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Ed Webb

French report grapples with nuclear fallout from Algerian War - Bulletin of the Atomic ... - 2 views

  • In January, the French historian Benjamin Stora filed a report commissioned by the French President Emmanuel Macron aimed at “reconciliation of memories between France and Algeria,” which France ruled as the jewel of its colonial empire for more than 130 years. The Stora Report addressed several scars from the Algerian War for Independence (1954–62), a bloody struggle for decolonization that met savage repression by French troops. One of these controversies stems from French use of the Algerian Sahara for nuclear weapons development.
  • Between 1960 and 1966, France detonated 17 nuclear devices in the Algerian Sahara: four atmospheric explosions during the Algerian War, and another 13 underground, most of these after Algerian Independence
  • radioactive fallout from the Algerian War has remained a thorn between the two nations
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  • Disagreement between France and Algeria about the future of nuclear test sites in the Sahara was one reason why the first round of peace talks at Evian, Switzerland, broke down in June 1961
  • The concern was not only for contested territory in Algeria, but also for independent states bordering the desert, whose leaders warned that nuclear fallout could cross their national borders. Radiation measurements taken in the wake of Gerboise bleue proved many of them right.
  • France would not, until 1999, call the bloodshed a war, preferring the line that what happened in Algeria, as part of France, amounted to a domestic dispute, rather than UN business. Macron became, in 2018, the first French president to acknowledge “systemic torture” by French troops in Algeria.
  • The US State Department worried that French attachment to the test sites might thwart the decolonization process.
  • The Evian Accords marked a nuclear compromise. Finally signed in March 1962, the landmark treaty granted France a five-year lease to the Saharan test sites but did not specify terms of use.
  • The Hoggar Massif shook 13 times before France handed over its two Saharan test sites to Algeria in 1967. An accident occurred during one of these underground blasts, dubbed Béryl, when containment measures failed. Several French soldiers and two high-ranking French officials suffered the highest radiation exposures, but roughly 240 members of “nomadic populations” in the region received lower doses.
  • France began construction on its Pacific test range in French Polynesia, the site of nearly 200 nuclear explosions between 1966 and 1996. Most took place underground, but France also conducted atmospheric detonations in Polynesia, and these continued into the 1970s. Even though the Limited Test Ban Treaty had gone into effect in 1963—prohibiting nuclear blasts in the atmosphere, underwater, and in outer space—France refused to sign it.
  • Compensation programs map a global history of colonial empire, racial discrimination, and dispossession of indigenous land, but postcolonial inequalities look particularly stark from the Sahara. Including appeals, France has granted 545 of 1,739 total requests filed by French soldiers and civilian participants in the nuclear detonations, as well as exposed populations in Algeria and Polynesia. Only 1 of 52 Algerian dossiers has proven successful.
  • Macron could declassify archival materials documenting the intensity and scope of radioactive fallout generated by French nuclear blasts. Draconian interpretations of French statutes on the reach of military secrecy continue to block access to the vast majority of military, civil, and diplomatic collections on France’s nuclear weapons program—including radiation effects. Foreign archives have provided useful information, but official documentation from the French government would help exposed populations—like those in the Sahara—understand what happened, evaluate the risks, bolster their claims, and likely find these more successful.
Ed Webb

Macron's Algeria Report Isn't Progress, It's a Whitewash. - Foreign Policy - 0 views

