Friends of America

US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, held a reception for the “Friends of America” to thank the countries who voted against the UN resolution, condemning President Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem.    It was a bit bizarre, as of the 193 members representing almost all of the 7.6 billion inhabitants of our planet, only 9 countries voted against the resolution.   Of these 9 countries,  only 5 have populations over 1 million residents: US,  Israel, Guatemala, Honduras, and Togo (See list  at end of this blog).  Some reception!

If Donald Trump is dividing the world into proper civilized countries, and shithole ones, Guatemala probably would fall in the latter.  The State Department’s Travel Advisory states:

Reconsider travel to Guatemala due to crime. Violent crime, such as sexual assault, carjacking, armed robbery, and murder, is common. Gang activity, such as extortion, violent street crime, and narcotics trafficking, is widespread, particularly in the border regions. Local police may lack the resources to respond effectively to serious criminal incidents.

This is Level 3 advisory.   The top warning  is Level  4 which advises travelers not to visit the countries and if  intrepid travelers ignore this advice,  the State Department suggests having a will prepared prior to travel.  The only other South American countries with a Level 3 advisory (Reconsider Travel) are Honduras and El Salvador.

Personally,  I have nothing against Honduras and Guatemala. I have been several times to Guatemala, and each visit was fantastic.  The other country, Togo, is in Africa, and has been struggling for years due to low prices for its agricultural exports.  It has an astounding dense population of approximately 8 million residents. I was actually surprised at Togo’s vote, with a 20% Muslim population.

So, Nikki’s party invitees of “No Voters” had one wealthy country (Israel), three countries in economic dire straits (Guatemala, Honduras, and Togo) and 4 tiny island states in the Pacific.  Nauru is one of them, which has a population of 13,000 residents,  whose best asset is it’s seat in the UN and a vote that comes cheap.  See link below on Nauru’s recognition of Russia’s breakaway republics in exchange for aid.

It is our President which is dividing up the world, through his travel bans, cuts in aid and policy decisions, to make the US disliked around the world as never before.  He’s been able to sour relations with our close neighbors, Mexico and Canada.

The invitees to the Haley’s reception included all those who  didn’t vote at all or abstained so the total number of invitees was 64.   I can see why – as the resolution was going to pass anyway, and it really had no effect except to embarrass the US.  So, to be a friend of the US doesn’t take much, just sit at home on the day of the vote.   Still, it was a landslide vote against the US.

Usually, when you tell nation leaders that they must support US policies or else, “We’re taking names” comment by Nikki Haley, it is counter productive.  The recent violence in Pakistan, is directed at Trump’s cut off of military aid.  It’s regrettable as we need them as an ally against terrorism.

We seem to be antagonizing both friends and enemies.  We lost the chance to broker some peace settlement between Palestine and Israel,  with our decision to recognize Jerusalem.  South Korea seems to be making inroads to reducing hostilities with North Korea, after we  exchanged increasingly higher threats with North Korea.  The humanitarian crisis in Yemen seems of little importance to Trump.  It is a Iran-Saudi proxy war, and we’ve sided with the Saudi’s.

The Middle East countries are now more divided into the Sunni and Shi’a factions, and doing less to curb real terrorism.  We may eventually undermine the moderates control in Iran,  by President Rouhani, by imposing new sanctions, and threatening to abandon the nuclear agreement.  In doing so, we discourage any deal with North Korea over their nuclear program.  Meanwhile, the State Department continues to shrink under Secretary  Rex Tillerson, with many of the diplomatic posts unfilled.  Yet I consider him one of the best of the cabinet leaders.  I would include Gen.  Mattis at Defense as well.

I would like to have seen a “Friends of the US” reception with leaders from all the continents of the world.   This would require a major re-think of the America First agenda.  We are “Stronger Together”  the slogan of Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

CNN:  How each country voted at the UN

Yes votes: 128 No votes: 9 Abstaining: 38 votes Not voting: 21

Tiny Nauru struts world stage by recognising breakaway republics

I’ve often thought about a service on the internet, similar to “Letgo.com” where countries could bid on the UN representatives’ vote. Maybe “Cash4votes.com” would work.  Of course, the country would first have to let the world know it’s vote is up for sale.

Nikki Haley’s New Best Friends at the UN

Hundreds of Pakistani protesters burn US flags after Trump says he is cutting aid to the country because it ‘does not take terrorism seriously enough’

 

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Terrorism

I’ve been working on a blog on Hezbollah.   It’s a very hot button issue.  Israel  consider Hezbollah as one of the worst terrorist groups.  The US also condemns Hezbollah as a terrorist organization.  Other countries do not and in particular Lebanon has been trying to co-exist with the presence of Hezbollah.   The US accuses Iran of supporting Hezbollah.  Hezbollah militia fought against ISIS in Syria in the destruction of Raqqa.   But,  I’m really jumping ahead in this blog.

