August 12, 2017

The Middle East and North Africa. Analytical Review 07/2017

 

Oleksiy Volovych

The Military-Political Situation in July 2017

 

In July 2017, the situation was tense and unstable in the Middle East and North Africa. In our opinion, the most talked about events and processes were those around Qatar, in Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Libya. The “Qatari crisis” is getting worse and there are no signs of its possible settlement in the nearest future. Turkey's President R. Erdogan's visit to the KSA, Kuwait and Qatar with the mediation mission also failed to produce the expected positive results. In Turkey itself, on the 15th of July was marked the anniversary of the suppression of the military coup mainly by intensifying repressions against hundreds of thousands suspected of involvement in it. In Syria, fighting continued between the government forces and the armed opposition and the militants of the ISIS, with the direct participation of US, Russian and Turkish military. In Iraq, on the one hand the operation was completed to liberate Mosul from ISIS militants, and on the other — a confrontation is brewing between the central government and the leadership of the Iraqi Kurdistan, insisting on a referendum on its independence. In Libya, (without much success) there was the next round of talks between F. Sarraj and Kh. Haftar against the background of the release of Gaddafi's son Saif al-Islam, which fact indicates the growing influence of pro-Gaddafi's political forces in the country.

The Middle East and North AfricaQATAR

Continuation of the “Qatari crisis”. Despite numerous attempts to mediate in the conflict between Qatar and the four Arab states (KSA, UAE, Egypt and Bahrain), a way out of it is not yet visible. July 5, the deadline for Qatar's response to the list of the 13 ultimatum demands, submitted to the emirate by the “Arab Quartet” on June 22 to end the crisis and restore relations, expired. Before the expiry of this deadline, on 3 July, Qatar sent an official response through diplomatic channels to Kuwait, which acts as a mediator in the crisis between the “anti-Qatar coalition” and Doha. According to some sources, in its response Qatar promised the Arab countries to lower the level of diplomatic relations with Iran, but excluded the possibility of closing the Turkish military base in the emirate. In response to the demand to close the “Al-Jazeera” TV channel, Qatari authorities proposed to stop broadcasting of other Arab channels, such as “Al-Arabiya” and “Al-Hadath”, whose studios are in the UAE.

July 7, the “anti-Qatar coalition” issued a statement accusing Qatar of the failure to settle the “Qatari crisis” and stressed that Qatar's intransigence only confirms its close ties with terrorists. The Arab Quartet's statement also threatens Qatar: “We will take all the necessary political, economic and legislative measures to ensure our rights, security and stability in order to protect our interests from the aggressive policies of the Qatari leadership”.

Qatar's Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani called offensive the four countries' demands to Doha, while noting that “Qatar is ready to participate in negotiations if our sovereignty is respected”. According to the Qatari Minister, the Arab Quartet's demands neither realistic nor feasible. At this, he pointed out that “the emirate is not afraid of Saudi threats and is ready for confrontation, if it comes to it”.

July 5, Cairo hosted the meeting of the Foreign Ministers of Egypt, KSA, UAE and Bahrain, at the end of which a regret was expressed about Qatar's negative answer to the Arab Quartet's demands. At the same time, it was stated that Qatar is an integral part of the Persian Gulf region and the Arab world in general. The Arab Quartet reaffirmed its previous demands to Doha, but so far it has refrained from tightening sanctions against Qatar, although on 7 July Egypt banned Qatari vessels from entering the ports of the Suez Canal Zone.

A War of Kompromats. According to a number of experts, the Egyptian special services, in coordination with colleagues from the KSA, the UAE and Bahrain, have now stepped up their efforts to collect “compromising evidence” on Qatar, that is, to obtain documentary data on “Qatar's sponsoring terrorist activities”. This decision was made on 5 July 2017 in Cairo during the secret meeting of the heads of special services of the countries of the Arab Quartet. The aim of this work is to create a “Black Book” about Qatar's subversive activities in different parts of the world using the “Islamic factor”. And this book is not intended for all Western partners, but only for the special services of the United States, Britain, France and Germany. In Cairo, they hope that the collected “compromising evidence” about Qatar's actions should convince the Western allies of the need to take tough measures against Doha. In the opinion of the Russian orientalist Yury Shcheglovin, this is “very naive,” since the United States and the European Union countries shape their international policy in general and the Middle East one in particular, “based on their geopolitical interests, and not on any kind of revealing documentary materials”. At this, Yu. Shcheglovin believes that Egypt, the KSA and the UAE could be presented with facts of their own direct interference with the internal affairs of Libya, Syria, Yemen and other countries. This work could be easily be done by secret services of Qatar, Turkey and Iran, and the documents condemning the KSA, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt could be made public through the “Al-Jazeera” TV channel, the broadcasts of which are watched all over the world.

The Arab Quartet's efforts to organize the international isolation of Qatar and its blockade have been in fact completely ignored by the international community. July 4, the UN Security Council refused to discuss the boycott of Qatar. On 27 July, Qatar's Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, at the meeting with UN Secretary-General António Guterres, accused the Arab Quartet of violating international law. According to him, “the campaign of the blockade, unleashed against Qatar, is a chain of violations of international law”. He also pointed out that the UN is the “right platform” for resolving the crisis.

The USA's Position. According to many observers, the US administration does not show any particular desire to be too much involved in the settlement of the “Qatari crisis”, obviously hoping that the GCC countries will cope with this themselves. Washington has just taken on a role of an observer and arbitrator. After a visit to Ukraine within the framework of shuttle diplomacy on July 10–13, R. Tillerson made a series of visits to Turkey and the Persian Gulf countries to help the states of the region resolve the “Qatari conflict”. As a result of this tour, he expressed the hope that Qatar and four Arab countries will be able to resolve the conflict without the help of mediators. On 10 July, at the meeting in Kuwait City, representatives of the United States, Great Britain and Kuwait called on Qatar and the four Arab countries to dialogue to resolve the crisis as soon as possible.

July 11, during R. Tillerson's visit to Doha, the United States and Qatar signed a memorandum of understanding on combating financing terrorism. Qatar was the first country in the Persian Gulf region to sign such a document. Washington believes that the memorandum signed with Qatar “is a sufficient guarantee of Doha's non-participation in the sphere of possible sponsorship of terrorism”. At this, R. Tillerson clearly supported Qatar, saying that all the Arab Quartet's demands to Doha are “absolutely unacceptable from the point of view of their fulfillment and cannot be a condition for a compromise”. However, the KSA, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain refused to lift sanctions from Qatar. On 11 July, Qatar announced a possible withdrawal from the GCC, if the Arab states do not renounce their demands.