  • President Emmanuel Macron’s administration has just released a new report on the memory of colonization and the Algerian War, firmly placing the presidential seal of approval on a woefully one-sided document.
  • The report is already hugely controversial because of what it has failed to recommend: an apology. Despite losing the jewel in their empire following more than a century of lethal subjugation, including nonstop crimes against humanity, the French apparently do not think they were barbaric enough to show any contrition.
  • Introducing the new 146-page document, a spokesman for Macron was adamant that there would be “no repentance, nor apologies.” The express political purpose of this statement was ostensibly to prevent history being used to open up further division. But in reality, it allows France to evade responsibility.
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  • The profile of the Macron-appointed author of the report gives a clue as to why it is so one-sided. Historian Benjamin Stora is an academic based in Paris, not Algiers. Moreover, he comes from a family that fled Algeria along with hundreds of thousands of European colonists in 1962. Like almost all the one million settlers of European origin, who were known as pieds–noirs (Black Feet), Stora’s family was ultimately displaced by members of the indigenous Arab Muslim and Berber communities who continue to inhabit Algeria to this day.
  • This caricature goes back to the early days of colonization, when Arab Muslims were considered morally inferior to Christians.
  • in the introduction to his supposedly historical inquiry, Stora focuses not on colonial-era savagery, but on the brutal recent attacks carried out in France by Islamist terrorists. He specifically refers to heinous crimes that are wholly unrelated to Algeria, including the beheading of a schoolteacher by a Russian passport-holder in a Paris suburb, and three killings of Roman Catholic churchgoers by a Tunisian immigrant in the southern city of Nice.
  • What Stora is doing is echoing a contentious Macron speech on what the president calls Islamist “separatism” from last October, in which he spoke about “the traumas” of France’s “colonial past”—and particularly the Algerian War—“feeding unspoken resentments,” which allegedly radicalize youths and lead to terrorist attacks.
  • Macron considered Stora to be the right scholar to shed light on a vexed subject that still affects those living in the largest country in Africa by land mass, and their diaspora, which is estimated at about 800,000 in France.
  • an unrelenting conflict that became a full-blown war in 1954. Algerians estimate that it claimed 1.5 million of their citizens, including those fighting with the FLN, or National Liberation Front. The dead included men, women, and children who were indiscriminately obliterated by French carpet-bombing.
  • Of the 1.5 million military personnel mobilized throughout the War, the French lost some 25,000 soldiers, as well as up to 3,000 pieds-noirs militias and as many as 150,000 Harkis (Algerians who collaborated with the colonizers).
  • Colonial repression tactics were imported from Algeria to mainland France when up to 300 Algerian men taking part in a peaceful pro-independence demonstration were shot, beaten up, and tortured to death or drowned in the Seine in Paris, many in full public view, by police on one night—on Oct. 17, 1961. Scores of lifeless bodies washed up for weeks afterwards.
  • Up until 1999, the French government was still calling the war itself “operations to maintain order” or merely “the events.” The problem, therefore, is acknowledging the evidence that exists, rather than “finding” it. The French have the complete archives, but object to full disclosure.
  • The Algerian government has asked Abdelmadjid Chikhi, the director general of the National Centre of Algerian Archives, to conduct his own inquiry alongside Stora and wants the restitution of their entire colonial archives from Paris.
  • Much of the opposition to rigorous research comes from those with a background in the Front National (FN), the far-right party founded by Jean-Marie Le Pen, an Algerian War veteran who was linked to acts of torture and who is now a convicted racist and Holocaust denier.
  • Le Pen’s early political goal was to lobby on behalf of the hugely bitter pieds-noirs class who had swapped their colonial lifestyles for far more modest ones in mainland France. Such far-right nostalgists now rally behind Le Pen’s daughter, Marine Le Pen. She renamed the FN the Rassemblement National (RN), but it has lost none of its antipathy toward Algerians.
  • The toothless Stora report feigns an interest in justice while whitewashing colonial crimes; it shows Macron is doing everything to try to win over Le Pen supporters
Ed Webb

France warns U.S. against pulling troops from fight against Islamists in Africa's Sahel... - 0 views

  • France delivered a stern warning on Monday against possible U.S. troop cuts in West Africa, where groups linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State are expanding their foothold.
  • The possibility of cuts has alarmed France, which relies on U.S. intelligence and logistics for its 4,500-strong mission in the Sahel. The deaths of 13 French soldiers in a helicopter crash during a combat mission in Mali in November increased France’s determination to secure more support in the zone. France believes it is time to increase, not ease, pressure on militants to prevent “Islamic State from rebuilding in the Sahel,” a senior French defense ministry official told Reuters.
  • “Any withdrawal or reduction would likely result in a surge in violent extremist attacks on the continent and beyond,” Republican Senator Lindsey Graham and Democrat Chris Coons wrote in a letter to Esper this month
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  • Over the past year, militants have stepped up attacks in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger
  • France said this month it would deploy 220 additional troops to the region, despite rising anti-French sentiment in some countries and criticism at home that its forces are bogged down
Ed Webb

Algeria closes airspace to French military, French army says, as row grows | Reuters - 0 views

  • Algeria has closed its airspace to French military planes, France's military said on Sunday, escalating the biggest row between the countries in years.
  • On Saturday, Algeria recalled its ambassador to Paris citing comments attributed to French President Emmanuel Macron, who was quoted in Le Monde as saying Algeria's "politico-military system" had rewritten the history of its colonisation by France based on "a hatred of France".
  • Macron was also quoted questioning whether there had been an Algerian nation before French colonial rule
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  • A source in the Algerian government said the comment about Algeria's existence as a nation had caused particular anger.Algeria's ruling elite since independence has been largely drawn from veterans of its war of liberation from France.
  • "We understand Macron is on campaign and that he wants to get far-right support by all means, such as insulting Algeria's history... This is unacceptable to us," a former Algerian minister said. Frances holds a presidential election next April.
  • on top of strains last week when France said it would slash the number of visas available to citizens of Maghreb countries - drawing a formal protest from Algeria
Ed Webb

