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Richard Galustian

Libya's Peace Process Dies in Palermo

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“Resounding flop” was the verdict of Italy’s former prime minister Matteo Renzi on this week’s Libya peace conference held in Palermo. He’s not wrong. The conference hosted by Italy’s new government achieved the remarkable feat of making Libya’s tensions worse, not better. Acrimony broke out between the parties, and Turkey’s delegation walked out, its vice president Fuat Oktay accusing unnamed States of trying to "hijack the process.”

Some sources in Palermo suggested, yet to be verified, that the US thought the Conference was not too bad: a joke if true.

Moreover the mystery we might ask is what “process” is there to hijack? Because the truth is, the peace plan the conference was supporting is already dead.

That plan was the brainchild of the United Nations, launched more than a year ago with the aim of ending Libya’s split between warring Eastern and Western governments with elections in December. 

Even before the first delegates set foot in the pleasant Sicilian city of Palermo this week, the UN admitted the election date of December 10 they had decided to scrap.
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Khashoggi, Skripal, and the End of Morality in International Relations

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Politics attracts psychopaths like honey attracts bears. Questions of morality are irrelevant for today’s politicians, along with questions of principle, honor and integrity -- things frequently written about by the great thinkers of the 20th Century, particularly Huxley and Orwell who are more and more referenced particularly in social media these days and rightly so.

On a point of detail, but one of importance and relevance to mention, is the response to Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s “disappearance” being in stark contrast to the West’s reaction to the alleged poisoning -- note not killing -- of Sergei Skripal, the former Russian intelligence officer who worked as a British double-agent, after he was found slumped on a bench in England with his daughter Yulia in March of this year.

You might say to yourself what has the Skripals got to do with the heinous murder of Jamal Khashoggi?

Well for one both Skripals have now “disappeared” in UK. Suffice to say that both men (Khashoggi and Skripal) went “missing” yet examine carefully the different reactions by the international community to both “missing” persons. While by the by no hard evidence of proof of life (or death) of either man was or has yet been produced at time of writing.
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A Milestone in Afghanistan

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Sometime late next year, possibly as early as September, news crews will gather in Afghanistan for a unique event: To interview an American serviceman or woman who was not born when the war they are fighting began. He or she will not remember 9/11, and will have grown up with the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq as background noise. No doubt also a senior commander will be on hand to pronounce that the war against the Taliban is making progress, the same pronouncements the young recruit will have seen on TV all his or her life.

It will be a stark reminder that America has been at war for 225 of the 242 years of its existence: A handful of those conflicts -- the defeat of Hitler and Japan, for example  --  go down as "good wars." But most go down as operations that cost dearly in blood and treasure for little appreciable result.

In 1961, ​Dwight D. Eisenhower, the only American to make it to the highest offices in both politics and the military, warned, on leaving the presidency more than half a century ago, of the power of the  “military industrial complex”, and how war can become an end in itself.
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The Very Unhinged John Brennan

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Winston Churchill said all there is to say about political summits with his quote: “Jaw jaw is better than war war.”

That is the thing to bear in mind when examining the rights and wrongs of the The Trump-Putin summit: Two leaders of two of the world’s most powerful nations, in Trump’s words "competitors" sorting out differences eyeball to eyeball.

Both men share Churchill’s approach, with Putin saying: “As nuclear powers, we bear special responsibility” for international security.

Putin said Russia (as a devout Christian country) considered it necessary for the two countries to work together on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation – and to avoid weapons being placed in space.

“Even during the tensions of the Cold War, the US and the Soviets were able to maintain a strong dialogue (with now Russia),” said Trump. “But our relations (with now Russia) have never been worse than they are now. However that changed as of about four hours ago."
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Explosions Rock Tripoli Election Commission: Who's Trying to Prevent the Vote?

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To underscore the dire situation in Libya and the extent to which extremists will go, on Wednesday at around noon two huge explosions occurred at the HNEC, the Higher National Election Commission's HQ, in Tripoli, killing over 15 people and wounding many more. The attack suggests that fanatics may be concerned over the rising popularity of Field Marshall Khalifa Haftar and fear that the controversial Haftar could win in the upcoming elections. They may be seeking to derail the vote. If so, their gambit may have the opposite effect: it could actually galvanize Libyan support for elections as a way out of the current political chaos and conundrum.

No doubt a contributing factor to this tragic bombing was the return on Thursday of Field Marshall Khalifa Haftar from a Paris hospital, via Cairo, to Libya on a proverbial "white horse" seen by some to be a drama giving an appearance of a triumphant return to Libya. 

Recovered after two weeks of alleged illness, which was much exaggerated by the media and by those hoping, like the UN, to see the back of him.

If as widely reported he was on death’s door, he would not have smiled for the bevy of photographers and TV cameras, even laughing and joking as he was met by dignitaries at the airport in Benghazi following his flight arrival from Cairo.
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UK Government Falling Apart, Changes Subject by Kicking Russia

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The British government has never been more unpopular amongst the British people. It’s being crushed by problems entirely of its own making and undone by its own neglect and incompetence over a disastrously handled Brexit, crippling austerity measures, a general public still reeling from the horror of the Grenfell fire, and an ever-failing National Health Service, which, given that it is the fourth largest employer in Europe, is a deeply worrying and resonant issue.


