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The Warsaw Summit: NATO’s Blueprint for Aggression

At its summit in Warsaw the NATO alliance reaffirmed its course of aggression and expansion against Russia and the world.

Vladimir Kozin

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The Summit Meeting of the NATO Alliance held in the Polish capital on 8th and 9th July 2016  unfortunately justified the pessimistic forecasts of many analysts.

An analysis of the final documents shows they have been prepared based on an assessment of the current state of the military-political situation in the world, which has been qualified as “more dangerous”.  This has been backed by provocative language and policies and gross distortions of  Russian policy in the international arena.

These actions were founded on the claim of “projecting stability” and “of responding to crises” outside the borders of the states that are members of the Alliance. The areas of “strategic importance” NATO has highlighted are the North Atlantic, the Baltic, the Mediterranean and the Black Seas.

In order to realise these objectives the Alliance confirmed its previous decisions to establish a division sized rapid reaction force (the “NATO Joint Response Force”) and the so-called “Very High Readiness Joint Task Force”, which will be capable of deployment within two to three days.  These forces are to be set up with the participation of seven Member States of the Alliance (the UK, Germany, Spain, Italy, Poland, Turkey and France). Permanent operational liaison connections between these forces and NATO’s Naval Forces (the “NATO Standing Naval Forces”) in these Seas are to be created, tasked with coordinating naval support for these Joint Rapid Reaction Forces in these areas.

In terms of its military capabilities NATO declared its readiness to strengthen its military power in general and its nuclear power in particular.  The documents repeat the wording of declarations made by previous summits that NATO will remain a nuclear alliance as long as there are nuclear weapons in the world. For the first time the final documents however say that the policy of nuclear deterrence of the Alliance will be based, amongst other things, on US nuclear facilities “forward deployed” in Europe – in other words on US strategic and tactical nuclear weapons based in Europe.

NATO’s nuclear powers (the UK, US and France) are to strengthen their offensive nuclear doctrine by lowering the threshold for using nuclear weapons. They expressed the hope that other states of the Alliance will be involved “in the division of nuclear burden through appropriate arrangements,” which can be interpreted as Washington’s call to expand the range of non-nuclear states who might sign an agreement with the US “on the division of nuclear liability” (nuclear sharing agreements; also known agreements on “joint nuclear missions”). Although NATO recognised that the circumstances that might cause the Alliance to use nuclear weapons remain “very remote” the Alliance still reserves the right to use nuclear weapons at any time.

The final communique repeated the fairly imprecise formula carried over from previous summits that the Alliance is ready to “contribute to creating the conditions” for further reductions of nuclear weapons in the future on a reciprocal basis.  However no guidance is provided as to the sort of nuclear weapons – strategic or tactical – this might involve. Note that the language in the communique only speaks of a willingness “to contribute to creating the conditions” for nuclear disarmament.  No answer is given to the question implicit in this phrase: what is lacking in “the conditions” today that prevents reaching agreements on nuclear disarmament now? This wording in fact confirms that there is no desire to commit “transatlantic solidarity” to the goal of creating a world free of nuclear weapons.

In the final documents NATO has also confirmed the existence of the “Chicago triad” – created at the NATO summit in Chicago in May 2012.  As previously discussed, US nuclear-missile forces of a strategic and tactical nature, as well as anti-missile systems conventional forms of US weapons are being pushed closer to Russia’s territory, posing a direct military threat to Russia, compromising its national security and those of its allies, as well as thoroughly destabilising the global military-political situation.

Missile issues were in fact given an inordinate amount of attention at the Warsaw Summit. The final communiqué devotes fully eight paragraphs to them.

The Summit committed the Alliance to continuing with the deployment of the US and European segment of the global missile defence infrastructure.  The Alliance announced the creation of “initial operational capability” of NATO ’s missile defence system, which means (according to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg) that four US Navy warships providing Aegis “combat information control systems” (CICS) are now permanently based at the Roth naval base in Spain, as well as a US missile early warning radar located at Kyurechikom in Turkey (delivered there in May) to provide operational depth to the US land based missile defence system located in Romania which has been “transferred to the command and control of NATO.”

By way of comparison, the NATO Summit in Chicago in May 2012 merely announced that the level of “pre-missile defence capacity” had been reached as of March 2011 following the permanent deployment of US naval forces equipped with CICS “Aegis” around the European continent.

