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Ed Webb

Egypt's 'Lost Dream' of Linking The Congo and Nile Rivers - Al-Monitor: the Pulse of th... - 0 views

  • According to a new study conducted by Gamal el-Kalyouby, a professor of petroleum and energy at the American University of Cairo, linking the Nile with the Congo River would divert Congo River water that washes into the Atlantic Ocean into the Nile River Basin. It should be noted that the Congo River water that enters the Atlantic amounts to 1,000 billion cubic meters annually. This diversion could be done by establishing a 600-kilometer [373-mile] canal to transfer water to the Nile Basin from southern Sudan to northern Sudan and then to Lake Nasser, behind the Aswan High Dam in Egypt.
  • the study also suggests diverting Nile water toward the west and also east toward the Sinai. This would serve to create a Sahara delta to the west and a delta at the entrance to the Sinai
  • Is this idea impossible to implement, as claimed by successive Egyptian governments, whether during the era of Mubarak or after the Jan. 25 revolution? Egyptian Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation Mohammed Abdel Matlab answered this question. He told Al-Monitor that linking the Congo River to the Nile is difficult to implement because it requires a canal that goes through southern Sudan, which is riddled with ponds and swamps. Thus, the project would threaten to inundate its territories. What's more, there are some legal problems relating to the prohibition of transferring river waters outside their basins, which is an international principle that Egypt cannot risk violating, not to mention the very high cost of such a project.
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  • We would be violating an international rule, which prohibits the transfer of the rivers' water out of their watershed. The Congo River has many tributaries in many African countries, such as Cameroon, Guinea, and the Central African Republic.
  • Egyptian businessman Ibrahim al-Fayoumi, considered one of the most prominent Egyptian investors in the Congo and whose company is currently executing a number of infrastructure and mining projects there, spoke to Al-Monitor concerning the government’s justifications for rejecting projects that link the Nile River with the Congo. “These justifications are nonsensical, for there is no legal impediment standing in the way of linking both rivers together,” said Fayoumi. “We have reviewed close to 300 river-related agreements, and none of them contained legal deterrents to the project. Taking advantage of the Congo River’s water would not violate international law since the water would be moved between two watersheds that lie within the borders of the same country, and would serve to exploit water that otherwise would be wastefully pushed 300 kilometers offshore,”
Ed Webb

How Africa will become the center of the world's urban future - Washington Post - 0 views

