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A wonderful article on the international refugee crisis, the shaky international refugee policy, and the dire situation in Libya.

Mekonen Haddis (Professor)

The Retainer Solution: the European Union, Libya and Irregular Migration

There is a venom in international refugee policy that refuses to go away: officials charged with their tasks, passing on their labours to those who might see the UN Refugee Convention as empty wording, rather than strict injunction carved upon stone. They have all become manifest in the policy of deferral: humanitarian problems are for others to solve. We will simply supply monetary assistance, the machinery, the means; the recipients, like time honoured servants, will do the rest.

The European Union, and some of its members, have their own idea of a glorified servant minding their business in North Africa. The EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa is the pot of gold; the recipient is Libya, an important “transit country for migrants heading to Europe.” Such a status makes Libya the main point of outsourced obligations associated with human traffic. Using Libya supposedly achieves the objectives of the Joint Communication ‘Managing flows, saving lives’ (never pass up the chance to use weasel words) and the Malta Declaration.

In responding to the regional refugee crisis, the EU mires itself in the wording of bureaucracy, machine language meant to be inoffensive. The first phase of the “Support to Integrated border and migration management in Libya” sounds like an allocation of mild tasks, a simple case of proper filing. In summary, it “aims to strengthen the capacity of relevant Libyan authorities in the areas of border and migration management, including border control and surveillance, addressing smuggling and trafficking of human beings, search and rescue at sea and in the desert.” A casual takeaway from this is that the EU is not merely being responsible but caring, assisting a country to, in turn assist migrants and refugees from making rash decisions, saving them when needed, and protecting them when required.

According to its unconvincing brief, “the EUTF for Africa pays particular attention to protection and assistance to migrants and their host communities in the country in order to increase their resilience.” In arid language, there is lip-service paid to “support a migrant management and asylum in Libya that is consistent with the main international standards and human rights.”

Such documents conceal the appallingly dire situation of Libya as the sponsored defender of Europe against irregular arrivals. Money sent is not necessarily money well spent. Detention centres have become concentrations of corrupted desperation, its residents exploited, tormented and kidnapped.

Accounts of torture in such camps have made their way to Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. In July 2018, Human Rights Watch paid a visit to four detention centres in Tripoli, Misrata and Zuwara. The organisation found “inhumane conditions that included severe overcrowding, unsanitary conditions, poor quality food and water that has led to malnutrition, lack of adequate healthcare, and disturbing accounts of violence by guards, including beatings, whippings, and the use of electric shocks.”

The EUTF for Africa lacks human context; dull, bloodless policy accounts make little mention of cutthroat militias jousting for authority and the absence of coherent, stable governance. In May, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees spokesperson Charlie Yaxley claimed that the UNHCR was “in a race against time to urgently move refugees and migrants out of detention centres to safety, and we urge the international community to come forward with offers of evacuation.”

Such races have tended to be lost, and rather badly at that. The militias are on the move, and one war lord eager to make an impression is Khalifa Haftar. On July 3, some fifty people perished in an airstrike when two missiles hit a detention centre in Tripoli hosting 610 individuals. The finger pointing, even as the centre continued to burn, was quick, with blame duly allocated: Italy’s interior minister Matteo Salvini, and Libya’s UN-recognised and misnamed Government of National Accord (GNA) saw the hand of Haftar’s Libyan National Army. The intended target, according to LNP general Khaled el-Mahjoub, had been the militia camp located in the Tajoura neighbourhood.

Salvini, for good measure, also saw another culprit in the undergrowth of responsibility. While the rest of the EU could not shy away from this “criminal attack”, France would prove an exception, given their “economic and commercial reasons” for supporting “an attack on civilian targets.” Salvini is right, up to a point: France has an interest in supporting Haftar, given its interest in the eastern Libyan oilfields which he controls. The EU continues to speak in harshly different voices, none of them particularly humanitarian.

