Entries with Categories Global Affairs Middle East .

The deterioration of the small Mediterranean country's status benefits Hezbollah and its patron saint, Iran.

With four different prime ministers so far this year, it is difficult to escape the vicious circle in which Lebanon finds itself, so that the continuity of the current political system and the severe financial crisis seem inevitable. From this perpetuation emerge some possibilities, almost all of them bleak, for Lebanon's future. Here are some of these scenarios.

State of the port of Beirut after the explosion of 4 August 2020 [Mehr News Agency/Wikipedia].

State of the port of Beirut after the explosion on 4 August 2020 [Mehr News Agency/Wikipedia].

article / Salvador Sánchez Tapia

To say that the Lebanese political system is dysfunctional is nothing new. development Based on a sectarian balance of power established in 1989 after a long civil war, it perpetuates the existence of clientelistic networks, encourages corruption, hampers the country's economic development and hinders the creation of a transversal Lebanese national identity that transcends religious confessions.

For some time now, Lebanon has been immersed in an economic and social crisis of such magnitude that many analysts are wondering whether we are facing a new case of state failure. In October 2019, the country was rocked by a wave of demonstrations that the government itself considered unprecedented, triggered by the executive's advertisement attempt to tackle the serious economic crisis with several unpopular measures, including a tax on the use of the popular Whatsapp application. The protests, initially focused on this issue, soon incorporated complaints against rampant corruption, the uncontrolled increase in the cost of living, and the lack of employment and opportunities in the country.

Popular pressure forced the resignation of the unity government led by Saad Hariri later that month. The government was replaced in January 2020 by a more technical profile government led by former Education minister Hassan Diab. The new government had little room for reform before the coronavirus pandemic was declared, and soon found itself beset by the same street pressure that had toppled the previous government, with demonstrations continuing despite the restrictions imposed by the pandemic.

The devastating explosion in early August 2020 in the port of Beirut only further plunged the country into the downward spiral in which it was already mired. Despite voices that tried to see the hand of Israel or Hezbollah behind the catastrophe that took the lives of 163 people, the Lebanese population soon realised that this was merely the logical consequence of years of corruption, bureaucratic sloppiness and withdrawal of the national infrastructure. Again there was a crescendo of popular outrage; again the government was forced to resign at plenary session of the Executive Council.

With echoes of the explosion still lingering, at the end of August Mustafa Adib, Lebanon's former ambassador to Germany, was tasked by President Aoun to form a government. Unable to complete the arduous task, not least because of Hezbollah's insistence on controlling the Finance Ministry, Adib resigned on 26 September, leaving the country on the brink of the precipice it still finds itself on.

It is difficult to predict Lebanon's future, beyond predicting that it looks bleak, as a complex dynamic of internal and external forces grips the country. Despite the pressure, at least from urbanised and cosmopolitan Beirut, to end it, it is enormously complex to untangle the tangled web of clientelistic networks that have controlled the country since independence, not only because of the benefits it has generated for a small privileged group , but also because many fear the alternatives to a model that, for all its faults, has avoided a repeat of the savage civil war that took place between 1975 and 1990.

Its geographic status makes it difficult for Lebanon to escape the general climate of instability in the Middle East and the influence exerted on the country by regional and international actors such as Israel, Iran, Syria and France, especially considering that the problems of the Levant are so deep and its national leadership so weak that it does not seem to be able to overcome them on its own.

Lebanon's plight is that its own sectarian division makes it difficult for nations to emerge that are willing to donate on a cross-cutting basis to help bridge the divide that divides the country internally, and that the financial aid it may receive from actors such as Iran or Saudi Arabia only reinforces it. The efforts of French President Emmanuel Macron, self-appointed as the driving force behind Lebanese reconstruction, do not seem, for the moment, to be gaining momentum. At the donors' lecture he convened on 9 July with fifteen heads of state, he secured contributions worth $250 million to revitalise Lebanon's moribund Economics . Meanwhile, Beirut's mayor estimates the reconstruction costs of the August explosion in the capital's port at between $3 billion and $5 billion.

As a mirror image of this difficulty, Lebanese communities, comfortably ensconced in the status quo, reject an undoubtedly necessary financial aid if they feel it might be detrimental to their respective power instructions . Hezbollah, for example, does not accept IMF programmes, complicating the achievement of the necessary national consensus that would facilitate IMF support. It is difficult to escape this vicious circle, so that the continuation of the current political system, and with it the continuation of Lebanon's severe financial crisis, seems inevitable. From this perpetuation come some possibilities, almost all of them bleak, for the Lebanese future. The first is that Lebanon will continue to slide down the inclined plane that is turning it into a failed state, and that this condition will eventually lead to a civil war precipitated by events similar to those that occurred during the Arab Spring in other states in the region. Such an eventuality would resurrect the ghosts of the past, produce regional instability that is difficult to measure but which would undoubtedly provoke intervention by regional and international actors, and could ultimately dismember the country, result which would only sow the seeds of further instability throughout the region.

Without going to that extreme, the internal turmoil could break the precarious balance of power on which Lebanese political life is based, to the benefit of one of its sectarian groups. Hezbollah, the undisputed leader of the country's Shia faction, appears here as the most organised and strongest group within the country and, therefore, as the one that stands to gain the most from this breakdown. It should be borne in mind that, in addition to the support of internship all 27 percent of Lebanese Shiites, the militia organisation is viewed favourably by many members of the divided Christian community - some 45 percent of the country's population - who put their desire for an internal Security Service in the country before other considerations. Aware of this, Hezbollah's leader Hasan Nasrallah is sample moderate in his proposals, seeing the Sunni community, supported by Saudi Arabia, as his real rival, and seeking to broaden his power base.

Iran would undoubtedly be the real winner in this scenario, as it seems unrealistic to think of a Hezbollah that, once it has come of age, would have a life of its own outside the ayatollahs' regime. With this new piece, Tehran would complete the Shia arc that connects Iran with Iraq and, through Syria, with the Eastern Mediterranean. The destabilising effects of such a move status, however, cannot be underestimated if one considers that the mere possibility of the Islamic Republic of Iran taking full control of Lebanon constitutes a casus belli for Israel.

In a positive grade , the serious crisis the country is going through and the strong popular pressure, at least in urban areas, may, paradoxically, be a spur to overcome the sectarian system that has contributed so much to generate this status. However, such a transition only stands a chance of progress - however tenuous - with strong external wholesale support.

In this scenario, the role of the international community should not be limited to providing economic resources to prevent the country's collapse. Its involvement must favour the development and sustain civic-political movements with an intersecting base that are capable of replacing those who perpetuate the current system. To this end, in turn, it is imperative that contributing nations lend their financial aid vision, renouncing any attempt to shape a Lebanon to suit their respective national interests, and forcing the elites who control the factions to abdicate the status quo in favour of a true Lebanese identity. The obvious question is: is there any real chance of this happening? The reality, unfortunately, does not allow for much hope.

Categories Global Affairs: Middle East Security and defence Articles

Ankara is implementing a strategic plan for the control of the three maritime zones surrounding the country.

Parade of members of the Turkish Naval Force [Nérostrateur].

▲ Parade of members of the Turkish Naval Force [Nérostrateur].

ANALYSIS / Lucas Martín*.

Several recent Turkish actions indicate the implementation of the so-called "Blue Homeland" doctrine.

Among the various facts to be taken into account we can take as an initial element the agreement signed with one of the two contenders for power in Libya, the GNA to be more precise.

Through it, the GNA de facto handed over control of Libyan territorial waters to Turkey while establishing a maritime corridor for Ankara in the eastern Mediterranean Sea.

The importance of having de facto control of these waters is not only the enormous volume of maritime traffic that passes through them, but also the fact that they contain strategic natural gas reserves and are also a transit area for several gas pipelines supplying Europe.

If we add this treaty to Turkey's movements in the Mediterranean, the Aegean, as well as its involvement in the conflicts in Syria and Libya, we see that they are but different but complementary parts of an ambitious plan that Ankara has been carefully plotting for several years to gain maritime control of the Eastern Mediterranean and adjacent areas. The ultimate goal of this plan is to give Turkey economic and energy independence that will ensure the country's growth in all areas.

"Mavi Vatam" - Blue Homeland

The so-called "Gerasimov Doctrine", which theorises the evolution of military conflicts and provides guidelines for action in today's framework , is well known. But it is much less well known that a country like Turkey developed its own doctrine almost two decades ago in an attempt to outline the geostrategic moves needed to achieve basic objectives for the Turkish nation's development and achieve its leading role in the international concert.

The father of this plan is Admiral Cem Gurdeniz, and it was first presented in 2006 under the name "Blue Homeland Doctrine".

The Admiral bases his theory on three pillars, which would take too long to discuss in detail. However, it is interesting to dwell at least briefly on the second pillar. Under this, Gurdeniz defines what he considers to be the areas of maritime jurisdiction that belong to Turkey and that he values as vital for its survival and development. These encompass areas of the Black Sea, the Aegean Sea and the Mediterranean Sea. By defining these he establishes territorial waters, the continental shelf and the exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

agreement The admiral himself acknowledges that the problem is far from being in the Black Sea, where an agreement was reached with the former Soviet Union to establish the limits of the continental shelf in 1978 and later, in 1987, the EEZ. Moreover, after the demise of the USSR, agreements were reached with Georgia, Bulgaria and Ukraine.

The issue is centred on the Mediterranean and the Aegean. Precisely the current epicentre of events.

The current established limits, EEZ agreements, etc., have been imposed on Turkey by the EU, according to our protagonist, who considers them particularly burdensome with regard to the Greek zone and Cyprus. Turkey places the onus on the EU to prevent Turkey's development to some extent, which is interesting when Turkey itself has tried to join the Union.

The pivot on which Turkey's recent actions have hinged is defiance. And this is found again in the admiral's own words, which state that the "Blue Homeland" is "challenging and notoriously challenging the current map".

But despite what it may seem, this is not the final goal of the "Mavi Vatam" doctrine. This challenge is the way to achieve its real goal, which is none other than to achieve control and consolidation of the three maritime areas surrounding the country in order to exert its influence at both the regional and international level and to gain the energy resources necessary to sustain Turkey's economic and demographic growth without having to rely on third countries.

But as is rule in these matters, history always plays a key role, and this time is no different.

The Turks continue to view as an affront the Treaty of Lausanne, signed in 1923, which confines the country to its current borders and boundaries. This invalidated the far more beneficial Treaty of Sèvres, signed by the Ottoman Empire after the First World War.

At Lausanne, the fragmentation of the empire was de facto dictated, defining not only Turkey's borders, but also those of Greece and Bulgaria, concluding Turkish sovereignty over the Dodecanese islands, Cyprus, Egypt, Sudan, Syria and Iraq. Kurdistan ceased to be a unit, split between several countries, and Armenia was divided between Turkey and the USSR. The conditions limited the Turks' ability to act, placing the country under the umbrella of Western powers, status which has been maintained for almost 100 years since signature.

In order to understand the current status , a number of factors and circumstances must be taken into account that form the basis of the current situation.

During the Cold War period and with the existence of the communist bloc and its military alliance, the Warsaw Pact, the West's protective umbrella over Turkey became more of a necessity forced by circumstances than an imposition. The Ottoman country's geostrategic status made it of vital importance to both blocs, and in the event of hostilities it would be one of the first territories to suffer the consequences. As a vivid example of this geostrategic core topic , it is worth recalling the role played by the American instructions equipped with nuclear ballistic missiles located on Turkish soil in the negotiations to de-escalate what later became known as the "Cuban missile crisis".

But from the distant 1960s to the present day, the world has changed completely. The balances of power have shifted, and events since the beginning of the 21st century, and especially during the last decade, have led today's leaders to believe that their time has come.

At the time, the fall of the communist bloc and Russia's period of weakness began to lay the groundwork instructions for an idea deeply rooted in Turkey today, the main thrust of which is that the protective umbrella of the West is no longer so necessary (it should not be forgotten that this umbrella was also seen in some ways as a corset).

The consolidation of this idea has coincided with a period of great economic and demographic growth in the Ottoman country, with forecasts of reaching 90 million inhabitants by 2030. Both parameters have major economic implications, as they imply an increase B in the country's energy needs. If these needs are not met, it will not be possible to sustain this population growth or to match it with an adequate industrial development .

The basis of the essential industrial development is energy independence. This is one of the factors core topic that can enable the various projects to go ahead. At present, energy needs are covered by supplies from third countries. The main exporters of energy resources to Turkey are Russia, Iran, Iraq and Libya. This external dependence is one of the reasons for the spectacular development of Turkey's military capabilities in recent years and its direct involvement in various unstable scenarios: maintaining an uninterrupted supply of energy. This is one of the main reasons for the interventions in northern Syria, northern Iraq and Libya.

However, this is not the only reason for such interventions; there are other political motivations, commitments that compel Turkey to take sides in one way or another. The Kurdish problem, worthy in itself of a monograph, is one of them.

But despite possible political motivations, the main focus of the "Blue Fatherland Doctrine" is the need to achieve energy independence. This requires taking control of the necessary energy resources and achieving freedom of action in this field.

There are two spheres that he defines to achieve this goal. The first would consist of the establishment of a security and immediate control of the seas surrounding the country: the Mediterranean, the Aegean and the Black Sea, area . The second, of a strategic nature, extends to the Red Sea, the Caspian Sea and the Arabian Sea, including the Persian Gulf.



Turkey's dominance of the maritime space includes control over the oil and gas reserves in these waters. This position of maritime dominance is reinforced by establishing alliances with the countries in the area, providing them with support, setting up military instructions on their territory and providing military equipment and training to their armies, thus securing their support. This is a fact, and Turkey already has instructions in Somalia, Sudan, Libya and Qatar, to which it supplies its own weapons systems and with which it has various military agreements.

An aside is in order here. These moves are not welcomed by all countries in the region, some of which see their current position and their own aspirations to grow in power and influence in the region as threatened. The existence of a dominant regional power does not usually leave much room for manoeuvre. It is also important to quote here the words of the father of the "Blue Homeland" doctrine: "Turkey does not need an ally to protect the homeland. The homeland is the homeland. Our continental shelf is our homeland and we have to protect it.

However, he claims that in the future relations between Italy, Tunisia, Libya and Turkey will be the main axis of the Mediterranean. He deliberately leaves out countries such as France, Greece and Spain.

area Traditionally, the Turkish Naval Force's usual area of operations was the Mediterranean, the Black Sea and the Aegean Sea. Recently, however, it has expanded its area of operations to the Red Sea, the Arabian Sea and the Persian Gulf, and even operates closely with Pakistan. partnership .

This strategic vision, centred on the dominance of the sea, apart from the reasons given above regarding the control of energy resources, can be explained by Turkey's conviction that its special rugged terrain already offers a natural defence and deterrent against any land-based aggression.

