- March 14, 2017 at 11:36 am #129366
Putin Gets Some Payback with ‘Alternative Project’ for Libya
Russia Seizes Opportunity in Libya
Vasily Kuznetsov explains the evolution of Russia’s approach to the Middle East in terms of both its “blunt pragmatism” and, since 2011, defining itself “as an alternative project rather than part of the West … premised on Russian historical experience.”
Kuznetsov writes that this alternative project has extended to support for Gen. Khalifa Hifter in Libya. In backing Hifter, Moscow is seeking to shift its relations with Cairo from “mutual affinity into a solid alliance.” Despite Hifter’s limitations, other armed groups in Libya are “unreliable and weak.” Nonetheless, Kuznetsov notes, “This does not imply that Russia intends to ignore other Libyan actors. Amid the lack of developed institutions and overmilitarized society, the establishment of a resilient system entails a necessary broad consensus. Given the Syrian experience and Moscow’s general approaches, one can assume that as a mediator in Libya, the Kremlin will follow a regional track of the conflict resolution involving Egypt, Tunisia and Algeria as the key players.”
There may also be a bit of payback in Putin’s meddling in Libya. US relations with Egypt have been shaken a bit since the protests that overthrew former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in 2011, and Russia’s abstention on UN Security Council Resolution 1973, which facilitated the US-led bombing campaign that helped depose former Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi, still stings. Kuznetsov suggests that “it is the West’s ideologically driven policies and its reluctance to recognize the imperfect world that cause Moscow’s considerable irritation.”
A Russian Role in Gaza?
Ben Caspit writes that the release of a report by Israel’s state comptroller Feb. 28 about Operation Protection Edge, which took place in the summer of 2014, reveals that Israel still does not have a Gaza policy. “Netanyahu has yet to come up with a policy on how to handle Gaza and Hamas. He has not yet decided whether he wants the Hamas regime to continue ruling Gaza in the long term. There is no serious Israeli effort to improve living conditions in the Gaza Strip. Yes, there is a lot of talk, such as remarks by Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, who said that if Hamas stops digging its tunnels and dealing in terrorism against Israel, Israel will agree to the construction of a seaport for Gaza, the gradual lifting of the closure and maybe even allowing laborers from Gaza to enter Israel for work. But there is very little activity.”
Also assessing the urgency of conditions in Gaza, Akiva Eldar wonders whether Russia’s relations with Hamas could be put to good use in the Gaza Strip. Eldar writes, “At the start of the weekly Cabinet meeting March 5, Netanyahu said that on March 9, in his talks in Moscow with Russian President Vladimir Putin, he would demand that any agreement on ending the Syrian civil war take into account Israel’s defense needs on its northern border. Why not make use of Russia’s good ties with Hamas to promote Israel’s security interests on its southern border, too? Less than two weeks ago, the Putin administration hosted Hamas and Fatah movement representatives for reconciliation talks. Putin would probably be glad to cut the ribbon at the new Gaza port.”
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