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Is Operation Dignity Receiving Further Air Support from the UAE?
Gharyan, a town south of Tripoli and allied with Operation Dawn Forces, suffered airstrikes at the hands of Operation Dignity forces on Monday. Ammunition depots belonging to Operation Dawn forces were believed to be targeted, according to locals. Meanwhile, Operation Dignity Forces loyal to former Libyan army general Khalifa Haftar in Benghazi threatened to bomb the city’s port unless authorities close the port. Also, a grad rocket hit an area close to Libya’s 120,000-barrel-a-day refinery in Zawiya west of the capital Tripoli, state news agency LANA said on Monday.
The target points of these attacks seem to share one common attribute, in that they are all strongholds of Operation Dawn. In addition to the town of Gharyan, Zawyia’s political and tribal factions have also aligned themselves with the Misratan-led Operation Dawn. The airstrikes demonstrate that Operation Dignity and its allies in the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Saudi Arabia appear to be making a push either take back the nation’s capital or show that they can still inflict damage on their enemies away from their bases in Libya’s extreme East. The anti-Islamist camp is also renewing its effort to stop the flow of weapon supplies to Islamists in Benghazi by ordering the local authorities to close the port. Despite calls to close the port in August and the instability facing the country, the port is currently still working at 70 percent of its full capacity.
It will be interesting to see if Operation Dignity-aligned forces from Zintan or Wershafena attempt to supplement these airstrikes with a ground attack. But this seems quite unlikely as Operation Dignity forces have been awfully quiet in the last month, a strategy that is most likely temporary as troops regroup, yet could be semi-permanent as the Zintanis may be a totally spent force at this point. If the latter is the case it is unclear what such airstrikes can do to tip the balance of power. They seem yet another example of a miscalculation on behalf of the Arab backers of Haftar that only further polarizes the sides and leads to sympathy for the Islamist on behalf of the population.
Why Scottish Independence is Bad for Libya
The reality is that Scottish Independence would be bad for the Scots and certainly for all nations who benefit from having a strong United Kingdom which is able to act swiftly and functionally. Hence I wrote an article in the LA TIMES putting for the security implications of a Scottish secession from the UK. You can read it here. I can sympathize with many of the Scots grievances towards Westminster, yet these should be able to be reasonably alleviated without resorting to the drastic step of independence. The answer has to be greater devolution to deal with the Scots legitimate demands for different local and regional governance. This will mean making scotland more like a US state and less like a French department… and things have been happening in this way for decades now but more devolution or what is called Devo-Max will happen and are being promised to the Scots if they vote no by Cameron and Milliband. I think this will cause a chain effect causing Wales and North Ireland to also get devo max and this will mean the UK will be more a collection of four states than a unitary state… but this is fine and will allow the UK to still have one army, one nuclear deterrent, and one policy towards Putin and ISIS, etc. Independence is not the answer as it would weaken the UK, NATO, Europe, and the West and sap their resolve to act as a coherent force in providing peace keeping, mediation, etc. in places like Libya, Syria, Iraq, Ukraine. All the nice vacation spots.
Libya: Stalemate or Calm before the (Return of the) Storm?
During the past few days, developments in Libya seem to have followed a slower pace as compared to the last few months. Tripoli is reportedly in a state of uneasy calm, with schools and a few commercial areas attempting to re-open despite the fact that several families are still living outside of the capital. In Benghazi, fighting continues around the Benina airport with Operation Dignity forces entrenched there succeeding so far in resisting repeated assaults by forces of the Benghazi Rebels Shura Council umbrella group.
The current state of things, however, is unsatisfactory for all parties involved in Libya’s struggle. More than a return to stability, these days represent the calm before the return of the storm. Both sides are likely busy re-organising their ranks politically and militarily, in anticipation of an imminent resumption of intense confrontations. Even if those confrontations lack a military component it is clear that al-Hassi and al-Thinni are not compromising themselves politically.
Despite having gained military control over Tripoli, the Misratan/Islamist camp seems to be preparing to go for the jugular and deal the final blow to its adversaries. In the last few days, the General National Congress has sworn in the government formed by its appointed-PM Hassi and unsuccessfully attempted to severe diplomatic relations with the UAE and Egypt. Even more worryingly, after being emboldened by the conquest of Tripoli, it appears that the Misratan establishment has re-buffed several negotiations requests coming from the HoR. This news, alongside rumors of arms shipment coming from Sudan, legitimately raises the question of whether Operation Dawn forces are not willing to further expand the scope of the current military battle to affirm their (military) supremacy and that of the the GNC once and for all.
Finally, the House of Representatives continues to register statements of support coming from neighboring countries and international partners. On Monday, the Head of the UNSMIL mission, Bernardino Leon, visited Tobruk to discuss current developments with HoR President Ageela Issa. On the other hand, each passing day the HoR seems more and more devoid of internal strengths and capabilities. Despite initial reports, appointed-PM Abdullah Thinni has yet to present his restructured and slimmed-down cabinet. Rumors have started to emerge that the process of ministers’ selection has been complicated by contrasting political pressures coming from the federalist camp and from forces aligned with the National Forces Alliance of Mahmoud Jibril. Lastly, in what is certainly depressing news for the HoR camp, reports emerged of Libyan cadets being dismissed and repatriated from their army-training course in the UK due to an episode of insubordination. As these are not the first Libyan cadets dismissed from training, both the HoR and its international partners have been reminded once again of the inherent difficulties of building any army from scratch, let alone one with the operation capabilities and esprit de corps required for operating in the contemporary Libyan security scenario.
Is Libya the New Battleground for the Islamist-Nationalist Proxy War?
For our Spanish speaking audience, Jason Pack and Mohamed Maher of Libya-Analysis.com recently weighed in on the Proxy War being fought in Libya by regional powers in this El Pais Article. Since the military ouster of the Muslim Brotherhood president Mohamed Morsi in Egypt last year, new President Abdul Fatah Sisi and his backers in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have launched a campaign across the region to stop what they see as an existential threat to their authority posed by Islamist groups like the Muslim Brotherhood. The authors of the piece argue that the attack on Misratan weapon depots galvanized the Islamists in western Libya to take control of Libya. Possessing around 10,000 men and better firepower than their Zinanti counterparts, the Islamists felt that taking over Tripoli would insure that their survival in the political process. This latest military defeat for the non-Islamists has also partially destroyed the credibility of the newly elected House of Representatives. By aligning itself with Khalifa Haftar, who has vowed to crush all Islamist factions, the House of Representatives was unable to entice even moderate Islamists to recognize the newly elected institution.
Thinni Given PM Mandate as Libya Dawn Tries to Put Facts on the Ground
As expected after his resignation of a few days ago, Abdullah Thinni has been given a new mandate as Prime Minister, this time by the House of Representatives, and has now two weeks to form a new cabinet. Media reports indicate that Thinni has been asked to put together a slimmed down cabinet, with the hope that this, alongside a full and not Caretaker mandate, will enable him to achieve the results required to gather enough consensus to defuse the current crisis.
Meanwhile, in Tripoli, forces belonging to the Libya Dawn operation are trying to put facts on the ground and project an aura of legitimacy and sovereignty. As reported today by David Kirkpatrick for the New York Times, despite announcements from the government that ministerial buildings and state infrastructures in the capital were not safe due to militia presence, after a month long battle the perception in the streets seems to be a different one.
Residents of Tripoli said Monday that life was beginning to return to the city after a month of fighting. Businesses that had been closed were beginning to reopen, gas and electricity shortages were becoming less severe, and traffic was returning to the streets.
But the victors in the fight have also attacked and burned the homes of people accused of backing the other side; one target was the home of Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni.
Reports emerged that indiscriminate attacks targeted also the Tawerghan refugee camp located in Tripoli.
Finally, it is worth mentioning that a potential ‘Ghariani Case’ materialised and rapidly dissolved in the UK over the weekend. As the Guardian revealed that the Libyan Mufti was currently based in England, questions arose with regards to the legitimacy of his stay in the country, particularly in light of the statements Ghariani made in the past months with regards to the legitimacy of Ansar al-Shari’a as well as with his more recent statements directed against the HoR and inciting Libya Dawn forces to use the iron fist in Tripoli. Ghariani is now said to be in Qatar, one of the country rumored to be most involved in the proxy war that Libya is becoming.
Thinni Resigns Again, Tries to Breathe Life into HoR
In a bid to bring new energies and a fresh allure to the HoR camp, Caretaker Prime Minister Abdullah Thinni has resigned from his post along with all the members of his government. The decision came hours after news emerged about the possible resignation of six ministers from his government.
In his final statement, the caretaker government reiterated the status of the HoR as the sole legitimate institution inside the country, alongside the Constitutional Assembly, and framed its resignation as a move designed to allow the election of a new government. The HoR has already shortlisted five candidates for the Prime Minister Office: outgoing PM Thinni, Ashur Shuwail, Omar Abassi, Ali Al-Tikbali and the Libyan Ambassador to the UAE Aref Al-Nayed; the Libya Herald put together a brief backgrounder on each of them. Meanwhile, in Tripoli, GNC-appointed Prime Minister al-Hassi is said to have selected seven ministers for his own government, including GNC President Abu Sahmain.
Thinni’s resignation should be seen in the context of the increasing internal pressure the HoR is facing, due to the recent military developments which gave the Misratan/GNC camp the upper hand in the ongoing confrontation. In this sense, the presence of Thinni among shortlisted candidates for the PM position should be seen as a proof that his resignation does not mark a fracture between him and the HoR, but rather an attempt to salvage the internal standing of this institution by speeding up the election of the new government.
An increased sense of urgency with regards to the ongoing Libyan political crisis can also be perceived through the statement issued by the EU, which openly rejects the GNC and its government, labeling them as illegitimate, and through the call issued by France for the UN to provide ‘exceptional support’ to Libya and its transition process. At this stage, it seems that all actors outside of the Misratan camp are working against the potential consolidation of two rival and equally non-representative political centers of power. However, it will now be up to the HoR to select an inclusive government, capable of acting and being perceived as a national salvation one, so as to avoid the further consolidation of factors potentially leading up to a widespread civil war or to a deepened socio-political fragmentation of the country.
Is the HoR Losing the Internal Battle for Legitimacy?
While the military front has been quiet during the past few hours, after Misratan-led forces established their control over Tripoli and its airport, the Libyan high politics scene has been ripe with developments. In particular, after re-conveying in Tripoli, the GNC has given mandate to Omar al-Hassi to form a National Salvation Government and invited all parties interested in re-vamping the democratic transition process and re-establishing constitutional legitimacy in the country to support it. Additionally, during the past few hours, six ministers from the Thinni government have resigned, citing governmental bias in tackling the ongoing national crisis as well as the adoption of governmental resolutions without consulting relevant ministers as the basis for their decision. These developments could spell disaster for the HoR and the caretaker government of Prime Minister Thinni. Their standing was already marred by the self-imposed re-location to Tobruk’s safe but isolated location, by the inability to achieve meaningful developments in pacifying the country and by the explicit calls made for foreign military intervention. However, now that the state’s capital city is firmly under the control of the Misratan/GNC camp, they run the risk of losing any real internal political legitimacy in the eyes of large swaths of the population which had not taken a side yet in the dispute between rival chambers. The HoR of course will not go down without a fight and has appointed a new spokesperson to bring forth its narrative. A detailed summary of most recent events can be found on the Middle East Eye.
At the international level, the UN Security Council officially weighed in on the Libyan crisis, approving a resolution calling for an immediate cease-fire and promising sanctions for those that will not comply with it. The US, UK, France, Germany and Italy have also urged all parties involved to pursue a political solution based on dialogue, further condemning recent foreign strikes on Tripoli and describing them as a source of further exacerbation between parties. Furthermore, whilst Egypt has been quick in re-buffing accusations of covert military intervention in Libya, Tunisia came out strongly against the possibility of foreign military intervention and reports have emerged of Algeria hosting former GNC President Nouri Abusahmain for talks aimed at ending the ongoing crisis.
Lastly, it is worth heading to Reuters Africa for a very interesting piece focusing on the economic and financial status of Libya. In this regards, recent positive developments in the oil production sector, which has been delivering up to 650,000 barrels per day during the past few weeks, should be taken cautiously since military and political developments on the ground could easily reverse the production trend witnessed since July. Furthermore, the state budget deficit and the burden of destroyed infrastructures will make managing Libya an uphill task for whichever side will gain the upper-hand in the long run, as evidenced by quotes reported in the article:
Even if oil exports continue to flow, Libya will still post a historic budget deficit of 70 percent unless output rises to 1.6 million bpd at a price of $100 per barrel, said Husni Bey, who heads one of the of country’s largest private conglomerates. Parliament in June approved a budget worth $49 billion, assuming annual production of 600,000 bpd. But output has lingered around 100,000 bpd.
Libya does not publish oil export figures but needs up to 140,000 bpd of its production for domestic refineries. Bey said the budget crisis is exacerbated by demands to cover infrastructure damages exceeding 10 billion dinars, after the airport terminal, much of the civilian air fleet and fuel storage tanks were destroyed during more than a month of fighting in Tripoli. The government needed to use up yet more foreign currency reserves and start issuing Islamic bonds to local banks, he said.
Latest Strikes Make Libya the New Proxy War in The Region
Jason Pack of Libya-analysis.com recently took part in an interesting discussion on Aljazeera’s Inside Story. Jason touched on three important themes that have surfaced in the Islamist/Non-Islamist most recent episode: the bifurcation of Libya, foreign intervention and the proxy war that Libya has become.
In a very informative piece in the New York Times, David Kirkpatrick and Eric Schmidt disclosed that American officials said the Egyptians and the Emiratis had teamed up against Islamist target in Libya at least once before this week. Teams of “special forces” operating out of Egypt but possibly composed primarily of Emiratis had also successfully destroyed an Islamist camp near the eastern Libyan city of Derna, an extremist stronghold. The officials brought to attention that the United Arab Emirates boasts one of the most effective air forces in the Arab world, made up of American equipment and training, provided the pilots, warplanes and aerial refueling planes necessary for the fighters to bomb Tripoli out of bases in Egypt. The two authors suggest that the agenda of the Egypt and Saudi Arabia is fairly obvious:
The strikes in Tripoli are another salvo in a power struggle defined by Arab autocrats battling Islamist movements seeking to overturn the old order. Since the military ouster of the Islamist president in Egypt last year, the new government and its backers in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have launched a campaign across the region — in the news media, in politics and diplomacy, and by arming local proxies — to roll back what they see as an existential threat to their authority posed by Islamist groups like the Muslim Brotherhood.
Is Operation Dawn Forces’s Tripoli Success The Beginning of the End or The Beginning of An Escalation In Conflict?
Operation Dawn Forces have taken a series of major Zintani strongholds in Tripoli and appear to be in control of the capital. According to sources close to both militias, Misratans now controls Naqlia Camp, have entered the passenger terminal at the International Airport and are within the perimeter of the Islamic Da’wa Centre and are soon to take 7th April camp, which is reported to have been abandoned by the Zintani forces that occupied it hitherto.
These gains are likely to be answered by further airstrikes from Operation Libyan Dignity tonight. If the Misratans are able to withstand them and hold their gains from today, a Revolutionary Council will likely be established in Tripoli next week, which will become the focal point for the city’s administrative affairs. Operation Dawn have expressed their interest in dismissing the House of Representatives and reinstating the General National Congress instead.
It seems unlikely that this military victory will spell an end to conflict in Tripoli. In addition to the reaction of the nationalist factions, it will be interesting to see how Libya’s neighbours and western allies react. Most international parties have taken a neutral stance on the conflict, but have quietly backed one of the two sides as part of a larger regional proxy war in the region between Islamists and Nationalists. Western nations will likely condemn Operation Dawn’s intention of reinstating the GNC, as it sets a dangerous precedent for Democracy in the region.
