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Germany During The Frankish Period: Charlemagne (768 – 814)

Germany During The Frankish Period: Charlemagne (768 – 814)

Of particular importance was the subjugation of the last Germanic people who, on the right of the Rhine, had still managed to maintain their independence: the Saxons. Established between the Ems, the Harz and the lower Elbe, the Saxons were divided into the four tribes of the Vestfals, between the Lippe and the Ems; degli Angri, on the Weser and on the Hallep; degli Ostfali, between the Weser and the Elbe; of the Nordalbingi, who had pushed into Holstein beyond the Elbe estuary. With independence, the Saxons had essentially preserved intact the ancient economic, social and political structure of the Germans, and the ancient pagan beliefs. This material and spiritual patrimony they, led by their national hero, the Westphalian Vitichindo, defended in thirty years of terrible struggles, sustained with desperate fury against the tenacity and the fervent impulse of Christian propaganda, which animated the conqueror. The enterprise, which began in 772, could only be said to have been completed in 804 (see carlomagno). But after the conquest the country took on a completely new aspect. By the tens of thousands the Saxons had either fallen fighting or executed, or had been transferred to other regions. The survivors and those who remained had had to receive baptism, and the administrative and religious institutes of the Frankish kingdom had been extended to the occupied territory, centering those on the counties, these on the bishoprics.

The definitive subjugation of Bavaria was also of great importance. The dukes who ruled it, of the national dynasty of the Agilolfingi, carried out their own internal and foreign policy. This one, oriented towards the Lombards, to whom the Bavarian dukes had also tightened with parental ties, sought in their friendship a useful counterweight to the threatening influence of the Franks, and had recently had a new seal from the marriage of Duke Tassilone III with Liutperga, daughter of king Desiderio. But there was no lack of a party in favor of the Franks; and the clergy, in the forefront the bishops of Salzburg and Freising, felt attracted to the Carolingians by their merits towards the Church of Rome. Two years (787-788) were enough for Charlemagne to extinguish Bavarian independence. Tassilone III was deposed and locked up in a monastery; the same fate had the wife and children. After the Agilolfinges were broken up, Bavaria was first ruled by a brother-in-law of Charlemagne, Geroldo; and after his death (799), it was divided into counties.

The subjugation of Bavaria brought the Frankish kingdom into direct contact with the Avars of Pannonia. It was the end of this people of predatory raiders. Between 791 and 796 with a series of expeditions the Franks went as far as their main fortified camp (Ring), near the Tisza and conquered it. The Avars submitted; from the beginning of the century. IX their name also disappeared. Thus, even in the Middle Danube basin the work of Charlemagne created relations with Germany, which would not have been without effect for its future history. The conquest of Saxony had similarly brought the Frankish kingdom into wider and more direct contact with the Slavs to the north-east. No ground was gained over them, because Charlemagne did not wage real wars of conquest against them, and on the contrary ceded to the Abodites, who had been his auxiliaries in the struggle for the occupation of Saxony, part of the lands taken from the Nordalbingians on the side of the Baltic. But equally important, for future events, was the arrangement to defend the eastern border. Land was instead gained to the north,

Charlemagne had succeeded where Rome, after a few attempts, had had to abandon his work. Germany up to Elba definitively became part of the Western civil world, and received the order from which its further life would be carried out with that greater awareness of its own strengths and mission, which certainly before the Frankish conquest populations could not hear.

Also in Germany, the basis of the administrative order were the counties, in which Saxony, Alamannia and Bavaria were divided, and which had a particular military organization on the north-eastern and south-eastern borders. Here the marches of Nordalbingia or Danese, Sorabica, and Pannonia or Orientale (the future Austria) were formed, conveniently garnished with cores of selected troops, who leaned on a line of fortresses. In this way, the valid embankment was raised that would put an end to the centuries-old westward movement of the barbarian world.

Germany During The Frankish Period

Brazil Indigenous Civilizations Part 2

Brazil Indigenous Civilizations Part 2

It remains now to illustrate the wider area of ​​the Amazonian culture, which, as mentioned, brings together the two linguistic groups Arawak and Caribe in the north and the Tupi-Guarani in the south. The stilt houses, the small house with a tendency to form villages, the hammock woven in cotton, the bitter mandioca, the cassava compressed with the special bag filter, poison fishing, single-piece dinghy are presented as properties of the northern division of bark, quadrangular vases, basket with lid, double burial, with the secondary case of the remains in terracotta urns; Tobacco wrapped like a cigar is smoked, cotton cultivation and spinning are practiced, the use of coca and signal drum is absent. In the southern division, on the other hand, tobacco is smoked in a stone pipe. The houses are arranged in a village, although it seems that this character has recently acquired, under the influence of the white man, while originally the dwelling was collective and the society monoecious. The villages are surrounded by palisades. The burial in terracotta urns is direct, not secondary.

But to give a concrete and living idea of ​​the Amazonian culture, it will be good to analyze the heritage of a specific tribe: we have chosen that of the Vapisiana, masterfully described by Farabec Curtis, located in the northern area, and which is part of an encircled Arawak nucleus. on all sides from Caribi. The villages of the Vapisiana are made up of a few houses grouped irregularly in the open savannah, near the forest; these houses have a rectangular, circular or oval plan, and have two doors, one for women and one for men; they are windowless; the armor is made of tree trunks and branches of various thicknesses, the walls of palm leaves or mud, the roof of palm leaves, and its shape can be two-sided, or conical, or in the shape of an overturned boat. The Vapisiana are mainly farmers; their fields are located in the woods at a great distance from the villages, in places specially thinned out during the dry season; usually they plant sweet potato, sugar cane, and grains, in the same field, together with mandioca; also interspersed with pineapple, cucurbit, bananas, tobacco and papaya. They understand the value of a careful selection of seeds. Men help to sow, but very little to cultivate and reap, which are women’s tasks. Hunting and fishing give a certain variety to the essentially vegetable diet of the Vapisiana; they use hunting amulets and special spells for all kinds of animals to be captured; certain species of mammals and birds are trapped. The weapons of the hunters are the bow and the blowpipe with poisoned arrows. Fishing is done with a bow and arrow, hook, traps and water poisoning. The sharp teeth of the piranha (Serresalmo) limit the use of fishing line. The traps have a great variety of forms, but the method of greatest efficiency in fishing is the poisoning of the waters with vegetable juices, and requires the participation of a large number of individuals, directed by a leader; it is used during the dry season. Foods are prepared by roasting or boiling them. A kind of bread is prepared with the cassava; the tools of said manipulation: oven, graters, sieves and cupboards, are held in high regard by the Vapisiana, who usually keep them in special buildings in the village. The poisonous juices are extracted from the cassava with the characteristic filter in the shape of a long sleeve, woven of vegetable fibers; by means of a very simple device, said sleeve reduces its diameter and compresses the pulp inside, causing the release of evil juices. They also use mortars with wooden pestles. Contrary to the generality of the Arawaks, the Vapisiana are not great potters; they manufacture pots and other vessels for cooking and storing liquids, in terracotta, with the system of the spiral braid, they dry in the shade and then cook the pots on an open fire; the decoration is painted. To transport liquids they use pumpkins instead. The men wear a belt that supports the ends of a band that passes between the legs in front and behind, the women a small apron. Men sometimes use sandals with leather or wood soles, but only to cross stony ground. Long hair, styled in various shapes; corporal mutilations are rare: they sharpen the upper incisors and perforate the nasal septum. They use face and tongue tattoo. Men wear brightly colored feather diadems. On the legs and ankles, on the arms and on the wrists, men and women wear cotton bands; other bands and cotton ropes hang from the shoulders, like a double bandolier. To protect themselves from insects they paint the body with annatto (Bixa Orellana), but for the dances women adorn the body with real decorative designs. They weave their clothes, hammocks, nets, bags, etc. spinning various vegetable fibers, mainly cotton, but also palm fibers and bromeliads. Each type of fiber requires a long and complicated preparation process. The Vapisiana are exogamous and polygamous, the patrilineal inheritance; the women go to live together with the husband in the village of his father. Divorce is not excluded, consisting in simple separation, without ceremonial, but in general married life and the related prohibitions take into account the respect of public opinion. The children are breastfed for three or four years. When a child is born, the father lies in the hammock for a month, subject to a special diet (couvade). Each village has a leader who directs the affairs of the community especially the dances and hunting and fishing parties. There is no punishment defined for crimes. Death is attributed to bad spirits; the corpse buries itself under the floor of its hut, accumulating the tools of the dead on it, and the whole, together with the house, is burned; the family moves to another nearby place. When it comes to a woman, the family continues to live there, but more often the women, and so the children, bury themselves, as beings of lesser importance, in a special external place. They do not worship the sun or the moon, but its eclipse is feared. Disembodied spirits populate their supernatural picture, but life too is a function of union with the spirit. The image of the creator is highly anthropomorphized. Shamanism is widespread. Vapisiana don’t excel in music; they use flutes and rattles. Every event is celebrated with dance, but the great dance that is practiced when a mandioca field has reached maturity is of special importance; in this case, long preparations are made, and masked individuals take part in the ceremony. Boys and girls never play together. The former have fun with bows and arrows. The games of intertwined threads are known. The former have fun with bows and arrows. The games of intertwined threads are known. The former have fun with bows and arrows. The games of intertwined threads are known.

We cannot close this brief review without mentioning the quite recent results of general ethnology, which, in the footsteps of Foy, Gräbner and mainly W. Schmidt, managed to diagnose, by means of the comparative method, the assets of each of these areas, coming to establish that each of them represents in South America the extension of well-defined cultural areas in the Pacific Ocean. Leaving aside the most elementary cultures, which summarize the correlative forms of the old world, we find the Amazonian culture to correspond to Melanesian (Schmidt’s free matriarchal), to which elements of Polynesian (free patriarchal) were added, functioning the western triangle as a species of oceanic totemic culture reservoir (Gräbner).

Brazil Indigenous Civilizations 2

Brazil Indigenous Civilizations

Brazil Indigenous Civilizations

The borders of Brazil contain a much greater number of indigenous tribes than any other South American state, and some of them are still today almost untouched by the White civilization; these two characters are enough to explain the importance that starting from the century. XVI up to the present day have preserved the studies of Brazilian ethnography. From those remote times the problem of a classification of ethnic groups arose in the first place, a problem that today has a long history and includes many attempts. The so-called races, or nations, or, more modernly, indigenous groups were from time to time defined on the basis of corporal, ethnographic, social and linguistic characters. Of course, none of these characters, used exclusively, can constitute a criterion of discrimination, for the complicated phenomena of domination and internal migration of the groups and the consequent acculturation, to which we owe the presence of tribes that have a mixed ethnographic heritage, or that belong to one group for ethnography and to another for language, or which, having already been separated from the central nucleus for a long time, acquired aspects of profound variation, or, finally, they appear at a very large distance of space from the original fire, and enclosed in a completely foreign area, like drops of oil. Discouraged by these practical difficulties, the authors also resorted to purely geographical classification, which, to tell the truth, surpasses the problems just mentioned, but without resolving them.

Whatever the theoretical importance to be attributed to economic means and material sustenance in the existence of a society, we will have recourse to this criterion to isolate from now on a first great mass of ethnic groups, on whose unity, moreover, they are d ‘ both linguists and ethnographers agree. It is about thirty tribes grouped on the Brazilian plateau, which constitute a large, almost homogeneous mass, called the Gēs group or the Puri-Coroados, and whose distinctive economic character is the absence of a true agriculture. All the other aborigines of Brazil will enter a vast division, that of the agricultural peoples, which we will later divide into a number of special groups.

The Gēs live by hunting, fishing, and gathering wild fruits, and if any tribe shows agricultural traces, these are scarce, rudimentary, and probably acquired very late. To their nomadic life is connected the precarious dwelling, the type of which is the hemispherical cupular hut or the simple screen. The weapons represent the bow with arrows and the throwing pole, but the most salient negative character, which alone is enough to distinguish this culture from that of the farmers, is that the Gēs do not know navigation at all, while the other it is a true “dinghy culture”. To describe with a certain system the heritage of these hunter-fishermen of the eastern massif, we will choose a characteristic tribe of the Gēs or Puri-Coroados group: the Crenak, excellently illustrated by the Manizer. For the home, the Crenaks build various types of screens, one with a simple horizontal pole resting on two poles planted in the ground, and supporting palm leaves or branches and tree barks, and the other formed by a real intertwining of large leaves on a rectangular frame. During the march, you walk in single file along impassable paths; the women carry their children and the scant domestic equipment suspended from the back by means of bands and net bags; once they reach the new station, they thin out the ground and raise the screens, aligned in a rudimentary but constant order, with the old ones gathered at one end. Each tribe is assigned its own area for hunting, fishing and gathering, considered as an inviolable property. The harvest is entrusted to women, and consists of the wild fruits of theLecythis, some nettles, pods, wild pineapples, tubercles, tips of lianas and shoots of bromeliads. Add, for a few tribes, a temporary crop of mandioca, bananas and sweet potatoes, which produce food for at most two months of the year. The task of providing meat is reserved for men: small animals, such as birds and lizards, as well as monkeys, wild boars and deer, the former taken by hand or with throwing sticks, the latter with a bow. Meat smoking is practiced; for cooking they use pots and other bamboo containers. Wild honey is collected and mixed with water as a ceremonial drink. They know no exciting drinks, nor tobacco; but the leaves of different herbs smoke in the pipe. The bow is of palm wood, as tall as a man or more, the rope of twisted palm fibers; arrows of various shapes, according to the destination, the most common is that of bamboo cut in the shape of a knife. Babies carry their penis raised and tied to the foreskin. The men wear short hair, the women and children wear hair of various shapes; collars and bracelets are not unknown; the characteristic big lip and ear buttons (botocos in Portuguese) which originated the name Botocudos, although somewhat in disuse, are still preserved. The Crenaks, men and women, go naked; in exchange, the use of body painting with the reddish vegetable juice of urucú is general, as a protection against the cold and insects. Polygyny is rare, but allowed, and more often the capricious change of wives is practiced; however, there is a marriage ban for various family members. Marriage takes place with the consent of relatives or an influential person, to whom the suitor gives gifts. The social group is a small horde, with a leader whose authority is very limited, and it comes from his personal gifts. The women give birth easily in a recess of the wood; breastfeeding continues long after babies have learned to walk and talk. The sick do not inspire compassion, yet attempts are made to cure them with medicinal herbs and enchantments. The funeral practices are simple and are reduced to the abandonment of the corpse in one’s hut, with a small funeral kit. The evil influence of the dead is feared. The explanation of natural phenomena, as well as various social customs, are linked to a supernatural being, the old Maret, a giant whose wrath is feared and to whom propitiatory offers are apparently made. Crenak’s songs are simple lullabies repeated to satiety. This ethnographic sketch of a special tribe gives a sufficient idea of ​​the degree of civilization of the whole Gēs group, a denomination under which the parasitic peoples of the plateau must be included. The ethnographic unity of these coincides entirely with the linguistic unity, since the whole group speaks languages ​​classified under a single title, of the Gēs-Tapuya languages, with the five subgroups north-western, southern, eastern, Botocudo and Goytacȧ.

Turning now to the other higher forms of economy, that is to the agricultural peoples, we must at least mention an intermediate stage, represented by the Bororó and by other few examples; they are hunters of a superior type, devoid of agriculture, but with a material and spiritual civilization much superior to the Gēs group, and which instead tends towards that of decidedly agricultural peoples.

The entire remaining indigenous population of Brazil is made up of farmers. It is surprising that in an area so vast as to include the Orinoco and Amazon basins, that is half of the continent (with the exception of the eastern plateau which is the seat of the Gēs) a complex of uniform cultural elements is found which at first sight it induces to delineate an immense ethnographic unity, which in the various authors takes the name of “Amazonian culture” or “of the tropical forests”. This complex is defined by its components: sufficiently advanced agricultural works, dinghies dug in a single tree trunk, hammock, pottery, blowpipe, lip button, house with beam armor, saber-clubs, ornamental arm and leg binding. leg, feather ornaments and diadems, flute couvade, flogging ceremonies to initiate adolescents, blunt arrows for birds: a complex, finally, truly formidable, which has led some authors to consider it as a gigantic phenomenon of acculturation (Wissler). And certainly the uniformity of the environment and the material means of human movements in the Amazon (very active circulation of boats in an intricate and vast river network) must be kept, if not as the cause, at least as the diffusion medium of the different elements. But under this apparent uniformity, a more in-depth study discerns a certain number of distinct modalities, recognizable, in a more concrete way, through the linguistic criterion, to which we owe the terminology of this classification of the agricultural population: Arawak (Aruaco) and Caribe (mainly north of Amazons and to the east of the Rio Negro) and the Tupi-Guarani group (mainly to the south of the Amazons and to the east of Madeira) remaining a third group, of unclassified languages ​​(isolated languages ​​of the Schmidt) whose densest nucleus is found to the west of Orinoco-Rio Negro-Madeira line.  There are more or less marked ethnographic differences that distinguish each of these schematic groups, but the most recent studies (Métraux) have considerably brought the Tupi-Guarani closer to the Caribs, in such a way that the value of some ancient classifications which separated too clearly the Amazonian “race” from the north to the south.

Referring to the western sector, or to the unclassified and dissimilar languages, it is evident that when nuclei of Tupi, Arawak and Caribi are found west of the Orinoco-Rio Negro-Madeira border, they present themselves as invaders, while the rest of the population of the aforementioned triangle while not maintaining linguistic unity, it has retained traces of a certain cultural uniformity. In addition to the common characteristics of all farmers, who are also hunters and fishermen, we find here the following heritage: in addition to mandioca and tobacco, coca is also cultivated, and to a lesser extent maize, cucurbits and sugar cane; the earth is plowed up with a pole, not with a hoe; bees are domesticated; mandioca compresses into mats; coca is chewed, tobacco is used as a ceremonial drink; poisoned arrows with curare; shovel-shaped clubs; fishing is carried out not only with poison, but also with traps, hooks, nets and trident spears, signal drums; odd drums, male and female, with phallic decorations; hammock woven with twisted palm fibers. The whole community lives in a single large and round house, with a secluded, labyrinthine access; they don’t use clothes; bark thong for men; human teeth collars; perforation of the nasal septum, rattles in the legs; very elaborate body painting; for important decisions of war and peace, parliamentarians during which a blackish drink of tobacco is circulated; exclusion of women from any ceremonial meeting or cannibalism party; prohibition of personal names and myths; intrusive shamanism. Two harvesting ceremonies, for the mandioca and the pineapple; bagpipe; castanets; drum; pumpkins rattles. Each monoecious group is exogamous, with patrilineal descent; monogamous family: each house has its own head, and adult males form the council; we worship the sun and the moon; burial in pits.

Brazil Indigenous Civilizations

Petra, Jordan

Petra, Jordan

Petra, Jordan: The village, carved into the rock, was built as early as 9,000 BC. BC and is considered to be one of the oldest settlements in the Middle East.

The former rock city of Petra is located in the Edom region of Jordan, around 240 km south of today’s capital Amman and around 120 km north of the Gulf of Aqapa, which flows into the Red Sea. The town, carved into the rock, was built as early as 9,000 BC. BC and is considered to be one of the oldest settlements in the Middle East. In 1985 Petra was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Strategic center of the Middle East

In ancient times, Petra was the capital of the north-west Arab nomadic tribe Nabataeans and, along with the Syrian Bosra of the Arab trading metropolis of Hegra, was one of the most important places of this era. The venerable city was strategically located and connected, among other things, the caravan routes of Egypt and Syria as well as southern Arabia and the Mediterranean region.

