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Trump’s steel tariffs impact American manufacturers

But as far as Trump, is concerned, Trade wars are necessary, and they’re easy to win 

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Lots of production and jobs are on the line as the effects of Trump’s metals tariffs work their way down the food chain. Several companies that utilize steel as a primary material for the products they produce are concerned about how these tariffs will impact their competitiveness, their workforce, and their bottom lines.

ABC News reports:

Joel Johnson examines the shipping labels on 35-ton coils of American-made steel that will be unspooled, bent and welded into rounded sections of pipe.

One’s from Nucor, a mill in Arkansas. Another’s from Steel Dynamics in Mississippi. But much harder to spot in the sprawling factory yard is the imported steel that’s put his company in the crosshairs of President Donald Trump’s bitter trade dispute with America’s allies and adversaries.

Trump says his tariffs on steel, aluminum and other goods will put U.S. companies and workers on stronger footing by winding back the clock of globalization with protectionist trade policies. But the steel tariff — essentially a 25 percent tax — may backfire on the very people the president is aiming to help. The Commerce Department has been deluged with requests from 20,000 companies seeking exemptions.

Johnson is the CEO of Borusan Mannesmann Pipe US, a company with Turkish roots that manufactures the welded pipe used by energy companies to pull oil and natural gas out of the earth. He has been fighting an uphill battle to get a two-year exemption from Trump’s tariff on steel imports.

Without a waiver, Johnson said, Borusan faces levies of up to $30 million a year — a staggering sum for a business with plans to expand.

“We don’t have any proof we’re being heard,” Johnson said.

Eighty miles southwest, in Bay City, global steel giant Tenaris also is seeking an exemption from the tariffs. The company churns out steel pipe in a $1.8 billion state-of-the-art facility that began operating late last year, using solid rods of steel called billets that are made in its mills in Mexico, Romania, Italy and Argentina. Of the four, only Argentina has agreed to limit steel shipments to the U.S. in exchange for being spared the tariff.

“The decision is out of our hands,” said Luca Zanotti, president of Tenaris’s U.S. operations, while expressing confidence its request would be approved. If it’s not? “We’ll adapt,” he said.

Steelworkers, meanwhile, are cheering the tariff even as they remain skeptical of Trump’s pledge to empower blue-collar Americans. They also worry about the possibility of too many exemptions.

“You put these tariffs (in place) but now you’re going to exclude everybody so they’re kind of pointless,” said Durwin Royal, president of United Steelworkers’ Local 4134 in Lone Star, Texas.

The diverse views illustrate the complexity, confusion and concern lurking behind Trump’s “America First” pledge.

Pipe mills are numerous in Texas, which leads the country in oil and natural gas production. Factories that use imported steel typically do so when they can’t get the exact type or quantity they need from U.S. producers. Many of them are among the thousands of companies that have filed exclusion requests to avoid being hit by the steel tariff.

Most of them are in the dark, unsure if their applications will be approved as the Commerce Department struggles to process a dramatically higher number of requests than it expected to receive.

A denial may torpedo plans to expand a factory. Or a company may have to lay off employees. The stakes are especially high in Texas: Economists Joseph Francois and Laura Baughman have estimated the Trump steel tariff and separate 10 percent tariff on imported aluminum will trigger the loss of more than 40,000 jobs.

There’s no playbook to guide companies through an exemption process Johnson described as chaotic and unpredictable. He’s hired a lobbyist, former New York Gov. George Pataki. He’s fending off opposition from competitors, including a Tenaris-owned business, who want Borusan’s request denied.

On a sweltering afternoon earlier this month, Johnson assembled dozens of his employees in an air-conditioned room for what amounted to a Hail Mary pass. After lunching on sandwiches from Chick-fil-A, Borusan workers wrote personal messages on oversized postcards to be sent to Trump and other senior officials in Washington and Austin, the Texas capital, pleading for their help in securing the tariff exemption.

“I don’t know what motivates politicians besides votes,” Johnson said. “That’s why we’re doing this crazy exercise.”