As HoR Continues its Work, Arab League Shuns Call for Foreign Intervention
As speculations abound over the airstrike of Monday in Tripoli, the House of Representatives has re-gathered in Tobruk to address the issues of forming a new caretaker government and discussing the position of Army’s Chief of Staff Obeidi. At the same time, the HoR had to register critiques coming from Arab League officials with regards to its request for foreign intervention, these remarks will hardly help the HoR achieving a much-needed breakthrough in its bid for gathering external help from Western and NATO countries who had previously intervened in 2011.
Nonetheless, with regards to this, it is worth reporting a passage from an article published for Al-Monitor by Mustafa Fetouri who highlighted the crucial dimension that any solution to the current Libyan crisis must have:
Whether the call for intervention finds any response or not, and whether it actually does happen, is another matter. What is certain, though, is that the complex Libyan situation will remain a largely internal issue requiring Libyans to come to their senses and sit together to claim back their country.
Unfortunately, if media and PR wars are an indication of where national dialogue is headed, signs are not encouraging but rather point towards heightened social tension. Tuesday, a Libyan official confirmed that the government had requested from NileSat to shut down the broadcasting of Islamist leaning and HoR-opposing “Libya al-Wataniya” and “Libya al-Ramia” channels. Furthermore, on Wednesday, unconfirmed rumors of Sudanese pro-Ansar al-Shari’a mercenaries gathering in Kufra emerged, evoking a narrative reminiscent of rumors regarding dark-skinned mercenaries flocking to Qadhafi’s side in early 2011.
On the other hand, despite dire political and security developments, Libya’s oil sector continues to slowly boost its production levels. In particular, yesterday a tanker loaded oil in Libya’s port of Es-Sider for the first time in a year. Es-Sider has a loading capacity of 340.000 barrels per day which will add to current production levels that have been consistently hitting the 500.000bpd mark during the month of July. Furthermore, ENI has just spudded a new exploration offshore well. Unfortunately for Libya, however, its oil production is back on a sluggish market that registered not only a drop in the current price for crude oil, but also a negative revision of the expected growth in general oil demand for this year. Market difficulties reflect particularly heavily on Libya’s ability to sell its crude since most of its oil exports are directed towards the Eurozone area, and Italy in particular, whose economies are still marred by the crippling effects of the financial crisis.
Covert Intervention? Air Strike in Tripoli Sparks Anxiety Over Foreign Role in Libya
During the night between Sunday and Monday, Tripoli witnessed a targeted airstrike on positions and arsenals belonging to forces of the so called “Operation Dawn” led by Misratan militias. Several reports indicate that targets were hit with laser guided bombs delivered from an altitude of 7-8 Km, making this an operation well beyond the capabilities of what is left of Libya’s Air Forces. Furthermore, airplanes belonging to General Haftar could have not carried out such operation due to the necessity to re-fuel midway between their bases in eastern Libya and the targets in Tripoli, something beyond their operational capability.
The state of confusion and anxiety sparked by the over night attack is well captured by an article on the National Post by Maamoun Youssef:
In a statement, the government demanded the chief of staff and military intelligence to investigate the predawn strikes Monday morning targeting positions of militias originally from the coastal city of Misrata and its Islamist allies.
The strikes, under the cover of darkness, sparked fears that a foreign country like Italy carried out the attack, as the Libyan military does not have aircraft that can fly at night, according to a former colonel in the Libyan air force. Libya’s newly elected parliament recently asked the United Nations to protect its civilians and stop the fighting. Italy’s ambassador to Libya even went on local television to say his country was not involved.
Later during the day, Haftar forces have claimed responsibility for the attack, describing it as an operation carried out with the support of unspecified international partners.
Whilst the House of Representatives is planning its work for the week ahead, this news is likely to further invigorate the zero-sum logic driving both Operation Dignity and Operation Dawn forces. In particular, despite mediation efforts being carried out by UN and EU delegations in the city of Misrata following on the appointment of a new UN Special Envoy for Libya, Misratan forces might feel pressured into a corner by both internal and external forces and decide to further escalate confrontation. In this sense, even emerging rumors of joint combat exercises to be carried out by air forces of the “5+5 Defence Initiative” countries, in preparation for potential attacks coming from Libya, are likely to stir up even more tension in the Islamist camp.
HoR Tries Raising its Profile by Pushing for Intervention and Disbandment of Militias
As expected by analysts and observers of Libyan affairs, the House of Representatives passed on Wednesday two important resolutions aimed at tackling the security crisis crippling the country. In its first resolution, the HoR called for the UN Security Council to intervene in Libya so as to protect civilians and institutions currently put at risk by internal fights between factions that are increasingly coalescing in national level blocks and jeopardizing the political transition. The resolution was approved by 111 out of the 124 representatives attending the meeting. In its wording, however, the resolution does not provide details of what means the HoR expects the UN to adopt in its intervention, making it unlikely that a full blown military intervention will actually take place without a clear mandate coming from within the country. This notion is further reinforced by the statement issued yesterday by the UNSMIL mission which calls for a political solution to the crisis rather than a military imposed one. Support for UNSMIL and its approach towards Libya were also reiterated by the US, Italian, French and German governments last night through a joint statement.
Through a second resolution, the HoR ordered the disbandment of all existing militias and removed financial benefits previously allocated for those recognised by the State. The resolution (No. 7/2014), adopted by 102 out of the 104 representatives present, calls for all armed groups to either join the National Armed Forces or disband by 31st December 2014. After adopting these resolutions, the HoR decided to adjourn itself until next Sunday as per request of several of its members who noted that the institution has effectively been working non-stop for the past two weeks, a situation that explains the limited number of representatives attending yesterday’s last vote.
The adoption of these long-awaited resolutions, tackling the security situation in general and the current violence in Tripoli and Benghazi in particular, clearly raises the stakes for the HoR. At this stage, the internal standing and legitimacy of this body will be profoundly affected by its ability to garner effective external support for halting ongoing fights and by its ability to appoint a new government capable of enforcing the disbandment of militias and establishing a coherent and functional security apparatus. This is particularly true since camps and forces opposing the HoR on the ground of its ‘unofficial’ gathering in Tobruk are maintaining their narrative alive so as to possibly capitalise from it when popular discontent or disappointment with the HoR might soar as they did in the past with the GNC.
Libya at a Turning Point? HoR Agrees to Direct Presidential Elections as Fighting Continues Unabated
In a recent episode of ‘Inside Story’ broadcasted by Al Jazeera, Professor George Joffe from the University of Cambridge made the point that ongoing confrontations in Libya represent a major turning point for the country. This is especially true for warring militias that see current events as their last chance to carve up spheres of influence in the country’s economic and political landscapes before the House of Representatives sets out to cancel financial benefits that were previously allocated for them by state institutions. In light of this, it was argued, the international community should stand with all its weight behind Libya’s political institutions and sustain their long term development and role in the country.
With regards to political institutions, during the past few days, the House of Representatives has been going through a series of hearings with State officials at various levels so as to grasp a better understanding of the situation on the ground and of the positions held by relevant actors throughout these months. Among others, Caretaker Prime Minister Abdullah Thinni, Libya’s Army Chief of Staff Abdussalam Jadallah Al-Obeidi and Saiqa Special Forces Commander Wanis Bu Khamada appeared in front of elected representatives. Today instead, the HoR agreed with an overwhelming majority for Libya’s next President to be elected through popular vote, a position that has always been unpopular with the Islamist camp and that will likely increase the antagonism expressed by it towards the HoR, a body Islamist forces already charged with illegitimacy before. Nonetheless, no election date has been set as of yet as the HoR aims to obtain a clearer picture of the current security situation before doing so.
Political developments notwithstanding, clashes continue unabated throughout Libya, a reminder of both the dramatic lack of institutional capability in the country and the inability of any side to prevail militarily. Despite clear orders emanated by the Army Chief of Staff to comply with the HoR ceasefire decision, shelling and targeted assassinations have resumed in Tripoli. As a results, it is now estimated that the number of internally displaced families has topped the 7,000 mark, not to mention the continuous shrinkage of expat communities in the country which has a strong impact on the delivery of aid and assistance work. In the East, after forces from the Shoura Council of Benghazi’s Revolutionaries seemed to have gained the upper hand during last week’s fights for the city, reports emerged that Saiqa troops made their way back into certain parts of town, while air forces belonging to Haftar’s Operation Dignity expanded their field of action to Derna’s port after having repeatedly threatened to shut down Benghazi’s port and attack any ship directed towards it, so far an empty threat.
Finally, to focus on the regional dimension of the crisis, it is worth heading to Al-Monitor to read a translation of a piece written by Nadia B’chir for Business News. This article does a good job of presenting the structural and political differences between 2011 and today from the point of view of Tunisia, highlighting the consequences that this would have in case of a further escalation in the current Libyan crisis:
As the security situation reaches its peak, Tunisia is confronted with the difficult task of managing the massive influx of Libyan, Egyptian and Jordanian refugees fleeing Libya. The number of people registered at the Ras Jedir border crossing ranges between 5,000 and 6,000 people per day. Commenting on the figures at a press conference on the deteriorating situation in Libya, Tunisia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Mongi Hamdi said the influx was “normal” so far, and far from the figures registered in 2011. At that time, more than 500,000 people fled to Tunisia. The minister asserted that the 2011 scenario could not be reproduced. The country’s current situation can in no way allow it to happen, due to a difficult economic climate coupled with a vulnerable security situation caused by the spread of terrorism. The national army, which is currently weak and which, in 2011, gave full support to customs and border officers, is focused on the fight against terrorism. The country’s national interest takes priority over solidarity and compassion, despite those things being heavily present. In this regard, Mongi Hamdi explained that given the precarious economic situation in Tunisia and the large numbers of Libyans in the territory (estimated to be over one million), the country can no longer accommodate additional refugees. He did not rule out the possibility of closing the Tunisian-Libyan border if the influx of refugees intensifies.
He stressed that, in such an event, the borders would only be open to Tunisian nationals, whose number was estimated at 80,000, as well as to individuals who had special cases. Regarding refugees coming from Egypt and Jordan, Mongi Hamdi clearly stated that they would be allowed to cross the Tunisian-Libyan border provided they present a flight ticket from the Djerba airport certifying their repatriation, or that their country of origin agrees to send a plane to repatriate them.
Obama Discusses Libya With Thomas L. Friedman
In an interesting Op-ed this week, Thomas L. Friedman discusses a broad range of foreign policy decisions that United States President Barack Obama implemented during his presidency. The president reflects on the short comings of the NATO-led Libyan Operations that ousted Colonel Qaddafi, where his “hands-off” foreign policy may not have the best solution for Libya:
“I’ll give you an example of a lesson I had to learn that still has ramifications to this day, and that is our participation in the coalition that overthrew Qaddafi in Libya. I absolutely believed that it was the right thing to do. … Had we not intervened, it’s likely that Libya would be Syria. … And so there would be more death, more disruption, more destruction. But what is also true is that I think we [and] our European partners underestimated the need to come in full force if you’re going to do this. Then it’s the day after Qaddafi is gone, when everybody is feeling good and everybody is holding up posters saying, ‘Thank you, America.’ At that moment, there has to be a much more aggressive effort to rebuild societies that didn’t have any civic traditions. … So that’s a lesson that I now apply every time I ask the question, ‘Should we intervene, militarily? Do we have an answer [for] the day after?’ ”
It is noteworthy to mention that the president reiterated his intention of extending his hand to communities in the Middle East that apply the principle of “No Victor/No Vanquished”. This proclamation would confirm that the current U.S. administration has no intention of picking sides in the latest Islamist-Nationalist spat.
The NYT on the Impact of the 2012 Benghazi Assault on US Strikes in Iraq
Even though almost two years have passed, the memory of the events of the 2012 assault on the US Consulate in Benghazi still looms large over the White House. In a very interesting piece on today’s New York Times, Mark Landler, Alissa J. Rubin, Mark Mazzetti and Helene Cooper present a detailed account of the lead-up to the decision taken by President Obama to authorize limited airstrikes on IS militants in Iraq as well as the delivery of humanitarian aid to the displaced population of Northern Iraq. The authors make an explicit reference to the weight that the events occurred in 2012 in Libya and the death of Ambassador Christopher Stevens had on the decision making process:
With American diplomats and business people in Erbil suddenly at risk, at the American Consulate and elsewhere, Mr. Obama began a series of intensive deliberations that resulted, only a day later, in his authorizing airstrikes on the militants, as well as humanitarian airdrops of food and water to the besieged Iraqis.
Looming over that discussion, and the decision to return the United States to a war Mr. Obama had built his political career disparaging, was the specter of an earlier tragedy: the September 2012 attack on the diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, which killed four Americans, including Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, and has become a potent symbol of weakness for critics of the president.
Clearly, the current administration does not want to run the risk of being seen as leaving behind US personnel and interests due its hands-off regional approach. On the other hand, it is too early to tell if these strikes will mark the first step towards a lasting change in the regional policy approach and if a similar stance will be taken with regards to Libya and the encroachment of Jihadist forces in the eastern part of the country.
Despite Turmoil Libya’s Oil Production Remains Steady
Despite the ongoing turmoil marring the country, Libya oil’s production remains steady following the rebound in productivity levels witnessed after last month’s reopening of the Ras Lanouf and Al-Sidra ports and of the Sharara oil field. As confirmed by the Monthly Oil Market Report released today by the OPEC, during the past month Libya’s oil production consistently broke the 500,000 barrels a day mark for the first time since last January, bringing much needed relief to the country’s economy. Nonetheless, the oil sector has still a long way to go before reaching pre-war or late 2012 production levels. Reuters Graphic put together a very clear infographic highlighting this and documenting the fluctuating levels of Libya’s oil productivity during the post-Qadhafi years.
Furthermore, even though oil infrastructures have been spared by rival militias during ongoing clashes, it is still to early to breath a sigh of relief. As the events of Tripoli’s airport have demonstrated, zero-sum logic and the desire to undercut opponents’ sources of income might lead rivaling factions to engulf oil infrastructures in military clashes. This should be taken into consideration especially now, with reports indicating that Zawiya’s oil port is a mere 20km away from clashes, the need to implement a stable ceasefire deal and to launch a national dialogue aiming to mend fractures in the country’s socio-political landscape is more pressing than ever.
Laslty, David Samuels on Bloomberg Bussinesweek wrote a very interesting piece documenting the attempts made in the past years at tracking Libya’s assets stashed abroad during Qadhafi’s rule and how this process led to further squandering of identified funds for short-term political gains:
When asked to provide an example of how this scam works, Hamroush says Ireland has $2 billion in Libyan assets. She knows the exact sum, she says, because Irish officials made a point of telling her how much money they had and where it was located. She took the information to Mustafa Jalil, head of the National Transitional Council, at which point at least one group of asset hunters applied to receive 10 percent of the total, she says. “Somebody in the NTC is either a complete idiot or an evil genius,” she concludes. “Money is being squandered everywhere like mad.”
Giveaways to individuals and militias from Libyan state coffers during her time in office from November 2011 to August 2012 amounted to $20 billion, according to her own estimate. In addition, the government, to buy loyalty, pays 40 percent of the adult population a salary at a cost of about $6 billion a month. While that figure could have easily been covered by oil revenue during Qaddafi’s time, the country’s production is now less than a quarter of what it was. Today, the practice of loading up the budget with public salaries in order to buy public loyalty has continued—but with a difference. “Now there are two or three times as many salaries as before,” Hamroush says, and they are being paid out of the state’s foreign reserves. At the rate that they are being used, the reserves will be entirely depleted in two years.
Bernard-Henri Levy Urges The West to Act Before the Clock Strikes Midnight
In an article from the New Statesman, Bernard-Henri Levy points out that the collapse of the Libyan state is a result of very little action in the realm of state building. Levy suggests that foreign powers should have provided assistance in training a police force, constructing a program of disarmament and reintegration of the former combatants and a Libyan national school of public administration. Although the situation is deteriorating quickly, Levy does point out that the fact that it is not too late to act, and that Libya is by no means a country filled with extremists:
The reality is that an international force mandated by the United Nations would be welcomed with open arms and would have little trouble taming the death squads that presently sow so much terror while being so wholly unrepresentative of today’s Libya.
