Why Libya Matters

June 1, 2015  Zachary Fillingham

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Libya is quietly slipping into chaos while the more established debacles of Iraq and Syria dominate in Western headlines and corridors of power. The more grave and consequential the Libyan civil war becomes, the less attention is paid to it. It’s almost as if the country has already been relegated to an embarrassing footnote in the history books, another ‘oops’ on the growing list of flawed Western interventions.

But it can and will get worse if Europe and its international partners choose to stand idle, because there can be no long-lasting stability in North Africa unless Libya is brought under control.

A Security Crisis

It’s a worst-case scenario that has been unfolding with stunning regularity throughout the MENA region: Islamic State (ISIS) moves into a vacuum and quickly becomes entrenched, bolstering its revenue, recruits, and standing with jihadis worldwide. Many thought that Libya would not provide fertile ground for ISIS expansion due to the country’s tight-knit tribal structure and aversion to outsiders. ISIS appears to be proving them wrong by going the franchise route and aligning its ‘brand’ with pre-existing Libyan Islamist outfits. Now the black flag is flying over Sirte and Derna, providing ISIS with a base to make further gains amidst the fighting between Tubruq and Tripoli. There are also more established, al-Qaeda aligned jihadist groups operating in Libya such as Ansar al-Sharia, which is currently proving a tactical headache for General Haftar’s forces in Benghazi. Continue reading

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Two Overlooked Aspects Of Those Leaks About NSA Spying On French Presidents

US Intelligence Community Seal

US Intelligence Community Seal (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

from the reasons-to-be-cheerful dept

There’s been quite a lot of excitement in the press about the latest leaks that the NSA has been spying on not just one French President, but (at least) three of them. As Mike pointed out, this isn’t such a big deal, because it is precisely the kind of thing that you would expect the NSA to do — as opposed to spying on the entire US public, which isn’t. There is, though, an aspect that most people have overlooked: the fact that these NSA leaks don’t appear to originate from Snowden’s stash.

Of course, Mr Crypto himself, Bruce Schneier, did spot it, and pointed out it could be one of his “other” US intelligence community leakers, listed a couple of months ago, or even a completely new one. As that post shows, there are now a few people around that are leaking secret documents, and that’s a pretty significant trend, since you might expect enhanced security measures taken in the wake of Snowden’s leaks would have discouraged or caught anyone who attempted to follow suit. Continue reading

Big Brother is watching EU

U.S. Embassy at focus of NSA Germany Spy scandal. Getty

As the US moves towards privacy reform, Europe enacts sweeping new spying powers.

A strange — and strangely unnoticed — trend is emerging in the evolving global response to massive 2013 leaks about US surveillance activities. While our European cousins talk privacy reform, the United States is actually moving ahead with it, albeit more slowly than many would like. As the American side of the Atlantic inches toward self-restraint, many European governments are seeking sweeping new spying powers. Europe is at risk of falling behind the US in privacy reform. 

Following two post-Snowden reviews of US surveillance activities, the United States announced new limitations to its electronic surveillance activities, including additional privacy protections for Europeans and other non-US citizens, which few European countries currently afford Americans. Much-criticized US surveillance activities, including the bulk telephone metadata program, are set to expire in days unless Congress intervenes. Meanwhile, the bipartisan Law Enforcement Access to Data Stored Overseas (LEADS) Act and similar draft laws are moving through Congress and garnering broad support from technology companies, business organizations, and privacy and civil liberties advocacy groups. Continue reading

Arrests fuel jihad fears in Spain’s African lands

Arrests fuel jihad fears in Spain's African lands

A picture taken on December 4, 2014 is a general view of El Principe district in Ceuta.

CEUTA, Spain – Aisha has lived all her life in one neighbourhood in Spain’s African territory of Ceuta, but now she is willing to move – even to the war zone of Syria.

