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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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EXPLOSIVE: Michael Cohen sentencing memo exposes serial liar with nothing to offer Mueller (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 38.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris take a quick look at the Michael Cohen sentencing memo which paints the picture of a man who was not as close to Trump as he made it out to be…a serial liar and cheat who leveraged his thin connections to the Trump organization for money and fame.

It was Cohen himself who proudly labelled himself as Trump’s “fixer”. The sentencing memo hints at the fact that even Mueller finds no value to Cohen in relation to the ongoing Trump-Russia witch hunt investigation.

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Via Axios

Special counsel Robert Mueller and federal prosecutors in New York have each submitted sentencing memos for President Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen, after Cohen pleaded guilty in two different cases related to his work for Trump and the Trump Organization.

The big picture: The Southern District of New York recommended Cohen serve a range of 51 to 63 months for four crimes — “willful tax evasion, making false statements to a financial institution, illegal campaign contributions, and making false statements to Congress.” Mueller, meanwhile, did not take a position on the length of Cohen’s statement, but said he has made substantial efforts to assist the investigation.

Southern District of New York

Mueller investigation

Michael J. Stern, a federal prosecutor with the Justice Department for 25 years in Detroit and Los Angeles noted via USA Today

In support of their request that he serve no time in prison, Cohen’s attorneys offered a series of testimonials from friends who described the private Michael Cohen as a “truly caring” man with a “huge heart” who is not only “an upstanding, honorable, salt of the earth man” but also a “selfless caretaker.”

The choirboy portrayed by Cohen’s lawyers stands in sharp opposition to Cohen’s public persona as Trump’s legal bulldog, who once threatened a reporter with: “What I’m going to do to you is going to be f—ing disgusting. Do you understand me?”

Prosecutors focused their sentencing memo on Cohen as Mr. Hyde. Not only did they detail Cohen’s illegal activities, which include millions of dollars of fraud, they also recognized the public damage that stemmed from his political crimes — describing Cohen as “a man who knowingly sought to undermine core institutions of our democracy.”

Rebuffing efforts by Cohen’s attorneys to recast him as a good guy who made a few small mistakes, prosecutors cited texts, statements of witnesses, recordings, documents and other evidence that proved Cohen got ahead by employing a “pattern of deception that permeated his professional life.” The prosecutors attributed Cohen’s crimes to “personal greed,” an effort to “increase his power and influence,” and a desire to maintain his “opulent lifestyle.”

Perhaps the most damning reveal in the U.S. Attorney’s sentencing memo is that Cohen refused to fully cooperate. That’s despite his public relations campaign to convince us that he is a new man who will cooperate with any law enforcement authority, at any time, at any place.

As a former federal prosecutor who handled hundreds of plea deals like Cohen’s, I can say it is extremely rare for any credit to be recommended when a defendant decides not to sign a full cooperation deal. The only reason for a refusal would be to hide information. The prosecutors said as much in their sentencing memo: Cohen refused “to be debriefed on other uncharged criminal conduct, if any, in his past,” and “further declined” to discuss “other areas of investigative interest.”

 

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Canada to Pay Heavy Price for Trudeau’s Groupie Role in US Banditry Against China

Trudeau would had to have known about the impending plot to snatch Huawei CFO Wanzhou and moreover that he personally signed off on it.

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Authored by Finian Cunningham via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


You do have to wonder about the political savvy of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his government. The furious fallout from China over the arrest of a senior telecoms executive is going to do severe damage to Canadian national interests.

Trudeau’s fawning over American demands is already rebounding very badly for Canada’s economy and its international image.

The Canadian arrest – on behalf of Washington – of Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Chinese telecom giant Huawei, seems a blatant case of the Americans acting politically and vindictively. If the Americans are seen to be acting like bandits, then the Canadians are their flunkies.

Wanzhou was detained on December 1 by Canadian federal police as she was boarding a commercial airliner in Vancouver. She was reportedly handcuffed and led away in a humiliating manner which has shocked the Chinese government, media and public.

The business executive has since been released on a $7.4 million bail bond, pending further legal proceedings. She is effectively being kept under house arrest in Canada with electronic ankle tagging.

To add insult to injury, it is not even clear what Wanzhou is being prosecuted for. The US authorities have claimed that she is guilty of breaching American sanctions against Iran by conducting telecoms business with Tehran. It is presumed that the Canadians arrested Wanzhou at the request of the Americans. But so far a US extradition warrant has not been filed. That could take months. In the meantime, the Chinese businesswoman will be living under curfew, her freedom denied.