It is tempting to lump all groups with an extensive cache of arms as terrorist organizations.  I would more likely term such organizations as collectives of angry people who are contemplating acts of violence.   Even in the US, there are organizations which purchase and store arms as they believe they are part of a larger resistance movement their rights as citizens.  It is in fact, their constitutional right to store arms in defense of their home.

On the Wikipedia site,  it is stated no single accepted definition of terrorism.  I’ve provided two links on this subject.  However, Wikipedia provides one “broad” definition as follows:

Terrorism is, in the broadest sense, the use of intentionally indiscriminate violence as a means to create terror, or fear, to achieve a political, religious or ideological aim.  It is used in this regard primarily to refer to violence against peacetime targets or in war against non-combatants.  The terms “terrorist” and “terrorism” originated during the French Revolution of the late 18th century but gained mainstream popularity during the U.S. Presidency of Ronald Reagan (1981–89) after the 1983 Beirut barracks bombings and again after the attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C. in September 2001 and on Bali in October 2002.

The September 2001 is obviously the “9/11” attack on the US by Al-Qaeda, and it was indiscriminate as the action targeted anyone who was in the buildings at the time.  I would include in the definition that terrorist organizations plan violent acts  intended to cause large scale loss of human life.  The broad definition would include both non-state and state organized terrorists.

Further, Wikipedia states their definition is hardly rigorous or universally accepted as follows:

There is no commonly accepted definition of “terrorism”.[7][8] Being a charged term, with the connotation of something “morally wrong”, it is often used, both by governments and non-state groups, to abuse or denounce opposing groups.[9][10][4][11][8] Broad categories of political organisations have been claimed to have been involved in terrorism to further their objectives, including right-wing and left-wing political organisations, nationalist groups, religious groups, revolutionaries and ruling governments.[12] Terrorism-related legislation has been adopted in various states, regarding “terrorism” as a crime.[13][14] There is no universal agreement as to whether or not “terrorism”, in some definition, should be regarded as a war crime.[14][15]

Regardless of how one wishes to define terrorism, the horrific actions of ISIS, Boko Haram and  Al-Shabaab, clearly make them the worst terrorist groups.   All countries repudiate the actions of these organizations.   Similarly, the actions of Al-Qaeda and affiliated groups are repudiated by all countries.  For these groups, the “I know it when I see it” (Potter, 1964, US Supreme Court)  test works well for these groups, but it doesn’t help in many other cases.  This is exactly the point made in the Wikipedia’s summary.

Political groups and individuals within many Arab countries and Iran, may be extremely anti-American, but this can be simply rhetoric and  does not mean they support terrorism.  Further complications come into play when there are groups of extremist groups within a country, and governments for political reasons, are not making a priority to arrest or otherwise destroy extremist groups.  Wealthy individuals may support ISIS or al-Qaeda groups within many countries.  Should the governments be held responsible?  They may allow individuals accused of terrorist activities to live within their country.  Is that mean the country is complicit in terrorism?

Fethullah Gulen has been accused of acts of  terrorism by the Turkish government.   He lives in Pennsylvania and the Turkish government wants him deported to stand trial.  The US has demanded the evidence against Gulen before extraditing him.   He is 76 years old and in fact has denounced terrorism as a violation of his faith as follows:

Gülen has condemned terrorism.[135] He warns against the phenomenon of arbitrary violence and aggression against civilians and said that it “has no place in Islam”. He wrote a condemnation article in the Washington Post on September 12, 2001, one day after the September 11 attacks, and stated that “A Muslim can not be a terrorist, nor can a terrorist be a true Muslim.”[136][137] Gülen lamented the “hijacking of Islam” by terrorists.[78]

The extradition of Fethullah  Gulen for terrorism is weak, and the US so far has taken no action, except to request more evidence.

As I was completing this blog,  President Erdogan invoked the terrorist label, on condemning Israel, in response to Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as its capital, as follows:

“Israel is a state of occupation and a terror state,” Erdoğan said in a speech in the Central Anatolian province of Sivas on Dec. 10, vowing that Turkey “will not leave Jerusalem to the consciousness of a child-killer state.”

The west bank and Gaza strip are areas that Israel took by force during the Six Day war in 1967.

