Russian Challenge in the Mediterranean

Russia

Moscow, Paris, Tripoli, Cairo – The Arab Spring and the developments that have followed it have highlighted a clear inclination in Moscow toward the dedication of Russia’s strategic and political presence in the Mediterranean, benefiting from the politic of regression adopted by the U.S. President Barack Obama, emphasized in his agreement with Iran, waiving the Syrian revolution, and the U.S. silence facing the Russian power show in Crimea and the East of Ukraine.

Russia’s direct intervention in Syria and its military fighting along with Iranian militias has become the clearest evidence on this offensive tendency in the Kremlin; the Russian exploitation for the U.S. regression hasn’t only included Syria and Ukraine, but also reaches some region in North Africa.

As previously happened during the Soviet alliance with Arab countries including Egypt, and Yemen, the military cooperation between Syria and Russia hasn’t enabled Moscow to establish permanent bases on the Syrian territories.

Moscow had never established permanent military bases on Arabian territories except when the Soviet warships used the Egyptian base of Sidi Barran in 1972 to monitor the action of U.S. warships in the Mediterranean; and the base of Tartus – Syria, which was more like a maintenance station to provide the Russian warships with supplies and modest maintenance. However, in spite that the Soviet Union didn’t establish military basis in the Arab countries, its military presence was strong in the mentioned countries.

The beginning in Syria

Syria signed the first agreement of military cooperation with Soviets during the rule of President Shukri al-Quwatli, who visited Moscow in October 1956 to hold direct discussions with Soviet leaderships on weapon purchases.

Some sources say that based on these talks, Moscow dispatched 160 military experts with the first weapons’ ship to Damascus, because at that time, Syria forces lacked for such experts.

Since that time, soviet experts played a regular role in the Syrian armed forces and maintained their mission till the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The situation is not so much different between Moscow and Damascus now, concerning the recruitment of Russian experts in different sectors of the Syrian army; however the Syrian party has helped Russians on acquiring free air and navy bases for an unlimited duration, which is considered a historical precedent in the Syrian-Soviet relations.

Russian-Egyptian cooperation

The relations between Egypt and Russia have witnessed a continuous momentum especially on the military field, since the election of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in 2014. Both parties have inked many armament-related agreements; media reports have also revealed that Moscow has requested to build a Russian military base on the Egyptian territories or to rent Sidi Barrani base.

Egypt has denied these reports, and Spokesman for the Egyptian Presidency Ambassador Alaa Youssef said that Egypt has always refused any foreign military bases on its territories.

The first relation between the two countries were launched in 1943 and they were developed particularly in the armament field in 1955, during the rule of President Gamal Abdel Nasser, during which Egypt hammered a USD250 million-deal with Russians to receive various arms through the Republic of Czechoslovakia.

Soviet experts forced out of Egypt

The Egyptian-Russian cooperation witnessed regression in the seventies after President Anwar Sadat forced the soviet experts to leave Egypt prior to October War. Then, the cooperation was completely suspended because of the divergence of political views between Cairo and Moscow after the Camp David Accords with Israel.

In 1981, after the election of President Hosni Mubarak, ties gradually resumed with Moscow and both parties re-inked many armament agreements in 1995 to 1997, 1998, 2006 to 2011, and 2013.

Earlier this month, the Russian website Gazeta reported that Russia and Egypt implemented the first joint military maneuver.

Russians in Libya

As per Libya, Russians currently align with Khalifa Haftar and consider him a leader who can bring back stability to Libya and eradicate chaos controlling the country since the death of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. Concerning the armament, Russians have been waiting to resume contracts they have signed with Gaddafi.

It is worth mentioning that Libya and the Soviet Union begun in 1955 and that Gaddafi visited Moscow three times during the rule of the communist party, because he was keen to build friendly relations with the West’s first enemy. He maintained these relations even after the collapse of the Union and exchanged many visits with President Vladimir Putin till he was killed in 2011.

Russian tried to resume relations and agreements with Libyan after 2011, but the chaos that has controlled the country obstructed them.