The UN special envoy for Libya, Ghassan Salamé suggested that the strike “clearly could constitute a war crime” having killed people “whose dire conditions forced them to be in that shelter.” The envoy’s formulation was striking: it was not the fault of GNA authorities who had detained migrants near a military depot; nor did the EU harbour any responsibility for having ensured the conditions of “managed” traffic flow that had led to the creation of detention centres.

The debate that followed was all a matter of logistical semantics; the camps proved to be, yet again, areas of mortal danger and hardly up to the modest standards of the EU’s refugee policy. To add to the prospects of future butchery, 95 more people have been added to the Tajoura centre. The cruel business has resumed.

BINOY KAMPMARK

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@AUC/SUDAN

The Peace and Security Council has with immediate effect suspended the participation of the Republic of in all activities until the effective establishment of a Civilian-led Transitional Authority, as the only way to allow the Sudan to exit from the current crisis

Trump is Making the Same Mistakes in the Middle East the US Always Makes

In its escalating confrontation with Iran, the US is making the same mistake it has made again and again since the fall of the Shah 40 years ago: it is ignoring the danger of plugging into what is in large part a religious conflict between Sunni and Shia Muslims.

I have spent much of my career as a correspondent in the Middle East, since the Iranian revolution in 1979, reporting crises and wars in which the US and its allies fatally underestimated the religious motivation of their adversaries. This has meant they have come out the loser, or simply failed to win, in conflicts in which the balance of forces appeared to them to be very much in their favour.

It has happened at least four times. It occurred in Lebanon after the Israeli invasion of 1982, when the turning point was the blowing up of the US Marine barracks in Beirut the following year, in which 241 US military personnel were killed. In the eight-year Iran-Iraq war during 1980-88, the west and the Sunni states of the region backed Saddam Hussein, but it ended in a stalemate. After 2003, the US-British attempt to turn post-Saddam Iraq into an anti-Iranian bastion spectacularly foundered. Similarly, after 2011, the west and states such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey tried in vain to get rid of Bashar al-Assad and his regime in Syria – the one Arab state firmly in the Iranian camp.

Now the same process is under way yet again, and likely to fail for the same reasons as before: the US, along with its local allies, will be fighting not only Iran but whole Shia communities in different countries, mostly in the northern tier of the Middle East between Afghanistan and the Mediterranean.

Donald Trump looks to sanctions to squeeze Iran while national security adviser John Bolton and secretary of state Mike Pompeo promote war as a desirable option. But all three denounce Hezbollah in Lebanon or the Popular Mobilisation Units in Iraq as Iranian proxies, though they are primarily the military and political arm of the indigenous Shia, which are a plurality in Lebanon, a majority in Iraq and a controlling minority in Syria. The Iranians may be able to strongly influence these groups, but they are not Iranian puppets which would wither and disappear once Iranian backing is removed.

Allegiance to nation states in the Middle East is generally weaker than loyalty to communities defined by religion, such the Alawites, the two-million-strong ruling Shia sect in Syria to which Bashar al-Assad and his closest lieutenants belong. People will fight and die to defend their religious identity but not necessarily for the nationality printed on their passports.

When the militarised Islamist cult Isis defeated the Iraqi national army by capturing Mosul in 2014, it was a fatwa from the Shia Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani that sent tens of thousands of volunteers rushing to defend Baghdad. Earlier in the fighting in Homs and Damascus in Syria, it was the non-Sunni districts that were the strongpoints of the regime. For example, the opposition were eager to take the strategically important airport road in the capital, but were held back by a district defended by Druze and Christian militiamen.

This is not what Trump’s allies in Saudi Arabia, UAE and Israel want Washington to believe; for them, the Shia are all Iranian stooges. For the Saudis, every rocket fired by the Houthis in Yemen into Saudi Arabia – though minimal in destructive power compared to the four-year Saudi bombing campaign in Yemen –can only have happened because of a direct instruction from Tehran.

On Thursday, for instance, Prince Khalid Bin Salman, the vice minister for defence and the brother of Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, claimed on Twitter that drone attacks on Saudi oil pumping stations, were “ordered” by Iran. He said that “the terrorist acts, ordered by the regime in Tehran, and carried out by the Houthis, are tightening the noose around the ongoing political efforts”. He added: “These militias are merely a tool that Iran’s regime uses to implement its expansionist agenda in the region.”