During the Syrian civil war,  President Bashir Assad would claim that the US and other European countries were assisting terrorist, as we were training and providing arms to groups against the Assad regime.  However, the US was also fighting against ISIS in Syria,  with the support of Syrian government.    So what were we to Assad – enemy or friend?

When there is a rebellion within a country,  immediately the leader of the country will denounce the rebel groups as traitors, or agents of foreign governments.  This is exactly what the President Gaddafi did in 2011 during the Libyan civil war.  The US  and NATO supported the rebel group with air support.

The Yemen civil war is a clash between the Houthi rebels and the Yemen government.   By their rhetoric and slogans, the Houthi would seem just as radical as Al-Qaeda or ISIS. Written in Arabic on their flag:

“The God is Great, Death to America, Death to Israel, Curse on the Jews, Victory to Islam”

However, the Houthi appear to simply want to take over Yemen, not wreck havoc in the western world.    The Houthi’s gained control in 2014 to 2015, through a coup d’etat.  What sparked the uprising in 2014, was an end to government subsidies on fuel.

The Houthi have committed acts of indiscriminate violence, hence it would be easy to call them terrorists by the broad definition.  Yet the coalition of countries fighting against the Houthi, with air strikes conducted by Saudi Arabia, has acted equally brutal bombing a Doctors without Frontiers hospital (October 13, 2016) and other civilian targets.

Since the Saudi-led coalition began military operations against Ansar Allah on 26 March 2015, Saudi-led coalition airstrikes unlawfully struck hospitals and other facilities run by aid organizations, according to Human Rights Watch.[352] Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) medical facilities in Yemen were attacked four times in three months.[353] On 26 October 2015, HRW documented six Saudi-led airstrikes which bombed a MSF hospital in Haydan district (Sa’dah Governorate), wounding two patients.[352][353][354] An Saudi-led coalition airstrike then hit a MSF mobile clinic on 2 December 2015, in Al Houban district (Taizz). Eight people were wounded, including two MSF staff members, and one other civilian nearby was killed. On 10 January 2016, six people were killed and seven wounded when a hospital in Sa’ada was hit by a projectile.[352][353] MSF said it could not confirm whether the hospital was hit in an air strike by warplanes of the Saudi-led coalition, or by a rocket fired from the ground, and at least one other landed nearby.[352][355] On 21 January 2016, an MSF ambulance was hit by an airstrike. Seven people were killed and dozens were wounded.[352][353]
MSF’s director of operations Raquel Ayora said: “The way war is being waged in Yemen is causing enormous suffering and shows that the warring parties do not recognise or respect the protected status of hospitals and medical facilities. We witness the devastating consequences of this on people trapped in conflict zones on a daily basis. Nothing has been spared – not even hospitals, even though medical facilities are explicitly protected by international humanitarian law.”[353]

Iran is accused of supporting the Houthi,  which  Iran denies.   Iran was instrumental in the formation of Hezbollah, which they consider is a group defending the borders of Lebanon and Syria from Israeli aggression.   Yet Iran joined with others in the  war against ISIS.    Both Hezbollah and the Houthi’s are Shi’a organization, so they would never align themselves with ISIS or Al-Qaeda.

Just yesterday,  UN Ambassador Nikki Haley stood in front of parts of a recovered missile from Yemen,  claiming this was hard evidence that Iran had supported Houthi rebels in direct violation of an UN resolutions.  While it was great for the media,  the problem was that it could have been supplied to the Houthi’s before the UN Resolution.   Further, it was apparent to experts, that the missile could not carry a nuclear warhead (a violation of another UN resolution).   There are various links on the internet, and I just posted the one from the NYT.

You see how complicated the label “terrorist organization” has become when it is extended beyond ISIS and Al-Qaeda.   I will explore more the Hezbollah group in a future blog.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links

Terrorism

Definition of Terrorism

NYT: U.S. Accuses Iran of U.N. Violation, but Evidence Falls Short

Six Day War

Hezbollah

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trial of Ahmed Khattala

The trial of Ahmed Abu Khattala is proceeding in Washington, DC.  He is accused of being the mastermind of the attack in Benghazi in September 2012.    Why did it take so long to arrest Khattala and bring him to stand trial in the US?  It is because the FBI  and the Department of Justice wanted to build a  rock solid case against  Khattala and any of his associates involved in the attack on the US diplomatic mission and CIA compound in Benghazi.   They are going after the top dog who planned the attack, and not the many followers.   Excellent!

It really looks like the time was well spent.  The New York Times  reports the prosecution is presenting a strong case against Khattala in federal court.  They must show that Khattala was more than just a leader of a group who hated Americans and Western influence in the country.   They have to show he was part of the attack.

