Five Reasons to Doubt Libyan Truce Will Hold

Paolo Gentiloni and Fayez al-Sarraj, the prime ministers of Italy and Libya, inspect an honor guard in Rome, July 26
Paolo Gentiloni and Fayez al-Sarraj, the prime ministers of Italy and Libya, inspect an honor guard in Rome, July 26 (Palazzo Chigi)

Libya’s two most powerful leaders have agreed to call a ceasefire and hold elections next year after a meeting with French president Emmanuel Macron in Paris.

Their deal has the potential to end six years of civil war, but there are at least five reasons to doubt it will hold:

  1. Khalifa Haftar, the generalissimo in charge of eastern Libya, and Fayez al-Sarraj, the prime minister of the internationally-recognized unity government in Tripoli, did not agree on a date for elections, so there is no deadline.
  2. The truce exempts counterterrorism, which Haftar and Sarraj could interpret differently. Haftar calls his entire campaign a counterterrorist operation.
  3. Libya’s institutions, including the central bank and National Oil Corporation, have recognized Sarraj’s as the legitimate government, but he has no security force of his own and could struggle to convince the militias that support him to stop fighting.
  4. Haftar, by contrast, has his own army, which occupies two-thirds of Libya, most of its oil ports and the city of Benghazi. But he has to convince a rival parliament in Tobruk to agree to the deal. Given how well the civil war has been going for them lately, they may balk at its terms.
  5. While Western countries and the United Nations back Sarraj, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates support Haftar in his war against Islamists. Read more

Don’t Read Too Much into Macron’s Falling Popularity

French president Emmanuel Macron waits for the arrival of a guest outside the Elysée Palace in Paris, July 6
French president Emmanuel Macron waits for the arrival of a guest outside the Elysée Palace in Paris, July 6 (World Bank/Ibrahim Ajaja)

There is a bit of schadenfraude on the far left and the right about French president Emmanuel Macron’s approval rating, which has sunk from 64 to 54 percent in one month. See, Marxists and conservatives howl, the Little Napoleon is already disappointing the French.

They’re probably getting ahead of themselves.

The Guardian reports:

Disapproval is strongest among certain demographics — civil servants, pensioners and supporters of the Mouvement démocrate party.

Which is hardly surprising when Macron intends to fire tens of thousands of bureaucrats, has proposed to bring public-sector pensions in line with those in the private sector and lost three ministers of the Democratic Movement to a spending scandal. Read more

Duda Hasn’t Stopped Law and Justice from Subjugating Poland’s Courts

Polish president Andrzej Duda answers questions from reporters at NATO headquarters in Brussels, January 18, 2016
Polish president Andrzej Duda answers questions from reporters at NATO headquarters in Brussels, January 18, 2016 (NATO)

Poland’s president, Andrzej Duda, has surprised observers by vetoing legislation from his own Law and Justice party that would have defanged the judiciary.

Closer scrutiny suggests Duda’s opposition is less meaningful than it is made out to be, though.

The president has said he will sign the bills if they are amended and Leonid Bershidsky argues at Bloomberg View that his proposed changes don’t deviate from the legislation’s objective: “to put the judiciary, which the party argues has turned into an elitist caste, under more political control.” Read more

Trump Behaves Like the Head of a Banana Republic

Donald Trump gestures after being sworn in as president of the United States in Washington DC, January 20
Donald Trump gestures after being sworn in as president of the United States in Washington DC, January 20 (Hillel Steinberg)

Considering pardons for himself and his family, calling on soldiers to support his political agenda and using a scout jamboree to trash his opponents — Donald Trump looks more like the head of a banana republic, as Phillip Carter puts it, than the president of the United States.

This weekend, Trump urged sailors attending the commissioning of the USS Gerald R. Ford to discard centuries of military ethics as well as the armed forces’ own rules to lobby their congressmen and senators to approve his health and spending plans.

It wasn’t Trump’s first breach of republican norms and it wouldn’t be his last. Read more

Kushner Had “Hardly Any” Contacts with Russians. Except for These

Jared Kushner listens as his wife, Ivanka, speaks with German chancellor Angela Merkel and American president Donald Trump outside the Oval Office of the White House in Washington DC, March 17
Jared Kushner listens as his wife, Ivanka, speaks with German chancellor Angela Merkel and American president Donald Trump outside the Oval Office of the White House in Washington DC, March 17 (White House/Shealah Craighead)

American president Donald Trump’s son-in-law and confidant, Jared Kushner, claims he had “hardly any” contacts with Russians during the 2016 election campaign.

Except for these:

  • One (brief) meeting with Sergei Kislyak, then the Russian ambassador to the United States, in April.
  • And maybe two phone calls with Kislyak in the months thereafter, as Reuters has reported. Kushner is “skeptical” the calls took place.
  • Definitively a meeting with various Russian officials, including the lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, that was also attended by Donald Trump’s campaign manager at the time, Paul Manafort, and his oldest son. Read more

Ukraine Might Be Better Off If “Little Russia” Did Secede

Military vehicles of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic are seen in eastern Ukraine, May 30, 2015
Military vehicles of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic are seen in eastern Ukraine, May 30, 2015 (Wikimedia Commons/Mstyslav Chernov)

Separatists in the southeast of Ukraine have declared a new country: “Little Russia”.

The announcement by Aleksandr Zakharchenko, the leader of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, amounts to little, argues Gwendolyn Sasse of Carnegie Europe.

She points out that leaders in Luhansk, Ukraine’s other breakaway region, have distanced themselves from it. Russia, which otherwise backs the Donbas uprising, hasn’t voiced support either. And the local population doesn’t want independence. A survey conducted earlier this year found a majority in favor of remaining in Ukraine. Only a third want to join Russia.

Yet it might be better for Ukraine if the region does secede. Read more

Conservatives Need to Make Capitalism Work for Everyone: Davidson

Scottish Conservative Party leader Ruth Davidson
Scottish Conservative Party leader Ruth Davidson (Scottish Conservatives)

It is not inequality that bothers Brits, argues Ruth Davidson, the Scottish Conservative Party leader, in the new online magazine UnHerd. It’s injustice.

People expect that the CEO of a corporation will be the highest paid person on the payroll. What they don’t accept is that FTSE 100 bosses are paid 174 times the average worker’s wage in this decade — compared to 13 to 44 times in 1980.

Especially when many of their companies have received either big fraud-related fines or bailouts from the state.

The distinction matters, because it goes to a broader point. Read more