There is nothing new in this paranoid reaction by Sunni rulers to actions by distinct Shia communities (in this case the Houthis) attributing everything without exception to the guiding hand of Iran. I was in Bahrain in 2011 where the minority Sunni monarchy had just brutally crushed protests by the Shia majority with Saudi military support. Among those tortured were Shia doctors in a hospital who had treated injured demonstrators. Part of the evidence against them was a piece of technologically advanced medical equipment – I cannot remember if it was used for monitoring the heart or the brain or some other condition – which the doctors were accused of using to receive instructions from Iran about how to promote a revolution.

This type of absurd conspiracy theory used not to get much of hearing in Washington, but Trump and his acolytes are on record on as saying that nearly all acts of “terrorism” can be traced to Iran. This conviction risks sparking a war between the US and Iran because there are plenty of angry Shia in the Middle East who might well attack some US facility on their own accord.

It might also lead to somebody in one of those states eager for a US-Iran armed conflict – Saudi Arabia, UAE and Israel come to mind – that staging a provocative incident that could be blamed on Iran might be in their interests.

But what would such a war achieve? The military invasion of Iran is not militarily or politically feasible so there would be no decisive victory. An air campaign and a close naval blockade of Iran might be possible, but there are plenty of pressure points through which Iran could retaliate, from mines in the Strait of Hormuz to rockets fired at the Saudi oil facilities on the western side of Gulf.

A little-noticed feature of the US denunciations of Iranian interference using local proxies in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon is not just that they are exaggerated but, even if they were true, they come far too late. Iran is already on the winning side in all three countries.

If war does come it will be hard fought. Shia communities throughout the region will feel under threat. As for the US, the first day is usually the best for whoever starts a war in the Middle East and after that their plans unravel as they become entangled in a spider’s web of dangers they failed to foresee.

by:PATRICK COCKBURN

I doubt that a single bullet will be fired, but the article is  an excellent guide to deescalate and not to miscalculate.

Mekonen Haddis, Professor

 

 

An excellent article on the forgotten war in Yemen and the sad veto by the American president.

Mekonen Haddis, Professor

Yemen: The Triumph of Barbarism

President Donald Trump’s recent veto of a bipartisan resolution to force an end to American military involvement in Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen reminds me of some words by V.S. Naipaul, the Trinidadian author. In his book “A Bend in the River,” Naipaul says, “The world is what it is; men who are nothing, who allow themselves to become nothing, have no place in it.”

The war in Yemen has reached a level of barbarism as few wars in recent history. It has become a humanitarian nightmare that only a cessation of hostilities by Saudi Arabia and the provision of immediate assistance to the people in Yemen can help solve. The Trump administration, however, has chosen to continue supporting the Saudi regime.

U.S. military assistance takes several forms. It goes from refueling Saudi and Emirati jets leading the bombing campaign in Yemen, to providing targeting and military advice to the Saudi forces, and providing fuel and armaments, including precision-guided missiles for use against the Yemeni Houthis.

The war against the Yemenis by Saudi Arabia flaunts international law and basic humanitarian principles. Years of conflict have all but destroyed the country’s public health system and fueled a humanitarian crisis of dramatic proportions. Since the escalation of the war in 2015, medical personnel and health facilities have been attacked and destroyed. As a result, thousands of people have been cut off from essential services.

Yemenis are forced to travel long distances to reach the few remaining health facilities. As a result, pregnant women with complications arrive late, and those suffering from serious injuries lose precious minutes of care. In addition, the destruction of the health system has led to outbreaks of diphtheria, measles, and cholera.

According to the annual Worldwide Threat Assessment report –which reflects the insights of the U.S. Intelligence Community, including the CIA, the National Security Agency and the FBI, as well as many other federal agencies- of nearly 29 million people in Yemen, about 22 million need some form of humanitarian assistance.

