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Selling Arms to Libya is The Least Bad Option Available

Russia’s and China’s decision to agree to a loosening of the UN embargo makes geostrategic sense.

Andrew Korybko

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Let’s start with the indisputable facts: the “Arab Spring” Colour Revolution created the pretext for NATO’s 2011 War on Libya and the subsequent murder of Gaddafi.  US foreign policy is fully responsible for all this and for the rise of terrorism in Libya and the present problem with Daesh in that country.

Having got that out of the way, this article is not a polemic.  It is an analysis of the reality that currently exists in Libya taking into consideration the geopolitical imperatives of all the sides.

The UN Security Council recently decided to relax the arms embargo on Libya.  Why did that happen and why did Russia and China support it?

For starters, illegal arms have been pouring into Libya for years.  It’s just that they have not been going to the Libyan government.

The arms embargo against Libya imposed by the UN Security Council is hurting the only forces that are legitimately capable of fighting terrorism in Libya, just as the unilateral Western embargo against Syria had been doing the same in Syria.

The UN Security Council’s decision to relax the arms embargo on Libya does not provide for a full resumption of unrestricted weapons sales to Libya.  Rather it permits “exceptions” to the embargo based on the Libyan authorities’ requests individually assessed on an “as-needs” basis.

The West created this mess and now wants to profit by “fixing” it by selling weapons to the newly formed Government of National Accord (GNA).  Of course it wants to do this for all the wrong reasons.  The main reason – other than the publicly stated one of “fighting terrorism” – is to equip a new loyal proxy enforcer.  However it is not guaranteed that will succeed.  it is not impossible that the person chosen – CIA-linked General Haftar – might get a massive ego boost causing him to turn on his unipolar patrons, especially if he feels he can play them off against potential multipolar rivals like Russia and China.  Already he is refusing to recognise the UN-approved government in Tripoli, so there’s a chance he might one day “go rogue” and become the second most disruptive factor in Libya behind Daesh.

Foreign Fighters

A widely expressed concern about the partial lifting of the UN arms embargo is that weapons might inadvertently end up in the hands of terrorists.  Presumably it was to prevent this happening that the embargo was imposed in the first place.

This is certainly possible. There is definitely a risk that undisciplined and/or untrained army units might hand over their weapons to terrorists some of whom they might just see as “local rebels” or even as “freedom fighters”.  There is also a very real possibility that army units might surrender them to the terrorists on the battlefield as the Iraqi military did during the summer of 2014.  However the presence of US, UK, French, Italian, and the (likely though unacknowledged) presence of Egyptian and/or Gulf (UAE) special forces on the ground should preclude this from happening at least on a wide-ranging scale.

In saying this I should make it clear that I do not support the presence of foreign troops in Libya.  I am simply stating a fact.  As undesirable as the presence of these troops may be for supporters of multipolarity like myself – and indeed for the Great Powers like Russia and China which support multipolarity – their presence is the current reality.

Whilst there is plenty to criticise in the presence of these troops, one possible ‘silver lining’ is their potential capacity to prevent weapons ending up in the hands of terrorists they weren’t intended for.  That does not of course mean that once Dash is defeated they won’t channel weapons to other terrorists and other non-state actors.  However that does not seem to be their intention at the moment.   

The Kremlin’s Calculations

Amidst all the outrage in the alternative media about the UN Security Council decision to allow a partial lifting of the embargo, it might be useful to remind everyone that this decision was also supported by the Russian and Chinese governments – the twin stewards of the emerging multipolar world order.  Whilst some criticisms of the decision are legitimate, it is doubtful Moscow or Beijing would have agreed to the loosening of the arms embargo if they did not have their own reasons for doing so.  These would certainly not be because Moscow and Beijing have “sold out to the West” as certain information provocateurs routinely say.  It is because Moscow and Beijing pragmatically understand the nature of the terrorist threat on the ground and realise that the only way it can possibly be defeated is if the legitimate UN-approved authorities are provided with the military means to do it.

Consistent with this approach Russia is planning to sell its own weapons to the Government for National Accord if an agreement to do so can be reached.

This would be a major development.  It would offer a whole new set of opportunities for Russian diplomatic engagement in Libya.

One of the traditional means through which Russia cultivates strategic relationships is through “weapons diplomacy”.  This entails selling weapons, training local troops to  handle them, and providing maintenance as needed.

Such “weapons diplomacy” often prepares the groundwork for more robust and comprehensive relations in other fields.  It is regularly used by Moscow as the first step in reaching out to non-traditional partners.