“I would go and live with my family in the Islamic State in Syria, and if my husband died there in combat, I would accept it,” said the mother-of-four, dressed in a black hijab, who asked for her real name to be concealed.

Her home district of El Principe in this European enclave of 87,000 people on the tip of Morocco has a reputation for hardship – and a new, growing one for Islamic radicalism.

Police on Tuesday raided a gang they suspect recruited 12 women online and sent them to join the violent extremist group calling itself Islamic State, which controls parts of Syria and Iraq.

Five of the suspects were arrested in Barcelona, Ceuta and Melilla, Spain’s other north African territory, to the east. Two were detained in Morocco, close to the border with Ceuta.

Continue reading

Three Possible Scenarios for Iran’s Nuclear Talks

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Tayebeh Mohammadikia
PhD Candidate of International Relations in Allameh Tabatabai University, Tehra

Iran‘s nuclear negotiations have reached their sensitive stage. Now, the time is ripe to review future prospects of these negotiations more accurately and talk about the final outcome of the nuclear talks with more precision. However, the way ahead is still surrounded by ambiguity and problems. Under the present circumstances, analysts focusing on these negotiations are faced with three main assumptions: inability of the two sides to reach an agreement, achievement of a final agreement, and finally, further extension of the negotiations. Each of these possible scenarios is discussed in more detail below.

1. Achievement of a final agreement

Any analysis of conditions that may surface after “achievement of an agreement” will be a function of the arrangement of powers on the two main sides of the equation; that is, Iran and the United States, as well as the analysis of other forces that have their own influence at international, regional and global levels. Here, possible options available to powerful political forces within domestic political scene of these two countries will be explained first before turning to major influential powers in international arena.

   1.1. Arrangement of powers in Iran and the US if an agreement is not achieved

A nuclear agreement has staunch supporters and proponents both in Iran and the United States. However, the other possibility, that is, inability to reach an agreement, has also its own important and influential proponents. Continue reading

The Hunt for Black October

The Swedish Navy is desperately trying to find a Russian submarine prowling off the coast of Stockholm. What’s Vladimir Putin up to?

BY Erik Brattberg , Katarina Tracz OCTOBER 20, 2014

What first sounded like something straight out of a Tom Clancy novel is turning out to be Moscow’s first serious test of Western resolve since the invasion of Crimea earlier this year. While details are patchy and the situation is still unfolding, three separate credible eyewitness accounts and a photo showing a dark structure descending into the shallow waters of the Baltic Sea seem to confirm the presence of a foreign submarine or mini-sub some 30 miles from Stockholm. If so, this would be a major escalation of tensions in the Baltic Sea region. Continue reading

Is It Too Late For Libya?

Interviewee: Mary Fitzgerald, The Irish Times
Interviewer: Bernard Gwertzman, Consulting Editor
October 3, 2014

Three years after the fall of Muammar al-Qaddafi, Libya is unraveling at a pace and scale few analysts expected, says Mary Fitzgerald, a Tripoli-based journalist. She says the violence which teeters on the brink of civil war, is rooted more in regional, economic, and social cleavages than religious differences. “Libya’s crisis is too often reduced to a narrative of Islamist versus non-Islamist,” she explains. “It’s less an ideological battle than a scramble for power and resources.” Meanwhile, she says that international efforts to stem the crisis, which are often viewed suspiciously in Libya, have achieved little.

Tripoli ProtestersSupporters of Operation Dawn wave Libyan flags in Tripoli as they demonstrate against the new Libyan parliament, September 2014. (Photo: Ismail Zitouny/Courtesy Reuters)

There are constant reports of violence in Libya. How bad is it?

Libyans talk of their country being at its most serious juncture since the uprising against Muammar al-Qaddafi in 2011. The scale and speed of the unraveling this summer has taken many by surprise. The ensuing power struggle has deepened polarization not just in the political sphere but also on the street, and even within families. Many Libyans fear their country could tip into civil war. Continue reading