Historical monuments with monumental dimensions

Located in the mountains of Edom, with around 800 historical monuments, it is one of the world’s most famous archaeological sights and is ideal for cultural and historical trips. The facades of the buildings were carved directly out of the rock and impress with their gigantic dimensions. Internationally known buildings in Petra include:

The treasure house: The “treasure house of the Pharaoh”, built in the Hellenistic style, impresses with a height of 40 meters and a width of 25 meters. In the movie “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” the building, carved out of solid rock, was used as the hiding place of the Holy Grail.

The Roman amphitheater: The theater was built in the 1st century AD and had 45 rows of seats for up to 10,000 visitors. The building was probably destroyed by an earthquake in AD 363 and was only rediscovered during excavations in 1961.

The rock temple ad-Deir: The rock temple outside of Petra was carved into a mountain wall in a high position and impresses, among other things, with the 9 meter high urn on the top of the round temple. In the Middle Ages, the temple complex was used as a monastery by monks.

The “new seventh wonder of the world”

With its unique monumental buildings, Petra is certainly one of the most spectacular destinations for study trips in the Arab world. The touristic development of the city in the rock began directly after the archaeological excavations in the 1920s. The first hotels were initially built in the immediate vicinity of the city, but these structural mistakes have now been remedied. At the end of the 20th century, a modern visitor center was built at an adequate distance from Petra. The area around the rock city was officially declared a protected national park. As part of an international survey by the Swiss NewOpenWorld Foundation, the cultural site even received the unofficial title of one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in 2007.

Petra, Jordan

Attractions in Ayers Rock (Uluru), Australia

Attractions in Ayers Rock (Uluru), Australia

Ayers Rock (Uluru), Australia

Australia undoubtedly has a myriad of sights and attractions to offer. One of the most important and famous landmarks on the fifth continent is Ayers Rock. The world-famous 350 meter high mountain, which extends over a total of three kilometers, is located in the center of the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park in the territory of “Central Australia”. The impressive rock made of reddish sandstone attracts millions of locals and tourists from all over the world every year. Especially among the Aborigines, “Ayers Rock”, which is said to be around 550 million years old, is considered a sacred mountain. The Australian aborigines call the mountain “Uluru”. Depending on the time of day and the different irradiation of the sun, “Ayers Rock” appears

Guided hikes with exciting information about “Ayers Rock”

Around the mountain there is a large network of well-developed hiking trails with different levels of difficulty and lengths. When climbing “Ayers Rock” on your own, however, you should also pay attention to a few things. Above all, it is important to only use the marked paths. These are secured with a handrail, among other things. In addition, photography and filming are not permitted in some areas. The Australian natives also do not want to take sand and stones from the Ayers Rock area with them. The longest route is the 10.6 kilometer “Uluru Base Walk”. The Kuniya Walk is only one kilometer long. Most of the hiking trails start at one of the various parking lots near Ayers Rock. There are large information boards at regular intervals at the edge of the hiking trails. Exciting tours of the legendary mountain are available daily at 10 a.m. Among other things, there is a lot of exciting information about the history of “Ayers Rock” and the changeful tradition of the Aborigines.

Arriving from Ayers Rock Connellan Airport

Numerous hotels, motels and lodges in different price categories have emerged throughout the region in recent decades. Admission for a three-day stay in Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park is 25 Australian dollars. You can get here by car or by plane. Ayers Rock Connellan Airport, which is about seven kilometers from the Ayers Rock Resort “Yulara”, is one of the most important starting points for an unforgettable excursion to “Ayers Rock”. The Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park is characterized by numerous rare native plants that have adapted to the weather conditions with great heat and rare rainfall. Among other things, desert oaks, buffalo grass and the mulga bush grow here.

Attractions in Ayers Rock (Uluru), Australia

Sightseeing in Chad

Sightseeing in Chad

The Central African Republic of Chad is one of the largest countries in Africa and a partly very extreme landscape. The north of the country is occupied by the largest dry desert on earth, the Sahara, with its hostile conditions. In addition, the volcanic Tibesti Mountains lie in the north and with the Emi Koussi and its 3,451 m, it is also the highest point in Chad. In the western and central part of the country, where the Sahel zone also runs, the Chad Basin and Lake Chad are located. The south then the region with tropical to subtropical dry forests, in which diversity in flora and fauna can be explored – especially in the Zakouma National Park. And in between: dry and thorn savannahs, gallery forests and the rivers and floodplains of Chari and Logone. The landscape of Chad finally becomes unique through a deep, reddish shining canyon, the huge, wind-carved rock arch Aloba or the palm-lined Ounianga lakes. Nature worth seeing but also in the form of multi-colored dunes and the Archei Gorge, where you will encounter rock carvings and thus traces of civilization and culture. Culture in Chad also includes semi-nomadic cattle breeders who live between the Sahel and the savannah and differ from one another through their individual way of life and, in particular, through their specific hairstyle. And if you go all the way to the southwest, directly on the border with Cameroon, you will find the capital N’Djamena there.

Ounianga Lakes

a miracle in the desert

They are wonders in the desert – the lakes of Ounianga in Chad in Africa. And they are the only phenomenon in this country that has received the title of World Heritage Site from UNESCO. These natural water resources extend over twenty square kilometers in the vast expanse of the Sahara. You donate life for the people and for the animals in an otherwise life-threatening region.

The Sahara was once a blooming landscape

The seascape of Ounianga are the last remnants from a time of more than ten thousand years when the Sahara was still a flourishing landscape. But then this area in the heart of Africa became increasingly drier due to climatic changes. The dust of the desert remained – with one exception – the lakes of Ounianga. While other watercourses became more and more saline due to permanent evaporation, the cool water remained usable for living beings here.

A permanent water temperature of 17 degrees

For a long time, scientists puzzled why the lakes of Ounianga alone were spared the process of salinization. The explanation was clear: The deeper areas in every lake keep supplying the surface with fresh water. This is the only way to understand that the temperature of the lake constantly fluctuates around 17 degrees even under the heat bell over the Sahara. Shifting dunes limit this wonder of the desert, and the steady wind provides additional cooling.

Healing powers from minerals and mud

The area around this part of Chad was populated very early on. This is indicated by finds that archaeologists cataloged there. And to this day the lakes of Ounianga are a preferred destination for people who grow fruit and vegetables on the banks and who claim to be successful ungulate breeders. The unusual ecosystem has been the target of interesting studies for a number of years. Scientists came to the conclusion that the mud of the lake landscape with its minerals and algae has been shown to have healing properties. It is said to have a healing dermatological effect.

Zakouma National Park

The Zakouma National Park is 3000 km² and is located in the southeast of Chad. Here you can experience the real nature of Africa and see a variety of animals such as giraffes, lions, elephants, leopards, rhinos, wildebeests, buffalo and many other rare species. Located south of the Sahara and above the fertile rainforest areas, Zakouma Park has become a safe haven for the wildlife of Central and West Africa. Previously, there was great damage due to poaching. From small planes, the poachers hunted the park’s elephants and reduced their population from 3,000 to just 1,000 in 2010.

African Parks took over management of the national park that same year, and effective law enforcement and community networks virtually eliminated poaching, with few elephants killed in the past six years. The elephant population is finally on the rise again, with over 500 animals registered in 2016, the first increase in over a decade.

Now that security has been restored, Zakouma is now a sought-after tourist destination. This also benefits the neighboring communities, whose livelihoods have improved considerably. Zakouma is an inspiring success story of today. For visitors to the park who want to see the rare species of birds and other impressive animals on safaris and take spectacular hikes through the beautiful terrain, it is a very worthwhile excursion destination.

Sightseeing in Chad

Amarante and Marvao, Portugal

Amarante and Marvao, Portugal



Amarante is a wonderful city in the north of Portugal. To the east, the huge mass of the Serra do Marão protrudes, while the Tâmega Valley is lined with high hills covered with a forest. The postcard picture in Amarante is the bridge of São Gonçalo on the Tâmega next to the Renaissance monastery of the same name. Amarante is a city that brought many important artists and writers to Portugal, especially at the beginning of the 20th century, and whose works are presented in the magnificent city museum. Nearby are Romanesque churches, picturesque mountain villages and cycling and hiking trails to immerse yourself in the picturesque landscape of the Tâmega Valley.


“Amar” is the Portuguese verb for love, which is very apt as the first part of the name of this attractive city. Amarante, a 4th century BC settlement BC, lies in the rich agricultural areas of the Minho region, the northern part of the country that is responsible for the grapes of Vinho Verde, the young, sparkling, “green” wine that is unique in Portugal. The river Tâmega flows through the city, which you cross over the striking arched bridge Ponte São Gonçalo. It is said that this bridge helped local heroes fend off a French attack in the early 19th century. Nowadays, neat cafes and restaurants make the most of their dreamy location on the river.

A famous son of Amarante was the artist Amadeo de Souza Cardoso, who created some of the internationally acclaimed Cubist paintings in his short life at the beginning of the 20th century. His work is on display at the local museum, although in his day he exhibited alongside artists such as Modigliani and much of his work is still in Paris, where he spent his most productive years.

A very cozy, typically Portuguese town, Amarante is the ideal destination for those looking for a relaxing holiday and the opportunity to discover the northern region of Portugal as it is very close to Braga, Porto and Vila Real. Even today, Amarante is known beyond its borders for its handicrafts. Knitwear, pottery and wickerwork are still traditionally operated. Vacationers shouldn’t miss out on trying the city’s sweets in the cafes and patisseries.


impressive fortress city

The small town of Marvão, surrounded by fortress walls, is located deep in the hinterland of Portugal, only a stone’s throw from the Spanish border and is nicknamed the Eagle’s Nest, which is hidden in the hills. The place is located on a large granite rock with a wonderful view over the wide plains of the Alentejo region and is one of the most beautiful areas in all of southern Europe. The 13th century fortress walls are almost completely intact and Marvão is accessed through a narrow medieval archway, near which is a strange-shaped Moorish-looking building known as the Jerusalem Chapel. Steep stone-paved streets meander past whitewashed, flower-decked houses, with the most beautiful wrought-iron balconies that can be seen in this part of Portugal.

Marvão was founded in the 9th century by Ibn-Marúan, a Muladi (Iberian who converted to Islam) who plays an important role in Al Mossassa, the Islamic festival held in Marvão every October. At the center of this lovely postcard village is the old castle, which seems to rise from the living rock on which it was built. Perched on a granite base, the walls are home to countless kestrels and offer breathtaking 360-degree views of one of the most strikingly picturesque parts of Portugal. The 865 meter climb to Marvão, the highest place in Portugal, starts near Portagem, which is itself a place with a long and exciting history. The four-arched Roman bridge marks the place where Jews who fled Spain at the time of the Inquisition,

The Portuguese village of Marvão today has fewer than a thousand inhabitants, but was of great importance in the Middle Ages and a vital defensive bastion during the frequent battles with neighboring Spain. But not only with Spain. During a checkered history, the Portuguese also fought against Moors and French here. The view from the keep is impressive; to the south are the Serra de São Mamede and the beautiful city of Estremoz, while in the north the mountains of the Serra da Estrela with Castelo de Vide in the northwest and finally Spain in the northeast. There is also a lot to discover in the area, after all, Marvao is part of a nature park of the same name.

Marvao Portugal

Sights in Liechtenstein

Sights in Liechtenstein

Take a group tour through Liechtenstein, a sovereign miniature state in the Alpine region. The close coexistence of lived village traditions and the intensive international exchange that characterizes Liechtenstein forms the basis for an extraordinarily diverse cultural life. Visit the numerous cities in Liechtenstein such as the capital Vaduz; the largest and highest situated community Triesenberg; Schellenberg or Eschen. Admire the most important sights such as Vaduz Castle, the art museum, the government building or the Noldi Beck ski museum in Vaduz; the Walser Heimatmuseum, the Malbun Peace Chapel or the town hall in Triesenberg; the parish church, the nunnery, the castle ruins and the Biedermannhaus in Schellenberg; the Holy Cross Chapel, the benefice house or the mill in Eschen. Enjoy Liechtenstein on a study trip and get to know its culture!

Castle Vaduz

The surrounding area

With only 160 km², Liechtenstein is only a very small area on the maps between Austria and Switzerland. Vaduz is on the right bank of the Rhine. To this day it is the capital and seat of government of the principality. Vaduz Castle is one of the most important sights in Liechtenstein, along with many interesting buildings and regions. It rests about 120 meters above the city.

The way to the castle

The imposing castle is best conquered on foot from the city of Vaduz.
The moderate ascent takes about three quarters of an hour at a leisurely pace.
The signposts in the village offer good orientation for the ascent. But the city’s residents are also happy to point you in the right direction. On the footpath to the castle, visitors learn a lot about the history of the complex and can enjoy a unique natural landscape. But you can also easily get to the car park above the castle by car.

Once at the top

Once at the top, you will be rewarded with a wonderful view of the picturesque Rhine Valley, the city of Vaduz and the mountains of neighboring Switzerland.
The oldest parts of the castle complex probably date from the twelfth century. However, some historians suspect that the first settlements go back to the time of the Romans. It was first mentioned in a document in 1322. At the beginning of the 20th century, the castle was saved from final ruin and fundamentally renovated. It has been the permanent residence of the Prince of Liechtenstein since 1939. Vaduz is the capital of the Principality, which with just under 37,000 inhabitants is the sixth smallest state in the world.

Liechtenstein Art Museum

The Liechtenstein Art Museum is a state museum for modern and contemporary art. It is located in Liechtenstein’s capital, Vaduz.

The Liechtenstein Art Museum – an ideal destination for a study trip

The Liechtenstein Art Museum is one of the largest and most interesting sights in Liechtenstein’s main municipality, Vaduz. It is an ideal destination for a visit, especially as part of a study trip. It enables its guests to travel through 130 years of art history.

The creation of the Liechtenstein Art Museum

Together with the government of Liechtenstein and the municipality of Vaduz, several private donors built a Liechtenstein art museum in the 1990s. In November 2000 the inauguration of the modern building, which was conceived by the Swiss architects Morger, Degelo and Kerez, took place. The important collection contained there also represents the state art collection.
From the outside, the museum as a black cube made of cast basalt stone cannot be overlooked and in turn is a work of art. Visiting it means an unforgettable art experience on a trip to Vaduz.

The sights of the museum

The collection of the Kunstmuseum Liechtenstein includes international contemporary and modern works of art that range from the 19th century to the present day. The profile of the museum is determined by sculptures, installations and objects. One of the focal points of the exhibitions is the works of art from Arte Povera. The estate of the Swiss painter and draftsman Andre Thomkins (1930-1985) is also managed in the building.
In 2015 the Kunstmuseum Liechtenstein was expanded to include a new exhibition building from the Hilti Art Foundation. The works of art range from classical modernism to current contemporary art trends.


The Kunstmuseum Liechtenstein presents changing solo exhibitions by Andy Warhol, Gottfried Honegger, Paul Klee, Otto Freundlich, Georg Malin, Joseph Beuys and Bill Bollinger, among others. The group exhibitions include, for example, “The Ricke Collection”, “Lust for Life” or “Knockin ‘on Heavens Door”. In addition, special exhibitions with works from the collection of the Prince of Liechtenstein are presented at regular intervals.

Sights in Liechtenstein

Egypt: on the Edge of the Precipice?

Egypt: on the Edge of the Precipice?

Two years after the “Arab Spring”, it may look as if Egypt is now back at the start. The military is left in power, protesters are shot in greater numbers than under the old regime, and opposition figures are imprisoned.

  • Who are the actors in the Egyptian power struggle?
  • What do the actors stand for?
  • What really happened?
  • Has the revolution in Egypt suffered defeat?

2: The actors

The revolutionaries who in 2011 stood shoulder to shoulder behind the demand that the old government must leave, were actually an alliance of quite different political forces . They all claim the “legacy of the revolution” even though they are now on either side of a bitter conflict .

The clearest distinction is between Islamists who want religion to have a greater place in politics and society, and the “liberals” who do not.

ISLAMISTS. Between the Islamists we must distinguish between two directions:

  • The Muslim Brotherhood, which has banned us for almost all of its eighty years. It has a strong and disciplined, nationwide organization, clearly the best organized movement in the country with perhaps one million members. Since the 1970s, the Brotherhood has invested in peaceful parliamentary work and gained support through the pursuit of social welfare.
  • The more conservative Salafists (see facts), who until 2011 turned their backs on political work and only focused on the mission of “right practice” between the threatening. After the revolution, they changed their minds and threw themselves into politics with several different parties.

LIBERAL. Those we call liberals, or “non-Islamists”, are at least as composed. They include Socialists and Social Democrats, Nasserists (cf. former President Nasser), traditional liberals and others who held office in the old Mubarak regime but resigned in time. In this group we also find some Islamic groups that have broken with the Brotherhood and people from the Coptic Christian minority. Some of these liberals call themselves ” secular “, most do not want to go that far.

3: First step towards democracy

When President Mubarak was pressured to resign on February 11, 2011, it was after massive protests that liberals, youth and the Brotherhood stood together . The direct reason for his departure, however, was that the military leaders pushed him out. The old government was at its core military with a civilian cover , it had our own elections and several opposition parties, but only Mubarak could win the election. The military thus sat with power behind the scenes. After the fall of Mubarak, they stepped forward and took over as a ” Higher Military Council”.

The important thing for the military was to secure their great economic interests , and neither the Islamists nor the liberals have dared to challenge these privileges. The Military Council therefore opened up for a democratic process in which all political forces, including the Islamists, participated. Parliamentary elections were held in January 2012. The fraternity’s new ” Freedom and Justice Party ” was, as expected, the largest with 35 percent of the vote.

But the rest came as a shock: The liberal and left-wing parties were almost wiped out with only 20 percent combined. The big winners were those who a few months before had said that politics was somewhat unclean: the Salafists. They received 25 per cent and thus together with the Brotherhood formed a large majority in the new national assembly.

This assembly, however, had a short life. She had barely come together and had a commission appointed to draft a new constitution which would then lay the groundwork for new elections. Then the Constitutional Court intervened. It declared the parliamentary election invalid and dissolved the National Assembly, based on a disagreement over a minor point in the old election law.

4: The Brotherhood in Power?

Then the far more important presidential election was all underway. Here, too, limits were set for who was allowed to line up. The top three candidates were expelled for formal reasons, including the only known Salafist candidate, Abu Ismail, but also the Brotherhood’s Khayrat al-Shatir, the military’s Omar Sulayman and several others.

The fraternity had nevertheless nominated a “reserve candidate”, the parliamentarian Muhammad Mursi. He received the most votes in the first round, while the non-religious were divided between five or six candidates. Samla achieved almost half of the votes, but none of them more than Mursi (25 percent) and the military-friendly Ahmad Shafiq (23 percent). These two therefore went on to the second round in June 2012, where Mursi won by around 52 percent.

Thus the Brotherhood, which the year before had said that they would seek a majority in parliament or the presidency, had won both and stood at its highest. But then things went awry, before Mursi was removed by force one year later. What went wrong, and why?

The most important problem was the economy . Egypt had been mismanaged under Mubarak, dominated by a corrupt class of leading military and rich people. Unemployment was sky high and there was often a shortage of ordinary consumer goods. The uprising in 2011 was therefore both a political
and a social uprising, and most people saw it as the same thing: When only the corrupt clique of Mubarak was gone, everything would be fixed quickly – people would get jobs and poverty would disappear. The hope was clearly completely unrealistic, and the unrest surrounding the riots and skepticism among investors made the economy stop even more.

The new president was blamed for it, partly unfairly, but he did little concrete to correct the financial disability. Egypt negotiated with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for loans, but the IMF demanded structural reforms that would lead to social unrest, such as removing subsidies on consumer goods such as bread and petrol. The Military Council had already stopped the negotiations, and Mursi did not raise them either. The Gulf countries (Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Oman, and Qatar) came in with large amounts of support, but most people still felt that daily life had gotten worse , not better.