On July 12, R. Tillerson conducted consultations in Jeddah with the Foreign Ministers of the Arab Quartet. According to media reports, the results of these talks “do not give any hope of achieving any progress towards the resolution of the inter-Arab conflict”. In Jeddah, R. Tillerson also had bilateral meetings with his Saudi counterpart Adel al-Jubeir, Crown Prince and Saudi Defense Minister Mohammed bin Salman and was received by King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud.

The sides discussed issues of combating terrorism, including its financing, as well as bilateral relations. July 13, R. Tillerson again visited Doha, where he met with Emir of Qatar, Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani. The US Secretary of State and the Emir of Qatar stated that they consider direct talks between the four Arab countries and Qatar a necessary step to resolve the situation around the Emirate. July 14, Pentagon chief J. Mattis pointed out that despite the contradictions between Qatar and the Arab Quartet, there was no negative impact on US operations in the region, and the United States does not intend to seek an alternative to the US Air Force base in Al-Udeid in Qatar, which, he said, “continues to operate around the clock in normal mode”.

The evolution of the “Qatari crisis” shows that the parties are not ready to compromise yet, and this crisis is unlikely to be resolved in the near future. The ability of the Arab Quartet to talk Qatar into “repentance and obedience” is very limited. In our opinion, the Arab Quartet's political boycott and the economic and trade embargo will have virtually no effect on Qatar's viability, since the share of all the Arab states of the Persian Gulf in the total volume of Qatar's trade is just 8 %. And the Arab Quartet's embargo cannot affect Qatar's exports of LNG — the main source of Qatar's income. Iran and Turkey are fully supplying Qatar with food and essential goods, and the USA will not allow any force actions against Qatar.

 

TURKEY

R. Erdogan's Visit to the KSA, Kuwait and Qatar. On July 23 and 24, Turkish President R. Erdogan paid a visit to the three Arab countries of the Persian Gulf — Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar, where he discussed with his counterparts the crisis in Qatar, other regional problems, as well as the situation in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Libya. R. Erdogan was accompanied by his wife Emine, Chief of the General Staff Hulusi Akar, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, Minister of Economy Nihat Zeybekci, Minister of Energy and Natural Resources Berat Albayrak, Defense Minister Nurettin Canikli and Head of the National Intelligence Agency Hakan Fidan.

During his visit to Jeddah, R. Erdogan negotiated with the Saudi King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. In Kuwait, the President of Turkey had talks with Emir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad Al-Jaber al-Sabah, and in Doha — with Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani. The talks between the Turkish President and the Qatari Emir were held behind closed doors and lasted more than 2.5 hours. After the completion of the bilateral high-level talks, the consultations continued in an extended format with the participation of the ministers of the two countries.

For years, Turkey has been maintaining active political and economic relations with Qatar. The volume of Qatar's investments in Turkey is about 20 billion US dollars. Over the past two months, about 600 million US dollars of Qatari investments were received by Turkey. The total volume of trade between Turkey and Qatar in 2016 made according to Qatar's data — 916 million US dollars, and according to Turkey's data — 710 million US dollars. In July 2016, after the attempted military coup in Turkey, Qatar sent 150 soldiers to Ankara for the symbolic support of R. Erdogan. Currently, Qatar has Turkey's only military base in the Persian Gulf, which will soon accommodate about 5,000 Turkish troops “in order to maintain stability in the region”. In an ideological sense, Qatar and Turkey position themselves as states that uphold relatively liberal Islam. In Sunni countries, Ankara and Doha support the movement of the “Muslim Brotherhood”, trying to create a counterbalance to Wahhabism, Saudi Arabia's official religion.

Despite Turkey's solidarity with Qatar, Ankara, nevertheless, intends to maintain friendly relations with the KSA, the UAE and other Arab countries of the Persian Gulf, as well as normal relations with Iran. Turkey is trying to balance between Iran and Saudi Arabia and to some extent it still succeeds. Anyway, there is no reason to call Turkey Saudi Arabia's ally in its confrontation with Iran. Despite the historical rivalry between Ankara and Riyadh for supremacy in the Sunni world, both countries have so far succeeded in overcoming differences in order to cooperate on many fronts. Over the past few years, the maintenance of the stability of the exchange rate of the Turkish lira against the dollar depends on the “hot money” — short-term financial investments coming from Saudi Arabia. In 2016, the trade turnover between Turkey and KSA amounted to about 5 billion US dollars, while the Turkish exports to the KSA made 3.2 billion US dollars, and imports from the kingdom — 1.8 billion US dollars.

During his tour of the Persian Gulf countries, R. Erdogan did not visit the UAE, which is explained by the tense relations that have developed between the two countries in recent years. Especially complicated the relationship between Turkey and the UAE became after the military coup in Egypt in July 2013, as Turkey and Qatar supported the leader of the Egyptian “Muslim Brotherhood”, Mohammed Mursi, who became President as a result of democratic elections, and a year later, the UAE and Saudi Arabia supported the military coup led by the Minister of Defense, the current President of Egypt, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. In addition to Egypt, the UAE competes with Turkey in many regions from Somalia to the Balkan countries. The Turkish media have reported that the UAE provided financial support in organizing a military coup in Turkey on July 15, 2016. For example, the columnist of the Turkish newspaper “Yeni Şafak” Mehmet Acet claims that the sponsors of the failed coup attempt in Turkey were the UAE authorities who allegedly allocated 3 billion US dollars for the purpose. On the other hand, the Emirates “do not like” Turkey's normal, good-neighborly relations with Iran. The visit of the UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan to Armenia on 17–19 July, during which he visited the memorial of the victims of the Armenian Genocide of 1915 and laid flowers to it, also provoked outrage in the official circles of Ankara. The recent visit of Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu to the UAE in order to overcome the differences between Ankara and Abu Dhabi proved ineffective.

The Agreement between the Russian Federation and Turkey on the Supply of S-400 Air Defense Systems. July 25, President of the Republic of Turkey R. Erdogan, speaking at the meeting of the parliamentary faction of the ruling “Justice and Development Party”, announced that Russia and Turkey had allegedly signed a final agreement on the supply of S-400 “Triumph” anti-aircraft missile systems (according to NATO classification — SA-21 Growler) produced by the Russian concern “Almaz-Antey”. At this, according to R. Erdogan, the agreement provides for their joint production in the future. However, the Kremlin has not yet confirmed or denied this statement by the Turkish President. However, earlier, General Director of “Rostekh” S. Chemezov said that Moscow and Ankara had worked out only technical issues of the contract for the supply of S-400. According to him, the final decision should be taken by the governments of the two countries, while Russia does not intend to place production of S-400 in Turkey. It should be noted that earlier the USA also resolutely rejected Turkey's request for the transfer of technologies for the production of the “Patriot” system. According to some observers, Turkey's acquisition of the S-400 system will be Turkey's response to the supply of American weapons to Syrian Kurds and the USA's other actions in Syria, which provoke Ankara's rejection and discontent.