Turkish-French spring may end early due to new bill over 'genocide' denial - 1 views

  • “Turkey is aware of the relations between the Socialist Party and the Armenian lobby in France. Therefore, Turkey didn’t think that the Armenian claims in France would end with the election of Hollande,”
  • Turkish-French ties deteriorated sharply during Sarkozy’s rule, not only because of the genocide debate but also due to the former French leader’s outspoken opposition to Turkish membership in the EU. Thus, his election defeat in June opened the door for a new era between France and Turkey, with Ankara praising the new administration’s willingness to restore ties. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan met with Hollande on the sidelines of a UN meeting in Brazil, when the two leaders agreed to turn a “new page” in relations. “Turkey was hopeful of Hollande because the newly elected French president was positive towards Turkey-EU relations. If Hollande brings up the genocide issue as a factor that would affect Turkey’s relations with the EU, then not only would Turkey’s relations with France be affected, but also its relations with the EU would be affected,”
Ed Webb

Who are Chad's FACT rebels and what are their goals? | Conflict News | Al Jazeera - 0 views

  • the spectre of a new and potentially violent power struggle in Chad, which has endured successive rebellions since independence from France in 1960. Deby himself took power spearheading a 1990 rebellion that overthrew authoritarian leader Hissene Habre, and later faced the same threat of being overthrown – rebel forces reached the capital in 2006 and 2008, before they were forced to withdraw, and came close again in 2019.
  • In 2015, Nouri, who was also in exile in France but prevented to travel by his uncertain status and old age, sent Mahadi to Libya to retake control over the UFDD fighters there, at the demands of the Misratis. At that time, Libya was engulfed in the civil war between the Misrati-backed “Libya Dawn” coalition in the west and the “Dignity” operation under Khalifa Haftar in the east – a situation that saw Chadians become mercenaries for both sides.
  • In 2017, as Haftar’s eastern-based forces took over Jufra – where the FACT was based – from Misratan forces, the FACT did not withdraw from the area. Instead, it made a tacit non-aggression pact with Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA). The FACT at the time appeared stuck, since Haftar was known as a close ally of both Chad and France. However, it seems that it has gradually managed to get important military support from Haftar.
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  • Like other Chadian rebels, the FACT’s goal has been to topple Deby. It derives most of its support from members of Mahadi’s tribe, the Goran – but not from all of them, since there are internal conflicts. Mahadi had also been fighting in Chad’s Tibesti region alongside Tubu rebels, and this has earned him support among the Tubu.
  • With Haftar also being backed by Russia, there have been rumours that the rebels were trained by Russian military contractor Wagner. There has been, however, no evidence that either Wagner or Haftar equipped the rebels to fight outside Libya. Still, questions are raised.
  • They reportedly deployed 400-450 cars with heavy military equipment, which surprised the Chadian army, even though the Chadian army has until now been able to repel the attack.
  • the fact the rebels were able to cross from Libya into Chad with all the equipment given over the years by Haftar, raises questions about Haftar’s loyalties, or at least his ability to control the foreign forces he has been hosting and backing.
  • Since Deby’s death, the FACT is likely to get more popular support among other rebel groups as well as in the wider Chadian population, but this will also depend on how much the movement succeeds in appearing to fight for more than one tribe, or ends up getting involved in tribal feuds.
  • Mahamat Deby, also known as Mahamat “Kaka”, is a general in his thirties. In recent years, he was commanding the General Direction of the Security Services of State Institutions (DGSSIE), or the elite guard under the presidency. Prior to this, he mostly earned his military reputation as deputy commander of the Chadian forces in Mali. This gave him, in spite of his young age, some legitimacy within the army. However, this does not mean that his new role at the transitional military council is unanimously backed by the Zaghawa tribe. But it does seem to have the support of France, in a missed opportunity to support a more inclusive, civilian-led transition.
Ed Webb

Implications of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb's New Leadership - Newlines Institute - 1 views

