Libyan oil: A sticky problem

THE surreal nature of Libya’s politics, with its two prime ministers and two parliaments claiming the right to rule from opposite ends of the country, is encapsulated in the gleaming glass building that houses Libya’s National Oil Corporation (NOC) in the capital, Tripoli. Here Mashallah Zwai, the oil minister appointed by a self-declared government in Tripoli (which the world does not recognise) says he is in charge and that he is working amicably with his rival, Mustafa Sanalla, the NOC chairman and the de-facto oil minister of the internationally supported government, based in the eastern town of Baida.With the largest oil reserves in Africa, it is little surprise that Libya’s state-run petroleum industry is one of the prizes in a power struggle that many fear could tip into all-out civil war

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Tunisia’s election: The secularists have it

IN A region gripped by jihadist violence, civil war and the return of authoritarian rule, Tunisia’s parliamentary election on October 26th was an exception on many counts. Alone among the countries that saw popular revolts in the “Arab Spring” of 2011, it has remained on a path to democracy

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Extremist ideology: Jail, jihad and exploding kittens

A YEAR after his extradition from Britain, Omar Mahmoud Othman, better known as Abu Qatada, a burly preacher accused of being al-Qaeda’s man in Europe, relaxes in his plush sitting-room adorned with white lilies in the Jordanian capital, Amman. He is giggling at an Instagram picture of a kitten dressed in an explosive suicide belt. Then, with fellow jihadists, he guffaws at footage on a mobile phone of Theresa May, Britain’s Home Secretary, denouncing extremists and quoting from the Koran at the Tory party conference

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The war against Islamic State: The Kurdish Stalingrad

Cheering on the defenders of Kobane, and the US Air Force “WE WILL resist to our last drop of blood together… if necessary we will repeat the Stalingrad resistance in Kobane.” The words of Polat Can, a Syrian Kurdish commander, to describe the fight against Islamic State (IS) jihadists for the town on the Syrian-Turkish border may exaggerate the scale of the fighting, but makes plain the emotional and strategic symbolism now attached to Kobane.On October 29th about 150 Iraqi Kurdish fighters, the Peshmerga, dispatched by cheering crowds in Irbil, set off through Turkey to reinforce their brother Kurds. The deployment was sanctioned by the Turkish authorities, after much haggling.For the other parties to the battle—America and IS—the confrontation, now in its seventh week, has also acquired increasing importance. For IS, the expectation was of an easy victory that would have given it control over a large section of the border and the main road between its stronghold in Raqqa and Aleppo

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Nuclear talks with Iran: Diplomatic spin

TO HEAR President Hassan Rohani in full charm offensive one would think that, barring a few trivial details, a deal to settle long-running concerns about Iran’s nuclear programme by the agreed deadline of November 24th is very nearly in the bag. “I think a final settlement can be achieved…the world is tired and wants it to end, resolved through negotiations,” he declared on Iranian television earlier this month; a nuclear settlement was “certain”.The Americans are trying to rein in expectations

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