Moreover, the "Blue Homeland" doctrine is based on the assumption that Turkey must be an eminently maritime power. It is therefore a realistic doctrine of self-defence of the maritime areas that are rightfully Turkey's, to protect them with an eye to future generations.

Thus, the maritime borders, which stretch across three different seas, are so far perceived as the nation's weak point. And this is precisely what is in the process of being transformed.

reference letter This view has its historical roots in the former Ottoman Empire, which Admiral Cem Gürdeniz refers to on numerous occasions in his writings. It was this view that led Erdogan, shortly after coming to power, to initiate a comprehensive programme of development and modernisation of his naval force known as "Milgem". In this project , heavy investments have been made all over subject, and no effort has been spared, because in order to achieve the development of an armed forces, especially in its maritime aspect, that will sustain the goal of establishing itself as a regional and international power, it is core topic an independent technological development of Turkish industry.

In recent years, the Turkish defence industry has undergone a dramatic evolution, demonstrating the effectiveness of its developments in the Libyan, Syrian and, more currently, Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict. Great emphasis has been placed on the development of warships, unmanned aerial systems (UAVs) and advanced weapons systems of high quality. The chapter on UAVs is particularly significant, and should be the subject of an in-depth study, including from a national point of view in Spain.

Once again, there are two clearly defined intentions here. On the one hand, to achieve a state-of-the-art technological level in its armed forces that will support the achievement of the objectives outlined above, and on the other, to position itself as reference letter in the field of arms exports, to earn revenue and to be able to influence the countries of its interest and their policies in the same way as the United States, China and Russia do.

More specifically, theMilgemprogramme framework has built four anti-submarine corvettes, an intelligence gathering vessel, four surface warfare frigates and four anti-aircraft frigates. The programme also includes four state-of-the-art corvettes for the Pakistan Navy as a way of exporting its advances, enhancing the already close partnership relationship between the two countries and, of course, providing economic benefits for the arms industry.

Similarly, 33 new landing craft capable of transporting both troops and armoured vehicles have been delivered to the Turkish Naval Force. Turkey's amphibious assault capabilities, development and further development, are a factor in a possible increase in tension with Greece, especially with regard to claims over the islands to the east of the country and its waters.

The development of naval warfare capabilities is completed with the production of six new submarines from invoice German-built under licence of HDW in Turkey itself, namely the model U-214. These new submersibles are equipped with an AIP system that allows them to remain for long periods without surfacing, and join the ten that the Ottoman country has operated so far.

This is one of the most significant in terms of its destabilising capacity. Until now it has been Greece that has maintained a certain technological superiority in this field. But the entry into service of the new Turkish units, entrance , significantly changes the balance of power. In addition to serving as perfect intelligence gathering platforms, especially in the SIGINT (Signals Intelligence) and COMINT (Communications Intelligence) disciplines, submarines are excellent deterrent weapons, capable of denying an entire fleet access to an extensive area.

The most significant element of Turkey's pretentious programme is an amphibious assault ship (LHD) called the "Anadolu". This ship, with very similar characteristics to the "Juan Carlos I" operated by the Spanish Navy, is a qualitative leap in terms of the capabilities it provides, as it can not only transport landing barges, but also operate different types of helicopters, UAVs and, where appropriate, vertical take-off fighter aircraft from its deck.

Currently, the only such aircraft compatible with the ship is the American F-35 B, which is the vertical take-off and landing (VSTOL) variant. Turkey was one of the nations that had decided to acquire this fighter aircraft, albeit in its A version, which is the standard version for the air force, the first units of which were already scheduled to be delivered to submission .

But the Ankara government's decision to acquire state-of-the-art Russian anti-aircraft equipment, such as the S-400 system, has led the US to veto its continuation of the F-35 B procurement programme. In fact, the first aircraft destined for the Ottoman country have been sold to the USAF. In any case, Turkey's intention was not to acquire the VSTOL version, which leaves Turkey's real intention as to which aircraft will equip the ship open to question.

The project will be completed with the construction of a second amphibious assault ship, the "Trakya". The possession of two units of this subject provides the Turkish naval force with capabilities far superior to those of its neighbours in the region, giving it the ability to project its amphibious force in strategic operations and in two theatres simultaneously.

The real value of these capabilities is not the operational capability itself, but the deterrent capability it represents.

Turkey's involvement in the conflicts in Syria and Libya has provided the Turkish Armed Forces, and within these its naval units, with enormous and valuable combat experience that has been very useful for update and improving its doctrine and operational capabilities. This, together with the high quality of the training quality of its units, the quality of its equipment and the technological and weapons development described above, are the three pillars necessary for the implementation of the "Blue Homeland" doctrine. The great unknown is how the other regional powers, which are directly affected by the advance of this strategic plan, will react.

In conclusion, it can be said that interests are multiple and often intersecting, affecting not only the countries bordering this area of the Mediterranean, but also powers such as Russia and France and international organisations such as NATO.

Incidents between supposedly allied nations have already occurred, even leading to France's withdrawal from NATO's Mediterranean operation due to a problem between a French and a Turkish frigate, and resulting in an attack on Turkish positions by "Rafale" aircraft from instructions in the United Arab Emirates, but whose nationality remains unclear.

status There is no doubt that Turkey's attitude, and the implementation of its plan, puts the Atlantic Alliance in a weak position, as one of the reasons behind the plan is Turkey's perception that it no longer needs the protection of the Western umbrella for the defence of its interests.

On the other hand, Turkey is playing with the trump card of holding the key to the door of entrance to the torrent of migrants from Syria, Libya, Somalia and Eritrea to the EU. And it will use it as a pressure measure in the face of any European reaction or stance against its interests.

The Eastern Mediterranean has regained the leading role in world geopolitics that it had in the 16th century, only this time we have new powers such as Russia that also claim their space and their need for a permanent and strong presence in the area. We cannot ignore the relationship between this Russian need and the Crimean conflict and the strategic need to be able to control to some extent both sides of the Bosporus and ensure the Black Sea fleet's access to the Mediterranean.

All these economic, energy and political interests are creating a very complicated status where the "internal" conflicts in Syria and Libya also come together, creating an over-presence of military units, combatants, private military companies, weapons systems, aircraft, UAVs, etc. that at any moment, and due to any unexpected error, could lead to an incident that, however slight, could have unforeseeable and irreparable consequences.

* The author is an infantry lieutenant colonel and geopolitical analyst.



Kasapoglu, 'The Blue Homeland': Turkey's largest naval drill. Anadolu Agency 27 February.

SETA Security Sadar Turkey's geopolitical landscape in 2020

Kara Harp Okulu Bilim Dergisi, "An assesment of eastern mediterranean maritime boundary delimitation agreement between Turkey and Libya" Science Journal of Turkish Military Academy Haziran /June 2020

Eyal Pinko, "Turkey's Maritime Strategy Ambitions: The Blue Homeland Doctrine (Mavi Vatan)" Research Institute for European and American Studies( April 2020

Categories Global Affairs: Middle East Security and defence Analysis

Armenia and Azerbaijan clash in a conflict that has also involved Turkey and Russia.

Monument to the Armenian capture of the city of Shusha in the war over Nagorno-Karabakh in the 1990s [Wikipedia].

Monument to the Armenian capture of the city of Shusha in the war over Nagorno-Karabakh in the 1990s [Wikipedia].

ANALYSIS / Irene Apesteguía

The region of Nagorno-Karabakh, traditionally inhabited by Christian Armenians and Muslim Turks, is internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan. However, its population is Armenian-majority and pro-independence. In Soviet times it became an autonomous region within the Republic of Azerbaijan and it was in the war of the 1990s that, in addition to leaving some 30,000 dead and around a million people displaced, separatist forces captured additional Azeri territory. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, ethnic discrepancies between Azerbaijan and Armenia have deepened. Even a 2015 census of Nagorno-Karabakh reported that no Azeris lived there, whereas in Soviet times Azeris made up more than a fifth of the population. Since the truce between the two former Soviet republics in 1994, there has been a status stalemate, with the failure of several negotiations to reach a permanent peace agreement . The dispute has remained frozen ever since.

On 27 September, the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan once again led to a military confrontation. Recent developments go far beyond the usual clashes, with reports of helicopter shoot-downs, use of combat drones and missile attacks. In 2016 there was a violent escalation of the conflict, but Stepanakert, the capital of Nagorno-Karabakh, was not occupied and no martial law was declared. If one thing is clear, it is that the current escalation is a direct consequence of the freezing of the negotiation process. Moreover, this is the first time that armed outbreaks have occurred at such short intervals, the last escalation of the conflict having taken place last July.

Azerbaijan's Defence Minister Zakir Hasanov on 27 September threatened a "big attack" on Stepanakert if the separatists did not stop shelling its settlements. Nagorno-Karabakh declared that it would respond in a "very painful" way. Armenia, for its part, warned that the confrontation could unleash a "full-scale war in the region".

The leaders of both countries hold each other responsible for this new escalation of violence. According to Azerbaijan, the Armenian Armed Forces constantly provoked the country, firing on the army and on crowds of civilians. Moreover, on multiple local Azerbaijani television channels, President Ilham Aliyev has declared that Armenia is preparing for a new war, concentrating all its forces in Karabakh. Even the Azeri authorities have restricted internet use in the country, mainly limiting access to social media.

In its counter-offensive operation, Azerbaijan mobilised staff and tank units with the support of artillery and missile troops, front-line aviation and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), the ministry's press release statement said. Moreover, according to agreement with the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a number of Syrians from jihadist groups, from Turkish-backed factions, are fighters in Nagorno-Karabakh. This has been corroborated by Russian and French sources. In any case, it would not be surprising when Turkey sits alongside Azerbaijan.

For its part, Armenia blames Azerbaijan for starting the fighting. Armenian officials announced that the Azerbaijani army had attacked with rocket-propelled grenade launchers and missiles. Armenia has not stopped preparing, as in the weeks leading up to the start of the fighting, multiple shipments of Russian weapons had been detected in the country via heavy transport flights. On the other hand, Armenia's defence minister has accused Turkey of exercising command and control over Azerbaijan's air operations via Boeing 737 Airborne Early Warning & Control aircraft , as Turkey has four of these planes.  


Both powers were on alert because of the July fighting. Since then, they have not abandoned military preparedness at the hands of their external allies. The current events cannot therefore be described as coming out of the blue. After the July outbreak, there has been a lingering sense that the armed confrontation had simply been left at Fail.

Hours after the outbreak of fighting, Armenia declared martial law and general mobilisation. Azerbaijan, on the contrary, declared that such action was not necessary, but eventually the parliament decided to impose martial law in some regions of the country. Not only was martial law decreed, but also the Azerbaijani Ministry of Defence declared the liberation of seven villages, the establishment of a curfew in several cities and the recapture of many important heights. It is clear that all occupied territories have crucial strategic value: Azerbaijan has secured visual control of the Vardenis-Aghdara road, which connects to Armenian-occupied Karabakh. The road was completed by Armenia three years ago in order to facilitate rapid military cargo transfers, an indication that this is a strategic position for Armenia.

Drone warfare has also been present in the conflict with Turkish and Israeli drones used by Azerbaijan. Armenia's anti-drone measures are bringing Iran into the picture.

An important factor that may have led to the conflict has been changes in the diplomatic leadership in Baku. Elmar Mammadyarov, Azerbaijan's foreign minister, left his position during the July clashes. He has been replaced by former Education minister Jeyhun Bayramov, who does not have much diplomatic experience. Meanwhile, Hikmet Hajiyev, the Azerbaijani president's foreign policy advisor has seen his role in these areas increase.

But the problem is not so much about new appointments. For the past few years, Mammadyarov was the biggest optimist about the concessions Armenia might be willing to make under Nikol Pashinyan's new government. Indeed, since Armenia's Velvet Revolution, which brought Pashinyan to the post of prime minister in 2018, Azerbaijan had been hopeful that the conflict could be resolved. This hope was shared by many diplomats and experts in the West. Moreover, even within Armenia, Pashinyan's opponents labelled him a traitor because, they claimed, he was selling out Armenia's interests in exchange for Western money. All this hope for Armenia disappeared, as the new Armenian prime minister's position on Nagorno-Karabakh was harsher than ever. He even declared on several occasions that "Karabakh is Armenia". All this led to a strengthening of Azerbaijan's position, which hardened after the July clashes. Baku has never ruled out the use of force to try to solve the problem of its territorial integrity.

In the 2016 conflict there were many efforts to minimise these armed disturbances, mainly by Russian diplomacy. These have been supported by the West, which saw Moscow's mediation as positive. However, negotiations between Armenia and Azerbaijan have not resumed, and the excuse of the coronavirus pandemic has not been very convincing, according to domestic media.

More points have led to the current escalation, such as increased Turkish involvement. After the July clashes, Turkey and Azerbaijan conducted joint military exercises. Ankara's representatives began to talk about the ineffectiveness of the peace process, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, speaking last month at the UN General Assembly, described Armenia as the biggest obstacle to long-term peace deadline in the South Caucasus. This is not to say that Turkey provoked the new escalation, but it certainly helped push Azerbaijan into a more emboldened attitude. The Turkish president stated on Twitter that 'Turkey, as always, stands with all its brothers and sisters in Azerbaijan'. Moreover, last August, Azerbaijan's defence minister said that, with the Turkish army's financial aid , Azerbaijan would fulfil 'its sacred duty', which can be interpreted as the recovery of lost territories.

International importance

In a brief overview of the allies, it is worth mentioning that the Azeris are a majority ethnic Turkic population, with whom Turkey has close ties, although unlike the Turks, most Azeris are Shia Muslims. As for Armenia, Turkey has no relations with Armenia, as the former is a largely Orthodox Christian country that has historically always relied on Russia.

As soon as the hostilities began, several states and international organisations called for a ceasefire. For example, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, in a telephone conversation with his Armenian counterpart Zohrab Mnatsakanyan, called for an end to the fighting and declared that Moscow would continue its mediation efforts. Meanwhile, as it did after the July clashes, Turkey again expressed through various channels its plenary session of the Executive Council support for Azerbaijan. Turkey's Foreign Ministry assured that Ankara is ready to help Baku in any way it can. The Armenian president, hours before the start of the fire, mentioned that a new conflict could "affect the security and stability not only of the South Caucasus, but also of Europe". US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo expressed serious concerns and called on both sides to stop the fighting.

On the other hand, there is Iran, which is mainly Shia and also has a large ethnic Azeri community in the northwest of the country. However, it has good relations with Russia. Moreover, having borders with both countries, Iran has offered to mediate peace talks. This is the focus of Iran's current problem with the new conflict. Azeri activists called for protests in Iranian Azerbaijan, which is the national territory of Azeris under Iranian sovereignty, against Tehran's support for Armenia. The arrests carried out by the Iranian government have not prevented further protests by this social sector. This response on the streets is an important indicator of the current temperature in northwest Iran.