5: Political chaos

Most notable , however, was the political chaos. The fraternity rejoiced that after eighty years they had come to power, while the liberals feared being overshadowed by the powerful partner. The co-operation cut itself, at the same time as the Salafists played their cards far better and came close to the Brotherhood’s policy.

Instead of a broad gathering across the center between the Brotherhood and the Liberals, we therefore got more and more a dichotomy – a polarization . There the Brotherhood and the Salafists stand on one side, while the liberals came into barren and increasingly bitter opposition to the government. This became clear in the work on the new constitution. The fraternity believed that the constitution must be characterized by the view the people had given a majority in the election, while the liberals believed that the constitution must give equal weight to all without regard to a single election result. The Salafists pressed on, and although the Brotherhood held back against their most radical proposals, it became too much for the liberals who withdrew from the constitutional work.

The proposal in the end was probably mostly a revision of the existing law from 1971, but the Salafists in particular presented it as “Egypt has now got a sharia constitution”. The Liberals repeated this in their attacks, even though it was only a couple of ambiguous sentences that had actually been changed about sharia in the new law.

This lack of political cooperation with the liberal forces was clearly the Brotherhood’s biggest mistake . They overlooked that Egypt was still in a transitional phase, so far without a constitution, without a functioning parliament, and with unfinished institutions. In 2011, they understood that, and emphasized cross-political cooperation, but the following year it was forgotten. They offered the opposition a place in the government, but only in smaller posts while they themselves were to have all the important ministries, something that was rejected. They replaced several of Mubarak’s people in the administration, but put in either technocrats or their own people, never anyone from the opposition. Thus, they created the impression of wanting to monopolize power for themselves – of wanting to “brotherhood” the state.

6: The deep state

According to WEDDINGINFASHION, Mursi also came into sharper conflict with several in the state apparatus , which was largely unchanged from Mubarak’s time and continued as before. The fraternity called this the “deep state” and accused them of actively wanting to sabotage the revolution. It was striking that the police, who were heavily scandalized after the Mubarak regime, disappeared completely from the streets, and this led to a sharp increase in crime and social unrest. With that, the police helped to undermine the Mursi board.

Sharpest, however, was the conflict with the courts , which sought to play a political role both by dissolving parliament and making several attempts to limit the president’s power through various orders. It was in that context that Mursi made his most fateful move two weeks before the new constitution was to go to a referendum: He declared that his decision was before the courts and could not be set aside by them until the new constitution had entered into force two weeks later. It was thus only meant as a time-limited power of attorney that was to prevent the court from stopping the referendum and thus the constitution. Precisely this one decision nevertheless appeared “to all” as the very proof that Mursi had now vomited himself into a dictator and set democracy aside. He quickly withdrew the statement, but the damage had already been done.

In the early summer of 2013 , the tone sharpened. The new alliance of the Brotherhood and Salafists came with several legislative proposals that the liberals perceived as attempts to Islamize society. At the same time, the tone was sharpened against the religious minorities. The Christians and the few Shiites in Egypt were subjected to various attacks. The Liberals resisted, and a youth movement , Tamarrud, demanded that Mursi resign. According to them, over thirty million signed this, and on June 30 , the anniversary of the change of power , massive demonstrations were held.

Again, there will be tens of millions in the streets – the number could not be confirmed, but there were undoubtedly large crowds. Mursi refused, but quite surprisingly the army intervened three days later, deposed Mursi and appointed a transitional government . The fraternity, on the other hand, gathered for large and long-lasting demonstrations for Mursi to be reinstated. Many hundreds were killed in the clashes with the military and police that followed in the weeks that followed.

7: Was it a coup?

It is of great concern whether it is right to call the deposition of Mursi a “coup “. Those who support the change of power think this is incorrect wording. They mean the military only “followed the will of the people” expressed through the great protests. Opponents point out that the military had seized power from a legitimate president.

Both are probably partly right, in common parlance there are coups when the military takes power, whether it is from a popular election or a dictatorial president. But it is also true that the protests against the old government were genuine and extensive, so that it was a combination of a military initiative and a popular uprising.

The “people” in Egypt are undoubtedly not in agreement, both the Brotherhood and the military have great support across the country. The liberals are divided, with many there is now a hateful mood against the Brotherhood which “stole their revolution” with demands that they must be banned. Others, probably in the minority, are concerned about the violence and that the military seems to be gaining a foothold in a government with the same means as under Mubarak. The Salafists were divided in their views on the coup, but agreed with the criticism of the use of force.

Future developments are therefore uncertain. Egypt is strongly polarized between the “Brotherhood” and the “army”. A democratic process in which both are involved is now difficult to imagine. The unrest will continue and, in the worst case, provide fertile ground for Islamic guerrilla groups such as the 1990s. Probably the leadership in the Brotherhood will not see themselves lit up with it. In such a battle, they will lose what has been gained in the last forty to fifty years, but they may be overwhelmed by more radical currents.

The question is whether the Egyptians are willing to return to a military government with a new strong man. The new head of state, army leader al-Sisi , in contrast to Mubarak, is considered uncorrupt and is still popular in broad circles. But he will probably not be able to solve the economic and social problems that people judge the board by either. And in the last two years, the Egyptians have learned that it is possible to go out into the streets and demand that those who do not deliver must leave. The liberals must choose whether and for how long they want to hook their chariot to the military, and the Salafists must find out whether they are most excited about going to the barricades with the Brotherhood, or trying to inherit their religious voting base. There is a danger that it may take years before this solution is found.

Egypt - on the Edge of the Precipice

Berlin, Germany Politics and Culture

Berlin, Germany Politics and Culture


In order for Berlin to become the capital of Germany again by law, a vote had to be held in the Bundestag in June 1991, where it was decided to transfer the institutions from Bonn to Berlin. The transfer of the Federal Government and the Chancellery took place in 1999.

Following German reunification, several enthusiasts have launched the project to officially return the name of Prussia to the region made up of the states of Berlin and Brandenburg. In a referendum in 1996, the majority of the residents of Brandenburg and East Berlin spoke out against the merger of the two states, while those of West Berlin spoke in favor. Despite the setback, the merger initiative continued.

Since the 1990s, according to Allcitycodes, Berlin has been undergoing a serious economic and financial crisis, due, on the one hand, to the consequences of reunification (which, among other things, doubled the number of civil servants that the City Council had to pay), and for another, to the bankruptcy of a state banking company in 2001.

This latest scandal led to a change in the regional government and the replacement of the conservative Eberhard Diepgen by the Social Democrat Klaus Wowereit, who was the first leader of his party to agree to a government in coalition with the Left Party (since 2007 renamed Die Linke), heir to the Socialist Unity Party of Germany in the GDR.


Museums and art galleries

The Bode Museum at the northern tip of Museum Island. Berlin is home to 365 museums. The ensemble on the Museum Island is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is situated in the northern part of the Spree Island between the Spree and the Kupfergraben.

Already in 1841 it was named “district dedicated to art and antiquities” by a royal decree. Consequently, the Altes Museum (Old Museum) in the Lustgarten, the Neues Museum (New Museum) showing the bust of Queen Nefertiti, the Alte Nationalgalerie (Old National Gallery), the Pergamon Museum and the Bode Museum were erected there. The names of the buildings did not necessarily correspond to the content of the collections they exhibited.

In the Museumszentrum Berlin-Dahlem (Dahlem district), there are several museums of world art and culture, such as the Museum of Indian Art, the Museum of East Asian Art, the Ethnological Museum, the Museum of European Cultures, as well as the Museum of the Allies (a museum about the Cold War), the Brücke Museum (an art museum).

Other museums

  • Bauhaus-Archive: is an architecture museum of the integrated design school founded by Walter Gropius.
  • German Museum of Technology (Deutsches Technikmuseum Berlin) in Kreuzberg: has a wide collection of historical technical artifacts.
  • Egyptian Museum in Berlin: Across the street from Charlottenburg Palace, it houses one of the world’s most important collections of objects from Ancient Egypt, including the famous bust of Queen Nefertiti.
  • Beate Uhse Erotic Museum near the zoo: it claims to be the largest erotic museum in the world.
  • Humboldt Museum of Natural History near Berlin Hauptbahnhof: It has the world’s largest assembled dinosaur skeleton and the best existing specimen of an Archeopteryx.
  • Jewish Museum of Berlin: it has a permanent exhibition of two thousand years of German-Jewish history.
  • Stasi Museum, in Lichtenberg, on the grounds of the former East German Ministry for State Security (Stasi).
  • Story of Berlin Museum: combines new audiovisual technologies with the history of the city. In it you can also visit one of the 23 underground bunkers that remain in the city.
  • Filmmuseum, museum of German

Main events

  • Berlin International Film Festival: Every year in February, the Berlinale festival evokes the magic of the film world between the towers and glass palaces of Potsdamer Platz. An international jury chooses the winners of the Golden and SilverBears.
  • Love Parade: Every summer the biggest parade of techno music lovers that goes through the Tiergarten park in the city center. More than a million people come together every year in the midst of floats and colorful clothing. This festival was held again in 2006 after being suspended for two seasons.
  • Berlin International Literature Festival: Draws large audiences annually to ecumenical trends in contemporary prose and lyric. In the first fortnight of September, a hundred authors meet in the German capital who not only share their texts with the audience, but also express their opinions and vicissitudes on current political or cultural issues of the countries of origin in which symposia organized for this purpose.


The city has three airports:

  • Schönefeld (airport that began operating in the 1930s and after the division of Germany had remained in the territory of the GDR), Tegel and Tempelhof (closed on October 31, 2008), although between all of them they register less traffic than the Frankfurt am Main and Munich
  • The Berlin Metro (in German Berliner U-Bahn) is one of the most functional and practical in Europe. Together with the suburban train (S-Bahn) it forms a dense urban transport network that facilitates travel around the German capital. The metro is managed by the Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe (BVG) to which buses and trams also belong, the S-Bahn by the Deutsche Bahn (DB).
  • Berlin Central Station (in German Hauptbahnhof) is a 900 million euro project started in 1992, which began to be built in 1995 and was inaugurated in May 2006, just in time for the celebration of the Soccer World Cup in Germany.

Twinned cities

Berlin has established a brotherhood since 1967 with nineteen cities:

  • Los Angeles, United States (1967)
  • Paris, France (1987)
  • Madrid, Spain (1988)
  • Istanbul, Turkey (1989)
  • Moscow, Russia (1990)
  • Warsaw, Poland (1991)
  • Budapest, Hungary (1991)
  • Brussels, Belgium (1992)
  • Jakarta, Indonesia (1993)
  • Tashkent, Uzbekistan (1993)
  • Mexico City, Mexico (1993)
  • Beijing, China (1994)
  • Tokyo, Japan (1994)
  • Buenos Aires, Argentina (1994)
  • Prague, Czech Republic (1995)
  • Windhoek, Namibia (2000)
  • London, UK (2000)
  • Seville, Spain (2008)

Berlin, Germany Politics

Why are Norwegian Soldiers in Iraq?

Why are Norwegian Soldiers in Iraq?

In April 2015, the Norwegian government sent 120 soldiers to Iraq . There, they were to “help train Iraqi security forces.” Some of the soldiers were stationed in the Kurdish provincial capital of Erbil under the security forces of the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq (KRG). Other Norwegian soldiers were stationed in the capital Baghdad.

  • What are the main rules of international law for military operations on foreign soil?
  • What is the basis for the Norwegian military presence in Iraq from 2015?
  • How does this presence stand against the rules of international law for the use of military force?
  • What international law challenges does the presence face?

The Norwegian military will support the Iraqi central and regional authorities in recapturing territory from Islamic State (IS), which in 2015 controlled approx. 1/3 of Iraq. Norwegian participation is part of a loosely led American coalition with the goal of “crushing” IS.

The Norwegian presence in Iraq represents a break with the tradition of Norwegian military operations abroad after the year 2000. The presence also raises at least three challenges : uncertainty about what the mission is, insufficient legal certainty for the soldiers, and questions about whether the soldiers can perform their tasks so efficiently as provided.

2: International law: barriers to the use of military force in other countries

A central international agreement – the UN Charter ‘s Article 2 (4), non-interference court as a “cornerstone of the UN Charter” – and international legal custom prohibits the use of military force in interstate relations (power ban). Threats of such use of force are also prohibited.

Military use of force in the territory of another state violates the principle that every state is sovereign in its own territory. The prohibition on force also applies to the use of force against non-state actors in the territory of another state. However, the ban on power has two exceptions that can make military use of force in other countries legal: Chap. VII mandate and self-defense . In addition, another state may be invited by the government of a country to operate militarily in that country. Every sovereign government is free to do so.

3: Chapter VII mandate

One exception to the ban on power is military operations adopted by the UN Security Council . The Security Council may authorize (grant the right to) the use of military force under Chapter VII of the UN Charter if there is a threat to peace, a breach of peace or an act of aggression (Article 39 of the Covenant).

In addition, a resolution may clarify the legality of an ongoing military operation to which it has been invited. In 2015, the president of Yemen lost control of the capital and state-owned institutions. He then invited a group of states led by Saudi Arabia to help put down the rebels. Eventually, the Security Council confirmed that the President had the competence – stood strong enough – for such an invitation. Resolutions that confirm the legality of ongoing use of force do not change the basis of international law. The operation in Yemen is based on an invitation and not on a mandate from the Security Council.

A related clarification of legality can be found in the Security Council’s call from November 2015 for permission to use “all necessary measures” against groups in IS-controlled areas in Syria and Iraq to prevent terrorism.

The Chapter VII mandate nevertheless sets clear barriers to the use of force under international law . The operations must be carried out within the framework of the mandate. A Chapter VII mandate authorizes the use of all necessary means to achieve the purpose, but no more.

The use of force must also be proportional to the purpose of the use of force. Military operations for purposes that are outside the mandate or that are disproportionate to the purpose of the use of force, represent a violation of the prohibition of force . In Libya in 2011, removing Gaddafi’s regime (regime change) was not part of the mandate.

A state may not invoke the right to self-defense against military operations based on a mandate from the Security Council. The legality of the operations in Syria has been repeatedly disputed by the Assad regime . When Resolution 2249 confirms the legality of these, Assad can not claim that the operations are acts of aggression that trigger Syrian right to self-defense. The Security Council has stated that self-defense against IS (and certain other non-governmental groups) in Syria (but also in Iraq) is not contrary to international law.

4: The right to self-defense

The second exception to the ban on power is access to military operations for national self-defense (Article 51 of the UN Charter). A country thus has the right – individually / alone or collectively / together with other states – to defend itself against attacks contrary to international law. Other states can then assist in self-defense. The right to self-defense is triggered by an “armed attack”. Most states and international law lawyers have interpreted this exception strictly. In the case of collective self-defense, a country that has individual self-defense rights asks for help from other states.

Self-defense outside its own territory will not order the other UN countries to cooperate with other states, such as a Chapter VII mandate. Other states can then take a stand for or against the use of force or invoke neutrality. If the right to self-defense is confirmed by the Security Council, they must still comply.

Also in self-defense, military operations must be necessary (for defense) and proportionate . That is, the operations’ damage (scaling) must be in proportion to the purpose of the attack. When Israel attacked Lebanon after Hezbollah’s attacks on Israeli territory and a subsequent ambush in Lebanon in 2006, the operation was in line with Israel’s self-defense law. The purpose was to prevent similar future attacks. But the extent of Israel’s response was criticized by many, such as France, Russia, the EU and the United States, for being disproportionate to this purpose – and therefore contrary to international law.

The self-defense rules in Article 51 do not apply to a state power that exercises authority in its own territory, e.g. maintains or restores peace and order. Iraqi authorities can not invoke self-defense against Iraqi IS in Iraq. Here, it is the state’s right to exercise authority that is the hook under international law. International law does not give a state power the “right” to wage war against its own people when warfare is based on arguments about self-defense. This type of self-defense right also does not apply in occupied territory. Rules and barriers to what an occupying power can afford in the use of force differ both from self-defense against external enemies and from the rules on the exercise of power in one’s own country.

The situation in and around Syria and the lack of a Chapter VII mandate (cf. the use of the right of veto) has led to a number of allegations of self-defense for other states’ military use of force on Syrian soil: US airstrikes on Syrian territory began on 22 September 2014. The United States has stated several various self-defense bases for its operations on Syrian soil: Self-defense against IS, collective self-defense to safeguard the self-defense rights of Syria’s neighbors, self-defense against a non-governmental group and defense of US allied groups (insurgents) on the ground in Syria.

The right to self-defense is the most obscure of the legal bases for the use of force. The core consists of a basic right to self-maintenance. However, the vast majority of military operations can be presented as a version of self-defense. Therefore, international law has always sought a narrow framework for this exception to the prohibition of power. However, the right to self-defense seems to have been interpreted somewhat more broadly since 2001. The situation in Syria and Iraq also seems to push the states’ practice of self-defense even a notch further.

5: Invitation to military assistance

A third legal basis for the use of military force on foreign soil consists of an invitation or consent from state authorities in another country. These authorities then invite one or more other states to assist them in maintaining or restoring order internally, in practice to retain state power, defend the territory or to prevent the territory from being exploited by non-state actors for violence that may threaten national or international Safety.
This legal basis is no exception to the prohibition of power in the UN Charter. Such military operations have a background in the sovereignty of the inviting government . Thus, they do not violate the ban on power.

Government authorities may invite other states or non-governmental organizations to assist them in the use of force in their own territory. The Assad regime, which is thus the ruling power in Syria, can invite other states such as Iran and non-state actors such as Lebanese Hezbollah to assist the Syrian authorities with the use of force on Syrian territory. Russian soldiers in Syria have also been invited by the Assad regime.

However, if the use of force by invitation extends beyond the inviting state and into the territory of another sovereign state, the prohibition on force requires a decision by the Security Council. Iraqi forces or other states’ armed forces at the invitation of Iraq can not simply use military force against IS on the Syrian side of the border. It requires a different basis of international law.

Security Council Resolution 2249 provides a kind of “cloak of international law legality” for various types of military operations in Syria and Iraq.

An invitation must be clearly expressed . It cannot be assumed that the state would have consented “if it had been asked”. Other states may also question how real a consent is. In addition, the invitation must come from authorities that (still) are strong enough to be able to invite, e.g. still has central state-supporting institutions.

The Security Council can confirm whether the government in a country has the capacity to invite , as in Yemen, or it can cut off such a right. When the Security Council recognized the opposition in Libya as “the legitimate representative of the Libyan people” in 2011, Libyan authorities could no longer invite others to help them.

If the use of force by an invited state (the sending state) should affect the consent, the use of force is contrary to international law. If it can be characterized as an armed attack, it even triggers the consent state’s right to self-defense against the sending state (Article 51).

The purpose of the invitation will depend on what an inviting government wants, or the agreement between it and the sending state. Such agreements normally take the form of agreements on the legal status of forces (SOFA). They clarify the purpose of the military contribution, and they give military personnel criminal immunity for their presence and for actions that fall within the scope of the mission. It provides visibility and clarity (notoriety) to the outside world. And it provides security for the soldiers and predictability within.

6: Rules for the actual use of force

Even if the legal basis for an operation is in order, violations of international law can still occur as a result of the way the operations are carried out. The use of force must take place within the framework of the legal basis. Also: Is a military operation in accordance with the rules of international law for warfare – including the protection of war victims and the ban on using rules that prohibit certain types of weapons?

There are four different sets of rules in international law that set general barriers for different types of military operations, rules for:

  • intergovernmental conflict
  • occupation,
  • non-intergovernmental conflict,
  • for military operations in situations below the threshold of armed conflict

The first situation is governed primarily by humanitarian law (the Geneva Conventions and the Hague Conventions), the latter by human rights . Occupation and non-international conflicts are extensively regulated by both humanitarian law and human rights, but in different ways.