The country has held two free elections since the fall of Gaddafi. Both elections were clear-cut defeats for the Islamists. The first brought to power for sixteen months the most democratic and pro-western leader that the Arab world has produced in a long while: Ali Zeidan. The second, held 25 June, saw only 30 Islamists elected to the 188-seat legislature that has just convened in Tobruk despite calls for a boycott by the jihadist minority.
Algeria and Egypt Defuse Intervention Talks as HoR Starts Its Works by Ordering Ceasefire
After gathering for its first official meeting on Monday, the House of Representatives set out to elect its President and Deputies during the past days. Participating representatives elected as President the independent lawyer Ageela Issa from Guba, who narrowly defeated initial frontrunner Abubakr Bahira during the second round of votes. Afterwards, the HoR selected Imhemed Shaib from Zawia as First Deputy Vice President and Ahmed Huma as Second Deputy. Today, the HoR got off to more substantive work. In particular, MP Ziad Daghim announced that the HoR stripped former GNC President Nuri Abu Sahmain of his role as Commander of Armed Forces and ordered for an unconditional ceasefire to be implemented under the monitoring of the UN in Tripoli and Benghazi within twenty four hours.
It remains to be seen how forces on the ground will receive this order, particularly in light of reports emerged today that Algeria has been recently asked to lead a military intervention in Libya, under the blessings of a UN and Arab League sanctioned mandate, which might be seen as a (failed) strong attempt to rein in all militias, and undercut their means and power bases, on behalf of national political institutions. Nonetheless, Algeria allegedly refused to intervene outside of its borders on the ground of the defensive role of its armed forces. A similar argument has been raised by Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry to justify his country’s current stand which seems to be in contradiction with the increasing internal preoccupation expressed for developments occurring in Eastern Libya. A joint statement issued last night by the US, Algerian, Moroccan, Tunisian and Libyan Governments further confirmed the reluctance of regional countries to get militarily involved into Libya, even though in the past days talks of intervention have gained ground among external observers.
Finally, as mentioned yesterday, whilst international support for the HoR is strong, internal factions have taken diametrically different positions with regards to its role and legitimacy, and the situation for some HoR members and politicians appears to be still fluid. Most importantly, reports have emerged that a demonstration has been held in Misrata, calling the relocation and transfer of power procedure held in Tobruk an attempted coup against the 2011 Revolution. Furthermore, Benghazi continued to slip into the hands of the Shoura Council of Benghazi Rebels – the umbrella coalition representing various Islamist leaning groups opposed to Saiqa and Haftar forces – that announced new significant territorial gains despite an alleged ceasefire in place in the city.
Elders Hope to Facilitate an Agreement in Cyrenaica As GNC President Dismisses HoR As ‘Unconstitutional’
Some positive developments have taking place in the Eastern province of Cyrenaica over the last couple of days. According to a group of elders in Benghazi, calling themselves a Senate of Tribal Chiefs and Notables, negotiations with both the Benghazi Shoura Council and the Operation Dignity forces are taking place in order to ensure the violence that has struck Benghazi in recent days stops permanently. Apart from some explosions on the Airport Road at around midnight last night, the city has been relatively quiet since Sunday. Some key conditions of the ceasefire include laying down all arms and recognizing the legitimacy of Parliament (the House of Representatives) and submit ting to its authority.
In a joint statement on Monday, the French, Italian, German, UK and US governments called on the new House of Representatives to be inclusive in its work. They said that the house of representatives has the blessing of the international community and would back this new institution until the hopes and aspirations of Libyans were achieved. In retaliation, the president of the former General National Congress Nuri Abu Sahmain and the Grand Mufti, Sheikh Sadik Al-Ghariani, have said that the new House of Representatives is unconstitutional. However, with the legitimacy of the new House internationally and nationally accepted, the arguments advanced by Abu Sahmain and Ghariani are not seen as carrying much weight in the country and may well undermine their own credibility. Reconciliation between the Islamist and Anti-Islamist camps will be key for any lasting peace to take place in the capital. For residents in the capital, even without the dangers of random missiles landing, life has become intolerable. In many places, limited supplies and vast queues at bakers are the now the norm.
It will be interesting to see if military intervention becomes a possibility on the ground. Former UK ambassador to Libya, Sir Richard Dalton, has said the UK and other EU states could send in troops if the authorities request reinforcements. Dalton suggested that the U.K should conduct the necessary preparation now in case that mediation should be successful and Libyan leaders generally request some form of reinforcement for their own embryonic forces.
House of Representatives Postpones First Meeting Amid Violence and Displacements
With the battle for Tripoli’s Airport entering its third week and Benghazi witnessing significant advances from the Islamist side, foreign governments are scrambling to evacuate their citizens and diplomatic missions from Libya, with the British Embassy representing the latest in a long series of closures. The situation at the border crossing of Ras Ajdair remains tense, with efforts being made by Tunisian and Libyan authorities to facilitate a quick solution to the ongoing crisis and the transfer of stranded workers, especially Egyptians. Those who succeed in fleeing the country describe the current situation as being far worse than that witnessed at any point during the Revolution, due also to the use of indiscriminate shelling that is causing an increasingly large number of internally displaced people.
Meanwhile, the House of Representatives postponed until Monday its inaugural meeting. The decision came after an informal gathering held in Tobruk on Saturday that saw the participation of 152 of the houses nominal 200 members. However, it is important to stress that while a substantial number of elected representatives attended this meeting, reports indicate that no Misratans were present. As Libyans are hoping for the House of Representatives to quickly establish a government capable of bringing violence to a halt, the decision to boycott its meetings by members elected in Misrata could prove to be the final straw for the House of Representatives’ internal legitimacy and effectiveness. Furthermore, in a statement showing the degree of polarisation and zero-sum logic openly displayed by politicians in Libya, Muhammad Suwan, the President of Libya’s Muslim Brotherhood connected Justice and Construction Party, declared that the military operations occurring around Tripoli’s airport were a legitimate response to Haftar’s Operation Dignity in Benghazi. The statement, initially reported by Associated Press, has been denied since through the party’s Facebook page.
Lastly, after a series of concerned remarks from Egyprian President Abdel Fattah Sisi, former Arab League General Secretary Amr Moussa announced that Egypt might step up its role in the ongoing Libyan crisis over concern for regional and internal stability, invoking the country’s right to self defense in light of the political and security vacuum that currently characterizes the region of Cyrenaica.
Escalating Violence in Libya Necessitates International Mediation
Violence at the Ras Al-Jadirr Border led to the border crossing being closed by Tunisian authorities earlier today. The crossing has been overwhelmed in the last three days due in large part to the large Egyptian diaspora, who were recently advised to leave the country by their embassy. Egyptian refugees were again blamed for an incident where a group of migrants rushed the Tunisian side of the border. This led to officials firing weapons in the air to disperse the crowd and an immediate closure of the border.
With the success of the protest against Ansar Al Sharia at the Jalaa Hospital in Benghazi, a group of protestors gathered in Martyrs’ Square, before heading down the Airport Road, in an attempt to reclaim the road from the militias. However, the group was turned back at the Ministry of Interior building by militia units. The protestors have since began organizing another attempt on social media overnight.
In an article that I wrote alongside Richard Northern for the Atlantic Council today, I attempt to explain that a mediation process aligned with the new parliament and a new constitutional settlement, backed by the international community, offers any prospect of breaking the cycle of fear and violence in Libya:
A mediation process will not provide an instant solution. It may take time for the militias, who are wary of being sidelined, to accept that there can be no military victory and that they have more to gain through the political process. But the pressures of public opinion, exhaustion, and stalemate will tell eventually. By then, a concerted international mediation effort should stand ready to take advantage of the opening and facilitate a way forward.
Ansar Al-Sharia Claim Islamic Emirate in Benghazi
Libya’s Islamist militant group Ansar al-Sharia has said that it seized complete control of Benghazi late on Wednesday, declaring the city an “Islamic emirate,” the group’s representative said. The rebels inflicted a major defeat on Special Forces loyal to retired Major General Khalifa Haftar. Scores of his troops were killed in battles over the past few days. A well-informed source in Benghazi claims that Haftar left for Egypt in order to spend Eid with members of his family who live there. Hafar, however, has denied these claims.
The military success of Ansar Al-Sharia exacerbates a complex situation in Libya. With the House of Representatives set to convene on the 4th of August in Benghazi, Ansar Al-Sharia will surely seize every opportunity to destabilize the fragile government institution. Activist Yusuf Al-Qumati said that the Muslim Brotherhood and those who are close to the movement should determine their position regarding the attempts to undermine the state project in which they participate by virtue of the power-sharing arrangement.
It will be very interesting to see if this recent gain made by Ansar Al-Sharia will last. Haftar stated that the national Libyan army is in control of Benghazi and only withdrew from certain positions for tactical reasons. However, circles close to Haftar attributed the defeat of his forces to the failure of the east Libyan tribes to stand by him as well as to having faith in an appeal for a ceasefire made by former Provisional Council Head Mustafa Abd Al-Jalil.
Libya on the Brink: How to Stop the Fighting
As the situation in Libya deteriorates towards the end of July 2014, Western countries are debating three key options: withdrawal, mediation, and intervention. The issue is complicated by the security situation which requires withdrawing or protecting diplomatic personnel, while simultaneously attempting to stay appraised of developments on the ground which are happening at breakneck speed. I have waded into these debates with an article in Foreign Affairs, which as a publication tends to reach the upper echelons of the American policymaking establishment. I put forth the case for mediation in that article and criticize the American decision to entirely withdraw its Embassy and to do so in a disgraceful Saigon-esque fashion.
These are the same issues I debate on TV with my close friends Richard Northern and Karim Mezran on Al Jazeera’s flagship talking heads programme, “Inside Story.” I think it was the best TV show i’ve yet been on and I hope you watch it and enjoy it by clicking here.
Libya Back in the Limelight, Will Actors on The Ground Capitalize from it?
As written yesterday and in the previous days, the ongoing crisis in Libya is deepening with no side capable of achieving a significant breakthrough, whether in battle or in negotiations. This violent stalemate has progressively engulfed civilian areas and state infrastructures into the battle, spurring several Libyans to temporarily abandon the country via land routes to “wait out” the fighting.
In an article for the New York Times, Kareem Fahim reflects on the symbolic and moral importance that the devastation occurred in Tripoli’s airport has had in spurring people to leave:
The battle for the airport has left it a gutted symbol of a disintegrating state. Lost in the rubble of the airport was the sense of collective purpose that seemed to unite Libyans not so long ago, during the revolt.
“If you’re willing to destroy your airport — that idea of national sovereignty, that we’re all in this together, then the issue of national identity is simply not as important as everyone thought it would be,” said Dirk Vandewalle, an associate professor at Dartmouth College and an expert on Libya who has visited regularly since the revolution.
Realising that the latest Libyan crisis was not going to defuse itself from within, as it often happened in the recent past, international actors have increased their focus on events. The renewed sense of urgency about Libya is well reflect by a recent tweet of Italy’s PM Matteo Renzi, who indicated events in the north African country as his only serious concern in this moment. However, it remains unclear what this renewed interest will concretely translate into and if any actor on the ground will be able to capitalise from it.
The Libya Herald quoted Libya’s UN representative Ibrahim al-Dabashi threatening militias with a statement hinting at a possible hands-on approach from Western countries to the ongoing violence, as seen in 2011, and to future prosecution from the ICC. However, a conference call between US and EU leaders has so far led to a mere renewal of statements of support for the House of Representatives and for a bigger role to be played by the UN. Messages coming from the ground are likely to further embolden militias in their battle, as diplomatic missions are being progressively shut down and foreign expats evacuated from the country, the Libyan government struggle to gather international support for extinguishing the fire in Tripoli fuel tankers. Furthermore, public opinion in Western countries seems to be headed in a different direction than in 2011. This s well reflected by the wealth of op-eds and articles that are being published in these hours portraying and analysing events in Libya only through the prism of the NATO-led intervention; focusing on settling old scores of internal politics and over-exaggerating the importance that Western countries have had in the brewing of the ongoing crisis.
No Eid Celebrations as Libya Descends into Chaos
Even though Monday marked the first day of ‘Eid al-Fitr, Libya witnessed a further descent into chaos with increased fighting and destruction in both Tripoli and Benghazi. In the eastern city, Islamist aligned forces launched a counter-offensive that culminated in the conquest of a key Saiqa base in the Bu Attni district, which also comprised training facilities and the headquarters of the 21st Battalion.
Furthermore, reports of a barrage of rockets targeting the Tibesti Hotel and nearby Istiqlal street, where the House of Representatives is set to gather next week, circulated yesterday. These reports should be seen as a further proof that the escalation in violence witnessed throughout the country is the result of a tactical choice taken from certain factions to derail the political transition whilst avoiding to openly reject electoral results, a move that could have proved far riskier in attracting a speedy external intervention.
In Tripoli fighting between Zintani and Misratan forces continued largely unabated despite major collateral damages. On Monday, a fuel depot located nearby the airport was set on fire as a result of ongoing clashes in the area. The fire there has now been declared out of control and has reached another tank, forcing Libyan authorities to plea for external support. A third tank has been reportedly hit today without further consequences.
In other developments, after the failed attempt of the past days, caretaker Prime Minister Thinni and the government have effectively relocated in al-Baida, in an attempt to try and tackle the ongoing crisis from a different perspective and broker a first ceasefire in Benghazi. Mustafa Abdul Jalil also made his voice heard again, talking as the head of the Libyan Council of Notables assembled by the government to facilitate negotiations, the former Chairman of the NTC issued a communicate inviting all parties involved in the Tripoli fights to comply with previously brokered ceasefire agreements. Finally, in the relatively calmer south, the Libya Herald reports that a consensus is coalescing between various and often opposing forces, such as Tebus, Tuareg and the Zwai tribe, announcing their support and material assistance for the Zintani-Operation Dignity block.
As for oil fields and their output, Samir Salim Kamal is quoted by Reuters as saying that ongoing fighting has spared oil related infrastructures and that the fuel depots on fire in Tripoli were destined to local consumption:
“I can confirm that all the oilfields are safe and the production is still around 500,000 bpd,” Samir Salim Kamal, director of planning at the Libyan Oil Ministry, told Reuters. He declined to say from which day the figure was or to give further details.
Two weeks ago, Libya’s oil production has risen to 588,000 bpd but it has fallen since the clashes have started over the capital’s international airport. It was unclear if the Brega oil port has started operating after the government had reached a deal with protesting security guards to end strikes.
Calls for Dialogue Fall on Deaf Ears as Militias Get Entrenched in Battle
As no major development occurred in Libya throughout the weekend, warring sides seem to prepare themselves for a long-lasting and consuming confrontation. Fears that opposing factions will not agree to a ceasefire, let alone come to a peaceful settling of their disputes, are well reflected by the evacuation of the US Embassy in Tripoli, occurred on Saturday morning amid exceptional security measures.
In an article for the Financial Times, Borzou Daraghi focuses on the increasing risk of a Beirut-like scenario for Tripoli. As rival forces eschew areas of influence in different neighborhoods, the airport highway is increasingly playing the role of a novel Green Line, separating forces representing more and more nation-wide opposing blocks and not just the cities of Zintan and Misrata. The article does also a good job of presenting various voices on the ground, reminding us of the individual-level dimension of the crisis and, even more importantly, highlighting how the lackluster developments occurred in Libya during the last three years are marring the strength of the existing social fabric.
At the international level, Special Envoys for Libya from a number of countries and international organisations met on Thursday in Brussels to discuss the ongoing crisis. In their concluding statement, they called yet-again on all parties involved in the crisis for dialogue, while also invoking a more decisive role to be played by the UN in brokering a ceasefire. However, the concomitance of the latest Gaza crisis and of the diplomatic efforts surrounding it surely do not help the international community, and other major regional players like Egypt, to adequately focus on Libyan events. Calls for peaceful negotiations were renewed by the Libyan Government as well through a statement underlying the symbolic importance that the imminent ‘Eid al-Fitr could play in favoring reconciliation.