The case relies on the testimony of two  Libyan who provided damaging details about Mr. Khattala before and after the attack.  The really critical details comes from a third Libyan, who befriended Khatttala in 2012, with the objective of collecting damning evidence to be used against Khattala.   It was a very slow process to gain Khattala’s trust.  Any slip up by this informant would have meant certain death for him and likely his family.  He testified on Tuesday, November 7 under the pseudonym of Ali Majrisi.

Khattala slowly opened up to Majrisi on the attack.   Khattala revealed one critical element – he had planned to attack and  kill the American rescue team.  His words, recalled by Majrisi  were, “I intended then to kill everyone there – even those who were at the airport.”    There was no saving the two Americans who died at the diplomatic mission; they died of smoke inhalation approximately 15 minutes after the attack.   The rescue mission would have been directed at saving lives at the CIA mission, in which two Americans died.  The Republicans have been making a case that not enough was done to save lives at Benghazi.  The reality is that the delay at the Benghazi airport was likely a fortuitous event, as many more would have been in harm’s way had a rescue attempt been made.

Majrisi was able to provide the vital evidence to link Khattala to the attack, and also a second leader, Mustafa al-Iman.   Iman appeared on surveillance videotape on the night of the attack.  The attack was well planned.  It was not a spontaneous angry  reaction to a video about the Prophet Mohammed, as originally speculated by National Security Adviser Susan Rice.   The Obama administration quickly backed off from this assertion, but it was later reported that the leaders were able to recruit others for the attack, because of the anger generated by the release of the video.   Hopefully the trial may clarify this issue.

Over the years,  Majrisi was well paid for his services, up to 7 million dollars.   This fact is being used now to discredit Majrisi’s testimony as being financially motivated.  In my opinion, it was  money well worth it, as nothing could be worse than being unable to make a case against Khattala for lack of evidence.  Hopefully both Khattala and Iman will be convicted.

Both the Obama and Trump administrations deserve credit for what appears to be a highly successful investigation.   It is extremely difficult for the FBI or the CIA to conduct an investigation without total cooperation of the Libyan government, or at least the part of the government now controlling Benghazi.  The credit goes to the Department of Justice and the FBI.  During most of this investigation,  Director James Comey was in charge of the FBI, and there was never a single leak to the media.  It would have been devastating to the investigation if Khattala knew he was being spied on.

The Libya witnesses who came forward, provided the real hard evidence and are my heroes.    I am hoping for life sentences for Khattal and Iman.   Up until President Trump took office, the people of Benghazi were extremely grateful for the support of the US, as we helped them in 2011, when Qaddafi was certainly going to bomb their city.   Obama was able to push through UN Resolution 1973, essentially grounding Qaddafi’s air force.  Now,  I think this support is being lost as Trump includes Libya as one of the countries in his travel ban.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Link:

New York Times story

I really hate this headline, as the print version has the headline “Libyan Informant Describes His Role in the Benghazi Suspect’s Capture.”   I believe the trials of Khattala and Iman will provide new details on what was transpiring outside the compounds, for a long time prior to the attacks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Freshly brewed morning news on trade

Front page of today’s  New York Times.   “As US Steps back on Trade, Allies Move on,” Peter Goodman, correspondent from London, writes:

In the master plan advanced by President Trump, an unabashedly aggressive United States is supposed to retain its rightful perch as the center of the commercial universe, wielding its economic dominance to dictate the rules to the rest of global trade.

As it turns out, the rest of the planet has its own ideas.

Gee, what a wonderful way to say we don’t all think the same.  And what sounds good, sometimes isn’t!  Two  beautifully written sentences in the morning goes well with coffee and toast.

The rest of the article adds more details on the collaboration between the European Union and Japan on trade. It certainly adds to other stories of the day, such as the Qatar crisis,  where unintended consequences can be completely contrary to the original intent of a strategy.

Madeleine Albright got it right when she said international relationships should be considered more like a game of billiards rather than a game of chess.    The balls in billiards are all clustered together, but when hit, they go in different directions.

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

 

The Qatar-Iran Mega Gas Field

The political world in the Middle East seems to be in continual flux,with the Iraq and Syria conflicts,  Qatar crisis and the Libyan civil war.     However, the business world seems very different and much more stable,  as investments in oil and gas must be made over decades, not timed to local or regional  politics.   It appears the business deals transcends all the political rhetoric and cultural differences, with the common goal of sound investments for the long term for the mutual benefit of all stakeholders.