As for Western countries, France, which has a large Armenian community, called for a ceasefire and the start of dialogue. The US said it had contacted both sides to urge them to "cease hostilities immediately and avoid words and actions of little consequence financial aid".

Russia may have serious concerns about the resumption of full-scale hostilities. It has made it clear on multiple occasions that the important thing is to prevent the conflict from escalating. One reason for this insistence may be that the Kremlin already has open fronts in Ukraine, Syria and Libya, in addition to the current status in Belarus, and the poisoning of Alexei Navalni. Moreover, despite the current attempt by the presidents of Russia and Turkey to show that relations between their countries are going well, the discrepancies between them, such as their views on Syria and Libya, are growing and becoming more diverse. And now Vladimir Putin could not leave Armenia in the hands of Azerbaijan and Turkey.

The Minskgroup of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) has as its main mission statement mediation of peace negotiations between Armenia and Azerbaijan, and is co-chaired by Russia, France and the United States. In response to the current conflict, it called for a "return to a ceasefire and resumption of substantive negotiations". Earlier this year, Armenia rejected the Madrid Principles, the main conflict resolution mechanism proposed by group in Minsk. Moreover, this initiative has been made increasingly impossible by the Armenian Defence Ministry's concept of a "new war for new territories", as well as Nikol Pashinyan's idea of Armenia-Karabakh unification. All this has infuriated the Azeri government and citizens, who have increasingly criticised the Minsk group . Azerbaijan has also criticised the group 's passivity in the face of what it sees as Armenia's inflammatory actions, such as the relocation of Karabakh's capital to Susa, a city of great cultural importance for Azerbaijanis, or the illegal settlement of Lebanese and Armenians in occupied Azerbaijani territories.  

If any conclusion is to be drawn from this it is that, for many in both Azerbaijan and Armenia, the peace process has been discredited by the past three decades of failed negotiations, prompting increasing warnings that the status quo would lead to a further escalation of the conflict.

There is growing concern among some experts that Western countries do not understand the current status and the consequences that could result from the worst flare-up in the region in years. The director of the South Caucasus Office at the Heinrich Boell Foundation, Stefan Meister, has argued that the fighting between these two regions could go far. In his opinion, "the conflict is underestimated by the EU and the West".

The EU has also taken a stand. It has already order to Armenia and Azerbaijan to de-escalate cross-border tensions, urging them to stop the armed confrontation and to refrain from actions that provoke further tension, and to take steps to prevent further escalation.

The conflict in the Caucasus is of great international importance. There are regular clashes and resurgences of tensions in the area. The relevance is that any escalation of violence could destabilise the global Economics , given that the South Caucasus is a corridor for gas pipelines from the Caspian Sea to world markets, and more specifically to Europe. If Armenia decides that Azerbaijan has escalated too far, it could attack Azerbaijan's South Caucasus Pipeline, which sends gas to Turkey's TANAP, and ends with TAP, which supplies Europe. Another strategic aspect is the control of the city of Ghana'a, as controlling it could connect Russia to Karabakh. In addition, control of the site could cut off gas pipeline connectivity between Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey. Conflicts already took place at area last July, which is why Azerbaijan is prepared to close the region's airspace as a result of the new conflict.


In bright green, territory of Nagorno-Karabakh agreed in 1994; in soft green, territory controlled by Armenia until this summer [Furfur/Wikipedia].

In bright green, territory of Nagorno-Karabakh agreed in 1994; in soft green, territory controlled by Armenia until this summer [Furfur/Wikipedia].


A new war?

There are several possible outcomes for the current status . The most likely is a battle over small and not particularly important areas, allowing for the symbolic declaration of a "victory". The problem centres on the fact that each opponent may have a very different view of things, so that a new strand of confrontation is inevitable, raising the stakes of the conflict, and leading to less chance of understanding between the parties.

Although unlikely, many analysts do not rule out the possibility that the current escalation is part of the preparations for negotiations and is necessary to shore up diplomatic positions and increase pressure on the opponent before talks resume.

Whatever the reasoning behind the armed clashes, one thing is clear: the importance of military force in the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process is growing by the day. The absence of talks is becoming critical. If the Karabakh pendulum does not swing from generals to diplomats soon, it may become irreparable. And it will be then that the prospects of another regional war breaking out once again will cease to be a mere scenario described by experts.

While Russia continues to insist that there is no other option but a peaceful way forward, the contact line between the two sides in Nagorno-Karabakh has become the most militarised area in Europe. Many experts have repeatedly suggested as a possible scenario that Azerbaijan might decide to launch a military operation to regain its lost territory. source The country, whose main source of income is its Caspian Sea oil wealth, has spent billions of dollars on new weaponry. Moreover, it is Azerbaijan that has replaced Russia as the largest carrier of natural gas to Turkey.

A major consequence of the conflict centres on potential losses for Russia and Iran. A further casualty of the conflict may be Russia's position as Eurasia's leader. Another argument is based on the Turkish committee , which has demanded Armenia's withdrawal from Azerbaijani lands. The problem is that the members of committee, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, are also members of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO), led by Russia together with Armenia. On the other hand, Iran sample also panics over Turkey's total solidarity with Azerbaijan, as more Azeris live in Iranian Azerbaijan than in the Republic of Azerbaijan.

This is one of the many conflicts that exemplify the new and current "style" of warfare, where major powers place themselves at the back of small conflicts. However, the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh may be small in size, but not in importance, as in addition to contributing to the continued destabilisation of the Caucasus area , it may affect neighbouring powers and even Europe. The West should give it the importance it deserves, because if it continues along the same lines, the door is open to a more violent, extensive and prolonged armed conflict.

Categories Global Affairs: Middle East Security and defence Articles

Revolutionary Guard Commando Naval Exercises in the Strait of Hormuz in 2015 [Wikipedia].

▲ Revolutionary Guard Commando Naval Exercises in the Strait of Hormuz in 2015 [Wikipedia].

essay / Ana Salas Cuevas

The Islamic Republic of Iran, also known as Persia, is a country of great geopolitical importance. It is a regional power not only because of its strategic location, but also because of its vast hydrocarbon resources, which make Iran the fourth largest country in terms of proven oil reserves and the first in terms of gas reserves[1].

We are talking about one of the most important countries in the world for three main reasons. The first, mentioned above, is its immense oil and gas reserves. entrance Secondly, because Iran controls the Strait of Hormuz, which is the key to the Persian Gulf and through which most of the hydrocarbon exports of Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar and Bahrain pass[2]. 2] And lastly, because of the nuclear programme in which it has invested so many years.

The Iranian republic is based on the principles of Shia Islam, although there is great ethnic diversity in its society. It is therefore essential to take into account the great "strength of Iranian nationalism" in order to understand its politics. By appealing to its dominant position over other countries, the Iranian nationalist movement aims to influence public opinion. Nationalism has been building for more than 120 years, since the Tobacco Boycott of 1891[4] was a direct response to outside intervention and pressure, and today aims to achieve hegemony in the region. Iran's foreign and domestic policies are a clear expression of this movement[5].

Proxy armies (proxy armies)

War by proxy is a war model in which a country uses third parties to fight or influence a given territory, rather than engaging directly. As David Daoud points out, in Lebanon, Iraq, Yemen and Syria, 'Tehran has perfected the art of gradually conquering a country without replacing its flag'[6]. The Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) is directly involved in this task, militarily training or favouring the forces of other countries.

The GRI was born with the Islamic Revolution led by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, in order to maintain the achievements of the movement[7]. 7] It is one of the main political and social actors in the country. It has a great capacity to influence national political debates and decisions. It is also the owner of numerous companies in the country, which guarantees it its own funding source and reinforces its character as an internal power. It is an independent body from the armed forces, and the appointment of its senior officers depends directly on the Leader of the Revolution. Among its objectives is the fight against imperialism, and it expressly commits itself to trying to rescue Jerusalem and return it to the Palestinians[8]. 8] Their importance is crucial to the regime, and any attack on these bodies represents a direct threat to the Iranian government.

Iran's relationship with the Muslim countries around it is marked by two main facts: on the one hand, its Shiite status; on the other, the pre-eminence it has achieved in the past in the region[10]. 10] Thanks to the fact that its external action is supported by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard, Iran has managed to establish strong links with political and religious groups throughout the Middle East. From there, Iran uses a variety of means to strengthen its influence in different countries. Firstly, by using soft power tools. Thus, among other actions, Iran has participated in the reconstruction of mosques and schools in countries such as Lebanon and Iraq[11]. 11] In Yemen, it has provided logistical and economic aid to the Houthi movement. In 2006, it was involved in the reconstruction of South Beirut.

However, the methods used by these forces go to other extremes, moving towards more intrusive(hard power) mechanisms. For example, following the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon, Iran has established a foothold there over three decades, with Hezbollah as a proxy, taking advantage of complaints about the disenfranchisement of the Shia community. This course of action has allowed Tehran to promote its Islamic Revolution abroad[12].

In Iraq, the GRI sought to destabilise Iraq internally by supporting Shiite factions such as the Badr organisation during the Iranian-Iraqi war of the 1980s. Iran, on the other hand, involved the GRI in Saddam Hussein's uprising in the early 1990s. Through this subject of influences and embodying the proxy army paradigm, Iran has been establishing very direct influence over these places. Even in Syria, this elite Iranian corps is highly influential, supporting the Assad government and the Shia militias fighting alongside it.

For its part, Saudi Arabia accuses Iran and its Guard of supplying arms in Yemen to the Houthis (a movement that defends the Shiite minority), generating a major escalation of tension between the two countries.

The GRI has thus established itself as one of the most important factors in the Middle East landscape, driving the struggle between two opposing camps. However, it is not the only one. In this way, we find a "cold war" scenario, which ends up transcending and becoming an international focus. On the one hand, Iran, supported by powers such as Russia and China. On the other, Saudi Arabia, supported by the US. This conflict is developing, to a large extent, in an unconventional manner, through proxy armies such as Hezbollah and the Shiite militias in Iraq, Syria and Yemen[14].

Causes of confrontation

Tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran have spread throughout the Middle East (and beyond), creating two distinct camps in the Middle East, both seeking to claim hegemony in the region.

To interpret this scenario and better understand civil service examination it is important, first of all, to distinguish between two opposing ideological currents: Shiism and Sunnism (Wahhabism). Wahhabism is an extreme right-wing Muslim religious tendency of the Sunni branch, which is today the majority religion in Saudi Arabia. Shi'ism, as previously mentioned, is the current on which the Republic of Iran is based. However, as we shall see, the struggle between Iran and Saudi Arabia is political, not religious; it is based more on ambition for power than on religion.

Secondly, the control of oil trafficking is another cause of this rivalry. To understand this reason, it is worth bearing in mind the strategic position that the countries of the Middle East play on the global map, as they are home to the world's largest hydrocarbon reserves. issue A large number of contemporary struggles are in fact due to the interference of the major powers in the region, seeking to play a role in these territories. Thus, for example, the 1916 Sykes-Picot[15] agreement for the distribution of European influences continues to condition current events. Both Saudi Arabia and Iran, as we have said, have a special role to play in these confrontations, for the reasons described above.

Under these considerations, it is important to note, thirdly, the involvement in these tensions of external powers such as the United States.

The effects of the Arab Spring have weakened many countries in the region. Not so Saudi Arabia and Iran, which in recent decades have sought to consolidate their position as regional powers, largely thanks to the support provided by their oil production and large oil reserves. The differences between the two countries are reflected in the way they seek to shape the region and the different interests they pursue. In addition to the ethnic differences between Iran (Persians) and Saudi Arabia (Arabs), their alignment on the international stage is also opposite. Wahhabism presents itself as anti-American, but the Saudi government is aware of its need for US support, and the two countries have a reciprocal convenience, with oil as a basis. The same is not true of Iran.

Iran and the US were close allies until 1979. The Islamic Revolution changed everything and since then, with the hostage crisis at the US embassy in Tehran as a particularly dramatic initial moment, tensions between the two countries have been frequent. The diplomatic confrontation has become acute again with President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), signed in 2015 for Iran's nuclear non-proliferation, with the consequent resumption of economic sanctions against Iran. Moreover, in April 2019, the United States placed the Revolutionary Guard on its list of terrorist organisations[16], holding Iran responsible for financing and promote terrorism as a government tool [17].

On the one side, then, are the Saudis, supported by the US and, within the region, by the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Bahrain and Israel. On the other side are Iran and its allies in Palestine, Lebanon (pro-Shiite side) and recently Qatar, to which Syria and Iraq (Shiite militias) could be added. Tensions increased after the death of Qasem Soleimani in January 2020. In the latter camp we could highlight the international support of China and Russia, but little by little we can observe a distancing of relations between Iran and Russia.

When talking about the struggle for hegemony in the control of oil trafficking, it is essential to mention the Strait of Hormuz, the crucial geographical point of this conflict, where both powers are directly confronted. This strait is a strategic area located between the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. Forty percent of the world's oil passes through it[18]. Control of these waters is obviously decisive in the confrontation between Saudi Arabia and Iran, as well as for any of the members of the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries of the Middle East (OPEC) in the region: Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait.

One of the objectives of Washington's economic sanctions against Iran is to reduce its exports in order to favour Saudi Arabia, its largest regional ally. To this end, the US Fifth Fleet, based in Bahrain, is tasked with protecting commercial shipping at area.

The Strait of Hormuz "is the escape valve Iran uses to relieve pressure from outside the Gulf" [19]. From here, Iran tries to react to economic sanctions imposed by the US and other powers; it is this that gives it a greater voice on the international stage, as it has the ability to block the strategic passage. Recently there have been attacks on oil tankers from Saudi Arabia and other countries[20], which causes great economic and military destabilisation with each new episode[21].  

At final, the skill between Iran and Saudi Arabia has an effect not only regionally but also globally. The conflicts that could erupt in this area are increasingly reminiscent of a familiar Cold War, both in terms of the methods on the battlefront (and the incidence of proxy armies on this front), and the attention it requires for the rest of the world, which depends on this result, perhaps more than it is aware of.


For several years now, a regional confrontation has been building up that also involves the major powers. This struggle transcends the borders of the Middle East, similar to the status unleashed during the Cold War. Its main actors are the proxy armies, which are driving struggles through non-state actors and unconventional methods of warfare, constantly destabilising relations between states, as well as within states themselves.

To avoid the fighting in Hormuz, countries such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have tried to transport oil in other ways, for example by building pipelines. This tap is held by Syria, through which the pipelines must pass in order to reach Europe). In the end, the Syrian war can be seen from many perspectives, but there is no doubt that one of the reasons for the meddling of extra-regional powers is the economic interest in the Syrian coastline.

From 2015 to the present, Yemen's civil war has been raging in silence. At stake are strategic issues such as control of the Mandeb Strait. Behind this terrible war against the Houthis(proxies), there is a latent fear that the Houthis will take control of access to the Red Sea. In this sea and close to the strait is Djibouti, where the major powers have installed instructions to better control the area.