  • by the end of this century, Africa will be the only continent experiencing population growth. Thirteen of the world’s 20 biggest urban areas will be in Africa — up from just two today — as will more than a third of the world’s population.
  • Set to become the world’s most populous city, Lagos faces all the challenges rapid growth poses, which can be boiled down to one: planning. Can solutions outpace the weight tens of millions of new inhabitants will place on a city that is low-slung and dense, situated on polluted lagoons and rivers, and short on public services?
  • Khartoum, Sudan: Unstable states like Sudan crumble first in their hinterlands, and in those moments of crisis, cities are beacons of safety, places for people to regroup, build new identities and forge political movements — even revolutions — that aim to bring peace back to places they had to abandon.
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  • Kinshasa, Congo: In a city whose geography still reflects segregationist colonial-era planning, where a handful of oligarchs lead gilded lives while the poor navigate systems broken by corruption and neglect, we get a glimpse of what it takes to break inequality’s shackles.
  • Mombasa, Kenya: The designs of foreign powers have molded African cities for centuries, especially along the continent’s coasts. From narrow-alleyed old towns to gleaming new container-shipping terminals, port cities like this one are layered with evidence of how budding empires, in the Arab world, Europe and now China, sought to remake them.
  • Abidjan, Ivory Coast: Despite fearmongering that Africa’s growing population will flood into wealthier parts of the world, cosmopolitan cities like this one draw most of Africa’s migrants and serve as models of tolerance, welcoming immigration policies and a reinvigorated Pan-African identity.
  • The traffic is a manifestation of what Lagosians fear most for their city: There is no plan. Lagos will balloon to 30 million, then 50 million, maybe even 100 million people, and meanwhile the government will keep unveiling new visions for the city that never come to fruition. Many doubt even its simplest promises, such as the impending inauguration of a single subway line that was supposed to open a decade ago.
  • Lagos emerges as the world’s most populous city at some point between now and 2100, in study after study. Changing the inputs affects only how soon and by how much.
  • A study published last year in the Lancet forecasts that Nigeria will become more populous than China by the end of the century, as birthrates rapidly shrink in some parts of the world — East Asia, eastern and southern Europe, the Caribbean — and level off in others, such as the United States, which is projected to have a similar population in 2100 as now.
  • Ethiopia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Tanzania are all forecast to join Nigeria among the 10 most populous countries by 2100. North Africa and southern Africa, while continuing to grow, will do so at much lower rates than the rest of the continent.
  • “The people who govern this city are brutes, banning this and that left and right,” said Olushola, who, like countless others, pays off police officers to continue working. “We are providing a service that millions of people need 24/7. There is no alternative except to walk, and they ban us.”
  • Lawanson and other researchers cautioned against believing wholesale in projections of 80 million or even 100 million people in greater Lagos. Not because that’s infeasible, but because the city is already so strained, there’s no guarantee that people will continue to find the kind of economic opportunity that draws them here now.
  • in a city where the first and only major bridge over the lagoon was built decades ago, his assurance that not one but five more are being planned is scoffed at by many Lagosians — as are the four metro lines he says are “in the pipeline.”
  • For half a century now, displacement by catastrophe has been the main driver of growth in Khartoum. This is the biggest of a downtrodden club of African cities where people have brought their lives on donkey carts or in rickety trucks, far from hometowns abandoned because of conflict or climate change — or both.
  • “We cannot be like Dubai, which is a utopian aspiration some of our leaders have. We have to be the best Lagos we can be.”
  • “All the energy in the humanitarian world gets channeled toward emergencies, and so we don’t end up talking about what happens as a result — the big current underneath our work, which is massive urban influx,” said Bernard Lami, the IOM’s deputy head in Sudan.
  • Ivory Coast, where foreigners now account for nearly 20 percent of the country’s economy, more than anywhere else in Africa.
  • Around 40 percent of the world’s internally displaced people are in Africa
  • “There are millions of us living in these places that politicians never set foot in except to tear them down so they can make an industrial zone or new, big houses,”
  • In camps-turned-neighborhoods like Haj Yousif, long-oppressed groups from Sudan’s hinterlands discovered common histories and common cause. The city, after providing safety, became an organizing ground for groups that wanted to ensure that the safety was lasting. In Sudan, that meant first getting rid of Bashir.
  • “In the revolution, that’s partly what we were fighting against. There were big political issues, but it was also about mismanagement,” he added. “How long will it take for the needs of the people to become part of our governance? Ten, 20 years — or after we’re long gone? I guess it will always depend on us, the people, ourselves.”
  • Like many port cities, Mombasa is infused with distant cultures. From its centuries-old core, its expansion has been spurred by sultanates, seafaring mercantilists and great world powers, which all saw economic opportunity in its protected inlets.
  • The shifting dynamics have been a source of concern in Western capitals, which have seen their cachet on the continent decline. And the changes have spawned warnings from those same capitals to African governments that they are being tricked into debt traps that leave strategic resources and infrastructure vulnerable to Chinese takeover.That view has been increasingly discounted by scholars, in part because Chinese lenders have not requisitioned any major infrastructure projects even as debts continue to mount. Chinese loans to Africa also have declined after a high in 2013, the year China launched its ambitious Belt and Road Initiative to link its markets with the rest of the world.
  • loans laden with confidentiality clauses
  • Opaque loans and closer ties with Beijing have strengthened African governments that have little regard for democracy, human rights or economic equality
  • “We have deep water, we’re on the equator, we’re on the way from everywhere to everywhere else,” said Kalandar Khan, a historian of Kenya’s coast whose ancestors were brought from Baluchistan, in what is now Pakistan, to Mombasa four centuries ago by Omani sultans who employed them as mercenaries.
  • Mombasa, Kenya’s second-biggest city, is expected to grow rapidly as it accelerates its shift from being an outdated spice-route waypoint to a major global city that funnels goods to all of East Africa, a region with one of the world’s fastest-growing populations.
  • The United States in particular has sought to counter China’s ascent in Africa with questions about respect for human rights and the environment in Chinese-linked projects. The approach has not prevented any of those projects from pushing forward.
  • Responding to skepticism about Chinese intentions, many Africans simply ask: What is the problem with getting help to attain the same level of development others have? And who are Western governments to raise questions about human rights and accountability in Africa when their own record is atrocious?
  • she, like the majority of African migrants, did something many in the West might not expect, especially after a decade of fearmongering by populist politicians and a relentless focus in the media on the most desperate, perilous voyages in search of asylum.Gadji immigrated, legally, to another African country.
  • The majority of African migrants, both rich and poor, do not cross oceans, but rather land borders within Africa.Ninety-four percent of African migration across oceans takes a regular, legal form.At least 80 percent of Africans contemplating migration say they have no interest in leaving the continent.
  • Without new infrastructure to keep up with the growth, it now takes longer to cross Lagos from one edge to the other in a danfo than it does to fly to Lagos from Europe.
  • Like New York or Paris, Ivory Coast’s biggest city, Abidjan, is a cosmopolitan patchwork of neighborhoods where flavors, languages and histories overlap. As Africa’s population grows, Abidjan, Nairobi, Johannesburg and other cities across the continent that brim with opportunity will reap the dividends of that growth, especially if Western countries continue to suppress African migration flows off the continent.
  • In modern West Africa, home to 17 countries, locals often see borders as a hindrance — or even a fallacy — more useful to the Europeans who created them than the Africans who have to navigate them.
  • Despite relatively low historical levels of African migration to Europe, European Union member states have paid billions of dollars to West African governments over the past decade in return for strict enforcement of border controls aimed at preventing African migrants from reaching European shores.
  • “There are levels of irony here. Europe has integrated into a union, and yet they pay us to isolate ourselves,” said Issiaka Konate, a senior official in Ivory Coast’s ministry that promotes regional integration. “By doing so, they create an opportunity for criminal networks to operate in human trafficking, which has led to a profusion of armed groups and instability. Migration is not the political lightning rod in West Africa that it is in Europe. We welcome it.”
  • For most of its post-independence period, Ivory Coast has sought to lure migrants with relatively high wages, especially in its cocoa industry, the world’s largest. That alone has drawn millions from Guinea, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and others, and propelled Ivory Coast forward as the region’s best-performing economy.
  • Nearby countries such as Niger, which has the world’s highest birthrate and lowest standard of living, are replete with reasons to leave
  • The food stall’s owner said that in just five years, 15 young men like Amadou had come and gone, earning enough to go back home comfortably.“Garba makes us popular here. It is cheap, it is fast, it is tasty. People appreciate us,” Amadou said, explaining why he’d chosen Abidjan over Europe.“Europe is unimaginable to me. Very few people dream of Europe, frankly — and they are people you could say who dream too much.”
  • Europe has restricted the flow to exceptionally strong-willed migrants for whom the lure of Europe is hard to shake.
  • To an older generation of migrants, the fixation on Europe and the insistence that it’s the only place to make enough money to live the good life is a sinister myth driven by a few success stories.
  • “In my youth, there was no word ‘immigration’ — saying a fellow African is a foreigner is itself a foreign concept,” he said. “Well, it is an infectious concept and a political tool — the blame game, the creation of difference, those classic divide-and-rule mentalities of the West, are they not? It is a miseducation foisted upon us.”
Ed Webb

