President Trump will be
addressing Davos on Tuesday. This year’s conclave will be the 50th since
it began in 1971, marking a fitful half century of political turmoil and
economic boom and bust. For years, Davos has represented the virtues of
liberalism and globalization, anchored in a conviction that heads of
companies can become capable and even moral custodians of the common good.
However, the disruptions
and traumas of the past decade have sorely tested Davos’s faith in itself,
and the term “globalist” has been regarded with derision and distrust.
Moreover, a new global opinion poll of tens of thousands of people found
that more than 50 percent of those surveyed now think capitalism does
“more harm than good.”
Trump is also likely to
be challenged in Davos by a growing cohort of climate activists and
policymakers. On the same day of his speech, Greta Thunberg is expected to
berate politicians and finance executives who still invest in fossil
fuels. Although Trump almost certainly will not heed Thunberg’s call,
representatives of major companies are desperate to show how they are
adapting their business models to accommodate climate concerns.
The Ukrainian President,
Volodomyr Zelenskiy, has rejected the Prime Minister Oleksiy Goncharuk
resignation letter and told him to stay on and tackle the unpopular issue
of high salaries of some public officials and multimillion-dollar bonuses
paid to executives at the state gas company. The PM resigned after audio
tapes leaked suggested he had criticised the president’s understanding of
the economy as “primitive.”
salaries and decreasing executive bonuses, the president also
asked Honcharuk “to find weaknesses and to replace the heads of
ministries” according to their track record.
Referring to the leaked
recording, in which a man is heard discussing Zelenskiy’s purported lack
of knowledge of economy, Honcharuk called it “a crime”. President
Zelenskiy has ordered an investigation into the leak. Honcharuk said
earlier the recording had been doctored and was made up of different
fragments of what had been said at government meetings.
The trade agreement
between the US and China has huge defects of omission and commission.
Moreover, the conflict is far from achieving a resolution, and the US
objectives remain confused and confusing. However, the two superpowers
have at least reached an agreement. This is a truce, not peace. It leaves
a high level of protection in place. Yet a truce is welcome.
The agreement does not
cover the biggest concerns in the bilateral relationship, such as
commercial cyber theft, industrial subsidies and the Made in China 2025
programme, aimed at upgrading the economy’s technological sophistication.
Disputes relating to technological interdependence, mainly related to
Huawei, and supply chains that include Chinese production in areas deemed
sensitive for US security are also outside this agreement.
between the two countries is unavoidable. Agreement on enforceable trade
rules may be possible, albeit difficult, in specific areas. But China will
never agree to accept permanent economic and technological inferiority. If
imposing the latter is the dominant US objective, this is just the early
stage of a very long conflict.
The Chinese government
has introduced measures to cut the amount of disposable plastic. The new
guidelines include bans on the import of plastic waste and the use of
nonbiodegradable plastic bags in major cities by the end of this year.
Other sources of plastic garbage will be banned in Beijing, Shanghai and
wealthy coastal provinces by the end of 2022, and that rule will extend
nationwide by late 2025.
The plan will probably
be welcomed by many Chinese, who have become increasingly worried about
polluted air, water, soil and natural surroundings. But it could be a hard
sell for a society used to the convenience of online retailers and
couriers who deliver hot meals and packages swaddled in plastic.
The Chinese government
appears to think that companies and consumers need time to get used to
life with much less single-use plastic. Even wealthy economies have moved
gingerly to ban plastic bags. Last year, New York State approved a ban on
most single-use plastic bags that is to take effect on March 1, making it
only the second state after California to impose such a prohibition.
partnership with Huawei puts the country in a difficult situation. Madrid
has always been a security ally of Washington. It has two U.S. bases on
its territory, and many of its foreign-policy elites have strong trans-Atlantic
links. However, for decades Spain has also been keen to present itself as
China’s best friend in Europe, and the country even maintained its
cooperation with Beijing after the Tiananmen Square crackdown.