  • While al Qaeda does not recognize national borders or flags, AQIM recently has increasingly involved itself in local Algerian and Malian dynamics, with leaders appearing in front of national flags and publicly endorsing local causes
  • Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin (JNIM), the group that united several jihadist factions under the banner of AQIM to operate in Mali and the Sahel in 2017.
  • the recruitment reach of jihadist groups in the Sahel, which now goes beyond the ethnic Arab, Tuareg, and Fulani communities that mostly make up JNIM
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  • The sole survivor of the French raid is the driver, Boubacar Diallo (aka Abu Bakr al-Fulani), whose name was on the handwritten list of the prisoners whom JNIM demanded be released in return for the liberation of hostages Soumaïla Cissé and Sophie Pétronin. The list indicates that Diallo was in Malian intelligence services’ custody. (The author has confirmed that he was released.) That Diallo was driving the AQIM leader and JNIM’s media boss in the same car, and that he was on JNIM’s prisoner swap list, emphasizes the tight organizational and subordination links between JNIM and AQIM.
  • the group’s strategy of entrenching itself in local Malian politics appears to have borne fruit, exemplified by the ascension of Ag Ghali to head JNIM in 2017. Before becoming a jihadist, Ag Ghali was a respected political figure and Tuareg independence advocate in northern Mali. He has inspired respect among locals who see him as one of them, and his presence has helped JNIM (and thus AQIM) entrench itself in local Malian dynamics and gain the upper hand in its ongoing conflict against Islamic State militants in the region
  • the Groupe Salafiste pour la Prédication et le Combat (Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat) splintering off from the GIA in 1998. Less than a decade later, this group would vow allegiance to al Qaeda and rebrand itself as al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. The man who made that 2007 announcement was al-Annabi. Three years later, in 2010, al-Annabi was heading the Council of Notables, the most senior assembly that answers to and advises AQIM leadership. And three years after that, he was calling for jihad against France after French military involvement in northern Mali.
  • In early 2019, the author sent al-Annabi 12 questions, which he answered in a 52-minute-long audio compilation. It is a rare occasion for a senior al Qaeda representative to answer questions from Western media, indicating that al-Annabi is portraying himself as more of a political figure than an operational commander.
  • The first two questions were about the Algerian protest movement that began in February 2019, and al-Annabi dedicated more than half of the time answering them. He said the protests are “a natural continuation of the military struggle of AQIM,” which is in accordance with al Qaeda’s support for popular uprisings in the Arab world, such as Egypt and Tunisia. AQIM itself has halted operations in Algeria since the protests began, “to avoid undermining the uprising.”
  • Al-Annabi, whose birth name is Yazid M’barek, was born in 1969 in Annaba, a coastal town in eastern Algeria, according to his Interpol file. Though he has been designated as a terrorist by U.S. and European authorities since 2015, AQIM says he “joined jihad” in 1992 or 1993.It is improbable that he participated in the Afghan jihad or visited Afghanistan or Pakistan in those early years. Instead, he likely joined one of the many small, local groups active in his native region that orbited around the Groupe Islamique Armé (GIA), which claimed responsibility for several attacks, including hijacking an Air France commercial flight in 1994 and bombing the Saint Michel train station in Paris in 1995.
  • “JNIM is a non-dissociable part of AQIM, which in its turn is an non-dissociable part of al-Qaeda central. … Regarding the geographical reality and the military pressure on its leaders and commanders, al Qaeda had to adapt with flexible command and control, therefore giving general and strategic guidelines, and then tactically it is up to each branch to reach toward achieving those guidelines depending on their realities. … AQIM follows the same process of leadership regarding its activity in different African countries.”
  • “Our objectives are clear, fighting intruders and occupiers are legitimate in heavenly and earthly laws, so those who stay neutral will be spared.”
  • Mauritania, which kept open channels with AQIM and in return has not been attacked by AQIM since February 2011 despite being part of the G5 Sahel
  • The French campaign has weakened JNIM’s grip on Mali’s border region with Burkina Faso and Niger and prompted an Islamic State “comeback” offensive that resulted in the death of a JNIM field commander and led to a bloody confrontation between the militant groups in December. JNIM prevailed for the second time in that conflict, but a combination of pressure from Islamic State and French forces have left its manpower depleted.
  • Locals caught in the middle of the conflict between the Islamic State and JNIM are increasingly being forced to choose a side between local actors, all of which are committing human rights abuses. The Islamic State lacks significant local acceptance or political experience, while JNIM’s continued presence and the balance of fear it has imposed with government forces,  militias, and now the Islamic State in central Mali has made it a more palatable choice. The French strategy of seeking out high-value targets has contributed to disruptions in negotiations between the Islamic State and JNIM, contributing to the inflammation of the war between militant groups in the Sahel.
  • The growing influence of JNIM and AQIM in Mali has been the cause of France’s renewed efforts, but the French strategy could put its forces more at odds with locals in northern Mali who prefer JNIM to the Islamic State.
  • The French military and officials have maintained that France will not negotiate with terrorists, but they recently indicated they would not obstruct negotiations when led by local parties. 
  • in Niger, where some border-area communities are seeking the Islamic State’s help with local problems, including some within the same community, leading to bloody “conflict resolution.”
  • Today, a majority of Malians approve of talks with JNIM.
  • AQIM’s willingness to overlook personal and ethnic grievances to coalesce several distinct local groups under the JNIM banner has given it flexibility and resistance to military pressure, and the strategy has garnered praise from al Qaeda central – the same leadership that criticized Droukdel a decade earlier for being too compromising. We are witnessing a shift away from never-ending battles toward foreseeable political objectives in order to avoid repeating failed governing experiences in Somalia, Yemen, or even Syria. As the group shifted its focus from Algeria in order to survive, it also began to expand and can now be seen as a player in Western Africa. This shift happened under Droukdel with al-Annabi’s influence; it likely will continue now that al-Annabi is AQIM’s leader.
Ed Webb

