On his first official visit to Washington, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi met with President Barack Obama, where he asked for additional financial support, as well as increased military equipment and action against the Islamic State. President Obama promised Abadi $200 million in humanitarian aid to help displaced Iraqis, and commended Abadi for making his government more inclusive. When discussing Iran and its involvement in the fight against the Islamic State, al-Abadi told Preisdent Obama that he welcomes them in the fight but only answers to the Iraqi people. During his time in Washington, al-Abadi is also visiting Christine Lagarde of the International Monetary Fund to ask for $2.4 billion in assistance, and Jim Yong Kim of the World Bank to ask for $2 billion in additional assistance. Iraq reportedly faces a $22 billion deficit this year alone.
Meanwhile, the United States conducted 15 airstrikes in Iraq in the past 48 hours, furthering Colonel Steve Warren‘s earlier claim that “Iraqi security forces and coalition airpower have unquestionably inflicted some damage on ISIL.” Since August 2014, coalition aircraft have conducted airstrikes on 1,879 IS targets in Iraq, with the U.S. carrying out 80 percent of them. …
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The U.S., French, German, British, Spanish, and Italian Foreign Ministers released a joint statement welcoming the resumption of peace talks and the immediate cessation of all violence, asserting that “only through compromise can Libya move toward a more secure, stable, and prosperous future.” The Italians, Egyptians, and Algerians have all vowed to “intensify” the fight against extremists in Libya, citing potential insecurity in their nations as justification. King Abdullah II of Jordan also expressed his support for Khalifa Haftar and his forces based in eastern Libya after meeting with Haftar on Monday.
Andrew Engel argues for a restructuring of the UNSMIL talks, stating that a bottom-up approach focusing on municipal councils and tribes is “painstaking, and painful, but could be the best hope for piecing Libya together.”
Meanwhile, the South Korean embassy in Tripoli was attacked by unidentified militants in a vehicle, resulting in the death of two Libyan security officers, with a third wounded. Shortly after, the Moroccan embassy was bombed, with only superficial damage caused, and no injuries or deaths. Unconfirmed claims have surfaced from Islamic State Twitter accounts which take credit for the attacks. In other news, the United Kingdom nominated Peter Millett…
According to reports, freelance Norwegian journalist Raymond Lidal has been detained by Houthi security forces in Sana’a for two weeks, with the first reports of his detention surfacing Wednesday evening. Accused of spying after failing to produce a proper visa, Lidal’s release is currently being negotiated between the Norwegian Foreign Ministry and Houthi authorities.
Most recently in the escalating conflict, Saudi Brigadier General Ahmed Asiri accused the Houthis of targeting civilians and hospitals in Aden, which followed other accusations that the Houthis cut access to Saudi-funded news agency Al Arabiya in Yemen. Iranian Ayatollah Ali Khamenei accused the Saudis of committing “genocide” with their airstrikes, which he said “can be prosecuted in international courts.” Iranian President Hassan Rouhani also called for a cessation in the airstrikes, stating that Gulf states should “prepare to bring Yemenis to the negotiating table to make decisions about their future… Let us accept that the future of Yemen will be in the hands of the people of Yemen, not anyone else.”
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Prime Minister Omar al-Hassi of the Tripoli-based General National Congress (GNC) was removed from office by a parliament vote on Tuesday following allegations that he “misled parliament about government finances.” Mr. Hassi has headed Libya’s rival government body since its establishment in August 2014. GNC spokesperson Omar Humeidan told the press that al-Hassi was removed after an internal investigation revealed that he had exaggerated government revenue figures at a time when the GNC could not afford to pay public salaries. One of al-Hassi’s top aides, Khalifa Ghweil, has reportedly taken over as interim head of the GNC.
Many have welcomed al-Hassi’s departure as a possible step towards Libyan peace. Journalist Mary Fitzgerald observes that “many in Triopli [have] said for some time that Hassi’s…days [were] numbered.” “Omar al-Hassi is a failure,” GNC spokesperson Jamal Naji Zubia said on Tuesday. “He is not a decision maker.” Western diplomats involved in organizing negotiations between different Libyan political factions have labeled al-Hassi as “a spoiler who was seeking to block compromise in the interest of peace,” David Kirkpatrick reports for the New York Times. Some officials involved in the United Nations-led reconciliation dialogues suggest that al-Hassi was one …
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During a Tuesday phone call with President Abdelfattah al-Sisi, President Barack Obama announced that a hold on military equipment imposed in 2013 would be lifted “in the interest of U.S. national security.” F-16 aircraft, Harpoon missiles, and M1A1 tanks will be delivered in the coming months. White House officials told the New York Times that threats to Egypt’s domestic security were the main justification for releasing the hold: “Given that higher level of threat, we felt it particularly important to make sure Egypt had all of the equipment it could possibly need to defend itself from these threats.” Addressing human rights concerns, National Security Council Spokesperson Bernadette Meehan stated, “We will continue to engage with Egypt frankly and directly on its political trajectory, and to raise human rights and political reform issues at the highest levels.”
The decision to fully resume the $1.3 billion in annual military aid comes with several conditions intended to reshape the United States’ bilateral assistance to Egypt. Starting in 2018, the United States will suspend Egypt’s right to “cash-flow financing,” the purchasing power to buy American arms on future credit that is currently available only to Egypt and Israel. …