Finally, the ‘Shura Council of the Youth of Islam’ in Derna issued a statement concerning the arrest, judgment and execution of an Egyptian and Libyan man suspected of murder. The two were sentenced to death by the Shari’a Council of the organization and then handed over to blood relatives of the murder’s victim for carrying out the sentence. Clearly, this event marks an unequivocal attempt by this recently formed Jihadist group to follow the blueprint of other Somali and Iraqi organisations and establish itself not just as a provider of security and charity work, but as an overall alternative for the failing state apparatuses. Putting this and the above developments in perspective, underlines how strongly Libya needs to quickly put an end to the ongoing violent stalemate and prevent the mushrooming of peripheral pockets of institutionalised dissent.
Will the House of Representatives be nipped in the bud by ongoing violence?
The question on every one’s tongue is will the House of Representatives be nipped in the bud by ongoing violence or will it be able to establish traction against the militias due to its democratic mandate? As clashes have not abated around Tripoli’s airport, a surge in violence has been registered during the past days in Benghazi. Military bases belonging to Saiqa Special Forces have been targeted by repeated attacks and suicide bombings from the Islamist side, leading in turn to a resumption of aerial attacks from the Benina airbase. Furthermore, Saiqa Commander Wanis Bukhamada publicly called for reinforcements to be sent in support of the fight against ‘terrorists’ and for a clear statement on these events to be issued by the Government.
For his part, in a speech to the Libyan people Wednesday night, caretaker Prime Minister Abdullah Thinni reiterated calls for dialogue and restraint, calling in particular on the cities of Zintan and Misrata due to the role played by militias from these cities in recent Tripoli’s airport clashes. Yet when he attempted to go to Tubroq, he was prevented from using Maitiga airport by the Islamist militias that control it.
At the high politics level, despite national and international calls for an immediate transition, the GNC has set August 4th as the date for transferring power to the House of Representatives. It is worth wondering if delaying the transfer of power any further does not run the risk of presenting the new legislative body with an insurmountable and degenerated security situation. Furthermore, since no actor on Libya’s political scene currently possesses the strength to break the ongoing stalemate or tackle it, postponing the work of the House of Representatives can be seen as a bid to wear out the legitimacy of this newly-elected body and to nip its potential in the bud. GNC member Abdullah al-Qamaty from Qaminis openly hinted at this possibility, framing ongoing violence in Western Libya as an attempt to prevent institutional transfer of power.
Lastly, as expected, widespread violence and instability took their toll on Libya’s oil output as well. More details on this can be found in Aiman al-Warfalli and Ahmed Elumami piece for Euronews:
The El-Feel oilfield last week was forced to cut back due to clashes in Tripoli, where the two rival brigades of militias have fought over control of the airport. El-Feel, operated by state-run National Oil Corporation and Italy’s ENI, is protected by security guards from the northwestern Zintan region, whose fighters also protect the airport where clashes have gone on for a week. National Oil Company spokesman Mohamed El Harari said output as of Monday was around 450,000 bpd compared with 555,000 bpd on Thursday.
Still, oil industry progress remains in flux. One of Libya’s ports, Brega, is expected to be operating within a “few days” after the government reached a deal with protesting security guards to end a blockade, NOC’s Harari said.
According to Reuters AIS Live tanker tracking service, no tankers had loaded so far at Brega. One crude shipment left the 230,000 barrels-per-day Zawiya port, supplied by the El Sharara oilfield, which was recently reopened. The Olympic Spirit II, carrying Aframax, crude oil, headed to the Spanish port of Bilbao having left July 20.
Violence in the Capital Escalates as The Government Struggles to Sell Crude
Heavy fighting around Tripoli airport has hit a fuel tanker, as an escalation of violence in Libya damages the oil infrastructure for the first time. The fuel tanker, which was close to the airport, burst into flames after being hit by a missile, according to statements and videos posted on the airport’s Facebook page. Underscoring Libya’s chaos, acting Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni and other ministers said were prevented by militias from using the Mitiga Airport to fly to the eastern city of Tobruk. Mitiga, used mostly for military and oil company flights, has been opened to limited international flights since the clashes erupted and Tripoli International Airport was closed.
The undesired consequences as a result of the fighting taking places keep rising. Turkey may evacuate its embassy in the Libyan capital of Tripoli; Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said on Thursday, a day after his ministry advised all Turkish citizens to leave the North African country due to the worsening security situation. This is a big blow to the fragile Libyan government, which has witnessed the exodus of a few hundred Turks in Libya in recent months. Adding to the diplomatic blow are reports that the government is preparing a new pricing strategy for its crude exports that may include further discounts after a sales offer last week failed because potential buyers offered “unacceptable” prices, according to state-run National Oil Corporation. Libya plans to offer different crude prices before the end of next month that will compensate customers for the additional risk of loading oil in the country, Ahmed Shawki, marketing director at National Oil, said by phone from Tripoli today. The country reduced July export prices for seven grades of crude by as much as US $1.90 a barrel, according to a price list from National Oil obtained by Bloomberg News on July 18.
Although the situation seems extremely dire, there are grassroots movements on the ground that may be decisive in breaking the stalemate on the ground. Reports are circulating that Zintan’s tribal elders travelled to Al Baida to discuss the situation with some of Eastern Libya’s elders. Brigades from the southwestern city of Kufra have also threatened that they will side with the Zintan militias in order to stop the escalation of violence in the capital city.
Are the Parliamentary Elections a Precursor for More Violence?
The electoral commission finally announced the results of the winners of individual seats in the June 25 poll a day late and at a time when as clashes for control of Tripoli airport take place. Liberal factions appear to be the big winners, unlike the former General National Congress (GNC) which was dominated by Islamists. Benghazi Deputy Younes Fannouch estimated that the Islamists have not won more than 30 seats. He also added that he believes the Liberal factions won 50 seats and the Cyrenaican Federalists garnered 25 seats. Twelve of the 200 seats have not been attributed as the vote in certain polling stations was annulled due to suspected electoral fraud. The remaining 80 seats will go to independents, who Fannouch claims are “opposed to Islamic politics”. The list of successful candidates, along with their photograph, is available on this spreadsheet. The conflict around the Airport has not ceased, with the death toll climbing to 50 after the first week.
The implications of this election can make an already complex situation worse. A defeat in the parliamentary election and the relocation of the only legislative authority in the country to Benghazi will likely lead to stronger coordination and unity between the Islamist militias in Benghazi and Misruata to undermine the NFA-Federalist alliance. If this situation were to unfold, the house of parliament would likely become as inactive as its predecessor, the General National Congress, since the Islamist militias will leverage every opportunity to challenge the government with force and violence. Simply put, the Islamist militias will not allow any political or military faction to undercut their capability to coerce the weakened government to pay salaries and benefits to its members.
As the consolidation process takes place under the Islamist and Nationalist ideologies, only 2 possible scenarios can end this vicious cycle of violence. The simpler situation would be to negotiate a grand bargain between the major political factions. Complicating this option, however, is the need to balance the needs of the militias and the public’s willingness to appease the militias, which will be crucial for the democratic process. The other alternative is to sway the balance of military power in the favor of the more popular Nationalist forces. Although this is a much bloodier and time-consuming process, it may ultimately be the only way to break the stalemate on the ground between two rigid forces.
As Fighting in the Captial Intensifies Zintanis Hold Airport
Fascinatingly although mainstream Misratan militias have joined the fray, the Zintani brigades most notably Sawaiq, Qa’aqa’a, and Madani maintain control of the airport. According to an article from CNN by Jomana Karadsheh, UN officials have not only fled the country but are warning that a dangerous escalation is likely. Furthermore, it appears that Misratan forces are regrouping for another push on the airport.
Addressing the U.N. Security Council on Thursday, Tarek Mitri, head of its mission in Libya, issued a stark warning.”As the number of military actors mobilizing and consolidating their presence within the capital continues to grow, there is a mounting sense of a probable imminent and significant escalation in the conflict. The stakes are high for all sides,” Mitri said.”We are in the middle of an all-out confrontation between two major rival groups in the Libyan capital. That confrontation, born out of the deep political polarization, is playing itself out at the country’s international airport.” Mitri said.
Libya’s Foreign Minister Mohamed Abdulaziz also addressed the Security Council. He warned of Libya heading toward becoming a “failed state.”Abdulaziz said Libya needed more international support and asked the United Nations to consider a “stabilization and institution-building mission.”
It is quite likely that the anti-Islamist current are pushing for foreign peacekeepers under the guise of trainers, but the international political dimension is not able to move along that line given polarization in Europe post-Crimea annexation.
Are The Islamists as Organized as The Media Portrays Them to Be?
As the conflict for Tripoli International Airport intensifies, Islamists backlash has seen a strong uptick. One individual’s opinion that will carry some weight is the self-proclaimed Grand Mufti of Libya, Sadiq Gherani, who issued a fatwa in support of attack on Tripoli Airport. The leader of the Libyan Muslim Brotherhood, Bashir Al-Katabi, also emphasized the need to resolve the current political unrest using domestic alternatives, warning that the use of international forces can have some unintended consequences. Al-Katabi also refused to describe the initial results of the new parliament elections as a defeat for the brotherhood, saying that a great majority of the Islamists won as independents in this election. For our arabic readers, you can access more information about Al-Katabi in this interview. For our english readers, the article can be translated using the Google Chrome browser.
These developments, along with the clashes taking place at Tripoli International Airport, show that the Islamists may not be as organized as the media portrays them to be. On the one hand, you have a very diplomatic formal leadership that recognizes the need to respect the ballot box and to work within the state institutions. On the other hand, there are factions within the Islamists who prefer to use violence and threats. Libyan analyst and commentator, Senussi Bsaikri, said he was contacted by the Libyan Revolutionaries Operations Room, a militia backing the GNC, and asked to put pressure on Libya‘s Muslim Brotherhood to lobby for one candidate for prime minister over another. “They said if the Justice and Construction Party continues to stand in front of us, we will attack them and kidnap their members,” said Bsaikri. More information related to the LROR is available in this Financial Times article.
Despite indications from the preliminary ballot results that the Nationalist forces are far more popular, the Islamists will simply not give up in their struggle for power. They have the weapons, vehicles and religious zeal to defend the country against its perceived enemies. These forces include what they describe as drug dealers, human traffickers or liberal politicians they view as having been loyal to Qaddafi.
Islamist-Nationalist Rift Intensifies as Another Prominent Female Activist is Assassinated and Airport Workers Strike
In another sign of growing turmoil, air controllers halted work in Tripoli, shutting off much of Western Libya from international traffic. On Wednesday, Libya reopened the western Misrata airport, which had been closed with Tripoli after the weekend attack. However, the Misrata Airport will have to be shut again because Tripoli air controllers are also responsible for Misrata. Also, gunmen shot dead Fariha al-Barkawi, a former member of parliament, in the Eastern City of Derna. She is the second prominent woman to be assassinated, following the killing of Benghazi human rights activist Salwa Bugaighis last month.
The strike is designed by the workers to put pressure on rival militias to end four days of heavy fighting over control of the country’s biggest airport. Since the airport violence was instigated by the Libya Shield militia, a Misratan-based militia, this tactic is designed to eliminate any possible incentives Misratan forces may have to destroy the Tripoli Airport for the purpose of luring in more international flight business into Misrata. In the case of Fariha Al-Barkawi, one can see that the rift between Islamist and Nationalist forces is only growing as Rogue General Khalifa Haftar attempts to rid Cyrenaica of the various Islamist factions.
It will be interesting to see what becomes of the Islamist-influenced factions as the official results of the Parliamentary Elections. Outside of Misrauta, Souq-Al Jouma and parts of Cyrenaica, these factions are relying on military force and violence to have their voice heard in the country. One would suspect, at this point, that the Islamists will not honour the election results on the basis of the relatively low turnout.
Damage to the Airport and Aircrafts Are a Big Blow to a Weakened Business Sector
According to government spokesman Ahmed Lamine, 90% of the planes at Libya’s Tripoli International Airport have been destroyed after shelling attacks on the site by rival militias. “The government has studied the possibility to bring international forces to enhance security,” he told reporters, according to Reuters news agency. It was not immediately clear how many planes were destroyed, but the airport serves as the main hub for several Libyan carriers. Very little shocks Libyans these days, but the latest attack on this vital asset has left many at a loss for words. They didn’t think militia would ever go this far.
The closure of Tripoli airport is hugely significant both for the business sector and for access to Libya from the outside world. In 2012, Tripoli International Airport accounted for around 57% of the 4.9 million domestic and international passengers who used Libyan airports, with Benghazi’s Benina airport (now also closed due to damage) in second place and Misrata third. Some of the immediate implications are likely to be heavy traffic at the Ras Jedir border crossing with Tunisia, which is now effectively the only access point to western Libya, and busier flights from Tunisia to Europe. The true scale of the damage inflicted on the airport is unclear, but a closure of at least several weeks – and potentially much longer – seems unavoidable.
It will be interesting to see if the Libyan government will indeed follow through on its threat of bringing foreign security forces into the country. Although the civilian population would welcome any political solution that weakens the militias, the militias will certainly not allow the government to take its power easily.
Is Tripoli Witnessing A Civil War between Misrata and Zintan or is this a minor clash between rogue brigades?
Tripoli is bracing itself for a major showdown between the capital’s major factions as the long anticipated fight between the Misratans and Zintanis based in Tripoli may finally have begun. It is noteworthy to point out that brigade commanders are battling it out — not as the media represents, the Zintani and Misratan political leadership who apparently do not endorse the fighting and are seeking to end it. Jomana Karadsheh and Ashley Fantz speak in great detail about the clashes that took place in this CNN article.
Fighting has already erupted in the capital with certain rogue Misratan brigades trying to force the Zintanis out of Tripoli International Airport in the name of ‘securing the capital’. Various Islamist brigades from Tripoli and further afield have lined up behind the activist Misratan units in a bid to oust the Zintani forces and it looks as though the Zintanis are about to get back up from other non-Islamist brigades, including the Warshefana.
The situation is extremely tense and local residents are fearing the worst. Ironically, this outbreak of fighting was only initiated after the betrayal of an agreement struck on the night of the July 12 which was meant to facilitate the impasse. At the July 12 meeting the major respected political actors of Misrata and Zintan pledged themselves to avoiding conflict. It appears that a former militia leader and Misratan congressmen, led the offensive against the Zintani militias in a bid to retake the airport directly– overtly disobeying orders from other top Misratans.
Despite Strikes in Brega, Ras Lanuf and Sidra Set to Open
In an interesting piece, Maher Chmaytelli shows that strikes in Brega will not disrupt the deal with Jathran relative to Ras Lanuf and Sidra in this Bloomberg article . It also seems that Libya has restored output to roughly 500,000 barrels a day on the El-Sahara. However, no one knows how long that will last given the current tensions in Tripoli and possible spillover effects.
Jadhran Hands over Port and Signs of Grand Bargain Emerging
Libya has given a few reasons to be hopeful over the past week. This has been underappreciated. Certainly, Alison Pargeter was spot on to point out the persistence of militia dominance on the ground and the dysfunctionality of central institutions in a brilliant AJE article today. But a lot is moving and shaking and On July 2nd, Libya’s biggest Cyrenaican oil ports — Ras Lanuf and Al-Sidra (Essider) with over a capacity of 500,000 barrels a day– were handed over by the federalists to the government and are in the process of becoming ready to receive tankers. Previous attempted bargains with Jadhran fell through or were never implemented because Islamist actors in the GNC and ministries undermined them assuming they could attempt to dominate Jadhran militarily and gain dominance over the oil sector for themselves.
