MAS Special ReportLEVANT: Middle East and North Africa

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DMS Special Report - Middle East and North Africa - October 2018 (II)

Laurenţiu Sfinteş

Sursă foto: Mediafax


  1. Idlib enclave, Syria. Heavy weapons withdrawal term from the division area have passed, for now, no one is worried.
  2. Israel- Gaza Strip. The war which will start someday, in a Friday.
  3. Iraq. Elections in Iraqi Kurdistan. The results are disputed by the opposition.
  4. Saudi Arabia. Riyadh admits that a dissident journalist was killed in their own diplomatic subsidiary. But that’s it.
  5. Libya. The oil production came back to where it was before the internal conflict. The war continues.

  Idlib enclave, Syria. Heavy weapons withdrawal term from the division area have passes, for now, no one is worried

Although 15th of October was the deadline for heavy weapons withdrawal from the 15-20km area established to divide Damask’s regime forces from Idlib’s enclave rebellious groups’ ones, the operation did no end, but the belligerents, including Russia and Turkey- signatories of Sochi treaty, do not seem to be worried. Even if they did not have an official position regarding treaty’s content, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham/HTS’s militants, the group which ideologically is alike Al-Qaida and control around two thirds from strip’s length which is to be demilitarized, are also the ones who does not seem to be hurried.

But, Kremlin’s spokesperson, Dmitri Peskov, states that Russian militaries (the contingent dislocated in Syria) are pleased with how the Turkish part acts, so the delays in implementing the treaty can be the result of the inherent difficulties of such operation. The reference to the Turkish part is not adventitious because, besides Turkey being co-signatory of the treaty from 17th of September, it is also rival HTS group’s main sponsor, National Liberation Front. And this organization, wherefrom belong many opposition groups, accomplished treaty’s provisions in the territories they control.

Hence, on the field, were divided pretty obvious those who are accomplishing what was established in Sochi, from those who do not recognize this treaty. HTS’s refuse to withdraw their heavy weaponry may have many explications, some of them reiterated also by local observers:

-there is always a “grace period” in implementing such decisions;

-radical groups, like HTS but also Hurras al-Deen or Ansar al-Islam, who anyway do not recognize these treaties and have no other alternatives, will do anything to delay its accomplishment, hoping there will be somewhere, a breach, either political, military, security one, which will allow them to survive;

In this period wherein parts will mutually observe and evaluate the determination, will not take long. Damask’s regime, as well as Russia, showed that they can manipulate the negotiations area as long as necessary to come, in the end, to using military force.

And that moment is around the corner. HTS not accomplishing treaty’s provisions clears the positions that different militant groups from Idlib’s enclave have, and this separation, which will become even more obvious on the field in the next period and it will increase also the conditions for an offensive operation of Syrian armed forces.

There are already registering artillery duels between regime’s forces dislocated in West Alep and HTS’s ones, from Idlib’s north enclave. And Syrian military convoys are transporting troops from south of the country, where Daraa province was already pacified, and the security situation even allowed the reopening of the traffic with Jordan. 

According to Turkish officials’ recent statements, including Erdogan president’s ones, Turkey is ready for the post-conflict period, including by withdrawing from Syria. It was also established a deadline, elections development (it is not specified if only parliamentary, or also presidential). We understand that, at that moment, Idlib’s enclave problem, but also the territory occupied by Syrian Democratic Forces (majoritarian Kurdish), will be solved, especially the second one, which is uppermost for Ankara. Forces’ presence in Idlib’s enclave, the support offered to groups from National Liberation Front component, are just levers by which Turkey hopes to get from Russia and Damask a strong management of the Kurdish problem and autonomy.

For such an objective, we can wait one more week, or two,or a month…


Israel- Gaza Strip. The war which will start someday, in a Friday.

Although both camps, Israeli authorities and Hamas, state that a conflict will not help anyone, the tensions at the border between Israel and Gaza Strip continue, led, actually, even more obvious than lately, to upkeep it in the international media agenda, but also to maintain the pressure to solve the issue that Hamas’s leaders consider it “archway’s key” of their actual political objectives: raising Gaza’s Strip blockade.

A sort of lull was registered after ending the 30th anniversary since the protests started, Friday, 10th of October, when the number of those who participated at the protests was smaller than the one registered in the last period. The warning came from Hamas, which, after sending a short force message- by launching two artisanal missiles which avoided Iron Drone’s interference, came back with a communique saying that they do not recognize the attack and are ready to continue the negotiations mediated by Egypt.