On a couple of important points, these sets of rules differ from each other, and impose different rights and obligations . Thus, the use of force that is legal under one set of rules may be a violation of international law under another. The use of expanding bullets or tear gas is, for example, permitted by law enforcement internally in a country, but if these means are used in combat, it will be classified as war crimes. Persons who have committed war crimes must either be prosecuted by their own authorities or extradited to states or courts abroad with the right to prosecute them. Furthermore, the demarcation between military targets and civilians is clearer under the first two sets of rules than in non-international conflicts / civil wars.

7: By invitation – Norway is in Iraq

In the summer of 2014 , IS conquered important strategic areas in northwestern Iraq. They declared an Islamic caliphate and committed massive war crimes against Iraqi soldiers and religious minorities, including the so-called Camp Speicher massacre . More than 1,500 Iraqi Shiite cadets and soldiers were executed by IS during one afternoon. Abuses against the Kurdish Yezidi minority received a lot of attention in the late summer of 2014, with acts that according to several may be genocide .

In the autumn of 2014, the Norwegian authorities decided to send military forces to military advice and training in Iraq. Norway is now contributing militarily to fighting IS. The mission will “help to better enable the Iraqi forces to meet the ISIL threat”. Norwegian personnel will not participate in military operations, but will be part of the military support apparatus for Iraqi security forces.

There is not any Chapter VII mandate from the Security Council which are entitled to Norwegian military presence in Iraq. After IS conquered parts of four Iraqi provinces and declared an Islamic State on Iraqi and Syrian territory in June 2014, the Security Council in August 2014 ruled that IS was a threat to Syria, Iraq, the Middle East and to international peace and security. But the Security Council has not adopted the right to use force under Chapter VII in extension of this, even though the Security Council has unanimously condemned IS ‘conduct.

On 24 September 2014, the Security Council decided in Chapter VII to order states to fight foreign fighters (Res. 2178). But it did not give the green light for the use of force against IS. The loosely organized US operation is mainly based on arguments about self-defense (see above) in the face of a serious threat to international security. The Security Council has established that IS is. Thus, it has clarified that states can invoke self-defense law even if IS is a non-state actor.

However, Norway has not stated self-defense for our presence in Iraq. Collective self-defense is derived from the right of self-defense to countries that are under attack and asking for help. Norway is helping Iraq (primarily) against Iraqis in Iraq. Norway can not claim to help Iraq to self-defense in Iraq as international law does not contain any self-defense rule for the exercise of power in its own territory. The Iraqi authorities, on the other hand, can state self-defense for operations on the Syrian side of the border, where Norway may assist based on collective self-defense, but then on behalf of Baghdad. The Norwegian authorities can thus justify their presence in Iraq by saying that they are there to help the regime retain state power. Operations in Syria will have the same justification.

With Resolution 2249 behind it , outside states can conduct military operations in Syrian and Iraqi territory. It clarifies that means of force can be used to prevent terrorist attacks by IS (and certain other groups) from the area that IS controls in Syria and Iraq. The resolution is not a UN mandate to operate militarily on Syrian or Iraqi territory without coordinating with the governments of Baghdad and Damascus. Iraqi authorities remain in the driver’s seat of operations in Iraq.

The UN Security Council confirmed the invitation and thus also the Iraqi authorities’ competence to invite. Iraq could need such confirmation as the situation was in Iraq in the summer of 2014. At that time, the Iraqi security apparatus went up in limbo in northern Iraq in the face of an advancing IS. In addition, Kurdish forces from Erbil occupied many controversial and strategically important places. When the invitation came, Baghdad practically controlled less than 40% of the land. The Security Council acknowledged that their numbers were not enough to defeat Iraqi government.

Iraqi authorities may impose conditions on the use of force on those invited, or withdraw their consent at any time. As early as October 2014, the Iraqi authorities stated that the letter to the Security Council in September had restrictions. “We asked for help, but it was about air force.” Among other things, Baghdad announced that neighboring Arab countries (read: Sunni Muslims) were not wanted on the ground in Iraq.

In August 2015, Iraqi authorities asked the Security Council to allow Turkish troops to leave Iraq, a demand Iraq repeatedly made in the fall of 2015. Iraqis do not consider ground forces from countries in the region to be covered by the Security Council’s request.

Outside this requirement is neighboring Iran, which has a separate defense agreement with Iraq. It gives Iranian soldiers the right to operate on Iraqi soil. Iran has also carried out airstrikes against IS in Iraq since December 2014, independent of the international coalition. The close military cooperation between Iraq and Iran means that Iran has a different and broader mandate for its presence in Iraq.

It is thus not obvious that the Norwegian military in Iraq is covered by the invitation Iraq handed over to the UN Security Council in September 2014. According to the Iraqi authorities, the request only includes air force . But it is not air force Norwegian soldiers in Iraq are engaged in. The legal basis for the Norwegian military presence in Baghdad is an invitation , in Norway’s view. What this invitation entails is very unclear . Norwegian soldiers have been invited to Iraq to take part in an air offensive against IS, an air offensive in which they are not participating.

8: Counters at the legal basis

As with the Norwegian operation in Iraq in 2003–2005, no special Norwegian restrictions were placed on military participation in 2014 – except that «Norwegian forces will not participate in direct combat operations».

However, there is a big difference between Norway’s Iraq operations in 2003–2005 and in 2015. In 2003–2005, there was a clearer organization and a much clearer legal basis (see below). When the international law basis for military presence in a foreign country is weak, unclear or controversial, it becomes all the more important with clear agreements that regulate the nature of the mission and the situation of the soldiers.

Invitation as a legal basis is usually regulated in more detail by a defense agreement. The United States has a political agreement, and Iran has a defense agreement with Iraq. Norway does not have that.

GENERAL RULES: If the legal basis and the nature of the assignment is somewhat unclear, the general rules of international law apply. Since the summer of 2013, the Iraqi authorities have been involved in a civil war-like situation against Sunni Muslim areas, ie the same areas where IS eventually took control.

The term “non-international conflict” is not limited to armed conflicts that take place only in the territory of one country. The fight against IS extends over two countries, and involves more than 60 nations on one side and a non-state actor on the other.

Iraq is today neither in a situation of occupation nor in an international armed conflict. Here, the rules of a country’s sovereign law enforcement and internal armed conflicts apply.

This means that the rules of humanitarian law for non-international armed conflicts apply to Norwegian soldiers to the extent that they have a military function linked to one of the parties to the conflict.

9: Norway in Iraq: Three challenges

Since the turn of the millennium, Norwegian soldiers have been involved in several military operations on foreign soil. Many of them have not been UN operations in the sense of peacekeeping operations (after the ceasefire agreement has been reached) under the UN mandate – Afghanistan (2001–2016), Iraq (2003–2005) and Libya (2011). All three operations were launched following a mandate from the Security Council.

After the year 2000, Norway has had clear legal bases for its military foreign operations. But Norway’s military contribution to Iraq from 2015 represents something new . The backing of international law for Norway does not seem controversial, since the Iraqi authorities do not consider Norwegian soldiers to be enemy soldiers, as they do with certain other coalition countries. Nevertheless, the invitation appears to be deficient . It does not provide clarity (notoriety) about the purpose of the contribution or framework around the activities of Norwegian soldiers in Iraq in 2015.

By invitation to assistance, we lend military capabilities to another state. A recipient state will normally have other motives and interests than ours. And it will probably be involved in power struggles and conflicts that are beyond the control of Norway, but where we can still be drawn in. Consequently, it is important to have a clear framework for such lending. The somewhat vague basis of international law for Norway’s military contribution to Iraq therefore represents challenges on three levels:

1 Around notoriety – it is difficult to prove purpose, document or control who has done what and when. There is neither a UN mandate nor a self-defense authority for the contribution. No defense agreement or SOFA (agreements on forces’ legal status status of forces agreements, SOFA) has been negotiated that can clarify the purpose of the mission.

Why has Norway sent troops to Iraq? At home, it can be important to clarify what Norwegian soldiers do on land far away, including with atypical, perhaps dubious, partners. To other countries, it may be appropriate to clarify why troops have been sent to Baghdad to help a coalition that works closely with the military in Tehran, Damascus and Russia. Also: Can soldiers we train in Baghdad want to use their new military skills to fight soldiers we train in Erbil?

2 Norwegian soldiers’ legal security . Norwegian soldiers in Iraq are so-called administrative employees at a diplomatic post (embassy) Norway does not have. The agreement between Norway and Iraq is not very specific. Diplomatic immunity does not include the right to engage in military activity practiced by soldiers. The legal protection of Norwegian soldiers in Iraq does not match the tasks they have or the conflict landscape in which they operate.

3 Efficiency of the operation . How effectively can Norwegian soldiers carry out their mission when assisting security forces that have reportedly been involved in many and serious violations of international law? How effectively can they operate in one of the world’s most corrupt countries, which is also struggling with major disciplinary challenges in the security apparatus?

According to THEMAKEUPEXPLORER, a small country like Norway will always have a strategic interest in respecting international law. Then it is important that the use of military force in foreign operations appears – at home and abroad – as predictable, predictable and even principled.

Why are Norwegian soldiers in Iraq

Lebanon and Syria: Fear of Spillover Effect

Lebanon and Syria: Fear of Spillover Effect

When unrest or armed conflict breaks out in a country, there is always a danger of spreading, or spillover effect, to neighboring countries. The danger becomes extra great where the ties between the countries are many, when one state is weak and there is political disagreement about how to deal with the conflict in the neighboring country. In Lebanon, the consequences of the uprising in Syria are already noticeable in several areas. Many fear that the country will once again be drawn into an armed conflict.

  • How does a civil war have consequences outside the war zone itself?
  • How are conditions in Lebanon related to the situation in Syria?
  • How is Lebanon divided by the situation in the neighboring country in the north?
  • How can the situation in Syria and Lebanon be seen in a broader power perspective?

2: Background – close ties

Close ties have, for better or worse, linked the two countries together both throughout history and today. The uprising in Syria therefore affects the situation in Lebanon politically, security-wise, economically and socially . The lands were from 1516 under the Ottoman Empire . As Turkey (the core country of the empire) was on the losing side during World War I, the countries in 1920 became French territories under the League of Nations. In 1943 and 1946, respectively, they became independent. But it was not until after the Lebanon wars of 1975-1990 that Syria recognized the country as an independent state.

Since 1971, Syria has been ruled with a heavy hand by the al-Assad family , first by Hafez and after his death in 2000 by his son Bashar. The father built his power on solid contacts in the military, on the Ba’ath party, an extended family dynasty and the vast majority of Alawites – a Shiite religious denomination that makes up 12 percent of the country’s population. Some Ismailis (Shiites), Christians and Sunni Muslims in the economic upper class also support the regime.

After years of unrest, political stability was created in the country, but the price was suppression, partly bloody, of all attempts at opposition. Internal stability, economic progress and a certain softening during the 1990s have given the country the rank of a regional superpower and led to many Syrians being satisfied with the regime.

3: Lebanon – a lot of strife and Syrian involvement

The small neighboring country Lebanon is in every way a contrast to Syria . The political system is based on a consensus – agreed agreement – on the distribution of all political positions and public office equally between Muslims and Christians, even though Christians today “only” make up 39 percent of the population. In 1943, the proportion was 52 percent.

Since independence, the situation has been characterized by a lack of stability and hostilities , and the country has been one of the scenes of conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. On the other hand, an ultra-liberal economic system and a large degree of freedom of expression have made Lebanon a haven for opposition figures and refugees from other countries in the Middle East. In the years from 1975 to 1990, the country was haunted by armed conflicts of both internal and regional nature. Israel occupied parts of southern Lebanon from 1978 to 2000. Syria supported Palestinian and some Lebanese organizations.

In 1976, Syria was asked to send troops to stop the fighting between Christian and Palestinian forces. Eventually, this led to confrontation between Lebanese, armed groups and Syrian forces. At most, the Syrians had 30,000 troops and a well-developed intelligence apparatus stationed in Lebanon. They became the most important rulers in the country. Protesters either had to leave the country or go into hiding.

In the autumn of 2004, a wave of assassinations against anti-Syrian politicians, intellectuals and journalists began. On February 14, 2005, former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri was killed by a powerful car bomb . On the day one month later – March 14. – Nearly 1 million Lebanese gathered in central Beirut under the slogans “Freedom”, “Dignity” and “Syria out”. The uprising was called the Cedar Revolution (the cedar tree is Lebanon’s national tree ) and led to Syria having to withdraw its troops from the country.

The Shia Muslims’ strongest organization, Hezbollah (see facts), which has close ties to Syria and Iran, strongly disagreed and organized its own demonstrations and occupied the center of Beirut for months to come. The Syrians could also play in the power struggle that arose between Christian leaders who returned home from exile or had been in prison and who wanted to take back their former position. Therefore, the Syrian influence persisted even after the troops were withdrawn.

4: Political division and unrest

In Lebanon, the current political landscape is characterized by two equal coalitions:

  • The March 8 coalition,which is pro-Syrian and critical of everything they define as Western influence. It is dominated by the Shia Muslim organizations Hezbollah and Amal, but also houses half of the Christian politicians under the leadership of General Michel Aoun. They are sitting with the government today.
  • The March 14 coalition, for its part, includes most Sunni Muslim politicians and the Christian parties Kataëb (Falangists) and the Lebanese forces. These are for an independent Lebanon.

Some prominent politicians, such as Druze leader Walid Jumblat, are trying to lead an independent line by belonging to the March 8 coalition while supporting the Syrian rebels.

According to THEDRESSEXPLORER, three main issues separate the two coalitions:

  • Lebanon Special Court appointed by UN in 2007 to investigate the killings of Rafik Hariri and other critics of Syria’s influence in Lebanon
  • Hezbollah’s weapons that constitute a significant armed force outside the state apparatus. Many Lebanese are critical of this.
  • How close should cooperation with Syria be? Proponents of her case have been working to make the actual transcript of this statement available online. Proponents of her case have been working to make the actual transcript of this statement available online.

Since the uprising in Syria began in March 2011, the divisions – both among politicians and ordinary people – have deepened between those who support the Syrian regime and those who support the rebels. March 8 supports the Syrian regime’s view that the uprising is the result of a Western / Israeli conspiracy. The March 14 coalition claims that the uprising is a legitimate struggle against an oppressive regime and for freedom and democracy. There is great disagreement about Lebanon’s position in the UN – both in the Security Council and in the General Assembly. There, the country has either abstained or voted against any condemnation of Syria.

When the March 14 coalition recently marked the anniversary of Hariri’s assassination, they clearly showed solidarity with the rebels, and a greeting from the Syrian National Council was read out. But apart from the possibility of creating a communication channel, no one was in favor of further involvement in the conflict.

Two days later, Hezbollah’s (see facts) supreme leader, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, gave full support to Syria. He claimed that the March 14 coalition had made every effort to break up the Syrian regime and accused them of being directly involved in an escalation of the conflict in Syria. By helping the rebels with money and weapons, they plunge Lebanon into war, he claims. Unconfirmed reports also say that Hezbollah soldiers have taken part in fighting in Syria. This is rejected by the leadership of Hezbollah.

5: Tension – refugees

Excited in northern Lebanon

The situation in the border areas in the north is very tense. From here, the road is short to Homs and Hama in Syria – central rebel cities. Since the uprising began, light weapons have been smuggled across the border. In the city of Tripoli, Sunni Muslims and Alawites live in neighboring neighborhoods, and there have been clashes where several have been killed. The Syrians have gradually mined this part of the border, while Lebanon has strengthened its army in the area. So far, the fighting in Syria has not spread to Lebanon.


According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), approx. 8,000 civilians fled to Lebanon by the end of March 2012. The Catholic humanitarian organization Caritas operates with more than 10,000, while some media claim that as many as 100,000 Syrian refugees are now in the country. The reason for this large difference lies in the status of the refugees. Many people come to relatives in Lebanon and expect to return home as soon as the situation improves. Others do not want to sign up for fear that it may make it difficult for them to return if the regime in Syria stays in place. Lebanese media report many young men among the refugees. This is also known from conflict areas elsewhere in the world.

Due to the large number of Palestinian refugees (250-300,000 according to UNWRA), Lebanon has not signed the UN Refugee Convention which describes the rights of refugees in the recipient country with regard to health care, education, etc. The assistance the refugees receive is therefore primarily dependent on international and national organizations, as well as family networks.

Many of the refugees cross the border between Lebanon and Syria under cover of darkness. Large parts of the border are mined, so they come on foot and have no more with them than they can carry. On the Lebanese side, they are being received by UNHCR, Caritas, the Lebanese Red Cross and a number of local civilian organizations.

Wounded people are admitted to public and private hospitals – the biggest problem is that they arrive far too late. Amputation then often becomes the only possible form of treatment. Depending on local resources and initiatives, children are offered a school place. However, the burden this places on local communities is very unequally distributed because the refugees come to Sunni Muslim and Christian villages and towns, but avoid Shiite Muslim areas.

6: Economic consequences

The uprising in Syria has already had major consequences for the Lebanese economy . This is especially true for the export industry, where the Syrian market accounts for approx. 26 percent of the market, especially for agricultural products. Syria is completely irreplaceable as a transit country for exports to the Arab Gulf countries, so this market has become almost inaccessible.

In the immediate vicinity of Syria, cross-border trade has been an important source of income. Syrians have come here to buy goods that they did not find, or that were cheaper than in their home country. In the Bekaa Valley, several thousand families lived off this trade. Along the border river el-Kebir in the north, there must have been close to 4,000 shops, many of them modest, but where each, after all, formed the basis of life for a family.

The important tourism industry has seen a marked decline after a few years of growth. Two groups in particular have disappeared. The first are Arabs from the Gulf who came to shop and to enjoy the varied nightlife, especially in Beirut. They now prefer to stay away from the tense situation in Lebanon and Syria. The other is tourists from western countries who like to make round trips from Lebanon to Syria and Jordan. Large investments had been made from both the private and the public sector, but now this booming industry is down.

Due to the sanctions against Syria and Syrian citizens, Lebanon’s thriving banking system has come under international observation. So far, only one bank has received comments.

7: Other consequences for Lebanon

Much will depend on the outcome of the uprising in Syria. Although the uprising in Syria is primarily about regime change, freedom and democracy, it has acquired an ethnic-religious character because most of the rebels are Sunni Muslims, while power in the country since the late 1960s has been in the hands of Alawites, who are a side branch of Shia Islam. Many Lebanese therefore read the conflict in Syria into a broader dispute over hegemony in the Middle East between the Shiite superpower Iran on the one hand and the Sunni superpower Saudi Arabia and Qatar on the other, in other words between Shia and Sunni Islam.

The Syrian regime is in a difficult situation, and in Lebanon many fear that this regime, with the help of Hezbollah, will open another conflict, either internally in Lebanon or with Israel. The organization’s supreme leader, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, denies that they will be involved in this way.

Even if Lebanon were to avoid new acts of war, a protracted conflict in Syria would in any case have very negative consequences for Lebanon. Because the Lebanese are so deeply divided in their view of the uprising in the neighboring country, politicians also have limited opportunities to agree on how to solve the problems that have arisen in Lebanon in connection with increased insecurity, deteriorating economy and a growing flow of refugees.

8: A broader power perspective

A regime change in Syria will lead to a breach of the axis between Hezbollah and Iran via Syria and Iraq . This will lead to major changes for Hezbollah, which may be forced to choose between being both a party and an armed liberation organization, as they define themselves today, or exclusively a political party. Hezbollah’s position in Lebanese politics will then be completely changed and thus also the balance between the two coalitions.