Despite apparent Iran setback, Turkey expands its reach | McClatchy - 0 views

  • Turkey's high-profile role in Iran nuclear negotiations is in keeping with an increasingly robust foreign policy that stretches from Congo to Russia to Latin America and seeks to include everything in between. Davutoglu is a key architect of NATO ally Turkey's broadening influence, which includes a "zero problems with neighbors" policy."This is a beautiful symptom of Turkey's overall foreign policy: build as many networks as possible and put themselves in the middle," said Stephen Walt
  • the opportunity of its location - a crossroads for centuries between East and West, and North and South, for people, ideas, trade, and now energy routes.
  • Turkey-Africa trade has jumped from $1.5 billion in 2001 to more than $10 billion last year
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  • The pace of Turkey's diplomatic engagement is frenetic. The Iran nuclear deal came after a week which saw a visit to Turkey by Syrian President Bashir al-Assad. Then Russian President Dmitry Medvedev was in town to agree on a number of big-ticket energy deals, including the purchase of Turkey's first nuclear power reactor.After that, a host of top Turkish leaders were in Greece - a traditional regional rival - signing 21 separate agreements between nations that had inked just 35 agreements between them since the 1920s.
  • Turkey has also been deeply engaged with Bosnia and Serbia, keeps pushing for EU membership, and later this week will host UN meetings on Somalia and on supporting Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon will be in Turkey. There will be a Turkish-Arabic forum.
  • In the Mideast alone - where Turkey says it came "within one word" of brokering a Syria-Israel peace deal before Israel attacked Gaza in late 2008 - Qatar is also playing a greater role - it has hosted countless Sudan peace talks, for example. Russia is a player, and offers state-run Russia TV in Arabic, with Mideast-specific programming. Brazil is a player as well. And Iran has sought in recent years to extend its reach, too, with diplomacy, proxy forces, and its own Arabic and English news channels."There is talk of Turkey and a neo-Ottoman foreign policy," said Hakura. "But in the future there must be a link between capacity and ambitions, and that requires reforms."
  • Turkey already plays a very important independent role, exploring the path for solutions and nonviolent geopolitics
Ed Webb

A Middle East Monarchy Hired American Ex-Soldiers To Kill Its Political Enemies. This C... - 0 views

  • “There was a targeted assassination program in Yemen,” he told BuzzFeed News. “I was running it. We did it. It was sanctioned by the UAE within the coalition.”
  • The revelations that a Middle East monarchy hired Americans to carry out assassinations comes at a moment when the world is focused on the alleged murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi Arabia, an autocratic regime that has close ties to both the US and the UAE
  • The UAE, with vast wealth but only about 1 million citizens, relies on migrant workers from all over the world to do everything from cleaning its toilets to teaching its university students. Its military is no different, paying lavish sums to eager US defense companies and former generals. The US Department of Defense has approved at least $27 billion in arms sales and defense services to the UAE since 2009.
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  • Spear Operations Group’s private assassination mission marks the confluence of three developments transforming the way war is conducted worldwide:Modern counterterrorism combat has shifted away from traditional military objectives — such as destroying airfields, gun emplacements, or barracks — to killing specific individuals, largely reshaping war into organized assassinations.War has become increasingly privatized, with many nations outsourcing most military support services to private contractors, leaving frontline combat as virtually the only function that the US and many other militaries have not contracted out to for-profit ventures.The long US wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have relied heavily on elite special forces, producing tens of thousands of highly trained American commandos who can demand high private-sector salaries for defense contracting or outright mercenary work.
  • militarized contract killing, carried out by skilled American fighters
  • “There were guys that were basically doing what you said.” He was astonished, he said, by what he learned: “What vetting procedures are there to make sure the guy you just smoked is really a bad guy?” The mercenaries, he said, were “almost like a murder squad.”
  • US law makes it illegal to “conspire to kill, kidnap, maim” someone in another country. Companies that provide military services to foreign nations are supposed to be regulated by the State Department, which says it has never granted any company the authority to supply combat troops or mercenaries to another country
  • with some exceptions, it is perfectly legal to serve in foreign militaries, whether one is motivated by idealism or money. With no legal consequences, Americans have served in the Israel Defense Forces, the French Foreign Legion, and even a militia fighting ISIS in Syria. Spear Operations Group, according to three sources, arranged for the UAE to give military rank to the Americans involved in the mission, which might provide them legal cover.
  • The commandos’ plans went awry, and the intelligence proved flawed. And their strike was far from surgical: The explosive they attached to the door was designed to kill not one person but everyone in the office
  • Private mercenaries operate outside the US military’s chain of command, so if they make mistakes or commit war crimes, there is no clear system for holding them accountable
  • Golan insists that he killed only terrorists identified by the government of the UAE, an ally of the US. But who is a terrorist and who is a politician? What is a new form of warfare and what is just old-fashioned murder for hire? Who has the right to choose who lives and who dies — not only in the wars of a secretive monarchy like the UAE, but also those of a democracy such as the US?
  • Golan said that during his company’s months-long engagement in Yemen, his team was responsible for a number of the war’s high-profile assassinations, though he declined to specify which ones. He argued that the US needs an assassination program similar to the model he deployed. “I just want there to be a debate,” he said. “Maybe I’m a monster. Maybe I should be in jail. Maybe I’m a bad guy. But I’m right.”
  • the country embeds foreigners in its military and gave the rank of major general to an American lieutenant colonel, Stephen Toumajan, placing him in command of a branch of its armed forces.
  • The US draws the line at combat; it does not hire mercenaries to carry out attacks or engage directly in warfare. But that line can get blurry. Private firms provide heavily armed security details to protect diplomats in war zones or intelligence officers in the field. Such contractors can engage in firefights, as they did in Benghazi, Libya, when two contractors died in 2012 defending a CIA post. But, officially, the mission was protection, not warfare
  • The people Spear did target, he and Gilmore said, were legitimate because they were selected by the government of the UAE, an ally of the United States that was engaged in a military action supported by the US. Gilmore said that he and Golan told the UAE they would never act against US interests. And Golan claimed that, based on his military experience, he could tell if a target was a terrorist after just a week or two of surveillance.
  • A little-known consequence of the war on terror, and in particular the 17 combined years of US warfare in Iraq and Afghanistan, is that the number of special operations forces has more than doubled since 9/11, from 33,000 to 70,000. That’s a vast pool of crack soldiers selected, trained, and combat-tested by the most elite units of the US military, such as the Navy SEALs and Army Rangers. Some special operations reservists are known to engage in for-profit soldiering, said a high-level SEAL officer who asked not to be named. “I know a number of them who do this sort of thing,” he said. If the soldiers are not on active duty, he added, they are not obligated to report what they’re doing.
  • Gilmore said some were members of Al-Islah, some were clerics, and some were out-and-out terrorists — but he conceded he couldn’t be sure.BuzzFeed News has obtained one of the target cards. On it is a man’s name, photograph, telephone number, and other information. At the top right is the insignia of the UAE Presidential Guard.
  • During the Cold War, the CIA played a role in plots to assassinate foreign leaders, such as Patrice Lumumba of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rafael Trujillo of the Dominican Republic, and Ngo Dinh Diem of South Vietnam. Later in the Vietnam War, the US launched the Phoenix program, in which the CIA often teamed up with US military units to “neutralize” — or, critics say, assassinate — Viet Cong leaders. Even so, targeted killings were not a central pillar of US military strategy in Vietnam. And after Congress exposed CIA activities in the 1970s, the US banned assassinations of foreign leaders.
  • Under President George W. Bush, the CIA and the military used drones to kill terrorists, and the CIA developed covert assassination capabilities. President Barack Obama halted the agency’s secret assassination program but drastically ramped up the use of drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen, Afghanistan, and Somalia. Soon the CIA and the military were using the aircraft — piloted remotely using video monitors — to kill people whose names the US didn’t even know, through “signature strikes” based solely on a target’s associations and activities. President Donald Trump has further loosened the rules for drone strikes.
  • Only a uniformed officer can push the button that fires the drone’s missile and kills the target
  • Elisabeth Kendall, an expert on Yemen at the University of Oxford, points out that unlike al-Qaeda or other terrorist groups, which try to seize power through violence, Al-Islah participates in the political process. But, she said, the US rationale for drone strikes has legitimized other countries’ pursuit of their own assassinations: “The whole very watery, vague notion of a war on terror has left the door wide open to any regime saying, ‘This is all a war on terror.’ ”
  • Golan said he models his assassination business on Israel’s targeted killing program, which has been underway since the country was founded, and which, despite some high-profile errors and embarrassments, he claims is done properly. He argues there are some terrorist enemies so dangerous and implacable — and so difficult to arrest — that assassination is the best solution.
  • Golan and Gilmore had another condition: They wanted to be incorporated into the UAE Armed Forces. And they wanted their weapons — and their target list — to come from uniformed military officers. That was “for juridical reasons,” Golan said. “Because if the shit hits the fan,” he explained, the UAE uniform and dog tags would mark “the difference between a mercenary and a military man.”
  • Gilmore acknowledged that some of the targets may have been people who merely fell out of favor with the ruling family. Referring to the country’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, Gilmore said, “There is the possibility that the target would be someone who MBZ doesn’t like. We’d try to make sure that didn’t happen.”
  • Even though it failed to kill Mayo, the mercenaries’ bomb attack seems to have ushered in a new phase in the UAE’s war against Al-Islah. “It was the exclamation point that set the tone that Al-Islah was now going to be targeted,”
  • As 2016 progressed, those watching the deteriorating situation in Yemen began to notice that members of Al-Islah, and other clerics in Aden, were dropping dead at an alarming pace. “It does appear to be a targeted campaign,” said Gregory Johnsen of the Arabia Foundation, who in 2016 served on a UN panel investigating the Yemen war. “There have been 25 to 30 assassinations,” he said, though a few appear to be the work of ISIS.
  • One new member of the team, hired in early 2016, was the veteran of SEAL Team 6, Daniel Corbett, according to three sources and confirmed by photos. Corbett was a superb soldier, say those who know him, and had served multiple combat tours in Afghanistan and Iraq. He was still in the reserves, so the US military could deploy him at any moment; he collected a government salary; and he was supposed to report for monthly drills. And yet he was in Yemen on a private contract to work for a foreign military. It is unclear if he himself was involved in missions to assassinate anyone.
  • In a mysterious development, Corbett is currently in jail in Serbia, where he is being investigated for illegal handgun possession. The American veteran has been held there since February 2018.
  • “some variety of the future of warfare.”
Ed Webb