The Spanish government
is aware of the geostrategic and geoeconomic dimensions of 5G technology,
which will be key in the next phase of the digital revolution. This is
precisely why the Spanish authorities are in favor of more European
strategic autonomy and tech sovereignty, especially in critical
infrastructure. Moreover, the Spanish authorities do not want to take
sides between the USA and China.
There is growing worry
in Spain about entering into a protectionist spiral. If the EU follows the
USA and bans Huawei, China might retaliate and ban European cars—and this
would be very damaging for the EU and for Spain, which post-Brexit will be
the second-largest exporter of cars in Europe after Germany.
Russia, Turkey and a
dozen other international powers with competing interests in oil-rich
Libya called on Sunday for a cease-fire and an arms embargo, committing to
end their own interference on the ground to give Libyans space for a
In a modest
breakthrough, both leaders of Libya’s two warring factions, the head of
the UN-backed government and a former Libyan army general, agreed to send
representatives to another meeting in Geneva, where they will soon begin
working out what a solution might look like. However, expectations remain
low that these talks will lead to any kind of a lasting peace on the
ground in the near future.
Josep Borrell, the
European Union’s foreign policy chief, said that Sunday’s talks
represented a return to European engagement in the region. But for the
endeavor to succeed, he said, Europe must find a unified voice and
position and remain actively engaged to prevent the crisis in Libya from
destabilizing the entire Mediterranean region.
Nicolás Maduro suggested a bonanza could be waiting for U.S. oil companies
in this OPEC-member state should President Trump lift sanctions and press
the reset button on U.S.-Venezuelan relations. Yet if anything, his words
revealed the vast gulf that still exists between his authoritarian
government and the opposition along with U.S. officials who call him a
suggested that his opponents have vastly underestimated him. One
significant claim: Maduro said he had learned of the April 30 conspiracy
to oust him 10 days before it was sprung. He allowed it to play out
anyway, he said, encouraging key loyalists to pose as potential turncoats
to discover the extent of the sedition against him.
President Maduro said he
remained willing to sit down with Guaidó — but he seemed to dismiss the
opposition’s key demand: that he exit in favor of a transitional
government that would renovate the Supreme Court and national election
councils to call new elections. He also stated that “Guaidó is responsible
for having lost the National Assembly. He and his mistakes. Don’t blame me
now. He’s the one that now has to answer to the United States.”
The head of the IMF, Kristalina Georgieva, has warned that the global economy risks a return of the Great Depression, driven by inequality and financial sector instability. While the inequality gap between countries had closed in the last two decades, it had increased within countries, she said, singling out the UK for particular criticism.
Moreover, she stated that: “If I had to identify a theme at the outset of the new decade, it would be increasing uncertainty.” Georgieva said uncertainty affects not only businesses but individuals, especially given the rising inequality within many countries.
While government spending to help those at the bottom is key, she added: “Too often we overlook the financial sector, which can also have a profound and long-lasting positive or negative effect on inequality.” In a new study, the IMF highlighted how access to the financial sector in China and India in the 1990s “paved the way for enormous economic gains in the 2000s”. But she cautioned against the excesses that led to the 2008 global financial crisis.
Germany is embroiled in a tortured
debate over whether to allow Huawei to help build its 5G next generation
mobile network. But with German automakers, including Audi and Daimler,
already working closely with Huawei, China may be in the driver’s seat. Whatever
Germany decides will shape its relations with China for years and
reverberate across the Old Continent.
any other European country, Germany is under tremendous pressure by the
USA to exclude Huawei, which fears that the Chinese company is a Trojan
horse that would allow the Chinese government to spy on or control
European and American communication networks. Relations with the Trump
administration are infused with threats of tariffs against German
automakers, and China is elbowing its way as a new strategic partner.
we ban Huawei, the German car industry will be pushed out of the Chinese
market — and this in a situation where the American president is also
threatening to punish German carmakers,” said Sigmar Gabriel, a former
German foreign minister and vice chancellor. “Just because we have an
American president who doesn’t like alliances, we give all that up?”
he said. “Why would we? Especially since he does exactly what the Chinese
do and threatens the German car industry.”