The most affected power is Iran, which sees its Economics weakened by constant economic sanctions. The status affects a population oppressed both by its own government and by international pressure. The government itself ends up misinforming society, leading to a great mistrust of the authorities. This leads to growing political instability, which manifests itself in frequent protests.

The regime has publicised these demonstrations as protests against US actions, such as the assassination of General Soleimani, without mentioning that many of these revolts are due to widespread civilian discontent over the serious measures taken by Ayatollah Khamenei, who is more focused on pursuing hegemony in the region than on resolving internal problems.

Thus, it is often difficult for the majority of the world to realise the implications of these confrontations. Indeed, the use of proxy armies should not distract us from the fact of the real involvement of major powers in the West and East (in true Cold War fashion). Nor should the alleged motives for keeping these fronts open distract us from the true incidence of what is really at stake: none other than the global Economics .

[1] El nuevo mapa de los gigantes globales del petróleo y el gas, David Page, Expansió, 26 June 2013. available en

[2] The four points core topic through which oil travels: The Strait of Hormuz, Iran's "weapon", 30 July 2018. available en

[3] In November 2013, China, Russia, France, the United Kingdom and the United States (P5) and Iran signed the Joint Plan of Action (JPOA). This was an initial agreement on Iran's nuclear programme, which was the subject of several negotiations leading to a final pact, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), signed in 2015, to which the European Union adhered.

[4] The Tobacco Boycott was the first movement against a concrete action of the state; it was not a revolution in the strict sense of the word, but a strong nationalism was rooted in it. It came about because of the tobacco monopoly law granted to the British in 1890. More information in: "El veto al tabaco", Joaquín Rodríguez Vargas, Professor at the Complutense University of Madrid.

[5] notebook de estrategia 137, Ministerio de Defensa: Iran, potencia emergente en Oriente Medio. Implications for Mediterranean stability. high school Español de programs of study Estratégicos, July 2007. available en

[6] Meet the Proxies: How Iran Spreads Its Empire through Terrorist Militias,The Tower Magazine, March 2015. available en

[7] article 150 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran expressly states this.

[8] Tensions between Iran and the United States: causes and strategies, Kamran Vahed, high school Spanish Strategic programs of study , November 2019. available en, p. 5.

[9] One of the six sections of the GRI is the "Quds" Force (commanded by Qasem Soleimani), which specialises in conventional warfare and military intelligence operations. It also manager to conduct extraterritorial interventions.

[10] Iran, Country profile. Oficina de Información Diplomática, Spain. available en

[11] Iran-US tensions: causes and strategies, Kamran Vahed, high school Spanish Strategic programs of study , November 2019. available en

[12] Hezbollah Watch, Iran's Proxy War in Lebanon. November 2018. available en

[13] Yemen: the battle between Saudi Arabia and Iran for influence in the region, Kim Amor, 2019, El Periódico. available en

[14] Iran versus Saudi Arabia, an imminent war?, Juan José Sánchez Arreseigor, IEEE, 2016. available en

[15] The Sykes-Picot agreement was a secret pact between Britain and France during World War I (1916) in which, with the consent of (pre-Soviet) Russia, the two powers divided up the conquered areas of the Ottoman Empire after the Great War.

[16] Foreign Terrorist Organizations, Boureau of Counterterrorism. available en

[17] Statement from the President on the Designation of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a Foreign Terrorist Organization, Foreign Policy, April 2019. available en

[18] The Strait of Hormuz, the world's main oil artery, Euronews (data checked with Vortexa), 14 June 2019. available en

[19] "Maximum pressure" in the Strait of Hormuz, Félix Arteaga, Real high school el Cano, 2019. available en

[20] Strait of Hormuz: what's known about new oil tanker explosions raising US-Iran tensions, BBC News World, 14 June 2019. available en

[21] Saudi Arabia denounces sabotage of two oil tankers in UAE waters, Ángeles Espinosa, 14 May 2019, El País. available en

Categories Global Affairs: Middle East Security and defence Testing

Propaganda poster extolling Gaddafi, near Ghadames, 2004 [Sludge G., Wikipedia].

Propaganda poster extolling Gaddafi, near Ghadames, 2004 [Sludge G., Wikipedia].

ESSAYPaula Mora

On 20 October 2011, Colonel Muammar Muhamad Abu-Minyar al-Qadhafi was assassinated, bringing an end to a dictatorial regime that lasted more than forty years. That date signified hope, freedom and democracy, or at least those were the aspirations of many of those who contributed to change in Libya. However, the reality today, nine years later, is almost unimaginable for those rebels who on 23 October 2011 thought their children could grow old in a democracy. The civil war that the country has suffered since then has led to the disintegration of the nation. To understand this, it is paramount to understand the very nature of Libyan political power, which is totally different from that of its neighbours and former metropolises: tribalism.

Libyan tribalism has three characteristics: it is contractual, as it is based on permanent negotiations; the territorial instructions of the peoples have been moving towards the cities, but the ties have not been loosened; and the territorial extension of these peoples goes beyond Libya's borders. Ninety percent of Libya's territory is made up of desert, which has allowed tribal power to persist. The original peoples have fought, and continue to fight, for territorial control and harmony of their territories, which is achieved through traditional alliances renegotiated from time to time between the three main regions of the country: Tripolitania, Cyrenaica and Fezran.

Tuareg tropism

Bedouin culture and mythology from pre-colonial trans-Saharan cave times explain why Qadhafi focused his policy on the Sahara and North Africa. These peoples saw the desert as a means of communication, not as an obstacle or a border. Under the dictatorship, Berber customs and speech were protected and promoted.

The Tuareg are a Berber people with a nomadic tradition spread over five African countries: Algeria, Burkina Faso, Libya, Mali and Niger. They have their own language and customs. In Libya, they occupy the south-western territory along the borders of Algeria, Tunisia and Niger. The dictator proclaimed on numerous occasions his affinity with these people, even claiming to belong to this lineage on his mother's side. He considered them allies of his pan-Africanist project .

Gaddafi did not see himself as the leader of the movement, but as a "guide" of the revolution. Over time, however, this revolutionary vision was tempered by a realist and pacifying vision. This change was mainly due to the Tuareg's inability to overcome internal (tribal) divisions and their willingness to abandon the armed struggle. The consequences were that what began as a national and social struggle degenerated into drug and arms trafficking.

Italian colonialism

In April 1881, France occupied Tunisia. This provoked resentment in Italy, as the regency of Tunisia was intended as a natural extension of Italy, given that 55,000 Italians resided in the territory. In view of this status, and to avoid a confrontation with France, Italy then decided to create a Libyan project . In 1882, Italy, Germany and the Austro-Hungarian Empire created the Triple Alliance. As a consequence, France opposed Italy's Libyan project .

Faced with France's civil service examination plans in Libya, Italy sought redress in the Red Sea and in 1886 tried, unsuccessfully, to conquer Ethiopia. But the Italian nationalism of the time was not about to give up, as it aspired to create "a greater Italy". After the Ethiopian victory, there were only two African alternatives left: Morocco, which had already been practically colonised by France, or the Turkish Regency in Tripoli, which had been in place since 1858.

In the end, Italy opted for the latter and in 1902 sought France's support to carry out its project. Under the Triple Alliance compromise, it offered neutrality on the shared Alpine border in the event of war and Withdrawal to the Moroccan project . Paris was not interested, but in 1908 Russia offered its support to Italy to weaken the Ottoman Empire. Thus began the Italo-Turkish war. The Italian pretext was the alleged mistreatment of the settlers in Libya by the Turkish regime, to which it gave an ultimatum. Under Austro-Hungarian mediation, the Turks agreed to transfer control of Libya to Italy, a move that Italy considered a Turkish manoeuvre aimed only at buying time to prepare for war. On 29 September 1911, Italy declared war on the Ottoman Empire. This had important consequences for the Triple Alliance, as Austria-Hungary feared that the Libyan conflict would escalate into a direct conflict with the Ottoman Empire, while Germany was faced with the dilemma of having to choose sides, as it enjoyed good relations with both sides. On 18 October 1912, due to the dangers on several fronts, the Ottoman Empire decided to sign the Treaty of Lausanne-Ouchy, ceding Tripolitania, Cyrenaica and the Dodecanese islands to Italy.

During World War I, Italy was part of the Triple Entente, so the Ottoman Empire did not declare war on it. The threat to Italian control of Libya was not so much among its European enemies, but among the population of Libya itself. Taking advantage of the war, the Sanûsiya (a Muslim religious order founded under the Ottoman Empire and opposed to colonisation) began to attack the Italian army. These rebels gradually gained territory, until Italy's allies went on the offensive. On 21 August 1915, the day Italy switched to the Allies, tactics changed. Although also offering support, Italy's new allies were dealing with insurgencies in their colonies, and were primarily concerned with guarding their borders to prevent insurgents from crossing and spreading pro-independence ideas.

On 17 April 1917, Emir Idris As-Sanûsi, an ally of the Ottoman Empire, realising that Allied victory was near, signed the Pact of Acroma with Italy, whereby Italy recognised the autonomy of Cyrenaica and in exchange the Emir accepted Italian control of Tripolitania.


Geographical distribution of ethnicities in Libya [Wikipedia].

Geographical distribution of ethnicities in Libya [Wikipedia].


Colonial independence

World War II played a role core topic in Africa, encouraging nationalism on the continent. Italy, allied with Germany, attempted between 1940 and 1942 to occupy the Suez Canal across the Libyan border, but goal was not successful.

In 1943, Libya fell into the hands of the Free French (Charles de Gaulle's) and Britain: the former administered Fezán, the latter Tripolitania and Cyrenaica. At the end of the war, with Italy changing sides in the course of the war, Italy proposed a tripartite division of Libya. The United States and the Soviet Union opposed this, and stipulated that the territory would be placed under the aegis of the United Nations (UN). Two political positions were then opposed in Libya: on the one hand, the "progressives", who advocated the creation of a unitary democratic state, and on the other, the original peoples of Cyrenaica, who advocated a kingdom whose leader would be Mohammed Idris As-Sanûsi, the leader of the Sanûsiya.

On 21 November 1949, through Resolution 289, the United Nations set Libya's independence for 1 January 1952. Without taking into account any geographical, historical, religious, cultural and political realities, the UN imposed the birth of a sovereign country made up of the three main independent regions. In 1950, the National Assembly was elected, composed of 60 deputies (20 from each region). On 2 December of the same year, after arduous negotiations, the Assembly agreed that Libya would be a federal monarchy made up of three provinces, with Mohammed Idriss As-Sanûsi as King.

Initially, the Kingdom was able to establish itself given international recognition and the finding oilfields that allowed Libya to become the richest country on the continent. This optimism, however, concealed the fact that Libya's real problem lay within its borders: the country was ruled by the original peoples of Cyrenaica. To balance power, the king decided to appoint Mahmoud el-Montasser, a Tripolitanian, as prime minister.

However, the king made the mistake of basing his monarchy not on the Sanûsiya, but on his tribe, the Barasa. The regime became totalitarian. After pro-Nasser demonstrations, the king banned political parties in 1952 and dismissed more than ten governors, who were replaced by prefects. On the foreign relations front, under Idriss, Libya signed a 20-year alliance with Britain under which the British could use the Libyan military instructions . With the United States, it signed a similar one that granted the Americans permission to build the Wheelus Field base near Tripoli. Finally, it signed a peace treaty with Italy in which the former metropolis agreed to pay reparations as long as Libya protected the property of the 27,000 Italians still living there. These measures brought the kingdom to its doom, as its neighbours and population felt that the king was not showing solidarity with Egypt by aligning himself with the West.

The fall of the monarchy

On 1 September 1969, a coup d'état took place in Libya to overthrow Idriss, who, seriously ill, announced his abdication the following day. The committee Commander of the Revolution (CCR), made up of the officers who had brought about this change of government, abolished the monarchy and proclaimed the Libyan Arab Republic. The military board that established itself in power was composed of a dozen members, mostly from the two main original peoples: the Warfalla and the Maghara. The latter were of Marxist ideology, which led to the regime of Colonel Muammar al-Gaddafi.

During the first weeks of government, the new leaders tried to take every possible precaution to avoid British and American intervention. They issued a statement guaranteeing the safety of foreigners' property and promising that the oil companies would not be nationalised. In view of these statements, which were not in line with communism, the United States and the West recognised the new government on 6 September.

The new government's real intentions emerged soon after. Within a month of statement, the Libyan authorities announced that previous treaties relating to the military instructions would have to be renegotiated. They also called for a renegotiation of the taxation of oil companies. Finally, in 1971, a single party was created: the Arab Socialist Union.

Gaddafi's government

On 15 April 1973, almost four years after the coup d'état of '69, Gaddafi gave a speech on speech in which he invited the "popular masses" to take back the power seized by the Arab Socialist Union party. He imposed himself as the head of the country, promoting a cultural and political revolution that proposed, on the one hand, a reform of the institutions with a stricter application of the precepts of the shariaOn the other hand, the idea that the aggressors of the people were the Arab countries allied with the West and Israel.

Gaddafi based his power on a profound tribal recomposition. The first step he took, the day after taking power, distrustful of Cyrenaica and its tribes loyal to King Idriss, was to form an alliance with the people of Hada, seeking to balance the power of the Barasa.

Secondly, he divorced his Turkish-Kouloughli wife, who was an obstacle to the alliances with the peoples he needed to expand his power base. He then married a woman from Firkeche, a segment of the Barasa tribe. This marriage allowed him to build an alliance between the Qadhafa and the large tribes of Cyrenaica linked to the Barasa.

Third, he also built an alliance with the Misrata, a literate elite that subsequently occupied many of the regime's posts. Over time, however, this alliance broke down and led to a growth of hatred towards the colonel that was to play a major role in the revolution that brought down Gaddafi.

Fourthly, after losing Misrata, Gaddafi recomposed his strategy by relying on his own confederation, that of the Awlad Sulaymans, enemies of Misrata since the time of Italian rule. This alliance covered the city of Tripoli and geographically extended the ruler's territory.

Fifth, the ruler's problem would be the result of the previous points: tribal alliances. Fractions of his allies conspired against him in 1973 to attempt a coup d'état. Gaddafi's army, however, prevented it and condemned the ringleaders to death. From this point on, the colonel began to distrust the tribes of this region, Tripolitania, and gradually began to break off relations with them. This would prove fatal to him.

Gaddafi facing the world

International activism under Qadhafi sought the fusion of Arab peoples with the goal aim of creating a transnational caliphate. In 1972, although he did not yet control all of Libyan territory, he contributed to the creation of the Union of Arab Republics (Libya, Egypt and Syria), which was dissolved in 1977. In 1984, it created the Libyan-Moroccan Union, which disappeared two years later. Four other attempts were made: with Tunisia in 1974, with Chad in 1981, with Algeria in 1988 and with Sudan in 1990; none of them succeeded. These attempts at union caused tensions on the continent, particularly with Egypt, with which there was a border dispute from 21-24 July 1977. As a result, the mutual border was closed until March 1989.