No defense agreement

A source close to Gaddafi told Asharq Al-Awsat that both countries did not ink any defense agreement to protect Libya from NATO; Russia tried to protect its old friend, but apparently it lacked the needed power at that time.

In the beginning of the revolution against Libya, Moscow called for dialogue instead of using arms, but Gaddafi was surprised when Russia didn’t use its VETO right against the U.N.’s resolution to attack his country.

Meanwhile, Russia doesn’t seem to support a party against another in Libya, but it often aligns with Haftar who has been fighting terrorists in Tripoli.

Kingdom of Morocco

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Timeline

• 1912: The Treaty of Fez divides Morocco between France and Spain.
• 1956: Morocco gains independence from France.
• 1957: Sultan Sidi Mohammed Bin Youssef changes his title to King Mohammed V.
• 1958: Morocco joins the Arab League.
• 1961: King Hassan II ascends to the throne.
• 1963: First general elections.
• 1965: Growing political unrest; King Hassan II declares a state of emergency and suspends parliament following opposition protests.
• 1971: An attempt to depose the king and found a republic fails.
• 1975: Morocco gets joint control of Western Sahara with Mauritania.
• 1984: Morocco leaves the Organization of African Unity in protest to its support for independence for Western Sahara.
• 1991: A ceasefire with the Polisario in Western Sahara comes into force.
• 1997: Bicameral legislature established.
• 1998: The first opposition-led government comes to power.
• 1999: Hassan II dies and King Mohammed VI comes to the throne.
• 2011–2012: Protests in Rabat call for more power for the legislature.
• July 2011: The king wins a landslide victory in a referendum on constitutional reforms held to placate protestors.

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Oman



morocco

Official Name: Kingdom of Morocco
Capital: Rabat
King: King Mohamed VI
Prime Minister: Abdelilah Benikrane

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The Republic of South Sudan

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Timeline

• 1955–1972: First Sudanese Civil War takes place between the new Sudanese government and Southern secessionists over the rights of the South to autonomy.
• 1983: Second Sudanese Civil war begins after the South Sudan autonomous state is ended.
• 1985: A military coup suspends the constitution but leaves Shari’a law in place.
• 1986: The government begins peace talks with the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), a Southern force fighting for a secular state.
• June 1989: A military coup overthrows the civilian government.
July 1992: A government offensive seizes Southern Sudan.
• 1993: Muslim judges were moved into the southern states, reinforcing the rule of the Northern, Islamic part of Sudan in the majority Christian South.
• 1999: The Egypt–Libya Initiative begins, aimed at ending the Second Sudanese Civil War.
• January 2005: The Comprehensive Peace Agreement is signed, ending the war.
• January 2011: The results of a referendum are released with 98.83 percent voting for independence.
• July 9, 2011: South Sudan becomes officially independent.
• December 2011: Tribal conflicts in Jonglei intensify.
• March 2012: South Sudan seizes the Heglig oil fields.
• March 2013: Sudan and South Sudan both withdraw forces from the Abyei region, although the dispute over oil production continues.
• October 2013: The referendum of the status of the Abyei region is scheduled, asking voters whether they want to remain in Sudan or join South Sudan.

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South Sudan



south sudan
Official Name: Republic of South Sudan
Capital: Juba
President: Salva Kiir
Vice President: James Wani Igga

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Islamic Republic of Mauritania