The resignation of President Putin’s
longtime ally Prime Minister Medvedev and the announcement about
Mishustin, a technocrat with little power base of his own, caught many
analysts by surprise. The 53-year-old bureaucrat became Russia’s newly
appointed prime minister and Putin’s second-in-command as the country
slowly enters a new period of political transition.
However, it is still unclear whether
Mishustin is a temporary placeholder or could be groomed as a potential
successor down the line. He appears well suited to deliver as prime
minister where Medvedev failed, especially in terms of implementing the
Kremlin’s so-called national projects: a massive public spending and
infrastructure plan of $400 billion that was put forward by Putin after
his reelection in 2018.
Through his low profile and
experience with the country’s vast and cumbersome bureaucracy, Mishustin
is now positioned to enact unfulfilled government policies and help quell
socioeconomic discontent as Putin’s slow-motion power transfer winds
toward 2024. Putin is betting that Mishustin’s pedigree of efficiency will
help him deliver on policies and limit public dissatisfaction.
Chinese economy grew by 6.1 per cent
in 2019, the lowest annual growth rate for 29 years, the National Bureau
of Statistics announced on Friday. The figure came in a year in which the
Chinese economy was hammered by US tariffs as a result of the trade war.
However, despite falling to a new low
since 1990, when political turmoil drove economic growth down to 3.9 per
cent, the 6.1 per cent rate met the target range of between 6.0 per cent
and 6.5 per cent set by the central government at the beginning of last year,
but was below the market expectation of 6.2 per cent.
Chinese policymakers stepped up
efforts of curbing a prolonged economic downturn last year, using tax cuts
and monetary stimulus regularly. However, the phase one deal led central
bank officials to tell a press conference in Beijing on Thursday that its monetary
policy would remain “prudent” through this year.
The Senate has approved on Thursday
President Donald Trump’s signature trade deal with Mexico and Canada,
helping him fulfill a 2016 campaign promise in a rare bipartisan vote.
However, it will take several years before workers and business start to
benefit from the agreement, which was approved in a 89-10 vote.
of the USMCA comes just a day after Trump signed a so-called phase one
trade agreement with China, another major focus of the president’s trade
agenda. Canada will not approve the text until the House of Commons
reconvenes in January, and while Mexico was quick to pass the deal, it
still has to deliver on fully implementing its labor reforms that ensure
workers have access to organize and participate in independent unions.
economists and trade experts have emphasized that the new deal offers some
much-needed certainty for companies and workers in all three countries.
However, some progressives were vocal in criticizing the revised deal. The
majority of Democrats to oppose the deal did so over frustration that the
USMCA does not tackle climate change even after House Democrats negotiated
to strengthen environmental protections in the deal.
During his annual state-of-the-nation
speech, President Vladimir Putin shook up the country by calling for
constitutional changes that would give him a new path to holding onto
power after his current term ends in 2024. After his announcement, the
entire cabinet, led by a long-serving Putin ally, Prime Minister Dmitri A.
Medvedev, abruptly resigned. The head of the Federal Tax Service, Mikhail
V. Mishustin, will become prime minister.
The position Mr. Putin is trying to achieve is
not clear yet. He could become prime minister again, taking advantage of
the position’s expanded influence. Moreover, he could follow the path of
Kazakhstan’s longtime president Nursultan Nazarbayev, who increased the
power of Kazakhstan’s Security Council and made himself its chairman for
In spite of Mr. Putin’s immense power, he’d be
taking a risk if he simply declared himself president for life.
Nonetheless, Mr. Putin has steadily subsumed the authority of all Russian
institutions, often justifying crackdowns on political pluralism as
necessary in the face of external threats.
