Ali Cinar

Ali Cinar

The U.S. Position on Libya and Mediterranean

Everyone more or less predicted the possible outcome of the Libya summit held last week in Berlin. With putschist Gen. Khalifa Haftar fleeing without signing the cease-fire agreement in Russia, his insincerity was confirmed once again in the meeting in Berlin that involved 11 countries and lasted four hours since a formal cease-fire could not be agreed upon.

The attitude of the United States concerning the Libyan issue remains unclear. Even if U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was present in Berlin with messages of support for a cease-fire, there remain questions about the United States' stance regarding the Eastern Mediterranean and Libya. In the past, the U.S. Department of State expressed deep concern over the drilling activities of Turkey in the Eastern Mediterranean last year. Everyone knows the United States is following a policy that is more inclined toward the Greek Cypriot Administration and Greece. Furthermore, it should be remembered that the American energy company, ExxonMobil, won a tender from the Greek Cypriot Administration, who are trying to parcel the Eastern Mediterranean unilaterally. Despite the reactions of Turkey and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), the company started drilling in the south of the island in 2018 and a crisis arose as a result of this.

The murder of U.S. Ambassador John Christopher Stevens in 2012, in Benghazi, Libya, during an attack on the U.S. Consulate is still fresh in the minds of Washington. Indeed, this sad event continues to be a subject of great controversy in domestic politics. The incidents during and after the Benghazi attack resulted in significant changes in the U.S.' policies on Libya.

It would be right to see the U.S.' sharp turn concerning its policy on Libya as a "foreign policy from a safe distance." The U.S. has thus decreased its actions and its existence in Libya via the United States Africa Command (AFRICOM) to a level limited to operations against al-Qaida. The position of the U.S., which has been to support the political solution proposed by the Libya Special Representative of the U.N. since 2014, has transformed into a strategy of "wait and see." In short, the U.S. has been following the developments from afar to see who the "winner" will be.

It can be seen that U.S. President Donald Trump has continued with the policy on Libya from the Barack Obama period. The U.S. unexpectedly withdrew its soldiers from Libya on April 7, 2019. During this withdrawal, there was no statement by the U.S. that it would continue its support for Libya's Government of National Accord (GNA). It also did not go unnoticed that the timing of the U.S. troops' withdrawal coincided with the operations directed at Tripoli carried out by Haftar. In the course of these unexpected events, Trump spoke on the telephone with Haftar on April 15, surprising everyone. However, Russia's speedy entry into the Libyan crisis in September 2019 has caused the U.S. to review its Libya policy.

Moscow's attempts to become a determining player in Libyan politics by sending private troops has brought with it the possibility that Russia will have a say on matters like the wave of migration originating from North Africa and the sub-Saharan region and the supply of Libyan oil. Both of these have shaped European politics recently in connection with the matter of Mediterranean energy.

Even though the U.S. attempts to remain on the same side as Russia in Libya, there are some rumors that the U.S.' close allies, such as the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, support Haftar and are indirectly impacting Trump's Libya policy.

The visit to Benghazi by the U.S. deputy chief of mission in Libya, Joshua Harris, in October 2019, where he discussed the matter of ending the war in Tripoli with the authorities, and the participation of the U.S. in the Berlin conference at the Department of State level have been perceived as a message that the U.S. will be at the table.

Even though the U.S. is getting ready for a really busy agenda with the upcoming presidential election in 2020, it is expected to voice an opinion on foreign policy matters regarding Libya and thus the struggle in the Eastern Mediterranean.

In that sense, the justified struggle of Turkey in the Eastern Mediterranean and a close relationship with the diplomatic representatives of the U.S., which can relay the factors underlying the events, are important. And they are valuable, too. Indeed, the recent telephone call made by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to Trump, where they mostly talked about Libya, was conspicuous. In a region where the conflicts of interest are immense, the United Nations should be expected to play a more active role and to support a government that has already been recognized.

Otherwise, the fate of Libya and the other Middle Eastern countries will be one of division and tragedy; and this will go down in history as a tale of skulduggery.

 

Facebook appoints a Turkish Businesswoman as the new Regional Director for Middle East, Africa and Turkey

A successful Turkish businesswoman Derya Matraş has been appointed as Regional Director of Facebook in the Middle East, Africa and Turkey.

In this role, she will manage Facebook to serve businesses and communities and to grow the company’s economic and social impact across the region.