Whilst Tripoli has historically always been close to Moscow, it would have been unthinkable just a few years ago for its new pro-Western regime – created as a result of a Western military intervention in the country – to look to Moscow for help in fighting terrorists.  That it is doing so is a sign of the exceptionally strong impact in the region of Russia’s anti-terrorist intervention in Syria and of the way Libya’s authorities have come to think of Russian weapons as a game change in their struggle.

China’s Takeaway

As for Beijing, it probably won’t get as involved on the ground as Russia, the West, and Washington’s Arab allies are.  However Beijing undoubtedly hopes it can recoup some of the losses it has suffered since the Western backed conflict in Libya began 5 years ago.  

When the Libyan conflict began China dramatically evacuated all its citizens from Libya, leaving behind billions of dollars in capital investments.  However, when the situation improves, China will doubtless seek ways to reintegrate the country into its global network of investment bases and turn it into a key node along the One Belt One Road (New Silk Road) project.

The Chinese will probably continue with their usual policy in these situations, which is to remain quietly on the sidelines while the other Great Powers sort the mess out, and then quietly come forward with a raft of win-win deals in order to clinch the strategic partnerships that everyone else had previously competed for.

Taking into account the nature of the Russian-Chinese Strategic Partnership, this would also work out to Moscow’s benefit.  The Libyan conflict in fact provides an excellent example of how Russia and China, by playing to their individual strengths, are able to compliment each other in achieving shared objectives.

Russia will provide the Government of National Accord with the arms and diplomatic support it needs in its anti-terrorist struggle, which will have a disproportionate psychological effect despite their likely small scale since they will be supplied by the military power whose actions have had such a dramatic impact in the Syrian conflict.  China will then – as it always does – step in after the situation has been stabilised, reaching out to the Libya elite and striking deals that – at least to a certain extent – will partially realign Libya with the multipolar axis led by Russia and China and away from the exclusive control of the unipolar system dominated by the US.

As for the US and its partners, once the conflict is over (which could take years) they could find themselves deprived of at least some of the ‘booty’ they assumed would be theirs.

Concluding Thoughts

Libya will likely remain a mostly colonised, strongly pro-Western state for the foreseeable future.  The enormous scale of the Hybrid War the West has waged against Libya since 2011 – culminating in the killing of Gaddafi and the subsequent years-long anarchy – realistically allows for no other possible scenario.

The US and its allies seem to have made a strategic decision to refocus on Libya and to rebuild it into the sort of occupied state they want it to be.  Such a state will not of course be one that works for the benefit of all the Libyan people.  However reconstituting the Jamahiriya is impossible unless pro-Gaddafi “Green” elements both return to power and remain in power for decades.  That obviously is something the West will not allow.  The only possibility is that the West might at some point in the future permit some sort of “pseudo-Green” elements claiming a notional fealty to the idea of the Jamahiriya to return to power, but only provided they actually continue to collaborate with the West.

The EU for its part had previously wanted to participate in Libya’s reconstruction.  This despite the fact the EU was party to the US-led war which destroyed Libya in the first place.   It was not until the US-engineered Immigrant Crisis came crashing on the EU’s shores and Daesh began to attack Europe – under very suspicious circumstances – that the EU changed its mind and fell in with the US plan for Libya.  Today in Libya the EU is a fully paid up ally and foot-soldier of the US.

The scale of the anti-terrorist war in Libya is gigantic.  The myriad of non-state actors and openly terroristic groups like Daesh that are operating in Libya is so large that it would be impossible for a “secret war” to root them all out. 

This is what forced the US’s hand, obliging the US to “go public” by turning to the UN Security Council to seek approval for a loosening of the UN arms embargo.  That required the backing of Russia and China, which in turn has led to the door into Libya being re-opened for them.

Moscow and Beijing supported the loosening of the embargo in part primarily because of their unwavering commitment to fighting all forms of terrorism no matter where they happen or who is behind them and regardless of whether their Great Power counterparts are fully committed to the struggle or are pursuing it for some ulterior purpose.  However, although the prospects are limited, there is now also a real chance that Russia and China might be able to capitalise from the anti-terrorist struggle in Libya to reach out to those sectors of Libyan society that might be interested in seeing Libya integrate with the broader multipolar world once the conflict is over.  If done intelligently, in a properly thought out way, drawing on the respective strengths of the two partners in the Russian-Chinese Strategic Partnership, this could open up a way to at least a partial re establishment of Russian and Chinese influence in a country that had appeared to be completely lost to Western influence. 