According to Bloomberg, the deal will cost 2.5 billion US dollars. According to the preliminary agreement, Turkey will receive two S-400 batteries within a year. The S-400 system can shoot down strategic and tactical aircrafts, ballistic missiles and hypersonic targets at ranges up to 400 km. Radar of S-400 system provide detection of air targets at a range of up to 600 km. Anti-aircraft guided missiles can hit aerodynamic targets at altitudes up to 27 km, and ballistic targets — at up to 25 km. The S-400 Air Defense system was adopted in Russia in April 2007. In the spring of 2015, the first buyer of the S-400 was China, which purchased the S-300PMU-1 in 1993.

Earlier, the Pentagon expressed concern about Ankara's desire to acquire Russian S-400 system, demanding an explanation of this step. On July 14, the chief of the Pentagon, J. Mattis, warned Turkey that if the Russian S-400 was used, the Turkish military might face technical problems, since the Russian S-400 system would never be compatible with NATO Air Defense systems. J. Mattis also pointed out that buying Russian S-400 system is Turkey's sovereign right. Later, the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, J. Dunford stated that “the purchase by Turkey of the S-400 Air Defense system from Russia would cause concern in Washington”. To this R. Erdogan replied that his country had taken such a step, “because for years it could not do this with the United States”. At this, he stressed that “Greece has long been using Russian S-300 systems and Greek military have no problems with compatibility”.

It should be noted that the tender for the purchase of a long-range Air Defense system for 4 billion US dollars was announced by Turkey in 2009. The winner in September 2013 was the Chinese company “CPMIEC”, which offered Turkey an Air Defense system HQ-9, which was the processing of the Russian system S-300PMU-1. As the main competitive advantages, the Turkish side then mentioned the low cost of HQ-9, the delivery time and the transfer of production technologies. The decision to conclude a contract worth 3.4 billion US dollars to supply 12 Air Defense missile battalions was taken in September 2013. It is noteworthy that six months earlier, in February 2013, the United States imposed sanctions on the Chinese company “CPMIEC” for its cooperation with Iran, North Korea and Syria. Turkey's decision then caused severe pressure from its NATO allies, and in November 2015 the results of the tender were canceled. It is possible that the same fate of the Turkish-Russian deal on the S-400 Air Defense system can be the same, especially since in March 2017 the USA imposed sanctions on “Rosoboronexport” and seven other Russian organizations, incriminating them with the transfer of technology and the sale of weapons to Tehran, Damascus and Pyongyang.

Most likely, Turkey does not have a serious intention to buy the S-400 system, but just demonstrates to NATO its independence in making strategic decisions in response to Washington's intransigence on many issues. So far, there are no sufficient grounds to consider R. Erdogan's report on the purchase of the Russian S-400 system a final decision. So far, there is no information on the number of batteries, their price and delivery dates. It is also possible that Turkey will buy neither S-400 systems from Russia nor the “Patriot” system from the United States, but will try to develop domestic missile defense systems with the help of the EUROSAM consortium, which has been discussed with France and Italy for over a year now.

The First Anniversary of the Military Coup. On the 15th of July — the first anniversary of the attempted military coup — Turkish President R. Erdogan opened in Ankara a monument to the victims of the mutiny. As a result of the confrontation, apart from the putchists, 246 Turkish citizens were killed and more than 2 thousand were injured. In connection with the anniversary of the military coup, many Turkish media published the latest data on the results of the state of emergency in the country. According to the Ministry of Justice, a total of 50,500 people have been arrested on charges of involvement in the coup, 170,000 people are being prosecuted. According to the “Turkey Purge”, 138 thousand people have been dismissed from their jobs, 118 thousand have been detained and 56 thousand have been arrested. More than two thousand schools and universities have been closed, 8,270 scientists and teachers, 4,425 judges and prosecutors have been fired. 150 media have been closed, 269 journalists have been arrested. There are no more than 5 % of independent or opposition media in the country.

Despite the Western countries' criticism of the Turkish authorities' actions in the state of emergency, on the 17th of July the Turkish Parliament again extended it for another three months. Responding to the West's criticism, President R. Erdogan wrote in an article published in “The Guardian”: “The thwarting of the coup marked a turning point in the history of democracy. Unfortunately Turkey’s allies, particularly our friends in the west, have been unable to fully appreciate the significance of what happened. Instead of expressing solidarity with my countrymen, a number of western governments and institutions opted to wait and see how the crisis would play out. Their hypocrisy and double standards deeply disturbed the Turkish people, who risked everything to defend freedom”.

In accordance with Resolution No. 692, the Government of Turkey decided to dismiss a total of 7,348 people from state institutions. In particular, just one day before the first anniversary of the failed coup, the government decided to remove from their posts 418 employees of the Ministry of Justice, 551 — of the Department of Religious Affairs, 45 — of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 2,303 — of the General Directorate of Security and 1,486 employees of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. The Turkish Prosecutor's Office also issued arrest warrants for 43 people working for the Prime Minister's office on suspicion of their links to the religious movement of the preacher Fethullah Gülen living in the United States. For the same charge, 105 IT workers and 52 employees of the Turkish Scientific and Technological Research Council (TÜBİTAK) were ordered to be detained. Within the last week of July alone, the Police detained more than 830 people suspected of having links with F. Gülen. Along with this, 213 people suspected of cooperation with the “Kurdistan Workers’ Party” banned in Turkey were arrested during the same week.

According to the Ministry of Defense of Turkey, starting from July 15, 2016, 7,655 servicemen were dismissed from the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK). After the attempted coup d'etat, 150 Generals and Admirals, as well as 4,287 officers lost their posts. The Command of the Turkish Army fired 7 Generals, 2,538 officers, 1 thousand sergeants, 1,000 servicemen of special forces and contract soldiers. In the Turkish Navy, 31 Admirals, 646 officers, 368 midshipmen, 30 special forces servicemen and contract soldiers were dismissed from their posts. The Turkish Air Force fired 32 Generals, 1103 officers, 536 sergeants, 55 special forces servicemen, contract and private soldiers, as well as 26 technical personnel. For the period from July 2016 to July 2017, the number of senior commanders of the Turkish Armed Forces was reduced by 40 %. At this, the number of Generals and Admirals in the Turkish Armed Forces declined from 326 to 196. To fill the personnel vacuum in the Turkish Armed Forces, the number of applicants wishing to enter military schools was sharply increased.