As for the rest of the world, the dictator's support for terrorist movements during the 1980s made him enemies, especially the United States, Britain and France. committee Several attacks by the Libyan regime, such as the shooting down of an American plane over the Scottish town of Lockerbie and the assassination of ambassadors, led the UN Security Council in 1992 to adopt a policy of trade and financial sanctions and embargoes. This was compounded by the socialist orientation of the colonel, who nationalised the oil companies and assets of Italian residents on the grounds that they had been stolen during the colonial era.

The fall of the regime

Over time, the regime lost power and national support. This decline was due to the march of the Economics, as citizens benefited from direct hydrocarbon revenues: health care and Education were free, and agriculture was subsidised. In addition, there was the project to create a "great river" (Great Man Made RiverGMMR), of 4,000 kilometres. At summary, the five million inhabitants had an exceptional life, with a GDP per capita of €3,000 in 2011.

The main civil service examination came from Islamic circles, more specifically from the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafist groups (Sunni Islamic ultra-right movement), who from 1995 onwards were radicalised by the financial aid groups from Afghanistan. Their reasons for opposing Gaddafi were the westernisation The country's first major change was to leave behind Tuareg tropism to some extent and turn towards the countries of the North. In the same year, an Islamist rebellion broke out, initiated by the Front for the Liberation of Libya in Cyrenaica. Qadhafi responded with a major crackdown, establishing anti-Islamic laws that punished anyone who did not denounce the Islamists and closing down most of the zawiya (religious schools and monasteries), especially those of the Sanûsiya.

In 2003, Libya acknowledged its involvement in the Lockerbie bombing and undertook to compensate all victims. This led to the lifting of sanctions by the UN Security Council at committee . In December of the same year, the country renounced the production of weapons of mass destruction and in 2004 acceded to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. With these new measures, the regime gradually allied itself with Western countries, which in turn promoted the industrialisation of the country. One example was the treaty signed between Gaddafi and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, whereby Italy pledged to reimburse Libya $5 billion over a 25-year period, provided that Libya opened up to the Italian market and avoided illegal immigration to Europe.

Libya did not experience "the Arab Spring", as it was suffering from a civil war born in Cyrenaica, which began as an uprising of a Berber minority living near the Tunisian border. Qadhafi, fearful of spoiling the good image he had finally managed to build in the international community, decided not to use military force to re-establish his power in Cyrenaica, but as time went on he had no choice but to do so. This action led to what he already knew: international outcry.

The first country to oppose was Nicolas Sarkozy's France. Under the pretext of humanitarian interference, France, together with the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) countries, decided to destroy the Gaddafi regime. In March 2011 they recognised the Transitional National committee (TNC). The African Union also wanted a change of government, but nevertheless advocated that this should be done through negotiation, in order to avoid negative consequences such as the disintegration of the state. 

In February 2011, the colonel was confronted with a triple uprising. In Cyrenaica, by the jihadists (remember the anti-Islamic laws), who were also supported by Turkey and the local mafias, who felt threatened by the Italian-Libyan agreement on migration. In Tripolitania, by the Berbers, who now saw their identity denied in favour of the defence of Arab nationalism. Finally, also in Misrata, the area had a score to settle with the dictator since 1975 (tribal conflict). staff

Gaddafi took preventive measures, such as banning demonstrations and suspending sporting events, and announced pro-people social reforms, thinking that these were grievances that would not go unchallenged. His analytical error was to think that the protest had a social motive, while its reasons were tribal, regional, political and religious subject .

The government was able to control status for a month, until on 15 February the violence escalated into a full-blown civil war.

Foreign interference began on 17 March, when the French foreign minister promoted Resolution 1973 at the UN Security Council's committee , which authorised the creation of a no-fly zone over Libya, as well as the imposition of "necessary measures" to provide protection for civilians. This resolution excluded land occupation, and was supported by the Arab League, with military air support from Qatar.

A few days later, on 21 March, the intervention of NATO countries went beyond the guidelines of Resolution 1973, as Gaddafi's residency program was bombed under the pretext that it served as a command centre. The African Union, supported by Russia, called for an "immediate cessation of all hostilities". For its part, the Arab League reminded NATO that it was deviating from its stated objectives. Western countries, however, did not listen. On 31 March, through his son Saif al-Islam, the colonel proposed a referendum on the establishment of democracy in Libya. NATO was willing to consider his proposals, but the National Transitional committee was adamantly opposed, demanding simply that Gaddafi be removed from power.

mission statement On 16 September, the committee Security Council, through Resolution 2009, created the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL). Its goal was attend to the national authorities for the restoration of security and the rule of law, through the promotion of political dialogue and national reconciliation.

The "liberation" of the country took place on 23 October 2011, when Gaddafi was captured on his way to Fezzan, accompanied by his son. His convoy was attacked by NATO air forces. He was taken prisoner and subsequently lynched by his countrymen. The president of the Transitional National committee , Mustapha Adbel Jalil, then proclaimed himself the new legitimate ruler of the country until new elections.

Libya after Gaddafi

On his first day, the transitional president declared that the sharia would be the basis of the constitution as well as the law, reestablished polygamy and outlawed divorce. The consequences of the civil war were tremendous: they led to the disintegration of the country. Gaddafi's death did not mark the end of the conflict, as the tribal, regional and religious militias that participated in the war held different visions of what the new government should look like, making unification impossible.

Externally, territorial decontrol changed the geopolitics of the Sahara-Sahel region, offering new opportunities for jihadists.

Three periods can be distinguished. The first, between 2011 and 2013, could be considered the time of uncertainty, but also the time of democratic hope and illusion. Despite wars between different peoples over different ideologies (defenders of the old regime versus Muslim fundamentalists defending Islamic traditions) and a territorial proxy war (Cyrenaica versus Tripolitania for the capital of the new state), what appeared to be democratic mechanisms were being put in place.

On 31 October 2011, Tripoli native Abdel Rahim al-Keeb was elected Prime Minister of the transitional government by 26 votes out of 51. Legislative elections were held on 7 July 2012; they were won by the congress General National (CNG), which replaced the Transitional National committee . But the status was far from being consolidated. On 11 September 2012, the American ambassador, John Christopher Stevens, was assassinated by a Salafist group called Ansar al-Sharia.

The second period began in early 2013. Libya was on the path to normalisation through democratic elections and the revival of oil and gas exports. However, the following year saw the beginning of lawlessness and attempts to recompose internal order. The "democratic advances" had not been enough, as the regions were largely autonomous and there was no border security. No one had been able to control Libyan territory in its entirety. Chadian President Idriss Déby, who had already warned of these consequences when the West intervened in the civil war, called the new Libyan status a "Somalisation".

From February 2014 onwards, this lawlessness resulted in a series of resignations of "government" officials due to threats from the country's various militias and protests in front of the NGC, as the government was not dissolved after the expiry of the mandate. On 20 February, elections were held for the 60-member Constituent Assembly to draft a new constitution, goal , but only 15% of voters took part. Meanwhile, on 6 March in Rome, at the lecture International on Libya, the Italian foreign minister considered that the main problem was the "overlapping of legitimacy".

The third period took place at the end of 2014, when the so-called 'second Libyan war' began. From 2015 onwards, the Islamic State entered the scene, which changed the Libyan political landscape. The UN created a transitional executive body called the Government of National agreement (GNA), with the goal to steer Libyan politics in this new status. It was formed by the union of the National General congress and the House of Representatives. It is composed of 32 ministers, with Fayez-al Sarraj serving as position president of the Presidential committee and prime minister of the GNA.

Libya then found itself with two parliaments, one in Tripoli, under Islamist control, and the other, recognised by the international community, in Tobruk, Cyrenaica, near the Egyptian border, which had been forced to desist by jihadist forces. This led to the start of another conflict, which is still ongoing today. In Cyrenaica, a confused and multiform war is taking place, involving jihadists and supporters of General Khalifa Haftar, who leads the Libyan National Army (LNA) and opposes both the jihadists and the National agreement government. Through his army, the general launched air strikes against Islamist groups in Benghazi in May, with the goal aim of seizing the parliament. He also accuses Prime Minister Ahmed Maiteg of cooperating with Islamist groups. In June, Maiteg resigned after the Supreme Court ruled that his appointment was illegal.

In 2014, Haftar launched "Operation Dignity" against the Islamists, trying to remove Colonel Moktar Fernana, commander of the military police and elected by Misrata and the Muslim Brotherhood, from power. This mission statement failed due to the power of the different Muslim militias throughout the Tripolitania territory, divided into different areas: there is the city of Misrata, which is jihadist territory under the command of the Muslim Brotherhood; to the west, the militia reigns supreme. Berber Arabic-speaking Zenten; in the capital, the Islamist militia Farj Lybia is in control, while Fezzan and the Grand Sud have become quasi-autonomous territories, where the Tuareg are being fought.

In June 2014, parliamentary elections took place. Islamist parties were defeated, there was a leave turnout due to insecurity and a boycott by the dominant parties, and a clash emerged between forces loyal to the NTC and those in the new parliament or House of Representatives (HoR). Eventually, the National Salvation Government emerged, with Muslim Brotherhood ally Nouri Absuhamain as president.

In July, national security deteriorated severely as a result of several events. Tripoli International Airport was destroyed by fighting between Misrata militia and its Dawa Libya operation against Zintan militia; the HoR moved to Tobruk after the Tripoli Supreme Court (composed of the NTC) dissolved it; the NTC voted itself a replacement for the House of Representatives; Asar al-Sharia took control of Benghazi; and UN envoys left the country due to growing insecurity.

On 29 January 2015, the LNA and its allies in Tripoli declared a ceasefire following the "Libyan Dialogue" organised by the UN in Geneva to encourage reconciliation between the different sides. On 17 December of the same year, the Libyan Political agreement , or agreement Skhirat, promoted by UNSMIL, took place. Its goal was to resolve the dispute between the legitimate House of Representatives, based in Tobruk and al-Bayda, and the NTC, based in Tripoli. A 9-member Presidency committee was set up to form a unity government that would lead to elections in two years. The HoR was to be the sole parliament and would act as such until the elections.

On 30 March 2016, the GNA arrived in Tripoli by sea due to the air blockade. The settlement of the legitimate government led to the UN's return to the territory after two years in April. In addition, the GNA, together with US air forces, liberated Sirte from ISIS in December 2016. However, the LNA continued to gain territory, gaining control of the eastern oil terminals in September.

In July 2017, the LNA drove ISIS out of Benghazi. A year later, it controlled Derna, the last western territory under terrorist groups. On 17 December, Haftar declared the Libyan Political agreement null and void, as elections had not taken place, highlighting the obsolescence of the UN-created Libyan government. The general then began to gain traction in the national and international context: "All institutions created under this agreement are null and void, as they have not gained full legitimacy. Libyans feel that they have lost their patience and that the promised period of peace and stability has become a distant fantasy," Haftar declared.

19 April 2019 was the date on which the Libyan National lecture was to be held in Ghadamas to make progress on agreements and to finalise a date on which the presidential and parliamentary elections would be held. However, days before the convening of lecture was cancelled due to the LNA's "Operation Dignity Flood" with the goal of the "liberation" of the country.


Correlation of forces in the Libyan civil war, February 2016 [Wikipedia].

Correlation of forces in the Libyan civil war, February 2016 [Wikipedia].

Correlation of forces in the Libyan civil war, February 2016 [Wikipedia].


Foreign interference

The current Libyan status is worrying. The international community fears the country could become the next Syria. The National Liberation Army, led by Haftar, is supported by the United Arab Emirates, hoping to stop the advance of the Muslim Brotherhood, which it considers a terrorist organisation. It is also supported by Egypt and Russia, which are interested in controlling the country's energy resources. The National agreement government, with Fayez al-Sarraj as its leader, represents the legitimate government in the eyes of the international community (the UN recognises it). It is supported by the US and EU countries (except France), as well as Turkey and Qatar, which provide military support (especially the Turks). However, the US and the EU defend the maritime borders of Greece and Israel against Turkey's desire project to build gas pipelines across the Mediterranean to supply itself.

The rapprochement between Haftar and France began in 2015. France attempted to transform the LNA into a legitimate actor, assisting it with clandestine operatives, special forces and advisors. On 20 July 2016, Holland's France officially declared its military support for him after the killing of three French special forces soldiers in Benghazi by the GNA, which argued that it was a 'violation of its national sovereignty'. On 25 July 2019, the Paris Summit took place. Macron invited the two leaders for a dialogue on peace and unity. France's main interest is to eradicate terrorism.

On 6 March 2019, the Abu Dhabi agreement brought together the leaders of the most important sides in the Libyan war and emphasised several aspects: Libya as marital status, shortening the transitional period of government, unification of state institutions (such as the Central Bank), cessation of hatred and its incitement, holding presidential and parliamentary elections by the end of the year, peaceful transfer of power, separation of powers and UN follow-up of agreed points. The site meeting sample shows the strong involvement of the United Arab Emirates in this war, especially as an ally of General Haftar. The Persian Gulf country denied supporting the attack on Tripoli that took place on 31 March 2020 by the LNA. However, several Libyan media reported that two military cargo planes arrived at the Emirati Al-Khadim airbase in the east of the Libyan city of Marj from the Sweihan airbase in Abu Dhabi.

On 27 November 2019, the agreement Maritime Border between the GNA and Turkey took place. Turkish President Erdogan and Fayez al-Sarraj signed two memoranda of understanding. They agreed on an 18.6 nautical mile limit as a shared maritime border between Turkey and Libya and signed a military cooperation agreement whereby Ankara would send soldiers and weapons. Instead of creating a new troop, which would take longer, Turkey offered a salary of 200 dollars a month to fight in Libya as opposed to 75 dollars a month to fight in Syria.

The problem with the maritime border is that it ignores the islands of Cyprus and Greece and violates their rights under the 1994 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, although neither of these two countries has gone to the Law of the Sea Tribunal. Turkey's interest lies in the possible presence of oil and natural gas off the southern coast of Crete. The agreement will for the time being last as long as the GNA lasts, in a status of instability to which the unpopularity of military intervention in Turkey also contributes.

On 2 January 2020, the presidents of Algeria and Tunisia met with Khalifa Haftar. Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune insisted that the solution to the Libyan problem must be internal and not depend on the influx of arms brought about by foreign interference. He proposed the creation of new institutions that would allow the organisation of general elections and the establishment of the new instructions of the Libyan democratic state with the approval of the UN.

On 6 January, the LNA took control of Sirte. Sirte is strategic as it is close to Libya's "oil moon"average , a coastal strip where several major oil export terminals are located.

