Report

U.S. and Europe Announce Intention to Arm Libyan Government

The United States, the other permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, and more than 15 other countries issued a communique stating their intention to arm the U.N.-backed Libyan Government of National Accord to defend against a rival government and begin to roll back the Islamic State’s territory in the country. The arrangement discussed in ...

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The United States, the other permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, and more than 15 other countries issued a communique stating their intention to arm the U.N.-backed Libyan Government of National Accord to defend against a rival government and begin to roll back the Islamic State’s territory in the country. The arrangement discussed in Vienna on Monday would involve waiving an arms embargo imposed in 2011 to allow supplying the government with weapons. France and Britain are also preparing a U.N. resolution that would allow European navies to intercept unauthorized arms transfers to Libya. They are already involved in efforts to build up Libya’s coast guard in an effort to stem the smuggling of persons from Libya to Europe. “We are, all of us here today, supportive of the fact that if you have a legitimate government and the legitimate government is struggling against terrorism, that legitimate government should not be made the prisoner or it should not be victimized by virtue of the UN action that has been taken that has always awaited a legitimate government,” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said.

Fayez al-Sarraj, the prime minister of the Libyan Government of National Accord, said that his government will submit a list of arms for consideration to the United Nations soon. In Libya yesterday, Sarraj’s presidential council authorized the 18 government ministers to begin work. The government had been waiting for validation from the country’s parliament, but decided to proceed because has not been forthcoming.

Multilateral Talks on Syria Resume

Multilateral talks in Vienna will shift to discussions of Syria today with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov co-chairing the meeting. European diplomats have expressed frustration in recent weeks with U.S.-Russian bilateral diplomacy regarding the partial ceasefire in Syria and attempts to restore it in the flashpoint city of Aleppo. “We haven’t got anywhere near having that discussion with the Syrians themselves because the U.S. and Russia have been trying to bridge the gap, and they haven’t been able to do so…So that’s why we have got to come back and multilateralize this,” one U.N. diplomat told Reuters. Kerry met with Saudi King Salman in Jeddah on Sunday to discuss potential avenues for diplomacy.

Correction: The Mideast Brief yesterday included a news story about a bombing in the city of Mukalla, Yemen. The military command in the area said no such attack took place and the news agency has withdrawn the story.

Headlines

  • The Islamic State was responsible for at least three large explosions targeting pumping stations at the Shaar gas field in Syria yesterday; the site, in Homs province, has been the site of recent fighting between the terrorist group and Assad regime forces.

 

  • PKK militants posted a video online over the weekend of guerillas shooting down a helicopter with a man-portable air defense system (MANPADS), the first known use of the PKK’s use of the surface-to-air weapons in its conflict with the Turkish government.

 

  • Gazans are reporting that Jordan has slowed its granting of special visas to grant residents of the blockaded territory permission to transit Israel and enter Jordan for medical or professional purposes; Human Rights Watch has called on the Jordanian government to help facilitate Gazans’ travel.

 

  • LGBT activists demonstrated in Beirut in a rare open protest of the country’s law prohibiting relations that are considered “against nature” and called for the release of four transsexual women being held by police.

 

  • The Yemeni government has banned the sale of qat on weekdays in the city of Aden and some qat merchants reported that their supplies had been confiscated and burned by soldiers.

Arguments and Analysis

Can Turkey salvage its soft power image ahead of the World Humanitarian Summit” (Kemal Kirisci, Order from Chaos)

“When the U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced at the 68th session of the General Assembly in 2013 that Turkey would host the first-ever world humanitarian summit, Turkey’s soft power was standing tall. Its economy was growing a respectable 4.2 percent rate in 2013 — when the United States was still battling with the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis and the EU was mired in a currency crisis. That year, Turkish exports reached unprecedented heights (including cultural exports: Turkish soap operas were popular in as faraway lands as Brazil). Turkey was still receiving a record number of tourists, despite the civil war raging next door in Syria. And, as Ban Ki-moon noted, Turkey was rising as a major donor country and was playing a critical role in providing humanitarian assistance in Syria (as well as in Haiti, the Philippines, and elsewhere). Its open-door policy towards Syrian refugees received high praise. And Turkey ranked 20th in Monocle’s first-ever Soft Power Index. Now the international community is gearing up to gather in Istanbul for the World Humanitarian Summit on May 22 to 24, and the picture is strikingly different.”

 

Youth voices: The missing link in Middle East politics” (Saad Aldouri, Middle East Eye)

“Lack of jobs and opportunities for youth in the Arab world was revealed in the 2016 Arab Youth Survey as one of the key drivers for recruitment to the Islamic State. As Hassan Hassan puts it in his article for the Arab Youth Survey, extremist groups do not simply materialise from thin air. They capitalise upon political, social, economic and religious failures that must be addressed at their roots. The marginalisation of young people is at the very top of this list of failures. While this phenomenon is nothing new in the Arab world, it has been exacerbated by the increasing centralisation of political power in the region and by the increasing dominance of security in national policy agendas — despite the obvious link between insecurity and youth marginalisation. The few attempts to mobilise young people have been top-down and driven by established elites who are increasingly seen as out of touch with the aspirations of youth. Despite all this, young people continue to self-organise and engage in community activities and debate on key national issues.”

-J. Dana Stuster

DIETER NAGL/AFP/Getty Images

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