Qatar Crisis – Part 3, 2014 Disunity in the GCC and other events

The current crisis has its roots in the events of 2014.   The six members of the GCC had split into two groups, the Saudi aligned group (Saudi Arabia, UAE and Bahrain) and the unaligned group (Oman, Kuwait and Qatar).

What really split the GCC was the election of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi,  in June  2012  with the strong support of the Muslim Brotherhood.  A stated in Wikipedia:

Morsi has seen strong support from Qatar, which has maintained long-held ties with the Muslim Brotherhood, of which Morsi was a member until his election. Qatar has declared that it would provide Egypt with US$2 billion just as Morsi announced the reshuffle in the cabinet on 12 August 2012.  Meanwhile, investors from Qatar have pledged to invest 10 billion in Egyptian infrastructure.

As stated in the Al Jazeera article:

Along with the general challenge of change and support for democratisation, the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood movement, was seen as undermining the legitimacy and potentially the political stability of some of the GCC states. While some of the GCC countries embarked on a quest to counteract the revolutions, and to contain the changes they had given birth to, Qatar supported the uprisings, as well as their effects on the region’s politics, economics and press freedom.

Qatar’s support for the uprisings clashed head-on with the policies and efforts of other GCC states. Thus, the Riyadh meeting and first agreement were an attempt by GCC states to discourage Qatar from pursuing its policies on the Arab Spring. When Qatar continued supporting the popular movements and uprisings, the withdrawal of ambassadors represented a kind of political censure, urging Doha to stop acting in ways that conflicted with the interests of other GCC states.

Arab Spring resulted in violence in many of the Arab countries, and the overthrow of four governments: Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen.  It is beyond the scope of this blog to go back to December 18, 2010, but it has to be one of the most incredible stories in recent time, of how one push cart vendor in Tunisia ignited rebellions in throughout the  Arab world which in the case of the Syrian civil war, continue until today.

A Wikipedia link is provided on the Muslim Brotherhood, and a commentary of the growing antagonism between Egypt and Saudi Arabia with Qatar’s support of the Muslim Brotherhood and other organizations,  Hamas and Hezbollah.

There were many other events causing tensions in the area.  Certainly, President Obama’s Iran nuclear arms deal was a concern to Saudi Arabia.   Donald Trump’s visit in 2017 to Saudi Arabia was likely considered a positive, as the focus was to single out Iran as the state sponsor of terrorism.  Qatar with its close relation to Iran, could be seen as aiding and abetting the enemy.

Trump’s speech in Saudi Arabia seemed to avoid the most critical elements of ISIL terrorist activities in European countries, in which Muslims had become radicalized through “hate propaganda” aimed at taking advantage of their feelings of isolation and non-acceptance in society.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

Wikipedia:  Muslim Brotherhood

National Interest:  Qatar vs. Saudi Arabia

Washington Post: How Saudi Arabia played Trump’s Visit

 

 

 

Attack on ISIL in Libya

The town of Sabratha, just outside of Tripoli to the west,  would easily rank as one of the top 10 places I would want to visit in by lifetime.  It isn’t on many people’s list, and certainly not today, after the occupation of the town by ISIL.

Sabratha

It has beautiful beaches and well preserved Roman theatre.   But as reported on Feb 19, 2016, US warplanes have put a serious dent in ISIL’s plans by hitting a training camp.

US Daily News

Good.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Dimming hope in Libya

My hope for Libya becoming a unified country is diminishing.  It is a sad conclusion.  I had hoped for peace would come through the very capable UN negotiator, Martin Kobler.    A peace agreement was finally ready for signing in December 2015, giving rise to hope. Kobler was able to convince lawmakers from the Tobruk and Tripoli factions to sign the agreement,  but the leaders of both factions would not.

Wikipedia has done a phenomenal job of impartially chronicling events as follows:

 Libyan Civil War (2014 to present)

The Libyan civil war end in November 2011, and a period of calm existed until May 2014 when the newly elected congress in Tripoli was attacked. Today, the country is broken into two main factions  with the Tripoli and Tobruk governments controlling large portions of the west and east of Libya, respectively  and several other groups controlling parts of the country.

To control Libya, the entire Mediterranean coastline of Libya  must be secured.  This is where the export ports and refineries are located.  The regional airports and roads must also be secured for commerce to continue.  The onshore  oil fields are located more in the central part of the country and pipelines are bring the oil to the coastline for shipping.