———

UNION BLUE

Royal is in his third term as the president of Local 4134.

He and the local’s vice president, Trey Green, are union Democrats in the heart of Trump country. Lone Star is in Morris County, Texas, where Trump received nearly 70 percent of the vote in the 2016 presidential election. Royal and Green initially backed independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders before casting their votes for Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Their union hall is a mile and a half from the U.S. Steel factory that manufactures welded pipe made from metal produced in the company’s mills in Indiana and Illinois. Like the union, U.S. Steel backed Trump’s tariff, declaring that his action would “level the playing field” by blocking other countries from dumping inexpensive steel in the United States. Much of it comes from China.

Although Royal and Green were heartened by the steel tariff, they said they’re under no illusion Trump is a friend to organized labor. Nor are they convinced his tough talk on trade will lead to a rebuilt U.S. steel industry with more and better jobs. Echoing Sanders, they called for a broader strategy to prevent corporations from sending American jobs to low-wage countries.

“I don’t know that putting tariffs on just one or two particular items are going to be the mainstay that helps us in the future,” Green said.

Royal and Green said they’re still waiting for Trump to follow through on his pledge to empower working-class Americans that he said were “forgotten” by Washington.

“So much money is in politics now it’s kind of drowning people like us out,” Royal said. “We’re not going to take (a congressman) to dinner and buy him a new set of golf clubs or give $250,000 toward his campaign. You can tell who’s got the loudest voice there.”

———

COST OF DOING BUSINESS

The Tenaris factory is a massive, modern facility just off the highway leading into Bay City, 21 miles from the Gulf of Mexico. About 640 people work here, but only a handful come into direct contact with the 50,000 tons of pipe the 1.2 million-square-foot factory is able to manufacture each month. The process is almost entirely automated, watched over by employees huddled in front of computer screens.

The company manufactures seam-free pipe typically used in offshore energy production or for transporting highly corrosive gas.

Tenaris began construction of the Bay City plant five years ago, long before anyone anticipated an American president would slap a tariff on steel. Zanotti declined to say how much Tenaris may have to pay, but he downplayed the expense as a cost of doing business on a global scale. Tenaris operates in 16 countries, including Nigeria, which ranks 145 out of 190 countries on the World Bank’s “ease of doing business” index.

“Of course we don’t like it,” Zanotti said of the tariff.

But, he added, “we’re used to dealing with moving parts. This is another moving part.”

The company doesn’t have a registered lobbyist in Washington, let alone an office. But Tenaris has deep pockets and is in the U.S. for the long haul.

Zanotti said the company has spent $8 billion over the last decade to expand its foothold in America, a figure he doesn’t think the Commerce Department should overlook. The investment includes the Bay City factory and the acquisition of the Maverick Tube Corporation, based in Houston. Like Borusan and U.S. Steel, Maverick makes pipe with a welded seam.

“We’re positive we’re going to get a good conclusion,” Zanotti said.

———

LET’S MAKE A DEAL

Johnson said he has a proposition for a president who prides himself on being a master dealmaker.

About 60 percent of Borusan’s welded pipe is manufactured with American-made steel. The rest is shipped from Turkey already in tube form; it’s heat-treated, threaded and inspected in Baytown. Johnson is proposing that Borusan be allowed to bring in 135,000 tons of Turkish pipe each year for the next two years, tariff-free. In return, the company will build a new factory, right next to its existing plant.

That’s a $75 million investment that will allow Borusan to hire 170 new employees, augmenting its existing workforce of 267, according to Johnson. The expanded capacity also will allow Borusan to wean itself from the Turkish imports. He said he’s gotten no reply to his pitch.

The company brought ex-Gov. Pataki, a Republican, on board in March and has paid him $75,000 to drum up support in Washington. But Johnson said he’s unsure if Pataki’s made a difference.

“We’re not politicians. We make pipe,” he said. “We felt like that was a move we had to make because we are so far out of our element.”

Johnson said he had for weeks unsuccessfully sought support from GOP Rep. Brian Babin, whose district includes Baytown. Babin wrote to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross on Thursday, expressing his strong support for Borusan’s request and urging Ross to give it “your highest consideration.”