The Trump administration seems obsessed with blaming everything linking terrorism to Iran.   It is a theme popular with  Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt, but I think now, it is a pretext for their blockade of Qatar.    The only other non-Arab  country with this fixation is Israel.

The business world doesn’t see this as a problem.   Simply put, “Money talks and nobody walks away from a profitable deal.”   Even the French, who have seen more of their fair share of terror attacks.

Iran and Qatar  economically they have no choice, but to cooperate, as they are “joined at the hip”  by a mega gas field, the South Pars (belonging to Iran) and North Dome (belonging to Qatar) field. The division of the field based on maritime agreements.  Fortunately, for both countries, there is no dispute on gas ownership.

South_Pars

The South Pars  reserves account for roughly 7.5% of the world’s gas reserves and almost 40% of Iran’s total natural gas wealth. The field  is the world’s largest gas field in terms of recoverable gas with a reserves of 1235 trillion cubic feet (tcf).  The second largest gas field, Urengoy, in Russia has 222 tcf.   The field  produces both natural gas and condensed gas liquids (condensates).   See links below for more details.

The field was discovered in 1971, but first production did not occur until 1989.   With the discovery of  a mega field, why wait so long to develop?  Gas discoveries are a blessing and a curse.   Gas,  unlike oil,  can not be easily transported and sent to European and Asian markets.   Gas can be liquified  transported in specially built tankers.  The curse is that mega gas fields require mega investments, in terms of hundreds of billions of dollars.   To develop the field, Iran needed international partners from France (Total) and China (CNPC).

The French company, Total, operates South Pars, which means they are responsible for exploration, development and production, but Iran and the other partners have  approval authority on all activities.   The Pars Oil and Gas Company (POGC). a subsidiary of National Iran Oil Company, has jurisdiction over all South Pars-related projects.

Since the mid-2000s development of the field has stagnated due to a lack of foreign investment and export opportunities because of United Nations (UN) and Western sanctions against Iran.  A partial lifting of these sanctions in 2015 has enabled POGC, which was established in 1998, and the government to move forward with the 24th development phase set out for the field.

Total benefited from the lifting of sanctions as field development, aimed at increasing gas production could continue.  As Republican candidates where crisscrossing the US, denouncing the Iranian nuclear agreement  deal as the most horrible deal of the century,  Total was quietly discussing with Iran on the next development phase of the South Pars field.  By November 2016, Iran announced a memorandum of agreement, and in April 16, 2017,  President Rouhani  concluded contracts for  5 new phases of field development worth 20 billion dollars. See links below. It is expected that Iran’s production will surpass Qatar’s.

All this depends on an accessible market.  It is a big “if.”   Iran ships its gas via pipeline.   Qatar has a far reach to the rest of the world through its liquified natural gas (LNG) facilities.   Qatar exports 1/3 of all LNG worldwide.   Qatar supplies the UAE by the Dolphin pipeline and LNG shipments.

As Iran was announcing development plans in South Pars,  Qatar followed by the announcements of further developments in the North Dome.   The withdrawals from both sides of the field must be done in a way to avoid significant migration across the maritime country boundary.  So it made sense that as Iran planned increases, Qatar would do the same.   Also,  engineers on both sides have to collaborate to avoid excessive withdrawals which could impact total recoverable gas and liquids.   This is called “reservoir management.”

So,  the GCC countries likely could see the gas supply was going to be increasing,  and both Iran and Qatar would seek ways of extending the lines of  supply either by pipeline or LNG tankers.    Interestingly,  even though the UAE has taken the extreme position that the 13 demands are non-negotiable,  the critically important gas from Qatar still flows to the UAE.

The current Qatar crisis likely came to a boil, as a number of actions taken by Qatar.  This includes the payment of ransom to Shite militants in Iraq which could be used to support the claim of terrorism.  It also saved the  lives of members of the royal family.  Others have commented on the open reporting on the 2011 Arab Spring uprising by Al Jazeera, upset many of the Arab countries.  A “respectful press” would have immediately taken the side of the government, not the dissenters.  Qatar’s willingness to accept exiled dissidents from other Arab countries angered Saudi Arabia and the other GCC country.

But, perhaps what has not received enough attention is the economic power of the tiny nation of Qatar, was on the rise.   Could it partner with Iran in the future, by processing Iranian gas for LNG  export?   Could Qatar  invest in  LNG  projects or construction companies?  This would seem to be a perfect fit.

Qatar was really understood that its hydrocarbon assets would not last forever,  and it needed to diversify into other areas.  Exactly what the Saudis are doing right now.