Revealed: The U.S. military's 36 code-named operations in Africa - 0 views

  • These programs are “specifically designed for us to work with our host nation partners to develop small — anywhere between 80 and 120 personnel — counterterrorism forces that we’re partnered with,” said Bolduc. “They are specially selected partner-nation forces that go through extensive training, with the same equipment we have, to specifically go after counterterrorism targets, especially high-value targets.”
  • Between 2013 and 2017, U.S. special operations forces saw combat in at least 13 African countries
  • Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Somalia, South Sudan and Tunisia
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  • code-named operations cover a variety of different military missions, ranging from psychological operations to counterterrorism
  • Eight of the named activities, including Obsidian Nomad, are so-called 127e programs, named for the budgetary authority that allows U.S. special operations forces to use certain host-nation military units as surrogates in counterterrorism missions
  • a panoply of named military operations and activities U.S. forces have been conducting from dozens of bases across the northern tier of Africa. Many of these operations are taking place in countries that the U.S. government does not recognize as combat zones, but in which U.S. troops are nonetheless fighting and, in several cases, taking casualties
  • Yahoo News does not claim that this list is comprehensive.
  • The umbrella operation for the mission that resulted in the deadly ambush in Niger, Juniper Shield is the United States’ centerpiece counterterrorism effort in northwest Africa and covers 11 nations: Algeria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal and Tunisia. Under Juniper Shield, U.S. teams rotate in every six months to train, advise, assist and accompany local partner forces to conduct operations against terrorist groups, including ISIS-West Africa, Boko Haram and al Qaida and its affiliates.
  • In 2010, the first head of Africa Command, Army Gen. William “Kip” Ward, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that Operation Objective Voice was an “information operations effort to counter violent extremism by leveraging media capabilities in ways that encourage the public to repudiate extremist ideologies.” Coordinated with other government agencies, this propaganda effort included “youth peace games” in Mali, a film project in northern Nigeria, and, according to his successor, Army Gen. Carter Ham, a “variety of messaging platforms, such as the African Web Initiative, to challenge the views of terrorist groups.” Objective Voice continues today.
  • OBSIDIAN LOTUS: A 127e activity concentrated on Libya, in which U.S. commandos trained and equipped Libyan special operations forces battalions. One of those units ended up under the control of renegade warlord Gen. Khalifa Haftar
  • Information on which operations the following bases support was partially redacted: Douala, Garoua and Maroua (all Cameroon); N’Djamena, Chad; Bangui, Central African Republic; Diffa, Dirkou, Madama and Niamey (all Niger). The list of operations supported by Tobruk and Tripoli (both Libya) was fully redacted. Other data were likely withheld completely.
Ed Webb