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Timeline

• 1960: Gains independence from France.
• 1961: President Moktar Ould Daddah forms the nation’s first government.
• 1965: Mauritanian People’s Party (PPM) instituted as the sole legal party.
• 1974: Joins the League of Arab States.
• 1976: Given joint administration of Western Sahara with Morocco.
• 1976–1978: Fights in the Western Sahara War against the Polisario Front.
• 1978: Colonel Mustapha Ould Salek is appointed commander of the army and leads a coup against the Daddah regime in July.
• April 1979: Salek’s government is overthrown by the Military Committee for National Salvation, led by Colonel Ahmed Ould Bouceif and Colonel Mohamed Khouna Haidalla.
• May 1979: Bouceif is killed in a plane crash. Haidalla becomes Prime Minister and Col. Mohamed Louly is named president.
August 1979: Peace treaty is signed with Algeria and the Polisario.
• 1980: Haidalla declares Mauritanian neutrality in Western Sahara and officially abolishes slavery.
• 1980: Haidalla takes over the Presidency before forming a new civilian government with Ahmed Ould Bneijara following public and international pressure.
• March 1981: The Alliance for a Democratic Mauritania leads a failed coup.
• March 1981: Haidalla abandons civilian government and installs a military government under Colonel Maaouiya Ould Sid Ahmed Ould Taya.
February 1982: Bneijara and Salek mount an unsuccessful coup.
January 1983: A Libyan plot against Haidalla is discovered and a Moroccan gunboat attacks a Mauritanian garrison near La Guera.
• 1984: Taya becomes president in a bloodless coup.
• 1991: Opposition parties legalized.
• 1999: Mauritania recognizes the state of Israel.
• August 2005: The military executes a coup d’état against Taya’s government.
• March 2007: Sidi Cheikh Ould Abdullahi is elected president.
• August 2008: A new military coup removes Abdullahi from office.
• July 2009: Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz is elected president.

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Mauritania



mauritania
Official Name: Islamic Republic of Mauritania
Capital: Nouakchott
President: Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz
Prime Minister: Moulaye Ould Mohamed Laghdaf

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The People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria

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Timeline

• 1954: Beginning of Algerian war.
• 1962: Algeria gains independence from France with Ferhat Abbas as president.
• 1963: Ahmed Ben Bella becomes president.
• 1963: Algeria fights Morocco in the Sand War.
• 1965: Ben Bella is overthrown by Houari Boumedienne.
• 1992: President Chadli Bendjedid resigns and Algeria is governed by a High Council of State to avoid an Islamist victory in elections.
• 1999: Abdelaziz Bouteflika is elected president. He announces a civil concord and releases political prisoners.
• 2008: The limit on a president serving a maximum of two terms is lifted.
• 2009: Bouteflika is re-elected.
• 2011: Following protests, the 19-year-old state of emergency is lifted and political and constitutional reform is promised.

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Algeria



algeria

Official Name: People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria
President: Abdulaziz Bouteflika
Prime Minister: Abdelmalek Sellal
Deputy Prime Minister: Fahd Bin Mahmoud Al Said

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Republic of Sudan

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Timeline

• 1955: The First Sudanese Civil War begins.
• January 1, 1956: Sudan gains independence, with Ismail Al-Azhari as prime minister.
• May 26, 1969: A military coup removes the government and abolishes political parties; Col. Gaafar Nimeiry becomes prime minister.
• July 1971: The Sudanese Communist Party briefly gains power after a coup before Nimeiry is restored.
• March 1972: The Addis Ababa agreement ends the first civil war.
• 1976: The Ansars launch a bloody but unsuccessful coup.
• 1983: The Second Sudanese Civil War begins following President Nimeiry’s declaration of an Islamic State and the foundation of the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army (SPLA).
• June 30, 1989: Omar Al-Bashir leads a bloodless coup.
• 1993: Bashir appoints himself president.
• 2000: Bashir dissolves parliament and declares a state of emergency after Hassan Al-Turabi introduces a bill to reduce the powers of the president.
• 2003: Armed groups in Darfur take up arms in protest against government favoritism towards Arab Sudanese. The government-sponsored Janjaweed militia subsequently carries out a program of ethnic cleansing against non-Arabs, leading to the deaths of approximately 300,000 civilians.
• 2005: The Comprehensive Peace Agreement is signed by the government and the SPLA. It aimed to develop democratic governance, and set out a timetable for South Sudan’s independence referendum.
• May 2006: The Darfur Peace Agreement is signed by the Sudanese government and the SPLA. It ensured the disarmament of the Janjaweed and other militias as well as national wealth sharing schemes.
• 2009: The International Criminal Court in The Hague issues an arrest warrant for President Bashir on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur.
• 2011: In a referendum, South Sudan votes to secede from the north.