France apologizes to Algerians who fought for colonizers - 1 views

  • French President Emmanuel Macron apologized Monday to Algerians who fought alongside French colonial forces in Algeria’s war for independence, and were then massacred and ostracized as traitors.In a solemn ceremony interrupted by the cries of one fighter’s daughter, Macron also promised a law guaranteeing reparations for the contingent known as the harkis. The distraught woman, who said she grew up in a camp where France sequestered harkis after the war, argued that the law wouldn’t go far enough to fix the damage.
  • Around 200,000 fought against fellow Algerians in the 1954-1962 war, and tens of thousands of harkis were killed after the French withdrawal.
  • It’s a difficult issue for Macron, who has sought to confront France’s colonial past — notably in Algeria, the most prized of France’s former overseas conquests. In Algeria, the harkis are widely seen as traitors, and wounds from the colonial era slice deep. Algerians today want their own apology from France for its actions during the war.
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  • Macron didn’t give details about the reparations for harkis. In 2018, his government promised 40 million euros for the harkis and their children via pensions and other aid, as an “indemnity.” His predecessor, Francois Hollande, acknowledged the state’s culpability toward the harkis in 2016, and then President Nicolas Sarkozy in 2012 recognized the state’s “failings.”
Ed Webb

Turkey pledges 15 million Covid vaccine doses for Africa in goodwill gesture - 0 views

  • Ankara has invested heavily in developing trade and diplomatic ties with the world's poorest continent during Erdogan's rule as prime minister and then president since 2003.Speaking to dozens of attending leaders and ministers, Erdogan said Turkey would ship 15 million Covid-19 vaccine doses to Africa, where cases are rapidly rising and vaccination rates are low.
  • Erdogan said Turkey wanted to strengthen relations with Africa in a wide range of areas including health, defence, energy, agriculture and technology.
  • Turkey and African countries agreed to strengthen cooperation in several fields, including health "through further health sector investments".
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  • Trade between Turkey and Africa has grown in the past 20 years from $5.4 billion to $25.3 billion (4.8 billion euros to 22.5 billion euros) last year.
  • Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the third Turkish-African summit -- by far the largest to date -- was being attended by 16 African heads of state and 102 ministers, including 26 top diplomats.
  • Erdogan also held one-on-one meetings with African heads of state, including Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, who have both expressed an interest in Turkey's defence industry.
Ed Webb

Tunisia has not 'fallen into hands of Islamists': Marzouki - Region - World - Ahram Online - 0 views

  • Marzouki was the first foreign leader to address the French assembly since 2006, as part of a three-day visit aimed at rebuilding Tunisia's ties with its former colonial master. Relations were strained by France's slow and confused response to the popular revolt, but in his speech Marzouki nonetheless expressed "gratitude" to France. "A fraction of official France supported the dictatorship," he said. "But the majority, the essential part of France... supported us as much as it could and accompanied us as far as possible until the tyrant fell," he said
Ed Webb

What is at stake in the eastern Mediterranean crisis? | Financial Times - 0 views