In sum,  Iran’s planned increases in gas production, would result in more gas development  from Qatar, and a push to increase LNG processing capacity.   The other GCC countries knew the rising economic wealth of both Iran and Qatar  would change the balance of power in the Middle East.  While Iran was too big to isolate or pressure, Qatar looked vulnerable.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

Offshore Technology: Developing South Pars: a look at Iran’s mega gas field (undated but likely written prior to April 2017)

Iran opens new South Pars gas field phases worth $20 billion

Qatar crisis: Have the Saudis gone too far?

Middle East Eye:  Iran seeks stronger Ties with Qatar

(Any suggestions- I know there is a lot of discussion on these points, and I’ll add more later)

 

 

 

The Awful Libya Mess, Recent Events – Part 3

Control of Libya requires securing its export ports, as shown below:

 

Production prior to 2011 was 1,650,000  barrels of oil per day.   In 2016, it was 500,000 barrels per day. There is an enormous wealth created by the export of oil.     With 46 billion barrels of oil, these assets will create income for decades to come.

In late 2016, it looked like the beginnings of a re-unified Libya could become a reality, under the UN Peace Accords.  In concept the accords were to create a new government, the GNA government, based on the Tobruk and Tripoli based governments.    However, this could only become a reality if the Tobruk government,  principally Khalfa Haftar, believed he could not conquer the rest of Libya, and was content with sharing power with the GNA  government in Tripoli.   So, peace depends on Haftar diminished capacity to extend his reach to the west, making peace the best option.

Saudi Arabia swung open its doors to Donald Trump knowing exactly what would appeal to him- deals for more goods and services.  His ego and naivete were on full display, as he took credit for the blockade of Qatar as an extension of this anti-terrorist policies  in his tweets.  It is now spilling over to the Libyan conflict.  The Chairman of the Libyan National Oil Company, in an OpEd article in the New York Times, wrote:

The latest incident was triggered by the recent, sudden souring of relations between Qatar on the one hand and Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain on the other. One of the several groups that purport to be Libya’s rightful government is using that dispute as a pretext to seize control of the country’s oil and gas exports: It has accused the National Oil Corporation, the internationally recognized body responsible for managing these resources, of working in the service of Qatar by diverting oil revenues to it via an N.O.C. customer.  I am the N.O.C.’s chairman, and these allegations are false. But they shine a bright light on Libya’s current tragedy. Since the revolution of 2011, the country’s oil and gas resources have been held hostage to both its fractious politics and power struggles in the Middle East.

It is not explicitly stated, but this is a reference to the Tobruk based government.     The Chairman goes on to suggest Libya’s National Oil Company be given more authority to protect it from being involved in the political infighting.

The Tobruk government did not have complete control of Benghazi.  The UAE, in violation of the UN Peace Accords, has supplied Haftar with military equipment to defeat Benghazi Defense Brigades (BDB).   One can see why the UAE would want to shut down Al Jazeera, as they seem to be the only ones with correspondents on the ground to observe the fighting in Benghazi.  According to the article (see links below):

The UN’s Libya Sanctions Committee report, released on Friday [23-Jun-17} , reveals the UAE has supplied attack helicopters and other military aircraft to Haftar’s forces. “The United Arab Emirates have been providing both material support and direct support to LNA, which have significantly increased the air support available to LNA,” said the report by a UN panel of experts.  The report provides rare insight into foreign funding of armed groups in Libya, which many say has exacerbated the conflict.

The US and the EU countries have pledged support to eventual re-unification through the UN efforts.  The selection of an impartial and highly experienced UN Special Envoy to Libya, is typically done through discussions among representatives of the Security Council, and then announced by the Secretary General, after everyone is in agreement.   Nikki Haley, the US Ambassador to the UN, rejected the selection of special envoy based on nationality, as she stated on February 11, 2017:

“For too long the U.N. has been unfairly biased in favor of the Palestinian Authority to the detriment of our allies in Israel,” Haley said.

It was a very strange and antagonistic statement.   But, Trump was scheduled to meet with Israel PM Netanyahu at the White House on the following day.    The Secretary-General quickly responded, stating they were interested in the best negotiator for the conflict, irrespective of their country, and neither the Israels nor the Palestinians had any participation in the talks.  Fortunately, another very qualified  special envoy has been selected.   It seemed like Washington politics had meddled in what should have been a routine appointment.  That’s just my opinion.

If the conflict in Libya is seen, not just as the Tobruk-based east government, verses GNA/GNC west side government, but as a larger conflict of Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen and others verses Qatar, Iran, Turkey and Russia,  where does this leave the US and our allies?