At the Warsaw Summit it was announced that a number of NATO allies had declared their willingness to participate in the creation of a multinational missile defence system under the leadership of the USA (NATO members Denmark, Spain, Norway and Germany, as well as the non-NATO states Australia Israel, South Korea and Japan). There is to be enhanced coordination and operational cooperation in the management of the US global missile defence system and NATO.  NATO allies are expected to participate in the development of combat missile equipment and intelligence information and early warning systems, to make their territory available for the construction of US missile bases, and to participate in the subsequent deployment of a global “missile shield”.

The stock justification for strengthening this anti-missile capacity used previously – defence against Iranian and North Korean missile threats – has now been dropped and no longer appears in the documents.  Instead development of anti-missile defences is now justified by the need to confront unspecified “missile threats” emanating from zones “outside the Euro-Atlantic space.”

The Warsaw Summit reiterated that the NATO anti-missile system is defensive in nature.  However, as discussed previously, there is no fundamental obstacle to using the missile defence infrastructure being created in Romania and Poland to install offensive cruise missiles designed to carry out disabling strikes on Russian territory and on the territory of other countries.

The Warsaw Summit did issue some tepid declarations concerning NATO’s supposed willingness to discuss missile problems with Russia.  These announcements were however extremely vague, providing no details of any real offer or mandate to engage Russia in serious negotiations.

As part of the strategy for strengthening the means of “forward deployment” in the eastern part of Europe it was decided to send to the Eastern European countries of Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Estonia four battalions from the four countries of the transatlantic alliance (the UK, Canada, USA and Germany).   

Early deployment of naval forces in the Mediterranean Sea under the code-named “Sea Guardian” was also announced.  These will interact with the naval forces of the EU operating under the code-name “Sofia” in the same area.

The Summit also announced a new operational military sphere in cyberspace.

The Summit highlighted the need “to strengthen the nuclear deterrence and defence capability” of the Alliance, including by reversing the tendency for budget spending for military purposes to fall. The meeting recalled that only five of the 28 states that make up the Alliance had reached the 2% of GDP level of military expenditure Alliance membership commits them to.  However it announced that what is already the world’s largest military alliance accounting for more spending on defence than the rest of the world combined was increasing defence spending by 3% (in absolute terms $8 billion). 

In relation to Russia the Warsaw Summit fell back on the stock clichés of the Cold War. The Russian Federation, as stated in the final communiqué, performs “aggressive actions, including provocative activity along the periphery of the territory of NATO member countries” and “manifests a desire to achieve political goals by means of threats and use of force.”

Russia is groundlessly accused of all mortal sins: of increasing the level of instability,  of violating the Russia-NATO Founding Act of 1997, of the “illegal annexation of Crimea” etc.

In relation to Crimea, the Summit reaffirmed that NATO does not recognise this step.  Thus the situation in Crimea is blithely described in the Summit documents from the perspective of people who have never been there, either before Crimea’s reunification in March 2014 with Russia – Crimea’s historical and spiritual home – or after the event.

Moscow is again charged with unproven involvement in the “destabilisation” of the situation in eastern Ukraine, although the situation there has long been destabilised by the Kiev regime’s armed force and by the economic blockade imposed on the area by the Kiev regime acting with the moral and material support of many countries of the NATO Alliance. The Summit documents refer to Russian “aggression against Ukraine”, but again without indicating the place and time when this aggression is supposed to have taken place.

The final communique refers to the importance of implementing the Minsk agreement on the settlement of the Ukrainian crisis, but does not recognise that it is the Kiev regime, not the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics, who are not implementing it. Without any logic or evidence it states that only Russia is responsible for carrying out the terms of the Minsk agreement, but for some reason says nothing about the responsibilities of the current regime in Kiev and of Germany and France as guarantor States of the Minsk agreements.  Nor does it say anything concerning the need to implement fully all of the Minsk agreements’ 13 points.

The Summit rightly identified the need to reduce the number of civilian casualties in Ukraine.   (According to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs at the beginning of July this year the total number of those killed in the east of Ukraine amounted to 9,470 persons, and the number of those wounded was 21,880).  However nowhere in any of the documents is it anywhere said that these are overwhelmingly the victims of the illegal actions of the armed forces and ultra-right wing militias doing the Kiev regime’s bidding, who have used and are still using heavy weapons against residents of the Donbass in violation of the agreements reached in Minsk last year. According to the UN, as a result of shelling by of the armed forces of Ukraine, in just the month of June this year, 12 civilians were killed and 57 people were injured in the Donbass.