On 12 January, Russia and Turkey declared a truce in Syria and Libya. This agreement was a quid pro quoRussia has greater interests in Syria than in Libya, as it seeks a Mediterranean port, and Turkey, as explained above, wants to build a gas supply system across the Mediterranean Sea from Libya. However, agreement is not being fulfilled, especially in the Libyan scenario. UN envoys allege that both countries continue to provide weapons to the guerrillas.

On 19 January, lecture took place in Berlin, which was an attempt to appease status in the country. The United States, Russia, Germany, France, Italy, China, Turkey and Algeria participated, and expressed a commitment to end political and military interference in the country. Without the intervention of third parties, the country would not be able to sustain a civil war, as none of the sides is strong enough. committee At lecture, the non-compliance with the arms embargo established by the UN Security Council in 2011 was also discussed. The problem is that no power, especially Turkey and Russia, acknowledges its involvement, so there are no responsibilities and no sanctions.

A week later, the first violation of the pact took place. As for the truce, Haftar's government, with the goal aim of retaking the capital, launched an offensive in the direction of the city of Misrata, where an important base of the National agreement government is located. In addition, the UN special mission statement in Libya (UNSMIL) stated that material continues to reach the fighting sides by air.

On 31 March, the EU launched "Operation Irini" ("peace" in Greek). It replaces the 2015 'Operation Sophia', which was goal aimed at combating human trafficking off the Libyan coast. The new operation has changed its main focus to goal , as it will fight to enforce the arms embargo. It also has other secondary tasks such as the control of oil smuggling, the continuation of the Libyan coastguard training and the control of human trafficking through the collection of information with the use of air patrols. This initiative was born above all on the part of Italy, the first country to receive Libyan refugees and therefore concerned about immigration. This leadership is manifested in the development of the operation, as the headquarters are in Rome and the operational direction is at position of Italian Rear Admiral Fabio Agostini. For the time being, it has a duration of one year.

On 5 April, the UN called for a cessation of hostilities to combat Covid-19. It called for a humanitarian truce involving not only the national sides but also foreign forces. The virus claimed the life of Mahmoud Jibril, former prime minister and leader of the rebellion against Gaddafi.

New regional geopolitics and conclusion

We can define the new Libyan geopolitics through the following points. First, the spread of arms throughout the Sahara-Sahel region, the area of old and current conflicts. Second, the border threat felt by Egypt, Algeria and Tunisia due to internal conflict. Finally, the disinterest of the new Libyan authorities in the Greater South, as it has virtually become independent, controlling almost all trade across the Sahara. Al-Qaeda, through sub-groups such as Fajr Libya, is attempting to establish an Islamic State of North Africa in imitation of Iraq. To this end, in the conquered areas, Daesh destroys the tribal paradigm by liquidating tribal chiefs who do not want to ally with them with the aim of terrorising the rest. goal . It is through these practices that all the jihadist militias were able to ally themselves at the end of 2015. Faced with this, the United Nations sponsored Fayez Sarrraj as Prime Minister, who was installed in Tripoli in April 2016. 

Libya is a privileged state in terms of natural wealth. However, it has suffered much in its history and continues to do so. It has gone through monarchies, colonisation and dictatorships before finally becoming a failed state. Its political structure is complicated, as it is tribal, which is why none of the political systems have been entirely successful because they have failed to harmonise internal organisations. Today the country consists of three rival governments and hundreds of militias and armed groups that continue to compete for power and control of territory, trade routes and strategic military sites. For status to be resolved, the countries actively involved in the conflict (Russia, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar) need to comply with the UN arms embargo. In addition, foreign powers need to increase their understanding of the country in order to be successful in bringing about the best possible solution. Even if Libya is on the verge of becoming the next Syria, there are still opportunities to save status and give the country what it has long lacked: stability.



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Categories Global Affairs: Middle East Africa Security and defence Testing

In its ten operational years the "Dome" has shown effectiveness, but a comprehensive political regional solution is needed

In 2011 Israel deployed its "Iron Dome" mobile defense system in response to the rocket attacks it suffered the previous years from Lebanon (Hezbollah) and Gaza (Hamas). The Israel Defense Force claims that the system has shown an 85% - 90% success rate. However, it offers mixed results when other considerations are taken into account. Its temporary mitigation of the menaces of the rocket attacks could distract Israelis in seeking out a comprehensive political regional solution; possibly a solution that could make systems like the "Iron Dome" unnecessary. 

How "Iron Dome" works; explanation on an image produced by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems

▲ How "Iron Dome" works; explanation on an image produced by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems

ARTICLE / Ann M. Callahan

The "Iron Dome" is a mobile defense system developed by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and Israel Aerospace Industries developed, produced and fielded in 2011 to respond to the security threat posed by the bombings of rockets and projectiles shot into Israel, many of which landed in heavily populated areas.

Bombings into Israel intensified during the 2006 Second Lebanon War when Hezbollahfired approximately 4,000 rockets from instructions in the south of Lebanon. From Gaza to the South, an estimated 8,000 projectiles were launched between 2000 and 2008, mostly by Hamas. To counter these threats, the Defense Ministry, in February 2007, decided on the development of the "Dome" to function as a mobile air defense system for Israel. After its period of development and testing, the system was declared operational and fielded in March 2011.

The system is the pivotal lower tier of a triad of systems in Israel's air defence system.

The "David's Sling" system covers the middle layer, while the "Arrow" missile system protects Israel from long-range projectiles.

The Iron Dome functions by detecting, analyzing and intercepting varieties of targets such as mortars, rockets, and artillery. It has all-weather capabilities and is able to function night or day and in all conditions, including fog, rain, dust storms and low clouds. It is capable to launch a variety of interceptor missiles. 

Israel is protected by 10 "Iron Dome" batteries, functioning to protect the country's infrastructure and citizens. Each battery is able to defend up to 60 square miles. They are strategically placed around Israel's cities in order to intercept projectiles headed towards these populated areas. Implementing artificial intelligence technology, the "Dome" system is able to discriminate whether the incoming threats will land in a populated or in an uninhabited area, ignoring them in the latter case, consequently reducing the cost of operation and keeping unnecessary defensive launches to a minimum. However, if the "Dome" determines that the rocket is projected to land in an inhabited area, the interceptor is fired towards the rocket.

A radar steers the missile until the target is acquired with an infrared sensor. The interceptor must be quickly maneuverable because it must intercept rudimentary rockets that are little more than a pipe with fins welded onto it, which makes them liable to follow unpredictable courses. It can be assumed that the launchers of the rockets know as little as the Israelis as to where the rockets would end up landing.


The IDF (Israel Defense Force) claims an 85% - 90% success rate for the "Iron Dome" in intercepting incoming projectiles. Operational in March 2011, to date the "Iron Dome" has successfully destroyed approximately 1,500 rockets. The destruction of these incoming rockets has saved Israeli lives offering physical protection and shielding property and other assets. In addition, for the Israelis it serves as a psychological safeguard and comfort for the Israeli people. 

Regarding the "Dome" as an asset for Israel's National Security Strategy, while standing as an undeniable asset, it has had mixed results regarding its four major pillars of Deterrence, Early, Active Defense and Decisive Victory as well as some unintended challenges. 

For instance, regarding the perspective of its psychological protection for the Israeli people, it is thought to also effect Israeli public in a negative manner. Regardless of the fact that it currently offers effective protection to the existing threats it could, in fact, help cause a long-term security issue for Israel. Its temporary mitigation of the menaces of the rocket attacks could distract Israelis in seeking out a comprehensive political regional solution; possibly a solution that could make systems like the "Iron Dome" unnecessary. 

In addition, while the "Dome" suffices for now, it cannot be expected to continue this way forever. Despite the system's effectiveness, it is just a matter of time before the militants develop tactics or acquire the technology to overcome it. The time needed in order to accomplish this can be predicted to be significantly reduced taking into account the strong support from the militant's allies and the considerable funding they receive.  

Still a comprehensive diplomatic solution is needed

Today, the world's militaries of both state and non-state actors are engaged in a technological arms race. As is clearly known, Israel's technological dominance is indisputable. Nevertheless, it, by no means, stands as a guarantee as destructive technology becomes more accessible and less expensive. As new technologies become more available they are subject to replication, imitation and increased affordability. As technologies develop and are implemented in operations, counter techniques can shift and new tactics can be developed, which is what the militias are only bound to do. Moreover, with the heavy funding available to the militias from their wealthy allies, acquiring more advanced technologies becomes more likely. This is a significant disadvantage for Israel. In order to preserve their upper hand, constant innovation and adaptation is a necessity. 

The confusion between the short-term military advantage the technology of the "Dome" offers and the long-term necessity for a comprehensive and original political, diplomatic solution is seen as a risk for Israel. Indeed, Amir Peretz, a minister in Israel's cabinet, told the Washington Post in 2014 that the "Iron Dome" stands as nothing more than a "stopgap measure" and that "in the end, the only thing that will bring true quite is a diplomatic solution".

Despite these drawbacks, however, in all the positive aspects that the system offers clearly outweighs the negative. The "Iron Dome" stands undeniably as a critical and outstanding military asset to Israel's National Security, even while Israel works to address and mitigate some of the unforeseen challenges related to the system.

Categories Global Affairs: Middle East Security and defence Articles

Increasingly distant from the Alliance, Turkey is creating discomfort among its Western partners, but is unlikely to be invited to leave.

Its strategy in the Syrian conflict, its rapprochement with Russia through the acquisition of the S-400 anti-aircraft system and its desire for projection in the eastern Mediterranean, where it is damaging Greek interests, have brought Ankara into ongoing friction with NATO over the past few years. But the Alliance is not in a position to do without Turkey. Not only is its geographic status valuable as a bridge between East and West, but without Turkey NATO would be less able geopolitically to act against terrorism or control refugee movements and its military defence capabilities as an alliance would be diminished.

meeting between the presidents of Turkey and Russia in Istanbul in January 2020 [Turkish Presidency].

meeting between the Presidents of Turkey and Russia in Istanbul in January 2020 [Turkish Presidency].

article / Ángel Martos

Relations between the Atlantic Alliance and the Republic of Turkey are at their most tense in recent history. Ankara's foreign policy has been in a state of flux given the instability of its governments since the death of the Father of the Fatherland, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. The Kemalist republic projected a very different image of Asia Minor than the one we know today: the secularism and westernisation that characterised its bequest has been replaced by a moderate Islamic-tinged authoritarianism (according to Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, president of the Republic and leader of the training AKP).

This profound evolution has been reflected in the field of International Office, as is to be expected. The doctrine of neo-Ottomanism has gained ground among its foreign policy makers. Turkey now seeks to exploit to the full its position as a bridge between Western and Eastern civilisation, while gaining influence among its adjacent states and emerging as the stabiliser of the Middle East.

In this scenario, the main headache for Western statesmen is the substantial improvement in Anatolia's relations with NATO's arch-enemy Russia. This improvement cannot be understood without recalling a series of events that have led Turkey to distance itself from the European continent: the lukewarm reaction of Western governments to the 2016 coup d'état; the reticence shown towards the continuous requests for extradition of Fetulah Gülen's refugee followers in the EU and the US; Greece's refusal to extradite military refugees after the coup; the European Commission's continuous condemnations of Turkey's domestic politics; and, above all, the truncated dream of Turkey's accession to the EU. This is why Turkey has decided to redefine its diplomacy in its own interests alone, swinging between Russia's financial aid and NATO's . The acquisition of the Russian S-400 anti-aircraft system and its recent operations in Northeast Syria are examples of this.

The purchase of the aforementioned long-range anti-aircraft missile system is the subject of much controversy within NATO. Turkey's urgent need for such a system is obvious as it faces potential ballistic missile threats from neighbouring countries. But the choice of the Russian S-400 system, after several years of negotiations during which it was not possible to reach an agreement on agreement for the acquisition of the US Patriot system, has caused a real earthquake and Turkey's continued participation in the F-35 fifth-generation fighter programme has even been called into question. Political considerations seem to have outweighed technical aspects in the decision, as the two systems are incompatible and, being strategic-level weapon systems, both from an operational and geopolitical point of view, their employment by an Atlantic Alliance country is problematic. The Alliance is concerned about the Kremlin's access to Alliance information through its radar technology.

The other development that raises questions about the future of Ankara's relations with NATO was the recent Turkish military operation in northern Syria. The Turkish military launched an offensive against Kurdish militias (YPG, which it considers terrorists) in northern Syria on 9 October. The attention to the Kurdish people is the major point of contention between the US and Turkey, as they are staunch allies of the superpower, but at the same time a political and security threat to the stability of Anatolia.

Ankara had been pressing the US to establish a 'safe zone' into Syrian territory and had repeatedly threatened to launch unilateral military action if Washington continued to stand in its way. In early October, the US gave the go-ahead for the operation by ordering its military deployed in Syria to withdraw from the border area. The Trump administration thus abandoned the Kurds with whom it was fighting the Islamic State to their fate, giving Turkey the leeway for greater control of its border with Syria.

The next aspect that must be mentioned when describing the complex relations between Ankara and NATO is the ongoing geopolitical struggle between Greece and Turkey. Although both have been NATO members since the 1950s, relations between these two Eastern Mediterranean countries have always been characterised by a permanent perceived tension that has some consequences for supranational military cooperation. The three main disputes that have shaped this bilateral confrontation since the late 19th century are worth mentioning here: the sovereignty of the Dodecanese archipelago, that of present-day Cyprus, and the maritime dispute over the Aegean shelf. Such was the magnitude of the dispute that the Greek government went so far as to decree its withdrawal from NATO in 1974, although it later rejoined.

While this Greek-Turkish conflict was at its height in the second half of the twentieth century, there are many ethnic and historical aspects that make the two countries seem irreconcilable, except in historically specific exceptions. This means that the eastern flank of the Mediterranean, given its proximity to the volatile Middle East area , has been a constant source of concern for NATO leaders. While Greece has managed, following its transition to democracy, to emerge as a stable NATO ally, Turkey has not followed suit. This undoubtedly works against it both in domestic politics and in its aspirations for maritime sovereignty.

Historically, it is worth noting Turkey's growing role as an inter-regional mediator between the Middle East and the West. Perhaps in response to a strategy designed by Ahmet Davutoglu, who was foreign minister under the AKP government, Turkey sought to distance itself from the US under Bush Jr. Its refusal to collaborate in the 2003 invasion of Iraq won it some sympathy in the region, which it has been able to use in countries as diverse as Iraq, Israel and Iran. However, over the years the Islamist government has repeatedly spoken out against Zionism and the threat it poses to the stability of the region.

Its estrangement from the EU and its rapprochement with Russia at subject has also marked the Turkish administration's image in the Alliance. Relations with Russia, despite having been marked by political disputes such as those over Kurdish and Chechen self-determination (antagonistically supported by both countries), are kept afloat by the hydrocarbon trade. The picture is thus more favourable to the Russian axis than the American-Israeli one in the region. This logically undermines NATO's confidence in this "hinge" country, which is no longer sample interested in acting as such but as an independent and sovereign power pursuing its own interests, seeking support from the Alliance or the East as it sees fit.

