Op-Eds

What if the Berlin conference becomes a reality in Libya?

by Imad Atoui
April 29, 2020

Neither immediate neighboring countries nor al-Sarraj`s bloc will end the Libyan dilemma. The future of Libya under the foreign Tobruk-alliance represented by Haftar, will design the future of Libyan politics.

Few months ago, the Berlin conference took place with the hope of bringing peace to Libya. As a result, the main influencing powers have given their commitments to enforce the military embargo towards the local enemy-brothers in the country.

Taken at face value, the diplomatic initiative enabled Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, in gathering external actors with forced smiles, the geopolitical interests of each block came pre-decided on each country`s position in the Libyan arena. Though this diplomatic conference was one among many previous efforts, the question remains: what if the commitments of Berlin attendees actually occur and bring a glimmer of hope to Libya`s future? In fact, answering this question leads us to consider one of the long-term potential scenarios.

Despite the last rapprochement between the competing blocs in Libya through Turkey and Russia, the latter does not have the last word. In contrast to Turkey, Russia was previously in the Tripoli bloc, and the shift to recognize Tobruk bloc was necessary to maintain the Kremlin`s footholds and to preserve its traditionally geo-economic, geostrategic and geopolitical interests in Libya.

The Berlin conference is a diplomatic process to preserve Tobruk bloc`s geopolitical interests smoothly.  Assuming if the results of the Berlin process will find place among the two competing blocs, the local political game will be shaped by those who geostrategically/militarily were about to take over Tripoli recently. Calling for a round table dialogue by the most players will end up with the inclusion of both hostile parties in a peaceful political process.

However, though the political game settles for GNA wing, in the long-run the balance will swing in favor of the Tobruk party. Locally, the Tobruk wing stands for the majority of the strong tribes` hostile to the eastern wing. In addition, this bloc holds the gun now and in the past, for example, during the Senoussi dynasty up through the 42 years of Qadhafi rule, this bloc has been the base for the country`s military institution. That means, the Tobruk party will take the coercive apparatus that follows the political resolution.

The idea that “the holder of the gun is the winner” is not new in Libya or in the MENA region at large. Despite the loyalty of Senoussi to the west, the military coup by Qadhafi in 1969 reshaped the Libyan politics and endured the long span of the gun-state and formed an anti-western/rogue state. This situation is similar to other countries in the MENA region, most of the states are under the control of the one who holds hard power regardless of the system`s form: Assad in Syria, Military in Egypt, Saudi dynasty in Arabia…etc

A weak state in Libya with a relative stability is the common target of external powers in order to preserve their geopolitical interests. Thus, implementing and upholding an authoritarian system is the only strategy to achieve their goals. For the Tobruk alliances, relative political stability means creating a belt against threats emerging from the Sahel region, namely, illegal immigration and security threats to Europe. The lack of legitimacy inherent to authoritarian systems creates the space for external powers to put pressure on the ruling regime.

The second reason why the Tobruk alliance does not want democracy in Libya is that, democracy in the western narratives is equal to the rise of Islamists. The rise of Iran forms a paradigmatic example in which democratization constituted a big challenge for the western countries. Democratization also generated Muhammed Mursi in Egypt and the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) in Algeria in 1990s. Both threatened the geopolitical interests of the western. The rise of Mursi led Egypt to support the Palestinian resistance against Israel, while the rise of Islamists in Algeria led in a decade of terrorism in the eyes of the westerns.

In addition to the western states in the Tobruk alliance, regional players as well promote the same agenda. For Egypt, Saudi Arabia and UAE, democracy remains the biggest threat to their survival. The rise of democracy will play a domino effect on these dictatorial systems, while all these states are pro-Israeli in the region. Thus, those who are deemed Islamists are against the Israeli project in Palestine and the American agenda in the MENA region.

