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Regime advances in Aleppo countryside, open new link to SDF-held areas in northern Syria

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An advance by the Assad regime forces against Daesh in northern Syria has opened a new link between regime-held areas in western Syria and the country’s northeast held by YPG-dominated and U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), redrawing the map of the conflict near the Turkish border. The advance, if sustained, could open a trade lifeline between the northeast, which holds 70 percent of Syria’s oil and also includes rich farmland, and the west, where Syria’s manufacturing and most of its population are based. The regime advance has begun just south of the town of al-Bab and has pushed forward into the territory expanding northwards, where Turkish forces and the Free Syrian Army (FSA) are currently waging Operation Euphrates Shield, which aims to carve out a buffer zone to keep Daesh and PKK-affiliated groups away from the Turkish border. Regime government forces have now come to the edge of a swathe of territory controlled by the SDF, which has mostly avoided conflict with Damascus but is viewed by Turkey as an extension of the PKK terrorist group that has waged a three-decade insurgency on Turkish territory. The YPG, which is the armed wing of PKK’s Syrian offshoot PYD, is the dominating force within the SDF. The YPG’s critics have accused it of cooperating with Damascus in the Syrian civil war. The spokesman for the SDF militia alliance said the regime army’s advance would bring benefits to civilians in the area. “On the trade front and on the civilian front it is seen as an excellent thing, because now there is a link between the entire northern rural area”. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the regime advance in the area is part of a bid to block Turkish-backed forces from expanding their zones of control in Aleppo province.

Libya: waiting for Trump

While UN envoy Martin Kobler is realizing political talks with Libyan factions, waiting for Trump’s first step on the North African front, ISIS and migrant questions remain on Tripoli table.

November 21

A French national has been captured at an Islamic State (IS) training camp and he is held at Benghazi’s Grenada military prison. A video of him was broadcast yesterday by French TV channel M6 but it did not state where he was arrested nor they revealed his name. We know he was of Algerian origin and from the east of France. Questioned by a French reporter, the man said he had been a second-hand car salesman and that he was gone to Libya planning to move on to Syria and join the Nusra Front, the jihadist organisation previously part of Al-Qaeda. He had not intended to join IS. He refused to send a message to his family on the basis that French intelligence will know who he is soon.

November 22

Most migrants in Libya want to remain in the country and do not intend to head for Europe. The revelation came in the International Organization for Migration’s (IOM) latest Libya Displacement Tracking Matrix Flow Monitoring Analytical report. Libya remains the main country of intended destination for 56 percent of all 1,946 migrants surveyed, with 17 percent destined for Italy, 7 percent to Germany and 5 percent to France, the report says. The report says 81 to 83 percent of migrants from Egypt, Chad and Sudan surveyed intended to stay in Libya. Only 16 percent of Nigerian migrants intended to stay in Libya while 43 percent intended to travel to Italy, 12 percent to Italy, 12 percent to Germany and the remaining 29 percent to a variety of other countries. The demographic age of migrants surveyed were in their twenties, averaging of 29 and 98 percent were male. Most were from the countries bordering Libya: Niger, Egypt and Sudan. Nigerians were the fourth most represented group making up 10 percent of those surveyed. Economic reasons were given by 88 percent of all respondents as the main factors driving them to leave their countries of origin as well as the main reason determining migrants’ choice of destination. Seventy-four present of respondents said that they had spent over 6 months in Libya.

November 24
On Thursday, Libyan forces resumed their advance against Daesh militants holding out in a few streets in their former stronghold of Sirte, saying they had captured 25 houses and a stash of arms. Backed by US air strikes, the Libyan brigades have reduced the area held by the militants to a small patch of land near Sirte’s Mediterranean seafront after a campaign of more than six months. Lately, they say, they are advancing with more caution in the Ghiza Bahriya district to limit casualties among their own fighters and among any hostages and families still held there. “According to our information there are still civilians including women and children inside,” Mohamed Al Gasri, a spokesman for the brigades, told private TV station Libya’s Channel. “The instructions are not to rush in, in order to limit the damage.” Rida Issa, another spokesman for the brigades, said they had recovered a 106 mm anti-tank gun and a store of ammunition during Thursday’s advance. One of the Misrata-led forces had been killed and three wounded, he said. He said perhaps 70 houses remained under Daesh page6 Centro Studi Roma 3000 – Via Marco Simone, 80 00012 Guidonia Montecelio – Tel. 0039.0694801821 www.roma3000.it control. As of Tuesday, the United States had carried out 420 air strikes in Sirte since Aug.1, according to US Africa Command.

Redazione

Libya: U.S. airstrikes and Haftar issue

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As requested by Government of National Accord, the U.S. intensified its fight in Libya launching airstrikes in Sirte, ISIS stronghold in Libya. American help is necessary to accelerate GNA advance: “These actions and those we have taken previously will help deny ISIL a safe haven in Libya from which it could attack the United States and our allies,” the Pentagon statement said.