— Human Suffering

The administrative breakdown in Libya has created enormous human suffering.    During Gaddafi’s era,   immigrants received work visas as applied by their sponsors, with set wages  and approved by the government.  This system has broken down, and employers are now taking advantage of workers, charging them for expenses, equal to their wages.

Also, migrants are being lured across the Libyan sounthern boundary  with the false promise of being able to migrate to Europe, only to be sold as slaves or ransomed.   See  BBC link.

— The Path Forward

The only path forward is re-unification through UN Negotiations.   On the Tobruk side, Chief of the Army, Haftar must not be allowed to purchase arms and escalate the war.    The conflict in Libya will only become worse if the US turns a blind eye towards the arming of the Tobruk government by the Saudi supporters.  Washington and the EU need to work jointly on the  the massive refugee problem.

This is a rapidly developing story.   To follow it, it is best to do a Google search on the news.   The latest story to appear, is the release of Saif al-Islam Gadaffi and   some discussion that he could play a some leadership role.  I have very serious doubts.   The areas under control by the various rival groups seems to change regularly.  The New York Times, The Guardian and Al Jazeera seem to be the best sources of information.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

June 24, 2017: Haftar’s forces make gains in Libya’s Benghazi

New York Times: How to Save Libya From Itself? Protect Its Oil From Its Politics, Mustafa Sanalla, Chairman of the Libyan National Oil Company

BBC- I thought I was going to die

TheHill.com Nikki  Haley Rips UN for Picking a Palestinian as Envoy

 

The Paris Accords Exit

The announcement will be made at 3:00 pm today (June 1, 2017).    It has been widely rumored that Trump will pull out of the Accords.  The Agreement was a very major step forward in acceptance of a global problem.

CNN outlined three options that Trump has: (1) The Normal Exit- by withdrawing from the Accords by 2020 (2) The Radical  Exit- by withdrawing from the UN organization (UNFCCC) under which the Accords were agreed upon and (3) The non-exit, which Trump simply ignores the provisions of the Accords.

The radical exit is the one supported by conservative groups,  such as the Heritage group.  The coal companies such as Peabody and Cloud Peak Coal, want Trump not to exit the Accords, as this puts the EU in a leadership role in setting targets.

Options

A final option (“death in the legislature” option)  is for Trump to  state the Accord is really a treaty, which must be ratified by 2/3 of the Senate.  With the Republican controlled Senate, the treaty would be “dead on arrival.”   This would change the issue to one of Obama overstepping his authority, and Trump might just go for it.

The Paris Agreement is more of an “agreement in principal”  rather than a treaty, as it lacks any penalties for countries who do not reduce their carbon emissions. It is an important first step as it is an  agreement of mutual commitment  to a global problem.   As it is structured,  the US could stay in the Accords,  do nothing to reduce these emissions and not be sanctioned by the UN.

Obama signed the agreement as an Executive Order.  Trump can legally exit the agreement, but has to comply with the set schedule if he wants to do the normal exit.

I predict that many countries will be looking more at the “non-exit” or “non-compliance” option, which means climate change is something leaders of the countries are concerned about, but  nobody does much about it.

This will leave the US as the only one of 193 countries to exit the Accord.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Don’t you worry ’bout a thing

Stevie Wonder,  released 1973.

I talked to someone about Trump, and he tells me we are in good hands.  He listens to Fox News and plays golf 3 times a week.   Not a bad life.

There are some real tough questioning coming up on Trump’s cabinet positions.   I guess the most troublesome is our future relations with China.  We can not have a trade war with China, and expect their help in stopping North Korea’s nuclear plans.

I would think there is nothing more urgent than a united front against North Korea.  Trump would be wise to remember that a majority of Americans voted for Hillary Clinton, whose campaign slogan was “stronger together.”

There was a great discussion on Fareed Zakaria show (GPS)  with James Baker, saying that what previous republican presidents (Reagan & HW Bush) have favored was free trade agreements, and Trump’s new cabinet tends more towards protectionism.   Baker said Trump as candidate, or now president-elect is not the same as when he actually moves into the White House with the staff making recommendations.

Baker may be right.  He’s not yet our president.  However, the more Trump goes after Mexico stealing our jobs  and their citizens pouring over the border, the more I worry that it’s the same old Trump,  always playing politics with an incoherent foreign policy strategy.

 

Trump – a nightmare for foreign policy

Republicans who served under George W. Bush recognized that the US had to play a leadership role in the world.  I like to say, “what goes around, comes around.”