But the protests will continue, it will get diversified, will involve also surprise actions, like covering some infiltrations over Israeli border, these being Hamas’s only actions available, at the moment. As group’s military and political leader was stating, Yahya Sinwar, Hamas group is not interested in a conflict with Israel,[1] because, military speaking, it is impossible to wait for a positive end. But the protests accompanied by harassment’s entire artisanal actions arsenal of Israeli part, are part of the asymmetrical methods Hamas can use, with lots of human loses, to reach their political objectives.

This period is complicated for Hamas, having to find solutions not only for Israeli’s blockade, but also for the Egyptian one (where the connections between Hamas and Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood were not forgotten), and for the Palestinian partner, National Palestinian Authority (NPA) interested in NPA’s structures comeback in Gaza Strip. This is also complicated for Israel, which is closer and closer to parliamentary elections, prime-minister Benjamin Netanyahu having a strong position in the polls at the moment, without wanting a perturbator factor to appear and make surprises.  In politics, the war can bring victory, as well as electoral disaster.

Hence, each camp makes small, but necessary, steps to upkeep the pressure at the border (Hamas, by upkeeping a high, but controllable, level of protests), or to ease Palestinian’s from Gaza Strip economic millstone (by allowing the procurement with the fuel acquired by Qatar). The equilibrium works, but the end is much more ambitious, at least in Hamas’s vision.

This is why, each Friday, at the border with Israel are gathering up to 15-20.000 protestants who, in a permanently “comeback march”, are assaulting with fire kites, with fired rubbers slicks, under Hama’s security structures awake monitoring, the fence which separates the strip from the Israeli territory.

The poignancies are huge on each Friday. For both camps is celebration day, prayers day, but also the day when Arabian and Israeli religious stay under the sacrifice sign, more vulnerable to the massages which came from religious and pollical leaders.


Iraq. Elections in Iraqi Kurdistan. The results are disputed by the opposition.

Kurdish parliamentary elections’ results were announced, finally, by the regional electoral Commission, but the opposition groups are already accusing the winners for electoral frauds.

After three weeks from the parliamentary elections (30th of September), the regional electoral Commission[2] announced on Sunday afternoon (21th of October) the results: Democratic Party from Kurdistan (DPK) won the elections, with 45 from the 111 parliamentary mandates. The second place was occupied by Patriotic Union from Kurdistan (PUK), with 21 mandates, and the third place was occupied by Gorran Movement, with only 12.

The opposition parties are accusing DKP and PUK for frauds in the electoral process, including for documents falsification and introducing in ballot boxes some supplementary votes.

A member of Gorran Movement (GM), Hemin Anwar, stated that his political group does not agree with these numbers, also saying that there are more than 1000 notifications, part of them unfinished, which could change elections’ results. Anwar added that GM, which lost half of the places they had in parliament, will organize a reunion to decide if they will participate at creating the new regional government (in the anterior Cabinet, GM had 4 portfolios).

Aram Said, a representative from New Generation Movement (which won eight parliamentarian portfolios) announced that the results were flawed, adding that he thinks there was some kind of a political agreement between DKP and PUK.

To answer back, DKP announced that they will form the Cabinet together with PUK, with or without opposition’s representatives, but it is expected, next weeks, the position of some of these to change.

30th September’s scrutiny took place a year after the referendum for independency organized by the Kurdish regional government, despite the opposition of some Kurdish parties, Bagdad’s central government and international communities, leading to a serious political crisis in Iraqi Kurdistan’s semi-autonomous region. Although “DA’s” camp won (with 90% from the eligible voters), Iraqi central authorities, supported by the international community, refused to apply referendum’s result, by saying that it does not have an obligatory character for Bagdad. Furthermore, Iraqi forces took the control over Kirkuk province, with large oil resources, and other territories that the Kurdish were de facto controlling, even if these were outside their region’s official limits.

After referendum’s failure, between the two major Kurdish political groups, DPK and PUK, which led the Iraqi Kurdish region based on a division agreement of power, from the ‘90’s, now pressures started to appear (at region’s leadership and the cabinet were members of Barzani’s clan, DPK).

Even though there are still some different points of views, choosing PUK’s representative, Barham Saleh, as Iraq’s president, in the detriment of DPK’s representative, Fuad Hussein, respectively, DKP winning the elections, seem to indicate that the two parties got to an agreement in sharing the power: Iraq’s presidency (PUK) versus Iraqi Kurdistan’s leadership (DPK).