Among them, 16 million don’t have access to food and drinking water, and more than one million Yemenis –mostly children- suffer from cholera. In addition, 5 million people are at food “emergency” level, just short of famine, and there are 2.8 million internally displaced people. In the meantime, emergency life-saving medicines, trauma kits, diarrheal disease kits, and blood banks are urgently needed, while the public health system is under collapse.

The war in Yemen is a flagrant violation of the principle of proportionality. According to this principle, “The harm caused to civilians or civilian property must be proportional and not ‘excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated’ by an attack on a military objective.” The Saudi attacks on Yemeni civilians and military targets make a mockery of this principle of international law.

In his veto message, President Trump said, “This resolution is an unnecessary, dangerous attempt to weaken my constitutional authorities, endangering the lives of American citizens and brave service members, both today and in the future.” Mr. Trump also said that he agreed with Congress that “great nations do not fight endless wars.” What he didn’t say is that the war in Yemen is a carnage that gives a new meaning to the word “barbarism”.

Dr. Cesar Chelala is a co-winner of the 1979 Overseas Press Club of America award for the article “Missing or Disappeared in Argentina: The Desperate Search for Thousands of Abducted Victims.”

 

 

 

 

Common Sense

“Common sense is both rarer and more desirable in leaders than mere intelligence.” ― #Voltaire. Since our leaders are void of common sense and are out of touch with reality, they push citizens to act. “Man is free at the moment he wishes to be.” #Voltaire @TafereDeju

The “Hirak” Movement in Algeria Against Bouteflika’s “Mandate of Shame”

by JÉRÔME DUVAL

Announced as a candidate for a fifth term, Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who celebrated his 82nd birthday on Saturday, 2nd March has been hospitalised in a clinic in Switzerland since Sunday, 24th February. The Algerian head of state, who could not have been quieter since he fell victim to a serious stroke in April 2013, had already been re-elected without public intervention during the campaign in 2014. Since then, as the Algériepart online media journalist Abdou Semmar explained in an interview conducted by Le Media, Bouteflika’s decision to stay in power in Algeria since 1999 has brought the regime’s institutions to a collapse through inter-clan fighting for his estate.

In the meantime, the exasperation of the Algerian people seems to have reached its peak in the face of yet another electoral joke, which is scheduled for the 18th of April. Following a text posted on the internet where he displays a sign on which is written “No to a fifth term”, Hadj Ghermoul, member of the Algerian League for the Defence of Human Rights (LADDH) and the National Committee for the Defence of the Rights of Unemployed (CNDDC), was arrested on 29th January, and then sentenced on 7th February to 6 months in prison in Mascara (west of the country), officially for “contempt of a constituent body”. The attempt to stifle a protest against Bouteflika’s new term, which since then has been growing, seems to have failed.

On 2nd February, the President of the National Assembly, Moad Bouchareb, announced what everyone had suspected: the National Liberation Front (FLN – Front de libération nationale) had chosen Abdelaziz Bouteflika as its candidate. The statement issued after a meeting of leaders of the four political parties of the government coalition [1] announced: “The parties of the presidential alliance present Abdelaziz Bouteflika as a candidate for the next presidential election. In such a context, the official announcement of Bouteflika’s candidacy to remain in power raised indignation, but no one expected the incredible popular irruption that would ensue. First elected head of state in 1999, then re-elected in the first round in 2004 (85% of votes), in 2009 (90%) and in 2014 (81%), after the removal of the constitutional limitation of two presidential terms, Bouteflika has done everything possible to pave the way for a life-long presidency. He has become an object of greed to the ruling mafia and his own family, who hold the reins of Algeria, the largest country in Africa.