 

 

SYRIA

Negotiations in Geneva. July 10–14, Geneva hosted the 7th round of inter-Syrian negotiations on the settlement of the conflict in Syria with the mediation of the UN Secretary General's Special Representative for Syria Staffan de Mistura. According to him, at the meeting “no breakthrough, no breakdown and no one walking out”. S. de Mistryura pointed out that “both the Syrian government and the opposition emphasized their participation in the struggle against terrorist groups defined by the UN Security Council”. During the talks, the “Non-paper” document of 12 points was discussed, devoted to the future structure of Syria. This document is freely available on the UN website. During the 7th round of negotiations, the first three paragraphs of the document were discussed — respect for the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of Syria, non-interference in the internal affairs of Syria, and that Syria should remain a secular state. At the talks, an agreement was reached on the possibility of creating a unified delegation of the three groups of the Syrian opposition: “Riyadh”, “Moscow” and “Cairo”. These opposition groups will hold consultations on the issue of uniting in the coming days. The next round of inter-Syrian talks in Geneva (Geneva-8) will be held in early September 2017, where the first direct talks between the delegations of the government of Syria and the opposition can begin.

The SAR Government Troops' Combat Actions. According to the Russian and Turkish parts of the joint Russian-Turkish commission to review issues related to violations of the Ceasefire Agreement, more than 300 such violations were recorded in July, most often in the provinces of Damascus, Deraa and Latakia. In July, in different parts of Syria, government forces and allied forces continued their military operations against the armed units of ISIS and other terrorist groups. In early July, in the province of Hama, the Syrian army and militants regained the state's control over the oil field of al-Heil, 50 km northeast of Palmyra, and over the oil fields in the provinces of Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor.

July 19 and 20, government forces advanced in the southwest of the province of Raqqa, taking control of several hundred square kilometers in the Al-Badia desert and reaching the line of 50 km from the border with Deir ez-Zor. In the province of Damascus, the Syrian army fought the terrorists in Eastern Ghouta. Government forces ousted pro-American militants from a vast territory in the northeast of as-Suwayda province and in the east of Damascus governorate. The fighting also took place in the provinces of Hama, al-Quneitra and Latakia.

In the middle of July, in the Eastern Ghouta region of the province of Damascus, government troops continued fighting with the formations of the “Tahrir al-Sham” group for the areas of Ain-Terma and Jobar. Although Eastern Ghouta is part of one of the de-escalation zones established in May 2017 by Russia, Turkey and Iran, the fighting in this region does not stop, as the parties cannot or do not want to agree on mechanisms for monitoring the cease-fire regime. July 9, government forces attacked the positions of the “Tahrir al-Sham” group in the province of al-Quneitra. July 11, in the province of as-Suwayda, Syrian troops cleared of militants 300 square kilometers of its territory, having liberated several settlements. Some field commanders of ISIS recognized the fact of the death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of this organization, about which there had been unconfirmed rumors. Yet so far there is no reliable information about this.

The situation in Syria, July 2017
The situation in Syria, July 2017

The RF Military Contingent's Combat Actions. According to the RF Defense Ministry, in July, strategic Tu-95MS bombers struck several times with the latest X-101 cruise missiles at ISIS' facilities in the provinces of Hama and Homs. It was noted that the rocket carriers took off from the “Engels” airbase in Saratov region of the Russian Federation and flew into the airspace of Syria with refueling in the air. Strikes with missiles X-101 were applied from a range of about 1000 km. The actions of the bombers were covered by Su-30SM fighters, based at the “Khmeimim” airbase.

In July, Russian VKS' aircrafts, using data from the coordination center in Baghdad, attacked the ISIS and “Jabhat al-Nusra”'s groups mainly in the provinces of Deir ez-Zor, Hama, Homs and Damascus. In the Deir ez-Zor area, the actions of the Russian VKS were aimed at weakening the attack of the ISIS fighters against the besieged garrisons of government troops in the southern quarters of the provincial center and at the airbase near the city. On July 13, in the east of the province of Hama, there arrived Russian servicemen from the RF Special Operations Forces, to operate in the combat formations of the Syrian troops, helping them to conduct tactical reconnaissance. July 11, it became known about the death of a Russian military adviser in Syria in the rank of Captain, who fell under the militants' mortar fire. According to official information, as of July 15, 2017, the number of Russian military killed in Syria made 33 people.

July 14, the State Duma of Russia ratified the protocol to the agreement on the deployment of the Russian Air Force units in Syria. According to the Deputy Minister of Defense of the Russian Federation N. Pankov, “the term of the agreement and protocol is 49 years with the possibility of further extension for 25-year periods”. According to Chinese sources, in the near future the RF VKS plans to deploy additional air units at one of the air bases in the province of Homs. The Russian Armed Forces' Command made a decision to relocate additional Su-27SM3 and Su-35S fighters, Mi-28 and Ka-52 helicopters, as well as a S-400 Air Defense systems and a battalion of towed howitzers to Syria. According to Chinese military observers, the Syrian armed conflict is an opportunity for the RF Armed Forces to test in combat conditions both traditional military equipment and the latest samples.

Chinese observers believe that building up the military presence of the Russian Federation and the United States in Syria can eventually lead to a direct military confrontation between Russian and American troops. At this, they point out that for the Russian side the achievement of parity with the United States on the scale of the military presence in Syria requires “incredible efforts and material costs”.

The Turkish Troops' Combat Actions. In July, pro-Turkish formations fought in the north of the province of Aleppo against Kurdish forces. July 13, a group of Russian servicemen arrived in the area, demanding that the commanders of the Kurdish formations leave the five cities in the area of the Kurdish enclave of Afrin in order not to provoke the actions of the Turkish military. According to the Kurdish portal “Kurdistan 24”, during negotiations with the leadership of the Syrian Kurds, representatives of the Russian military contingent in Syria proposed to bring in their troops in order to divide the opposing sides and to prevent Turkey's operation on Kurdish-controlled territories. However, the commander of the Kurdish YPG forces in Afrin Bahjat Abdo said that the Kurds refused to accept Russia's plan, because, according to him, “the Russians say if we allow the Syrian regime forces enter Afrin, they will stop the Turkish attacks. But we drove the Syrian regime out of Afrin five years ago, and it is impossible to allow them back”. According to Kurdish sources, the Turkish army deployed artillery and rocket launchers in the canton of Afrin, preparing to seize it. The clashes in that area continued throughout July. On 14 July, Turkish artillery fired the city of Afrin, which was controlled by the Kurds. In response, Kurdish YPG forces shelled the city of Mar'a, controlled by pro-Turkish forces.