In light of this, the response by British diplomat Mr. Stuart Gill OBE in his OpED to the Sunday Times of Malta, where he asserts that, “Today, only Russia combines a record of state-sponsored assassinations with an avowed motive for targeting Sergei Skripal – and a history of producing ‘Novochok’ agents,” reads like another desperate repetition of the falsehoods and insults towards Russia issued by Theresa May’s lame duck Government. (Note that the inventor of Novochok moved to the US over twenty years ago.)

Mr. Gill’s remark is just one of numerous outrageous and childish insults currently bandied around. Outbursts from UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and the inexperienced Minister of Defence, Gavin Williamson -- such as Russia should, “Shut up and go away” or “Putin is like Hitler” and “Russia probably did it” -- have been unprofessional, to say the very least, not to mention an offence to Russians of today and their relatives who died in the tens of millions fighting Hitler and the Nazis in WWII. 

But word on British streets suggests something different afoot, with many members of the public stating that they have serious reservations about the veracity of their government’s statements. Not just the public, but professionals and academics from all over the world have been clear that they think it’s nonsense. 
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Double Standards in Libya

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Two weeks ago Interpol issued a Red Notice for the Libyan National Army "Saiqa" Special Forces Major, Mahmoud Werfalli. 

According to the notice, Werfalli is "wanted by the Judicial Authorities of the International Criminal Court."

As to the Werfalla case, the Libya National Army (LNA) had twice announced Werfalla’s questioning and arrest, and his subsequent release twice, amid its own ongoing internal investigation.

But the Red Notice muddies a wider, more complicated picture.

First, what is the nature of Libya’s war? To understand go back to June 2014 when Libya held elections for a new parliament, the House of Representatives (HOR). When the results came in, the Islamists, including the Muslim Brotherhood and allied coalition parties who had controlled the previous parliament, called the General National Congress (GNA), realised they had lost big at the polling booth.
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Libya: Seven Years of Failed Western Diplomacy

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The approaching seventh anniversary of the "Libyan revolution," (where the celebratory date was last week arbitrarily moved to the 18th of February -- a bit like moving the 4th of July to the 8th) under what a majority of Libyans feel is an illegitimate, solely UN appointed government headed by a man not elected but chosen by foreigners, Prime Minister, Fayez Serraj, is a good time to reflect on the past seven years of abject failure of the West, UN, EU, and NATO in Libya.

At least the new French "boy" President had the honesty to declare recently that it was "a mistake" to remove Gaddafi from power. Most of the other countries involved who led the charge for regime change continue their delusional reflection of the good that has been achieved by their decision.

The UK in particular should be singled out for exceptional hypocrisy because of its insistence that the regime change in 2011 that followed the military action with NATO was a great success.

If polled, most Libyans will not be in any way celebrating the anniversary on now the 18th of February of their "revolution." Quite the opposite.
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The UN Losing Poker Hand in Libya

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In poker, smart players know that the best thing to do with a weak hand is dump it. 

Not so the United Nations. Libya is doubling down on backing the failing Government of National Accord (GNA), hoping that by reopening its UN base in the capital, the previously fortified "Palm City Complex," things will improve. 

They are also sending some sending in Gurkha "Security Guards," but nowhere near enough to actually make a difference against the Tripoli-based militias.  For two hundred years the Gurkhas have been the most feared force in the British Army. If anyone can destroy the Tripoli militias, they can, but what's the point? Why shore up an unelected five-man government?

The GNA was created by the UN two years ago to unite the country and end the civil war. Instead, the GNA’s cabinet is unable even to unite Tripoli, which is "controlled" by various militias. Hence the need for Gurkhas to stop militias overrunning the ostentatious UN compound, "Palm City," which is itself a provocation to the Libyan people.

The elected parliament in Tobruk, rival to the GNA, is increasingly calling the shots. Thanks to the increasingly popular Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, Tobruk now controls the majority of the country and its oil infrastructure and ports. The idea that the GNA will ever rule over areas held by Tobruk is laughable. But, having created the GNA, the UN remains determined to back it. Last week Haftar banned GNA personnel from visiting the East -- so much for the alleged French July détente efforts.
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The International Criminal Court is the Antithesis of Justice

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If there was a prize for the world’s most ineffective institution, the International Criminal Court would win hands down.

Consider this: The court has been in operation for fifteen years, has spent over a billion Euros, and has convicted just four war criminals. Yes, that's correct. In a decade and a half, an institution proclaiming itself the world’s first permanent war crimes court has jailed just four war criminals.

In any other justice system that kind of abysmal conviction rate would get its chiefs sacked. But not the ICC. They continue to have a comfortable luxurious life in The Hague, ruling on the handful of cases that come their way, while the world’s wars rage fiercer than ever.​

One reason the ICC is such a disaster is the paradox at the heart of its existence.

The ICC is not part of the United Nations. Instead, it has authority over the 124 states that have joined it. But most states likely to commit war crimes don’t join the ICC. The result?  A court full of states that don’t commit war crimes.

The big three powers, the United States, China, and Russia have have all refused to join, concerned about accountability. The US State Department puts it best, saying there are "insufficient checks and balances on the authority of the ICC prosecutor and judges," and the court has "insufficient protection against politicized prosecutions or other abuses.”
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