Vintage Ken Clarke, a former Thatcher minister, in the debate on Brexit in the House of Commons: “Nice men like President Trump and President Erdoğan are impatient to abandon their normal protectionism and give us access,” he archly proclaimed. “Let me not be too cynical … No doubt, somewhere a hatter is holding a tea party with a dormouse in the teapot.”
A rift is growing between Washington and Berlin over how to handle Vladimir Putin and his stoking of pro-Moscow separatism in the Donbas region of east Ukraine. Despite the denials of Secretary of State John Kerry, the split is becoming more obvious with each passing conference — or gathering for peace talks.The Munich security conference has exposed the divergence.
While Obama officials are playing it all down, senior US lawmakers aren’t so reticent. “History shows us that dictators will always take more if you let them,” says Sen. John McCain, comparing Angela Merkel and François Hollande’s talks with Vladimir Putin to Neville Chamberlain’s appeasement of Hitler.
A useful take on the conference can be found here at the Daily Telegraph.
The split dramatizes the recent remark by Germany’s President, Joachim Gauck: “Germans and Americans appear to live on different planets.”
Here’s a link to a brief conversation I had with CNN about the importance of Aleppo in the Syrian uprising and how the forces of President Bashar al-Assad is to encircling the city.
She is there on the street every morning early and stays there all day until dusk, when the traffic along this street in downtown Beirut falls off. She collects little from Lebanese commuters and the only people who stop and talk with her are the old taxi drivers lounging at the end of the road, who are waiting sadly for fares.
My VOA analysis on what faces Petro Poroshenko can be found here.
The three biggest challenges, I think, are: seeing off the separatist insurgency in the east and repairing shattered relations with Moscow (obviously); delivering quickly on reforms or face the wrath of the Maidan; and he will need to out-maneuver an old parliament that will block change, possibly encouraged by Yulia Tymoshenko to do so as she hovers ready to pounce, if Poroshenko crashes.
Now off home to the US for a few days rest before refocusing on the Middle East…..
This is my log of recent violence in Libya and highlights the instability of the country as elections loom. The incidents have been gleaned from various reliable sources. It is not exhaustive.
Nighttime clashes between Libyan military units and Tibu tribesmen in the city of Al Khufra, near Libya’s borders with Chad and Sudan. Reports of five dead and a dozen wounded. Tibu tribesmen say they came under attack first — an accusation denied by the Libyan military.
Al Khufra has seen several clashes in recent weeks mainly between Tibu and Zwai tribesmen. In February, the transitional government dispatched Libyan armed forces units to the town.
Thirteen people killed in a second day of clashes between Libyan soldiers and Tibu tribesmen.
Armed thieves ransack a couple of office containers in Tripoli belonging to the Libyan Coast Guard then destroy them with RPG fire.
Grenade is thrown at two vehicles ferrying a British delegation around Sabha in the Southern region of Libya. No injures. Not clear if the assailant was targeting the British – the vehicles sported UN logos.
British diplomatic convoy comes under an RPG attack in Benghazi. Two security guards injured but the British ambassador unscathed.
Zintan militiamen seize several government vehicles in Tripoli. The action they say is a response to the government’s failure to settle their wage demands.
Heavy fighting reported in Mizdah between Zintan militia and Mashasha tribesmen, leaving 20 dead. There have been frantic appeals by locals to the government to put an end to the fighting.
Sixty-nine anti-aircraft missiles found discovered inside a fishing boat on Egyptian-Libyan border.
Two dead and a dozen left wounded after clashes in Sabha involving the “national army”.
A small mob gathered in Tripoli outside a courthouse near the Radisson Blu Hotel to demand the release of the former Gaddafi-era Minister of External Affairs Abu Zaid Omar Dorda, whose trial started that day. A nervous guard responded by firing into the mob, killing a driver working with a European Union delegation. The delegation responded by decamping from the Radisson for a day.
Several left dead and wounded in clashes in Al Khufra involving the Libya Shield force and members of armed groups.
Former Gaddafi-era internal security official Ibrahim Laaribi killed in a car bombing. He is the second former intelligence officer to be assassinated.
Libyan government declares a military zone in the west of country (which will presumably mean that journalists and independent observers will be prohibited officially from visiting the area) after days of clashes between rival militias and tribes.
The zone includes the towns of Zintan, Mizdah and Shegayga, about 150 kilometres south of Tripoli. Most of the fighting in these towns involves Zintan militiamen backed by Guntrara tribesmen from the Mizdah pitched against Mashashya tribesmen based out of the town of Shegayga.
Sources have told me there are dozens of dead.
Tripoli: This is what passes for State Dept. media relations these days. Hold a press conference with Assistant Secretary of State Michael Posner at a remote location. Then tell the media that the press conference will be at 5pm. Start it early. Result no English-language wire agencies and no foreign newspapers. A CNN producer made it and so did I for Newsweek/Daily Beast but at the end. As Posner was rushing to the airport, he had no time to respond to two questions from me. Brilliant.