Monday, March 17, 2014

U.S. Navy SEALs Seize Rogue Libyan Oil Tanker


U.S. Navy SEALs have seized a North Korean-flagged tanker loaded with oil from a rebel-held port in Libya. A separatist militia took control of the oil terminal in July 2013, demanding a greater share of the country's oil wealth. The tanker, the Morning Glory, evaded a naval blockade at the eastern port of Sidra last week, embarrassing the government and spurring the dismal of Prime Minister Ali Zeidan. North Korea disavowed the ship, saying it did not provide authorization. According to the Pentagon, U.S. forces boarded the Morning Glory before dawn Monday in international waters off Cyprus, and took control of the tanker, at the request of the Libyan and Cypriot governments. The move may prevent further attempts by the rebels to sell oil on the black market. Meanwhile, a car bomb hit outside a military base in the eastern city of Benghazi killing at least five soldiers and wounding another 14 people.


The Syrian military, backed by Hezbollah fighters, has overtaken Yabroud, the last rebel stronghold near the Lebanese border. Most opposition fighters had withdrawn by Sunday, however rebels said fighting continued on the outskirts of the town. The fall of Yabroud is a major boost to the Syrian regime, helping President Bashar al-Assad to secure the route connecting the capital of Damascus with Aleppo and the Mediterranean coast. The move will also serve to cut off a major supply line for the rebels from Lebanon. The opposition's loss of Yabroud risks sparking increased violence in Lebanon, where a suicide car bomb struck a gas station Sunday in the primarily Shiite town of al-Nabi Othman, a Hezbollah stronghold. A group calling itself al-Nusra Front in Lebanon released a statement taking responsibility for the attack, saying it was "a quick response to the bragging and boasting of the party of Iran [Hezbollah] over their rapping of Yabroud." However, Liwa Ahrar al-Sunna in Baalbek also claimed the attack, which killed at least four people including local Hezbollah leader Abdul Rahman al-Qadhi.


  • The United States has delivered 100 Hellfire missiles as well as assault rifles and ammunition to Iraq in what it said is an effort to help Iraqi forces combat the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
  • U.S. President Obama is scheduled to meet with Palestinian President Abbas Monday urging him to sign a framework for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations as a deadline for a peace deal approaches.
  • Tunisian police reportedly killed three armed militants Monday in a raid on their home in the northwest region of Jendouba.

Arguments and Analysis

'Jordan's Urban Refugees' (Marisa L. Porges, New York Times)

"The movement of nearly 600,000 Syrians into Jordan is straining that country's economy, infrastructure and social services. While international press attention has focused mainly on Jordan's Zaatari refugee camp, home to approximately 100,000 Syrians, the vast majority of refugees have settled in Jordan's urban areas, particularly those close to its northern border, like the cities of Mafraq and Ramtha.

The increased demand for housing and the influx of subsidies from international NGOs have nearly tripled the cost of rent in these cities, driving many Jordanians from their homes and pushing Syrians further into debt. Jordan's crowded public schools are being crippled as administrators try to accommodate at least 85,000 refugee students -- still only half of the school-age Syrians now in the country. Local hospitals, sanitation and water systems are being similarly strained. As one young Syrian told me in January, 'We're making a hard life harder for Jordanians.'"

'In search of an energy vision' (Isabel Bottoms, Mada Masr)

"Amidst the fragmented politics of the last six months, one of the most pressing questions has been how Egypt would meet its energy demands from 2014 onwards.

'Nobody has done the math,' lamented Environment Laila Iskandar when she addressed the Cairo Climate Talks.

This leaves a gap in the overall future energy strategy of Egypt -- a gap deeply connected to politics, the nation's poorest citizens and the country's industrial output, among many other factors."

--Mary Casey & Cortni Kerr


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