“Finally,” Johnson said.

The Commerce Department has been posting the thousands of requests for tariff exemptions online to allow third parties to offer comments and objections — even competitors who have an interest in seeing a rival’s request denied. Several of them, including U.S. Steel and Tenaris-owned Maverick Tube, objected to Borusan’s bid, saying the Turkish pipe it imports is readily available from American suppliers. They added that Turkey has been cited by the Commerce Department for dumping steel pipe in the U.S.

But Johnson said the objections are aimed at undercutting Borusan. He said no U.S. pipe mill is serious about selling to him because he’d want very detailed information about their products — such as the composition of the steel and a history of customer complaints.

“They just don’t want to see another factory go up here,” Johnson said. “They don’t want to see a competitor grow.”

While American steel manufacturers love Trump’s tariffs, as they help improve their position on the market, it doesn’t bode so well for those manufacturers that have to use steel as a major component of their production. The US just doesn’t produce enough steel to meet the demands of its domestic market, let alone that of markets overseas. For this reason, many American manufacturers will still need to rely on imported steel to meet their production demand, which means that they will be meeting Trump’s tariffs head on, thereby increasing their production costs, which will invariably travel down the food chain to the consumer. That chain of events does not bode quite so well for Americans who depend on these industries for employment, as production cuts and costs could result in employment cuts. But as far as Trump, is concerned, Trade wars are necessary, and they’re easy to win.

 

 

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John C Durham
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John C Durham

You don’t know much about Tariff history in America. For 200 years we would not let products into the country made cheaper than we could make them here. Why? Because everything made cheaper means either it is coming from a nation with a very low standard of living or the product is being dumped because it is surplus product. Maybe how to protect one’s business has been forgotten, but manufacturers that can now point out to the government that product is coming in below the cost of production possible inside the living standards of the U.S. The way its been… Read more »

Brad Isherwood
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Brad Isherwood

Possibly the Tariffs are leverage to move Capital out of hiding and into the Ponzi stock market.
More companies lay off workers,..shudder production/plants…..buy up thier own stock to create the Fake Strong economy that Wallstreet pushes via its controlled media.

After retail Apocalypse in America,…..can the Govs low unemployment numbers be believed?

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Major Syrian Army Assault On Southeast Idlib As Sochi Deal Unravels

Though the Syrian war has grown cold in terms of international spotlight and media interest since September, it is likely again going to ramp up dramatically over the next few months. 

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Via Zerohedge


The Syrian Army unleashed a major assault across the southeastern part of Idlib province on Saturday, a military source told Middle East news site Al-Masdar in a breaking report. According to the source, government forces pounded jihadist defenses across the southeast Idlib axis with a plethora of artillery shells and surface-to-surface missiles.

This latest exchange between the Syrian military and jihadist rebels comes as the Sochi Agreement falls apart in northwestern Syria, and in response to a Friday attack by jihadists which killed 22 Syrian soldiers near a planned buffer zone around the country’s last major anti-Assad and al-Qaeda held region. The jihadist strikes resulted in the highest number of casualties for the army since the Sochi Agreement was established on September 17th.

Though the Syrian war has grown cold in terms of international spotlight and media interest since September, it is likely again going to ramp up dramatically over the next few months.

The Al-Masdar source said the primary targets for the Syrian Army were the trenches and military posts for Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham in the towns of Al-Taman’ah, Khuwayn, Babulin, Haish, Jarjanaz, Um Jalal, and Mashirfah Shmaliyah. In retaliation for the Syrian Army assault, the jihadist rebels began shelling the government towns of Ma’an, Um Hariteen, and ‘Atshan.

Damascus has been critical of the Sochi deal from the start as it’s criticized Turkey’s role in the Russian-brokered ceasefire plan, especially as a proposed ‘de-militarized’ zone has failed due to jihadist insurgents still holding around 70% of the planned buffer area which they were supposed to withdraw from by mid-October. Sporadic clashes have rocked the “buffer zone” since.