  • Competition over gas discoveries in the eastern Mediterranean has combined with bitter regional rivalries to fuel dangerous tensions between Turkey and its neighbours in recent months. Many fear this could lead to direct military confrontation between Turkey and Greece, as the two Nato members and their allies square up over control of the seas.
  • the Turkish Cypriot self-declared state is not recognised by the international community, which views the government on the Greek Cypriot side as the legitimate authority for the whole island. Cyprus was contentiously admitted to the EU in 2004
  • Turkey believes that the government that sits in southern Cyprus should not have the right to auction blocks of its surrounding seabed to international energy companies until Turkish Cypriots can share the benefits. But peace talks have failed multiple times in the past 45 years
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  • Turkey also believes its own southern coastline gives it economic rights in waters off Cyprus that Nicosia sees as part of its territory.
  • Most of the discoveries so far have been in the south-eastern portion of the region, close to Egypt, Israel and Cyprus’s southern coast. The areas where Turkey is drilling for gas do not yet have proven reserves.But work to assess and develop these prospects has largely been delayed this year because of the slump in energy prices during the coronavirus pandemic.
  • The development of gas resources in the eastern Mediterranean has forged some unlikely alliances. The EastMed Gas Forum, nicknamed “the Opec of Mediterranean gas” was formally established in Cairo this year. It brings together Egypt, Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Jordan, Greece, Cyprus and Italy, with the aim of establishing the region as a major energy hub
  • left Turkey isolated because of its tensions with many members, including Greece and Egypt, even as the forum has helped to forge common ground between Israel and a number of its neighbours.
  • Turkey backs the UN-endorsed Libyan government in Tripoli that has been fighting renegade general Khalifa Haftar, who has received support from nations including Russia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and France.
  • The second agreement demarcated a new sea boundary between Turkey and Libya, angering Greece and complicating plans for a future pipeline from Cyprus to Greece, via Crete, that could pipe gas to mainland Europe. As Turkey’s influence in Libya increased, countries such as the UAE and France have become increasingly vocal about the dispute in the east Mediterranean. Both nations dispatched forces to join recent military exercises held by Greece and Cyprus in a show of strength against Turkey.
  • Germany launched a mediation attempt between Athens and Ankara that stalled when Greece signed a new maritime deal with Egypt, angering Turkey. 
  • France is increasingly swinging towards the Greece-Cyprus position because of its own disputes with Turkey, particularly over Libya
Ed Webb

How a Lebanese company's role in shipping Turkish arms to Libya landed it in the crossh... - 0 views

  • The 40-year-old car carrier named Bana that plied the waters of the Mediterranean was unremarkable in almost all ways, except a dramatic one: the Lebanese-flagged vessel’s shipment of weapons from Turkey to Libya in January 2020 placed it squarely in a whirlwind of international intrigue
  • the European Union on Sept. 21 sanctioned the ship’s operator, Med Wave Shipping SA, a company that L’Orient Today has learned is owned by a Lebanese shipping magnate’s relative who ran for Parliament in 2018
  • Little is as it seems on the surface of the complex world of maritime shipping. A trail of documents, public statements and other information sheds light on the kaleidoscopic history of Med Wave Shipping SA and the Bana, one that is bookended by sanctions, marked by arms shipments and has passed through Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Libya and Italy.
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  • Med Wave Shipping SA’s formation was sparked by a controversial set of US sanctions. In October 2015, Washington designated Lebanese businessman Merhi Abou Merhi, several of his relatives and his portfolio of business holdings for alleged money laundering on behalf of a drug trafficker. Targeted in the sanctions, which were later lifted, was a vessel named the City of Misurata, later to change its name to Sham 1 and then finally to Bana. The US accused Abou Merhi of using the vessel to provide vehicle transportation services for Ayman Joumaa, an alleged Lebanese-Colombian drug kingpin.
  • the vessel made deliveries to Tobruk for groups affiliated with the Libyan National Army under the command of Khalifa Haftar in the eastern part of the war-torn country, according to UN investigators.A 2017 UN Security Council report detailing violations of the arms embargo in effect for Libya said that the Sham 1 delivered 300 Toyota pickups and armored Land Cruisers to Tobruk on Jan. 16 of that year before making another shipment on April 14.
  • the Bana, which was still registered to Med Wave Shipping SA at the time, left the Turkish port of Mersin for a journey ostensibly to Tunisia; however, it turned off its location transponder off the Libyan coast before calling to port in Tripoli, according to a forensic investigation by the BBC Africa Eye unit.
  • BBC Africa Eye confirmed that two Turkish Navy G-Class frigates escorted the Bana across the Mediterranean as it transported armored combat vehicles, self-propelled howitzers, cannons and an anti-aircraft gun to Tripoli. While the vessel had previously supplied forces allied with Haftar, on this trip, it delivered arms to the general’s rivals in Tripoli.
  • One of the Bana’s sailors told Italian police that 10 Turkish military and intelligence personnel guarded the weapons onboard the vessel on its trip from Mersin to Tripoli.
  • French President Emmanuel Macron referenced the shipment on Jan. 29 when he harshly criticized Turkey for what he called the country’s “broken promise” to stop sending military material to the Government of National Accord in Libya. France, meanwhile, has denied its backing of the Libyan National Army rivaling the GNA.
  • If implemented, these sanctions could target corruption among Lebanon’s elite. Given the multiplicity of their regional and international connections, the country’s poor data infrastructure and its strict banking secrecy law, the range of potential targets could be as deep as the sea.
Ed Webb