Chinese Vice-Premier Liu He has said Beijing has
little interest in immediately starting negotiations on phase two of a
trade deal with the United States, in a polite rejection of US President
Donald Trump’s suggestion the next stage of talks would start soon. He
stated that: “we might get nothing if we rush to a second job
before the first one is properly done. I don’t think it is a wise choice
to impatiently launch new stages of talks.”
The two countries agreed to put the brakes on a
on an 18-month trade war that has disrupted global supply chains and
shaken markets after months of negotiations. Although most US tariffs on
China would remain in place, the US agreed to reduce duties on some Chinese
imports and suggested further tariff relief if a phase two deal can be
Protection of intellectual property was one of
the pledges made in the phase one deal and Liu said that China needed
better laws in the area for its own interest and protection.
A week before Germany, France and Britain
formally accused Iran of breaching the 2015 nuclear deal, the Trump
administration issued a private threat to the Europeans that shocked
officials in all three countries. According to several European officials,
if these countries refused to call out Tehran and initiate an arcane
dispute mechanism in the deal, the United States would impose a 25 percent
tariff on European automobiles.
However, it remains unclear if the threat was
even necessary, as Europeans had been signaling their intention to trigger
the dispute resolution for weeks. While the United States views the
mechanism as critical to reimposing sanctions on Iran in as little as 65
days, the Europeans see the measure as a last chance to salvage a deal
they view as vital.
Major difficulties in the transatlantic
relationship began after Trump withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal in 2018
and reimposed sanctions on Iran that had been lifted in exchange for
limitations on its nuclear program. The Europeans remained in the deal,
noting that, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency, Iran had
continued to comply with its side of the agreement.
The 2010s were the hottest decade ever measured
on Earth, and 2019 was the second-hottest year ever measured, scientists
at NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced
today. The finding was not a surprise to researchers, or likely anyone
else. But it capped an anxious decade that saw human-caused climate change
transform from a far-off threat into an everyday fact of life.
What’s worse is that greenhouse-gas pollution
from fossil fuels, which are the biggest driver of climate change, also
surged to an all-time high last year, according to a preliminary estimate.
Deke Arndt, a chief climate scientist at NOAA, said at the briefing that
“an obvious signal” of this greenhouse-gas-powered heating had appeared in
the upper layers of the ocean, which broke the all-time heat record last
It’s worth going back to see just how outlandish
our situation is. The median American is a little more than 38 years old.
The year before she was born was 1980. It was, at the time, the hottest
year ever measured. A July heat wave that year killed 1,265 Americans and
caused more than $20 billion in damage nationwide.
The years 2012 and 2013 were among the five
hottest ever. Then came the three-peat: 2014 broke 2010’s all-time record,
then 2015 was even hotter, then 2016 was hotter still. On land, 2016 was
nearly 4 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than the 20th-century baseline. It was
three times as hot over the baseline as 1981, the year she was born.
Britain, Germany and France formally
accused Iran of breaking the 2015 agreement that limited its nuclear
program, taking the first step toward reimposing United Nations sanctions.
These countries triggered a 60-days period of negotiations with Iran
about coming back into full compliance with the nuclear deal. Under the
agreement, if they cannot resolve their dispute, that could revive UN
sanctions on Iran that had been suspended under the deal.
However, according to a senior
European official, these European countries still want to save the
deal and persuade both Washington and Tehran to begin a new set of
negotiations about missile development and Iran’s regional activities.
There was no immediate reaction from Tehran.
Robert Malley, who heads the International
Crisis Group and helped negotiate the nuclear deal, defended that he did
not agree with triggering the dispute mechanism now, given the newly
complicated setting, but said that doing so was “is not fatal” to the
deal. “The only way forward now is to use the time to try to get the U.S.
and Iran to talk.”