Russia itself recently acknowledged the on the ground failure of the Sochi agreement even as parties officially cling to it. During a Thursday press briefing by Russian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova admitted the following:

We have to state that the real disengagement in Idlib has not been achieved despite Turkey’s continuing efforts to live up to its commitments under the Russian-Turkish Memorandum of September 17.

This followed Russia also recently condemning  “sporadic clashes” and “provocations” by the jihadist group HTS (the main al-Qaeda presence) in Idlib.

Likely due to Moscow seeing the writing on the wall that all-out fighting and a full assault by government forces on Idlib will soon resume, Russian naval forces continued a show of force in the Mediterranean this week.

Russian military and naval officials announced Friday that its warships held extensive anti-submarine warfare drills in the Mediterranean. Specifically the Russian Black Sea Fleet’s frigates Admiral Makarov and Admiral Essen conducted the exercise in tandem with deck-based helicopters near Syrian coastal waters.

Notably, according to TASS, the warships central to the drill are “armed with eight launchers of Kalibr-NK cruise missiles that are capable of striking surface, coastal and underwater targets at a distance of up to 2,600 km.”

Since September when what was gearing up to be a major Syrian-Russian assault on Idlib was called off through the Russian-Turkish ceasefire agreement, possibly in avoidance of the stated threat that American forces would intervene in defense of the al-Qaeda insurgent held province (also claiming to have intelligence of an impending government “chemical attack”), the war has largely taken a back-burner in the media and public consciousness.

But as sporadic fighting between jihadists and Syrian government forces is reignited and fast turning into major offensive operations by government forces, the war could once again be thrust back into the media spotlight as ground zero for a great power confrontation between Moscow and Washington.

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Trump Quietly Orders Elimination of Assange

The destruction of Assange has clearly been arranged for, at the highest levels of the U.S. Government, just as the destruction of Jamal Khashoggi was by Saudi Arabia’s Government.

Eric Zuesse

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On June 28th, the Washington Examiner headlined “Pence pressed Ecuadorian president on country’s protection of Julian Assange” and reported that “Vice President Mike Pence discussed the asylum status of Julian Assange during a meeting with Ecuador’s leader on Thursday, following pressure from Senate Democrats who have voiced concerns over the country’s protection of the WikiLeaks founder.” Pence had been given this assignment by U.S. President Donald Trump. The following day, the Examiner bannered “Mike Pence raises Julian Assange case with Ecuadorean president, White House confirms” and reported that the White House had told the newspaper, “They agreed to remain in close coordination on potential next steps going forward.”

On August 24th, a court-filing by Kellen S. Dwyer, Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Alexandria Division of the Eastern District of Virginia, stated: “Due to the sophistication of the defendant and the publicity surrounding the case, no other procedure [than sealing the case, hiding it from the public] is likely to keep confidential the fact that Assange has been charged. … This motion and the proposed order would need to remain sealed until Assange is arrested in connection with the charges in the criminal complaint and can therefore no longer evade or avoid arrest and extradition in this matter.” That filing was discovered by Seamus Hughes, a terrorism expert at the Program on Extremism at George Washington University. On November 15th, he posted an excerpt of it on Twitter, just hours after the Wall Street Journal had reported on the same day that the Justice Department was preparing to prosecute Assange. However, now that we know “the fact that Assange has been charged” and that the U.S. Government is simply waiting “until Assange is arrested in connection with the charges in the criminal complaint and can therefore no longer evade or avoid arrest and extradition in this matter,” it is clear and public that the arrangements which were secretly made between Trump’s agent Pence and the current President of Ecuador are expected to deliver Assange into U.S. custody for criminal prosecution, if Assange doesn’t die at the Ecuadorean Embassy first.