The New Energy geopolitics and the Gulf Arab States - The Geopolitics - 0 views

  • today’s largest volumes of global seaborne crude oil – around 30% – along with a significant volume of LNG, passes through its Straits of Hormuz, making it the most important maritime oil chokepoint which connects the Gulf states with key global markets in the East and the West
  • The International Energy Agency (IEA) sees that the world can reach net-zero emissions by 2060, wherein 75% of reduction comes from energy efficiency and renewable energy, with another 14% from carbon capture and storage, 6% from nuclear and 5% from fuel switching. In this context, the fossil fuels’ share of the global energy mix falls from 82% in 2014 to 35% in 2060 under the 2°C scenario, or to 26% in the below 2°C scenario.
  • Renewable technologies and batteries require certain minerals for their production, such as cobalt, lithium, nickel and rare earth elements. Despite the fact that renewable endowments for wind, solar, geothermal and biomass are scattered geographically, controlling the production of these new commodities will have major geopolitical consequences as they are based only in a selected number of countries such as Chile, Bolivia, Mongolia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
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  • At present, China dominates the world’s investment and innovation in renewable energy technologies.
  • the importance of the Gulf Arab states will be eroded not only because of the decline in global demand for oil but also because Gulf countries are not rich in the minerals required to build renewable energy technologies, and are highly dependent on technology imports rather than in-house technology innovation and research and development
  • all hydrocarbon producer economies will see a fall in total rent of about 40% by 2040 compared with the ‘golden years’ of 2010-14 due to rigorous policies on fuel switching and efficiency to reach net-zero emissions in the second half of this century
  • In 2013, R&D investment in Gulf countries averaged 0.3% of the gross domestic product (GDP), compared with 2%–3% in industrialized countries. The 0.3% figure is far less than the minimum percentage (1%) needed for an effective science and technology base specified by UNESCO.
  • in the new energy era, the Gulf Arab states are still advantaged by their geographical location. These countries are specially positioned for harnessing wind and solar energy
Ed Webb

Lawsuit over Washington violence looms over US-Turkey relations - 0 views

  • Yasa found himself semi-conscious in hospital along with nine other protesters after Erdogan’s bodyguards and thugs for hire set upon them. One yelled “Die Kurd” as they kicked and struck the demonstrators with discernible glee. Lucy Usoyan, a young Yazidi woman who was repeatedly hit on the head, fell unconscious, despite Yasa’s best efforts to shield her. The images captured on video and later subjected to forensic scrutiny leave no doubt as to what had transpired. “I didn’t know if I would ever see my children again,” Yasa said. “I thought I was dying.”
  • In May, Yasa and a dozen and a half fellow victims filed a civil action lawsuit in US federal court against Turkey. They are demanding at least $300 million in compensation on multiple counts ranging from bodily harm to psychological trauma — including, in at least one case, damage to conjugal relations.
  • the tort case against the Republic of Turkey rests on the Foreign Sovereignties Immunity Act, which stipulates seven violations for which foreign governments can be sued in US courts. “I’d love to see Turkey argue that under US law, ‘We are entitled to beat up people on the streets of Washington, DC,'” Perles said. “No dictator gets to come to my country and beat up citizens of my country on my watch. I’ll take that argument all the way to the Supreme Court.”
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  • Turkey has breezily denied any wrongdoing, branding the protesters as “terrorists” and the actions of its security forces as “self-defense.” Its reaction to the legal case so far has been to act as if it doesn’t exist. Turkey’s toothless media, which is almost fully controlled by Erdogan’s business cronies, has followed suit.
  • In November 2017, federal prosecutors dismissed charges against seven members of Erdogan’s security detail who had been indicted by a federal grand jury that July on a slew of charges, including aggravated assault, conspiracy and hate crimes. Although the men had already left the country, the warrants seemed to carry a powerful message that foreign agents could not act with impunity on US soil. Then in February 2018, the cases against four others were quietly dropped, leaving only four guards on the hook.
  • a strong whiff of diplomatic appeasement hung in the air. The Trump administration was trying to secure the release of North Carolina pastor Andrew Brunson and to calm Turkish fury over its continued support for the Syrian Kurdish militia known as the People’s Protection Units (YPG)
  • The first hearing of what will be a bench trial could be held as early as June depending on when the US Embassy in Ankara formally relays the summons. A State Department official speaking on condition of anonymity declined to confirm whether that had happened yet, but acknowledged that US law requires it. “The US government makes no judgment on the merits of the litigation in question, or whether Turkey enjoys immunity from suit, which is a question to be decided by the courts,”
  • if the Turkish government does not acknowledge service within 60 days of the delivery of the summons by a US diplomat, “a federal judge will proceed without Turkey at that moment.”
  • Turkey has allegedly resorted to bullying relatives of the plaintiffs who are in Turkey in hopes of getting them to drop the lawsuits. Several have filed as “John Does” precisely to avoid such harassment. One of them told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity that police had hauled in family members for interrogation, but declined to provide details for fear their identity may be revealed. Three other victims approached by Al-Monitor declined to speak, even off the record.
  • Clobbering dissidents in foreign countries is not a uniquely Turkish habit. In January 2018, a federal judge ruled that the Democratic Republic of Congo had to fork over more than $500,000 to three protesters who were savagely attacked by the security detail of President Joseph Kabila Kabange outside the luxury Georgetown hotel where he was staying. Much like Erdogan’s security detail, the Congolese security officers flew out of the United States within hours of the incident. One of the protesters, Jacques Miango, who was kicked in the throat, the face and the spine, shared Yasa’s disbelief that such violence could unfold in the heart of Washington. “You imagine that those kinds of things can’t happen in America,” Miango told The Washington Post. “But after it happened to me, I know nothing is impossible.”
  • In the unlikely event that Erdogan were to resume peace talks with imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan, Yasa said he would withdraw the case “without a second thought.”
  • “Peace is what we were demonstrating for in Sheridan Circle,” Yasa said. “And if peace were the outcome, our suffering will not have been in vain.”
Ed Webb