Though there are risks inherent in this strategy, given the threat of Daesh turning Libya’s North African coast into a terrorist oasis, easing the UN arms embargo on Libya is the least bad of option available.  The Russians and the Chinese no doubt also see it as the only way to draw Libya back towards a multipolar alignment.  As such their support for the loosening of the embargo can be seen as a long term investment which might pay dividends one day in the future.

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FBI recommended Michael Flynn not have lawyer present during interview, did not warn of false statement consequences

Flynn is scheduled to be sentenced on Dec. 18.

Washington Examiner

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Via The Washington Examiner…


Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, who arranged the bureau’s interview with then-national security adviser Michael Flynn at the White House on Jan. 24, 2017 — the interview that ultimately led to Flynn’s guilty plea on one count of making false statements — suggested Flynn not have a lawyer present at the session, according to newly-filed court documents. In addition, FBI officials, along with the two agents who interviewed Flynn, decided specifically not to warn him that there would be penalties for making false statements because the agents wanted to ensure that Flynn was “relaxed” during the session.

The new information, drawn from McCabe’s account of events plus the FBI agents’ writeup of the interview — the so-called 302 report — is contained in a sentencing memo filed Tuesday by Flynn’s defense team.

Citing McCabe’s account, the sentencing memo says that shortly after noon on Jan. 24 — the fourth day of the new Trump administration — McCabe called Flynn on a secure phone in Flynn’s West Wing office. The two men discussed business briefly and then McCabe said that he “felt that we needed to have two of our agents sit down” with Flynn to discuss Flynn’s talks with Russian officials during the presidential transition.

McCabe, by his own account, urged Flynn to talk to the agents alone, without a lawyer present. “I explained that I thought the quickest way to get this done was to have a conversation between [Flynn] and the agents only,” McCabe wrote. “I further stated that if LTG Flynn wished to include anyone else in the meeting, like the White House counsel for instance, that I would need to involve the Department of Justice. [Flynn] stated that this would not be necessary and agreed to meet with the agents without any additional participants.”

Within two hours, the agents were in Flynn’s office. According to the 302 report quoted in the Flynn sentencing document, the agents said Flynn was “relaxed and jocular” and offered the agents “a little tour” of his part of the White House.

“The agents did not provide Gen. Flynn with a warning of the penalties for making a false statement under 18 U.S.C. 1001 before, during, or after the interview,” the Flynn memo says. According to the 302, before the interview, McCabe and other FBI officials “decided the agents would not warn Flynn that it was a crime to lie during an FBI interview because they wanted Flynn to be relaxed, and they were concerned that giving the warnings might adversely affect the rapport.”

The agents had, of course, seen transcripts of Flynn’s wiretapped conversations with Russian then-ambassador Sergey Kislyak. “Before the interview, FBI officials had also decided that if ‘Flynn said he did not remember something they knew he said, they would use the exact words Flynn used … to try to refresh his recollection. If Flynn still would not confirm what he said … they would not confront him or talk him through it,'” the Flynn memo says, citing the FBI 302.

“One of the agents reported that Gen. Flynn was ‘unguarded’ during the interview and ‘clearly saw the FBI agents as allies,'” the Flynn memo says, again citing the 302.

Later in the memo, Flynn’s lawyers argue that the FBI treated Flynn differently from two other Trump-Russia figures who have pleaded guilty to and been sentenced for making false statements. One of them, Alexander Van der Zwaan, “was represented by counsel during the interview; he was interviewed at a time when there was a publicly disclosed, full-bore investigation regarding Russian interference in the 2016 election; and he was given a warning that it is a federal crime to lie during the interview,” according to the memo. The other, George Papadopoulos, “was specifically notified of the seriousness of the investigation…was warned that lying to investigators was a ‘federal offense’…had time to reflect on his answers…and met with the FBI the following month for a further set of interviews, accompanied by his counsel, and did not correct his false statements.”

The message of the sentencing memo is clear: Flynn, his lawyers suggest, was surprised, rushed, not warned of the context or seriousness of the questioning, and discouraged from having a lawyer present.

That is all the sentencing document contains about the interview itself. In a footnote, Flynn’s lawyers noted that the government did not object to the quotations from the FBI 302 report.

In one striking detail, footnotes in the Flynn memo say the 302 report cited was dated Aug. 22, 2017 — nearly seven months after the Flynn interview. It is not clear why the report would be written so long after the interview itself.

The brief excerpts from the 302 used in the Flynn defense memo will likely spur more requests from Congress to see the original FBI documents. Both House and Senate investigating committees have demanded that the Justice Department allow them to see the Flynn 302, but have so far been refused.