 “The fast-growing ME, Africa and Turkey region is an important market for Facebook. Derya’s wealth of experience in emerging markets and her pioneering spirit will help us further drive impact and value in this uniquely diverse region, while maintaining our mission of bringing people together and building communities,” said Nicola Mendelsohn, Facebook’s Europe, Middle East Africa Vice President.
 
Commenting on her appointment,Derya Matras said: “I am honored to lead this diverse region for Facebook where our goals of building new experiences that meaningfully improve people’s lives and supporting millions of businesses that rely on our services to grow and create jobs, truly come to life. As a woman leader, I am very proud to be appointed to this region where diversity is of crucial importance, and I am looking forward to continuing to drive our significant economic and social value contribution.”

Who is Derya Matras?

Derya Matras, who has been Country Director of Turkey in Facebook since 2015, is leading the Facebook team working to help brands and agencies operating in Turkey to use Facebook, Instagram and other relevant company products in the best way.

Ms. Matraş had a Bachelor of Engineering from Boğaziçi University, Department of Electrical and Electronics Engineering and an MBA degree from Columbia Business School. She previously worked in international companies, including McKinsey & Company. Prior to joining Facebook, she was Vice President of Dogan Media Group, the largest media conglomerate and She also worked at McKinsey & Company advising private sector and governments around the world, especially on the digital economy. Ms. Matras is married with two children.

Facebook:

Facebook had 2.41 billion monthly active users around the world, as of last year. It is blocked in North Korea and China. There are over 40,000 employees and company's revenue was US$55 billion dollars in 2018. Facebook user number is currently 34 million in Turkey and  In 2022, the number of monthly active Facebook users is projected to reach 37.72 million individuals. 

  • Published in Women

State Dept. Official Robert Strayer: “Cyberspace is borderless ... therefore, we must have cooperation and coordination.”

There are big discussions and platforms on 5G, which will have increased amounts of throughput of data up to 100 times what many countries currently have in 4G technology.

When we look at some information, we see horrifying impacts on the cyber world. The hacker attacks every 39 seconds, according to The A. James Clark School of Engineering at the University of Maryland. Hackers stole a half-billion personal records last year. There is an expectation of spending $6 trillion globally on cybersecurity by 2021.

The Trump Administration forecasts the U.S. wireless industry plans to invest $275 billion in 5G networks, creating 3 million American jobs and adding $500 billion to the U.S. economy.

Since cybersecurity and policy are a very hot topic, there was a timely briefing featuring Deputy Assistant Secretary for Cyber and International Communications Policy, Robert Strayer, at the State Department on January 9, 2020. He shared the highlights of 2019 and looked ahead to cybersecurity in 2020.

He stated that there had been tremendous growth from the Internet and connected digital technologies, and has seen an increase in the number of people having access to previously inaccessible information.

He also indicated that the Internet and being connected add trillions of dollars to the global economy every year.

He talked about how cyberspace has significant challenges, especially since the plan is to connect the next three billion people around the world. Also, he emphasized doing more substantial work in enabling cooperation and collaboration among nations in addressing these cyberspace challenges.

Becoming Top Priority: Cybersecurity and Cyber Policy

The State Department is taking cybersecurity and cyber policy seriously. There has been a lot of educational briefings and interaction with many different global actors in the past few years.

Deputy Assistant Secretary Strayer highlighted that “a country should not disrupt another nation’s critical infrastructure that is providing services to the public.”

He also briefly summarized the cyber progress accomplishments in the last year.

-Established a framework of responsible state behavior in cyberspace, which comprises developing the rules of the road for how countries should interact with one another in cyberspace.

-Had the United Nations endorse a set of 11 voluntary norms of responsible state behavior. With the leadership of the U.S., 26 other countries are responsible for enforcing state behavior in cyberspace. All endorsed the applicability of international law to cyberspace.

-A nation should not attack another nation’s major infrastructure endorsed by the UN.

-Cyber deterrence strategy: The State Department’s goal is to establish a set of consequences that are swift, costly, and transparent.

-Educate and partner with other countries about the importance and the transformational nature of 5G wireless technologies

Trust is the key to 5G.

The Deputy Assistant Secretary emphasized that there should be trust between vendors of this technology and the telecom operators and the governments where that technology would be deployed.

The European Union is an important partner.

The U.S. is working closely with Europe as they work on security measures for 5G. The U.S. welcomed the European Union’s adoption of a risk assessment last October.The European Union has a security toolbox for 5G now that addresses the security risks that they've already assessed to exist.