On November 3rd (which, of course, preceded the disclosures on November 15th), Julian Assange’s mother, Christine Ann Hawkins, described in detail what has happened to her son since the time of Pence’s meeting with Ecuador’s President. She said:

He is, right now, alone, sick, in pain, silenced in solitary confinement, cut off from all contact, and being tortured in the heart of London. … He has been detained nearly eight years, without trial, without charge. For the past six years, the UK Government has refused his requests to exit for basic health needs, … [even for] vitamin D. … As a result, his health has seriously deteriorated. … A slow and cruel assassination is taking place before our very eyes. … They will stop at nothing. … When U.S. Vice President Mike Pence recently visited Ecuador, a deal was done to hand Julian over to the U.S. He said that because the political cost of expelling Julian from the Embassy was too high, the plan was to break him down mentally…   to such a point that he will break and be forced to leave. … The extradition warrant is held in secret, four prosecutors but no defense, and no judge, … without a prima-facie case. [Under the U.S. system, the result nonetheless can be] indefinite detention without trial. Julian could be held in Guantanamo Bay and tortured, sentenced to 45 years in a maximum security prison, or face the death penalty,” for “espionage,” in such secret proceedings.

Her phrase, “because the political cost of expelling Julian from the Embassy was too high” refers to the worry that this new President of Ecuador has, of his cooperating with the U.S. regime’s demands and thereby basically ceding sovereignty to those foreigners (the rulers of the U.S.), regarding the Ecuadorian citizen, Assange.

This conservative new President of Ecuador, who has replaced the progressive President who had granted Assange protection, is obviously doing all that he can to comply with U.S. President Trump and the U.S. Congress’s demand for Assange either to die soon inside the Embassy or else be transferred to the U.S. and basically just disappear, at Guantanamo or elsewhere. Ecuador’s President wants to do this in such a way that Ecuador’s voters won’t blame him for it, and that he’ll thus be able to be re-elected. This is the type of deal he apparently has reached with Trump’s agent, Pence. It’s all secret, but the evidence on this much of what was secretly agreed-to seems clear. There are likely other details of the agreement that cannot, as yet, be conclusively inferred from the subsequent events, but this much can.

Basically, Trump has arranged for Assange to be eliminated either by illness that’s imposed by his Ecuadorean agent, or else by Assange’s own suicide resulting from that “torture,” or else by America’s own criminal-justice system. If this elimination happens inside the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, then that would be optimal for America’s President and Congress; but, if it instead happens on U.S. soil, then that would be optimal for Ecuador’s President. Apparently, America’s President thinks that his subjects, the American people, will become sufficiently hostile toward Assange so that even if Assange disappears or is executed inside the United States, this President will be able to retain his supporters. Trump, of course, needs his supporters, but this is a gamble that he has now clearly taken. This much is clear, even though the rest of the secret agreement that was reached between Pence and Ecuador’s President is not.

Scooter Libby, who had arranged for the smearing of Valerie Plame who had tried to prevent the illegal and deceit-based 2003 invasion of Iraq, was sentenced to 30 months but never spent even a day in prison, and U.S. President Trump finally went so far as to grant him a complete pardon, on 13 April 2018. (The carefully researched docudrama “Fair Game” covered well the Plame-incident.) Libby had overseen the career-destruction of a courageous CIA agent, Plame, who had done the right thing and gotten fired for it; and Trump pardoned Libby, thus retroactively endorsing the lie-based invasion of Iraq in 2003. By contrast, Trump is determined to get Julian Assange killed or otherwise eliminated, and even Democrats in Congress are pushing for him to get that done. The new President of Ecuador is doing their bidding. Without pressure from the U.S. Government, Assange would already be a free man. Thus, either Assange will die (be murdered) soon inside the Embassy, or else he will disappear and be smeared in the press under U.S. control. And, of course, this is being done in such a way that no one will be prosecuted for the murder or false-imprisonment. Trump had promised to “clean the swamp,” but as soon as he was elected, he abandoned that pretense; and, as President, he has been bipartisan on that matter, to hide the crimes of the bipartisan U.S. Government, and he is remarkably similar in policy to his immediate predecessors, whom he had severely criticized while he was running for the Presidency.

