Tim Eaton

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Palestinians pass through the checkpoint separating Bethlehem and Jerusalem on April 14, 2023. (Photo by Wisam Hashlamoun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

The Hamas attacks on Israelis on 7 October shattered a growing regional and international consensus that the Israel–Palestine conflict was dormant. The violence was a horrifying reminder that regional transformation, grounded in integration and normalization between Arab and Israeli states long hostile to one another, remains far off.

Some watching and reading analyses of this month’s events across much of English-language media may think that Hamas’ attack represented the end of a period of peace in the Palestinian–Israeli conflict.

Former Israeli prime minister Naftali Bennett stated the attack was ‘unprovoked’. Shadow UK Foreign Secretary David Lammy insisted ‘these events started on Saturday’.…  Seguir leyendo »

Shura neighbourhood, Kufra. Photo by local photographer.

The Libyan city of Kufra is an important trade hub for goods crossing its borders with Sudan and Chad. Since 2011, human smuggling has come to play a complex role in Kufra’s economic development and overall stability, providing counter-intuitive findings for international policymakers.

Communal disputes

Kufra’s population comprises two main groups: Arabs and Tebus. The Arab community in Kufra numbers around 55,000 people – of which approximately 42,000 are from the Zway community, and 5,000 from non-Zway tribes – while the indigenous Tebu community consists of around 8,000 people.

Longstanding rifts exist both between and within these communities. While Kufra’s communities were united in their support of the overthrow of the Gaddafi regime in 2011, they have not agreed on what should come next.…  Seguir leyendo »

Abdoulaye Bathily (C), UN Special Representative for Libya and Head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), arrives for an election simulation meeting in Tripoli on 5 November 2022. Photo by MAHMUD TURKIA/AFP via Getty Images.

Abdoulaye Bathily was appointed UN Special Representative to Libya in September, the eighth UN representative to attempt to negotiate a way out of Libya’s governance crisis since 2011. He faces steep challenges. The political situation in Libya remains at an impasse, with the re-emergence of rival governments and heightening factionalism. Internationally, Bathily inherits a UN mission that has been subject to significant turnover and capacity challenges, a deeply divided Security Council, and various agendas put forward by interested states.

‘There appears to be broad agreement that Libya’s institutions are facing a serious legitimacy crisis’, Bathily told the UN Security Council on 15 November.…  Seguir leyendo »

Vehicles of forces loyal to Libya's Tripoli-based Prime Minister Abdulhamid Dbeibah are parked along the waterfront in the capital on 17 May 2022, hours after forces of the rival Tobruk-based government withdrew. Photo: MAHMUD TURKIA/AFP via Getty Images.

The failure to hold scheduled elections in December 2021 derailed Libya’s political roadmap, heightening animosity between the Government of National Unity (GNU) – the country’s first unified government since 2014 – and the House of Representatives, its chronically divided parliament. The House of Representatives appointed a new government in February, the Government of National Stability (GNS), and says that the GNU must go. The GNU, however, says it will only leave following elections.

This impasse has dragged on, but reached a flash point on the evening of 16 May, as the designated prime minister of the GNS, Fathi Bashagha, entered Tripoli in an attempt to assume office and operate from the capital.…  Seguir leyendo »

A man checks electrical wires in Baghdad, 13 September 2017. For years Iraqis have denounced the bad management and financial negligence that have stifled the country and let its infrastructure fall apart. Photo: AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP via Getty Images.

Tackling entrenched corruption will be a key focus of the political discourse in the Middle East and North Africa in 2022. International policymakers will look to anti-corruption as a framework that can be used to help stabilize conflict countries, support economic reform, or to pressure adversarial regimes. Pressure to deal with corruption also stems from popular anger in countries that suffer from poor governance as corruption can have very serious – even fatal – consequences, as the deadly hospital fires Iraq suffered last year illustrate.

Across the region, anti-corruption processes are meant to signal accountability. However, they can also be weaponized by elites to consolidate power and target opponents, particularly in countries where the political system itself is built on politically sanctioned corruption.…  Seguir leyendo »

President of Libya's interim government Mohammad Younes Menfi (L) meets warlord Khalifa Haftar (R) in Benghazi, Libya on 11 February 2021. Photo by Khalifa Haftar Forces Press Office/Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images.

On 5 February, the UN-assembled Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF) appointed a new interim government. Intended to see the country through until elections scheduled for 24 December 2021, the appointment of the Government of National Unity (GNU) ostensibly breaks the political deadlock of the past five years. But what can the GNU achieve? And how should the international community respond?

A limited mandate and low expectations

February 2021 conjures images of the same period in 2016, when the unity government produced by UN-mediated talks, the Government of National Accord (GNA), was unable to overcome the institutional divides that had emerged in 2014. …  Seguir leyendo »

Forces loyal to Libya's U.N.-recognized Government of National Accord parade a Pantsir air defense system truck in Tripoli on Wednesday after capturing it at from forces loyal to Libya's eastern-based strongman Khalifa Hifter. (Mahmud Turkia/AFP/Getty Images)

Last month, Field Marshall Khalifa Hifter, commander of the Libyan Arab Armed Forces (LAAF), surprised Libyans on the eve of Ramadan with an address calling on them to reject “all the institutions” established by the 2015 Libyan Political Agreement (LPA).

