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Daily Brief: EU Expands Mediterranean Mission Around Libya

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June 21, 2016

Daily News Brief

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EU Expands Mediterranean Mission Around Libya

EU foreign ministers said they would expand and extend by a year Operation Sophia, a naval mission to combat human smuggling across the Mediterranean from Libya. EU forces will train the Libyan coastguard and Navy (WSJ) and intercept arms smugglers in the Mediterranean (Libya Herald) they say are supplying the self-proclaimed Islamic State. The United Kingdom is also reportedly considering sending military personnel to Libya to train the coastguard (Middle East Eye). Operation Sophia currently comprises five ships and three helicopters (DW), which the EU says has saved sixteen thousand migrants from drowning and has arrested seventy-one suspected human smugglers.


"Italian officials and even German chancellor Angela Merkel have gone so far as to suggest that the EU should strike a deal with Libya similar to the one with Turkey, which allows the return of asylum seekers on the presumption that they are 'safe' there. The assessment that Turkey is safe for refugees and asylum seekers is wrong. But the idea that Libya, riven by warring factions and with a fledgling and contested government of national unity that the EU is desperate to legitimise, can provide a safe haven is positively mind-boggling," Judith Sunderland writes for EU Observer.

"Before the West intervened in Libya in 2011 to depose former leader Colonel Muammar al-Qaddafi, opponents to the campaign warned that it could become a Somalia on the Mediterranean. It appears that this prophecy is coming true. Since Qaddafi’s fall and the civil war that followed, brutal terrorist thugs and criminal syndicates have seized territory and exploited populations. Hundreds of thousands have been displaced internally or fled to neighboring countries. In Sirte, once a popular coastal conference spot, the so-called Islamic State (ISIS)—which relocated its headquarters there after it was gradually pushed out of Dernaa coastal city east of Sirte—has targeted whole tribes for their resistance to its new order," Lydia Sizer and Jason Pack write for Foreign Affairs.  

"The weakness of the Libyan state has been a key factor underlying the exceptional rate of irregular migration on the central Mediterranean route in recent years. While plans for two further phases would see Operation Sophia acting in Libyan territorial waters and onshore, we are not confident that the new Libyan Government of National Accord will be in a position to work closely with the EU and its Member States any time soon. In other words, however valuable as a search and rescue mission, Operation Sophia does not, and we argue, cannot, deliver its mandate. It responds to symptoms, not causes," the House of Lords' European Committee writes in a report. 


Survey: Australian Support for U.S. Military Alliance Waning

Australians' support for the country's longstanding military alliance with the United States is at its lowest point in a decade (FT), according to a recent annual poll, though a majority still said cooperation is important. Nearly 60 percent of respondents said they favored distancing the country from the United States militarily if Republican frontrunner Donald Trump won the presidency (Sky News Australia).

CHINA: Government dietary guidelines in China suggested the country's 1.3 billion people cut their meat consumption in half (Guardian) in a bid to promote public health and cut emissions from the country's livestock industry.


U.S. Asks Nuclear Suppliers Group to Support India's Entrance

The United States asked members of the Nuclear Suppliers Group to support India's entrance when the forty-eight member group meets for its plenary tomorrow in Seoul (Asian Age). White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest reiterated U.S. support for such a move after China's foreign ministry spokesman said admission of new members was not on the meeting's agenda (Indian Express).

This CFR Backgrounder discusses the nuclear capabilities of China, India, and Pakistan.

TAJIKISTAN: Former interior minister Yakub Salimov was released from jail (Eurasia Net) Tuesday. The former paramilitary leader and ally-turned-opponent of President Emomali Rahmon was sentenced to fifteen years in prison in 2005 for a coup plot but his term was shortened by an amnesty measure.


Six Guards Killed in Car Bombing on Jordan-Syria Border

A car bomb exploded in an eastern area of the border between Jordan, Iraq, and Syria, killing six Jordanian border guards (Reuters). It is the first attack of its kind on Jordan from Syria since the country's civil war began.

Robert Satloff and David Schenker write about pressure points in Jordan and recommendations for U.S. foreign policy for the country in this CFR Contingency Planning Memorandum.

SYRIA: Russian state television broadcast images that appear to show Russian jets armed with cluster bombs (RFE/RL), a weapon Moscow has denied using during the Syrian civil war. 


Nigeria's Currency Drops 40 Percent Against Dollar

Nigeria's central bank ended its currency peg to the U.S. dollar, leading the naira to drop 40 percent (WSJ).

CFR's John Campbell discusses Nigeria's transition to a market-driven exchange rate in this blog post.

Democratic Republic of Congo: The International Criminal Court will sentence former Congolese Vice President Jean-Pierre Bemba on Tuesday (France 24) for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Bemba was found guilty in March for his role in rapes and murders when he led the Congolese Liberation Movement into the Central African Republic between 2002 and 2003 to support then-President Ange-Felix Patasse (Daily Nation).


Turkey Arrests Journalists, Human Rights Advocate on Charges of 'Terror Propaganda'

Turkey arrested two journalists, including a representative from the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders, and a human rights activist on charges (Hurriyet) of "making terror propaganda" after each edited a Turkish daily newspaper on Kurdish issues. In Germany, a court rejected an appeal from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to repress (Reuters) publication of a crude poem about him in European media.


Telecom Provider Files Brazil's Largest Bankruptcy Protection Request

The Brazilian telecom provider Oi filed the country's biggest bankruptcy protection request, reporting $19.2 billion in debt (FT). Oi is Brazil's largest fixed-line provider and fourth-largest cell phone carrier.


Report: Record Number of Environmental Activists Killed in 2015

Some 185 environmental activists were killed in 2015 in sixteen countries, according to a report from monitoring group Global Witness (NYT). The toll represents the highest number on record since the group began its count in 2002. The largest number of activists were killed in Brazil, where the group counted fifty such murders last year.

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