Friday, 22nd February, a multitude of demonstrations took place everywhere. This was the first major demonstration in the capital, Algiers, where demonstrations have been strictly forbidden since the 14th June 2001 march when hundreds of thousands of demonstrators from Kabylie converged on the capital. The wall of fear has now been overcome. “Neither Bouteflika, nor Saïd [brother of the Algerian president]! “, “Get rid of the System! ” “The people want the fall of the regime,” “Murderous power”, we could hear in the streets. Slogans that do not appear in the public media where the protests of Friday, 22nd February went unnoticed, transmitted with a delay and stripped of their content. However, a page of history is being written and there will be a before and after for 22nd February, 2019 in Algeria. A few days later, on Tuesday, 26th February, the student world protested in great numbers against the announced re-election of Abdelaziz Bouteflika to the chagrin of those in charge of most student organisations, close to power. Journalists denounced the collusion of the big media with the regime that prevented them from informing about the current uprising, internet connections that had been slowed down or even cut off by the authorities as well as visa refusals to foreign journalists wishing to cover the uprising.

The next Friday, 1st March, two days before the deadline for the candidacy of the presidential elections, a tidal wave flooded the streets throughout the country. It is now hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people who have marched against President Bouteflika’s “mandate of shame”. Never since the Algerian War of Independence have the Algerians risen in this way to unite all the people around a common goal. In Oran, the second largest city in Algeria, some 10,000 people took part in the march for “dignity”. “If we are marching, it’s not against Bouteflika as an individual, but against the clan surrounding him, against a system,” said 22-year-old Youssef. In Tlemcen, which is supposed to be Bouteflika’s stronghold, the march was dense. The media could no longer ignore the uprising and Canal Algérie opened its 7 pm news with the marches without, however, mentioning the protestor’s main slogan “No to the 5th mandate”.

Bouteflika’s response stirs up anger

The next day, Sunday, 3rd March, the protests continued, including in Algiers where the metro was closed and the main streets blocked off. This day, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, a sick man who had not made a single speech since 2013, addressed the issue for the first time since the beginning of the popular protest stirring the Algerian people. In a letter on the subject, he says he “listened and heard the heartfelt cries of the demonstrators”, but reaffirms his status as “candidate for the next presidential election”. In the event of an election, the Algerian head of state agreed not to complete his term and to withdraw after an early presidential election, the date of which had not yet been set. It would thus be necessary to elect Bouteflika in order to get rid of him via an anticipated presidential election, one in which he would not be a candidate…

At the same time, Bouteflika’s candidacy file was submitted on the same day with the Constitutional Council, the last legal deadline to apply for presidential elections on 18th April, 2019, by his new campaign director, the current Minister of Transport Abdelghani Zaâlane. The latter replaced at a moment’s notice former Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal, sacked on Saturday after having lead the three previous campaigns of President Bouteflika in 2004, 2009 and 2014.

This response given to the Algerian people, who since 22nd February had been demonstrating loudly and clearly against a fifth term run by Abdelaziz Bouteflika, was enough to revive the protest. The same evening, spontaneous demonstrations broke out in several cities. The joke that circulated “We have two plans: plan A, for Abdelaziz. And plan B, for Bouteflika!” sums up well the intransigence of power and in the face of this intransigence, Algeria was preparing for a new explosion of anger. The same evening, thousands of young people who had been out since the beginning of the night in the streets of Algiers marched towards the presidential palace of El-Mouradia before being blocked by a police presence. On Monday, 4th March, students deserted classes at Bab Ezzouar, the largest university in the country. Several other campuses of the faculties of the capital were also deserted. In other cities marches were organised, Algeria held its breath, the responsibility of the power in place was enormous.

Translation by Jenny Bright.

This article was originally published in French on the blog Un monde sans dette from the journal Politis.

Notes.

[1] These four parties are the National Liberation Front (FLN), the presidential party represented by the President of the Assembly, Mouad Bouchareb, the Democratic National Rally (RND -Rassemblement national démocratique) represented by Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia, the Rally of Algerian Hope (Tadjamoue Amel El-Djazair, TAJ) of Amar Ghoul and the Algerian Popular Movement (MPA – Mouvement populaire algérien) whose president is Amara Benyounes

Could this be the second round of the Arab Spring?

Mekonen Haddis, Professor

Gutting the INF: Bolton Must be Stopped

 

by JOE CIRINCIONE

 

John Bolton relishes in targeting nuclear arms treaties. He is very good at it.

