Welcome back and happy Thursday, World readers. We're taking you for a spin around the globe in 1,482 words (<6 minutes).
A fighter for Libya's UN-backed government in Tripoli. Photo: Amru Salahuddien/picture alliance via Getty Images
Libya’s crippling “proxy war” will doom the country to become “a haven for terrorists and extremists” absent support from the U.S., the interior minister for the country’s UN-backed government tells Axios.
Between the lines: The U.S. officially supports the government in Tripoli, but it has played no part in the current civil war beyond calls for a political solution. Meanwhile, Russian mercenaries are bolstering renegade Gen. Khalifa Haftar's offensive and dramatically changing the nature of the war, Interior Minister Fathi Bashagha told Axios this evening in Washington.
The big picture: Libya has seen eight violent and chaotic years since the U.S. and European powers backed the uprising that toppled longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi.
Bashagha says he began to hear reports of Russian involvement over the summer, including from locals who described groups of light-skinned people “taking the roads through the desert.”
Bashagha rejects the suggestion that Russia's interventions in Libya and Syria indicate that in a conflict, Moscow is a stronger partner than Washington.
Zoom out: Bashagha is adamant that it was not a mistake for the U.S. to intervene in Libya in 2011, but says after Gadhafi’s downfall — and particularly after the death of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens in Benghazi — “America left us alone.”
“That American withdrawal made many regional countries have their proxy wars, their wars of interest on Libyan soil. And finally now it’s the Russians.”
A rally for the ruling party in Colombo. Photo: Ishara S. Kodikara/AFP via Getty Images
The next president of Sri Lanka will be elected on Saturday, and he will take charge of a country still recovering from April terror attacks that left 277 dead.
Driving the news: The front-runner appears to be Gotabaya Rajapaksa, known for crushing the Tamil Tigers a decade ago as defense minister — allegedly committing war crimes in the process. His brother, Mahinda, was president then and would return as prime minister.
Zoom out: The U.S. and China are competing for influence in South Asia, particularly in this "strategically located but heavily indebted Indian Ocean island nation," the FT's Amy Kazmin reports from Colombo.
What to watch: The ruling party has nominated Sajith Premadasa, the son of an assassinated former president, the current housing minister and a comparatively fresh face. But the emphasis on security in this election appears to play to the Rajapaksas' strengths.
Photo: Alex Wong/Getty
President Trump and five Republican senators had gathered in the Oval Office yesterday with Recep Tayyip Erdoğan when the Turkish president pulled out his iPad.
Behind the scenes: Erdoğan played a propaganda video depicting Kurdish fighters as terrorists. More, from Axios' Jonathan Swan's wild scoop:
Between the lines: A senior administration official said they invited these senators because they have voiced concerns about Turkey's purchase of Russian weapons and invasion of Syria. "It shows Erdoğan that they're serious about sanctions, and Trump doesn't have to be the bad guy," the official said.
Migrants and refugees rescued near a Greek island. Photo: Angelos Tzortzinas/AFP via Getty Images
There were between 3.9 million to 4.8 million unauthorized immigrants living in Europe as of 2017, according to new analysis from Pew.
In the U.S., meanwhile, Pew's estimate as of 2017 is 10.5 million unauthorized immigrants, or 3.2% of the total population.
Regional breakdown across Europe: Asia-Pacific (30%), within Europe (23%), Middle East/North Africa (21%), sub-Saharan Africa (17%), the Americas (8%).
Between the lines: The study shows virtually no illegal immigration to countries like Hungary and Poland, where political leaders have seized upon widespread antipathy to immigration.
Americans continue to rely on their credit cards, while the rest of the world rapidly moves toward mobile payments, Axios’ Erica Pandey reports.
The big picture: China is the clear leader, with nearly half of the population paying for goods with their phones. But the fastest growth in the adoption of e-payments is happening in India.
I’m a sucker for a good spy story. Foreign Policy’s new podcast, “I Spy,” promises one per episode, recounted by a spy who took part in the operation.
In the first episode, that spy is Jonna Mendez, who went on to become chief of disguise at the CIA’s Office of Technical Service.
The twist (spoiler alert): Word later reaches Mendez that she’d taken part in an elaborate ruse. A CIA source was already providing everything they could get from the machine, but Moscow was onto him. By signaling they needed the machine so badly as to break in and steal it, the CIA hoped to take the heat off their source.
“That’s the old smoke and mirrors, the games within games, the circles within circles. You can get a little lost sometimes.”— Jonna Mendez
Doged a bullet? Andrea Gritti, Doge of Venice (1523–1538) looks out on his flooded palace. Photo: Marco Bertorello/AFP via Getty
“For months now, I have been thinking I should sell my home and leave, because the assets I’d leave to my son one day won’t be worth much of anything. Nobody will want a house in Venice, because the situation will be a disaster.”— Claudio Madricardo, a city hall official, speaking to the Washington Post
Closing note: St. Mark's Basilica opened in 1094 and flooded twice over the next nine centuries. It has flooded four times since then, including each of the past two years.