Despite the non-involvement of western states in the militarily disputes between Tobruk and Tripoli, their reactions were to support the triad-Arab alliance (Saudi Arabia, UAE and Egypt) in doing so. After the counter-revolution actions that these players launched in the post Arab-uprising, some Arab states were and still are the main weapons, money, and logistics suppliers to Haftar. Just few days after the Berlin meeting, Tripoli has been still receiving Haftar`s rocket attacks led to more 50 killed civilians, while the city remains under siege with human casualties mounting daily.

Finally, the Berlin conference poses only a different path for the Tobruk alliance to preserve their interests smoothly. If the results of the Berlin conference materialize, the Tripoli partners will forcibly leave the space as Italy did in the post-World War II. And since the Tripoli wing presents different external partners, its disappearance from the political scene in Libya will diffidently bring down the partners` geopolitical interests that had been matched to its existence. Despite that, the scenario of the political resolution in Libya seems to have fallen through. The regional and international players still believe that the rise of any democratic system means the collapse of the authoritarian machine for the former, and the end of the geopolitical interests for the latter.


A lame plan behind Arab countries' armament

by Imad Atoui & Rania Khalouta
April 29, 2020


Is the arms race between Arab countries amid the COVID-19 pandemic really about self-defense or maintaining a balance of power in the region?

With the spread of COVID-19, most of the Arab countries stood materially naked in the fight against the global pandemic in their respective territories.  Read here.


Center for Islam and Global Affairs: A New Initiative to Study Muslim Societies and Turkey's Role in a Globalized World

by Prof. Dr. Sami Al-Arian 

 

CIGA hopes to contribute, however modestly, to the understanding and analysis of the dramatic changes taking place in Muslim societies and offer practical solutions to intractable and difficult challenges facing our globalized world. Read here.


Impact of Islamophobia on cultures and global politics

by Prof. Dr. Sami Al-Arian

 

Islamophobia is commonly defined as the intense or irrational hatred, hostility and fear of Islam. It perpetuates negative stereotypes resulting in bias, discrimination and the marginalization and exclusion of Muslims or Islamic activists from social, political and civic life. Moreover, it has manifested itself as a form of structural racism that is directed at a perceived or real Muslim threat through the maintenance and extension of existing disparities in economic, political, social and cultural relations. Islamophobia essentially dehumanizes Muslims and thus rationalizes the use of violence against them as a tool. Read here.


Herzl's heritage of Zionism still triggers conflicts

by Fadi Zatari

 

The Zionist movement is the consequence of particular socio-political and economic Jewish experiences in the West, particularly in Europe, which are related to anti-Semitic and anti-Judaist politics and discourse in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. All this enmity toward the Jewish people had no connection to Palestine or even the Muslim world. However, its consequences were to be felt there. Read here.


Support Palestinians, Embrace BDS

by Fadi Zatari

 

One aspect of supporting and empowering the Palestinian people involves countering their enemy. Israel is not only neglecting and refusing to recognize the norms of international law relating to the Palestinian people but continuously violates and denies Palestinian basic human rights such as the right of return, specifically for those have been forcibly and brutally expelled from the Palestinian lands. Read here.


Palestinian culture of Sumud

by Fadi Zatari

 

After their homeland was sacked starting from 1948, Palestinians have showed resistance both actively and passively, leading to steadfastness, which has become a pattern of life, endurance and resistance to Israeli policies. Read here.


World Hijab Day: Fighting Islamophobia with solidarity?

by Linda Hyökki

 

On Feb. 1, women of all faiths and ethnic backgrounds around the world joined in a global movement of solidarity with those Muslim women who struggle for their right to don the hijab and wore a headscarf for a day. They participated in the now well-established World Hijab Day (WHD), which has been organized as a worldwide event every year since 2013. Read here.

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Algerian 'Hirak' is neither a revolution nor a social movement

 

by Prof. Dr. Sami Al-Arian

Incorrectly compared with the events of the Arab Spring, the ongoing eight-month movement in Algeria seeks radical change - but by peaceful means. Read here.