DoD Unprepared For The Global War On Terror's Next Front: Africa - 1 views

  • It appears that Africa will almost certainly become the next major front in the Global War on Terror. According to Congressional Research Service Africa analyst Lauren Ploch, the return of foreign fighters from Iraq and Syria to their home countries in Africa will pose a huge problem for DoD. Tunisia has the highest recorded number of foreign fighters who have traveled to Iraq and Syria ever; Libya’s weak borders and milieu of non-state armed actors make it an appealing safe haven for ISIS escapees; in the Lake Chad Basin, Boko Haram has split into two factions aligned with ISIS and al Qaeda, respectively; Somalia remains fertile ground for al Shabaab terror recruits; even Egypt may reach the limit of its security capabilities in responding to cascading regional threats.
  • U.S. involvement in the Saudi military intervention in Yemen has plunged the Pentagon into two distinct engagements: one in support of the Saudis, and one against al Qaeda and ISIS. These tensions are most pronounced not in the Lake Chad Basin, according to Ploch, but the Horn of Africa and countries bordering the Red Sea that are subject to the overlapping geopolitical rivalries the Trump administration detailed in its National Defense Strategy.
  • “Waterfront property in the African countries along the Red Sea seems to be an increasingly hot commodity: The U.S. and France have had military facilities in Djibouti for over a decade, but the country is getting increasingly crowded. China just opened a base and Saudi Arabia is in talks for one.”
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  • “Fragile states, governments not in control of their territory …  People can set up camp and do whatever they want. Nothing will change in Libya or Somalia or parts of the Sahel like Mali or Niger. There are terror groups operations there that aren’t even connected to international terror … who we used to go in and target in places like the eastern Congo. We’re not doing those things. There’s no appetite for that.”
  • “In terms of AFRICOM’s ‘bread and butter’ activities — namely security cooperation — it is still somewhat unclear how DoD and the [Trump] administration will prioritize limited resources; AFRICOM’s security cooperation spending was down in 2017 from the previous few years.”
  • These training missions “are five guys deploying to a country they’ve never heard of and trying to professionalize military justice, or even just get troops to walk in a straight line,” she told Task & Purpose. “[AFRICOM] was given an impossible task and no money to do it, and they have to deal with lots of people who like to operate without oversight and take advantage of this. It is not their fault.”
  • ‘training and equipping’ — or more often ‘equipping and training’ — isn’t enough,”
Ed Webb

Erasing people through disinformation: Syria and the "anti-imperialism" of fools | AlJu... - 0 views

  • sought to align themselves with a long and venerable tradition of internal domestic opposition to the abuses of imperial power abroad, not only but quite often issuing from the left. But they do not rightfully belong in that company. No one who explicitly or implicitly aligns themselves with the malignant Assad government does. No one who selectively and opportunistically deploys charges of “imperialism” for reasons of their particular version of “left” politics rather than opposing it consistently in principle across the globe—thereby acknowledging the imperialist interventionism of Russia, Iran, and China—does.
  • The evidence that US power has itself been appallingly destructive, especially during the Cold War, is overwhelming. All across the globe, from Vietnam to Indonesia to Iran to Congo to South and Central America and beyond, the record of massive human rights abuses accumulated in the name of fighting Communism is clear. In the post-Cold War period of the so-called “War on Terror,” American interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq have done nothing to suggest a fundamental national change of heart. But America is not central to what has happened in Syria, despite what these people claim. The idea that it somehow is, all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding, is a by-product of a provincial political culture which insists on both the centrality of US power globally as well as the imperialist right to identify who the “good guys” and the “bad guys” are in any given context.
  • erasure of Syrian lives and experiences embodies the very essence of imperialist (and racist) privilege. These writers and bloggers have shown no awareness of the Syrians, including signatories to this letter, who risked their lives opposing the regime, who have been incarcerated in the Assads’ torture prisons (some for many years), lost loved ones, had friends and family forcibly disappeared, fled their country—even though many Syrians have been writing and speaking about these experiences for many years.
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  • Syrians who directly opposed the Assad regime, often at great cost, did not do so because of some Western imperialist plot, but because decades of abuse, brutality, and corruption were and remain intolerable. To insist otherwise, and support Assad, is to attempt to strip Syrians of all political agency and endorse the Assads’ longstanding policy of domestic politicide, which has deprived Syrians of any meaningful say in their government and circumstances.
  • the “anti-imperialism” and “leftism” of the unprincipled, of the lazy, and of fools
  • reinforces the dysfunctional international gridlock exhibited in the UN Security Council
Ed Webb

Egypt praises China's 'remarkable rights achievements' despite Uyghur crackdown - Middl... - 0 views

  • Egypt, an ally of China, has backed a Belarus text that praises Beijing for “remarkable achievements in the field of human rights” despite increasing condemnation for its treatment of the Uyghurs in the northwest region of Xinjiang where thousands are being held in internment camps.
  • In August a letter outlining the support of 37 mainly Muslim majority countries for China’s crackdown on Uyghurs as a necessary counter-terror measure ignited outrage.
  • On Tuesday, 23 nations backed a British statement condemning Beijing’s human rights record, but it was countered by 54 other countries including Pakistan, Russia, Bolivia, Serbia and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
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  • The Chinese government is leaning on countries wishing to move closer to Beijing to arrest and hand over Uyghurs. Uyghurs in Morocco, the UAE and Pakistan have all faced deportation back to China.
  • Two years ago Egypt security forces raided houses where Uyghurs were living and sent them to the Chinese embassy in Egypt.
Ed Webb