The Wall Street Journal reported the destruction of the oil tank storage facility at Es Sider and Ras Lanuf with a million barrels of crude going up in smoke.  This was a dramatic show of force.   An astute commentator asked what good is the facility to ISIL if it is burned to the ground.  The answer is, that they have denied Libya the ability to export their oil,  one more step is seizing control of Libya.

Wall Street Article on ISIL attack

ISIL has control of Sirte, so this attack is a move to the east.   Next stop is likely Brega, which has a refinery and export port.  It would be a major prize to ISIL.     It is headquarters to Sirte Oil Company,  which before being nationalized by Gaddafi, was the Exxon oil company concession headquarters.

The Gulf News has a very insightful and timely article on the peace talks provided below:

There’s a ray of hope for Libya’s Peace Talks

Basically,  hope springs from the fact that ISIL has not been able to forge the essential ties to other influential groups, as it did in Syria.  I feel that this is likely because there isn’t the same condition of extreme  poverty and xenophobia (eventhough Gaddafi tried to instill western hatred) as in Syria.  So, ISIL is fighting both Tobruk and Tripoli government, from Sirte, home base of Gaddadi.

But still, ISIL may develop ties to other tribal groups, with their own militias.  The New York Times article on Jan 18, 2016 further analyzes the complex situation of the US trying to help defeat ISIL, without a united government in place:

 US courts unreliable allies to combat ISIL

In sum, everybody  wants national unity and a defeat of ISIL, but compromise is very elusive.  The trajectory, if based on past events, is frightening.

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hope for Libya

It has been a busy week.  It is hoped that the rival factions in Libya will finally sign a peace accord on December 16.   This was announced on December 11 at the conclusion of a two day meeting in Tunis.  See link below.

The Arab Spring in 2011 resulted in the overthrow of Gaddafi, and a National Transitional Government took over.  The calm came to an end in 2014, with open warfare broke out among the  various ethnic/ religious  groups.

The internationally recognized government is located in Tobruk, located on the far eastern side of Libya, close to Egypt.  The rival government is located in Tripoli, on the western coast, the traditional capital of Libya.  In the western desert areas, bordering Algeria,  the Tuareg forces are in control.  They were loyal to Gaddafi during the 2011 civil war.

ISIL apparently controls Sirte located on the coast in the center of Libya,  the birth place and the city most  loyal to Gaddafi.

Kerry flew to Rome today to take part in a high level ministerial meeting, and voiced strong support for a cease fire and the peace agreement.

I believe the strategy to unification , obtain a cease fire “peace” agreement between the Tobruk and Tripoli governments, and  then work jointly to defeat the more extreme  jihadist factions.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

A fierce battle for control of Libya’s deserts 

Kerry goes to Rome for talks on Libya unity government

Libyan parties set 16 December as date to sign political agreement – UN envoy

Libya – Wikipedia 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Syrian Crisis – Part 1 (Jihadists, ISIL, the good guys, Mohamed Bouazizi and others)

I thought instead of describing how the Syria crisis began, I would only talk about when.  I have been to Damascus in 1999, and I considered it a far safer place than Miami, Florida where I live.  I did not see Syria as a hotbed of Islamic extremism.  I still don’t.

When did the mess in Syria begin?  It began on December 17, 2010.  Could you be more precise, possibly?  Yes,  11:30 am. There are a couple of events prior to this, so we can say 8:00 am when Mohamed Bouazizi began his day to 11:30, when the incident occurred.

There are so many groups, subgroups, super-groups (coalitions), it is difficult to keep track of them.  Wikipedia has done a fantastic job, as usual:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_armed_groups_in_the_Syrian_Civil_War

I believe rebuilding a transmission is easier than solving the Syrian crisis- because there are fewer moving parts!

In the category of Jihadists on Wikipedia, are the Al-Qaeda affiliated groups (Al-Nusra and others), whose origins date back to 1986- 1989,  as Osama bin Laden was fighting against the Russians in Afghanistan with the military assistance of the  CIA (thank you President Reagan).