In the memo, Flynn’s lawyers say that he made a “serious error in judgment” in the interview. Citing Flynn’s distinguished 30-plus year record of service in the U.S. Army, they ask the judge to go along with special counsel Robert Mueller’s recommendation that Flynn be spared any time in prison.

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Macron offers crumbs to protestors in bid to save his globalist agenda (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 36.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris take a quick look at French President Macron’s pathetic display of leadership as he offers protestors little in the way of concessions while at the same time promising to crack down hard on any and all citizens who resort to violence.

Meanwhile France’s economy is set for a deep recession as French output and production grinds to a halt.

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Via Zerohedge


As if Brussels didn’t have its hands full already with Italy and the UK, the European Union will soon be forced to rationalize why one of its favorite core members is allowed to pursue populist measures to blow out its budget deficit to ease domestic unrest while another is threatened with fines potentially amounting to billions of euros.

When blaming Russia failed to quell the widespread anger elicited by his policies, French President Emmanuel Macron tried to appease the increasingly violent “yellow vests” protesters who have sacked his capital city by offering massive tax cuts that could blow the French budget out beyond the 3% budget threshold outlined in the bloc’s fiscal rules.

Given the concessions recently offered by Italy’s populists, Macron’s couldn’t have picked a worse time to challenge the bloc’s fiscal conventions. As Bloomberg pointed out, these rules will almost certainly set the Continent’s second largest economy on a collision course with Brussels. To be clear, Macron’s offered cuts come with a price tag of about €11 billion according to Les Echos, and will leave the country with a budget gap of 3.5% of GDP in 2019, with one government official said the deficit may be higher than 3.6%.

By comparison, Italy’s initial projections put its deficit target at 2.4%, a number which Europe has repeatedly refused to consider.

Macron’s promises of fiscal stimulus – which come on top of his government’s decision to delay the planned gas-tax hikes that helped inspire the protests – were part of a broader ‘mea culpa’ offered by Macron in a speech Monday night, where he also planned to hike France’s minimum wage.

Of course, when Brussels inevitably objects, perhaps Macron could just show them this video of French police tossing a wheelchair-bound protester to the ground.

Already, the Italians are complaining.  Speaking on Tuesday, Italian cabinet undersecretary Giancarlo Giorgetti said Italy hasn’t breached the EU deficit limit. “I repeat that from the Italian government there is a reasonable approach, if there is one also from the EU a solution will be found.”

“France has several times breached the 3% deficit. Italy hasn’t done it. They are different situations. There are many indicators to assess.”

Still, as one Guardian columnist pointed out in an op-ed published Tuesday morning, the fact that the gilets jaunes (yellow vest) organizers managed to pressure Macron to cave and grant concessions after just 4 weeks of protests will only embolden them to push for even more radical demands: The collapse of the government of the supremely unpopular Macron.

Then again, with Brussels now facing certain accusations of hypocrisy, the fact that Macron was pressured into the exact same populist measures for which Italy has been slammed, the French fiasco raises the odds that Rome can pass any deficit measure it wants with the EU now forced to quietly look away even as it jawbones all the way from the bank (i.e., the German taxpayers).

“Macron’s spending will encourage Salvini and Di Maio,” said Giovanni Orsina, head of the School of Government at Rome’s Luiss-Guido Carli University. “Macron was supposed to be the spearhead of pro-European forces, if he himself is forced to challenge EU rules, Salvini and Di Maio will jump on that to push their contention that those rules are wrong.”

While we look forward to how Brussels will square this circle, markets are less excited.

Exhausted from lurching from one extreme to another following conflicting headlines, traders are already asking if “France is the new Italy.” The reason: the French OAT curve has bear steepened this morning with 10Y yields rising as much as ~6bp, with the Bund/OAT spread reaching the widest since May 2017 and the French presidential election. Though well below the peaks of last year, further widening would push the gap into levels reserved for heightened political risk.

As Bloomberg macro analyst Michael Read notes this morning, it’s hard to see a specific near-term trigger blowing out the Bund/OAT spread but the trend looks likely to slowly drift higher.

While Macron has to fight on both domestic and European fronts, he’ll need to keep peace at home to stay on top. Remember that we saw the 10Y spread widen to ~80bps around the May ’17 elections as concerns of a move toward the political fringe played out in the markets, and the French President’s popularity ratings already look far from rosy.

And just like that France may have solved the Italian crisis.

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Watch: Democrat Chuck Schumer shows his East Coast elitism on live TV

Amazing moment in which the President exhibits “transparency in government” and shows the world who the Democrat leaders really are.