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Sudan



sudan
Official Name: Republic of the Sudan
Capital: Khartoum
President: Omar Al-Bashir
Vice President: Ali Osman Taha

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Republic of Djibouti

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Timeline

• 1958: Djibouti votes to retain its association with France in a referendum.
• 1967: In a second referendum, a looser connection with France is chosen.
• 1977: In a third referendum, 98.8 percent of voters choose independence.
• 1977: Hassan Gouled Aptidon becomes the country’s first president.
• 1977: Djibouti joins the Arab League.
• 1981: Aptidon turns Djibouti into a one-party state.
• 1991: A civil war breaks out between the government and an Afar group, the Front for the Restoration of Unity and Democracy (FRUD).
• December 1994: A peace treaty is signed between the government and FRUD.
• 1999: Aptidon resigns as president and is succeeded by his nephew, Ismail Omar Guelleh.
• May 2001: Guelleh presides over the signing of the final peace treaty with the FRUD.
• April 2005: Guelleh wins a second term in office with a coalition government.
• March 2006: Djibouti holds its first regional elections.
• 2008: The Union for a Presidential Majority boycotts elections, giving all seats to the ruling party.
• 2011: Guelleh is reelected president.

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Djibouti



djibouti

Official Name: Republic of Djibouti
Capital: Djibouti
President: Ismael Omar Guelleh
Prime Minister: Abdoulkhader Kamil Mohamed

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The Republic of Lebanon

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Timeline

• 1943: France agrees to officially transfer power to the Lebanese government from January 1, 1944, officially granting independence.
• 1967: Lebanon plays no active role in the Arab–Israeli war but is affected in the aftermath due to Palestinian use of the country as a base for activities against Israel.
• April 1975: Phalangist gunmen ambush a bus in Beirut, killing mainly Palestinian passengers. These clashes are regarded as the start of civil war.
• 1976: Syrian troops enter Lebanon to restore peace.
October 1976: Following Arab Summit meetings in Riyadh and Cairo, a ceasefire is arranged and a predominantly Syrian Arab Deterrent Force (ADF) is established to maintain it.
• 1978: In reprisal for a Palestinian attack into its territory, Israel launches a major invasion of Lebanon and occupies land in the south. Israel later hands over territory in southern Lebanon not to the UN International Forces in Lebanon, but to its proxy, a mainly Christian Lebanese militia led by Maj. Saad Haddad.
• 1982: President-elect Bachir Gemayel is assassinated. The following day, Israeli forces occupy West Beirut. His brother, Amine Gemayal, is elected president in his place.
• 1983: Israel and Lebanon sign an agreement on Israeli withdrawal, ending hostilities and establishing a security region in southern Lebanon.
• 1988: Outgoing President Amine Gemayel appoints a six-member interim military government, composed of three Christians and three Muslims, though the latter refuse to serve. Lebanon now has two governments-one mainly Muslim in West Beirut, headed by Salim El-Hoss, and the other, in East Beirut, led by the Maronite Christian Commander-in-Chief of the Army, Gen. Michel Aoun.
• 1989: Aoun declares a “war of liberation” against the Syrian presence in Lebanon.
• 1990: The Syrian Air Force attacks the Presidential Palace at Baabda and Aoun takes refuge in the French embassy. This is regarded as the end of the civil war.
• 1990: Omar Karami heads a government of national reconciliation.
• 1992: Rafik Hariri, a rich businessman of Saudi Arabian nationality, becomes prime minister.
• 1993: Israel attempts to end the threat from Hezbollah and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC) in southern Lebanon by launching “Operation Accountability,” the heaviest attack since 1982.
• 2000: After the rapid advance of Hezbollah forces, Israel withdraws its troops from southern Lebanon, more than six weeks before its stated deadline.
February 2005: Rafik Hariri is killed by a car bomb in Beirut.
• 2005: Syria says its forces have left Lebanon, as demanded by the UN. An anti-Syrian alliance led by Saad Hariri wins control of parliament. The new parliament chooses a Hariri ally, Fouad Siniora, as prime minister.
• 2006: Israel launches attacks on targets in Lebanon after Lebanon’s militant Hezbollah group kidnaps two Israeli soldiers. Civilian casualties are high and damage to civilian infrastructure wide-ranging.
• August 2006: Truce between Israel and Hezbollah comes into effect on August 14, after thirty-four days of fighting and the deaths of around 1,000 Lebanese—mostly civilians—and 159 Israelis, mainly soldiers. A UN peacekeeping force, expected to consist of 15,000 foreign troops, begins to deploy along the southern border.
• October 2008: Lebanon establishes diplomatic relations with Syria for first time since both countries gained independence in 1940s.
• 2009: The pro-Western March 14 alliance wins 71 of 128 seats in parliamentary elections, while the rival March 8 alliance led by Hezbollah secures 57. Saad Hariri is nominated as prime minister.
• 2011: The national unity government collapses due to growing tensions from the Special Tribunal for Lebanon.
• 2011: Since 2011, violence from the Syrian civil war has spilled over into Lebanon, leading to an increase in sectarian violence.