It is still too early to predict the outcome of the uprising in Syria. There is a possibility that the regime will be able to adapt to the demands of the international community, represented by the UN and the Arab League. The opposition is very complex and only now, after about a year, is organizing. It is therefore unclear what kind of regime will eventually take over, and a normalization of the situation in Syria will undoubtedly take a long time. Regardless of the outcome in neighboring countries, Lebanon will therefore face major challenges for a long time to come.

Lebanon and Syria - Fear of Spillover Effect

New War in the Middle East?

New War in the Middle East?

Will Benjamin Nethanyahu go down in history as the Israeli prime minister who allowed Iran to build an existential threat to the Jewish state? This is how he and others read the development. In January, Defense Minister Barak said they had nine months to stop the Iranian nuclear program. Then it would be too late. In the Israeli government, it is these two who control the relationship with Iran, and they work closely together.

  • What is the law and not the law within the non-proliferation agreement?
  • Who are the parties to the conflict over Iran’s nuclear program?
  • How consistent is the outside world in its criticism of Iran?
  • Where did the dialogue-oriented Obama go?

2: The escalation

When President Bush declared “mission accomplished” in Iraq in the spring of 2003, Iran was a possible next target. During Kjell Magne Bondevik’s visit to the White House in the early summer, Bush thought highly of that possibility, but the problems in Iraq made him think about it. In 2008, the issue was raised again on Israeli initiative. Then Bush made it clear that a military attack was not on the map for the rest of his presidency. Instead, tougher sanctions, assassinations of Iranian physicists and sabotage of military and nuclear facilities followed. A computer worm, known as Stuxnet, destroyed several hundred centrifuges at the Natanz enrichment plant. Everything to save time.

In the autumn of 2011, tensions built up again, first with the assassination attempt on the Saudi ambassador to Washington, which the United States claims was behind Iran. Then came a new IAEA report (from the International Atomic Energy Agency ) on the Iranian nuclear program. The report made extensive use of disturbing information from various Western intelligence agencies. This was followed by warnings of new Western sanctions and an attack by protesters at the British Embassy in Tehran.

At the turn of the year, Iran carried out a major military exercise in the Persian Gulf (Note our New Year’s change: Iran celebrates the New Year on the vernal equinox), and the war of words escalated. Accusations of assassination of Iranian physicists and assassination attempts on Israeli diplomats – back and forth between Iran and Israel – continue. A new round of US and European sanctions is being phased in, and in the US, the Republican presidential candidates are competing in power language against Iran.

3: Is Iran becoming a nuclear power?

The answer is that we do not know . US intelligence says that Iran had a weapons-related program until 2003, but that the weapons-oriented activities were stopped that year and have not resumed since. The head of US intelligence, James Clapper, reiterated this in a recent Senate hearing, saying it was “a high degree of certainty”.

Recent reports from the IAEA , however, show that there are indications that some of the weapons-related activities continued after 2003 and that some of them may continue to this day. Israel claims they know the Iranians are making nuclear weapons, and many Western politicians talk as if they know the same thing.

In any case, the Iranians have been slow to act . On top of the shah’s large investments in nuclear energy in the 1970s, the enrichment program – which will eventually produce the weapons material – has been going on for 25 years. In comparison, Pakistan and South Africa (no longer nuclear power) spent 12-15 years acquiring nuclear weapons.

In the West, many have been calling wolves for 10 years and saying that in one, two or three years Iran will be a nuclear power. Then they have updated their alarming predictions from year to next. Former IAEA chief Muhammed El Baradei says he has not seen any evidence, only contrived allegations. His predecessor Hans Blix is ​​reminiscent of Iraq, where the United States and Britain claimed that there were weapons, which later turned out not to exist. It was determined by inspectors from both the UN and the United States.

Now Western countries are trying to prove intentions that may not exist. El Baradei’s successor, the Japanese Amano, has been heavily criticized for his Western orientation, and the Iran reports made under his leadership are controversial .

4: Does Iran meet its international obligations?

According to SUNGLASSESWILL, Iran is a member of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, NPT) and the NPT gives member states the right to exploit nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. All countries that do not have nuclear weapons must report their nuclear activities to the IAEA, which checks that the activities are not being abused for military purposes. Until 2003, however, the enrichment program was kept secret: Thus, it was clear that Iran had violated the safeguard agreement with the IAEA. The agency listed a large number of activities that should have been reported.

That year , Iran changed course and gave the IAEA ample opportunity to inspect the facilities. The Agency (IAEA) was allowed to apply the so-called Additional Protocol to the Security Control Agreement . This makes it possible to look for activities that may not have been reported. Iran also opened up for inspection of some military installations on a voluntary basis.

From the end of 2003 to February 2006, Iran accepted more extensive inspections than any other country in the world. But when a majority in the IAEA board decided to send the Iran issue to the UN Security Council with a view to sanctions, the Iranians reverted to the original security control agreement. And it gives little opportunity to check if something is kept hidden. Since then, the Agency has gradually lost track of what is happening. Instead, it has begun loading national intelligence into its reports .

5: The historical backdrop

The strained relationship between Iran and the Western powers has deep historical roots. England and Russia fought for a long time for influence in Iran. The Tsar hijacked land, while England seized the oil. When the elected Prime Minister Muhammad Mossadeq came to power in 1951 and nationalized the oil industry, the British appealed to the United States to remove him. It happened in 1953, and young Muhammad Reza Pahlawi was put on the throne as the United States’ extended arm in the country . In Iran, there is still an undercurrent of suspicion against both the British and the Russians, and after the revolution in 1979, the United States is referred to as “the big satan” and Israel as the small one.

The revolution and the hostage drama – 52 US embassy employees were held hostage for 444 days – created an irreconcilable attitude in the United States. The United States and Iran have not had diplomatic relations since then, and Americans are not allowed to have contact with Iranians unless it is politically clear. Iran is the number one enemy image of the United States . As the nuclear issue is part of a broad and deep conflict , it is difficult to find a separate solution to it regardless of the conflict in general.

6: Geopolitics and dispersal

The Iran issue is important not only in the Middle East but also globally . It is about both geopolitics and the future of the international non-proliferation regime . Geopolitically, it is a question of Iran’s future position between the West and the rapidly growing powers in the east and south, primarily the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa). There are more and more indications that the basic aim of American policy is a change of regime in Iran, and the BRICS – especially China and Russia – will avoid this.

The conflict is reflected in the Syrian conflict . There, the West wants to deprive Iran of an ally while the BRICS opposes all talk of military intervention and unilateral support for the rebels. For the non-proliferation regime, it is about more than Iran. If Iran crosses the threshold and becomes a nuclear power, more countries can go in the same direction, not just in the Middle East.

That is why the Iran conflict is the same as the relationship between Israel and the Palestinians: the whole world is concerned about it. Nevertheless, the question boils down more and more to the relationship between three states: Iran, Israel and the United States. They are the ones who decide what will happen. The focus is on negotiations, sanctions, state terrorism and the use of military force.

7: Negotiations

From the end of 2003, Iran and the EU / EU3 (France, Britain and Germany) negotiated a solution to the conflict. During the negotiations, Iran suspended its enrichment activities. In August 2005, the EU came up with an offer that was rather thin. For example, many had expected that Europeans would assist Iran with power reactors, ie with peaceful use of nuclear energy, but the offer only said that they would not do anything that could prevent the market from functioning normally. But if the EU3 did not want to do anything on its own initiative, the Americans could stop selling from the EU through their patent rights. Iran perceived the whole thing as a provocation .

The United States never believed in the negotiations. At the time, the White House believed that the United States was so powerful that it was not necessary to negotiate. Conversations should rather be a reward for those who behaved as the United States wanted. Talking to the axis of evil – Iran, North Korea and Iraq – was under no circumstances relevant. In retrospect, it may seem that the Europeans were influenced by this way of thinking and therefore did not think it was necessary to offer Iran that much. In February 2006, the case went to the Security Council with a view to sanctions, and since then the conflict has intensified.

When Barack Obama became president, he said he was ready to talk to US opponents without conditions. The first negotiation meeting took place on October 1, 2009. It was a confidence-building measure: the Iranians were to give up 1,200 kg of lava-enriched uranium that they had produced themselves, in exchange for recovering fuel rods for a research reactor in Tehran. What was left in Iran would not be enough to be further refined for weapons purposes.

In new talks three weeks later, it became clear that the Iranians were unsure whether the Western powers and the Russians would keep their part of the agreement. They were the ones to deliver the fuel rods. Moreover, the internal power struggle was in Tehran after this summer’s presidential election so strong that no leader was able to pursue effective diplomacy. Obama was under pressure from an Iran-hostile opposition and had a bad time. The negotiations were therefore fruitless, and at the turn of the year 2009-2010, Obama was back on the Bush administration’s sanctions track.

This had an interesting aftermath. In 2010, Turkey and Brazil reached an agreement with Iran on the same confidence-building measure, only with better assurances for Iran. But then the Americans were no longer interested. They wanted stronger sanctions, and were able to pass a resolution on this in the UN Security Council. However, the agreement showed that it is possible to make agreements with Iran.

8: Sanctions and terror – not on purpose

After four rounds of increasingly stronger sanctions , it is not possible to get the Security Council involved in more. Instead, the US and the EU are now imposing their own sanctions on Iran’s oil trade. The United States is pressuring other countries to reduce imports from Iran. Japan has already done so and is therefore exempt from the sanctions. Now the pressure is primarily on China, India, South Korea, Turkey and South Africa. The EU will suspend all imports from 1 July.

This is hurting the Iranian economy. The average Iranian is punished the most, even the middle class. But the regime still manages to channel resources to its high-priority programs, such as the nuclear program. In Iran, this high-tech prestige program has broad support. Therefore, the sanctions do not work as intended.

Nor do the computer attacks, the killings of Iranian nuclear physicists and the sabotage of military installations. On the contrary, such activities make it easier for the Iranian authorities to call for unity against Israel, the United States and other suspected culprits. Admittedly, the rivalry in the leadership is strong and the popular dissatisfaction with the regime is widespread, but the pressure from outside means that the opposition has poor working conditions.

9: Use of force

New negotiations are underway , but Obama has little room for maneuver (upcoming presidential elections, etc.). From the Israeli point of view, negotiations are a waste of time. There is no indication that the sanctions and terrorist acts will cause Iran to change its strategic calculations. Therefore, supporters of the bombing may soon claim that all other possibilities have been tried.

But not right yet. During Nethanyahu’s recent visit to Washington, the United States and Israel approached each other. Nethanyahu said he was willing to wait for the results of the sanctions and negotiations: both he and Barak now say they do not need to act in the coming weeks or months. Obama recognizes the Israelis’ right to act on their own and is supposed to give them more of their strongest conventional bombs.

He emphasizes that a new war in the Middle East is a lesser evil than Iran with nuclear weapons , and that he does not bluff when he says he will attack before Iran eventually crosses the threshold. Such a war would be a blatant violation of international law and trigger strong reactions around the world, but they seem to care little about it.

This is a high stakes game for a president who does not want a new war at all with unforeseen consequences in an election year. If Iran does not offer surprising concessions, the talks will be short-lived. The effect of the sanctions is also not much to wait for, because it is quite clear that they do not stop the nuclear program. In the early summer, the supporters of bombing may therefore have strengthened their case.

So why is Iran not giving in to the pressure on them? This is not the first time Tehran’s decision – makers have seen life and death in white. In the 1980s, they fought a bloody war against Saddam Hussein, who was backed by all the great powers except China. The war veterans – not just the Revolutionary Guards – have now taken leading political positions. They are not suicidal, but neither are they easily intimidated. Iran is a proud nation with rich traditions.

Attack routes and attack targets

The shortest route from Israel to Iran is across Jordan and Iraq. Israel can use aircraft and ground and submarine-based missiles and has received powerful conventional bombs, so-called bunker-busters, from the United States. Jordan will probably let the planes pass and Iraq is virtually without air force. There are also other possible routes, and there is speculation about the use of airports in Azerbaijan for stopovers.

The Natanz enrichment plant, a gas-to-gas uranium conversion plant near Esfahan , the Arak heavy water and reactor buildings and a new enrichment plant near Qom ( Fodo ) will be among the most important targets. The latter is built so deep into the mountains that it is difficult to destroy with conventional weapons. This is the facility the Israelis refer to when they say that time is running out. The nuclear program has many other known haunts and probably also many unknown ones, and Israel is hardly capable of carrying out many waves of attacks over such a great distance.

An attack will put the Iranian nuclear program back, but could quickly become a costly victory . For one thing, the countermeasures, which can set large parts of the Middle East on fire. Another is that the program will most likely continue afterwards, and then with renewed vigor and without inspection rights for the IAEA. If the target has not been nuclear weapons before, it will most likely be then.

New War in the Middle East

Libya: Difficult Dilemmas

Libya: Difficult Dilemmas

The wave of insurgency in the Middle East continues. In Tunisia and Egypt, major upheavals have taken place with relatively little use of violence. But not in Libya. The country is on fire, marked by a civil war between Gaddafi’s government forces in the west and rebel forces in the east. “Five to twelve” – ​​on March 17 – the UN Security Council decided to intervene in the conflict, and on March 19, Western planes began to bomb. Then we faced a probable massacre of the civilian population in Benghazi and other cities in the east. In dictation and action, the dictator had proved both willing and able to do so. The stated objective of the Security Council Resolution 1973 was to protect the civilian population.

  • What are the dilemmas facing the international community in Libya?
  • Who are the parties to the conflict in Libya?
  • What is meant by “responsibility to protect”?
  • Is protecting civilians the same as supporting one party in a civil war?

According to SMARTERCOMPUTING, the election in the Security Council was not easy. It was a choice between a number of controversial alternative options where the least bad alternative won out – the use of military force “to protect civilian lives”, including a no- fly zone . The UN Charter’s principle of non-interference in internal affairs was set aside. Instead, the Security Council took “responsibility to protect” – a new norm that was included in the declaration of the UN summit in the autumn of 2005.

2: Commentary March 11: how to stop Gaddafi?

There is not much we can do for the victims of the tyrants – therefore we must do what we can. The UN Security Council has often failed in recent decades – from Rwanda and Bosnia in the 1990s – to Iraq and Sri Lanka in the last decade. The great powers have failed either because they do not want to agree on how to confront brutal despots like Saddam Hussein, because they are willing to accept anything from regimes fighting “terrorists” – or because they do not want to use resources to save lives. citizens of other states.

Positive exception? Libya can continue to be a positive exception in and for international politics. The members of the Security Council quickly agreed on sanctions (Resolution 1970 ) against Muammar al-Gaddafi and his circle: an arms boycott, seizure of financial assets, travel and visa bans and “reporting” to the International Criminal Court . The investigation of Gaddafi as a possible war criminal has already begun. The EU will extend economic sanctions. This has not come close to reacting to the generals in Burma.

The problem is that it takes time for such measures to bite. A lot of blood will flow while government-loyal forces use superior fighting power against civilians and insurgents. Therefore, a no-fly zone and other use of military force against Gaddafi’s soldiers must be planned. However, the dilemmas are in line:

  • Those who can implement an effective no-fly zone are Western states, which after Iraq, Afghanistan, Gaza – and arms sales to Gaddafi in particular – have minimal credibility as world police in Arab countries.
  • International military sanctions are most effective while being planned and can scare the regime’s supporters into flag flight. Once the operation is underway, accusations of civilian casualties and growing demands for ground operations will come.
  • The open discussion about the effectiveness, legitimacy and costs of flight bans, weapons aid to rebels and invasion undermines deterrence. When several members of the Security Council and NATO question any military action, Gaddafi’s elite forces have less reason to desert.

3: Comment 2, March 25: the next steps in Libya

Massacres in Benghazi were prevented and Gaddafi’s plane was crushed. Now Arab countries must contribute, the Africans mediate and the rebels organize.

A successful Libyan operation could be a breakthrough for the UN’s ability to further develop international law and defend fundamental human rights in a dramatically changing world. But the drop is staggering . The fall of Gaddafi and Tripoli must not appear as the work of the West. If NATO ‘s muscles are used more actively than the UN’s brains, it will be more difficult than easier to intervene the next time a tyrant sharpens his knives.

The Western world military alliance, NATO, must not act as a rebel air force after the liberation of the besieged city of Misrata . Only a new UN resolution can give the legal signal for a change of regime or an attack on Gaddafi’s forces where civilians are not under attack.

Successful start. If the United States, France and Britain had not attacked and stopped the Libyan government forces on March 17, next week’s news would have shown how Gaddafi’s forces had “gone from street to street, house to house and room to room without showing mercy” in the rebel cities. to use the dictator’s own words. Weekend 22. – 24. In March, rebels seized cities and oil facilities from Ajdabiya in the east to the outskirts of Gaddafi’s hometown of Sirte in the west. The UN-authorized international coercive operation has so far been militarily successful. Many civilian lives are saved.

Still, there is cause for concern . If the coercive operation is still totally dominated by western countries such as the USA, France and the United Kingdom, a civil war in Tripoli with long-term sanctions will neither appear successful nor legitimate outside the EU and the USA. It was the Arab League that first requested a flight ban on March 12, thus paving the way for the Security Council’s decision (Resolution 1973) .

This was not to be another Western campaign in the Muslim world. Yet the great Arab countries shine with their absence – despite their large and expensive air weapons. Only the small states of Qatar and the United Emirates provide flights. It must be more politically expensive to be for something you do not contribute to. More and more people will want to make the operation in oil-rich Libya suspicious if non-western countries remain on the fence.

The phase of diplomacy. High-tech air warfare is easier to carry out and attracts more public attention than political mediation and reconciliation. Easier a Norwegian plane from Crete, it gets more news coverage than African heads of state who want to mediate peace, but are not allowed to fly into Libya.

Several elements of the decision. The protection of civilians is only part of the Security Council’s resolution 1973 . Equally important is the Council’s decision to seek a ceasefire, peace mediation and a political solution. This means that African, Arab and Western diplomats must exercise as much initiative as NATO’s generals and pilots. At a summit in Addis Ababa on Saturday, March 22, representatives of the African Union, the United Nations, the countries of the Security Council, the EU and the Arab League agreed on the framework for a political solution: a ceasefire and negotiations between Gaddafi’s regime and the rebels on a transitional period until elections to democratic institutions.

It is also a prerequisite for success that the rebels are better organized. With great courage and enthusiasm, untrained and undisciplined militia groups conquer and lose one city after another, but the rebels still stand without a unified leadership and a political program. They must appear as a credible alternative to Gaddafi’s regime and not as a threat to the groups and tribes that have not taken part in the uprising.

Following a bloody victory for Gaddafi, a protracted civil war between East and West is the worst-case scenario for Libya, as well as for the countries participating in the military operation. A civil war in a divided country will lead to economic and social collapse and enormous civilian suffering on both sides of the front lines. Therefore, diplomacy must now take over after the air force has done its thing.

4: The rest: from the online meeting on March 17 – before the decision in the Security Council

Q: What reactions can the rebels expect if Gaddafi regains control of Libya? The Gaddafi regime has always been extremely brutal. Opposition groups called for a boycott of the rally. Hundreds of prisoners have been killed in prisons and thousands have been tortured. We can expect bloody revenge from Gaddafi, unfortunately, if he were to win and take the rebel capital, Benghazi.

Q: What is the best thing the world community can do for Libya now (March 17), and why? At the UN summit in 2005, the principle of ” responsibility to protect adopted ” when 190 countries vowed that “… we are willing to act collectively, in a fast and powerful way … if peaceful means are inadequate and national authorities clearly fails to protect its population from

  • genocide,
  • war crimes,
  • ethnic cleansing, and
  • crimes against humanity ».

It can not be said more clearly. Heads of government from the United States to Norway and from Russia to China have a commitment to protect civilians in Libya. The Security Council quickly agreed on sanctions (Security Council Resolution 1970 of 26 February 2011) against Gaddafi and his entourage.