Canadian legal expert Christopher Black says there is no juridical case for Wanzhou’s detention. The issue of US sanctions on Iran is irrelevant and has no grounds in international law. It is simply the Americans applying their questionable national laws on a third party. Black contends that Canada has therefore no obligation whatsoever to impose those US laws regarding Iran in its territory, especially given that Ottawa and Beijing have their own separate bilateral diplomatic relations.

In any case, what the real issue is about is the Americans using legal mechanisms to intimidate and beat up commercial rivals. For months now, Washington has made it clear that it is targeting Chinese telecoms rivals as commercial competitors in a strategic sector. US claims about China using telecoms for “spying” and “infiltrating” American national security are bogus propaganda ruses to undermine these commercial rivals through foul means.

It also seems clear from US President Donald Trump’s unsubtle comments this week to Reuters, saying he would “personally intervene” in the Meng case “if it helped trade talks with China”, that the Huawei executive is being dangled like a bargaining chip. It was a tacit admission by Trump that the Americans really don’t have a legal case against her.

Canada’s foreign minister Chrystia Freeland bounced into damage limitation mode following Trump’s thuggish comments. She said that the case should not be “politicized” and that the legal proceedings should not be tampered with. How ironic is that?

The whole affair has been politicized from the very beginning. Meng’s arrest, or as Christopher Black calls it “hostage-taking”, is driven by Washington’s agenda of harassment against China for commercial reasons, under a legal pretext purportedly about Iranian sanctions.

When Trump revealed the cynical expediency of him “helping to free Wanzhou”, then the Canadians realized they were also being exposed for the flunkies that they are for American banditry. That’s why Freeland was obliged to quickly adopt the fastidious pretense of legal probity.

Canadian premier Justin Trudeau has claimed that he wasn’t aware of the American request for Wanzhou’s detention. Trudeau is being pseudo. For such a high-profile infringement against a senior Chinese business leader, Ottawa must have been fully briefed by the Americans. Christopher Black, the legal expert, believes that Trudeau would had to have known about the impending plot to snatch Wanzhou and moreover that he personally signed off on it.

What Trudeau and his government intended to get out of performing this sordid role for American thuggery is far from clear. Maybe after being verbally mauled by Trump as “weak and dishonest” at the G7 summit earlier this year, in June, Trudeau decided it was best to roll over and be a good little puppy for the Americans in their dirty deed against China.

But already it has since emerged that Canada is going to pay a very heavy price indeed for such dubious service to Washington. Beijing has warned that it will take retaliation against both Washington and Ottawa. And it is Ottawa that is more vulnerable to severe repercussions.

This week saw two Canadian citizens, one a former diplomat, detained in China on spying charges.

Canadian business analysts are also warning that Beijing can inflict harsh economic penalties on Ottawa. An incensed Chinese public have begun boycotting Canadian exports and sensitive Canadian investments in China are now at risk from being blocked by Beijing. A proposed free trade deal that was being negotiated between Ottawa and Beijing now looks dead in the water.

And if Trudeau’s government caves in to the excruciating economic pressure brought to bear by Beijing and then abides by China’s demand to immediately release Meng Wanzhou, Ottawa will look like a pathetic, gutless lackey to Washington. Canada’s reputation of being a liberal, independent state will be shredded. Even then the Chinese are unlikely to forget Trudeau’s treachery.

With comic irony, there’s a cringemaking personal dimension to this unseemly saga.

During the 197os when Trudeau’s mother Margaret was a thirty-something socialite heading for divorce from his father, then Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, she was often in the gossip media for indiscretions at nightclubs. Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards claims in his autobiography that Margaret Trudeau was a groupie for the band, having flings with Mick Jagger and Ronnie Wood. Her racy escapades and louche lifestyle brought shame to many Canadians.

Poor Margaret Trudeau later wound up divorced, disgraced, financially broke and scraping a living from scribbling tell-all books.

Justin, her eldest son, is finding out that being a groupie for Washington’s banditry is also bringing disrepute for him and his country.

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US Commits To “Indefinite” Occupation Of Syria; Controls Region The Size Of Croatia

Raqqa is beginning to look more and more like Baghdad circa 2005.

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Via Zerohedge


“We don’t want the Americans. It’s occupation” — a Syrian resident in US-controlled Raqqa told Stars and Stripes military newspaper. This as the Washington Post noted this week that “U.S. troops will now stay in Syria indefinitely, controlling a third of the country and facing peril on many fronts.”