Seraphim Hanisch

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One of the reasons Donald Trump was elected to the Presidency was because of his pugnacious, “in your face” character he presented – and promised TO present – against Democrat policy decisions and “stupid government” in general.

One of the reasons President Donald Trump is reviled is because of his pugnacious, “in your face” character he presented – and promised TO present – in the American political scene.

In other words, there are two reactions to the same characteristic. On Tuesday, the President did something that probably cheered and delighted a great many Americans who witnessed this.

The Democrats have been unanimous in taking any chance to roast the President, or to call for his impeachment, or to incite violence against him. But Tuesday was President Trump’s turn. He invited the two Democrat leaders, presumptive incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, and then, he turned the cameras on:

As Tucker Carlson notes, the body language from Schumer was fury. The old (something)-eating grin covered up humiliation, embarrassment and probably no small amount of fear, as this whole incident was filmed and broadcast openly and transparently to the American public. Nancy Pelosi was similarly agitated, and she expressed it later after this humiliation on camera, saying, “It’s like a manhood thing for him… As if manhood could ever be associated with him.”

She didn’t stop there. According to a report from the New York Daily News, the Queen Bee took the rhetoric a step below even her sense of dignity:

Pelosi stressed she made clear to Trump there isn’t enough support in Congress for a wall and speculated the President is refusing to back down because he’s scared to run away with his tail between his legs.

“I was trying to be the mom. I can’t explain it to you. It was so wild,” Pelosi said of the Oval Office meet, which was also attended by Vice President Pence and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). “It goes to show you: you get into a tinkle contest with a skunk, you get tinkle all over you.”

This represented the first salvo in a major spin-job for the ultra-liberal San Francisco Democrat. The rhetoric spun by Mrs. Pelosi and Chuck Schumer was desperate as they tried to deflect their humiliation and place it back on the President:

With reporters still present, Trump boasted during the Oval meeting he would be “proud” to shutdown the government if Congress doesn’t earmark cash for his wall before a Dec. 21 spending deadline.

Pelosi told Democrats that Trump’s boisterousness will be beneficial for them.

“The fact is we did get him to say, to fully own that the shutdown was his,” Pelosi said. “That was an accomplishment.”

The press tried to characterize this as a “Trump Tantrum”, saying things like this lede:

While “discussing” a budgetary agreement for the government, President Donald Trump crossed his arms and declared: “we will shut down the government if there is no wall.”

While the Democrats and the mainstream media in the US are sure to largely buy these interpretations of the event, the fact that this matter was televised live shows that the matter was entirely different, and this will be discomfiting to all but those Democrats and Trump-dislikers that will not look at reality.

There appears to be a twofold accomplishment for the President in this confrontation:

  1. The President revealed to his support base the real nature of the conversation with the Democrat leadership, because anyone watching this broadcast (and later, video clip) saw it unedited with their own eyes. They witnessed the pettiness of both Democrats and they witnessed a President completely comfortable and confident about the situation.
  2. President Trump probably made many of his supporters cheer with the commitment to shut down the government if he doesn’t get his border wall funding. This cheering is for both the strength shown about getting the wall finished and the promise to shut the government down, and further, Mr. Trump’s assertion that he would be “proud” to shut the government down, taking complete ownership willingly, reflects a sentiment that many of his supporters share.

The usual pattern is for the media, Democrats and even some Republicans to create a “scare” narrative about government shutdowns, about how doing this is a sure-fire path to chaos and suffering for the United States.

But the educated understanding of how shutdowns work reveals something completely different. Vital services never close. However, National Parks can close partly or completely, and some non-essential government agencies are shuttered. While this is an inconvenience for the employees furloughed during the shutdown, they eventually are re-compensated for the time lost, and are likely to receive help during the shutdown period if they need it. The impact on the nation is minimal, aside from the fact that the government stops spending money at the same frenetic pace as usual.

President Trump’s expression of willingness to do this action and his singling out of the Dem leadership gives the Democrats a real problem. Now the entire country sees their nature. As President Trump is a populist, this visceral display of Democrat opposition and pettiness will make at least some impact on the population, even that group of people who are not Trump fans.

The media reaction and that of the Democrats here show, amazingly, that after three years-plus of Donald Trump being a thorn in their side, they still do not understand how he works, and they also cannot match it against their expected “norms” of establishment behavior.

This may be a brilliant masterstroke, and it also may be followed up by more. The President relishes head-to-head conflict. The reactions of these congress members showed who they really are.

Let the games begin.

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