Saudi Arabia. Riyadh admits that a dissident journalist was killed in their own diplomatic subsidiary. But that’s it.

Saudi Arabia admitted (19th of October) that journalist Jamal Khashoggi died inside Saudi’s Arabia General Consulate from Istanbul, being strangled after a fight with some individuals, but it did not mention the place his body is.  According to Turkish Foreign Affairs Minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, there would be a video recording from consulate’s inside, which shows that the journalist would have died meanwhile he was tortured, and his body would have been sliced into pieces to get it easier outside. Until writing these words down, his body was not found.

Khashoggi’s disappearance inside the Saudi consulate from Istanbul raised from the beginning, in Turkey and other countries also, the suspicion of arresting, mugging, kidnapping and even murdering him by Saudi’s authorities. Khashoggi was a fervent critic of Riyadh regime and the crown prince, Mohammed Bin Salman, seen as country’s reformator and promoted by a part of international and american press.  

Saudi Arabia is facing the biggest diplomatic crisis after “9/11” terrorist attacks over New York’s Twin Towers, but this time provoked by a member of the Royal House. If the proofs will show that the journalist was tortured, and his body was sliced into pieces at Mohammed Bin Salman, crown prince’s order, his image will join Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi’s ones.

By admitting that is modernizing the conservatory kingdom, Bin Salman blocked activists’ voices for human rights and critics’ ones from the clergy. This month, an economist who was talking about the concerning situation of Aramco’s oil Company, owned by the state, a key factor for Saudi’s economy, was accused of terrorism. Also the crown prince adopted an inflexible, extremist position, in the dispute with Qatar and he is, also, the architect of Yemen’s disastrous war. Mohammed Bin Salman’s actions are suggesting that he does not respect human’s rights or the international order, being encouraged by his friendship with Donald Trump, whose first official visit as US’s president, was in Riyadh.

After the Turkish authorities will confirm or Riyadh will admit its involvement in murdering a citizen inside of a diplomatic mission, by the governmental authorities, this should at least determine the international community to firmly blame Riyadh’s authorities’ actions and to impose stronger sanctions against them. Still, it should not be forgotten the commercial contracts worth of hundreds of billion dollars (just the contract for acquiring weaponry is worth around 110 million) of weaponry acquisitions that Saudi Arabia signed with US, or the Saudi influence on oil’s global market.

Anyhow, Khashoggi’s dead produced Saudi’s regime a huge image prejudice, a lack of credibility which will afflict Saudi Arabia’s involvement and role in the international policy or in Middle East’s complicated files.

Libya. The oil production comeback to where it was before the internal conflict. The war continues.

Despite the unpredictable security situation, the Libyan oil production reached its maximum level after 2013, before starting the internal conflict between the two camps from east (Islamic camp from Tripoli, government) and west (laic camp from Tobruk-Representatives Chamber/parliament).

According to National Oil Company president, Mustafa Sanalla, oil extracts volume reached 1.278 million barrels per day and can be increased with couple of hundreds of thousands of barrels per day if oil facilities security’s insurance measures will be improved (extraction sites, pipe network, oil terminals) to allow British Petroleum and Eni companies to retake the production to an oil camp exploited together (close to the border with Tunis). Retaking the exploitation is planned for the first trimester of 2019.

Libya has the biggest oil reserves discovered in all Africa’s countries and it was a key provider for countries in Europe.

The export of crude oil is the main income source for this country, and often the fight for facilities control generated its destruction.

During Muammar Gaddafi times, the oil production was 1,6 million barrels per day. After his collapse, Libyans started to remake the oil infrastructure, but the dispute between the two rival camps afflicted again the production.

Despite UN’s efforts and international actors, country’s definitive stabilization was not possible yet. The last action plan announced by UN’s emissary in Libya, from 20th of September 2017, to solve the crises, is facing a lot of obstacles, and even steps back, in implementing it, which raises questions if this will succeed in term (the end of the year).

Confrontations between different militias took place on the entire country, due to the support of one of the camps (east-west), for influence areas and financing sources, group’s particular interests prevailing over the national ones.

Still, Libyans efforts seem to work and are generating a relative trust in authorities’ ability to keep the situation under control, and the National Oil Company is calling for a production of over 2 million barrels per day in 2022. 


[2] The regional electoral commission is made of 9 members, representatives of the main Kurdish political groups. Four of the 9 members did not agree with these results, and the other 5 voted because they are DPK and PUK’s representatives.