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Al-Qaeda

In the category of the most vile and dangerous group of terrorists, namely ISIL or ISIS,  they are relatively new kids on the block, with their roots dating back to the invasion of Iraq in 2003 (thank you President Bush),  and the repression of the Sunni’s in Iraq.  Former President of Iraq, Maliki, bears responsibility for much of this repression.  The idea that ISIL and Al Qaeda moved in when Obama pulled the US troops out of Iraq is really overly simplistic.  Our presence also encourages terrorist recruitment. I will not attempt to enter in the debate of who contributed  to the growth of ISIL, Bush or Obama,  as I believe neither could fully anticipate what was emerging from the end of the Iraqi conflict.  It is a bit like sailing in turbulent winds, very difficult to steer.

Let’s move on.

— Good guys

The so-called “good guys” or the opposition groups (moderate, non-sectarian, groups)  seeking the ouster of Bashir Assad did not exist until 2011 after the tragic death of Mohamed Bouazizi of Tunisia.    It used to be called the Free Syrian Army (FSA),  but with merger of other groups, now it is the Syrian Revolutionary Command Council (SRCC) of which incudes FSA.  We can just call them good guys. But our good guys are at conflict with Jihadists, ISIL and the  Syrian military and associated supporting groups.

But our enemies, ISIL and Jihadists are also at war with the Syrian government.  So the enemy of our enemy is also our enemy.  ISIL holds a large portion of central Syria, which is sparsely populated, so it isn’t as bad as it looks.    Our friends, the Iraq government supports the Assad.  The  friend of our enemy is our friend.   I mean Americans have died, and billions of dollars spent for our friend, Iraq,  Thank you very much.

Of course, Syria and associated allies, see things completely opposite.  The SRCC or good guys are called “terrorists” by the Syrian government.   Hezbollah, which we consider as a dangerous group with a long history of threatening the security of Israel, is allied with Syria. So,  they are the “good guys” to the Syrians.   It can be argued that the establishment of  Hezbollah was a response to the Israel’s invasion of South Lebanon.

This makes the conflict in Syria unbelievably complicated. It is why Netanyahu visited Putin very recently.  Israel is very worried about Russia weapons going to Hezbollah for attacks on Israel.   Israel can certainly retaliate against Hezbollah if the attacks are launched from southern Lebanon.  But they are worried if Hezbollah launches missiles from Syria, would that draw Russia into a Syria-Israel conflict?   Putin has no interest in widening the Syria conflict- only doing what is needed to keep Assad in power.    But diversion of military equipment is always possible.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hezbollah

— Mohamed Bouazizi

Let’s get back to WHEN the sh*t hit the fan.  Dec 17, 2010 11:30 am and the very sad protest and death of Mohamad Bouazizi.

Mohamed who?

On December 17, 2010 all was calm throughout Syria.

In the small country of Tunisia,  the simple protest of a  street vendor was about to ignite the Arab Spring.  It is an incredible story.  Mohamed sold fruit and vegetables in the plaza from a cart. He was harassed by the police who confiscated his scale.  He unsuccessfully tried to get his scale back from authorities. Following this, he lit himself on fire and died on Jan 4, 2011.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mohamed_Bouazizi

The origins of the SRCC or “good guys”  occurred in April 2011, after civil wars had begun in Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt.

—  Long wars in small countries

Wars are a bit like forest fires, sooner or later they should run out of fuel.  But,  ISIL has been very resourceful in finding funding through the capturing of oilfields, and demanding ransom for captured civilians.  Plus, they recruit others on the basis this is a fight for the survival of Sunni Muslims around the world.  The other groups involved, such as the SRCC have backers, namely the US and European allies.

It is a horrible, horrible situation.  Fareed Zacharia got it right, that Russia has a much more straight forward strategy than ours:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/in-syria-whose-side-is-the-united-states-on/2015/10/01/27163ec4-6875-11e5-9ef3-fde182507eac_story.html

It is one colossal proxy war,  5 countries supplying weapons to Syria,  and 8 countries conducting air strikes against ISIL, mixed in with terrorist organizations (ISIL and Nusra against Assad, Hezbollah for Assad).

All of a sudden,  Bashir Assad is not looking that bad.  Of course, in extreme relative terms.  In the US, he would qualify as a mass murderer.  But so would about a dozen leaders around the globe.

This is just part 1, and I’ve got a lot to add.  But, this has gotten pretty long so far.

Stay tuned,

David Lord