United States as well as Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries.
AQAP leaderQasim al-Rimitold the group's media arm al-Malahem that his followers were de facto aligned with an array of forces in the complex conflict saying: “We fight alongside all Muslims in Yemen, together with different Islamic groups,” he said, including “the Muslim Brotherhood and also our brothers among the sons of (Sunni) tribes.” These alliances are all fighting against the Shia Houthi rebels who are supported by Iran. However, AQAP along with the Islamic State members in Yemen have also attacked the Hadi government now located in the southern port city of Aden. The Hadi government formerly in exile in Saudi Arabia has conquered much of the south of Yemen whereas the Houthis still control the north and west including the capital Sanaa. The Hadi …

Results of meeting between key rival officials in Libya are unclear

Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, commander of the Libyan National Army(LNA) associated with the eastern-based government of the House of Representatives (HoR) was to a meeting in United Arab Emirates (UAE) just three weeks ago.
The last meeting was at the invitation of Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed. He is said to have met secretly with a US official at that time. The present meeting too is at the invitation of Sheikh Mohammed who is not just the crown prince of Abu Dhabi but deputy commander of the UAE armed forces. The UAE organized a meeting of Haftar with the head of the Presidential Council(PC) of the Government of National Accord (GNA), Faiez Serraj. There has been pressure from many quarters to have Serraj meet with Haftar, including Egypt, Russia, and the US. In February, Haftar had refused to meet with Serraj in Cairo after the Egyptian government had one planned. Apparently, he refused because the head of the HoR, Ageela Saleh was in Cairo at the time and Haftar felt he should atten…