The problem is that it takes time for such measures to bite. A lot of blood will flow while government-loyal forces use superior fighting power against civilians and insurgents. Therefore, the international community should adopt a no-fly zone and threaten Gaddafi with another use of military force, even if the threats are not necessarily implemented.

Q: How can we facilitate that Russia and China also perceive Gaddafi’s actions as illegitimate, so that motions for resolutions are not rejected in the Security Council? In 2011, our leaders are not allowed to be spectators to civilians being slaughtered on foot. The pressure on Gaddafi should have been stepped up as early as February. The Security Council should have long ago authorized the implementation of a no-fly zone and a naval blockade. Only the UN can provide the necessary authority.

The creativity of our Western politicians must be challenged: they must speak less publicly, and they must act with and through the Arab League and the African Union . As early as March 2, Amre Moussa (leader) declared that “the Arab League will not stand with its hands tied while the blood of the Libyan fraternal people flows”. An Arab-Western action with a UN mandate would be a diplomatic triumph.

Q: Gaddafi still has some support. Do we know who has deserted? How is the balance of power between the parties? Gaddafi and his sons have long built up their own loyal elite forces, which they use in addition to more or less compliant army and air forces. Many officers and soldiers deserted as it looked like the rebels would win. The absence of a credible threat has since caused many to come down from the fence – on the wrong side. Gaddafi also uses African mercenaries. We know too little about how ethnic and cultural contradictions are used and abused.

International military sanctions are most effective while being planned and can scare the regime’s supporters into flag flight. When the operation is underway, there are accusations of civilian casualties and increasing demands for ground operations.

The open, Western discussion about the effectiveness, legitimacy and cost of flight bans, weapons aid to rebels and invasion undermines deterrence. When several members of the Security Council and NATO doubt that military action could be carried out, Gaddafi’s elite forces have less reason to desert.

5: Norway – aid to Libya?

Q: Should Norway send in forces to kill Gaddafi? How can Norway contribute without having to send troops to Libya? After the Cold War, neither Norway nor any of our allied countries have had a policy that allows the killing of leaders in countries we are not at war with.

We should urge Arab countries, with the help of other UN members, to use all necessary means to stop Gaddafi’s abuses. We should ask the Arab League and the African Union to take a leading role in forcing Gaddafi to stop the abuses and negotiate with the rebels.

Q: Has Norway had a connection with Gaddafi in the form of trade, economy or support, before the uprising in Libya began? How will this affect Norway in these areas? Answer: Norway has extensive investments in Libya’s oil and gas, among others. a. through Statoil. Many people probably find it a little embarrassing that it was argued for an embassy in Tripoli not long ago. Norway will now loyally follow up on the UN’s punitive measures.

Q: Will a comprehensive boycott of Libya help now? Will Gaddafi think so long-term that this will hinder his actions? A good series of boycott measures have already been adopted, but that does not stop Gaddafi from attacking civilians and violating human rights. In the long run, it will hopefully contribute to negotiations on a transition to a democratic system. A full economic boycott of the whole of Libya is unlikely to be introduced. This will hit most people harder than the privileged Gaddafi family. (cf. the Iraq boycott of the 1990s)

6: West and Libya

Can Libya become a new “Afghanistan” if the West intervenes and helps? If Western countries, led by the United States, entered with ground forces, there might be a new “Afghanistan war”. But it will not happen. U.S. Secretary of Defense Gates recently told U.S. cadets that “those who want the United States on the ground in a new war in the Middle East should have their heads examined.”

Who are the rebels? Will most of them need help in the form of military forces from the West, or will they lead the revolution alone? Gaddafi has cracked down so hard on all opposition in his dictatorship that no prominent opposition leaders or political groups are emerging with holistic alternatives. Opponents are from all walks of life and from both religious and secular forces that have one thing in common: opposition to the dictator.

Did the West make a mistake when we took Gaddafi back into the heat due to. the war on terror? Is it possible to send troops into Libya, and which soldiers should we send in? Yes, Western countries should not go to bed politically and economically with Gaddafi just because he went from promoting terror to cooperating in the “war on terror”. That it is Western weapons Gaddafi uses against civilians, says most. I do not think western countries should send soldiers into the ground. But we can contribute to an Arab-Western flight ban and naval blockade after a clear signal from the Security Council.

Is it possible to sue Gaddafi in an international court? Is it possible to send elite soldiers to arrest Gaddafi? The International Criminal Court in The Hague, ICC, is under way, but it demands that Gaddafi be handed over or captured. It is not easy to take a dictator who surrounds himself with thousands of loyal elite soldiers. In any case, Western countries should not try. Then Gaddafi will easily present himself as a brave defender of Arab honor against the superpower USA. Perhaps Arab countries with their new regimes and together with other Arab countries will be able to take Gaddafi if the International Criminal Court issues an arrest warrant.

7: Responsibility for protection – «R2P»

The international law boundary for when the international community has the opportunity to intervene is unclear. Does the support that the UN summit in 2005 made for “The Responsibility to Protect” (R2P) have any direct or indirect significance for this demarcation? The UN Security Council has often failed in recent decades – from Rwanda and Bosnia in the 1990s – to Iraq and Sri Lanka in the last decade. The great powers have failed either because they do not want to agree on how to confront brutal despots like Saddam Hussein, because they are willing to accept anything from regimes fighting “terrorists” – or because they do not want to use resources to save lives such as do not belong to their own citizens.

This changed when the «obligation to protect» was adopted in 2005: Now the Security Council must in principle react collectively and «in a quick and powerful way,… if peaceful means are not sufficient and national authorities clearly fail to protect their population from genocide , war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity ».

Libya - Difficult Dilemmas

The Revolutions in the Middle East

The Revolutions in the Middle East

After two quick victories in Tunisia and Egypt, the “Arab Spring” entered a difficult period. The revolution in Bahrain was crushed by force, Libya experienced civil war, the Syrian protest movement suffered heavy losses, and neither the opposition nor the regime managed to win in Yemen. Then spring became summer and summer into autumn.

Only at the turn of the month August-September 2011 did one of the four experience a breakthrough. Then Gaddafi’s grip on Tripoli, and the rebel forces took control of the city. However, much remains to be done to create democracy in Libya. Will the revolutions win and the people rule?

  • What are the goals of the “Arab Spring”?
  • How united are the rebels in the Middle East?
  • What unites and what separates them?
  • How will the rebels “win the peace”?

2: What are the goals of the “Arab Spring”?

According to the slogans that prevail in the Arab revolutions, the goal of the uprisings is ” freedom ” (huriya) and ” dignity ” (karama). The inhabitants of most Arab countries have lived with freedom and oppression for decades. Now they want political rights and a system where everyone has a voice. In other words, the revolutions are a struggle for democracy .

In addition, the feeling of living in humiliation for many is linked to the economic everyday life – to the lack of welfare . The Arab economies are struggling with a combination of weak productivity, large youth groups and rising unemployment. For the protesters who shout down with corrupt and authoritarian regimes, the economic disability and the political reality are two sides of the same coin .

At the same time, there is some disagreement among the protesters about the way to go and the long-term goal. In the short term, the question is whether and to what extent the regime must fall and what funds can be used. In Bahrain, the protest movement has been split between two wings. A radical wing demanded the abolition of the monarchy and the establishment of a republic, while a reform-oriented faction worked for a constitutional monarchy. In Yemen, from the outset, street protesters have demanded the resignation of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, while the established opposition parties have long sought to reach a compromise.

3: Some dividing lines among the rebels

According to SHOE-WIKI, the rebels in the Middle East do not agree on one thing and another. We see clear dividing lines between them.
GENERATIONAL DIFFERENCES : The revolutionary movements in reality bring together social groups with different living conditions and to some extent conflicting wishes and motives. An important distinction is made between young people and older political actors. The youth activists have played a very crucial role in starting the revolutions and bypassing the regimes’ communication barriers through mobile phones and social media. They have expectations of profound changes that also involve an element of rebellion against patriarchal structures. The established opposition, on the other hand, has more limited demands and is not always willing to give the youth political influence.

IDEOLOGICAL : Another ideological divide is between Islamists and secular forces. Both can be equally staunch opponents of the regime. But where the former want to root out an alternative to the current political system in Islam, the latter are concerned with pushing religion out of politics. In Syria, left-wing and religious-conservative opposition leaders have long had difficulty gathering in a “transitional council.”

COMPETITIVE AGENDA : A third distinction is made between geographically or religiously based groups with competing agendas. Yemen is the crowning example of a country where the revolution brought together movements that initially had widely differing goals . In north to the border with Saudi Arabia, the revival-like Houthis movement been at civil war with the central power since 2004. Houthis accuse the regime of discriminating against their religious group, Zaydi- Muslims (Shiites), and give leverage to Saudi Wahhabi Islam in Yemen.

In the south , the separatist movement Hiraak dominates, seeking to secede the former South Yemen, which was merged with northern Yemen in 1990. In the capital, Sanaa, however, Saleh opposes tribal and military leaders trying to seize power. Parts of the central elite have previously been involved in the fight against the Houthis and benefited from the capital’s dominance over southern Yemen.

4: How to overthrow the regime?

The possibility of the revolutions to win must be considered in two rounds:

  • In the short term: the ability to overthrow the regime and
  • In the long run: the prospect of winning peace.

In the first question, we can say that the revolution in Libya has succeeded, the revolution in Bahrain has failed, while the outcome in Syria and Yemen is still unclear. President Saleh has admittedly announced that he will resign, but he has also said so before without following up in practice. In each case, they have seized it, despite obstacles we can scarcely imagine. ” Why has it dragged on?

Person-dominated republics and dynastic monarchies

Libya, Syria and Yemen are clear examples of what professionals call person- dominated regimes. They differ from one-party and military regimes in that the real power does not lie in the party or the corps of officers. It lies with the leader who in practice has hijacked the state apparatus for himself and his clan and / or family. Such regimes usually have a narrower social base than one-party and military regimes and are therefore vulnerable when revolutionary winds blow.

On the other hand, in person-dominated regimes there is a tendency to fight to the end because the power apparatus consists of people who “sit in the same boat” as the president. This counteracts internal divisions. In Egypt and Tunisia, the leaders of the army turned against the president at a crucial time because they saw the possibility of retaining their position without Mubarak and Ben Ali at the helm.

In Libya, Syria and Yemen, there was no similar state, independent institution that could turn against the president (or the colonel in Libya’s case). The leaders of the security forces were all hand-picked by Gaddafi, Assad and Saleh and in many cases belonged to their own clan and family.

The Kingdom of Bahrain is a very different type of regime. Here, power is rather concentrated in an extended ruling family (al-Khalifa), less in one person alone. The technical term here becomes ” dynastic monarch in” because the members of al-Khalifa have shared power and positions among themselves. This makes it more difficult to overpower the regime because the princes are so numerous and because they stand and fall with each other.

In addition, Bahrain has the other royal houses on the Arabian Peninsula behind it. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have sent military forces to the country to save the authoritarian kingdom.

5: Change of power – violence or non-violence?

For the revolutionaries, finding a good means of weakening the regime is a major challenge. The issue of violence versus non-violence is one important trade-off. Taken as a whole, the Arab Spring has from the beginning been characterized by peaceful means. This was effective in Egypt and Tunisia, where protesters won sympathy in the face of regime repression. They managed to sow discord in the power apparatus.

In Libya, a similar development was initially seen. Authorities there reacted to the regime’s violence by “jumping off” and giving their support to the people. At one point, however, the rebels decided to use weapons they had won in Benghazi to use violence against the regime. Then the ranks joined behind Gaddafi, and the military repression came on the offensive. Had the UN and NATO not intervened on the part of the rebels, the Libyan revolution would apparently have suffered an unfortunate fate.

After the fall of Tripoli and while the Syrian revolution is struggling, military defectors in Syria have argued that they too should point weapons at the regime . They reject the possibility of reform or internal divisions in the Bashar regime and claim that this type of person-dominated regime must ultimately be removed by force. However, Syria’s previous experience of armed insurgency gives cause for concern. When the Muslim Brotherhood used violent action from the late 1970s, the regime responded ruthlessly and crushed the movement militarily in the city of Hama in 1982.

6: Western intervention

Another important topic is the question of Western military intervention . In March 2011, NATO imposed a no-fly zone over Libya and bombed Gaddafi’s positions in a way that helped settle the civil war. However, the dilemmas associated with military aid from outside are great. In a part of the world where the West in general and NATO in particular have little popular trust and are suspected of being controlled by the thirst for oil, relying on Western military aid can create resistance to the revolutionary movement. It gives water on the mill to the regimes’ propaganda, which from the outset has portrayed the revolutions as a “conspiracy” by external powers.

The challenge with both Western intervention and violent means of action is also to lay down arms when peace is to be won. Unruly revolutionary forces with weapons can derail attempts to build a new political order. Moreover: If the new regime becomes dependent on Western military aid to maintain stability, it may prevent the system from achieving national legitimacy.

7: How to win peace?

Not all revolutionary movements succeed in overthrowing the dictator. And where it does, only half the work is done; The construction of a new and better system is often the biggest challenge. Attempts to change society through revolution have throughout history often failed, given unforeseen outcomes or ended in return for the old political order.

One classic problem is that revolutions are causing more and more radical demands that end up undermining stability. In order to stabilize a revolution and establish a “normal” and viable political order, three conditions must be in place :

  1. Legitimacy of the people
  2. Support in the elite
  3. Efficiency in everyday life
1. Legitimacy

The first precondition for waging a revolution in port is to ensure that the new rulers have legitimacy in the population . That is, the citizens regard their government as legitimate . In democracies, free elections ensure such legitimacy. But it is demanding to secure recognition in a transitional phase before elections can be held and give legitimacy to a new board.

Libya today faces this challenge. The Transitional Council, established in Benghazi in February 2011, must convince Libyans that it is representative of all the people of the country. Residents of other cities, such as Tripoli and Misrata, may feel underrepresented and question who has the right to elect councilors. A transitional government will also be appointed. If it is seen as a tool for individuals or special groups, it will lack legitimacy and have problems managing.

2. Support in the elite

The second prerequisite is to create support in the elite about the system and the broad outlines of a country’s development. It is important to avoid key political actors opposing each other. Such agreement (consensus) is demanding to achieve in states that are in the process of getting rid of non-democratic government. The deposed dictators have often ruled by playing social and elite groups against each other and thus splitting them. Gaddafi, Saleh and Assad gave benefits to some and downgraded others in ways that sowed divisions between regions, tribes and religious groups.

These tensions will not disappear with the leaders, but will complicate the gathering of neighborhood, clan and religious leaders. A special challenge for Libya is also to build a bridge between former opposition figures in exile and politicians with a domestic background from Gaddafi’s regime. The two groups have lived in different worlds and will need both ingenuity and time to build a common platform.

3. Efficiency

The third prerequisite is to restore effective governance that at least preserves, or preferably improves, the level of prosperity . As mentioned, economic dissatisfaction is a driving force behind the revolutions and will continue to threaten stability if dissatisfaction persists. The short-term effect of revolution is usually an economic downturn since the riots affect everything from trade to tourism.

However, it is of great importance that the wheels get started again in the new system so that the inhabitants feel it is going better. If the opposite happens and the price level and unemployment skyrocket, nostalgia for the old regime will soon arise. Opponents of democracy can then use the argument that “everything was better before” to undermine support for reforms.

By virtue of Libya’s large oil reserves, the Libyan state has an advantage over the other countries in revolution. These could help Libyans recover economic growth relatively quickly. By comparison, both Yemen and Syria soon have empty oil wells, nearly four times as many inhabitants, and significant development problems. Those who take over from Saleh and Assad will have few easy solutions to improve value creation and meet the people’s expectations of a life of dignity.

The struggle for democracy in Libya, Yemen, Bahrain and Syria can be long even after the dictators have been removed from the field.

The Revolutions in the Middle East

Libya: Road Choices are in Line

Libya: Road Choices are in Line

The Arab Spring is almost two years old, and it is still going on. Most striking is what is happening in Syria. In a situation where the news picture is characterized by ongoing fighting and abuse, it can quickly evoke demands for foreign involvement, but will it always be helpful? There are also news from Libya and other Arab countries that things are taking time. Often the next phases after a takeover can be the most difficult. The case of Libya illustrates this.

  • How united is Libya?
  • What are the prerequisites for Libya to succeed in the change of power?
  • What happened to the UN resolution of 1973?
  • What are the most pressing issues facing the new leaders in Libya?

2: The fragmented Libya

Every country has its history. Libya has more. In the Ottoman Empire, the country was administered as three different provinces:

  • Tripolitania in the west,
  • Kyrenaika (with Benghazi) in the east,
  • Fezzan in the southwest.

When the Italians occupied the country in 1911, they retained the same division, but switched to a fifth division before World War II: Tripoli, Misurata, Benghazi, Derna (a coastal strip) and the Libyan Sahara. When the British and French occupied the area in 1943, they returned to the old triad with British rule in Kyrenaica and Tripolitania and French rule over Fezzan. After the country became independent in 1951, the same division was used. Libya then became a constitutional (constitutional) monarchy organized as a federation with three capitals: Tripoli, Benghazi and Sabha.

However, this administrative structure was only a coarse-grained division. Beneath it lay a network of just over 20 major tribes , and still tribal affiliation largely determines people’s identities. The vast majority of the 5.6 million inhabitants are Arabs , while the minority consists of Berbers (the western name of the indigenous people of North Africa) in the west and south and the nomadic Tuareg and Toubou peoples in the south.

Unlike Tunisia and Egypt, where the Arab Spring began, the people of Libya therefore have no common history in their territory, but many different narratives. In Tunisia and Egypt, the Arab Spring meant that people had a chance to “reclaim” their lands after decades of dictatorial rule. In fragmented Libya, this task is different and more difficult, because here the feeling of historical community is much weaker.

3: Rebellion against Gaddafi

In 1969, King Idris was overthrown by a group of non-commissioned officers. Muammar Gaddafi became the country’s new leader at the age of 27. At that time, Libya had started exporting oil, and when the price of oil skyrocketed in the 1970s, the country received large revenues. Libya eventually became the richest country in North Africa , but dissatisfaction was still significant because revenues were unevenly distributed.

Internationally, Gaddafi’s radical ideology and distinctive leadership style created unrest and discontent. He supported international terrorism and imposed sanctions on it. He sought acceptance and “homeland” in the Middle East, Africa and the West, but was rejected – with one important exception: the Western powers showed him respect when in 2003 he pledged to stop all support for international terrorism and all attempts to obtain weapons of mass destruction. But as the war in 2011 showed, there was no deeper understanding or agreement behind this.

Inside, Gaddafi spent a lot of money securing support for the regime. The quality of the health care and education system was higher than in neighboring countries. But at the same time he played on the heterogeneous (disparate) Libya and distributed and disadvantaged according to political will. It created a lot of irritation and anger and became part of the backdrop for the revolt against him.

Gaddafi kept the military on fire while he politicized them. This is how he secured his own position. Extensive use of foreign mercenaries also secured his grip on power. The fighting power was greater among the semi-military, who were closely linked to the intelligence services where the sons held important positions. Gaddafi came to power in a military coup, thus reducing the risk of falling victim to another coup.

When the uprising started in February − March 2011, this made the road to Tripoli easier. But without NATO’s bombing campaign and ground support from several countries, not least Qatar, it would hardly have succeeded.

The Security Council Resolution 1973 of 17 March 2011 was used as a justification for the intervention in Libya. Initially, this states that a ban on all air traffic over Libyan territory is a significant contribution to the protection of the civilian / population , and establishes a no- fly zone over the area. Furthermore, the Security Council demanded a ceasefire immediately . Two days later, a group of NATO countries (among them Norway) started the most intense air traffic that has ever taken place in Libyan airspace.