What has happened is that Jadhran’s federalists have essentially stated their intention to finally honour the second part of an April agreement with outgoing prime minister Abdullah al-Thinni to open the ports under their control (the first part related to Zuweitina and Hariga), culminating in their miraculously handing over Ras Lanuf and al-Sidra to the government on Wednesday. It is unclear exactly what the government is offering to Jadhran in return but this should soon become clear as Jadhran begins to assume a new position in the national political scene. This dramatic but not unpredictable development could act as a precursor to further various locally-brokered arrangements to finally truly end the political and economic stalemates of the GNC period. It shows that Jadhran is calculating that the House of Representatives will be far less Islamist-dominated than the GNC was, and that if a grand bargain / unity government is going to occur he would like to be included/have his share of the spoils. Read my take on the big picture dimension of this all in the Middle East Eye by clicking here.
The House of Representatives Election
Well the election played out pretty much as expected, with the media coverage of it about as lacklustre as the election itself. Low turnout, but not so bad among registered voters; reporters misunderstood the electoral process; Sporadic violence and one high profile assassination of an inspiring female Libyan human rights activist politician in Benghazi. (Read more on this from AJE here.) This is par for the course given where Libya is at right now. It does seem that many Libyans who voted were motivated to do so by their antipathy for the Brotherhood and Islamist. For more on that read from the NYT here. Tarek Mitri, head of UNSMIL congratulated the HNEC on a well run election, which means as we know that Libyan elections are not bought or stolen at the ballot box which is one of the refreshing aspects about post-Qadhafi politics. For more on the UN dimension click here. Well to sum up, the election does seem to have legitimized Hiftar’s movement to some extent and to have re-invigorated the transition process, but also to have highlighted that Benghazi, Darna, Sabha, and elsewhere are motivated entirely by their own local militia dynamics and civic conflicts and that the election or the policies of electoral governance cannot really transcend those dynamics. Such seems to be how things go in an increasingly localized and perpherially-dominated Libya.
Election Day Guide
Middle East Eye — an online news source — has established itself as a dynamic and up-and-coming player in the English language in depth coverage of the Middle East. There treatment is serious and their articles tend to rely on a lot of expert analysis and quotes. Here is what they and I have to say about today’s Libyan election.
Most agree that uncertainty lies ahead, no matter which way the vote ends up swinging. “Even people on the ground have no idea what the results will be. There is not enough information,” says Jason Pack, researcher of Libyan history at Cambridge University and President of Libya-Analysis.com. “But it is likely to be a repeat of what we have seen – a large crop of independents with leanings toward the Brotherhood. However, it does appear that the groupings will be less Islamist-leaning because of the frustration of the Islamist takeover of the GNC.”
But while it may be too early to give up hope that the election will prove to be a positive turning point, cracks have already appeared in Libya’s electoral fabric, and Libya continues to have a host of internal and external factors working against it. “The desire to not have political parties participate means that we are going to see a repeat of the deadlock at the GNC, which will mean it will be almost impossible to get a consensus, no matter who is going to be elected,” says Pack.
“Haftar remains unpopular, but his enemies are even less popular,” says Pack. “Libyan politics at the moment are conceived as a zero sum game between two or three larger factions. Until those factions are ready to negotiate behind the scenes and come to a grand bargain, it is not possible for there to be any unifying figures.”
However, if a grand bargain is somehow struck behind the scenes, the new House of Representatives may finally find itself empowered and acting at long last to reach into local communities and bring unity, explains Pack. “If that miraculously happens, the elections will be a great success, and it won’t have mattered that turnout was low,” he says. “If the body is empowered to act in a legitimate fashion, that will be amazing.”
Mary Fitzgerald’s Interview with Hiftar
One would hope she would have said more, but it is quite impressive that she got the interview and noted that Hiftar has the same megalomania combined with extreme sensitivity to being slighted that Qahdafi exhibited. To read her article in the Guardian click here.
Turks and Qataris Ordered to Leave Eastern Libya
Although this is a PR move by Haftar it points out the extend to which Ansar al-Sharia can only expand and grow on Qatari funding and some outside expertise and that the various militias are fighting as a proxy conflict between Turkey and Qatari on the Misrata/Islamist side and Egypt/UAE/Saudi/and the West on the Zintani/Haftar Side… Read the article from ABC here. Also there was a good article about why the USA should be wary of Haftar in today’s INYT by Ibrahim Sharqieh of Brookings... I 100% agree with the piece and its meta-message about US policy towards hiftar is 100% correct.. I just have an issue about the use of the word civil war… we are not experiencing and are not going to see a civil war in Libya.. using that word ‘civil war’ gets US audiences all up in arms and confused so I think it is risky to refer to what is happening or might happen there as a civil war. But Sharqieh knows his stuff so he no doubt has his reasons.
Call for Part Time Consultants
As of June 2014, Libya-Analysis.com needs you. If you are interested in being a part of the Libya-Analysis.com ® team, please email me at Jason@Libya-Analysis.com. We are currently expanding and looking for a Program Manager position which is a half-time position as well as a range of various part time consultants, researchers, informers, etc. Hence, if you have specialized knowledge on Libya that is commercially relevant and you follow the political situation closely, possess good writing skills and have a few hours a month to spare, please get in touch as we might be able to forge a mutually beneficial arrangement.
Three Things to Watch for in the Libya Elections
Some more good common sense from Mattia Toeldo of ECFR. In this article, he points out how the upcoming June 25 elections can only be a success if a pre-existing political reconciliation happens behind the scenes. On this I couldn’t agree more.
A “reconciliation” meeting between Libya’s opposing coalitions was due to be held on 18 June under the auspices of UNSMIL. However, the meeting had to be indefinitely postponed, because elements close to General Heftar’s anti-Islamist coalition accused the UN of being biased in favour of the Muslim Brotherhood. At the moment, the warring parties have made no commitment to recognise the election results.
Lack of recognition of the results from all sides in the Libyan political sphere could turn out to be a major cause of regret for European policymakers. Holding elections in the current situation, with the country divided between two warring coalitions, is an uncalculated risk. Polls may actually accelerate violence rather than solving Libya’s problems.
- See more at: http://www.ecfr.eu/blog/entry/three_things_to_watch_for_in_the_libya_elections#sthash.ay5rQbck.dpuf
Libya’s Faustian Bargains: The Hardcopy
My recent critically acclaimed think-tank report, co-authored with Karim Mezran and Mohamed ElJarh, "Libya's Faustian Bargains: Breaking the Appeasement Cycle" is now available for purchase in hardcopy in the UK and US on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk. You may buy it for $30 plus shipping and handling in the US by clicking here or for 25 GBP with free shipping in the UK or Europe by clicking here. The report examines the threats to Libya's stability, provides a detailed mapping of the militia landscape, and details policy options for the Libyan government and its international partners.
Setting the Record Straight on the US’s role in Libya
Ethan Chorin has long argued that America and the West were wrong to engage with Qadhafi. Weirdly he somehow believes that American and Western incorrect actions back then have led to Western failures and missteps in post-Qadhafi Libya. For me the issues are rather separate. The Western countries have made many policy missteps in their attempts to support Libya post-Qadhafi but the irony is that these mistakes have not only not been systematic but they have been quite haphazard and grounded in an ability to engage sufficiently.
On May 28, Chorin wrote an op-ed in the NYT which sketched out some of the key dilemmas facing American policymakers relative to Hiftar’s movement and in this regard, he and I agree. The US should clarify that it is not and will not support an anti-democratic takeover in Libya that mirrors Sisi’s power-grabbing behaviors in Egypt and would negate and undo the transition process in Libya. On this Chorin and I are 100% in agreement. And yet, he made a range of very false and counterproductive assertions. Ironically, he did so without even attempting to demonstrate or support his claims. Therefore, I felt as a matter of principle compelled to set the record straight by writing a letter to the editor of The New York Times. I think the editors there immediately understood that they had published potential falsehoods and were eager to use my letter to set the record straight. You may read my letter published in the June 9, NYT by clicking here or read my review of Chorin’s book by clicking here. Also the text of my letter is presented below:
Re “The new danger in Benghazi” (Opinion, May 28): Ethan Chorin correctly warns of the danger of Gen. Khalifa Hiftar’s anti-Islamist paramilitary movement attempting a crude power grab. Mr. Chorin’s counsel to American policy makers to distance themselves from General Hiftar while reiterating their support for Libya’s derailed formal transition process is a wise one.
Yet where Mr. Chorin errs is to write that “America has gotten into trouble in Libya by not taking clear positions. During the 2003 rapprochement, we told Colonel Qaddafi we had conditions for reconciling with him. Then we didn’t enforce them.” This is the same sort of analysis Mr. Chorin puts forth in his book, “Exit the Colonel: The Hidden History of the Libyan Revolution,” in which he claims that Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi outfoxed the West, which engaged in Libya out of greed.
Mr. Chorin’s conspiratorial analysis is sexy, but plays rather loose with the facts. The United States enforced the terms of the 2003 bargain with Colonel Qaddafi as much as it could. Moreover, the American foreign policy establishment and business community never fully embraced Colonel Qaddafi. It was their calculated engagement with the dictator that opened Libya up for a modicum of economic development, globalization, and eventually a revolution aimed at freeing the Libyan people.
The writer also insinuates that the Islamist takeover in Benghazi was due to American actions and inactions. In reality, it was due to the Libyan General National Congress’s policy of appeasing the militias. Getting the facts of this history right is essential. The facts highlight that Libya’s destiny is decided by Libyans and that the West must engage in a supporting role with whatever legitimate government is in place (no matter how flawed or weak) and seek to help the Libyan people fulfill their aspirations to be full-fledged members of the international community.
Jason Pack, Cambridge, England
The writer is a co-author of “Libya’s Faustian Bargains: Breaking the Appeasement Cycle.”
Maiteg Accepts Supreme Court Decision and Resigns
In a rare encouraging development, the rule of law has been acknowledged as supreme and the institutions of the Libyan state as legitimate arbiters of power and due process. You can read more about this amazing development from AJE, or Libya Herald, or The Economist. My take on the upshot is:
Maetig Seizes Prime Ministry Building
After having the Libya Shield force help him occupy the PM’s office, pseudo-Prime Minister Ahmed Matiq held his first cabinet meeting on June 2, escalating the confrontation between him and Abdullah Thinni over who has legitimate claim to the Prime Ministerial office. You can read more from the Libya Herald here.
Despite a new vote in Matiq’s favour, Thinni has refused to recognize the transfer of his power to Maiteeg until the GNC clarifies the vote in a procedurally sound way, despite an opinion from the GNC’s Legislative and Constitutional Committee that the vote was valid. Maiteeg’s cabinet met in the prime minister’s office on June 2, and Thinni has reportedly move to another government building.
The conflict between the two prime ministers weakens the government’s ability to respond to the ongoing militia fighting instigated by General Khalifa Hafter, whose “Operation Dignity” has pledged to rid the country of “Islamist militias.” Hafter is conducting the operation without authorization from the government or the GNC. The conflict escalated over the weekend with aerial bombings against suspected Islamist strongholds in Benghazi. What we are seeing is the logical conclusion of the increasing polarization between Islamist and anti-Islamist militias, local councils, and national political actors. I sketched this conflict and provide the essential background for it in a think tank report I cowrote with Karim Mezran and Mohamed ElJarh for the Atlantic Council. It is now available for purchase in hard copy by clicking here. It makes the essential reference work for any policy maker, consultant, or academic trying to make sense of militia/government relations as we present a comprehensive militia map as well as lay out the policies that both the Libyan and Western governments need to adopt to prevent the collapse of the transition process. The first step is to achieve a grand bargain between the major interested factions, the second step is to restart the transition process under clearly defined rules of the game.
Elections for a House of Representatives to replace the GNC have been called for June. But the violence, and the triangular conflict between the GNC, Maiteeg, and Thinni, might make polling impossible. Matig’s arrogation of power of the past days appears that a compromise between the two claimant PMs is unlikely.
Thinni Vows to Stay On
As if Libya really needed another nested political crisis! Well despite the convincing nature of Ahmed Matig’s re-election, it is still not uncontested that he is prime minister. Some say he Matig is PM elect but Al-Thinni apparently doesn’t think so. This shows the polarization between the two camps with everyone having to take side and deal with their alternative command structures and alliance networks.
Following Maetig’s election, Thinni said he had been presented with two letters from the General National Congress (GNC), one from GNC President Nuri Abu Sahmain asking him to resign, and another from the GNC first Deputy Ezzedine Al-Awami asking him to stay on.
The Caretaker Prime Minister told reporters that, given the ambiguity, he had passed the matter on to the Ministry of Justice which had responded with its verdict two days ago. Read more from LH by clicking here.
Ansar al-Sharia Mishandles the Media War
Sometimes Jihadists can conduct savvy public relations campaigns, but a lot of the time they seem to just put their foot in their mouth and play into their opponents hands. This is what appears to have happened with Ansar Sharia’s latest pronouncements. Moreover, the escalation of conflict in Libya’s East appears to have been just what the doctor ordered for Hiftar as he can demonstrate that he is the only one of Libya’s leader’s serious enough to take action. You can read here how Ansar al-Sharia have denounced Operation Karama as a Crusade against Islam. Or you can read here about the airstrikes in Benghazi here which appear to be a broadening of the anti-Islamist campaign to include a crackdown on MB aligned groups like the Feb 17 Brigade.
Spokesman for General Khalifa Hafter, Mohammed Al-Hijezi, confirmed to the Libya Herald that the Libyan National Army was carrying out the operation which was targeting February 17 Brigade and Ansar Al-Sharia forces at the Gwarsha Gate.
Sporadic fighting has taken place in Benghazi throughout the day after Ansar Al-Sharia last night surrounded Benghazi Security Directorate (BSD), demanding the release of three prisoners and exchanging fire with security forces.
The sound of bombing and anti-aircraft fire ould be heard across Benghazi. Residents said these were the worst clashes in the city since General Khalifa Hifter launched Operation Dignity over a week and a half ago.
A Sober Evaluation of Hiftar’s Movement (If we can call it that)
I am of the belief that Hiftar is not the most powerful player in the anti-Islamist coalition and that the Saiqa and the Zintanis are militarily more important, however politically it can’t be denied that he is emerging as a power player, stakeholder, and deal maker. Now is the time for him to make a deal with his enemies and preserve the peace in Libya. Ian Black of the Guardian consulted me in a crafting an article which puts forth a useful overview of the situation. To read it you may click here. I disagree with George Joffe’s pronouncement that things may disintegrate into Civil War. I don’t see that as on the cards for Libya.
In less then a week key army units, political parties and tribal forces have rallied under [Hiftar's] banner. On Thursday tension mounted when a powerful brigade from Misrata [opposed to Hiftar] deployed in the centre of the capital. The renegade general’s moves are being closely watched both at home and abroad.
Heftar’s old links with the CIA have come back to haunt him – with enemies denouncing him as an American “agent”. In Libya‘s charged political mood, the accusation is toxic but it may be misleading or simply old news. For the record the US has denied backing him; he has also denied being in contact with Washington. Several former senior US intelligence officials told the Guardian that, while they did not have direct knowledge, they did not believe the US was backing Heftar. Instead, they say, his current offensive should be seen as an audition for future US backing. By showing that he can take on the Islamist militias and win, he establishes himself as somebody the west cannot ignore.
In February Heftar put his head above the parapet with a televised speech denouncing the government and announcing its overthrow. The dramatic appeal failed to spark an uprising but it marked Heftar out as the figurehead for opposition.
Critics compare him to Egypt’s army commander Abdel-Fatah al-Sisi, who overthrew the democratically elected Muslim Brotherhood president Mohamed Morsi last July and is now poised to be elected president. Heftar, like Sisi, is said to have the enthusiastic backing of the fiercely anti-Islamist United Arab Emirates, as does his ally, the former prime minister Mahmoud Jibril. Heftar even created a Supreme Council of the Armed Forces – the same name used by the Egyptian military.
But direct comparisons are not helpful. Libya’s armed forces are nothing like as strong as their mighty Egyptian counterparts. “No one is fooled when Heftar says he is leading the national army,” said Jason Pack of Libya-analysis.com. “That’s just another militia.”