The U.S. national security adviser’s latest hit is the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, but his list of victims goes back decades. He had a hand in either the U.S. withdrawal or repeal of Richard Nixon’s Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, Bill Clinton’s Agreed Framework with North Korea and Barack Obama’s Iran nuclear deal.

Now he has helped put the knife into Ronald Reagan’s landmark treaty, one that broke the back of the nuclear arms race in 1987. It was the first time that the United States and the Soviet Union agreed to destroy, not just limit, nuclear weapons. Together they destroyed almost 2,700 perfectly good nuclear weapons that they had spent billions of dollars and many years building. It began the process of massive reductions in global nuclear arms that continued until the current administration.

Why is Bolton against these nuclear security treaties that Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and liberals, have championed? Because he thinks they make America weak. In 1999, he decried the liberal “fascination with arms-control agreements as a substitute for real non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.” A year later, he ridiculed “the Church of Arms Control.”

For Bolton and others like him, these agreements are part of the effort by the global Lilliputians to tie down the American Gulliver. In his mind, we must have maximum flexibility and multiple military options to preserve our security and interests around the world. We must protect our nation with military might, not pieces of paper.

Russia is likely in violation of the INF Treaty. It has deployed missiles near its border with Europe at ranges that exceed those allowed by the agreement. But when someone breaks the law, the answer is not to repeal the law. There are well-established methods for bringing an offending nation back into compliance. Reagan, in fact, negotiated the INF Treaty while the Soviets were in violation of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. He pushed and cajoled them for several years. After signing the INF Treaty, former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev relented and shut down the offending radar. We could do the same for the INF Treaty by pushing for an agreement on mutual inspections, as many experts have suggested.

But Bolton does not want to fix the treaty; he wants to kill it. “Violations give America the opportunity to discard obsolete, Cold War-era limits on its own arsenal and to upgrade its military capabilities to match its global responsibilities,” Bolton wrote in 2014.

America will pay a high price for this rigid ideology. President Trump walking out of Reagan’s treaty is a gift to Russian President Vladimir Putin. It doesn’t fix the problem; it makes it worse. Now, there will be no restraints whatsoever on Putin’s ability to deploy hundreds of missiles, should he desire. The United States will likely be blamed for the collapse of the treaty, widening the split within the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Europeans are already shaken by the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris climate accord, the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Iran nuclear deal. This will increase their doubts about U.S. commitment to their security.

All this plays into Putin’s hands. It raises serious questions about whether Putin and Trump discussed this in any of their five secretive meetings. Whatever Bolton’s ideological agenda, this is certainly helping not hurting Putin’s Russia.

This goes beyond geopolitical advantage. For those who followed the arms race of the 1980s, it feels like déjà vu to again watch countries matching adversaries’ military deployments with their own in a futile effort to overcome or intimidate. And this time, it isn’t just a two-nation race. For some, the real payoff for leaving the INF Treaty is that it will allow the United States to deploy new missiles against China’s medium and intermediate-range missiles, even though we already have multiple ways to target their systems and vastly more nuclear weapons.

Thankfully, Congress has indicated that it will not idly watch as the nuclear security house burns down. Last Thursday, 10 senators, led by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and including three Democratic 2020 presidential candidates, introduced legislation barring any funding for any new weapon that would violate the INF Treaty. The House is certain to follow suit.

Congressional and European pressure may yet combine to pull Trump back from this self-destructive brink. European Union Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini called on Friday for both sides to stick to the treaty. “What we definitely don’t want to see is our continent going back to being a battlefield or a place where other superpowers confront themselves,” she said. “This belongs to a faraway history.”

The danger is that the INF Treaty is not the last arms control treaty to die. Many fear that Bolton has his eyes on the New START agreement that limits long-range nuclear forces. That treaty expires in 2021, unless we act to extend it. Otherwise, for the first time since 1972, there will be no limits on U.S. and Russian nuclear forces.

Bolton must be stopped before he strikes again.

This was produced by The WorldPost, a partnership of the Berggruen Institute and The Washington Post, where this column originally appeared.