Four days later he claimed a mandate for military rule. But this has yet to transpire, with Hifter forced into negotiations with civilian counterparts. As his military fortunes have also taken a significant setback, Hifter is now on the defensive on all fronts. The coming weeks may be decisive for his ambitions.

Libya’s government dysfunction continues

The LPA, signed under the auspices of the United Nations in 2015, paved the way for the formation of a unity “Government of National Accord” (GNA) and sought to accommodate rival factions by maintaining the eastern-based House of Representatives as the parliament and the Tripoli-based remnants of the previous parliament as a consultative body.…  Seguir leyendo »

This week, Libyan cease-fire talks brokered by Russia and Turkey addressed the country’s latest bout of conflict, which has claimed more than 2,000 lives and displaced hundreds of thousands of Libyans. Negotiations took place between the Government of National Accord (GNA) and rival Libyan Arab Armed Forces (LAAF).

Russia and Turkey’s involvement represented a change in international engagement with Libya’s conflict, as they asserted their leadership in the political process and attempted to sideline Western countries and the United Nations. It looked as if it was set to pay off. The prime minister of the GNA, Fayez Serraj, agreed to the deal, but commander of the LAAF, Khalifa Hifter, left Moscow without signing.…  Seguir leyendo »

Angela Merkel greets Fayez al-Serraj, prime minister of the Government of National Accord of Libya, in May. Photo: Getty Images.

There has been a stark contrast between messaging coming from the international community and trends on the ground as Libya’s latest bout of civil war enters its eighth month.

Led by Germany, some states have been trying to build consensus for a ceasefire ahead of a summit that is expected to be held in Berlin in the next few months. Today marks the date of one of the final planning meetings for the summit.

The increasing use of drone technology, airstrikes and further influxes of fighters trend points in the opposite direction. Warring groups in Libya continue to receive support from external states, undermining international efforts to de-escalate the conflict.…  Seguir leyendo »

A Muqtada al-Sadr mobile phone cover for sale in a Baghdad market. Photo: Getty Images.

State weakness and protracted conflict continue to plague Iraq and Libya. A breakdown of the unitary state, competition for power and influence, and the absence of a social contract all continue to drive conflict, while allowing a proliferation of local armed groups to flourish.

Yet while such groups in both countries are often viewed solely as security actors, many of them are better considered as ‘hybrid’ networks that also span the political, economic and social spheres. Western policies to mitigate the threats presented by these groups must therefore extend beyond security-based interventions to necessarily inclusive and political approaches focusing on accountability as a route to peace.…  Seguir leyendo »

Khalifa Haftar arrives for a conference in Palermo in November 2018. Photo: Getty Images.

The Libyan Arab Armed Forces (LNA) led by Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar launched an offensive on the Libyan capital, Tripoli, on 3 April.  The offensive soon lost momentum as forces in western Libya nominally-aligned to the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) rallied to prevent the advance of Haftar’s forces. Significant reinforcements have been despatched from across the country, raising the prospect of a protracted period of fighting – everyone involved has few incentives to back down and many incentives to avoid failure.

If the fighting drags on, the LNA’s revenue generation model may be its undoing.

Securing the necessary funding for the LNA’s operations has been key to Haftar’s success and the sustainability of his effort to establish security and a military governing authority across territories under LNA control.…  Seguir leyendo »

Firefighters and rescuers respond after armed men stormed the headquarters of Libya's National Oil Company in Tripoli on 10 September. Photo: Getty Images.

Last month, the leaders of Libya’s Government of National Accord (GNA), the Central Bank of Libya (CBL) and the High State Council agreed a long-awaited package of economic reforms.

But, without accompanying structural reform they can at most offer a short-term fix.  The recent fighting in Tripoli illustrates the inextricable links between control over the distribution of state revenues and conflict. A sustainable political settlement must therefore include economic components.

Long-anticipated reform

One of the principal goals of the reforms announced on 12 September is to curb profiteering from the state’s resources by those who can access foreign currency at the official rate (1.38 LYD=1 USD) and sell at the black-market rate (currently 5.3 LYD=1 USD).  …  Seguir leyendo »

Libyan rebels gather on the outskirts al-Agila. (Nasser Nasser/AP)

For too long, the economic drivers of Libya’s conflict have received insufficient attention. But this may be about to change. Ghassan Salamé, the U.N. special envoy to Libya, has his sights set on targeting Libya’s “economy of predation.”

“I think this is the most important issue today in Libya,” he recently told Reuters. “It is, at least in my modest view, the heart of the matter in Libya.” He is right.