Heftar’s momentum could change that. His Operation Karama (“dignity”) has blazed across Libya with army units, tribes and the largest non-Islamist party, the National Forces Alliance, all declaring their allegiance. But victory is far from certain – and the risks are considerable.
“Heftar’s initiative is responding to a deeply felt need,” said Libya expert George Joffe. “Even if he is not the man of the moment he might appeal to a popular mood that will allow him to carry on. The danger is that it will collapse into civil war.”
The World According to Hiftar
The Media (Western and Arab) seems to be slavishly presenting the pronouncements of Khalifa Hiftar without delving deeper into the realities that are emerging on the ground in Libya. Here is one of the better articles from Middle East Online but it still falls prey to this pattern. Each side has its own prime minister and its own narrative so not questioning what is going on and seeing multiple viewpoints is absurd.
Claiming to speak in the name of the army, Khalifa Haftar Wednesday urged the country’s highest judicial authority “to form a civilian presidential high council tasked with forming an emergency cabinet and organising legislative elections”.
Highlighting the seriousness of the security threat, the navy’s chief of staff, Rear Admiral Hassan Abu Shnak, his driver and two guards were wounded Wednesday when gunmen attacked his convoy in Tripoli.
Despite the tensions, the situation was almost normal in Tripoli and Benghazi, where shops, banks and governments were open.
Prime Minister Ahmed Miitig called Wednesday for dialogue among all protagonists while affirming that “Libyans don’t want to be ruled by the military,” referring to the rogue general.
“Leaders” of Libyan Army “Suspend” GNC
Well, it is not surprising that it would come to this (another attempted anti-GNC) coup as there is a constant and increasing polarization of Libya’s political factions into opposing camps. And no one can agree on what constitutes legitimate parliamentary practice — so much so that Libya does not have an agreed upon Prime Minister at present. That Khiftar has linked up with the Zintanis who form something of his Western extension is exactly what we would expect given the alliance network that has formed against the Misratans and Islamists throughout the country. For those of you interested in reading about the background to the current events and getting a sense of who the different players are please consult the militia mapping I conducted with my colleagues Karim Mezran and Mohamed Eljarh in a recently published Atlantic Council report, “Libya’s Faustian Bargains: Breaking the Appeasement Cycle”. For a quick primer about what is happening right now, the Libya Herald is as always about the best English language source available. It is clear that many in the Libyan populace support any actions to repress the Islamist extremists they see in their midst and crave a Sisi-like figure, yet is is unclear to even seasoned Libya observers if ‘the populace’ will support the crudeness with which this anti-Islamist putsch has been undertaken. Moreover, talking to friends in Libya, I have heard that the public relations campaign undertaken on behalf of the Putschists has been very weak and unconvincing indeed. Will Misrata sit idly by while their candidate Matig and their grip on the GNC is undone? Will they attempt to negotiate and then resort to violence? Allahu ‘Alam (God only knows) What seems clear is that a grand bargain is now needed between Libya’s myriad actors and compromise and long-term thinking must be the order of the day or the future of the country and the transition will already be lost. Below is the quick Libya Herald article to catch you up to speed.
A group of five officers identifying themselves as the “Leaders of the Libyan Army” have announced the suspension the General National Congress (GNC) and that the current government is to remain in office. In a four-point plan laid out by Colonel Muktar Fernana, a Zintani former head of military intelligence, the “Leaders of the Libyan Army” this evening announced that the Constitutional Assembly would take over the work of the GNC and that Abdullah Al-Thinni’s current government would oversee the formation of the military and security forces. The statement essentially blocked the premiership of Ahmed Maetig who was elected by the GNC at the beginning of this month. Congress was supposed to vote and accept Maetig’s new government today before the attacks on the GNC building began. It is not clear if the five were linked to the assault on Congress, undertaken by the Qaaqaa and Sawaiq brigades, or to Colonel Khalifa Hafter, whose forces also call themselves the “Libyan National Army “. The two brigades have stated that they are not under Hafter’s orders. Fernana’s statement concluded that the people of Libya “would never accept to be controlled by a group or organisation which initiates terror and chaos”.
Game Theory, Kidnappings and the Pitfalls of Appeasement in Libya
No matter how you slice it, releasing a convicted terrorist as a means to free a kidnapped ambassador is appeasement and sets a dangerous precedent which is likely to lead to further kidnapping. I expanded on this argument in a piece in the Middle East Eye.
On the face of things, it might seem a fair proposition to speculate that high-level decision makers in the Jordanian or Libyan governments would understand iterative game theory – the study of strategic decision making – better than the thugs of ragtag Islamist militias. However, recent events suggest the Libyan militias are geniuses at extortion, blackmail, kidnapping, and intervening in the political process. So much so, that it seems they are displaying a good grasp of the nuances of game theory.
As Karim Mezran, Mohamed Eljarh and I have explained in a recently published Atlantic Council report, “Libya’s Faustian Bargains: Ending the Appeasement Cycle”, appeasement is always a trap – the more you practice it the harder it becomes to break out of the cycle.
So the situation in Libya today has reached something of the natural conclusion of the cycle of appeasement of which kidnappings are only one manifestation. Other key manifestations are granting important government posts to militia- or jihadist-aligned individuals such that whole branches of the government, especially the Defence or Interior ministry, have been colonized by specific localities, regions, or militias.
The primary issues must be solved by Libyans themselves, who need to confront the enemies of law and order in their own midst and double down on their transition process to constitutional governance. Nonetheless, Libya’s nascent central authorities could use a little help from their friends.
Libya: Swinging Pendulums and Political Crematoria
Here is an interesting article by Mansour Omar Al-Kikhia in Al-Jazeera English which comments on why Ahmed Matig has become the PM and how his connections with business and Misrata hold him in good stead for his job but nonetheless his selection shows the deep rivalries in Libya’s West and yet does not show a way forward for their conclusion.
The new prime minister is Ahmed Maiteeq, a 42-year-old businessman who lives in Tripoli but has strong links to Misurata. His uncle and backer is Abdul Rahman al-Swaihli, an influential member of Congress and the Swaihli dynasty of Misurata. Maiteeq was elected by the General National Congress (GNC) in a nowdisputed vote to form a “crisis government of national unity.”
Maiteeq major rival was Omar al-Hassi who hails from the east of the country. Hassi is not a particularly impressive figure yet he obtained the support of Zintan as well as some of the progressive votes in the GNC. The Cyrenaican vote was split between Hassi and another candidate from the east who was even less impressive.
So why Maiteeq? Why bring to the fore a relatively unknown political novice? First, he has huge guns behind him that has given him an edge that none of the other prime ministers possess. Second, he is young and brings a different perspective to the table. Third, he pleases the business community in the country. To read the whole article click here.
Jordanian Ambassador Freed After Libya Kidnap
Jordan’s ambassador to Libya has been freed after being abducted by gunmen in the capital Tripoli last month according to the BBC. This shows a kind of appeasement as the Jordanian government had to cave into militia demands to get their ambassador released.
Libya’s Unexpected Strength
Here is some more fascinating analysis from Dirk Vandewalle in the NYT. I certainly agree with some of Dirk’s points and strongly agree that a new electoral method is needed for the house of representatives to make the body at all functional and not fall pray to the same cleavages as are present in the GNC. He points to the key issue of allowing a voting method that allows Libyans to express their solidarity with each other instead of stressing their local allegiances.
Libya faces fiendishly difficult problems, but there is at least one tangible issue that could be fixed fairly easily. Reforming current electoral rules would close the gap between the people and their leaders, and make good on an enviable asset that is rare in such fragile countries: a popular consensus on major issues that transcends cleavages over smaller ones. To read the whole article click here.
Ides of March Cambridge Invitational Tournament – March 2014
In this GammonVillage article I explain the novel round robin format used in the backgammon tournament I hosted at my home in Cambridge, while also analyzing the interesting positions and cube decisions that ensued.
In the past few decades, the knockout tournament format, with progressive consolation rounds and a last chance, all consisting of matches of odd-number of points (i.e. 7 or 11 or 17 pointers) has achieved a near-hegemonic status within the backgammon world, but it is far from the only conceivable tournament format. In fact, some of the best and most respected tournaments in the world use other formats. Partisans of Swiss tournaments (e.g Chicago Open) or double elimination tournaments (e.g. Nordic) will say that those formats are not only more enjoyable but are more likely to favor skill, while being conducive to all attendees having fun and getting in as many meaningful matches as possible. Sadly, although Chicago and Nordic are universally respected few tournament directors are willing to apply their spirit of innovation to their own tournaments.
Having experimented with many possible tournament formats, I believe a round robin format of different match lengths — especially stressing even-numbered match lengths — can be particularly enjoyable, while also rewarding a deeper understanding of match score dynamics and human psychology. This format certainly has its draw backs as it is time consuming, is best suited for smaller more “intimate” events, and requires having a suitable number of participants. Nonetheless, it maximizes the amount of backgammon played by all the participants and promotes the social aspect of the game by assuring that all participants play with and get to meet each other. Although it is impossible to declare one tournament format as the ideal, having now hosted a round robin tournament of different match lengths, I can say fairly definitively that it promoted the psychological and intellectual challenges that we all relish in backgammon. To read the whole article click here.
Who’s for Prime Minister?
Another uniquely and characteristically Libyan controversy is emerging: opposing factions are disputing who is Libya’s legitimate Prime Minister. Those who don’t want Ahmed Matig to be prime minister allege that the voting session in the GNC had closed before he got the requisite 121 votes, while those supporting him say that although the deputy head of the GNC (Awami) tried to close the session what matters is that Nuri Abusahmain the speaker of the GNC and President of Libya gave his approval for the voting to continue even though he was not present. There are many articles out there on what has or has not transpired and many of them lack credibility. Therefore, I’m presenting one from the Economist which I believe to be carefully researched.
On May 4th Ahmed Omar Matiq (pictured), a 42-year-old Islamist-leaning hotelier, was announced as the new prime minister by the second deputy speaker, who said the candidate had won 121 votes in the 200-member congress, one more than required. But the first deputy speaker disagreed. He said that the only legal vote was the one he had himself supervised earlier in the day, when Mr Matiq had gained just 113 votes, too few to clinch him the top job.
For the rest of the day confusion prevailed. The congress declared Mr Matiq to be the new prime minister. But the prime minister’s office contradicted it, saying that Abdullah al-Thinni, who had been appointed to the job only in mid-March, was still in the post. “Libya has Two Prime Ministers” was the headline in that evening’s English-language Libya Herald.
The next day the congressional speaker, Nuri Abu Sahmain, who had been absent during the previous proceedings, emerged to announce that Mr Matiq was indeed the new head of government, apparently under terms granted to the speaker enabling him to make decisions by decree. Mr Abu Sahmain had been absent since prosecutors announced last month that he was being investigated for possible sexual impropriety with two women, a touchy issue in Muslim Libya. But after he had declared Mr Matiq the prime minister, opposition members of the congress challenged the legality of the process. Mr Abu Sahmain then announced that Mr Thinni would anyway stay in place for another two weeks, since the British-educated Mr Matiq would need time to prepare for a congressional vote of confidence before his government could get going.
Jordan to Release Libyan Militant in Exchange for Ambassador
Here is a piece from Rori Donaghy of Middle East Eye situating the kidnappings in Libya and negotiations for the release of the Jordan Ambassador within the larger political context of the situation on the ground.
“Regarding the file of Libyans jailed in Tunisia … Tunisia confirms its wish to cooperate with the Libyan government, especially with the kidnapping of the Tunisian diplomats” he was quoted as saying in the LANA statement.
While Banun’s comments suggest Libyan authorities have a semblance of control over negotiating an end to kidnap incidents, analysts say it is the militias who retain ultimate power.
“The Jordanians have backed down, given the kidnappers what they want, and the Libyan authorities should be easily able to negotiate a deal securing the ambassador’s release” said Jason Pack, researcher of Middle East history at Cambridge University and president of Libyaanalysis.com.
“By acquiescing to the militia’s demands authorities are setting a dangerous precedent” he added. “Both governments should have avoided giving in to the kidnappers, ridden out the consequences and shown there is a price to pay when international norms are violated”.
Invitation to Launching of Atlantic Council Report “Libya’s Faustian Bargains”
You are cordially invited to a Panel Discussion held at noon on May 5th at The Atlantic Council’s offices at 1030 15th Street, NW, 12th Floor (West Tower) Washington, DC. Jason Pack, Karim Mezran, and William Zartman will discuss the appeasement cycle in today’s Libya and how the central authorities can attempt to break free. We will also discuss the role that international actors can play in the process. For a formal invite click here.
Libya Lifts Force Majeure on Second Oil Port
Slowly slowly the limited deal with Jadhran may be coming into the implementation phase and Zuetina is likely to start exporting soon following Hariga which has been open for a couple of weeks already. The more contentious and serious issues of Ras Lanuf and Al-Sidra have yet to be resolved. Read more from Dow Jones here or from Reuters here.
Libyan rebels occupying eastern oil ports had agreed to reopen two terminals three weeks ago, including the 70,000 barrels-per-day Zueitina, but Zueitina’s reopening was delayed because of technical problems. Another terminal, the 110,000-barrel-a-day Hariga, restarted exports mid-April following an agreement between the government and rebels led by militia chief Ibrahim al-Jathran who are seeking greater autonomy for eastern Libya. Two larger ports–Ras Lanuf and Es-Sider–have yet to be reopened.
Rejoice and Export Crude, ya Libiyya
I’ve spoken to a lot of Libyans today. Some GNC members, some from families associated with the Monarchy and everyone feels in a good mood about the prospect of getting some crude flowing and lessening tensions between East and West. So on this occasion I’d like to share a very deep music video that summarizes the mood of some in Libya and in the Libya field right now… It has the deep name ” WE ARE HAPPY FROM TRIPOLI” and is sung by Pharrell Williams and has great vantages of Tripoli. This is one aspect of the political situation… and how many of us will feel if the oil blockades are truly going to be over and Brent crude will continue to plummet…. and Libya will know some development and stability and movement towards normalcy.
Libyan rebels and Government Agree to Gradually Reopen Occupied Oil Ports
On Sunday April 5, the negotiations between Jadhran and the government seemed to have borne fruit with a compromise that will open up the previously blockaded oil ports. It is unclear if this deal represents government appeasement, hard bargaining, or a win-win for both sides. Only time will tell. The idea of Cyrenaica getting a regional percentage or quote of the country’s oil earnings does seem counterproductive in the long run and an unfortunate way to resolve the standoff, but the idea of a corruption probe and a system to oversee exports sounds beneficial as any step (even one taken under duress) that improves transparency in Libya is a good thing. So this could be a banner day for Libya, and a serious movement in the right direction… as said above only time will tell. To read a Reuters article about these developments click here.
Libyan rebels occupying four eastern oil ports agreed with the government on Sunday to gradually end their eight-month petroleum blockade, which has cost the North African state billions in lost revenues. Zueitina and Hariga ports, held by federalist rebels demanding more autonomy from Tripoli, will open immediately while the larger ports, Ras Lanuf and Es Sider, will be freed in two to four weeks after more talks, the government said……
Jathran’s movement set up its own self-declared federal government in the east, where many feel they have long been neglected by Tripoli. They made three key demands on the government, including a system to share oil revenues, a probe of corruption and a committee to oversee oil exports….
The oil deal does not necessarily end protests that have shut western oil production facilities such as the 340,000-bpd El Sharara oilfield for weeks. Protesters in the west have few ties with the east and are splintered into small groups lacking a joint leadership, which makes it hard to negotiate with them.
Some April First Foolery Libyan Style
I know this is a touch late but Flair Loop of the Libya Monitor did such a good job condensing many of the essential dynamics at play in the country right now that this little piece of humour deserves my reposting:
In a surprise move, the interim government has announced plans to send a Libyan into space by 2020. An unnamed official cited in the local press said today that a new national space agency would be created to run the project, which aims to lift off by the end of the decade. Its first mission has been provisionally titled the Astrological Pan-Galactic Revolution In Libya (APRIL-1), although the name is still subject to GNC approval.