Worldwide Threat Assessment and 4 Countries

Deputy Assistant Secretary Strayer has identified four countries that they see as strategic competitors or adversaries in cyberspace; these are China, Russia, North Korea, and Iran. Their attacks violate norms of responsible state behavior; for example, the NotPetya attack and Iran’s activity on media platforms seeking to influence the U.S. population.

Also, the Iranian government has blocked the Internet, making it unavailable to the public, so the U.S. has sanctioned the Iranian Communications Minister to send the Iranian government a message.

Deputy Assistant Secretary Strayer said that there is no legitimate reason for disabling the Internet when doing so is an effort to interfere with people’s ability to communicate.

Big Threat from China

Deputy Assistant Secretary Strayer said that the U.S. had shared its concern about the laws in China and, especially, the sharing of data with governments that are not on the rule of law. He added that there is no appeal to an independent judiciary or a rule of law system that can be checked.There are a lot of concerns about Chinese telecom companies such as Huwaei.

$50 Million of Technical Assistance

Last year, the State Department was able to commit to $50 million of technical assistance in the form of cybersecurity capacity-building and cybersecurity training, as well as regulatory and other training assistance for regulators in countries around the world.

The State Department is also looking to expand to Latin America with at least $10 million pending approval from Congress. The State Department initiated similar support to Indo-Asia last year.

US-NATO Partnership

The U.S. continues to work closely with NATO to secure communications capabilities with the ability to engage in joint operations together and to enact troop mobilization.

According to NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, “A serious cyberattack could trigger Article 5, where an attack against one ally is treated as an attack against all.” Stoltenberg wrote this in an article that was published in Prospect’s new cyber resilience supplement last year.

NATO also established a new Cyberspace Operations Centre in Mons, Belgium, in order to increase their military commanders’ cyber-situational awareness.

“With so much on the line, it’s urgent that trustworthy companies build these 21st-century information arteries. Specifically, it’s critical that European countries not give control of their critical infrastructure to Chinese tech giants like Huawei or ZTE” – Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo, Politico Europe, December 2, 2019.

The White House also has a national cybersecurity strategy that was published in 2018 (https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/National-Cyber-Strategy.pdf).

 

10 Takeaways from President Trump's Action Against Iran

I was at the White House during President Trump’s address to the nation last week after the retaliatory attacks by Iran on bases in Iraq housing U.S. soldiers. President Trump explained the reason why the U.S. military killed Soleimani and also shared the details of the new sanctions against Iran.

Let’s look at the takeaways from the President’s action against Iran.

Iran’s Missile Attacks and No Casualties

President Trump said, “There were no Americans harmed by the Iranian regime missiles attack. We suffered no casualties. All of our soldiers are safe, and only minimal damage was sustained at our military bases.” He also explained that no American or Iraqi lives were lost because of the precautions taken, the dispersal of forces, and an early warning system that has worked very well. President Trump saluted the incredible skill and courage of America’s men and women in uniform.

Iraqi Prime Minister Mahdi made a statement that Iran Administration has sent Iraq an official message that missile attacks “had begun or would begin shortly,” on unspecified U.S. military locations. It was believed that the Iraqi government officials gave a warning to the U.S. on “which bases would be targeted” after Iranian officials passed on the information.

U.S. Troops Staying In Iraq

Despite Iraq's Parliament voted U.S. troops out,United States has no plans to withdraw troops from Iraq. State Department Spokesperson, U.S. sees Iraq as a strategic partner not just on security but security, on financial, economic, and diplomatic partnerships. The U.S. wants to be a Friend to a sovereign, prosperous, and stable Iraq. U.S. troops are located at nine different bases and number 5200 soldiers. They, including contractors and subcontractors, remained in Iraq to help local forces contain ISIS and stop Iran’s influence in the region.

The Iraqi Parliament asked the U.S. for a pullout plan. After Trump’s decision to kill Soleimani, the future of the U.S. presence in the Middle East is not bright.

Secretary of State Pompeo and Secretary of Defense Esper made clear statements that U.S. military presence will continue in Iraq.

Is the U.S. ready to embrace peace with all who seek it?

President Trump called to the people and leaders of Iran: “We want you to have a future and a great future—one that you deserve, one of prosperity at home, and harmony with the nations of the world. The U.S. is ready to embrace peace with all who seek it.”