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What lies ahead for the Algerian presidential elections?

by Prof. Dr. Sami Al-Arian

Two political splits characterize the political scene in Algerian politics. Despite radical movements crying out for regime change led by those known as hardliners, long-time protestors have metamorphosed into pragmatic soft-liners advancing toward presidential elections on Dec. 12. Read here.

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Political transition in Algeria: an outcome of actors, not a constitutional picture.

by Imad Atoui

Analysts still confused! The fate of Algerian political transition will be determined by the outcomes between Maximalists and Constitutionalists, not according to the constitution.

Starting from February 22, Algerians have been asking for system change. After more than eight months, commentators and analysts are still confused about using constitution as road-map in their analyses to determine and argue the fate of the Algerian Hirak. Furthermore, matching the current political scene with some articles, is only bringing the constitution out of its real framework.

Constitutions are made for the founding principles of the regime. Algerian constitution and other States' charters alike, are supreme laws designated to establish the basis of a political system and draw the basis for other laws. Politically, the constitution is generally defined as a document that shape the power of different political institutions. Known as`` Constitutional design``

This supreme document is made to serve a functional government. Algerian constitution defines the structure of the government, as it separates powers and responsibilities between the government branches. None of its articles touches upon circumstances like revolution or large-scale protests. This Implies that the validity of the constitution is connected to a normally functioning of institutions.

The masses that have been taking to the street for more than eight months, however, have already removed the effectiveness of the constitution. Despite different interpretations from lawyers and calls from the military institution that sought, from the beginning, to return to the highest state's document, the ongoing movement has confirmed that the constitution is outdated in this case.

Regardless to the game between the real political actor and the following of free-riders, the argument must be drawn on at least two factual levels. On the first level, the governing elite knew a split in its political body: from February to Marsh, the governing elite was concordant about the fifth mandate given to Bouteflika, while the political discourse has later known a new twist. In April, a new era introduced two governments, one in jail and the other is still running the country.

On the second level, even though considering what is in the constitution, the myth of the transition period had constitutionally exceeded its legal time. The Algerian constitution states that, in the event the president resigns “the president of the Council of the Nation shall assume the function of the Head of State for a maximum ninety days”. it was not until September that the re-election was announced.  From April till now is about eight months!

The Algerian transition is between two groups. Currently, the evolvement of the Hirak is characterized into two distinctly contrasting poles: Maximalists versus the Constitutionalists. The former persists the radical demands for system change, while Constitutionalists are free-riders who present the will of the remaining elite of the previous regime.

The political outcome will be determined by the two antithetical political poles. From September, the announced of presidential elections has officially come out. In October, five candidates were accepted -out of 22. Candidates, actually, are not able to start their electoral campaign due to the rejection of the masses to the elections. In the flip side, huge number of Algerians still taking to the street crying out for radical demands. Despite the small number of the Constitutionalists and their opponents on the public base, their opponents, so far, could not stifle the process of the upcoming elections.

Maximalists still mobilizing huge masses in the protests with different tactics to hinder Constitutionalists call for elections. Constitutionalists, however, assert on elections as a solution for the current political stagnation. One month left to December for the presidential elections, two opposite poles would disclose what will be.

In fact, it is not easy to anticipate what will be as outcomes, nevertheless the back and forth bargaining between the Maximalists and the Constitutionalists will presumably know different strategies. Maximalists seeking for different strategies to cut off the election process, while we do not know what the reaction from the Constitutionalists will be if the elections do not take place within a specific time. No one can predict what the reaction of the Maximalists will be as well if the elections take place on time.

Analyzing the current case of Algeria needs a close eye on the ongoing events. From the very beginning, the political game was quite clear that it does not match with the articles of the Algerian constitution. The story is simply between huge masses of people taking the street asking for radical change, and political elite wants to rejuvenate itself.