“Despite the security situation, financial crisis, political deadlock and widespread labour unrest in the country, we felt this was definitely worth spending lots of money on,” said the official, who described the project as a “top priority”.
“The programme will have a budget of LD100bn ($80bn), although we’re not really sure yet where the funds will come from.” Despite the announcement, there are already reports of arguments over whether the shuttle will blast off from Tripoli or Benghazi. “This is under discussion and we will decide on it very soon, probably in 2018,” said the official. The news has however prompted concerns among motorists that the mission could reduce the amount of gasoline available on the local market. Long queues were already forming at Tripoli petrol stations this morning.
Libya Sees “Good Intentions” in Oil Port Talks; Rebel Split Seen
It is unclear if splits among Jadhran supporters will make reaching some kind of compromise with the government more or less likely. Although an advocate of negotiation I think the government must keep all is options open as I have advocated with Haley Cook in an article in April 4ths Majalla and Sharq al-Awsat. Reuters wrote an important piece laying out the major clevages on the ground.
Libya has seen evidence of “good intentions” at indirect talks with eastern rebels which could lead to the lifting of their blockage of major oil ports within days, a government minister said on Thursday. But in an example of the chaos and shifting alliances typical of the OPEC producer, divisions in the rebel camp became apparent on Thursday when a senior member told Reuters he and seven others had quit the rebels’ leadership team in a conflict with top leader Ibrahim Jathran….
The resignations of the eight members of the rebels’ so-called politburo on Thursday leaves leader Jathran with a deputy and a self-declared prime minister to finish talks. Other members quit earlier, accusing him of concentrating power….
n another sign of growing turmoil, a hospital in Benghazi on Thursday called on Ansar Shariya, an Islamist militia labelled a terrorist organisation by Washington, to protect its premises while health workers went on strike to protest against a series of shootings inside clinics, staff said. Read more by clicking here.
Jadhran’s Supporters Still Being Paid until November
Amid rumours that Thinni is undertaking negotiations with Jadhran, even though he knows Jadhran refuses to compromise the following details have emerged that the striking oil workers of the central Petroleum Facilities Guard were actually still being paid even after they started their strike and began blockading the oil terminals. This is a perverse and counterproductive form of appeasement indeed. Read more from the Libya Herald here.
Crimea as Europe’s Existential Question
In this article in the NYT, which I co-authored with Professor Brendan Simms, we make the bold (and idealistic) point that the Eurozone countries need to forge a complete Union to deal with the challenges (both economic and political) that they face in the 21st century. This message inspires me as I believe multilateralism and a greater union of the Western democracies is in fact the only way to deal with the world’s many intractable political questions: from North Africa to Russia to China and elsewhere. This union of the West should not create antagonism with other powers, but rather help distribute economic gains more fairly and stabilize the transition to a multipolar world. Hope you enjoy the article.
If today’s euro-zone countries do not unite to face the Russian threat, Europe will cease to be a player on the world stage. Mired in debt and divided between a thriving North and underemployed South, Europe’s failure would establish it as a power vacuum — inviting aggression in its borderlands…. Constructing a democratic European superpower in the midst of a crisis won’t be easy, and the dangers of doing so “on the fly” were amply illustrated by Europe’s abysmal performance during the Bosnian crisis of the 1990s, when it required American muscle to deal with a third-rate military threat. The strategic challenge now posed by Russia is far greater, and the failure to confront it will have correspondingly grave consequences.
Zeidan Speaks to Christian Amanpour
Not only was it not his best performance, but the translation was horrible and Amanpour asked the most trite, naive, American-focused questions and managed to mispronounce every Arabic name. Way to go, CNN! I would say that this interview reflects increasing polarization between Islamists and non-Islamists in Libya and the international communities inability to arrive at a nuanced appreciation of the complexity of various factions in Libya. Watch the interview by clicking here.
ENI Talks Gas with Libya, Shoring Up Non-Russian Supply
It is a horrible shame that Libyans are not able to benefit from the resource wealth they are sitting on. It is also a shame that at this moment it would be so damn helpful if they could. Read more from Reuters.
The head of Eni has met with Libya’s prime minister to discuss the growing importance of Libyan gas to Italy, as the Ukraine crisis highlights Italy’s reliance on supply from Russia…. In a statement on Monday Eni said the key issue discussed in the meeting between Scaroni and Abdallah al-Thinni was the importance of maintaining and increasing Eni’s current production levels in Libya. ”Following the recent evolutions in the international political scene, Eni’s CEO also underlined the growing importance of Libya to Italy’s gas supply security,” it said.
Lars Trabolt vs Vyachslav Pryadkin in The WC Final — PART 1: Limiting Gammonish Volitility
In this four part article based on extensive interviews with the players, I will dissect the 25 point final between Lars Trabolt (DEN) and Vyachslav Pryadkin (UKR). The way the match unfolded, the dice gave Slava the opportunity to decisively steer the match in the direction he wanted and to take Lars out of his game plan and comfort zone. In fact, all players in the 4-7 PR range should study Pryadkin’s performance; it provides many insights into what match strategies may be successfully employed against the world’s best (if the dice cooperate!). Bearing this intro in mind, I hope you follow this four part series to be published with Prime Time Magazine over the course of 2014. This first article, will show a range of positions where Lars overcompensated for skill difference choosing to limit gammonish volatility….
Studying the match I found that cube play, unsurprisingly, constitutes the greatest window into a player’s soul, yet surprisingly, opening checker play as well as decisions of when to volunteer shots, hit aggressively, or play purely also provide a fair amount of insight into player psychology/tendencies. This may be the case because in the early game it is impossible to do precise calculations and one must go on gut instinct. Similarly, the issue of volunteering shots or avoiding many blots frequently demonstrates how comfortable the player is with short term tactical risk for potential strategic gain.
To read the whole article click here.
Libya Leads World in Traffic Deaths Per Capita
This saddening statistic captures the mood of political and personal recklessness and abandon which prevails in today’s Libya and was nurtured by both the Italians and Qadhafi. It is interesting to note that two former Italian colonies, Eritrea and Libya, are the two most dangerous places to drive in the World! As Italy had so few colonies this doesn’t seem like a coincidence but rather a causal relationship. Read the full article here.
It gives Libya a road traffic fatality rate of 60.1 fatalities per 100,000 population (on a population of six million), the highest figure of any country in the world. The next most dangerous place to drive in the world, according to the World Health Organisation, is Eritrea, with a fatality rate of 48.4.
The 2013 rate for Italy is 7.2, France 6.4, Germany 4.4, the UK 2.75 and US 10.4 — meaning that someone is more than eight times more likely to be killed in a traffic accident in Libya than in Italy and 22 times than in the UK….. The soaring rate is attributed by many to young reckless drivers now ignoring traffic regulations in the absence of traffic police to enforce them. However, Libya was already one of the most dangerous places in the world to drive under Qaddafi. Libya’s rate just before the revolution was 40.5 — making it at the time the third most dangerous place on earth to drive.
Iraqi Insurgency Tactics Being Used by Jihadists in Libya
The anti-American insurgency in Iraq, and to a lesser extent in Afghanistan, was characterized by jihadist militants attempting to prevent the US from training Iraqi and Afghani security forces. This was done by bombing police and army recruitment and training centers. This tactic has just been used in Libya to devastating effect, revealing the extent to which the fight against the central government in Libya is being waged by members of the global jihad who are only capitalizing on the chaotic local conditions. Read more from Reuters here.
A car bomb exploded outside a Libyan army base in the eastern city of Benghazi on Monday, killing at least five people and wounding others, hospital sources and a security official said.
A hospital official in Benghazi said the five were killed when the bomb exploded as people were leaving a graduation ceremony for officers in the army.
Sometimes It Is Tough Being a Pirate
In an amazingly daring and bold operation, US Navy SEALs have responded to requests from the Libyan and Cypriot authorities, to seize the stateless oil tanker which was commandeered by the Jadhran’s federalist movement and was sailing around the Eastern Mediterranean looking to sell its oil. This American move demonstrates many things: 1. Obama is a strong leader with a Foreign Policy vision who is willing to exercise force in a targeted manner to uphold the aims of the USA and the international community. 2. The US has not turned its back on Libya. 3. The majority of the Libyan people welcome this kind of international support. And 3. It is quite clear that ‘we’ cannot and will not let the Jadhran style federalists win, now that federalism of this kind is not about administrative decentralization but is actually about Brigandary, piracy, lies, and dysfunctionality. To read more about what has just transpired here is David Kirkpatrick’s summary for the NYT.
United States Navy commandos seized a fugitive oil tanker in the Mediterranean waters southeast of Cyprus on Monday morning, thwarting an attempt by a breakaway Libyan militia to sell its contents on the black market, the Pentagon said. No one was hurt in the operation, the Pentagon said in a statement.
The seizure of the oil, which the United States Navy says it is now returning to Libya, is also a blow to the ambitions of Ibrahim Jathran, the leader of the eastern Libyan militia that sought to sell the oil. Mr. Jathran, who has presented himself as a kind of Libyan Robin Hood, has led an eight-month blockade of Libya’s main oil ports to demand more political autonomy and a bigger cut of the oil revenue for his region, which contains most of the country’s oil reserves.
But in addition to depriving the Libyan government of critical revenue, Mr. Jathran has also irked American and international concerns that have stakes in the Libyan oil industry. The willingness of the United States military to stop illicit exports appears to even out the balance of power between the government in Tripoli and Mr. Jathran’s militia in the east. While Tripoli has been unable to force Mr. Jathran to reopen the ports, he appears unable to sell the oil on his own either, returning the two sides to a stalemate.
Consensus Principle and Regional Development Budget Approved by Congress
Lost in the current upheavals has been this encouraging piece of news reported by Libya Herald:
Tripoli, 12 March 2014: In a hectic day yesterday, apart from voting to withdraw confidence in Ali Zeidan and discussing elections to replace themselves, the General National Congress (GNC) also agreed to the consensus principle for minority rights and approved a budget for new regional building projects.
GNC member for Obari Tahir Maknni, told the Libya Herald the principle would be defined in full and drafted at a later date. He said however that, now it had been agreed to in theory by Congress, there was no reason why another round of voting to elect representatives from the Tebu and Amazigh communities to the Constitutional Assembly should not go ahead.
Libya’s Prime Minister Ousted in Chaos Over Tanker
It appears the tanker has escaped port, Zeidan order guys to fire but they wouldn’t and maybe Islamists in the army deliberately didn’t fire because they knew that letting Zeidan seem incompetent would bring down his regime and force him out of the country as it has done. The road ahead for Libya now looks very rocky indeed. What is clearly needed is a national unity government. For a quick overview of how things played out David Kirkpatrick’s NYT piece is a good start.
Libyan Oil Stolen at Sidra
Sadly, one of the most feared events heralding further collapse of the Libyan state has taken place. A North Korean oil tanker has actually docked at Sidra, one of the Eastern oil ports held by armed federalists, and loaded a cargo of 350,000 barrels of crude oil, leading the group one step closer to selling the oil and stealing the proceeds away from the rest of the country where it could easily be siphoned into the personal pockets of protest leader Ibrahim Jadhran.
As we wrote on 6 March for the latest issue of RUSI Newsbrief:
“[I]f eastern federalists aligned with Ibrahim Jadhran were able to secure international recognition for a Cyrenaican autonomous region, or managed to sell their oil on the open (global) market without government permission, the federalist menace would be immeasurably strengthened. The government would then be faced with the options of accepting the de facto partition of the country or re-igniting a hot war to reclaim the oilfields. Even worse, Jadhran’s successes could inspire other armed ‘warlords’ to imitate him by seizing territory. In this scenario, Libya’s myriad militia groups would initiate a carve-up of the national patrimony.”
Why was no military action taken to prevent this tanker from docking when a Maltese-flagged tanker was successfully prevented from docking at Sidra by the Libyan Navy in January? The answer may worryingly lie in the political infighting between the GNC and Prime Minister that have plagued the country for months. According to the Libya Herald:
“This evening, Zeidan said that the Army Chief of Staff refused to take orders from him or the Ministry of Defence and would only answer to the GNC and Commander-in-Chief – a role temporarily occupied by GNC head Nuri Abu Sahmain. This does not explain why no action has yet been taken, however, as Gajam said this afternoon that the General Chief of Staff, Abdulsalam Al-Obaidi, had been instructed to take the necessary action to deal with the ship as an illegal target.”
The government response, too little too late, has been to threaten to attack the already-loaded tanker, but ending up between a rock and a hard place. While it would be disastrous politically to allow the tanker to leave, it would be an environmental disaster if the oil from the damaged ship spilled into the harbor.
The Future of Libya: Is ‘Pakistanisation’ a Foregone Conclusion?
I have written an article with Haley Cook in the latest issue of the RUSI Newsbrief published by the Royal United Services Institute entitled, “The Future of Libya: Is ‘Pakistanisation’ a Foregone Conclusion?” This article looks at the possible paths for Libya after the third anniversary of the 2011 uprisings and the 20 February constitutional committee election. In the best case scenario, Libya would be stable and prosperous with a vibrant, diversified economy, strong human capital, and robust democratic institutions. In the worst case scenario, the Libyan state would collapse into complete chaos, with the government controlling barely only the capital and the rest of the country fragmenting into renewed civil conflict by warlords grabbing resources. In our estimation, given the current state of affairs, the future lies somewhere inbetween.
As we have written:
“There still remains a narrow window for Libya to navigate its present obstacles, but this opportunity is fast closing as the state’s finances rapidly deteriorate in the face of oil blockades, and as the political legitimacy of the country’s parliament is imperilled by popular protests and the fudged compromises that have allowed it to temporarily overstay its mandate – but which have also transformed it into an Islamist-backed body.”
“The most likely political future for Libya, however, is a hybrid scenario that falls short of Afghanistan-like anarchy, but allows for an overwhelming level of political patronage and corruption that would prevent Libya from truly reaching its economic and democratic potential. Such a scenario might be termed ‘Pakistanisation’, since the Libyan state would remain weak but intact as its various institutions were carved up and subjected to a loose power-sharing arrangement.”
You can read the full article here.
An Absurd Connection between Ukraine and Libya
And I don’t mean that the world’s Foreign Ministers spent most of the Friend’s of Libya conference talking about Ukraine, but rather Lindsey Graham’s Tweet as described by James Traub of FP:
Obama’s cautious response to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of the Ukrainian region of Crimea has confirmed his growing reputation as a weak-willed figure whose faltering leadership has sent a message of impunity to the world’s bullies. Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham recently tweeted that Obama’s failure to attack the Libyans who killed U.S. diplomat Chris Stevens in 2012 invited “this type of aggression.” Graham has a partisan ax to grind, but much of the commentariat has followed suit. My colleague David Rothkopf, straining for terms of abuse sufficient to the moment, has written that comparing Obama to Jimmy Carter, the gold standard for presidential weakness, may be “unfair to Carter.”
Possible Presidential Election?
For those keeping up with the latest scheduled events in Libyan national elections and constitution writing, there has been yet another change to the timeline. February’s amendment to the Constitutional Declaration kept the GNC in power beyond 7 February, under the condition that elections for a new legislature will be held in June if the special February Committee (a mix of GNC members and outside experts) determines that a new draft constitution will not be ready by July. The February Committee has just decided that June’s potential elections would not not only be for a new Congress, but also for an elected president. The new president would select the prime minister, who in turn would select a new cabinet. This new government, the third interim government since the end of the 2011 Revolution, would last for no longer than 18 months.
It is promising to see that the February Committee has already thought long and hard about carefully delineating powers between the President (head of state) and the Prime Minister, given that the lack of clear separation of powers in the current government has caused much deleterious political infighting between President Nuri Abu Sahmain and Prime Minister Ali Zeidan. It also remains to be seen what kind of effect the announcement that the third interim government will be a presidential rather than parliamentary system will have on the new constitution. More on this story is available here from Magharebia: “February Committee proposes new Libya legislature”.
