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Daily Brief: U.S., Allies Consider Arming Libyan Unity Government

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May 17, 2016

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U.S., Allies Consider Arming Libyan Unity Government

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announced from Vienna on Monday that world leaders were ready to consider appeals for weaponry from the internationally backed unity government in Libya (Al Jazeera). Foreign ministers said in a communiqué that they were "ready to respond to the Libyan government's requests for training and equipping" its forces (DW). The move, supported by all five permanent members of the UN Security Council, represents an exemption to the UN arms embargo on the country that has been in place since 2011. The deal applies only to the Tripoli-based government of Prime Minister Fayez Serraj, who arrived by boat with his allies to Libya six weeks ago (WaPo); the administration says it needs training and equipment to counter terrorist organizations in the country. Kerry told reporters that diplomats were "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" of UN action.   

ANALYSIS

"In contemporary political debates, the Libya intervention tends to be remembered as an intra-administration soap opera, focused on the role Clinton — or Susan Rice or Samantha Power — played in advising Obama to go through with it. Or it’s addressed offhandedly in reference to the 2012 terrorist attacks on the U.S. special mission and CIA annex in Benghazi. But it would be far more pertinent to treat Libya as a case study for the ways that supposedly limited interventions tend to mushroom into campaigns for regime change. Five years on, it’s still not a matter of public record when exactly Western powers decided to topple Qaddafi," CFR's Micah Zenko writes for Foreign Policy.

"For many Libyans, the Serraj government is not the final answer; the GNA is at best a band aid on a political problem, where instead a tourniquet is required from within to stem ISIS. The GNA may simply not be up to the task, but neither is full-blown international [intervention] the best idea either. From the Libyan perspective, Southern Europe is only focusing on migrants, energy, and terrorism, and not the bigger picture of the plight of Libyans themselves who may very well end up suffering just as other victims of warfare in the Levant as Libya’s cleavage widens," writes Theodore Karasik for Al Arabiya. 

"The battle against the Islamic State (IS) in Libya has long been seen by supporters of the UN-mediated peace accord as the quintessential shared interest that could finally unify the country's discordant rival militias. Launching a coordinated attack on IS’s headquarters in Sirte would be a perfect way for new partners to embody their unity and engage in trust building. Conversely, each militia claiming that only it can defeat IS and as such deserves arms and training from the international community is a perfect way for the rival militias to exacerbate the fault lines that divide them," Jason Pack writes for Middle East Eye. 

PACIFIC RIM

U.S., South Korea, Japan Plan Anti-Missile Drills

The three countries will hold anti-missile exercises (Korea Times) next month in Hawaii on the sidelines of the Rim of the Pacific Exercise (RIMPAC). A Pentagon spokesman said the measure was to "coordinate a defensive posture in the region" in light of recent North Korean weapons tests. 

CFR's Scott A. Snyder writes about Kim Jong-un's leadership and nuclear agenda in this Asia Unbound blog post.

MYANMAR: Five leaders of a religious tolerance rally face charges under the country's Peaceful Assembly Act, which rights groups say continues to criminalize nonviolent demonstrations (Al Jazeera) even under the government of democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi. Meanwhile, the Obama administration is expected to announce that it will maintain the majority of sanctions on Myanmar's gem industry and figures linked to the former military junta (FT).

This CFR Backgrounder explains Myanmar's political history and the responses of Western governments to its recent democratic reforms.  

SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA

Pakistan Complains to UN About Indian Maps Bill

A letter sent to the United Nations by Pakistan's permanent representative in New York expressed concern over India's so-called "maps bill," which provides up to a one billion rupee ($15 million) fine and seven-year jail sentence for publishing maps that depict unapproved borders for the disputed Kashmir region (Dawn).

INDIA: State legislative elections on Monday were expected to strengthen the governing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of Prime Minister Narendra Modi (WSJ) in new places like Assam state, where the BJP campaigned on stopping Muslim immigration from Bangladesh. Official results will be announced on Thursday. 

MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA

Saudi Arabia Holdings of U.S. Debt Revealed

A Freedom of Information Act request from Bloomberg News revealed figures of Saudi Arabia's holdings of U.S. debt, ending the U.S. government’s long policy of keeping such numbers secret. Saudi Arabia held $116.8 billion in Treasury holdings as of March (Bloomberg), which puts it among the top dozen foreign countries stockpiling U.S. debt.

IRAQ: The self-proclaimed Islamic State claimed responsibility for twin bombings in Baghdad on Tuesday that killed at least forty-four people (Middle East Eye). A third bomb went off hours later in Sadr City, north of Baghdad, killing at least fourteen people.

SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA

Rwanda Expels 1,500 Migrants From Burundi

The Rwandan government said it had expelled 1,500 Burundians in recent days (AFP) in what the government says is a crackdown on undocumented migrants. Rwanda has been hosting tens of thousands of migrants from Burundi who fled political violence and others who came to Rwanda to look for work (Reuters).  

This CFR Global Conflict Tracker examines the political crisis in Burundi following President Pierre Nkurunziza's July 2015 reelection to a disputed third term.

GABON: President Ali Bongo Ondimba said in an interview (FT) that Western governments need to step up their efforts to fight militant Islam in Africa in order to stem the number of refugees fleeing to Europe. "If we are not successful, Europe will suffer because you will see more and more migrants going to Europe and among those migrants you will have militants," he said. 

EUROPE

Soldiers Killed in Nagorno-Karabakh After Meeting of Azeri, Armenian Leaders

A day after leaders from Armenia and Azerbaijan met with foreign diplomats in Vienna to agree on a cease-fire, each country reported it had lost a soldier to fire in the disputed region (Reuters).  

UNITED KINGDOM: Former MI6 chief Sir Richard Dearlove criticized the proposal for seventy-five million Turkish citizens to have visa-free access to Europe's Schengen zone under a March EU-Turkey deal meant to stem migrant flows across the Mediterranean (Press Association). Dearlove called the move "like storing gasoline next to the fire one is trying to extinguish." 

AMERICAS

Canada Evacuates Oil Workers as Wildfire Resurges

Alberta issued a mandatory evacuation order for all oil sands facilities north of Fort McMurray and south of Fort McKay (Globe and Mail) as a wildfire continues to burn in the area. The 90,000 residents of Fort McMurray were all forced to flee the city two weeks ago (Guardian).

BRAZIL: Following criticism over his naming of an all-white male cabinet, Brazil's interim president named a woman to head the state development bank (MercoPress). Michel Temer took over from his onetime ally President Dilma Rousseff as she faces impeachment charges in the senate and is suspended from office for the duration of her trial.  

CAMPAIGN 2016

Survey: Economy Tops List of Americans’ Concerns Ahead of National Security

Eighteen percent of respondents in a recent Gallup poll ranked the economy as the most important problem facing the country, ahead of immigration, terrorism, and national security issues. Since March, on average, 27 percent of Republican voters have ranked the economy as a top concern compared with 11 percent of Democrats.

Track and compare the major candidates’ positions on immigration, national security and terrorism with CFR’s interactive, The Candidates and the World.

 
 
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