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Previously, Western support was by intelligence and military training, as proved by presence of special forces in Libya since at least March 2016. Now, despite GNA advance in Gulf of Sirt (ISIS troops decreased from 6,000 to 1,000, as reported by Pentagon), American help is necessary to increase its influence in this area. Indeed, if the U.S. (and Italy, through a logistic support) wants to defeat Islamic State because of the war on terrorism, Serraj has at least two reasons: the first one is Libyan security and support to all factions which are fighting against Daesh; the second one concerns Serraj’s connection with Haftar and HoR for GNA legitimacy.

Inevitably, Haftar reaction after the U.S. intervention was not positive. His troops, supporting by Egypt and France (three French soldiers were killed in Libya close to Benghazi), advanced against ISIS positions in past months, especially when GNA was freshly formed. But the U.S. and its allies wants an unified Libya to defeat Daesh and stop migration flows.

If France has an ambivalent position, Italy is the first U.S. ally in the Libyan context. Now, Rome is ready to consider positively a request to use airbases and national airspace, and support the operation, if it is believed that it would lead to a more rapid and effective conclusion of the ongoing action,” Defence Minister Roberta Pinotti said.
Giacomo Pratali

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Libya: with Serraj or Haftar?

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Several influences composed the current Libyan context. The war against Daesh and the possible international military operation on the ground, under Italy leadership as attested by the US Secretary of State John Kerry and the US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford, are two geopolitical variables that could intersect in the near future.

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“We have no links with Mr Serraj and the Presidential Council which he leads is not recognised by the parliament (in the east),” Haftar told i-Tele news channel in an interview in Libya. “Daesh does not have the capacity to face the Libyan armed forces, but the battle could take time. ” It’s what Geneal Khalifa Haftar said in an interview on May 20 and confirmed in following ones. So, Serraj’s visit in Egypt, the main Haftar’s sponsor, on May 26 could be determining to a possible coalition between GNA and Tobruk, which are fighting ISIS nearby Sirte.

So, the Libyan context is not going anywhere. Tobruk parliament has not already voted for GNA. On the other hand, on May 17 asked International Community for help Libya by engaging with the legitimate institutions in accordance with the political agreement. While, on May 8, he said that “”It doesn’t make sense that the international community supports our war against terrorism, and forbids us from arming ourselves.”

“We are ready to respond to the Libyan government’s requests for training and equipping the presidential guard and vetted forces from throughout Libya. The government of national accord has voiced its intention to submit appropriate arms embargo exemption requests to the UN Libya sanctions committee to procure necessary lethal arms and materiel to counter UN-designated terrorist groups and to combat Daesh throughout the country. We will fully support these efforts while continuing to reinforce the UN arms embargo,” UK Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond.

Just as Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni, who supposed a military support only after “we will try to reinforce the political accord, to fight against ISIS, including General Haftar, but the full recognition is needed”. While, during the meeting in Rome with GNA Foreign Minister Mohamed Siala, discussed about migration control and “the possibility of reactivating the tools set out in the 2008 friendship pact as soon as possible,” Italian government said in a statement.
Military context
GNA and Misrata militias from the South and the West; Haftar’s troops from the East. The siege of Sirte, ISIS stronghold in Libya, is underway. A military context which is causing two consequences. The first one, Western countries special forces, already on the ground since at least two months, are supervising by both and monitoring Libyan progress and Haftar’s reliability if GNA will fail. The second one, the first ISIS internal divisions caused as reported by Libyan online magazine al Wasat.

So, the next few weeks will be crucial for Libyan destiny. The pressure of United States, United Kingdom and France on Italy for an immediate military operation on the ground will particularly depend from result of war of GNA and Tobruk troops against Islamic State: therefore, General Khalifa Haftar is not still out of running.
Giacomo Pratali

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Libya: is France supporting Haftar?

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How confirmed in the last weeks, the real Libyan conflict is between GNA and HoR, which didn’t still ratified UN government. Behind this impasse there is General Khalifa Haftar, very well-liked by Egypt and EAU through weapons supply in the war against Islamic State. And, while France partecipated to G5 meeting in Hannover with Germany, Italy, United Kingdom and United States and discussed about Libya crisis, on the other hand Paris is supporting Egypt to extend its sphere of influence on Cyrenaica and its oil well.

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After that workers at the Marsa el-Hariga terminal had refused to load the shipment which should have to export 650,000 barrels of oil on April 22, Libyan crisis is becoming always more complicated. It’s clear that Tobruk government is trying to control oil well. “This had the potential to be a very ugly incident and I am pleased that it has been resolved peacefully without injury to anybody or loss of revenue or damage to the integrity of NOC or the country,” Tripoli-based Chairman Mustafa Sanalla said.

Not only from oil viewpoint, but also from military one. After that Shura Council pushed out Islamic State fighters from Derna, Hafeth al-Dabaa, a spokesman for Derna Mujahideen Shura Council (DMSC), told the BBC that Haftar didn’t freed the city but its warplanes targeted Islamic revolutionaries. And, with LNA, is moving towards Sirte, the Daesh stronghold in Libya.