This shift away from NATO's roadmap by the Turkish government, coupled with a rapprochement in some respects with the Kremlin and the authoritarian drift of the country's presidency, has prompted analysts and international leaders to open up discussion about a possible expulsion of the Asian Minor Republic from the Alliance. However, it is unlikely that the allies will decide to ignore Turkey's strategic importance. Its geographic status makes it a bridge country between East and West. Without Turkey, NATO would be less able geopolitically to act, for example, in terms of counter-terrorism or controlling refugee movements. Moreover, Turkey has the second largest military of all NATO states: exclusion would severely affect its military defence capabilities as an alliance. On the other hand, Turkey's representations in NATO, while critical of NATO as the Trump administration has repeatedly been, have not expressed a clear desire to leave unilaterally.

Categories Global Affairs: Middle East World order, diplomacy and governance Articles

Will success in parts of the Vision 2030's diary -like diversifying the economy- have a parallel opening up to religious moderation?

King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud in a recent Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Chairs Cabinet's Session [Saudi Press Agency].

King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud in a recent Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Chairs Cabinet's Session [Saudi Press Agency] [Saudi Press Agency].

ANALYSIS / Marina García Reina

Since King Salman first envisioned the need of a reform of Saudi Arabia towards a less dependent economy on petroleum, gradual changes have been done upon the aim of progress, and, in a more precise way, not to be left behind in the world race led by western countries and the booming Asian giants. The crown prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud has positioned himself as the leader of the shift towards a religiously moderate Saudi Arabia within the frame of the Vision 2030 initiative. Predictably, however, the reforms held in the country have been subject to numerous criticisms and double readings.

A succinct contextualization

It is convenient to recall the year 1979, when Shiite militants overthrew the secular Shah of Iran and Sunni fundamentalists besieged the Masjid al-Haram (Grand Mosque) in Mecca. That same year, the country's Shiite minority started a revolt in Al-Hasa province, resulting in numerous deaths. The Saudi monarchy responded to those mishaps by moving closer to the Wahhabi (an extremely conservative conception of Islam) religious establishment and restoring many of its hardline stances. As a result, for instance, the government shut down the few cinemas that existed in the kingdom. It was not till 2015 (or 2014, depending on which reforms to base on) when King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud -along with Mohammed bin Salman (popularly known as MBS), who he promoted to crown prince-, proclaimed reforms in Saudi Arabia towards a more moderate political scenario, opening up a new era of Saudi politics. The two expressed their will to limit the authority of the religious police to arrest citizens. They allowed the first cinemas and music concerts since decades of prohibitions, condemned religious incitement, and gradually granted women several rights.

Vision 2030

First conceived by King Salman, Vision 2030 is meant to be the decisive plan to transform the country by a sweep in economy and society, and Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman himself has positioned as its spearhead. It is basically the headline upon which all the modernization changes are framed. The plan aims to face the three major challenges that Saudi Arabia has nowadays: unemployment, diversification, and privatisation.

It is worth mentioning that in contrast to the great majority of western countries, Saudi Arabia has a growing youthful population. Approximately, 70% of Saudi population is under 30 and the 29% of Saudis between 16 and 29 are unemployed. Vision 2030 includes greater investments in education to train future Saudi leaders, which seems quite unnecessary when noticing that Saudi citizens pay no taxes and receive free education (making up 25% of the total budget), free health care and subsidies for most utilities.

Economy is something that has been worrying most Saudis, since the country's economy is almost entirely based on petroleum and recently the price of a barrel of oil has ranged between about $46 and $64 in 2019, much lower that what it has ranked for years. Diversifying the economy is crucial for the progress of Saudi Arabia. All in all, Vision 2030 will rely on earnings coming from the Aramco's IPO (initial public offering), which will be placed in a sovereign wealth fund -also sourced by Saudi fiscal assets and the sale of state-owned real estate and other government assets-, expectedly resulting into an investment-driven economy rather than a petroleum-based one as it has been for decades. It has also cast serious doubts the nature of the measures that are being developing to modernize the country, especially because the social aspects have been left apart by, for instance, the construction of Neom, a planned futuristic city in the middle of the desert, which is meant to be the great achievement of the crown prince MBS.

Additionally, the initiative has been configured as the political rebirth of the crown prince in the eyes of the international sphere, since it means diminishing the role of government by selling Aramco's 5% of shares to investors, even so, the enterprise still is under tight control of the royal family. Without going any further, Khaled Al-Falih, the chairman of Aramco, is also the new minister of Energy, Industry, and Natural Resources, which once again brings to light the relation between these two.

The stated target is to increase the private sector's contribution to GDP from 40% today to 65% by 2030. Much of this private sector growth will come through public-private partnerships, as said before, high-positioned Saudis will have been directly or indirectly pressured to invest in the IPO. The Saudi government has been criticised on several occasions for being corrupted and showing a lack of transparency over its acts. In this area, Vision 2030 hopes to ensure the law and the obligation of honestly reporting every business activities. Under proposal of MBS a follow-up department, headed by a ministerial rank official, has been set up to follow the implementation by government ministries of projects that have been approved.

Anti-terrorist positioning and extremist ideologies

Mohammed bin Salman has severely expressed his aim of not only dealing with extremist ideologies, but also of destroying them. As part of this determination, some clerics, which are meant to form part of the extremist ideology that the leader seems to condemn, have been targeted.

Nevertheless, organizations such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the Committee to Protect Journalists have demonstrated that these presumed extremist clerics have long records of advocating the type of reform and religious moderation MBS asserts to support. For instance, in September 2017, numerous clerics, journalists and scholars known for their reluctance to MBS policy, which they consider as half-measured and not going straight to the point, were arrested by Saudi security forces. On the other hand, certain state clerics continue unpunished despite publicly criticizing the reforms and inciting hatred against the Shia minority. In particular, two members of the Council of Senior Scholars -the highest religious body in the country, whose role is to advise the King on religious matters by issuing fatwas (judicial advice provided by a religious specialist)- have been in the spotlight for years. These are Saleh al-Fawzan and Samm leh al-Lohaidan, both close to bin Salman. These two scholars are owners of broadcasting channels funded and promoted by the Saudi government from which they divulge their ultra-conservative view of Islam and condemn with the death penalty whatever they consider as violations of religious and moral rules contrary to Islam. An example of such are the declarations made saying that Shiites are not Muslims or that Muslims are not allowed to protest or even publicly criticize rulers as this would lead to rebellion that would in turn justify rulers' violent response, like those held in 2017.

Together with these personalities, there are others who also hold high-rank positions in the country's politics and government. Abdulaziz al-Sheikh, for example, is the grand mufti (muslim religious who has the authority to interpret Sharia) of Saudi Arabia. In that capacity, he has issued numerous fatwas and statements preaching the virtues of obedience to existing authorities and submitting to their policies without question. This, once again, raises the question of whether or not Saudi Arabia is actually cleansing extremist ideologies. Some, as Abdullah Almalki -a religious academic-, argue that the sovereignty and free choice of the people must have precedence over any desire to implement Sharia and that justice and free choice must be the pillars of any political community.

Almalki's father, Salman Alodah, like himself, advocates religious tolerance against calls of jihad in Iraq, Syria, and elsewhere, calling for a democratic change, supporting the empowerment of women, fighting against discrimination, and respecting the religious minorities who are marginalized in the Kingdom. Both Almalki and Alodah were also arrested in the 2017 detentions and referred the following year to court for a secret trial -something that has become common when the accused are moderate voices, feminists and intellectuals-, facing death penalty for their extra-progressive views. Besides these cases, probably the best known one was that of the Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi's murder at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018.

In contrast to some of these powerful men characterised by their severe religious stances, the Saudi society as a whole holds a somewhat more nuanced view of Islam and does not completely identify with them. On this, it is worth recalling the attack on the Shia mosques carried out by Daesh in May 2015. The event was followed by mass funerals in the Saudi streets, which exposed the unity of the Saudi people above sectarian lines.

Al Qaida was apparently eradicated from the country and, as a result of that, it moved its operations to Yemen, where Saudi Arabia's military force together partnered with the UAE -with limited US support, it must be said- and the Yemeni government forces have been doing efforts to combat it, achieving, for instance, the liberation of Mukalla. Specifically, Saudi Arabia blames the failing states of Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and Yemen as the reason why Al Qaida has not yet been definitively eradicated.

The Iraqi government broke down after the US invasion in 2003, which led to a sectarian and corrupt government. In Syria, Bashar al Assad led the military uprising and breakdown of authority, providing al Qaida refuge, although he continuously expressed he was combating terrorists, actually al Qaida freely operated in both sides of the border. Saudi Arabia claims that further efforts must be made to remove Assad as an essential part of the battle against terrorism in the region. It also advocates efforts at the international level to stop with the use by terrorists of pro-Palestine propaganda to recruit young members.  

Aramco and the oil crisis

Petroleum prices have dropped considerably in recent years, exacerbating the need of a side Saudi economy which does not revolve around oil. This has become a rough task, taking into account that the petroleum sector employs around 70% of the population in Saudi Arabia. Aramco's IPO, which promises to sell shares to investors, has become the centre of the Vision 2030 initiative for Mohammed bin Salman.

The reasons behind the IPO are two: money -Saudi Arabia needs greater money inputs in order to accomplish the reform plans and finance the war in Yemen- and the political rehabilitation of the crown prince (MBS) under the consent of the international sphere, portraying, in a way, that the IPO may not be motivated that much because of an economic interest (which of course it is) but more deeply because of a political benefit of claiming that Saudis are opened to the world by selling part of Aramco to foreigners.

The tremendous expectation raised around the IPO can be interpreted as a way of starting attention of the incidents of 2017 and Khashoggi's murder mentioned before. Aramco's initial public offering, which started this last December in Tadawul (Saudi Arabia's domestic stock market), went resoundingly bad after the US attack in Baghdad resulting in the death of the Iranian military commander Qasem Soleimani as well as the Iraqi-Iranian deputy chief of the armed organisation Popular Mobilization Committee. Shares of the State petroleum company have dropped in a 1.7%. However, in spite of this event, Aramco's IPO went reasonably well and the company managed to be valued at $2 billion, which is not surprising considering that the Saudi government has actively encouraged Saudis to invest, meaning that there are investors (people within the orbit of the royal court and big business) who have no choice in the matter because their livelihoods and stature are dependent on proving they support Mohammed bin Salman's program and retail investors who will invest because of all the hoopla and nationalist sentiment whipped up around the offering.

Women and the guardianship rule

Undoubtedly, changes have been done within the Saudi State to overcome the lack of involvement of women in everyday life. As an example of it, the permission to drive automobiles extended to women has found a significant echo globally. Women make up half of the population in Saudi Arabia. As part of the Saudi transformation of its economy plan, there is a need beyond the sole fact of integrating women in society, namely that of integrating this half of the Saudi population into the labor force.

Women conform nowadays just the 7% of the work force. After the implementation of the Vision 2030 plan, the number is expected to rise up to a 30% by that year. Following a worldwide tendency, more women than men graduate from universities in all disciplines. Furthermore, thanks to efforts attributed to the crown prince and to King Abdullah before him, women can be members of the Consultative Assembly since 2014. Currently, they occupy 20% of its seats. In September 2011, King Abdullah granted women the right to vote, a right they exercised in 2015 for the first time.

Further changes have been done within the country in favour of integrating women, which have gone unnoticed by the public eye. Princess Reema bin Bandar al Saud is an example of that. As president of the Saudi Federation for Community Sport, she has developed different initiatives, together with other ministries, to promote women; for instance, by creating football leagues. Moreover, opening women access to the armed forces has also been a huge step forward considering the impact in the shift of gender perspective. It cannot be omitted that Saudi Arabia has been for decades an extremely conservative country and that what may be seen as basic things for westerners in the 21st century, supposes a top-down reform within their principles, especially considering that they are being introduced in a considerably short time.


Saudi Arabia is facing -and will face in the following years- great challenges to redirect the country's economy into one less dependent on oil, and to reeducate a youth that has been raised up with almost everything being granted by the government. Finally, there is also the challenge of making bin Salman's vision more translatable to the western public, which, as said, see the reforms with some skepticism, notwithstanding official energetic and ambitious proclamations. As a summary, society, diversification of economy and governance and bylaws are crucial for the Saudi progress. What is true is that, regardless the reticence of Westerners, MBS has gained huge support among his compatriots and is thought to be the reformer he repeatedly self-proclaims to be. This may lead us, Westerners, to consider whether an Islamic conception of renovation of Islam in appliance to govern is similar, and if so, to which extent, to our own conception of it.

Categories Global Affairs: Middle East World order, diplomacy and governance Analysis

Qasem Soleimani receives a decoration from Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in early 2019 [Khamenei's Office]

▲ Qasem Soleimani receives a decoration from Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in early 2019 [Khamenei's Office]

COMMENT* / Salvador Sánchez Tapia

The death in Iraq of General Qasem Soleimani, head of the Iranian Quds force, at the hands of a US drone is one more link in the process of growing deterioration of the already bad relations between the United States and Iran, the latest chapter of which has been experienced since 2018, the year in which President Trump decided to break the so-called "agreement (JCPOA) signed with Iran in 2015 by the Obama administration and the other members of the G5+1.

The attack on Soleimani, carried out in retaliation for the death of a US contractor in an attack apparently launched by the Iraqi Shiite militia Kataib Hezbollah on the US K1 base in Kirkuk on 27 December, has marked a qualitative change in the situation in the country. subject response that the U.S. is accustomed to give to incidents of this kind. subject for, for the first time, the goal It's been a stop manager of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Immediately after the assassination, during the funeral for the deceased general, Ali Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader, announced in somewhat apocalyptic terms that the attack would not go unanswered, and that it would come directly from Iranian hands, not through proxies. It came, in fact, on the night of January 8 in the form of a massive missile attack on two instructions U.S. military personnel stationed in western Iraq and Iraqi Kurdistan. Contradicting Iranian statements that the bombings had killed some 80 Americans, the U.S. administration was quick to assert that there had been no casualties. leave because of the attacks.

In the aftermath of this new attack, the world held its breath waiting for an escalation by Washington. However, President Trump's statements on January 8 seemed to defuse tensions by arguing that the absence of U.S. casualties was indicative of an Iranian attempt to de-escalate. The U.S. will not respond militarily, although it has announced its intention to tighten the economic sanctions regime until the country changes its attitude. With this, the risk of an open war in the region seems averted, at least momentarily.

Are we affected by the tension between the United States and Iran?

Obviously, yes, and in several ways. First of all, we cannot ignore the fact that several European countries, including Spain, maintain significant military contingents deployed in the region, operating within the framework of NATO, the United Nations and the European Union in missions such as "Inherent Resolve" in Iraq, "Resolute Support" in Afghanistan, UNIFIL in Lebanon, "Active Fence" in Turkey, etc. or "Atalanta" in the Horn of Africa.