July 17, a large column of armored vehicles of Turkish troops arrived near Manbij, which is controlled by Syrian Kurds. July 27, in the north-east of the province of Aleppo, the formation of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) under the pressure of the fighters of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), supported by the Turkish military, left on of the villages of Tal Jejan. In these battles 16 people were killed (Turkish soldiers and fighters of pro-Turkish formations). July 18, in the north of the province of Aleppo in the battles between Kurdish formations and pro-Turkish detachments near the village of Ain-Daqna, 15 fighters of the pro-Turkish group “Ahl al-Diyar” were killed.

The US Special Forces Combat Actions in Syria. July 19, US President D. Trump decided to stop implementing the CIA's program to help Syrian rebels who are fighting against B. Assad's regime. This is obviously due to the fact that the Pentagon is relying on the direct use of American troops in Syria. According to Chinese sources, the bulk of the military equipment used by the US Armed Forces in Syria is delivered through Turkey, although, as you know, in the north of Syria, the US Armed Forces are actively interacting with Kurdish formations, which constantly causes Ankara's outrage. According to Arab sources, on 16 July, an American convoy consisting of about 150 off-road vehicles under cover of 5 “Apache” helicopters arrived in Syria from Iraq.

According to information from Chinese sources, the United States has concentrated in the southern and northern parts of Syria a military grouping of up to 3,000 troops. The units of the US troops have enough armored, special and engineering equipment to organize defensive lines and conduct both offensive and defensive battles with the support of assault and army aviation, barrel and rocket artillery. To provide round-the-clock fire cover, squads of rocket fire systems HIMARS are deployed in southern regions of Syria. Near the Syrian city of Manbij, the cover of the actions of the US Armed Forces and Kurdish detachments is being provided by a division of light howitzers M777A2. After the capture of the Tabqah airfield near the town of Raqqa, the Pentagon is going to place there the attack helicopters AH-64D, MV-22 converters and reconnaissance-strike UAVs.

In addition to increasing the number of US troops in Syria, the Pentagon also contributes to building up the military capabilities of Kurdish forces. Thus, in the first two weeks of July 2017, the USA handed over to its Kurdish allies 200 Guardian armored vehicles, 12,000 rifles, 4,000 grenades, 50 EIMOS mortar systems, TOW anti-tank missiles, first aid kits, bulletproof vests, ammunition, and night vision equipment. The USA keep arming the Kurdish forces, despite Ankara's constant protests. The Kurdish formations of the “Syrian Democratic Forces” (SDF), with the support of US Special Forces, fought to squeeze the ISIS fighters out of Raqqa. By July 16, the formation of the SDF took possession of about a third of the territory of Raqqa, and by July 24 it controlled almost half of the city. In the days that followed, as SDF units were coming up to the centre of Raqqa, jihadists almost daily counter-attacked them massively. According to Kurdish sources, up to 2,000 ISIS fighters remain in the besieged city today.

Dislocation of the US Armed Forces in the North of Syria. According to Russian, Turkish, Chinese and Iranian intelligence services, the USA continues to expand its military presence in northern Syria. After US President D. Trump had approved the supply of arms to Syrian Kurds, the Turkish state “Anadolu” news agency published data on the location of US military bases in Syria, to which the Pentagon stated that the publication of such confidential information was “an irresponsible step”. In particular, in the news agency's publication they mentioned two airfields — Rmeilan and Harab Isk, as well as several forward operational bases (FOB). This type of basing points is created taking into account the duration of the combat missions (from three months to two years). At one FOB can be deployed from 1,500 to 10,000 military servicemen (m.s). The FOBs are subdivided into battalion (500 military servicemen), brigade (1,500 m.s), regimental (3,000 m.s.) and divisional (10,000 m.s.) ones. According to the US Armed Forces manuals, in case of the FOB's expansion to a regimental scale, 22 barracks for personnel, 32 headquarters, 3 dining rooms, 7 warehouses, 7 workshops and about other 30 buildings will be located at the base.

Dislocation of the US Armed Forces in the North of Syria
Dislocation of the US Armed Forces in the North of Syria

Currently, these FOBs accommodate mainly the 11th and 24th Expeditionary Corps of the US Marines — about 600 military servicemen. Every day, water, foodstuffs, ammunition, spare parts for military equipment, uniforms and medicines are delivered to the servicemen of the FOB by columns of twenty to thirty heavy trucks. According to the Chinese “The World of Aviation”, taking into consideration the permanent deployment of the US AF's helicopters and air assault aircrafts at the FOB, they will deploy elements of the Air Traffic Navigation, Integration and Coordination System (ATNAVIC), consisting of the following components: survey radar station; survey of the air situation/identification “friend or foe”; precision approach radar.

Commenting on the deployment of the US military bases in the north of Syria, some political analysts see it as a tool to exert pressure on the Syrian regime and its troops, as well as on the Russian military contingent. Undoubtedly, this factor is present, however, in our opinion, the deployment of American troops in the north of Syria is first of all aimed at protecting the region of Syrian Kurdish allies from the threat of a military invasion by Turkey and the groups of armed Syrian opposition controlled by it.

Interaction between the Russian Federation and the United States in Syria. The Commander of the International Coalition's operation against ISIS “Inherent Resolve” in Iraq and Syria, General Stephen Townsend, said he was pleased with the level of interaction with Russian servicemen in Syria. According to him, such contacts “continue calmly, professionally and effectively, despite some diplomatic tension”. July 7, the Russian Federation and the United States agreed to create a zone of de-escalation in the south-western regions of Syria. July 10, representatives of the United States, Russia and Jordan agreed to establish a monitoring center to monitor compliance with the ceasefire in the zones of de-escalation. The center will be in direct contact with the government troops of Syria and with the Syrian opposition forces.

It seems that D. Trump's signing the US Congress' law on toughening sanctions against Russia opens a new period of the Cold War between the USA and Russia, so interaction between Moscow and Washington in Syria will be minimized, if not stopped at all, which is fraught with a possible military clash on the Syrian territory between the two countries, which certainly would not contribute to the achievement of a peaceful settlement in Syria. Moreover, the actual “Syrian problem” is being transformed into the problem of confrontation in Syria between the USA, Russia, Turkey and Iran, which will inevitably divide the country's territory into zones of influence, which will lead to a “freezing” of the very hot Syrian conflict. In these circumstances, there is no reason to expect that the UN and Arab League will be able to fulfill their peacekeeping mission in Syria.