The Serraj request to support his government to international community especially reguards Haftar. UN support on April 28, when it blocked illicit crude sale towards Malta, could be not enough.

Indeed, Egypt and EAU are directly supporting Tobruk and Haftar. The purpose is to come first to Sirte and defeat Islamic State. Supported by Al Sisi, the General is aiming to become the leader of Libya.

So, French participation to G5 about Libya and the contemporary weapons supply to Egypt are complicating Libyan context. And, above all, the role of Western countries.

Therefore, Libya’s U.N.-backed unity government called on Thursday was necessary to stop all military actions against Islamic State: “In the absence of coordination and unified leadership … the Council expresses its concern that the battle in Sirte against Daesh (Islamic State) will be a confrontation between those armed forces. Accordingly, the Presidential Council, as the supreme commander of army, demands all Libyan military forces wait for it to appoint a joint leadership for the Sirte operation,” the statement said.
Giacomo Pratali

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Libya still without national unity government

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Not even today. After that HoR representatives failed to attend vote for national unity government, also on March 8 UN Peace Deal is still pending.

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Since several weeks, Western countries are waiting for national unity government to intervene in Libya. And while Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi denied a military operation without Libyan approval, today the New York Times reports that the White House has a plan to immediately go in Libya to stop ISIS expansion.

Indeed United States, France and United Kingdom are on the ground since at least one months. So Italy, after the verbal crossfire between Renzi and the US ambassador John R. Philips, must decide soon if it wants to lead international coalition or if it wants to be slipped away.
Giacomo Pratali

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Libya: what’s the real role of Italy?

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Syria more than Libya was the main topic during the Rome meeting of the anti-ISIS Small Group on February 2. Summit was held chaired by US Secretary of State John Kerry and the Minister of Foreign Affairs Paolo Gentiloni, the summit was attended by 23 foreign ministers, including the EU Representative Federica Mogherini.

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During the press conference after meeting, Kerry told about a global battle against Daesh in Syria, Iraq and Libya: “This theater of war will be longer, more than a war between two states”. He excluded the possibility of a ground intevention of US armed forces, but ensured logistical and training supports when new Libyan government will approve international military operation. Moreover, Secretary of State remembered that Italy is “one of the most active countries anti-ISIS”.

And Libya? Political impasse to create new government in Tripoli is not only favoring once again
the radicalization of Daesh, but is causing knock-out effects. Risk is only one: Western countries could repeat the same error of 2011 if did not wait for new government approval for military intervention.

As revealed by the Sunday Times, intelligences of the United Kingdom, United States and France would be active at a base near Tobruk, where they are already planning interventions on the ground and the introduction of a permanent headquarters. So, what this possibile UN military intervention really is? A support to local forces? Several bomb raid? Or even a ground intervention?

Last December, writing to his Italian counterpart Roberta Pinotti, US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter said: “I hope that Italy will take part in raid against Islamic State. “ Conflicting words compared with Kerry and Gentiloni recent statements.

Ultimately, this summit did not change anything about Libyan crisis. Moreover, this deadlock could relegate Italy to subordinate role during the probably UN military intervention.
Giacomo Pratali

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Libya: deal is due to expire

BreakingNews @en/Policy di

70 people killed by a truck bomb detonated in a police training center. Oil terminals are under attack. More than 300 kilometers of coastline are controlled by Islamic State. New government formation is always more essential in order that UN intervention could stop Daesh advance and allow Libya to grow.

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70 people killed and several injured. It’s the definitely bloody balance of attack in Zliten, where a jihadist detonated a truck bomb beside a police training center last Thursday. An affiliate group of Daesh claimed responsability. While Italy evacuated 15 woundered on Monday sending a C-130 to take them to military hospital in Rome.

Meanwhile, Eu foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini met prime minister Fayez al-Sarraj, backed in Tunis after attack at Misurata airport last Friday, and pledged 100 million euro aid-package.

But Libya is close to collapse. Indeed, unity government deal should run out of time within two weeks: nevertheless, Tripoli, Tobruk and other factions have not still assembled new executive. Instead, Tripoli, where new government will be established, as is other cities, are victims not only of Daesh, but of clashes between enemy factions.

The whole while The Financial Times publishes a new report about Libyan economic context. Analysis is tragic. Oil production collapse to 400,000 b/d in the last 18 months, while it reached 1,4 million during the post-revolution. Denar depreciated about 60 per cent. Whereas, EIU estimated Libyan GDP to fall over 8 per cent during 2016.

From security viewpoint, more than 300 kilometers of coastline are controlled by Islamic State. Sidra and other oil terminals were aimed by Daesh, even if the attack on oil port of Zuetina was repelled by Libya guards on Monday.

Libyan internal chaos increased again since December 17, when Tripoli, Tobruk and other factions reached agreement. New government formation is always more essential in order that UN intervention could stop Daesh advance and allow Libya to grow.
Giacomo Pratali

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