In the cases of Iraq and Afghanistan in particular, the Spanish troops deployed in the aforementioned missions work closely partnership with other NATO allies, including the United States. Although in principle Spanish soldiers – or, for that matter, those of the other NATO nations – are not in the crosshairs of Iranian responses, specifically directed against North America and its interests, there is no doubt that any attack by Iran on American units could collaterally affect the contingents of other nations operating with them. if only for a matter of mere geographical proximity.

Less likely is that Iran would attempt a response against any non-U.S. contingent through one of its proxies in the region. This would be the case, for example, of Hezbollah in Lebanon, a country in which Spain maintains a significant contingent whose security could be affected if it group, either on its own initiative, or at the behest of Iran, attempts to attack any UNIFIL unit or facility. This option, as we say, is considered unlikely because of the negative impact it would have on the international community in general, and because of the proximity to Israel of the deployment of UNIFIL.

The escalation has led to an increase in the alert level and a reinforcement of U.S. troops in the region. If the increase in tension were to continue, it would not be out of the question that Washington could come to some sort of agreement. subject It could appeal to the support of its partners and allies, either with troops or resources. It is difficult to determine at what time and under what conditions such a situation might occur application, for what purpose and, very importantly, what response Europe would give to it, taking into account the concern with which the Old Continent observes an escalation in which it is not interested, and the state of relative coldness that relations between the United States and Europe are going through.

As a result of the assassination, Iran has made public its intention to dissociate itself completely from the provisions of the agreement that I was still watching. In other words, he says he feels free to continue his nuclear program. Undoubtedly, this last nail in the coffin of the JCPOA may lead to an open degree program nuclear power in the region with negative consequences for regional security, but also for European security. The rise of the issue From our point of view, the collapse of nuclear powers is, in itself and from our point of view, bad news.

Finally, and as a side effect of the escalation, the price of a barrel of oil is beginning to show a disturbing upward trend. If there are no corrective measures by increasing production from other countries, the trend could continue. There is no need to dwell on what the increase in the price of oil means for the economy. Economics and, of course, for the national one.

Russia and China in the crisis

Russia is making efforts to replace the United States as the leading power in the region and to present North America as a leading power. partner unreliable, which abandons its allies in difficulty. The escalation of the crisis could have a negative impact on this effort, delaying it or, in the worst case, ending it if, in the end, the United States were to reverse its policy of gradual derailing withdrawal in the Middle East due to an increase in tension with Iran. Russian rhetoric will be anti-Washington. In the end, however, it will do nothing to increase the tension between the United States and Iran, and it will, probably, keep it within a tolerable level or decrease.

Russia is not so much a staunch ally of Iran as one of convenience. Iran is a competitor of Russia for influence in the region – particularly in Syria – and may seek to negatively influence Islamism in the Russian Federation. On the other hand, Russia is not enthusiastic about the idea of Iran acquiring nuclear weapons.

China's stance is conditioned by its heavy dependence on the steady flow of oil from the Middle East. For this reason, it has no interest in the instability that this increase in tension entails. It is expected to act as an element of moderator, seeking to use the crisis as an opportunity to increase its influence in the region. China is not interested per se in becoming the arbiter of security in the region, but it is interested in a stable, trade-friendly region.

The project "One Belt, One Road" is another reason why China will try to keep the crisis within acceptable limits. The Middle East is an element core topic in the project recreation of a sort of new Silk Road. An open war between the U.S. and Iran could adversely affect the country. project.

In summary, neither Russia nor China are interested in an escalation between the United States and Iran that could lead to an open war between the two nations that would jeopardize oil supplies, in the case of China, and the establishment as the main international power in the region, in the case of Russia. Both will try to temper the Iranian response, even if, at the level of statements, they speak out against the assassination of Soleimani.


* This text extends a previous comment made by the author to El Confidencial Digital.

Categories Global Affairs: Middle East Security and defence Comments

A demonstration in Beirut as part of 2019 protests [Wikimedia Commons]

▲ A demonstration in Beirut as part of 2019 protests [Wikimedia Commons]

ESSAY / David España Font

1. Introduction

A shared feeling has been rising across the globe for the last three years, but with special strength during the last six months. The demonstrations since February in Algeria, since September in Egypt, Indonesia, Peru or Haiti, and in Chile, Iraq or Lebanon since October are just some manifestations of this feeling. The primary objective of this essay will not be to find a correlation among all demonstrations but rather to focus on the Lebanese governmental collapse. The collapse of the Lebanese government is one example of the widespread failure most politicians in the Middle East have to meet public needs. [i]

Regarding the protests that have been taking place in Egypt and the Levant, it is key to differentiate these uprisings from the so-called Arab Spring that took place in 2011, and which caused a scene of chaos all over the region, leading to the collapse of many regimes. [ii] The revolutionary wave from 2011, became a spark that precipitated into many civil wars such as those in Libya, Yemen or Syria. It is important to note that, the uprisings that are taking place at the moment are happening in the countries that did not fall into civil war when the Arab Spring of 2011 took place.

This essay will put the focus on the issue of whether the political power in Lebanon is legitimate, or it should be changed. Are the Lebanese aiming at a change in leadership or rather at a systemic change in their political system? This essay id divided into four different parts. First, a brief introduction summarizes the development of the October demonstrations. Second, it throws a quick overview into recent political history, starting from the formation of the Lebanese state. Third, it will approach the core question, namely which type of change is required. Finally, a brief conclusion sums up the key ideas.

2. October 2019

On Thursday October 17th, thousands of people jumped into the streets of Beirut to protest against political corruption, the nepotism of the public sector and the entrenched political class. There hadn't been a manifestation of public discontent as big as this one since the end of the civil war in 1990. The demonstration was sparked by the introduction of a package of new taxes, one of which aimed at WhatsApp calls. [iii] Roads were blocked for ten days in a row while citizens kept demanding for the entire political class to resign. Although, apparently, the demands were the same as those forwarded in 2011, the protests might have been looking more for a change in the whole political system than for mere changes in leadership.

It must not be forgotten the fact that Hasan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, warned that such protests could lead to another civil war and that the right to demonstrate had to be abolished as soon as possible. He literally stated: "I'm not threatening anyone, I'm describing the situation. We are not afraid for the resistance; we are afraid for the country." [iv] Certainly, a change in the political power could make such a power notably stronger, Hezbollah is now enjoying the weakness of the Lebanese political power and prefers to maintain the status quo.

This arising conflict must be analysed bearing in mind the very complicated governmental structure which seems to be very effective towards conflict avoidance, but not towards development and progress. The country is governed by a power-sharing system aimed at guaranteeing political representation for all the country's 18 sects. [v] Lebanon's government is designed to provide political representation of all Lebanese religious groups, the largest ones being the Maronites, the Shiite and the Sunni. The numbers of seats in the Parliament is allotted among the different denominations within each religion. The President must always be a Maronite Christian, the prime minister a Sunni and the Speaker of Parliament as Shiite. [vi]

Therefore, it goes without saying that the structure of the political power is designed for survival rather than for coexistence. Each representative is inclined to use his position in favour of the interest of the sects that he belongs to instead of that of the national, common interest. There is no chance for common policies to be agreed as long as any of these interfere with the preferences of any one of the sects.

3. A quick overview into recent history

Since the end of the 16th century, the Ottoman Empire managed to control all the region today known as Levant and Egypt. However, the area known as Mount Lebanon remained out of its direct influence[vii]. The region became a self-governed area controlled by powerful Christian Maronite families. Because the Ottoman Empire did not allow European Christians to settle in the territory and benefit from trading activities, the Europeans used the Lebanese Maronites as their commercial representatives. [viii] This was one of the main ways how the European legacy penetrated the region, and one of the reasons that explains why Christians in Lebanon and Syria had a good command of French even before the arrival of the French mandate, and why they became, and still are, richer than the Muslims.

Following World War I, the League of Nations awarded France the mandate over the northern portion of the former Ottoman province of Syria, which included the region of the Mount Lebanon. This was a consequence of the signature in 1916 of the Sykes-Picot Agreement, by which the British and the French divided the Middle East into two areas put under their control. The British would control the South, and the French the North. [ix]

In 1920 the French carved out the region of Lebanon from their mandated area. The region would later be granted the independence in 1943. The means of such demarcation had as primary objective the guarantee and protection of the Christian's free and independent existence in the Muslim Arab world, not even the protection of their rights but rather the recognition of their existence. Since the very first moment of Lebanon's establishment as a separate territory from Syria, Sunni Muslims rejected the very idea of a Lebanese state which was perceived as an act of French colonialism with the objective of dividing and weakening what was perceived to be the united Arab Nation. [x]

Because the preservation of the greater Lebanon was the primary objective for the Christians and they were not going to give up that objective for the sake of a united Arab Nation, a gap between the Maronite and the Sunni communities opened that had to be closed. The legal agreement that came up from efforts in this sense came to be known as the National Pact of 1943 "al-Mithaq al-Watani." [xi] At the heart of the negotiations was on the one hand the Christians' fear of being overwhelmed by the Arab countries, and on the other hand the Muslims' fear of Western hegemony. In return for the Christian to accept Lebanon's "Arab face," the Muslim side agreed to recognize the independence and legitimacy of the Lebanese state in its 1920 boundaries and to renounce aspirations for union with Syria. [xii]

With hindsight, the pact may be assessed as the least bad political option that could be reached at this time. However, as mentioned earlier, this pact has led to a development of the governmental structure that doesn't lead to political construction and development but rather to mere survival.

4. Change in leadership or systemic change?

The issue at stake is very much related to the legitimacy that could be given to the Lebanese political power. In order to tackle this issue, a basic approach to these terms is a must.

The concept of political power is very vague and might be difficult to find a set definition for it; the basic approach could be "a power exercised in a political community for the attainment of the ends that pertain to the community." [xiii] In order to be political, power inherently requires legitimacy. When the power is fully adapted to the community, only then this power can be considered a political power and therefore, a legitimate power. [xiv] While it is possible to legitimize a power that is divided into a wide variety of sects, it cannot be denied that such power is not fully adapted to the community, but simply divided between the different communities.

Perhaps, the issue in this case is that there cannot be such a thing as "a community" for the different sects that conform the Lebanese society. Perry Anderson[xv] states that in 2005, the Saudi Crown reintroduced the millionaire Rafik Hariri into the Lebanese politics getting him to become prime minister. In return, Hariri had to allow the Salafists to preach in Sunni villages and cities, up to the point that his son, Saad, does not manage to control the Sunni community any longer. How is it possible to avoid such a widespread division of sects in a region where politics of influence are played by every minimally significant power?

Furthermore, in order to be legitimate, power must safeguard the political community. However, going deeper into the matter, it is essential that a legitimate power transcends the simple function of safeguarding and assumes the responsibility of maintaining the development of the community. As mentioned in the previous paragraph, in this case there might be no such thing as a community; therefore, the capacity of the political power in this specific case, legitimacy might be link to the idea of leading the project of building and developing such idea of community under one united political entity. Possibly, the key to achieve a sense of community might be the abolition of confession-based politics however... Is it possible?

Additionally, another reason for which I do not believe that there is a full politicization of the state is because it has still not transitioned from power, understood as force, into power understood as order. The mere presence of an Iranian backed militia in the country which does have a B degree of influence on the political decisions doesn't allow for such an important change to happen. In the theory, the state should recover the full control of military power however, the reality is that Lebanon does need the military efforts of the Shiite militia.  

Finally, a last way to understand the legitimacy of the power can be through acceptance. Legitimacy consists on the consent given to the power, which implies the disposition to obey of the community, and the acceptance of the capacity to force, of the power[xvi]. Until now there has been acceptance. However, being these protests the biggest ones seen since the end of the civil war, it is an important factor to bear in mind. It might be that these protests delegitimize the political power, or they might simply reflect the euphoric hit that many of these events tend to cause before disappearing.

5. Conclusion

After three months since the beginning of the protests, it seems that steps have been taken backwards rather than forwards. Could Hariri's resignation mean a step forward towards the construction of the community and the abolition of the sectarian division?

The key idea is the nature of the 1943 agreement. The Pact's core idea was to help overcome any philosophical divisions between the two main communities, the Christian and the Sunni. The Christians were not willing to accept a united Arab Nation with Syria, and the Muslims were not willing to be fully ruled by the Christians. However, 80 years later, the importance of confessionalism in the political structure is still there, it has not diminished.

To sum up, there are two additional ideas to be emphasised. One is that Lebanon was created in order to remain a non-Muslim state in an Arab world, the second one is that the principal reason for stating that the political powers in the Arab world have so little legitimacy is because of the intrusion of other regional powers in the nation's construction of a community and the persistent war that is being fought between the Sunni and the Shiite in the region in

[i] B. Alterman, J. (2019). Lebanon's Government Collapses. Retrieved 16 December 2019, from 

[ii] B. Alterman, J. (2019). Lebanon's Government Collapses. Retrieved 16 December 2019, from

[iii] B. Alterman, J. (2019). Lebanon's Government Collapses. Retrieved 16 December 2019, from

[iv] B. Alterman, J. (2019). Lebanon's Government Collapses. Retrieved 16 December 2019, from

[v] CIA. (2019). World Factbook (p. Lebanese government). USED.

[vi] CIA. (2019). World Factbook (p. Lebanese government). USED.

[vii] Hourani, A. (2013). A history of the Arab peoples (p.). London: Faber and Faber.

[viii] el-Khazen, F. (1991). The Common Pact of National Identities: The Making and Politics of the 1943 National Pact [Ebook] (1st ed., pp. 7, 13, 14, 49, 52,). Oxford: Centre for Lebanese Studies, Oxford. Retrieved from

[ix] Taber, A. (2016). The lines that bind (1st ed.). Washington: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

[x] el-Khazen, F. (1991). The Common Pact of National Identities: The Making and Politics of the 1943 National Pact [Ebook] (1st ed., pp. 7, 13, 14, 49, 52,). Oxford: Centre for Lebanese Studies, Oxford. Retrieved from

[xi] el-Khazen, F. (1991). The Common Pact of National Identities: The Making and Politics of the 1943 National Pact [Ebook] (1st ed., pp. 7, 13, 14, 49, 52,). Oxford: Centre for Lebanese Studies, Oxford. Retrieved from

[xii] Thomas Collelo, ed. Lebanon: A Country Study. Washington: GPO for the Library of Congress, 1987.

[xiii] Zemsky, B. (2019). 2000 [Blog]

[xiv] Cruz Prados, A. (2000). Ethos and Polis (2nd ed., pp. 377-400). Pamplona: EUNSA.

[xv] Mourad, S. The Mosaic of Islam: A Conversation with Perry Anderson (1st ed., pp. 81-82). Madrid: Siglo XXI de España Editores, S. A., 2018.

[xvi] Jarvis Thomson, J. (1990). The Realm of Rights (1st ed., p. 359). Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.

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