World View: Libya Chaos Threatens to Reopen Bitter Rift Between Qatar and Egypt


This morning’s key headlines from

  • Greece and Germany are eyeball to eyeball on bailout crisis
  • Libya chaos threatens to reopen bitter rift between Qatar and Egypt
  • Ethnic Chinese Kokang burst into violence in northern Burma (Myanmar)

Greece and Germany are eyeball to eyeball on bailout crisis

Grumpy German finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble on left, next to merry Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis
Grumpy German finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble on left, next to merry Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis

Here is a brief summary of Thursday’s action in Greece’s financial crisis:

  • Greece’s finance minister Yanis Varoufakis formally requested a six-month extension of the loan agreement with Europe, asking Europe to provide enough cash to Greece to service debts and increase some welfare programs, but without asking Greece to impose further austerity requirements.
  • Germany’s finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble firmly rejected the request, accusing Greece of pandering to voters. A German minister called it a “Trojan horse” designed to get money without having to reform the economy.
  • Greece’s radical far-left prime minister Alexis Tsipras said, “Tomorrow’s Eurogroup [meeting] has just two choices: To accept or reject the Greek request. We will now discover who wants to find a solution, and who does not.”
  • There was a phone call between Tsipras and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, which provided reporters with the obligatory “glimmer of hope.”

The Eurogroup summit of eurozone finance ministers will meet in emergency session on Friday to see if negotiations can yield a compromise. Germany, Finland and Slovakia appear to be taking a hard line towards Greece, while France and Italy appear to be more open to compromise. If there is no compromise, then Greece will completely run out of money sometime in March. Greek Reporter and Deutsche Welle and Kathimerini

Libya chaos threatens to reopen bitter rift between Qatar and Egypt

Last week’s slaughter of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians in Libya by ISIS-linked Ansar al-Sharia has resulted in a chain of events that led Qatar to recall its ambassador to Egypt on Thursday, threatening to reopen a very bitter rift in the Arab world that followed last summer’s Gaza war with Israel. The major Mideast realignment following the Gaza war brought Israel plus Egypt plus Saudi Arabia plus the Palestinian Authority into alliance versus Hamas plus Qatar plus Turkey plus the Muslim Brotherhood. The split between Qatar and Egypt had been particularly vitriolic prior to the war, ever since the ouster of Mohamed Morsi, but after the Gaza war the split between the Saudis and Qataris was equally vitriolic. Saudi King Abdullah acted as a mediator and was able to paper over the differences and obtain a reconciliation in time for an Arab summit meeting in December, but now King Abdullah has passed away.

The split between Qatar and Egypt was too vitriolic never to resurface, and now it’s in danger of doing so again. The slaughter of the Egyptian Coptics has caused nationalism to surge in Egypt, resulting in an immediate decision by Egypt’s president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to launch airstrikes on Ansar al-Sharia camps and weapons depots in Libya. Egypt says that its airstrikes were carried out in coordination with Libya’s air force.

Because Egypt is fighting a two-front war, against Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis (ABM – Ansar Jerusalem – Champions of Jerusalem) in north Sinai and Ansar al-Sharia in Libya, both ISIS-linked, Egypt is requesting international help in Libya.

The Arab League initially offered Egypt its full backing on the airstrikes in Libya, saying that Egypt had the right to defend itself and its citizens. But Qatar refused, and said it was concerned the strikes could harm civilians and criticized Egypt for not consulting with other Arab states before launching the airstrikes.

The furious Arab League delegate Tareq Adel from Egypt accused Qatar of “supporting terrorism and deviating from the Arab consensus.” Qatar responded by withdrawing its ambassador from Cairo.

In an attempt to keep the rift from worsening, the head of Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) of Gulf Arab nations condemned Egypt’s comments as “baseless accusations that defy the truth and ignore the sincere efforts made by the State of Qatar with GCC member states and the Arab countries to combat terrorism and extremism at all levels.” AFP and Al-Ahram (Cairo) and Cairo Post

Ethnic Chinese Kokang burst into violence in northern Burma (Myanmar)

Myanmar’s president Thein Sein on Tuesday declared a state of emergency and imposed martial law in the Kokang Special Region of Burma, on the border with China. The Kokang people are ethnic Chinese who even use a Chinese phone network and spend Chinese money in this region. The Kokang Special Region was created in 1989 after the collapse of Burma’s Communist Party. In 2009, Burma’s army intervened to end the arms and drug-trafficking networks, forcing the corrupt Kokang leader Pheung Kya-shin, born 1931, to flee across the border into China with 30,000 refugees.

In late December, octogenarian Pheung made a surprise return from China to the Kokang region, and triggered a major ethnic rebellion that has resulted in the deaths of both Kokang people and Burmese soldiers. That violence has continued, and is increasing, resulting in this week’s imposition of martial law throughout the region.

In 2007, at the height of the nationwide riots, I provided a generational history of Burma back to the 1700s. (See “Burma: Growing demonstrations by the ’88 Generation’ raise fears of new slaughter”) Since then, Burma’s army has loosened its grip on the country, allowing more political freedom. But Burma’s last crisis war was a bloody civil war among ethnic groups, with intervention by the Chinese. That war climaxed in 1958, meaning that Burma is now entering a new generational Crisis era, so it is no surprise that there is a new explosion of ethnic violence.

President Thein Sein is asking China’s government to take steps to keep the Kokang army from launching attacks on Burma from China’s soil, but China is not responding.

The major concern is that China’s army will intervene on Burma’s soil, as it did during the 1950s civil war, using as an excuse the protection of ethnic Chinese, the same excuse that Russia is using to invade Ukraine. BBC and AFP and Reuters

KEYS: Generational Dynamics, Greece, Yanis Varoufakis, Alexis Tsipras, Germany, Wolfgang Schäuble, Angela Merkel, Libya, Egypt, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Gulf Cooperation Council, GCC, Ansar Jerusalem, Ansar Bayt al Maqdis, ABM, Champions of Jerusalem, Ansar al-Sharia, Tareq Adel, Arab League, China, Myanmar, Burma, Thein Sein, Kokang Special Region, Pheung Kya-shin
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