And in the months that followed, the Western powers opposed any ceasefire. The aim was clearly a change of regime – Sarkozy (France) and Cameron (Britain) had made that clear in advance. But had the resolution said that the intention was a change of regime with military power, it would never have been adopted.

The way in which the resolution was used, however, had an aftermath in the case of Syria. With the Western twist of the Libyan mandate fresh in mind, Russia and China sharpened their opposition to interfering in the conflict. Wise of the damage, they said a definite no to any thought of getting the Security Council to legitimize foreign interference in it.

In Libya, the new leaders are naturally in a certain debt of gratitude to the countries that helped them remove Gaddafi. And not just the leaders: The assassination of US Ambassador Christopher Stevens – killed in Benghazi by a radical militia – led to a strong popular reaction. People demanded that the militias be brought under control – in practice a cry for law and order.

4: Libya in a comparative perspective

In Libya, as in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Iraq and Kosovo, the Western powers won militarily in the sense that the existing regimes were removed. But the subsequent phase – stabilization and democratization – proved to be much more difficult. What are the prospects for stabilization and democratization in Libya? What can we read from the experiences gained in the other countries?

Nation building is expensive. The size of the countries says something about the price tag. The population of Libya is two to three times as large as in Kosovo and Bosnia, but barely a third of Iraq and Afghanistan. Libya is also richer than the other countries, with an annual income per capita of over $ 14,000 before the war began. The war and the sanctions before it were also less devastating. The economic foundation for nation building is therefore relatively good.

The geography is also favorable. Libya has a long coast that allows for exports and imports, while the other countries barely have a coastline (Iraq has access to the Persian Gulf, but is trapped and dependent on the goodwill of others). Libya’s neighbors lack both the motive and the strength to prevent the rebuilding of the country; the other countries have demanding neighborhoods . The strategic importance is small and does not call for competition between the great powers for influence in the country. All this counts in favor of Libya.

However, the country is politically immature. Only Afghanistan can be compared to Libya in that way. Gaddafi’s legacy was heavy. His recipe was divided and prevalent: in addition to the historical, regional and ethnic differences, he pitted the tribes against each other. The National Transitional Council inherited a country with long traditions of local self-government and weak ministries that lacked the trust and legitimacy of the population. The state institutions were poorly developed or simply absent.

The legacy of the Civil War was also heavy. The rebel leadership in Benghazi called for support from armed groups in the west of the country – not only to crack down on Gaddafi, but also to prevent the war from taking the form of fighting between East and West. Many armed groups gained a share in the victory, and when the war ended, it overflowed with weapons. More than 125,000 Libyans carried weapons and were members of well over 100 militia groups. However, many weapons and mercenaries disappeared south where they destabilized Mali . Libya suffered from a lack of nationwide police, and the judiciary was poorly developed and congested.

5: Libya one year after the war

In July 2012, parliamentary elections were held – for the second time in Libya’s history. The first time was in 1952, shortly after independence (an election was held in 1965 as well, but then no political parties were allowed). According to EU observers, the election went smoothly and smoothly, although technical problems and violent unrest disrupted voting at some of the polling stations.

To a parliament with 200 seats became

  • 80 elected on party lists
  • 120 as independent

The parliament, which will sit for one year, has legislative authority and will decide how the work on the new constitution will take place.
An alliance of parties led by former (interim) Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril won 39 of the 80 party seats, while the Brotherhood’s party won 17. This was interpreted as a victory for liberal forces in the country and as progress for women’s participation in politics. Jibril’s campaign constantly encouraged this. Among the independent candidates, many had a vague position in the political landscape, but the Brotherhood expected to find much support there. All in all, the election was a major step forward for Libya.

According to SECURITYPOLOGY, Muhamed Magariaf was elected president of the National Assembly and is the country’s de facto head of state. He was early on demanding democratic reforms, and in 1984 he tried to kill Gaddafi. He then spent most of his time in the United States before returning to Libya in 2011. The new prime minister was Mustafa Abu Shagour , who narrowly won over Mahmoud Jibril. Shagour is an engineer and has an academic career behind him, also with a long stay in the United States . But when he presented his list of governments in October, he was ousted by the National Assembly. That the country is unstable in this phase should not surprise anyone.

A new political system is thus taking shape, and it is happening faster than expected. The election, the popular reaction to the storming of the US consulate in Benghazi and the government’s subsequent integration of three key Benghazi militias into the Libyan army give cause for optimism. The protesters – an estimated 30,000 – raided several of the bases of Ansar al-Sharia , a militant Islamist group suspected of participating in the attack on the consulate. The United States supports the construction of the army and other parts of the nascent Libyan security apparatus financially and / or through training.

6: The problems

The continuation is still uncertain . When the fighting ceased so quickly, it was largely due to local leaders and civilian and military groups engaging in an end to the devastation. But this patchwork of security actors is fragile. The agreements and arrangements are time and place specific and can break down almost at any time.

The regional contradictions, tribal affiliations, the many different militia groups and the large supply of weapons can in the long run become a recipe for endless tactical maneuvers and persistent conflicts and clashes. In such a landscape, there is little pointing forward.

Much therefore depends on the government in Tripoli managing to establish a reasonably efficient national security sector. For most people, there is nothing more urgent to keep the country together and to bring it on a democratic course. The pattern of local leaders and militias must be broken in favor of state governance and control. The need is urgent, for Gaddafi’s divide-and-rule policy reinforced fragmentation by pitting groups against each other. Some won the regime’s favor, while others suffered. When the dictator fell, militant Islamist groups, especially in the East, launched assassination campaigns against Gaddafi’s supporters. A number of armed groups were then ready to defend their interests or seek a larger portion of the cake.

Initially, much of the conflict dynamics have been kept in check, but a more secure future depends on the dissolution of the militias and the reintegration of its members , either in the army or in civil society, and the collection of weapons . The classic definition of a functioning state is a government apparatus with a monopoly on physical means of power. But the building up of state power must take place gradually and therefore becomes a painstaking task.

Following the unrest in Benghazi and the assassination of Christopher Stevens, the Tripoli government demanded the dissolution of all militias beyond its control. However, such a top-down strategy for disarmament and demobilization has little chance of success and can make matters worse. The government of Tripoli has neither the means nor the legitimacy for such an approach. In anticipation of a nationwide police, judiciary and prison system that can guarantee the safety of citizens, the collection of weapons must be based on consensus with the militias.

At the micro level , it is about power, resources and in many cases revenge. At the macro level as well: the uprising against Gaddafi gave new life to the historical conflict between Kyrenaica and Tripolitania, between Benghazi and Tripoli. These cities are close to 1000 kilometers apart and with the Sidragulf in between, and each have their own identity. The divide is very much alive. The government of Tripoli must find a balance between the development of a fairly unified security sector and a degree of autonomy for Benghazi. The Berbers in the west and south, who played a significant role in the conquest of Tripoli, also demanded autonomy (internal self-government).

Libyans are Sunni Muslims and generally conservative. Therefore, the new leaders early on advocated sharia law, perhaps more out of respect for the dominant religious currents in the country than out of their own convictions. Decades in the United States must have left traces in both al-Magariaf and Abu Shagour. These are leaders who showed courage in the fight against Gaddafi and who are well suited to secure American and other Western support. They can also play on the gratitude of the people for the Western support in the fight against the dictator (although it is far from unison).

Revolutions, however, tend to eat their own. The fraternity can come stronger into the picture over time, as in other countries that have experienced the Arab Spring. The pattern in Egypt and Tunisia was that relatively liberal and secular forces kicked off the revolution, while the Islamic movements led by the Brotherhood gradually came stronger and took control. The same in Iran in 1979: Initially, the revolution was fronted by moderate and secular leaders (Mehdi Bazargan, Abolhassan Bani Sadr), before Khomeini tightened its grip on the 1980s. Something similar could happen in Libya as the settlement with Gaddafi comes to a close.

Libya - Road Choices are in Line

Who are the Israelis?

Who are the Israelis?

Few states in the world are as widely covered in the international media as Israel. But in the big political drama, Israel is often portrayed as something one-dimensional, like a homogeneous mastodon with a powerful army and strong leaders. This picture reflects to a small extent the Israeli society, which is rather very heterogeneous, and is characterized by being a young state with a population that has immigrated from many – and in some cases very different – countries. Israeli society is therefore also characterized by deep, internal dividing lines. Therefore, in order to better understand Israel’s political priorities, we must look inward toward Israeli society itself.

  • Who are the Israelis?
  • What are the central dividing lines internally in Israel between different Jewish groups?
  • How has Israel’s history affected Israel’s views of the world around it?
  • How does immigration to Israel affect political life?

2: A safe haven for Jews

The creation of Israel was the result of a long process. Establishing a state for the world’s Jewish population became a goal in 1897. At that time, a group of European Jews gathered in Basel, Switzerland for what became known as the First Zionist Congress. Anti-Semitism and nationalism in Europe were on the rise, and the World Zionist Organization was established to establish a national home for Jews from all over the world.

At the same time, the organization was to encourage – and facilitate – Jewish immigration (immigration) there. The Declaration of Independence, read out in the Israel National Assembly by the Knesset by Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion on May 14, 1948 , is descriptive of how the Jewish people in the country themselves understood the significance of their recent state. The declaration opens as follows: “The land of Israel is the birthplace of the Jewish people. Here their spiritual, religious and political identity was shaped … The recent catastrophe of the Jewish people – the massacre of millions of Jews in Europe – was another clear demonstration of the urgent need to address the problem of the homelessness of the Jewish people by restore the Jewish state in the Land of Israel. ”

There were thus two important reasons behind the establishment of Israel: That the state held areas of very special religious and cultural significance to the Jewish people, and that the Jews in Europe had always been treated as second-class citizens.

3: Turbulent history

Israel was established on May 14, 1948 and has been at war since then. This has affected the way the Jewish people of Israel view their Arab neighbors, who today are marked by obvious distrust. Many attribute this to the turbulent history of Israel. Israel has not only been a state at war: Israel was born at war, it is often said.

Over the heads of the Palestinians, the UN General Assembly (51 mainly Western states) adopted a partition plan for historic Palestine on November 29, 1947. At that time, war broke out immediately between Palestinians and Jews. It took less than 24 hours from the creation of the state until Israel was at war with its Arab neighbors. That the Israelis see this war fundamentally differently than the Palestinians can be seen only from the name of the war: While the Palestinians call it “al-Nakba” – the catastrophe – the Jews in Israel talk about the ” war of independence” .

When this war ended with a ceasefire agreement in 1949, the boundaries of the Jewish state had been extended well beyond the UN partition plan. The Israeli state still has no internationally recognized state borders. Israel has therefore been in border disputes ever since the ceasefire agreement. The most violent war in which this took place took place in June 1967. It has become a milestone: Israel won sovereign and occupied territories three times larger than itself , including the West Bank and East Jerusalem. from Jordan.Since then, Israel has expanded and consolidated its control in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, mainly through the establishment of Jewish settlements in the areas.

Today, the settlers number 289,600 in the West Bank, and 190,000 in East Jerusalem. This has contributed to regular conflicts between the Israelis and the Palestinians. In 1987 came the first Palestinian intifada. The first intifada ended with the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993. The Palestinians believe that the agreement made their situation worse, and this has led to the second intifada, also known as the al-Aqsa intifada, which broke out on September 28, 2000. Several analysts believe that we can now face a third intifada.

4: A society of immigrants

The people of Israel are made up of immigrants from all over the world. The population of the country has increased dramatically rapidly: While the Jews numbered about 84,000 in 1922, the number had increased to 800,000 in 1948. Today, Israel’s Jewish population numbers about 5.5 million. Of these, only 68 percent were born in Israel. As many as 32 per cent are immigrants, mainly from Europe and the USA. So who are the Israelis?

About 25 percent of Israel’s nearly 7.5 million people are Arabs. Yet it is the Jewish majority of Israel that characterizes the entire state. Therefore, it is worth noting that when the majority is asked to name their most important identity marker, it is not “Israelis” they give in response, but “Jewish”.

The strong immigration to Israel is inevitably linked to the country’s identity as a safe haven for the world’s Jews. In line with Zionist ideology, the Israeli government has always actively encouraged Jews outside Israel to immigrate in order to strengthen the Jewish character of the new state . At the same time, Jews around the world have wanted to move to Israel in search of community and belonging. The authorities continue to offer automatic citizenship and, to some extent, generous welfare schemes to Jews who choose to immigrate.

This is in line with Israeli law, which gives all people of Jewish descent and their spouses the right to immigrate to Israel. For Zionists, this is understood as a return to the homeland of the ancestors. As a result, the extensive immigration has led to a very pluralistic society, with some deep dividing lines.

5: Ashkenasim, sefaradim and mizrachim

The different ethnic and geographical backgrounds of the Jewish immigrants are expressed through the differences between what we call ashkenasim, sefardim and mizrachim (the im-suffix is ​​a Hebrew plural). The meaning of the words says a lot about what the conflict is about:

  • Ashkenazi is a Yiddish word for “German” and is used to denote Jews who come from Europe.
  • Sefardi comes from the Hebrew word for Spain – Sefarad – and refers to Jews of Spanish and North African descent.
  • Mizrachi Jews refer to Jews who come from the Middle East, i.a. Iran and Iraq, as Mizrach is Hebrew for the east.

In everyday speech, however, Sephardim and Mizrachim are mixed, and both are used about Jews from North Africa and the Middle East. Somewhat simplified, we can therefore say that the main difference in the Jewish population is between Ashkenazi and Mizrachi / Sephardic Jews.

6: Ethnicity and conflict

The differences between Ashkenazi and Mizrachi / Sephardic Jews are not only about ethnicity , but also about political influence , economic class and education , as well as cultural differences. These dividing lines go back to the wave of immigration that the creation of Israel brought with it. At that time, the Jewish community in Israel went from being relatively small and homogeneous to growing rapidly and becoming heterogeneous. The country has increased tenfold in 50 years.

Over 57 percent of the immigrants are Ashkenazis from Europe, with the majority from Eastern Europe and countries in the former Soviet Union. Since 1991 alone, more than 1.3 million Russians have moved to Israel. They are becoming a significant power group in the country. As it was the Ashkenazis who founded both Zionism and later also the driving force in the establishment and construction of modern Israel, this group has been a leader in Israeli society. And it still is. As a consequence, the Sephardic and Mizrachi Jews have experienced that they have had to work for greater recognition, ever since the state was established.

In a young society such as the Israeli one, the struggle over the values ​​on which it should be based has also been important. Before the state was established, was the unifying value a kind of pioneering spirit, where Jews stood together to establish a Jewish state. And, in the early years of the state, it was Zionism that filled this role in the Israeli-Jewish identity. But as the population grows, so do the Jewish community . At the same time, Zionism is no longer as unified an ideology as it once was. It is therefore difficult today to point to any common denominator in the Israeli-Jewish identity.

7: Religion in Israel

Israel is the only country in the world where the majority are Jews , and the state strongly associates itself with Jewish culture and religion. Therefore, it is worth noting that according to Israeli law, there should in principle be full religious freedom. Israel is a secular state, and there is a sharp divide between state and synagogue (Jewish house of worship). At the same time, the Jewish religious law (Halakha) applies in some areas, such as family law. This means that all Jewish marriages and divorces must be heard in a religious court.

Judaism is far from a unified religion. The two main branches that we find in Israel are Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox Judaism. The difference between the two mainly concerns the extent to which religion should dominate all aspects of people’s lives. Israel conforms to what is called Orthodox Judaism. This is a relatively strict form of Judaism. It nevertheless allows the followers to participate in society, provided that it does not directly contravene the commandments of the religious law.

Ultra-Orthodox Judaism, on the other hand, allows no flexibility, and has a strained relationship with other Jewish denominations as well as with non-religious Jews. Ultra-Orthodox Jews claim to be the true heirs of Judaism. Therefore, they live in strict accordance with Jewish law and relatively isolated
from the rest of Israeli society. They therefore live mainly in their own enclaves, primarily in the areas of Mea She’arim in Jerusalem and Bnei Brak outside Tel Aviv. There they have their own schools, courts and shops.

The conflict between religious and secular

The fact that ultra-Orthodox Jews have chosen to isolate themselves from the rest of society has set the minds of the non-religious population in Israel on fire. The conflict between ultra-Orthodox and secular Jews is based on two issues in particular: the payment of taxes and the service of military service. While Israel has a general conscription for both men and women (3 years for men and 2 years for women), the ultra-Orthodox are exempt from this duty, and they live largely on social benefits from the Israeli authorities.

This is the result of an agreement between ultra-Orthodox leaders and the Israeli government when the state was created. Then it was a central idea that Israel should be a state for all Jews. Therefore, Israel should allow all forms of Jewish living. At that time, the ultra-Orthodox in Israel were few and far between, and there was no major burden on the state to enter into this compromise.

But over the years, the groups’ share of the population has changed drastically , and the pressure on the non-religious part of the population has increased. While non-religious groups have an average of 1.8 children, ultra-Orthodox women have about 8, which today makes up just under 20 percent of Israel’s Jewish population. While the exemption from military service for the ultra-Orthodox in 1948 applied to 400 people, it applies to almost 130,000 today.

Secularists – who do not care about religion – have therefore become increasingly opposed to the exceptions and benefits that the ultra-Orthodox receive from the government: where being in the army is eventually associated with great risk.

8: “Ethno-religious” politics?

Israel has a multi-party parliamentary system . The National Assembly – the Knesset – consists of 120 members. The representatives are democratically elected by election every four years; All Israeli citizens – both Jews and Palestinians – over the age of 18 have the right to vote. Election day is a public holiday.

Israeli politics is at times very confusing with many parties and volatile constellations. All Israeli governments (with the exception of the one in 1948) have been coalition governments , composed of a whole range of different parties. This contributes to the fact that Israeli governments tend to be both unstable and pragmatic. The parties in a government are often given responsibility for their own flag issue , rather than a government standing for a single political platform. One reason for this is that the barrier limit to the Knesset is low – only 2 percent. This makes it a little easier to get voted in. Another reason is that the various dividing lines also cut through Israeli politics – across the parties.

According to RCTOYSADVICE, the religious and ethnic contradictions between Jewish groups have manifested themselves in the fact that political parties can in many ways be described as interest groups. With the exception of the three largest parties – the Social Democratic Labor Party , the Center Party Kadima and the right-wing Conservative Likud party
– the other parties’ political programs are more a reflection of the group they represent than a program of broad interests and a broad ideological platform.

The Russian immigrants, for example, have Avigdor Lieberman’s (current Foreign Minister) party Israel Beiteinu (Our Home Israel) as “their” party; Ashkenazi ultra-Orthodox Jews have United Torah Judaism , while Mizrachi and Sephardic ultra-Orthodox Jews have their mouthpiece in the influential Shas party .

We find Arab groups mainly behind three parties; either Hadash on the left, Balad – which is a nationalist party – or the more moderate United Arab List . When the whole country also consists of one constituency, it means that the composition of the Knesset evenly reflects how Israel is composed. The large groups will always have the greatest influence, while small groups will remain without much weight in the Israeli parliament.

9: Israeli economy in 2010

Did you know…:

  • Israel has an economic system that is somewhat similar to the Norwegian one: A market economy with significant state control.
  • Israel has few natural resources and is dependent on significant imports of oil and gas.
  • Israel has signed free trade agreements with both the United States, the EU and China and was the first country outside Latin America to sign a free trade agreement with Mercosur.
  • Agricultural products and high technology (especially computers, computer technology and military technology) are crucial to Israel’s exports.
  • Israel’s high technology is among the leaders in the world, and that Israel’s significant growth in technology and science was crucial for Israel’s membership in the OECD (Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development) in September 2010.
  • The United States is Israel’s most important economic partner. The EU is second most important.
  • The United States provides the Israeli state with an annual loan guarantee of more than $ 3 billion, in addition to supporting Israel’s defense budget with nearly $ 3 billion annually.
  • the relationship between poor and rich largely coincides with the relationship between Israel’s Jews and Arabs: Of Jews, 16% are poor, while 50% of Arabs (Druze, Palestinians) are poor.
  • Diamond grinding and tourism are crucial to both employment and the Israeli economy.