 

IRAQ

Vice-President of Iraq Nouri al-Maliki's Visit to Moscow. From July 23 to July 26, Vice-President of Iraq Nouri al-Maliki was on a working visit in Moscow. In 2006–2014 Shiite N. al-Maliki was Prime Minister, but under the decision of the country's President Fuad Ma'sum (as insisted by Washington) in August 2014 was dismissed because of corruption and the Iraqi army's inability to resist the “Islamic State” during the capture of Mosul. Having retired, N. al-Maliki turned from an ardent supporter of relations with the USA into Russia's friend. On the eve of his visit to Russia N. al-Maliki said that during the talks in Moscow he intended to focus on the issue of strengthening Russia's role in the Middle East region and intensifying bilateral cooperation in energy and trade. Besides, he expressed an intention to discuss the issue of Russian arms supplies to the Iraqi army. On 20 July, the Adviser to RF President on military-technical cooperation, V. Kozhin, confirmed the signing of a contract with Baghdad to supply Iraq with “several hundred” T-90 tanks. However, in our opinion, this deal is unlikely to be realized because of Baghdad's limited financial capabilities. For example, today there are serious problems between Washington and Baghdad because of the issue of paying off debts on previously signed contracts for arms deliveries. Americans do not agree to trade by installments. Given the difficult financial situation in Russia, it is clear that Moscow will not supply Iraq with arms on credit either.

On the first day of the visit, N. al-Maliki had talks with the Speaker of the RF Federation Council V. Matvienko and Foreign Minister S. Lavrov. In the course of these talks, al-Maliki said that the Iraqi authorities want Russia's “weighty presence in Iraq politically and militarily, which would create a balance that would do good to the region, its peoples and its countries”. N. al-Maliki also pointed out that Baghdad believes in Moscow's mediation role in resolving a huge number of global international problems, strengthening security both in the Middle East region and throughout the world.

On 25 July, in St. Petersburg, N. al-Maliki met with Russian President V. Putin. During the meeting, issues of bilateral cooperation, as well as the situation in the Middle East, were discussed. During the talks, special attention was paid to military-technical cooperation, in particular, the issue of the delivery of T-90 tanks to Iraq. The Iraqi Vice-President thanked V. Putin for speeding up the “supply of arms to fight terrorism” and in general praised “Russia's contribution to preventing the collapse of the Middle East region”. N. al-Maliki also said that Iraq “now needs Russia's more active involvement in Iraqi affairs, and primarily in the energy sector”. At this, it should be noted that Russian oil and gas companies operating in Iraq are experiencing enormous difficulties and problems. Thus, the oil company LUKOIL, despite having invested (since 2010) billions of US dollars into the development of the “West Qurna-2” field, has not yet reached half of the planned level of oil production because of the Iraqi government's being unable to counteract numerous cases of blockade of the company's facilities, abductions of its employees for the purpose of redemption. In addition, during the St. Petersburg Economic Forum in June of this year, “Rosneft” concluded a number of agreements with Iraqi Kurdistan in the sphere of hydrocarbon production, exploration and transportation, which, naturally, is not approved by Baghdad.

Within the framework of N. al-Maliki's visit to Russia, at all levels was discussed the question of the forthcoming (in September 2017) referendum on independence in Iraqi Kurdistan. N. al-Maliki positions himself as an ardent opponent of Kurdistan's separating and consistently advocates the use of the most stringent measures to prevent the collapse of the country. Taking into consideration “Russia's friendly relations with the Kurds”, Moscow's response to the discussion of the Kurdish referendum was largely “restrained, streamlined and evasive”. Russian Foreign Minister S. Lavrov spoke very cautiously: “We see that after the final decision on that issue everything else will be considered in terms of the consequences of that move such as political, geopolitics, demography and the economy”.

According to the “Al-Arabiya” TV channel, the Iraqi Vice-President's visit to Moscow had not been coordinated with the Iraqi government and aroused indignation of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. It should be noted that, in contrast to N. al-Maliki, H. al-Abadi does not at all have great friendly feelings towards Russia. Thus, at the most difficult moment of the military expansion of the ISIS militants, he said no to Moscow's proposal to deploy Russian military units in Iraq, as was done in Syria. The only thing to which H. al-Abadi agreed, was that he allowed Russian planes to fly over the territory of Iraq en route to Syria, when Bulgaria, at the request of the USA, closed its airspace for Russian military aircrafts heading for the Middle East.

It should be noted that Nouri al-Maliki's political future is very vague and even doubtful, even though he heads the largest faction in the parliament, “State of Law” (which includes parties of Iraqi Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds). For example, on July 19, the head of the Iraqi parliament's defense and security committee, Hakim al-Zamili, said that, following the results of the investigation into the surrender of Mosul to terrorists in 2014, N. al-Maliki could be prosecuted for “treason” along with other 32 people. However, it seems that before the trial begins, N. al-Maliki will try to return to the post of Prime Minister after the parliamentary elections in April 2018, and in this he counts on Russia and Iran's support. It seems that he cannot any longer count on the USA's support, since in Washington he has a steady reputation of a pro-Iranian politician.

Liberation of Mosul from ISIS. July 9, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi arrived in Mosul to make an official statement on the liberation of the city from ISIS fighters, although at that time there were still separate centers of resistance of terrorists in the city. The Command of the US Armed Forces in Iraq believes that to clear Mosul from the militants of ISIS completely will take several more weeks. The last stronghold of terrorists in Mosul was the Old City. According to international media reports, the ISIS fighters were forced to flee the city under the onslaught of the government army of Iraq, supported by an International Coalition under the aegis of the United States.

According to the information of the Syrian Network for Human Rights, the military actions of the Iraqi army and the Western Coalition for the liberation of the city led to numerous civilian casualties: in March 2017 alone, 260 civilians were killed by the Western Coalition's aviation's bombing. At the same time, ISIS militants executed about 120 residents of Mosul. According to Iraqi Vice-President N. al-Maliki, during the operation, the Iraqi army, the federal police and the people's militia lost about 20 thousand soldiers in killed and wounded. About 40 thousand civilians died as well. The militants of ISIS left mines, stretches, mined cars, destroyed mosques and houses.