The USA, the EU and Japan had added
pressure on Beijing over its model of state-sponsored capitalism, calling
for tougher WTO curbs on government subsidies. This is a bizarre example
of the Trump administration turning to allies for help in solving trade problems.
The proposed rule changes take aim at
core parts of China’s economic model, calling for a wider WTO ban on
various types of state support and for governments to do more to prove
that aid to companies does not distort trade. Phil Hogan, EU trade
commissioner, said they were “an important step towards addressing some of
the fundamental issues distorting global trade”.
The announcement comes at the same
time as the USA and China are expected to reveal a “phase one” trade
agreement, marking a moment of detente in their trade war. The
EU and the US have taken very different approaches in trying to cajole
Beijing to change its policies. US president Donald Trump has imposed huge
punitive tariffs on Chinese goods, while the EU has emphasised dialogue.
After Sultan Qaboos’s death, former
Minister of Heritage and Culture Haitham bin Tariq al-Said has been named
his heir. Long floated as a potential successor, he is described by those
who have met him as quiet, steady, and a good listener. The Oxford
graduate spent more than a decade in the Foreign Ministry and worked on
(largely unsuccessful) attempts to diversify Oman’s oil-dependent economy before
his appointment as Heritage and Culture Minister in 2002.
Haitham has already publicly
committed to maintaining Oman’s role as an independent mediator, and most
observers expect him to continue his predecessor’s tradition of quiet
diplomacy, serving as a bridge between the USA, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and
the Houthis. However, autonomy in foreign policy has been predicated on
Oman’s economic independence, and low oil prices and dwindling reserves
have thrown that into doubt.
As Haitham confronts rising tensions
in the region and an unfavorable economic forecast at home, the new sultan
will have to work to maintain the domestic credibility and regional
stature that his predecessor enjoyed.
A provisional cease-fire reached two
days ago between Libya’s warring factions appeared to unravel on Tuesday,
as eastern commander Khalifa Hifter abruptly left Moscow without signing
the agreement. Consequently, several clashes emerged in the Libyan capital
On Monday, Libyan Prime Minister
Fayez Serraj signed the cease-fire agreement. But Hifter, who is aligned
with a rival government, had asked for until Tuesday morning to make his
decision. By early Tuesday, however, he left without signing the document.
The collapse of the cease-fire effort is a major blow to President Putin
and President Erdogan, as well as their aspirations of becoming the main
power brokers in Libya.
The U.N. mission in Libya on Tuesday
urged both sides to adhere to the cease-fire and give the diplomatic
efforts a chance “for the sake of the civilian population in Tripoli, the
hundreds of thousands who fled their homes and the 116,000 children who
are unable to go to their classes.”
The EU regional policy Commissioner
Elisa Ferreira unpacked on January 14th details of the €100
billion Just Transition Mechanism, a key financial component of the
European Green Deal that should make the bloc climate neutral by 2050. She
stated that “nuclear energy is excluded from the Just
leaders agreed in December on a bloc-wide objective of reaching climate
neutrality by 2050. In order to convince Hungary and the Czech Republic to
sign up, they also reaffirmed the right of countries to decide on their
own energy mix, including nuclear. Poland refused to sign up, saying it
needed more EU funding to help phase out coal.
Fund will provide financial aid to countries in their work towards climate
neutrality. Within a wider mechanism, the Commission aims to provide
technical assistance and ease state aid rules for green investments. The
fund will be based on €7.5 billion of “fresh money”, to be topped up with
financing from the European Regional Development Fund and the European
Social Fund Plus, both part of the EU’s cohesion policy.
The selected pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Javier Solana and EsadeGeo. The summaries above may include word-for-word excerpts from their respective pieces.