Like the “forever war” in Afghanistan, will we be having the same discussion over the indefinite occupation of Syria stretching two decades from now? A new unusually frank assessment in Stars and Stripes bluntly lays out the basic facts concerning the White House decision to “stay the course” until the war’s close:

That decision puts U.S. troops in overall control, perhaps indefinitely, of an area comprising nearly a third of Syria, a vast expanse of mostly desert terrain roughly the size of Louisiana.

The Pentagon does not say how many troops are there. Officially, they number 503, but earlier this year an official let slip that the true number may be closer to 4,000

A prior New Yorker piece described the US-occupied area east of the Euphrates as “an area about the size of Croatia.” With no Congressional vote, no public debate, and not even so much as an official presidential address to the nation, the United States is settling in for another endless occupation of sovereign foreign soil while relying on the now very familiar post-911 AUMF fig leaf of “legality”.

Like the American public and even some Pentagon officials of late have been pointing out for years regarding Afghanistan, do US forces on the ground even know what the mission is? The mission may be undefined and remain ambiguously to “counter Iran”, yet the dangers and potential for major loss in blood and treasure loom larger than ever.

According to Stars and Stripes the dangerous cross-section of powder keg conflicts and geopolitical players means “a new war” is on the horizon:

The new mission raises new questions, about the role they will play and whether their presence will risk becoming a magnet for regional conflict and insurgency.

The area is surrounded by powers hostile both to the U.S. presence and the aspirations of the Kurds, who are governing the majority-Arab area in pursuit of a leftist ideology formulated by an imprisoned Turkish Kurdish leader. Signs that the Islamic State is starting to regroup and rumblings of discontent within the Arab community point to the threat of an insurgency.

Without the presence of U.S. troops, these dangers would almost certainly ignite a new war right away, said Ilham Ahmed, a senior official with the Self-Administration of North and East Syria, as the self-styled government of the area is called.

“They have to stay. If they leave and there isn’t a solution for Syria, it will be catastrophic,” she said.

But staying also heralds risk, and already the challenges are starting to mount.
So a US-backed local politician says the US can’t leave or there will be war, while American defense officials simultaneously recognize they are occupying the very center of an impending insurgency from hell — all of which fits the textbook definition of quagmire perfectly.

The New Yorker: “The United States has built a dozen or more bases from Manbij to Al-Hasakah, including four airfields, and American-backed forces now control all of Syria east of the Euphrates, an area about the size of Croatia.”

But in September the White House announced a realignment of its official priorities in Syria, namely to act “as a bulwark against Iran’s expanding influence.” This means the continued potential and likelihood of war with Syria, Iran, and Russia in the region is ever present, per Stripes:

Syrian government troops and Iranian proxy fighters are to the south and west. They have threatened to take the area back by force, in pursuit of President Bashar Assad’s pledge to bring all of Syria under government control.

Already signs of an Iraq-style insurgency targeting US forces in eastern Syria are beginning to emerge.

In Raqqa, the largest Syrian city at the heart of US occupation and reconstruction efforts, the Stripes report finds the following:

The anger on the streets is palpable. Some residents are openly hostile to foreign visitors, which is rare in other towns and cities freed from Islamic State control in Syria and Iraq. Even those who support the presence of the U.S. military and the SDF say they are resentful that the United States and its partners in the anti-ISIS coalition that bombed the city aren’t helping to rebuild.

And many appear not to support their new rulers.

We don’t want the Americans. It’s occupation,” said one man, a tailor, who didn’t want to give his name because he feared the consequences of speaking his mind. “I don’t know why they had to use such a huge number of weapons and destroy the city. Yes, ISIS was here, but we paid the price. They have a responsibility.”

Recent reports out of the Pentagon suggests defense officials simply want to throw more money into US efforts in Syria, which are further focused on training and supplying the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (or Kurdish/YPG-dominated SDF), which threatens confrontation with Turkey as its forces continue making preparations for a planned attack on Kurdish enclaves in Syria this week.

Meanwhile, Raqqa is beginning to look more and more like Baghdad circa 2005:

Everyone says the streets are not safe now. Recent months have seen an uptick in assassinations and kidnappings, mostly targeting members of the security forces or people who work with the local council. But some critics of the authorities have been gunned down, too, and at night there are abductions and robberies.

As America settles in for yet another endless and “indefinite” occupation of a Middle East country, perhaps all that remains is for the president to land on an aircraft carrier with “Mission Accomplished” banners flying overhead?

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