Before the war, Mosul was one of the most densely populated cities in Iraq, in 2011 it was home to 1.4 million people. According to the UN Refugee Agency, since the beginning of the operation against the ISIS, 862 thousand people left Mosul, of which 192 thousand as of June 15 have already returned to their homes. About 600 thousand inhabitants of Mosul, mainly from the eastern part of the city, still remain forced displaced persons. UN representatives also reported that at least 15,000 people were hospitalized with injuries during the operation to liberate Mosul. The UN estimates the cost of rebuilding the city's infrastructure at 1 billion US dollars. German Minister of Economic Cooperation and Development Gerd Müller said on July 25 that in 2017 the FRG will allocate additional 100 million Euros for the restoration of Mosul. These funds will be spent mainly on water and energy supplies, as well as medical services and housing construction.

Speaking on July 10 in the UN Security Council, the UN Secretary General's Special Representative in Iraq, Jan Kubis, said that for the final victory over the militants of ISIS and other terrorist groups in Iraq, it is necessary to seek reconciliation of communities, justice and law and order throughout the country. Jan Kubis pointed out that more complicated operations are still to be carried out to liberate other territories that are still being held by the ISIS group.

The leader of ISIS Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who declared in Mosul the caliphate of the “Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant” in 2014, had to admit that the battle for Mosul was lost by the jihadists, and urged his supporters to leave Iraq and join the units of ISIS in Syria. According to some unconfirmed reports, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi most likely died near Syrian Raqqa. At least, since then, he has not shown up. According to the Arab media, the new “capital” of the ISIS militants is the city of al-Mayadin in the Syrian province of Deir ez-Zor, located on the bank of the Euphrates River, near the border with Iraq. On 14 July, it was announced that Iraq and Syria were setting up a joint military operations center to combat ISIS in areas near the border between the two countries.

The decisive role in the fighting against the ISIS militants in the liberation of Mosul and in other areas of Iraq was played by the USA and their Western allies' in the international antiterrorist coalition aviation. According to the Command of the Coalition, all air strikes on the territory of Iraq are carried out in agreement with the government and the military leadership of that country. In the past months, planes of the United States, Great Britain, France, Australia, the Netherlands, Jordan and Denmark participated in bombing the ISIS on the Iraqi territory. All in all, from August 8, 2014 to July 30, 2017, the USA and its allies' aviation made 11,517 strikes on the positions and objects of the ISIS militants in Iraq. The United States is providing Iraq with the most extensive military and military-technical assistance. US Special Envoy for Global Coalition to defeat ISIS B. McGurk said that over the past three years, about 100 thousand soldiers of the security forces of Iraq were trained with the participation of American instructors.

 

LIBYA

Another Attempt at a Political Settlement. In the middle of July, the head of the Government of National Accord of Libya, Fayez al-Sarraj, proposed a new “road map” for the country's overcoming the crisis. Fayez al-Sarraj's proposals provide for holding of presidential and parliamentary elections in Libya in March 2018 and the cessation of all military operations on the territory of the country, with the exception of the fight against terrorism. F. Sarraj also presented a project on the formation of joint committees of the House of Representatives in Tobruk and the State Council in Tripoli to begin the process of integrating disunited state institutions. Besides, it is planned to establish the Supreme Council of National Reconciliation, study the mechanism for introducing justice for the transition period, announcement of a general amnesty, and establishment of committees for reconciliation between cities.

July 25, in Paris, mediated by French President Emmanuel Macron and Algeria, negotiations took place between Marshal Khalifa Haftar, representing the government in Tobruk, and Prime Minister of the GNC in Tripoli, Fayez Sarraj. The UN Special Envoy for Libya, the Lebanese politician and scholar Ghassan Salamé took part in the negotiations.

Note:

Ghassan Salamé was Minister of Culture in Lebanon, UN Adviser in Iraq, Assistant to UN Secretary-Generals Kofi Annan and Ban Ki-moon. He was Director of Research at the National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS), he headed the Institute for Policy Studies at the University of Paris, is a member of the High Council of Francophonie. According to the weekly “Jeune Afrique”, Emmanuel Macron and three of his advisors were Salame's students.

 

 

On July 20, in preparation for this meeting, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian met with his Algerian counterpart Abdelkader Messahel to discuss the “new French initiative to settle the Libyan conflict”. It seems that President E. Macron, in cooperation with Algeria, decided to take over the torch in negotiations from Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, which in recent months without much success have tried to intensify the process of political settlement in Libya. Although the leadership of Algeria regularly criticizes the “multiplication of international initiatives on Libya”, but this time it reacted positively to the French initiative, apparently taking into account the worsening of things for F. Sarraj patronized by him, against the background of the noticeable strengthening of the influence of Kh. Haftar in particular, and of the authorities in Tobruk in general. After the recent victories in Fezzan and Benghazi, Kh. Haftar is already the de facto ruler of the entire eastern part of the country (Cyrenaica) and controls most of the Libyan oil and gas fields and routs of hydrocarbon transportation to world markets.

According to some observers, the results of the Paris meeting of Kh. Haftar and F. Sarraj were very insignificant and mostly repeat the provisions of the political settlement formulated in 2015 during months of discussions in Morocco, the so-called “Skhirat Agreement”. They believe that France and Algeria are trying to use the Paris meeting to delay the inter-Libyan negotiation process, which supposedly should help F. Sarraj “to gain time and prepare for a decisive battle with Kh. Haftar”. The parties agreed on introduction of a ceasefire in Libya, and also committed themselves to organize in spring presidential and parliamentary elections with the participation of UN observers.

In the nearest future A. Messahel will visit Cairo and Abu Dhabi to discuss the implementation of the “Paris initiative” there. For his part, Jean-Yves Le Drian, immediately after the meeting in Paris, went to Rome to discuss with the Italian side the issues of a peaceful settlement in Libya, as Italy plays an important role in supporting F. Sarraj's government. It should be noted that France's initiative aroused dissatisfaction in the government circles of Italy, which made a lot of efforts to establish peace in its former colony. On 25 July, Italian Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano stated that “there are too many formats, mediators and initiatives in the Libyan conflict”. A. Alfano stressed the need to join efforts to find a peaceful solution to the conflict under the aegis of the United Nations. The Italian opposition accused Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni of allowing France to oust Italy from among the countries that play a leading role in the settlement of the Libyan conflict.

France provides assistance with weapons and intelligence data both to the government in Tobruk and to the government in Tripoli, which, in addition to gratitude, also causes the warring parties' irritation. Thus, Kh. Haftar sharply criticized Paris' “double-dealing” and demanded to stop supporting “the actors who lost influence in Libya”, referring to F. Sarraj's government in Tripoli. On the other hand, Marshal Kh. Haftar himself also shows a certain “inconsistency” in the choice of allies, trying to establish friendly relations with all who help him — with Russia, the United States, Britain, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Egypt, Emirates, China, Iran and other countries.