Is Tunisia Abandoning Morocco for Algeria? - 0 views

  • Power balances in North Africa are shifting. The latest indication that Algeria’s star is rising—along with European demand for its natural gas—as Moroccan influence wanes was all but confirmed by Tunisia’s decision to include the leader of the Western Sahara independence movement the Polisario Front in an investment conference, a move seemingly designed to ruffle feathers in Morocco.
  • For decades, Tunisia has looked on, maintaining its neutral stance as both sides jockeyed for dominance. However, by appearing to have unilaterally invited Brahim Ghali, the Polisario leader and president of the self-declared Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, to a conference it was holding in tandem with Japan, that neutrality has come into question. Moreover, for many observers, the invitation confirmed what many suspected: that Tunisia is growing increasingly close to Algeria, potentially at the expense of its historically close ties with Morocco, while Rabat’s relations with Japan, which Tunis enjoys a burgeoning relationship with, are cast into doubt.
  • His presence appeared to take many by surprise, not least Morocco, which swiftly issued furious missives of the “hurt” caused to the Moroccan people by Tunis’s action. Ambassadors were withdrawn by both countries while Morocco’s newspapers denounced Tunisia’s shortcomings.
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  • Saied and his foreign ministry claimed surprise at the reaction, citing a circular from the African Union, which extended the invitation to all leaders, including Ghali. A statement was issued by the foreign ministry, reaffirming the country’s total neutrality in line with international law, stating, “This position will not change until the concerned parties find a peaceful solution acceptable to all.”
  • Morocco’s King Mohammed VI used a televised address to send what he said was a clear message to the world, telling viewers, “The Sahara issue is the prism through which Morocco views its international environment.”
  • with European gas prices soaring, Algeria—Europe’s third-largest gas supplier (after Russia and Norway) and the Polisario Front’s chief backer—is also enjoying a diplomatic renaissance. European politicians and regional power brokers are all enjoying a renewed interest in Algiers, with Tunisia’s Saied among them
  • Tunis also relies on Algeria for its own gas, buying it at a discounted price, as well as receiving revenue for the transport of Algerian gas across its territory, bound for Sicily and then the rest of Europe.
  • “The war in Ukraine and its impacts on Europe in terms of gas supplies reposition Algeria as an important player in the western Mediterranean,”
  • The plight of the Sahrawis is one of the world’s longest-standing refugee crises. Since 1975, thousands of Sahrawis have been sheltering in the Algerian desert, waiting for the opportunity to return home.
  • the U.N. estimates that around 90,000 “vulnerable refugees” are sheltering in the desert, relying on international aid just for their daily food and shelter.
  • “Weather conditions are especially adverse in this part of southern Algeria, where temperatures in summer can reach up to more than of 50 degrees Celsius (120 degrees Fahrenheit), which causes casualties among the elderly, children, and pregnant women.”
  • with both Algeria and Morocco having relatively static leaderships, where there is little change in personnel, the dispute was allowed to rumble on
Ed Webb

The End of the Turkish-American 'Alliance' after the Failed Coup? - The New Turkey - 0 views

  • the identification of the Gülenists as the main culprit of the failed coup, and the United States as Gülen’s primary foreign sponsor, has quickly become the basis of a national consensus
  • The suspicion of a US-backed military coup has a reasonable basis in Turkish history, since many historians and intellectuals concur that the United States backed the 1960 and the 1980 military coups, as well as the military memorandum (de facto coup) of 1971 and the so-called post-modern coup of 1997.
  • Turkish-American relations have already suffered and are likely to suffer more in the near future as a result of the failed coup and the suspiciously anti-democratic US responses to the coup
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  • the breakup of the Turkish-American alliance, and Turkey’s realignment with one or several other great powers to balance against the United States, since the United States would then be reclassified as a hostile power for sheltering Gülen and the leading Gülenists, who are implicated in the failed coup plot. Moreover, the United States may even be designated as the foreign state sponsor of Gülenist terrorism against Turkey. Russia, Brazil, Iran, Saudi Arabia, China, Pakistan, and France are among the many middle or great powers with which Turkey has established amicable relations, at least for a limited time (in the case of Russia and Iran), under AK Party governments since 2002. Russia is the most likely and nearby great power with which Turkey may seek to build such a balancing coalition in the near future
  • a palpable pro-Russian reorientation after the coup
  • the Turkish pilots who shot down a Russian bomber aircraft in November 24, 2015, which brought Turkey and Russia to the brink of war, have been taken into custody as suspects in the Gülenist conspiracy
  • if a Turkish-Russian alliance was to be established, for example, the difference in bilateral military economic capabilities would not be as incomparable or as asymmetric as the difference in bilateral capabilities in the Turkish-American alliance
  • it is still more likely, for structural reasons and simple path dependence, that the Turkish-American alliance will persist after a lengthy and tortuous renegotiation, in which significant political capital will have to be spent on both sides of the Atlantic. If such a renegotiation of the alliance succeeds, in the end, Turkey will continue to be a key US ally as it has been since 1952, but Turkey’s status within the Western alliance might then resemble that of France, a country that has been a US ally but with a set of preferences and priorities that differ significantly from the United States in certain important respects
Ed Webb