It was seen as a positive message to reduce tension. At the same time, U.S. Ambassador to United Nations Kelly Craft sent a letter to the UN Security Council, offering to prepare to engage without preconditions in serious negotiations with Iran to prevent further endangerment of international peace and security or escalation by the Iranian regime. 

Global Actors Urged to Pull Out of a Nuclear Agreement

President Trump made a new proposal and stated that the U.S. is “ready for a new and better” nuclear agreement with Iran. He also blamed President Obama for the 2015 Iran deal, which sought to limit Iran’s capability to establish a nuclear weapon in exchange for the lifting of financial sanctions.

President Trump also said: “As long as I am President of the U.S., Iran will never be allowed to have a nuclear weapon.” He added: “Iran must abandon its nuclear ambitions and end its support for terrorism. The time has come for the UK, Germany, France, Russia, and China to recognize this reality.”

NATO’s Presence in the Middle East

President Trump asked NATO Secretary-General about giving more contributions in Iraq. He also suggested that NATO establish a NATO-ME (Middle East) Unit in the region. 

A small NATO training division in Iraq suspended its activities during Iran’s missile attack. Secretary-General has also condemned the Iranian missile attacks on the U.S. and the coalition forces in Iraq. NATO called on Iran to refrain from further violence.

The Secretary-General will be meeting with the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Iraq, Mr. Abdul Karim Hashim Aboualgus, at the NATO Headquarters on January 14th.

The U.S. introduced new sanctions on Iran.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Mnuchin announced new sanctions on Iran's metal exports and eight senior Iranian officials at the exclusive White House Press Briefing.

Trump Administration is evident in the continuation of sanctions against Iran. "Today's sanctions are part of our commitment to stop the Iranian regime's global terrorist activities," said Secretary Pompeo.

Unexpected Demonstrations in Iran

Protests and teargas as public anger grow over Ukranian aircraft downing. Iran is facing a new crisis over the Iranian military's shooting down of a commercial airliner with 176 people on board.

Thousands of Iranians chanted during demonstrations against President Rouhani and Ali Khamenei in protest against unemployment, poverty, and the high cost of living in the past months.

Ukranian Plane Crash in Iran

Iranian ballistic missiles shot down the Ukranian plane after Iran launched strikes on Iraqi bases housing U.S. troops. First, Iranian officials have rejected allegations that they tried to orchestrate a cover-up; however, Iran has admitted it unintentionally shot down a Ukrainian passenger jet, blaming human error and the U.S.

There are also questions as to why Iran let a commercial flight take off during the airstrikes.

Two official statements came from Canada and Ukraine. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said, “We will not rest until there are justice and accountability,” and Ukraine President called for the perpetrators to be held accountable.

War Powers Resolution-Democrats

The U.S. House of Representatives voted to limit Trump’s military action against Iran without Congressional approval and rebuked the president over his use of military power in the Middle East.

The vote was 224-194, and 8 Democrats voted against the resolution.Senator Tim Kaine proposed a similar resolution that is expected to be discussed this week.

Pompeo and Cavusoglu speak during the tensions.

Secretary Pompeo has spoken with his Turkish counterpart a few times during the about the tensions between the U.S. and Turkey. Turkish officials emphasized the need to work with other countries to solve the problem or de-escalate tensions between the U.S. and Iran.

President Erdogan also shared his concerns about the crisis and highlighted, “Nobody has the right to throw the entire region, especially in Iraq, into a ring of fire for the sake of his or her interests.”

As a result, the United States and Iran crisis has calmed down; however, many things won't be the same as how they were before.

Trump administration will continue pressure on Iran with the military presence in Iraq and Syria as well as economic sanctions. The question is how and till when Iran will resist the significant demand from U.S. and NATO Allies. 

Iran's reputation is getting worse after shooting down the commercial plane, killing 176 innocent people.

There is one reality that Iranian General Soleimani was a terrorist and responsible for killing U.S. troops and innocent people in Syria. Soleimani was reportedly by Turkish and many ethnic media outlets that he was a point person for Iran's backing of Syrian President Assad and helped shape the Syrian military strategies in a terrible civil war that began with pro-democracy protests in 2011.

Although Democrats remain unconvinced, Soleimani threat was imminent, even many Syrian and Turkish people believe that he was a significant threat to the region.

2020 is a presidential election year; however, the foreign policy should be a significant focus for Trump administration this year.

Let's see how the future will look with NATO's further involvement in Iraq.

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