According to some observers, Washington is increasingly inclined to support Marshal Kh. Haftar, which is naturally perceived without much enthusiasm in the Kremlin, whose strategists understand that Kh. Haftar will obviously have to make a choice in favor of an alliance with Washington, and not with Moscow. Thus, on 12 July, Kh. Haftar was received by two representatives of the US administration — US Ambassador to Libya Peter Bodde and the Commander of US AFRICOM, General Thomas Waldhauser. The details of the meeting are not known, but most likely, the parties discussed the issues of interaction between Kh. Haftar and the United States.

The USA's ally in Libya is the United Kingdom, which has recently significantly strengthened its military presence in Libya. On 17 March 2017, as part of the European peacekeeping mission, the United Kingdom sent to Libya 1,000 military servicemen along with the Jordanian military. July 27, 2017 servicemen from the elite Regiment of the Special Aviation Service (SAS) were sent to Libya to take part in combat actions against ISIS.

Release of M. Gaddafi's Son. June 9, in compliance of the law on general amnesty adopted by the House of Representatives in July 2015, the 44-year-old son of the Libyan leader M. Gaddafi from his second marriage, Saif al-Islam, was released from jail in the city of Zintan in northwestern Libya, and this caused mixed reaction in the country. Why hasn't this law touched another Gaddafi's son — Saadi, who is also in prison? Most likely, this law does not apply to relatives and personalities of M. Gaddafi's regime. At this, it should be noted that for the governments in Tobruk and Tripoli, the release of Saif al-Islam was in some way a “surprise”, since these governments had nothing to do with his release, since Gaddafi's son was released by Zintan group of armed insurgents, who actually held him in custody for about 6 years (since November 2011).

In July 2015, the Tripoli Court of Appeal issued Saif al-Islam in absentia a death sentence, incriminating him with “crimes against the Libyan people” committed during the “17th February Revolution”. Saif al-Islam's lawyer argued that the trial in Tripoli was absolutely illegitimate, as the judges “were under the full control of tribal armed groups”. Saif al-Islam was also accused of crimes against humanity put forward by the International Criminal Court, which for years has sought Gaddafi's son's extradition for the trial in the Hague. According to some reports, Saif al-Islam was literally bought out by his associates from the commander of the “Abu Bakr al-Siddiq” battalion, stationed in Zintan, which soon led to its disbandment.

Saif al-Islam Gaddafi for about 15 years occupied a prominent place in Libyan politics and the Libyans expected him to become the successor of Muammar Gaddafi. After the “17th February Revolution”, Saif al-Islam stood up to defend his father's regime and it was only natural for him as he was one of father's most devoted associates and was actively involved in government activities. On October 20, 2011, Muammar Gaddafi was killed in Sirte, and on 19 November 2011, Saif al-Islam was arrested while attempting to flee Libya to Niger. Then he was transferred to the prison of the city of Zintan. According to some sources, Saif al-Islam is under house arrest near Zintan, while according to other sources — he lives under guard in Al-Bayda in Cyrenaica, where his mother Safia's house is located.

Note:

Apart from Saif al-Islam, M. Gaddafi had six more sons — Mohammed, Saadi, Hannibal, Muatassem, Saif al-Arab, Khamis and one daughter Ayesha. Son Saadi is allegedly imprisoned in Libya; son Muatassem was killed by Libyan rebels in October 2011; son Saif al-Arab was killed on May 1, 2011 as a result of a NATO air raid on his home in Tripoli; son Khamis, according to some data, died on 20 October 2012, according to others — he survived. M. Gaddafi's sons Mohammed and Hannibal, as well as his daughter Ayesha managed to escape, fleeing to the territory of Algeria, where they received political asylum.

After six years of civil war and internecine clashes in Libya, which led the country to complete collapse, the Libyans expect that to power in the country will come a political force that will at last bring order to their country and strengthen the Libyan state. The overwhelming majority of ordinary Libyan citizens have not forgotten the high standard of living that they had for over 40 years under the rule of Muammar Gaddafi's regime and they naturally would like such a regime to return to the country in one form or another. Besides, we cannot throw from the history of the country the 42 years of the rule of M. Gaddafi, under which great achievements were made both in the sphere of state building and in the sphere of continuous improvement of the people's standard of living. Besides, ideologically and politically in Libya, there has never appeared a political party that could enjoy the confidence of the people, as was the case with M. Gaddafi. And most importantly, the Libyan population is tired of the consequences of years of economic disruption and a humanitarian disaster and many are trying to leave the country in search of security. The overthrow of M. Gaddafi led to an increase in crime in the country and the emergence of many gangster formations that terrorize the Libyan people to this day.

Taking into consideration that Saif al-Islam still enjoys credibility among many Libyans and the “pro-Gaddafi” tribes, a struggle begins between the main political forces (represented by the governments in Tobruk and Tripoli) to attract Gaddafi's son to their side in order to prevent him from becoming a center of attraction of a new political force that could claim to unite all Libyans. Besides, the release of Saif al-Islam will attract many supporters and followers of M. Gaddafi, and gain access in the long-term perspective to the financial holdings of the former leader of Libya in foreign banks. As of 2011, this is about 100 billion US dollars. At this, none of the current Libyan political leaders thinks about his full return to power. He is only needed to give some semblance of legitimacy to the political force that will manage to establish a mutually beneficial relationship with Saif.

Many leaders of Western countries today recognize as “erroneous” their participation in the overthrow of M. Gaddafi's regime. Thus, in April 2016, former US President Barack Obama said that the lack of a clear planning of the consequences of the armed overthrow of Libyan leader M. Gaddafi in 2011 was his biggest mistake in the post of President. In early October 2015, then presidential candidate Donald Trump in his interview with NBC said that the situation in the Middle East would have been better if Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi had retained their posts. “What we did there is chaos,” he said. And this is indeed so, and, unfortunately, this bloody chaos continues to this day. June 21, 2017, French President Emmanuel Macron called the participation of his country's army in the operation in Libya in 2011 a “mistake” and warned against repeating this scenario in Syria. According to him, “France didn’t take part in the Iraq war and that was right. And France was wrong to go to war in Libya in this way”. It is good that Western countries’ leaders admit their “mistakes”, or rather crimes, but it would be even better if something was done to correct them. Unfortunately this has not been observed so far.