The Ukraine War: A Global Crisis? | Crisis Group - 0 views

  • The Ukraine conflict may be a matter of global concern, but states’ responses to it continue to be conditioned by internal political debates and foreign policy priorities.
  • China has hewed to a non-position on Russian aggression – neither condemning nor supporting the act, and declining to label it as an invasion – while lamenting the current situation as “something we do not want to see”. With an eye to the West, Beijing abstained on rather than vetoing a Security Council resolution calling on Russia to withdraw from Ukraine, and reports indicate that two major Chinese state banks are restricting financing for Russian commodities. Beijing now emphasises the principles of territorial integrity and sovereignty in its statements, a point that had either been absent from earlier statements or more ambiguously discussed as “principles of the UN Charter”.
  • the worldview that major powers can and do occasionally break the rules
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  • Beijing’s opposition to U.S. coalition building and expansion of military cooperation with Indo-Pacific countries. Overall, Beijing’s instinct is to understand the Ukraine crisis largely through the lens of its confrontation with Washington.
  • Beijing will want to ensure its position is not overly exposed to Western criticism and to safeguard its moral standing in the eyes of developing countries
  • When Russia invaded Ukraine, India immediately came under the spotlight as at once a consequential friend of Moscow and a country traditionally keen to portray itself as the world’s largest democracy and a champion of peace. The U.S. and European countries pressured India not to side with Moscow and the Ukrainian ambassador in New Delhi pleaded for India to halt its political support for Russia. Yet under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, India has responded to the invasion with the blunt realism of a rising, aspirational power that does not want to get caught between Russia and what Modi calls the “NATO group”. India chose the well-trodden non-alignment path and hid behind diplomatic language with a not-so-subtle tilt toward Russia.
  • “military-technical cooperation”, which has resulted in more than 60 per cent of India’s arms and defence systems being of Russian origin
  • India also depends on Russia to counterbalance China, which has become its primary security and foreign policy concern, especially given its unresolved border tensions with Beijing. With Pakistan, India’s main rival, already close to China and cosying up to Russia, India’s worst fear is that China, Pakistan and Russia will come together
  • Relations with Washington are already strained largely because of Islamabad’s seemingly unconditional support for the Afghan Taliban. To give his government diplomatic space, Khan has sought to forge closer ties with Moscow. Those efforts could not have come at a less opportune time.
  • Khan returned home with little to show from the trip, the first by a Pakistani prime minister in over two decades. He signed no agreements or memoranda of understanding with his Russian counterpart. Widening Western sanctions on Russia have also sunk Pakistani hopes of energy cooperation with Moscow, casting particular doubt on the fate of a proposed multi-billion-dollar gas pipeline project.
  • In contrast to Russia, with which Pakistan’s commerce is miniscule, the U.S. and EU states are its main trading partners. The war in Ukraine could further undermine Pakistan’s economy. The rise in global fuel prices is already fuelling record-high inflation and putting food security at risk, since before the invasion Ukraine provided Pakistan with more than 39 per cent of its wheat imports. With a trade deficit estimated by one analyst at around $40 billion, Islamabad’s reliance on external sources of funding will inevitably grow. A Russia under heavy sanctions will be in no position to assist. In such a scenario, Pakistan’s powerful military, which Khan depends on for his own political survival, could question his foreign posture.
  • The Gulf Arab countries have so far adopted an ambiguous position on the Russian aggression in Ukraine. As close U.S. partners that also have increasing ties to Russia, they sit between a rock and a hard place, unwilling to openly antagonise either side. They have landed in this conundrum because of what they perceive as a growing U.S. withdrawal from the Middle East. In response, they embarked on an effort to diversify their security relations, moving away from sole reliance on Washington. Russia is one of these new partners.
  • No Gulf power wants to give the impression of siding with the Kremlin, for fear of aggravating the U.S. – their primary security guarantor. But as international support for Ukraine and anger at those seen to support (or at least not publicly oppose) Russia grows, the damage may already have been done: the U.S. and its European allies were appalled at the Gulf states’ reticence to get in line with immediate condemnations of the Russian invasion
  • despite Iran’s own experience of losing large swaths of territory to Czarist Russia in the nineteenth century and facing Soviet occupation during and immediately after World War II, the Islamic Republic today can claim few major allies beyond Russia. Tehran sees few upsides in breaking ranks with Moscow. In comparison to the possible results of provoking the Kremlin with anything less than fulsome support, the diplomatic opprobrium it may receive from the U.S. and Europe is of little consequence.
  • Israel has substantive relations with both Russia and Ukraine: Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has spoken to both Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy since the war began, and has offered to act as mediator; Israel sees itself as, in effect, sharing a border with Russia to its north east in Syria, relying on Putin’s continued tacit approval of its airstrikes on Iranian targets there; large Jewish and Israeli populations reside in both Russia and Ukraine and over 1.5 million Russian and Ukrainian expatriates live in Israel; and Israel is a major U.S. ally and beneficiary that identifies with the Western “liberal democratic order”.
  • concerned that the fallout from the war could lead Putin to increase arms sales to anti-Western proxies along its borders, chiefly Syria and Hizbollah in Lebanon, or step up electronic measures to disrupt NATO operations in the Mediterranean Sea, affecting Israel’s own navigation systems. Thus far, Russia has assured Israel that it will continue coordination on Syria, though reiterating that it does not recognise Israeli sovereignty in the Golan Heights, which Israel occupied in 1967 and later annexed
  • Israel has offered humanitarian aid to Ukraine but has refused to sell it arms or provide it with military assistance.
  • President Zelenskyy is the only elected Jewish head of state outside Israel. He lost family in the Holocaust. As such, Israel’s silence on Putin’s antisemitic rhetoric, such as his claim to be “denazifying” Ukraine with the invasion, is noteworthy. That said, Israel has some track record – vis-à-vis Hungary and Poland, for example – of placing what its leaders view as national security or foreign relations concerns above taking a strong stand against antisemitism.