Stronger together- really does work.  Make American Great through insults to our fiends (Mexico) doesn’t work.

Enough.  Donald Trump should not be President. He should withdraw.  As a Republican I hope to support someone who has the dignity and stature to run to the highest office in the greatest democracy on earth.

Condoleezza Rice,  Former Secretary of State under George W. Bush.

Nicholas Burns was undersecretary of state for political affairs under Bush.  Here is what he said today on CNN:

I hope she’s  [Clinton] going to be the president.  If it’s Donald Trump, I think all bets are off given his unorthodox and I think, very weak and very dangerous views about Russia.  I think we can say with some certainty that Vladamir Putin and the Russian government would like Donald Trump to be elected president because Trump has been denegrating NATo; he’ll make NATPO weaker. He won’t be the strong American leader in Europe that Europeans are accustomed to.  It is clear by their actions and words that the Russians support a Donald Trump candidacy.  Every other European government, and I’ve talked to a lot of them, desperately want Hillary Clinton to be elected because they want stability and a traditional American leader and a leader who is sophisticated enough to know how the US can be effective in that region.

 I think for most Europeans and East Europeans,  Trump is a real danger to them.

Republicans working for President Bush have either remained quiet or turned their back on Trump.  Here’s a sampling:

“If Donald Trump wins, he will, by definition, have created a new template of success for Republicans,” said Ari Fleischer, Mr. Bush’s first White House press secretary. “But if he loses, and particularly if he is crushed, it will reset the party back more in the direction of President Bush.”

Because Mr. Trump represents something far greater in the eyes of the Bush veterans than just an unfortunate party nominee, their determination to defeat him has become more intense.

The vast majority of the approximately three dozen veterans of Mr. Bush’s administration contacted for this article indicated that they would not cast a ballot for Mr. Trump.

“I can count on one hand the number of people I worked with who are supporting Trump,” said R. Nicholas Burns, a former Bush State Department official who has been calling his onetime colleagues to solicit support for the presumptive Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton.

R. Nicholas Burns :

Nicholas Burns (born January 28, 1956) is a university professor, columnist, lecturer and former American diplomat. He is currently Professor of the Practice of Diplomacy and International Politics at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and a member of the Board of Directors of the school’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. At the Harvard Kennedy School, he is Director of The Future of Diplomacy Project and Faculty Chair for the programs on the Middle East and India and South Asia. He is Director of the Aspen Strategy Group, Senior Counselor at the Cohen Group and serves on the Board of Directors of Entegris, Inc. He writes a biweekly column on foreign affairs for the Boston Globe and is a senior foreign affairs columnist for GlobalPost.

This I promise you will be my very last post until after the election.   I also will post all comments on these issues.

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

Trump Lies on the Benghazi

Republicans prepared a report  in June 2016 which none of the Democrats supported.  They issued their separate report.   But both Democratic and Republican reports and prior investigations state that the embassy in Benghazi was inadequately protected.  Hillary Clinton agrees with this assessment and as Secretary of State accepted all recommendations made at the time to improve security.  Of course, you are not going to hear this from Trump.

The big lie is that Secretary Clinton did nothing while 4 Americans were killed in Benghazi. Not even the Republican version of the Benghazi has any conclusion remotely similar to this.  The Republican report states it was impossible to save the two lives in the embassy.  The discussion is on the two lives while guarding the CIA annex.    This is all about an attack that lasted a total of 11 minutes.

Here’s the reporting from the New York Times, June 28, 2016:

“The Republican-led committee found no evidence of culpability or wrongdoing by Hillary Clinton, then the secretary of state.”

What the Republican version did, was to suggest, just possibly, more could have been done militarily to save the two lives and  suggest Leon Panetta and the Department of Defense.   acted too slow.  NYT reports:

 Senior Pentagon officials have consistently said that they were constrained by the “tyranny of time and distance” — that is, that the military could not have sent troops or planes in time to have made a difference.

NYT reports:

Even the report acknowledges the challenges facing the so-called FAST teams: These troops did not have their own planes, which meant delays waiting for flights; did not travel with their own vehicles (they would need to find some in Benghazi when they landed); and were designed to deploy before a crisis hit, not during hostilities.

Essentially, the hypothetical rescue mission would have been sent to save the lives of two servicemen guarding the CIA Annex.  More lives could have been lost in this mission.  And then the Pentagon, Obama, or even Secretary Clinton would have come under serious attack.

Full NYT article

The best summary I’ve seen on Benghazi is from Wikipedia:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2012_Benghazi_attack

Stay tuned,

Dave