The United States
Treasury department has dropped the designation of China as a currency
manipulator in a gesture that aims to ease tensions with Beijing before
this week’s signing of a deal to halt their trade war. “China has made
enforceable commitments to refrain from competitive devaluation, while
promoting transparency and accountability, stated Steven Mnuchin, Treasury
After the announcement,
China’s renminbi strengthened to a five-month high against the dollar in
Asian trade. The onshore renminbi, which trades 2 per cent either side of
a daily midpoint set by the People’s Bank of China, was 0.2 per cent
stronger at Rmb6.8809 per dollar, its highest level since July. The
offshore renminbi, which is less tightly controlled, was flat at Rmb6.8799
to the dollar.
The trade agreement will
pause any escalations in tariffs for the foreseeable future and roll back
a small portion of existing US levies in Chinese goods. In exchange,
China has said it would purchase at least $200bn in US goods, including at
least $40bn in American farm products. However, the “phase one” deal does
not address some of the deeper and more thorny sources of economic
tensions between Washington and Beijing.
Current American foreign
policy is based on brute force coercion, divorced from clear objectives
and implemented by an ignorant president with poor impulse control. After
nearly three years in office, President Trump has managed to increase the
risk of war, push Iran to gradually restart its nuclear program, provoke
Iraq into asking the United States to prepare to leave and raise serious
doubts about U.S. judgment and reliability.
presidents did not have a clear foreign policy either. Bush believed
ending tyranny and evil forever should be the central goal of U.S. foreign
policy and thought the U.S. military could quickly transform the Middle
East into a sea of pro-American democracies. Obama had a more realistic
view of U.S. power, but he did little to reduce America’s military
involvement overseas and fully backed the energetic use of U.S. military
What’s going on there?
Part of the problem today is the remarkable position of primacy that the
United States has enjoyed ever since the Cold War ended. Because the
United States is so powerful, wealthy, and secure, it is mostly insulated
from the consequences of its own actions. As I said in my previous column,
we have reached a point where foreign and national security policy in the
United States is more like performance art.
Xi Jinping has suffered the most painful consequence yet of his misguided crackdown on dissent in Hong Kong: the landslide reelection Saturday of Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen. She was considered politically dead a year ago after her party suffered a crushing loss in local elections. But Mr. Xi revived her with his uncompromising response to last year’s mass demonstrations in Hong Kong.
Ms. Tai rejected Hong Kong’s fate, telling voters that their choice was between democracy and dictatorship: “Young people in Hong Kong have used their lives and blood and tears to show us that ‘one country, two systems’ is not possible,” she defended. Her opponent, populist mayor Han Kuo-yu of the Kuomintang party, was tagged with the pro-China label despite trying to distance himself from the “one country, two systems” formula.
President Xi has proved in the past six months that “one country, two systems” is not a workable formula. Rather than respect Hong Kong’s rule of law, his appointees there have ridden roughshod over it. Simple logic would suggest that more of Mr. Xi’s authoritarian intolerance will simply bring about more reverses.
French partnership with
West African armies to combat Islamist terrorism is flailing, but little
new to reinforce it emerged from a summit on Monday. Flanked by the
leaders of five West and Central African states, Mr. Macron pledged to
send 220 French troops to the region, adding to the force of 4,500 already
there. That force is under increasing criticism in some of the countries
for failing to halt recurring massacres of local armies’ troops.
Mr. Macron, who had
warned that France might withdraw its troops, wanted the leaders of the
Sahel to make clear, in public, that they wanted French forces to stay.
Subsequently, the summit accomplished that goal.
The West African
countries did pledge Monday to work more closely together, and with the
French, to concentrate forces on the dangerous tri-border region shared by
Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger, and to focus on the regional affiliate of
the Islamic State. However, whether this move will improve the military
situation is not clear.
The selected pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Javier Solana and EsadeGeo. The summaries above may include word-for-word excerpts from their respective pieces.