The Warsaw Summit heard a great deal about the large-scale exercises of the Russian Armed Forces on Russia’s own territory.  However NATO has openly admitted that in 2015 it conducted a total of 300 military exercises and manoeuvres, half with a pronounced anti-Russian flavour, which were carried out in close proximity to Russia’s borders.

The documents also condemn Russia’s “aggressive nuclear rhetoric” even though the US has been engaged in such rhetoric for years and also in the sort of practices that go hand in hand with it.  By way of example, the US has never given up its policy of a first use of nuclear weapons and has not removed its tactical nuclear weapons from Europe.  By contrast Russia for a long time did have a no policy of no first use of nuclear weapons and withdrew all its tactical nuclear weapons from the territories of the three European states of the former Soviet Union way back in 1994.

The documents call on Russia to respect the provisions of the inoperative Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty, implying a wish to revive it.  However there is no hint anywhere that none of the NATO countries ever ratified this Treaty or showed any interest in doing so whilst Russia was observing it.

In order to lull Russia and cause it to lower its guard, the Warsaw summit declared its readiness to seek a “constructive” political dialogue with Russia.  This was backed by a statement that the Alliance “does not seek confrontation and does not pose a threat to Russia.”  What I would say about that is that I remember all too well the talk at previous Summits of the Alliance seeking “partnership” between Russia and NATO and what all those fine words in the end came to.

In the event at the same time the Summit was making these seemingly positive pronouncements about seeking dialogue with Russia it left unchanged its April 2014 decision to suspend all forms of military and civilian cooperation with Russia. It announced that the next meeting of the Russia-NATO Council would be held at the ambassadorial level in Brussels on July 13 this year. I wonder how the NATO leadership intends to conduct “constructive” dialogue with Russia when it has already pronounced against Russia the guilty verdict I set out above?

The Summit once again reaffirmed the policy of expanding NATO by confirming its previously announced policy of an “open door” to the accession of other states.   To that end the Warsaw Summit invited Sweden and Finland to participate in the discussion of “security challenges” and to participate in joint military exercises.  It also reaffirmed its course of expanding its operational cooperation with the armed forces of Ukraine and Georgia.

NATO’s next summit will take place not in two years, as was the case previously, but next year in 2017 in its new building in Brussels.

What is the sum total of the Warsaw Summit?  It can be summarised as follows:

(1) From the point of view of political, the Alliance has preserved and even enhanced its aggressive military posture which it seeks to project on a global scale over the long term;

(2) In terms of the military, the Alliance has committed itself to building up its military power far beyond the territories of its member states;

(3) From the standpoint of arms control, it offered nothing concrete or constructive;

(4) In terms of unfreezing the NATO-Russia relationship, the Summit resulted in no new initiatives such as could elicit a positive response from Moscow.   The next meeting of the NATO-Russia Council, to be held on 13th July 2016 at ambassadors’ level, will most likely witness another accusatory tirade from the NATO delegation directed at Russia, with shrill condemnations of Russia’s foreign and defence policy;

(5) From the perspective of the global military-political situation, the Summit cemented the dangerous trend towards a qualitatively new phase of the Cold War (“Cold War 2.0”), which was initiated by the US – the Alliance’s leader – in April 2014, and for the outbreak of which the Russian Federation bears no responsibility.

In the prevailing circumstances Russia can do no other than decide the future course of its foreign and defence policy based on these findings, guided at all times by its sacred duty to ensure, consistently and effectively the protection of its own independence and sovereignty and the territorial integrity of the Russian state as well as that of its allies and friends; doing so on the basis of the principles of reasonable sufficiency of military means and making best use of asymmetric technical responses to the growing challenges posed by NATO.

The Warsaw Summit showed once again that the aggressive and militaristic North Atlantic Treaty Organisation is the major destabilising factor in the world today, as well as the key player in dissipating a huge part of humanity’s material and intellectual resources on a renewed arms race.

One thing the Warsaw Summit has once again made clear.  Current and future generations must be freed once and for all from the block system, which emerged after the Second World War.  Until and unless that happens – with coercive military blocks like NATO being once and for all consigned to past – there can be no secure peace in the world.

The author is Chief Adviser, Russian Institute for Strategic Studies, a Corresponding Member of the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences, a Professor, of the Russian Academy of Military Sciences, a Member of the Scientific Board of the National Institute of Global Security Research, a Member of the Gorchakov’s Foundation Club and a Global Senior Fellow National University of Sciences and Technology (NUST), Global Think Tank Network (GTTN)  in Islamabad Pakistan.  He is also a Ph.D., Senior Researcher (Academic Rank)

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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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