  • Since the invasion began, Bolsonaro’s affinities with Moscow have exposed the divisions within his hard-right government. From the outset, Brazil’s foreign ministry has vowed to maintain a position of neutrality, urging a diplomatic solution. But a day after the invasion, Hamilton Mourão, the vice president and a retired army general, said “there must be a real use of force to support Ukraine”, arguing that “if the Western countries let Ukraine fall, then it will be Bulgaria, then the Baltic states and so on”, drawing an analogy to the conquests of Nazi Germany. Hours later, Bolsonaro said only he could speak about the crisis, declaring that Mourão had no authority to comment on the issue.
  • Since 2014, Turkish defence companies have been increasingly engaged in Ukraine, and in 2019 they sold the country drones that Ukrainians see as significant in slowing the Russian advance.
  • On 27 February, Ankara announced that it would block warships from Russia and other littoral states from entering the Black Sea via the Bosporus and Dardanelles Straits as long as the war continues, in line with the Montreux Convention (though Russian vessels normally based in Black Sea ports are exempt from the restriction, under the convention’s terms). But it also requested other states, implicitly including NATO members, to avoid sending their ships through the straits, in an apparent effort to limit the risks of escalation and maintain a balanced approach to the conflict.
  • Some fear, for instance, that Russia and its Syrian regime ally will ratchet up pressure on Idlib, the rebel-held enclave in Syria’s north west, forcing large numbers of refugees into Turkey, from where they might try to proceed to Europe. This worry persists though it is unclear that Russia would want to heat up the Syrian front while facing resilient Ukrainian resistance.
  • A prolonged war will only exacerbate Turkey’s security and economic concerns, and if Russia consolidates control of Ukraine’s coastline, it will also deal a significant blow to Turkey in terms of the naval balance of power in the Black Sea. It is likely that Turkey will draw closer to NATO as a result of this war, and less likely that Turkey will buy a second batch of S-400 surface-to-air missiles from Russia
  • Kenya, currently a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council, has taken a more strident stance in opposition to Russia’s invasion than most non-NATO members of the Council. This position springs in part from the country’s history. Nairobi was one of the strongest supporters of a founding principle of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) prescribing respect for territorial integrity and the inviolability of member states’ colonial-era borders.
  • As in many African countries, a deep current of public opinion is critical of Western behaviour in the post-Cold War era, emphasising the disastrous interventions in Iraq and Libya, as well as the double standards that many Kenyans perceive in Washington’s democracy promotion on the continent.
  • What Nairobi saw as Washington’s endorsement of the 2013 coup in Egypt particularly rankled Kenyan authorities, who took an especially vocal public position against that putsch
  • Kenya will also push for the strengthening of multilateralism in Africa to confront what many expect to be difficult days ahead in the international arena. “We are entering an age of global disorder”, Peter Kagwanja, a political scientist and adviser to successive Kenyan presidents, told Crisis Group. “The African Union must band together or we will all hang separately”.
  • longstanding solidarity between South Africa and Russia. In the Soviet era, Moscow offered South Africans support in the anti-apartheid struggle and actively backed liberation movements across southern Africa.
  • Although just over half of African states backed the UN General Assembly resolution on Ukraine, many governments in the region have responded to the war with caution. Few have voiced open support for Russia, with the exception of Eritrea. But many have avoided taking strong public positions on the crisis, and some have explicitly declared themselves neutral.
  • Ghana, which joined the UN Security Council in January, has consistently backed the government in Kyiv. The West African bloc, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), released a statement condemning Russia’s actions. Nonetheless, not all ECOWAS members voted for the General Assembly resolution. Mali, which has drawn closer to Russia as France pulled its military forces out of the country, abstained. Burkina Faso did not vote, perhaps reflecting the fact that Russia watered down a Security Council statement condemning the January coup in Ouagadougou.
  • Russia has many friends in Africa due in part to the Soviet Union’s support for liberation movements during the anti-colonial and anti-apartheid struggles. Many also appreciated Moscow’s strident opposition to the more recent disastrous Western interventions in Iraq and Libya. Furthermore, a number of African leaders studied in the Soviet Union or Eastern Bloc countries and Moscow has done a good job of maintaining these ties over the years. Numerous African security figures also received their training in Russia.
  • African leaders and elites generally oppose sanctions, seeing them as blunt tools that tend to punish the general population more than national leaders. In the meantime, African officials are concerned that the war will have a deleterious impact on the continent’s economies and food security, both by driving up energy prices and by restricting grain supplies from Russia and Ukraine (a particular concern after a period of poor rainfall and weak harvests in parts of the continent). These shocks are liable to be severe in African countries that are still only beginning to recover from the downturn prompted by COVID-19, although oil producers such as Nigeria, Congo and Equatorial Guinea may benefit from a hike in energy prices.
  • The Ukraine conflict is a major problem for Turkey. It threatens not only to damage Ankara’s relations with Moscow, but also to hurt the Turkish economy, pushing up energy costs and stopping Russian and Ukrainian tourists from visiting Turkey. Some analysts estimate that a decline in tourism could mean up to $6 billion in lost revenue.
  • Calls for neutrality nevertheless enjoy traction in Brazil. Within the government, there is concern that Western sanctions against Moscow will harm the economy, in particular its agricultural sector, which relies heavily on imports of Russian-made fertilisers. Brazil’s soya production, one of the country’s main sources of income, would suffer considerably from a sanctioned Russia.
  • Mexico depends on the U.S for its natural gas supply, and the prospect of rising prices is spurring the government to consider other means of generating electricity
  • Relations between Russia and Venezuela flourished under the late president, Hugo Chávez, who set the relationship with Washington on an antagonistic course. Under Maduro, Venezuela’s links to Russia have intensified, especially through the provision of technical military assistance as well as diplomatic backing from Moscow after Maduro faced a major challenge from the U.S.-linked opposition in early 2019.
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