In Libya, networks of armed actors, corrupt business executives and politicians continue to find ways to make money through avenues such as the smuggling of fuel or people, the diversion of state resources and the growth of extremely profitable protection rackets.…  Seguir leyendo »

Ghassan Salamé at the Forum MED Mediterranean Dialogues summit in Rome. Photo: Getty Images.

It has been almost three months since UN Special Representative for Libya Ghassan Salamé launched his ambitious 12-month action plan for Libya. Salamé's programme seeks to amend the Libyan Political Agreement (LPA) that spawned the Government of National Accord, pass a constitution and hold presidential and parliamentary elections.

That timeline always looked ambitious. Salamé has had some notable successes, re-establishing the UN’s lead in negotiations and resuscitating a dormant political process. But now he faces the challenge of convincing Libyan powerbrokers to focus their efforts on succeeding in elections rather than fighting a drawn out battle over amendments to the LPA.…  Seguir leyendo »

A soldier stands guard in Madama near Niger's border with Libya. Photo: Getty Images.

Last week, seven African and European leaders met in Paris to discuss means of reducing illegal migration from North Africa to Europe. They face significant challenges: during the first seven months of this year 115,109 migrants succeeded in crossing the Mediterranean Sea to Europe in search of a better life.

For Europe, the political task of managing the arrival of these newcomers is considerable. Nationalist populism – turbocharged by voter concern over migration remains a powerful force. Yet, the scaremongering over the size of refugee flows obscures a broader picture of migration in West Africa and the Sahel, driven by long-term development-centred challenges.…  Seguir leyendo »

Ghassan Salame. Photo: Getty Images.

The meeting convened by French President Emmanuel Macron to find common ground on a solution to Libya’s crisis may prove to be a platform to relaunch a political process, or it may be a road to nowhere. The efforts of Ghassan Salamé, who officially took up his post last week as the UN’s new special representative for Libya, will have a significant say in determining which.

Salamé chaired the Paris meeting, and has extensive experience of the UN system, having worked with the UN Assistance Mission to Iraq and as a senior adviser to former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. His experience of the fractious Lebanese political scene, as minister of culture, is also likely to be instructive.…  Seguir leyendo »

7 April: The USS Porter fires a missile at a Syrian military airfield in retaliation for a chemical attack. Photo: US Navy via Getty Images.

President Donald Trump’s authorisation of missile strikes on the Shayrat airbase in Syria last week has divided opinion. For some, the action was a proportionate response to the alleged use of chemical weapons by the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. For others, it is a strategically meaningless move that may serve to escalate the Syrian conflict rather than bring it closer to a resolution. How one assesses the effectiveness of the strikes is largely dependent on the context in which they are being judged.

Viewed in strict terms of chemical weapons deterrence, the missile strikes represent a minor success and allowed the Trump administration to show that, unlike the Obama administration, it was willing to act.…  Seguir leyendo »

26 March: The Libyan National Army (LNA) moves against jihadists in Benghazi. Photo: Getty Images.

A year ago, Fayez al-Serraj, prime minister of the internationally recognized Government of National Accord (GNA), along with seven members of the Presidential Council, entered Tripoli on a naval frigate. That it was perceived as a victory for Serraj to simply enter the city that is the nominal seat of his government underlined the challenges he faced.

Twelve months on, little has changed. The GNA has little authority and limited legitimacy in the eyes of many Libyans, and is dependent on a group of Tripolitanian militias for its protection. A corresponding void in international engagement has contributed to a rise in conflict between armed groups, provided an opportunity for Russia to step in and emboldened the competing Libyan National Army (LNA) of Khalifa Haftar in the east.…  Seguir leyendo »

Newly appointed British Prime Minister Theresa May has moved quickly to announce Boris Johnson as her foreign secretary. As recently as two weeks ago, Johnson was seen as a leading contender for her job. Now he is to be the face of the UK government’s foreign policy. His appointment is likely to divide opinion, not least due to his penchant for bold statements and controversial positions. His position on Syria will challenge the UK’s credibility in the Middle East.

An article written by Johnson in December 2015 advocated that ‘Britain should do a deal with the Devil: we [Britain] should work with Vladimir Putin and Bashar al-Assad in Syria’ to defeat the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).’…  Seguir leyendo »

A displaced Iraqi girl stands by a tent at a newly-opened camp in the government-held town of Amriyat al-Fallujah on 29 May 2016. Photo by Getty Images.

As the Iraqi security forces began their assault on ISIS-controlled Fallujah, the city's remaining inhabitants were advised to flee. They will join the millions of Iraqis who have been displaced by conflict, adding to a crisis that merits much more attention than it is getting, both from Iraq's politicians and the international community alike.

Overshadowed by the paranoia engendered by refugee flows, the plight of internally displaced persons (IDPs) - those who are displaced but remain within the state - receives little coverage. In Iraq, internal displacement is a chronic problem. Iraq has been in the top ten countries with the largest displaced populations every year since 2003.…  Seguir leyendo »