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Lebanon



lebanon

Official Name: Lebanese Republic
Capital: Beirut
President: Michel Suleiman
Prime Minister: Najib Mikati

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Kingdom of Bahrain

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Timeline

• 1970: Iran drops its claim to Bahrain.
• 1971: Bahrain gains independence from the United Kingdom.
• 1981: Shi’ite fundamentalists launch a failed coup against the king.
• 1986: The King Fahd Causeway opens, linking Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.
• 1994: A popular uprising against the king begins.
• 1999: Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa becomes Emir of Bahrain.
• 2000: The uprising ends.
• 2001: Bahrainis vote in favor of the National Action Charter, whereby women are granted the right to vote, parliamentary elections are instituted and political prisoners are freed.
• 2002: Bahrain changes its name to the Kingdom of Bahrain.
• 2011: Protests begin in Bahrain. A national dialogue begins to discuss ways to meet protesters’ demands.

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Bahrain



bahrain

Official Name: Kingdom of Bahrain
Capital: Manama
King: Sheikh Hamad Bin Isa Al Khalifa
Prime Minister: Sheikh Khalifa Bin Salman Al Khalifa

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Union of the Comoros

[map id=”countryBriefMapIn” w=”676″ h=”350″ z=”6″ maptype=”TERRAIN” address=”Moroni, Comoros” marker=”yes”]

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Timeline

• 1973: Comoros reaches an agreement with France to become independent in 1978.
• 1975: Comoros declares its independence with Ahmed Abdallah as its first president.
• 1975: Abdallah is removed from office and replaced by Prince Said Mohammed Jaffar of the Union National Front of the Comoros.
• 1976: Jaffar is ousted by Ali Soilih, who instigates socialist and isolationist reforms.
• 1978: Bob Denard returns and overthrows Soilih in favor of Abdallah.
• 1989: Abdallah, fearing a coup, orders Denard to disband the armed forces and is allegedly shot in his office. Said Mohamed Djohar becomes president.
• 1995: Denard attempts another coup but is forced to surrender by France. Djohar is moved to Réunion and Mohamed Taki Abdulkarim becomes president.
• 1997: Anjouan and Mohéli declare independence from Comoros in attempt to restore French rule. France denies their request leading to bloody confrontations.
• 1999: Colonel Azali Assoumani seizes power in a bloodless coup.
• 2005: A law is passed defining the responsibilities for the federal government and island governments.
• 2006: The presidency moves peacefully to Ahmed Abdullah Mohamed Sambi.
• 2007: Anjouan President Mohammed Bacar wins an election that is rejected as illegal by the Comoros and African Union.
• 2008: African Union and Comoros troops retake Anjouan from rebel forces. Bacar escapes by speedboat to Mayotte.
• 2011: Ikililou Dhoinine becomes president.

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Comoros



comoros

Official Name: Union of the Comoros
Capital: Moroni
President: Ikililou Dhoinine
Vice Presidents: Fouad Mohadji, Mohamed Ali Soilih, Nourdine Bourhane

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