Who are the Israelis

Russia Recent History

Russia Recent History

Gorbachev’s reforms and the extinction of the USSR

After the death of Leonid Brezhnev and after the rapid succession of Yuri Andropov and Konstantin Chernenko, Mikhail Gorbachev was appointed leader of the USSR. Gorbachev began to implement significant changes in the economy, Perestroikaand Glásnost politics, unleashing opportunistic forces that with the encouragement of the West worked to disintegrate the USSR and the return of its members – especially Russia – to capitalism. The distancing of the Communist Party and its leadership from the workers favored this process.

The movement that definitely brought down the USSR came from Russia, the nation that had built the Tsarist empire, predecessor of the Soviet state. In May 1990, Borís Yeltsin, who had been expelled from the CPSU in 1987, was elected president of the Russian Parliament. From that position of power, Yeltsin promoted measures that precipitated the end of the Soviet Union.

Powerless and abandoned by almost everyone, Gorbachev resigned as President of the USSR on December 25, 1991. The Soviet red flag was lowered in the Moscow Kremlin, the Russian flag replaced it.

Russia took over from the USSR on the international scene: embassies, permanent post on the Security Council, and control of Soviet nuclear weapons. The end of the Cold War was announced, but the United States took advantage of it to impose its hegemony in a unipolar world.

Russian Federation

Although Yeltsin was applauded abroad for showing himself as a democrat to weaken Gorvachev, his conception of the presidency was very autocratic, acting either as his own prime minister (until June 1992) or appointing people he trusted to that position., regardless of parliament.

Meanwhile, the excessive presence of tiny parties and their refusal to form coherent alliances left the legislature ungovernable. During 1993, the dispute between Yeltsin and the parliament culminated in the constitutional crisis of October.

This reached its critical point when, on October 3, Yeltsin commanded the tanks to bombard the Russian parliament. With this momentous (and unconstitutional) step of dissolving parliament by gunfire, Russia had not been so close to civil strife since the 1917 revolution.

From then on, Yeltsin was completely free to impose a constitution with strong presidential powers, which was approved in a referendum in December 1993. However, the December vote also marked an important advance by communists and nationalists, reflecting the growing disenchantment of the population with neoliberal economic reforms.

Despite coming to power in a general atmosphere of optimism, Yeltsin would never regain his popularity after supporting Yegor Gaidar’s economic “shock therapy”: end of Soviet-era price controls, drastic cuts in public spending and openness to the economy. foreign trade in 1992.

The reforms immediately devastated the quality of life of the vast majority of the population, especially in those sectors benefited by controlled wages and prices, subsidies and the welfare state of the Soviet era. Russia suffered an economic recession in the 1990s more severe than the Great Depression that hit the United States or Germany in the early 1930s.

On the advice of Western governments, the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund, Russia would embark on the largest and fastest privatization ever carried out by a government in all of history. By the middle of the decade, commerce, services and small industry were already in private hands.

Almost all large companies were acquired by their former directors, spawning a class of nouveau riche close to various mafias or Western investors. At the base of the system, due to inflation or unemployment, many workers ended up in poverty, prostitution or crime.

According to, the Russian economy began a recovery from 1999 in part thanks to the rise in oil prices, its main export even though Soviet production levels are far behind.

After the financial crisis of 1998, Yeltsin was in the twilight of his career. Just hours before the first day of 2000, he resigned by surprise leaving the government in the hands of his prime minister, Vladimir Putin, a former KGB official and head of his successor agency after the fall of the USSR.

In the presidential elections of March 26, 2000, the new president easily defeated his opponents, winning in the first round. In 2004 he was reelected with 71% of the votes and his allies won the legislative elections.

In the Russian legislative elections of 2007, the United Russia party won 64.3% of the votes, which was seen as support from the Russians for the aforementioned political and economic course.

In Russia’s 2008 presidential elections, United Russia party candidate Dmitry Medvedev, supported by then-President Vladimir Putin, won by a wide margin over his opponents at the polls. Medvedev took office in May 2008.

Vladimir Putin again won the 2012 elections, and on his return to presidential power he appointed Medvedev as prime minister.

Russia Recent History

Ireland in the 21st Century

Ireland in the 21st Century

In a referendum on June 7, 2001 (in which only 33.7% of those eligible to vote took part), the Irish surprisingly rejected the Treaty of Nice, adopted by the EU states in December 2000, with 54%. In a new referendum on October 19, 2002, however, the Irish people approved the agreement with 63% of the votes, paving the way for EU enlargement. After several years of economic boom, the coalition cabinet formed by Fianna Fáil and Progressive Democrats under Bartholemew P. Ahern became clearly confirmed in office in the parliamentary elections on May 17, 2002 (first re-election of a coalition government in the history of Ireland). The opposition Fine Gael lost 23 of its previous 54 seats (and thus much of its political influence).

The governing coalition of Fianna Fáil and Progressive Democrats suffered a drastic drop in popularity in 2003. Fianna Fáil, in particular, was accused of misleading voters about the true state of public finances. In addition, the budgetary situation forced the government to take drastic and sometimes unpopular austerity measures against the opposition of influential interest groups (especially the public service unions). The referendum on changing citizenship law in 2004 was particularly controversial. With 79.1% of the vote, the citizens adopted a constitutional amendment that abolished the previously automatic right to Irish citizenship for every child born on the island. Regardless of this, Fianna Fáil again asserted itself as the strongest political party in the parliamentary elections on May 24, 2007. However, the great losses suffered by coalition partner Progressive Democrats (PD) made it necessary to expand the governing coalition. After successful coalition negotiations, the Green Party also took part in the new Ahern cabinet.

After a long phase of growth, in which GDP growth of 6% was achieved in 2007, the country plunged into a severe economic crisis in 2007/08. Worn down by a financial affair that had lasted for months, Ahern announced his resignation in April 2008. On May 7, 2008, the previous Finance Minister Brian Cowen was elected as the new head of government. He continued the coalition with the Greens and Progressive Democrats.

According to allcitycodes, the Lisbon Treaty negotiated by the EU member states was initially rejected in a referendum in June 2008, but was approved by a clear majority in a second referendum in October 2009. At the end of September 2008, several major Irish banks came to the brink of insolvency. As a result, the government was the first in Europe to issue a state guarantee for all savings deposits; on December 15, 2008 it announced a rescue package for the banks of € 10 billion. In January 2009, the government was forced to nationalize the Anglo Irish Bank, which was ailing by speculative real estate deals.

To overcome the budget crisis, the Cowen government relied on drastic cuts in the social network and income cuts for employees in the public sector. The extensive austerity measures, which provoked sharp protests in the population and in the trade unions, were aimed at v. a. looking to maintain the country’s credit rating after rating agencies downgraded Ireland’s credit rating. After the self-dissolution of the Progressive Democrats, the government lost its majority in parliament. Because of the ongoing crisis in the banking system, threatening the stability of the euro zone, Ireland went under the euro rescue package in November 2010 and applied for aid totaling € 85 billion.

On January 23, 2011, the Green Party also withdrew from the coalition. Early parliamentary elections became necessary, in which Fianna Fáil suffered a dramatic drop in votes on February 25, 2011 and only won 19 seats (2007: 77). The Fine Gael party, led by Enda Kenny , was the strongest party with 76 seats, but missed an absolute majority. The Labor Party won 37 seats, and on March 9, 2011, Kenny became Prime Minister of a strong Fine Gael-Labor ruling coalition. For the first time in 100 years, a British head of state, Queen Elizabeth II , visited the country again in May 2011. On November 11, 2011, Labor Party politician Michael D. Higgins succeeded Mary McAleese sworn in as the 9th President of the Republic of Ireland.

A referendum on the European Fiscal Compact took place on May 31, 2012, in which 60.3% of those who voted were in favor of ratification. Ireland thus fulfilled a necessary condition for the later use of funds from the European Stability Mechanism (ESM).

After it was discovered in the 1990s that girls and women in Catholic reformatory institutions for prostitutes, rape victims and socially or psychologically conspicuous people, so-called »Magdalenenheimen«, as well as in so-called industrial schools (state and church institutions for orphaned and neglected children) had been exploited and mentally and physically abused for years, a committee of inquiry presented its report in February 2013. This also demonstrated the involvement of state institutions in the scandal. Between 1922 and 1996 there were a total of around 10,000 women and girls in Magdalenenheimen. The government then apologized to the victims and promised compensation. The passage of a law in July 2013,

The Kenny administration’s plans to abolish the Senate in order to save costs were rejected by a majority of the Irish in a referendum in October 2013. In the course of 2013, the general economic conditions improved slightly. On December 15, 2013, Ireland was the first country to leave the euro rescue package. In April 2014, an Irish head of state, President Higgins, visited Great Britain for the first time. In the European elections on May 23, 2014, the governing parties suffered heavy losses. Fine Gael lost 6.8% and was only able to win 22.3% of the votes, and the co-ruling Labor Party fell from 13.9% to 5.3%. Fianna Fáil came to 22.3% of the vote, a loss of only 1.8%. On May 22, 2015, a majority of 62.1% voted in a referendum for a constitutional amendment to introduce same-sex marriage. In the same month, the British heir to the throne, Prince Charles, met Sinn Féin President Gerard Adams on his visit to Ireland.

The meeting in Galway was interpreted by political observers as a signal of reconciliation between the British Crown and the Irish Republican movement.

In the parliamentary elections on February 26, 2016, the governing parties suffered another devastating defeat. Fine Gael only won 25.5% of the vote and 50 seats (2011: 36.1% and 76 seats). Your coalition partner Labor Party received 6.6% of the vote and 7 seats (2011: 19.5% and 37 seats). In contrast, Fianna Fáil improved from 17.5% of the vote to 24.3% and moved into parliament with 44 members (2011: 20). Sinn Féin also increased significantly with 13.8% of the votes and 23 seats (2011: 9.9% and 14 seats). Negotiations on the formation of a coalition government were unsuccessful. Finally, Enda Kenny came to an agreement with Fianna Fáil on the tolerance of a minority cabinet he had formed, made up of members of his party and independent politicians. On May 6, 2016, parliament confirmed him as head of government. The poor election result brought Kenny a loss of reputation in his party. Although he was able to win a vote of confidence in parliament on February 15, 2017, he finally announced his resignation from the party leadership and his resignation from the office of prime minister in May 2017. Successor in both functions became on 2.6. and June 14, 2017 Leo Varadkar . He vehemently advocated the legalization of abortion.

In the referendum on May 25, 2018, a clear majority of 66.4% of voters spoke out in favor of the right to abortion (turnout: two-thirds of those eligible to vote). Since then, abortion has been legal and not a crime. (The strict law in force since 1865 threatened women with up to 14 years imprisonment in the event of an abortion, even if the fetus was rape, incest or deformed.)

On October 26, 2018, President Michael D. Higgins became Presidentre-elected for a second term with 55.8% of the vote. On January 14, 2020, he dissolved parliament on the initiative of the Prime Minister. Varadkar justified this, among other things, with the changed majority in parliament and the near Brexit. In the early parliamentary elections on February 20, 2020, Sinn Féin achieved a surprisingly high victory (24.5% and 37 seats plus 1 seat due to a change of party). Fianna Fáil was the second strongest party with 22.2% and – due to the extremely complicated electoral system – 38 seats. Fine Gáil received 20.9% of the vote (35 seats) and Labor a minuscule 4.4%. The unexpected election results came about because the voters wanted to punish the government, among other things, for the health system, which is in dire need of reform, the unresolved housing issue and the abnormally high level of homelessness. Brexit, Sinn Féin, on the other hand, focused on social issues such as the housing crisis. Faced with this situation, Varadkar offered to resign. After the parliamentary elections in 2020, an unprecedented coalition of the bourgeois parties Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael with the Greens formed the government. On June 27, 2020, Fianna Fáil boss Micheál Martin (* 1960) was elected as the new prime minister.

On January 31, 2020, Great Britain under Boris Johnson declared the United Kingdom to leave the EU. The problems associated with this for the Republic of Ireland were not resolved, in particular the question of whether Brexit will take place with or without an agreement between Great Britain and the EU. A key issue for particularly hard hit Ireland was to politically redefine the border with Northern Ireland and to mitigate the economic and other consequences of this. This also includes the so-called backstop clause, which is intended to avoid a hard border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland in order to avoid the Good Friday Agreement put in danger. In addition, the handling of the EU Free Trade Agreement in relation to Ireland and the UK and the general reorganization of political, economic and cultural relations between the Republic of Ireland and the UK had to be clarified.

Ireland in the 21st Century

Austria Architecture and Design

Austria Architecture and Design

Before 1945: Based on historicism, and subsequently also committed to the Secession style, O. Wagner became a pioneer as an architect, urban planner (Viennese Stadtbahn with station buildings, 1894–1900) and furniture designer of a functional aesthetic that incorporated new materials. His opponent C. Sitte provided essential knowledge about modern urban planning. O. Wagner’s students, JM Olbrich and J. Hoffmann , were the leading representatives of Art Nouveau, both of whom were also intensively active in the field of applied art. J. Hoffmann founded the Wiener Werkstätte in 1903 with K. Moser whose products were made by leading artists and artisans (Carl Otto Czeschka, * 1878, † 1960; D. Peche; E. J. Wimmer-Wisgrill). Ceramists include Michael Powolny (* 1871, † 1954) and Berthold Löffler (* 1874, † 1960). The buildings and writings by A. Loos (including Vienna, Haus am Michaelerplatz, 1909–11) mark the dawn of objective, functionalist architecture. According to allcitycodes, Austria is a country located in western Europe.

After the First World War, C. Holzmeister oriented himself towards expressionist styles when building the Vienna crematorium (1921–22). A. Loos and F. Schuster worked for the Viennese settlement and garden city movement; Under the direction of Josef Frank (* 1885, † 1967) the Werkbundsiedlung (1930–32) was built in Vienna-Hietzing with 70 single-family houses by 30 well-known domestic and foreign architects. Among the numerous blocks of flats that were built by the Viennese city administration in 1923–34, including social facilities, the facilities according to plans by Hubert Gessner (* 1871, † 1943) and especially the Karl-Marx-Hof (1927–30) by Karl Ehn (* 1884, † 1959) emerged. The employment office in Vienna-Liesing (1930–31) by Ernst Anton Plischke (* 1903, † 1992), a transparent skeleton structure, is considered the main work of international modernism in Austria. Among the few private buildings, Lois Welzenbacher’s (* 1889, † 1955) houses integrated into the landscape in Tyrol, Salzburg and Upper Austria should be emphasized. The corporate state, the Nazi regime and World War II as well as the mostly final emigration of important architects (Frank; F. Kiesler; Ernst Lichtblau, * 1883, † 1963; R. Neutra, Plischke, R. M. Schindler and others) brought Austria’s progressive architectural creation to a standstill.

After 1945: In the early phase of the reconstruction, a pragmatism dominated the questions of architectural design. Before and after the war, C. Holzmeister was of great importance as a representative of moderately modern, more traditionalist architecture, but also as a teacher. R. Rainer, who also works as a Viennese city planner, realized future-oriented buildings and socially relevant concepts. Karl Schwanzer’s (* 1918, † 1975) Austria Pavilion for the World Exhibition in Brussels (1958; used as a 20th century museum in Vienna from 1962 ) is an important building of post-war modernism. The Holzmeister student G. Peichl (including Bonn, Art and Exhibition Hall of the Federal Republic of Germany, 1989–92; Vienna, Millennium Tower, 1997–99, together with Boris Podrecca, * 1941), W. Holzbauer (including church in Salzburg-Parsch, 1953–56; Bregenz, Landtag building, 1975–80; Linz, Hauptbahnhof, 2000–04) and H. Hollein (including Mönchengladbach, Städtisches Museum Abteiberg, 1972–82; Vienna, Haas-Haus, 1986–90) also achieved great international recognition.

In the spirit of the student movement of 1968, visionary-actionist groups of architects formed in Vienna. Haus-Rucker-Co, Coop Himmelb (l) au, Zünd Up, Missing Link. Around 1970 Ernst Hiesmayr (* 1920, † 2006; Vienna, Juridicum, 1968–84), Anton Schweighofer (* 1930, † 2019; Vienna, City of the Child, 1969–74) and Harry Glück (* 1925, † 2016; Vienna, Alt-Erlaa residential park, 1968–74) construct innovative buildings for public clients. The wide range of architectural possibilities is illustrated by the sculptural model by F. Wotruba built church on the Georgenberg in Vienna-Liesing (1974–76) and the “Haus Hundertwasser” (1983–86), a residential complex in Vienna designed according to populist-ecological ideas.

Josef Lackner (* 1931, † 2000) built functional church and school buildings in Tyrol. An independent scene also established itself in Graz in the 1970s and 1980s. Especially Günther Domenig (* 1934, † 2012; Vienna favorites, Central Savings Bank, 1975-79; Steindorf / Kärtnen, stone house, 1986 et seq.; Nuremberg, documentation center at the former Nazi Party Rally Grounds, 1999-2001) came forward with unconventional expressive buildings. The team Michael Szyszkowitz (* 1944, † 2016)and Karla Kowalski (* 1941) built schools and residential complexes; Florian Riegler (* 1954) and Roger Riewe (* 1959) built Graz Airport (1989–94) and Innsbruck Central Station (2001–03). The members of the »Vorarlberger Baukünstler Group« (Roland Gnaiger, * 1951; Karl Baumschlager, * 1956; Dietmar Eberle, * 1952) found autonomous achievements. In a culturally open climate in Vienna, numerous architects were able to distinguish themselves from the 1980s on in residential buildings and schools (Hermann Czech, * 1936; Carl Pruscha, * 1936; Roland Hagmüller, * 1941, † 2011; Helmut Richter, * 1941, † 2014; Luigi Blau, * 1945; Adolf Krischanitz, * 1946; Rudolf Prohazka, * 1947, † 2011; Elsa Prochazka, * 1948 and others). Coop Himmelb (l) au secured a leading position in the field of deconstructivist architecture (Munich, Academy of Fine Arts, 2002–05; Aalborg, Musikhaus, 2003 ff.). The government district in Sankt Pölten (1990-97), built according to a basic concept by Ernst Hoffmann (* 1949), set new standards in the 1990s with the cultural buildings built with the participation of various architects. Adaptations and new museum buildings have gained in importance since the late 1980s. Peter Noever (* 1941) and W. Pichler set striking accents in the restructuring of the Austrian Museum of Applied Arts in Vienna (1989–92). Laurids (* 1941) and Manfred Ortner (* 1943), former members of Haus-Rucker-Co, realized one of the largest European cultural complexes (1990–2001) with the Vienna Museum Quarter in the area of ​​the baroque court stables. In Klosterneuburg, Heinz Tesar (* 1939) built a private art house for the Essl Collection (1996–99). In addition, important exhibition buildings were built by foreign architects: Kunsthaus in Bregenz (1990–97) by P. Zumthor, Kunsthaus in Graz (2000–03) by Colin Fournier (* 1944) and Peter Cook (* 1936), Lentos Art Museum in Linz (2000–03) by Weber + Hofer, Museum der Moderne in Salzburg (2002–04) by Friedrich Hoff Zwick. The new building of the Austrian Cultural Forum in New York (1998–2002) by Raimund Abraham (* 1933, † 2010) attracted a lot of attention.

Austria Architecture