Syria Criticizes France's Support of Rebels - - 0 views

  • The Syrian government accused France of “schizophrenia” on Sunday for pledging to support a peaceful resolution to the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad and simultaneously aiding the armed groups driving the insurrection. At the same time, a French doctor returning from a rebel-controlled hospital raised new alarms about the presence of foreign Islamist militants in Syria, stoking fears that have discouraged the West from more forceful support for the rebels.
  • Abdulla, an 18-year-old smuggler working along the border with Lebanon, said that he had helped several foreigners — including two Saudis, two Americans and a German — cross into Syria to join a cousin’s brigade in Homs and that they all saw the civil war in religious terms. “They were all seeking jihad,” he said, and for one American, “the only words he knew in Arabic were ‘jihad’ and ‘greetings.’ ”
Jim Franklin

BBC NEWS | Middle East | Iran nuclear fuel deal 'agreed' - 0 views

  • Iran and three world powers have been handed a draft agreement aimed at reducing international concerns over Tehran's nuclear programme.
  • International Atomic Energy Agency, which proposed the plan after talks in Vienna, wants an answer by Friday.
  • plan is believed to involve Iran exporting uranium to be enriched in France and Russia.
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  • "Everybody at the meeting was trying to help, trying to look to the future and not to the past, trying to heal the wounds that existed for many years," he said.
  • enriched uranium would then be returned to the IAEA and sent to France, which has the technology to add the "cell elements" needed for Iran's reactor, they said.
  • This process would enable Iran to obtain enough enriched uranium for its research reactor, but not enough to produce a weapon.
  • Iranian chief negotiator Ali Asghar Soltaniyeh talked positively about a deal, but did not mention uranium export.
  • US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged Iran to act quickly, and said her country would continue "to discuss the full range of issues that have divided Iran and the United States for too long".
  • We are not prepared to talk just for the sake of talking."
Ed Webb

The West is playing an old game with the minorities of the Orient | Middle East Eye - 0 views

  • This is the big door through which we may penetrate into the affairs of the East …. In addition to the big door there is a smaller one. Syria, and the Christian population of Lebanon in particular, have the right to obtain from the Sultan, by virtue of a European intervention, guarantees, and in particular an administrative regulation, which may provide them with protection from the abuse they suffered under different rulers and that may secure Syria against sliding once more into chaos … We believe that it is the duty of the Christian powers, even their honour, to support this approach and push forward toward accomplishing a positive practical outcome
  • Guizot thought that obtaining the consent of Russia and Austria would neutralise Britain and make it less able to hinder the implementation of his project. Russia had been pursuing an expansionist approach within the Ottoman sphere of influence. It had close links with the Orthodox and Armenians of the Sultanate, who – and not the Catholics – constituted the majority of the Christians of the Orient.
  • The new entity would include the Christians of the East, foremost among them the Catholics of Lebanon, and would be placed under the protection of the European powers, particularly France, Russia and Austria
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  • he was seeking to establish an independent, or semi-independent, administrative status in the district of Jerusalem, which was at the time part of the Damascus governorate
  • What is astonishing is that Guizot did not ask if the Christians of the Orient, who were scattered all over the Orient, would agree to emigrate from their historic homelands to live in such a European protectorate. He did not even ask if the Muslims, who were the majority of the inhabitants of the Jerusalem Province and who also sanctified the city, would accept his project.
  • Reflecting the French Revolution’s legacy, and the spirit of state hegemony over its people, Guizot – throughout his long years in the Ministry of Education in the 1830s – endeavoured to spread public education across the country and establish at least one primary school in every community.In the meantime, the French colonial administration had started to secularise management and education in Algeria, which France had been occupying since 1830. If there is a degree of peculiarity in the Christian foreign policy of a secular and liberal minister, it is even more peculiar that Guizot was not a Catholic but a Protestant.
  • Guizot’s policy was not in any way religiously motivated. Nor was it Catholic. Guizot policy in essence was the policy of supporting minorities and using them to reinforce the status of the European powers in the confrontation with the majorities.
Ed Webb

France withdraws plan to send boats to Libyan navy | CGTN Africa - 0 views

  • France’s government has decided against sending six boats to Libya’s navy, amid aid groups’ concerns that the vessels would be used to take migrants to detention centers known for widespread abuses.
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