Uncertainty hangs over the political future of Kaohsiung
mayor Han Kuo-yu and the embattled Kuomintang (KMT) party after their
heavy losses in Taiwan’s election, according to analysts. He lost the
presidency by a 20-point margin to incumbent Tsai Ing-wen, from the
independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). Moreover, the
KMT also failed to break the DPP’s hold on the island’s legislature,
securing just 38 of the 113 seats compared to the DPP’s 61. Taiwan’s
electorate voted in great numbers, with turnout at 74.9 per cent.
KMT chairman Wu Den-yih and other top leaders resigned late on
Saturday to take responsibility for the losses, despite Wu’s promise to
take back the legislature. Wu said the KMT had failed to meet its expectations
and needed to improve.
Political analysts stated that Han’s campaign was undermined by
divisions within the KMT, Han’s personal blunders and pro-Beijing image,
and the KMT’s controversial list of candidates. The party needed to reach
out to younger voters, who mostly turned out for Tsai, energised by issues
such as same-sex marriage and her support for Hong Kong protesters, they
Malta’s new prime minister Robert Abela will be sworn in on Monday
after the deepening scandal of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia’s murder
forced a change in the country’s political leadership. Mr. Abela won the
election to lead the ruling Labour party in a vote on Saturday. He is the
son of a former Maltese president, and campaigned on a platform of social
reforms that appealed to party members.
Vera Jourova, the EU’s justice chief, warned Malta last month that
Brussels expected “a thorough and independent investigation, free from any
political interference”, of the murder scandal. She complained of “a lack
of significant progress” in essential anti-corruption reforms. “The latest
developments show that no further time should be lost.” A recent
fact-finding mission by the European parliament also raised concerns about
the state of the rule of law in the country.
Caruana Galizia’s car-bomb killing shocked Europe and fed into
broader concerns about declining respect for the rule of law within the
EU. The new European Commission, led by Ursula von der Leyen, has vowed to
create a new “mechanism” for monitoring and enforcing the rule of
Libya’s opposing parties have agreed to a cease-fire that took
effect after midnight on Saturday, stoking fragile hopes for an end to
months of escalating foreign-backed fighting around Tripoli, the capital,
that has threatened to push the country into a major conflagration. The
agreement was defended by the Turkish and Russian presidents at a meeting
in Istanbul last week, ostensibly to end a surge in fighting that had caused
thousands of deaths and displaced 300,000 civilians, according to the
However, there were signs that some officials believed the truce
might not last long. In fact, each side soon accused the other of breaking
the cease-fire, amid reports of continuing fighting around Tripoli. Many
Western officials took Mr. Putin’s cease-fire effort as an attempt to
undermine faltering European and United Nations-led efforts to broker a
political settlement in Libya. But on Sunday, the UN mission to Libya
welcomed the truce.
International attention to Libya has grown in recent weeks as other
countries have taken a greater role in the fight. Mr. Hifter’s campaign to
capture Tripoli is backed by the United Arab Emirates, which launched
airstrikes by warplanes and drones, and by a contingent of Kremlin-backed
Russian mercenaries that arrived last fall.
The Omani Sultan Qaboos ruled the country for five decades,
shepherding its transformation from a medieval backwater in the Arabian
Peninsula to a modern country with good relations with all its neighbors.
Oman has modest oil reserves, and Qaboos invested wisely in infrastructure
and development. Schools, hospitals, and modern facilities were brought in
to the nation. Women can vote and be candidates for office. But 55% of
Omanis are under the age of 25, and the country has witnessed serious
protests in 2017 and 2011.
The presence of American troops in Oman date back to 1980, when the
abortive hostage rescue mission in Iran was staged from Oman. Ironically,
despite his close relationship with the United States, Qaboos only made
one state visit to Washington in 50 years.
Qaboos was the 14th generation of his family ruling Oman. His shoes
will be difficult to fill. No successor has the decades of legitimacy and
leadership that Qaboos enjoyed, nor the training needed. The disruption in
the region due to the crisis over the killing of Iranian general Qassem
Soleimani adds to the concerns about the future of the sultanate.