In any event, the destruction of Assange has clearly been arranged for, at the highest levels of the U.S. Government, just as the destruction of Jamal Khashoggi was by Saudi Arabia’s Government; and, just like in Khashoggi’s case, the nation’s ruler controls the prosecutors and can therefore do whatever he chooses to do that the rest of the nation’s aristocracy consider to be acceptable.

The assault against truth isn’t only against Assange, but it is instead also closing down many of the best, most courageous, independent news sites, such as washingtonsblog. However, in Assange’s case, the penalty for having a firm commitment to truth has been especially excruciating and will almost certainly end in his premature death. This is simply the reality. Because of the system under which we live, a 100% commitment to truth is now a clear pathway to oblivion. Assange is experiencing this reality to the fullest. That’s what’s happening here.

—————

Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of  They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of  CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.

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Libya’s Peace Process Dies in Palermo

The best the Palermo negotiators could come up with at the end was a bland statement declaring their hope that sometime in the future all the Libyan forces will meet to sort out their differences.

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Authored by Richard Galustian for the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity:


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

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

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

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

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

The eastern government, led by the parliament in Tobruk, had made moves in the summer to organize a referendum on a new constitution which would govern the elections. But no referendum was held, and most Libyans agree it would be pointless because Tripoli, home to a third of the country’s population, is under the iron grip of multiple warring militias who have the firepower to defy any new elected government. Hours after the delegates left Palermo, those militias began a new bout of fighting in the Tripoli suburbs.

The best the Palermo negotiators could come up with at the end of the talks was a bland statement declaring their hope that sometime in the future all the Libyan forces will meet in a grand conference to sort out their differences – and this after four years of civil war. To say that chances of this are slim is an understatement.

Dominating the Palermo talks, and indeed Libya’s political landscape, was and is Field Marshall Khalifa Haftar, the commander of the Libyan National Army, the country’s most powerful formation. In four years, the LNA has secured Libya’s key oil fields and Benghazi, its second city, ridding most of the east Libya of Islamist militias.

Haftar met reluctantly negotiators in Palermo, but insisted he was not part of the talks process. The Italian government press office said Haftar was not having dinner with the other participants nor joining them for talks. Haftar specifically opposed the presence of the Muslim Brotherhood champion, Qatar, at the event along with Turkey.

Haftar clearly only attended because he had a few days before visiting Moscow – which sent to Sicily Russia’s Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev – and because also of Egyptian President Sisi’s presence along with his allies.

Possibly Haftar was simply fed up. Twice in the past two years he has attended previous peace talks, hosted each time in Paris, giving the nod to declarations that Libya’s militias would dissolve. Yet the militias remain as strong as ever in Tripoli.

Haftar is detested by the militias and the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) but supported by a large segment of the population – 68 percent, according to an opinion poll by America’s USAID. His popularity is based on a single policy – his demand that security be in the hands of regular police and military, not the militias.

Not everyone is happy, certainly not Turkey, which is backing Islamist, MB and Misratan forces in western Libya who detest Haftar. Yet Turkey’s greatest statesman, the great Kamal Ataturk, was a champion of secularism: After the collapse of the Ottoman Empire following World War One Turkey faced the prospect of utter disintegration, and it was Attaturk who rose to the challenge, defending the country’s borders, while ordering that the mullahs, while responsible for spiritual welfare, have no political power.

Political Islam is not popular in Libya either. Libya is a Muslim country, its people know their faith, and most want government to be decided through the ballot box.

The problem for Libya is what happens next with the peace process broken. Haftar has in the past threatened to move on Tripoli and rid the militias by force if they refuse to dissolve, and it may come to that – a fierce escalation of the civil war.

The second possibility is that Libya will split. The east is, thanks to the LNA, militarily secure. It also controls two thirds of the country’s oil and operates as a separate entity, down to it banknotes, which are printed in Russia while the Tripoli government’s are printed in Britain. A formal split would be an economic boon for the lightly populated east, but a disaster for Tripolitania, its population losing most of the oil, its only source of export income.

Yet with the failure of peace talks, and no sign of Tripoli militias dissolving, military escalation or breakup seem more likely than ever.

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