GNC Members’ Cars Burned as Protestors Vandalise Congress
While the eyes of the world are turned to Ukraine, more horrors are happening right in front of our eyes in Libya. Read about the latest and boldest attack on GNC members, their property, and their legitimacy from the Libya Herald by clicking here. The irony is people are protesting the GNC because it is too weak and they want a strong central authority to build the country and conquer the myriad low level insurgencies. Yet they seemingly fail to grasp that obvious that it is attacks like this that are part of the reason why the periphery is dominating the centre. This time the protestors appear to be the Zintan style anti-Brotherhood types making their actions all the more disruptive and pointless.
The number of protestors swelled to nearly 500 late this evening, all condemning the wave of assassinations in Benghazi, Derna and Sirte and denouncing the GNC and government’s inaction over the country’s ongoing security crisis…..
Another young protester said he was there in solidarity with Benghazi which has seen waves of protests this week against the deteriorating security in the city.He said that Congress was completely controlled by the Muslim Brotherhood and was heavily influenced by foreign agendas.
The Battle for Benghazi
Fred Wehrey of the Carnegie institute has just written a very detailed, very interesting, American-centric and security-centric narrative about the struggle between extreme Islamists and the security forces in Benghazi for The Atlantic online. He is brave in the way he has conducted the research and the conclusions he draws.
To enter Benghazi is to enter a city under siege. Unseen assailants spray checkpoints with automatic weapons; security men and military officers perish in booby-trapped cars. The staccato of nightly gunfire and pre-dawn explosions have assumed a customary quality. The culprits go undiscovered and unpunished.
Every day, Bukhamada’s special forces struggle for power and authority with a constellation of Islamist militias with deep roots in the city. Sa’iqa soldiers have been the targets of an assassination campaign, and Bukhamada’s own son was kidnapped in late January. The outcome of this contest will have an impact not only on the city, but also on the future of Libya’s army—and on the country’s democratic transition…..
Today, many Libyans point to the Shield project as the original sin of the National Transitional Council—a Faustian bargain that put the country on a downward trajectory. In the space of two years, the Shields rapidly became a shadow army with greater power than the country’s regular forces. The monthly government salary for a Shield member exceeded that of a regular policeman and army recruit, giving militia members or would-be recruits little incentive to join the government’s security forces…
For the Islamist militias and Shields, Bukhamada’s Sa’iqa is at once an uneasy partner and an implacable foe, in part as a result of historical memory. Under Qaddafi, the special forces spearheaded a ferocious crackdown on an Islamist uprising in Benghazi and the Green Mountains during the late 1990s. Although many leaders of that uprising fought side-by-side with the Sa’iqa during the 2011 revolution, the bad blood runs deep.
Today, many Islamists are dismissive of the Sa’iqa’s capabilities and suspicious of its motivations. Ismail Sallabi, the former commander of the Benghazi-based Rafallah al-Sahati Companies, asserted in an interview with me last spring that nothing could get done in the city without the Islamists and revolutionaries. The Sa’iqa’s ranks were filled with “drug users and womanizers,” and their contributions to security and policing were frequently heavy-handed and clumsy. “They still think they are fighting in Sirte,” he charged. “They would use Grad rockets to go after drug smugglers.” ….
I asked the 22nd Battalion commander about Benghazi’s worsening violence and what should be done about it. He shrugged. “We offered the 22nd Battalion to help Bukhamada but he declined. He said he has it under control,” he explained. And then: “I guess he’s a hero there and he doesn’t need any more heroes.”
Constitutional Committee Election Final Turnout Put at Half Million
Well, among those who registered turnout was not so low. Very interesting is how the re-runs will go in Ubari and elsewhere and most importantly if the minorities will be brought on board via some outside negotiations or appeasement tactics. Read more from the LH here.
Releasing the full figures for the turnout in Thursday’s Constitutional Committee elections last night, the Higher National Elections Commission (HNEC) has reiterated that an attempt to re-run the contest will take place on Wednesday in those polling centres where violence or blockades prevented it happening. If, however, they are disrupted again, the issue will have to be resolved by the General National Congress, HNEC head Nuri Elabbar said.
He said that negotiations with the Amazigh community which boycotted the elections were still at an impasse. However, there were a number of suggestions that had been made to break the deadlock, among them the appointment of Amazigh representatives to the two uncontested Amazigh seats in Zuwara and the Jebel Nafusa.
It has been suggested that the Supreme Amazigh Council be empowered by Congress to appoint them – a move that would, for the first time, give the council official status in Libya.
45 Percent Turnout in Constitutional Committee Elections but 13 Seats Cannot be Declared
The biggest blight on the CA elections was the led up to them and not the actually conduct of them. The Amazigh boycott and pure information and campaigning are really what made it impossible for these elections to succeed. Yet, by hook or by crook, the HNEC needs to forge ahead and find away to appoint candidates for the 13 Seats where it was unable to open the polls on Feb 20. Read the key article from Libya Herald here.
The turnout in yesterday’s elections for the Constitutional Committee elections was 45 percent, the Higher National Elections Commission (HNEC) has said. But because of violence, disruptions and boycotts, 13 seats cannot be filled as yet.
A total of 497,663 of the 1.1 million people who registered to vote had done so, HNEC chairman Nuri Elabbar said at a press conference late last night. However, reports from twenty-nine centres in five Electoral regions were still awaited.
The 45-percent turnout, although lower than hoped for, is seen as more than sufficient to avoid accusations that the Constitutional Committee has no legitimacy. However, the appointment of if not all the 13 seats, certainly almost all, is another matter.
Too Cool for a Coup, Part Two
Following the 14 February statement by Maj. General Khalifa Hiftar calling for the GNC and cabinet to dissolve and sounding suspiciously like the start to a military coup attempt, the Qaaqaa Brigade and Sawaiq Brigade of Zintan origin issued an ultimatum to the GNC on 18 February to disband within five hours of the statement – or else GNC members would be arrested. The Libya Herald reports, however, that Qaaqaa Brigade members were not seen in the city that night, militia forces did not move from Zintan into Tripoli, nor did the threatened arrests take place.
Each subsequent attempt has emboldened others to try their hand, or to strike out against rivals lest they make a bid for power. Now with conflicting reports out that Qaaqaa Brigade leader Othman Mlaiqitah was wounded in what was possibly an assassination attempt (or a car crash), those who would seek to take hold of the reins of power had best be prepared to weather their own armed opposition.
These possible coup attempts were not enough to further derail the 20 February elections for Libya’s constituent assembly, already suffering from boycott by the Amazigh, polling station violence in Derna and Ubari, and general voter apathy. Preliminary results from Eastern Libya are indicating a possible win for the federalist current, as well as a possible seat for former NTC Finance and Oil Minister Ali Tarhouni according to the Alwasat.ly news website. However, The High National Election Commission has not yet announced any such results on its website http://hnec.ly.
New Alignments between Zintan, GNC, Islamists and the Population
Voting has just ended in Libya on Feb 20 and the good news is that the elections actually happened. The bad news is that formal institutions are being entirely sidelined by informal politics, ultimatums, conspiracies, and popular upheavals. Things are rapidly shifting in Libya and not being on the ground it is very difficult to keep up with all that is going on. Rather than trying to analyze what I do not yet have a grasp on, I will suggest the following articles on the recent events and the Constituent Assembly Elections: Mansour el-Kikhia in AJE on the new politics about forcing the dissolution of the GNC and Ulf Laessing of Reuters on the events of the constitutional committee elections.
To Coup, Or Not to Coup?
The brief October 2013 kidnapping of Prime Minister Ali Zeidan demonstrated that coup attempts are possible, but it is unlikely that any faction in Libya would be able at this stage to garner enough support to hold power. Furthermore, the shadow of the years following Muammar Qadhafi’s own military coup in 1969 still looms over Libya, and current military leadership has not inspired public confidence, making a coup by military members especially difficult.
Following in the footsteps of those in recent months who have made sweeping political declarations without the authority to do so, retired Maj. General Khalifa Hiftar formerly of the Libyan army announced just six days before the elections for the sixty person committee to draft a new Libyan constitution that the military would be taking over, the GNC would be dissolved, and a new political roadmap would be devised.
However, after all of Hiftar’s inflammatory words, absolutely nothing happened. According to the New York Times,
“Then, nothing happened. Prime Minister Ali Zeidan called the supposed coup “ridiculous.” A military spokesman called it “a lie.” None of the Libyan Army’s few tanks or soldiers made any visible moves. The empty Parliament was quiet.”
More on the story is available from the New York Times here: “In Libya, a Coup. Or Perhaps Not.”
Jadhran’s Brother to Be Returned to Libya after Arrest in UAE
Big news. Jadhran’s brother was caught trying to make a deal for Cyrenaica’s oil in Dubai. That the UAE caught him is a great sign as it means that the international actors are helping out Libya’s central authorities even when they might have a financial interest to not do so! This is very good. You can read about it from the Libya Herald here.
Khaled Jadhran, one of the brothers of Cyrenaican break-away leader Ibrahim Jadhran, is awaiting extradition to Libya following his arrest in Dubai on charges of trying to illegally sell Libyan oil.
A close family member denied the charges against Khaled, saying: “He wasn’t involved in anything to do with Cyranaica, he is a businessman.” The relative added that he had been released on bail, which he claimed had been paid by a member of Dubai’s ruling family. “He is now free in Dubai, but his passport was taken,” he said. “Khaled has a travel document allowing him to make one journey and is now waiting for the Libyan prosecutors to report to the Dubai authorities about the charges.”
Libya vs Western Bankers
During the rush after Gaddafi’s détente with the US in 2003, the LIA was courted by successive Western companies and invested in assets as diverse as the Dutch–Belgian bank Fortis and the Italian football club Juventus. Previous reports and court documents paint a picture of an inexperienced management team at the LIA wowed by sophisticated Western financiers. This, however, is a vast oversimplification.
The LIA now claims the deal was clouded by opaque structures and misleading advice. This, however, seems unlikely to be the full explanation despite how convenient it would be for the post-Gaddafi Libyan authorities. Given Zarti’s endorsment of other bad trades for the LIA on which he stood to gain personally, it is far more likely that Zarti and those around him were involved in various side actions with Goldman surrounding the losses. However, Zarti and Goldman would have been very careful to avoid leaving any sort of paper trail.
For Libyan politicians, the pending case represents an opportunity for the country’s new leaders to claw back losses incurred during Gaddafi’s reign, as well as to expose the corruption of the former regime and its nefarious and unscrupulous dealings with the Libyan people’s money.
Correcting the Course of Libya’s Revolution (Part 1/2)
Here is a very interesting (and fairly long) article putting forth an explanation of why Libya’s transitional arrangements have come unstuck. He suggest the innovative but impracticable solution for the Constituent Assembly to take over the GNC’s governance responsibilities. This isn’t something I would support, because it would tip the balance too much towards Fezzan and Cyrenaica, but Megirisi is right that something needs to be done to change the structures and timelines. Read the whole thing here.
Thus, being the center of Libya’s political system, the GNC — a 200-member parliament filled through the country’s first fair, if not confused, national elections — naturally became the point of projection for Libya’s regional and ideological groups to take their cause national.
This resurrection of the old mindset rendered the new system unable to solve problems it encountered, as factions fought to glorify their own solutions rather than enact a cooperative system. Consequently, it created the popular perception that GNC members are the nation’s decisive power-holders.
This inaction of the official political process forced pressure groups into more coercive forms of lobbying. As the authorities continuously wilted under confrontation, these groups grew more emboldened, advancing from threats to invading institutions, acts of violence, and even withholding key utilities from the capital in order to extort their demands.
Moreover, the entrenchment of opportunistically criminal actors throughout Libya has rendered a powerful shadow force and network of incentives. They are working to prevent the emergence of any systems of security, accountability or transparency, which would dissolve their power base, newly secured privileges, and possibly end in their criminal prosecution.
As the Constitutional Assembly elections at the end of February draw closer, many have started to call for the CA to take on the role of the GNC and to draft the constitution. Although this is a popular idea, a lot of groundwork would need to be done to make it feasible……
Even Federalism Won’t Placate the Federalists
Yemen has just announced that it will operate as a Federalist state for the first time in its history. And surprise, surprise, the Southern Yemeni Federalists are still protesting. Yemen has a culture of centre and periphery similar to that in Libya so I wouldn’t be surprised at all, if Cyrenaican Federalists would not accept what ever moderate federalism and decentralization that they get in the constitution and seek to gain more through force even after they have already achieved their aims.
Saba said a federal state comprised of six regions garnered the “highest level of agreement” against another proposal to divide the country into two regions, one in the north and one in the south. Southern Yemeni leaders rejected the accord. “What has been announced about the six regions is a coup against what had been agreed at the dialogue,” said Mohammed Ali Ahmed, a former South Yemen interior minister who returned from exile in March 2012. “That is why I pulled out of the dialogue,” he told Reuters.
Some southerners fear that having several regions would dilute their authority and deprive them of control over important areas such as Hadramout, where some of Yemen’s oil reserves are found.
Nasser al-Nawba, a founder of the southern Hirak separatist movement, also rejected the deal, saying the only solution was for the north and south to each have their own state, as was the case before 1990.
Zeidan’s Newly Proposed Cabinet has Been Rejected
Below is the full text of an article from the Libya Business News
A cabinet reshuffle proposed by Prime Minister Ali Zeidan has been rejected on Sunday by Libya’s General National Congress (GNC).
MP Mahmoud al-Gheriani told Anadolu Agency that parliament turned down the request,“given an earlier agreement to withdraw confidence from the government in mid-February“.
Libya Herald reported that the proposed new ministers were:
- Mahmoud Ajaj, current head of HIB, to replace Ali Hussein Al-Sharif at Housing and Utilities;
- Mraja Gaith, current Deputy Minister of Finance, at Finance (replacing Alkilani Abdel-Kareem);
- Mohamed Muftah Nuh, currently head of the PIB Western Region, at Economy (replacing Mustafa Abofanas);
- Fathi Mohamed Abdul-Latif at Oil and Gas (replacing Abdulbari Al-Arusi);
- Saleh Mazen Abdurrahman Barasi, current head of Tripoli CID, at Interior, currently being run by the Deputy Prime Minister Sadiq Abdulkarim;
- Ibrahim Sharkas as Youth and Sports Minister to replace Abdulsalam Guaila;
- Mohamed Bashir Abduldaim as Local Government Minister, replacing Abubakr Al-Hadi Mohammed; and,
- Minister Habib Al-Amin is taking on the Information Ministry.
Dunks and Dodging Bullets: Americans Chase Hoop Dreams in Libya
Here is a little bit of ‘light’ Libya reading from NBC News, showing how the American media still likes to condense complex multi-dimensional political and social issues, into one dimensional human interest stories with references to violence and sport thrown in.
Earning salaries of up to $8,000 per month and living in mansions and top hotels, a handful of Americans are chasing their hoop dreams in lawless Libya – with the threat of heavily armed Islamist militias and kidnappings providing a constant reminder of just how far they are from home. ”I lived the first 13 years of my life in some of America’s worst neighborhoods, so it’s similar. But I don’t have my family and I don’t have a gun.”
“I live to play the game,” the 28-year-old point guard told NBC News. “Most people think the revolution is still going on but it’s a very safe place. I haven’t had any problems.” However, security is an issue when it comes to games. As a result, Rice’s team often plays in front of just 30 or 40 people who are vetted and searched.
In Benghazi, where two American pros were reportedly detained by Libyan special forces earlier this month, the situation is a lot more unstable, according to another player who asked not to be named due to security concerns. ”It’s a lot more dangerous than I expected,” the player said about the city where a 2012 attack on the U.S. Consulate left four Americans dead, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens. “While the club looks after me and they have put me up in a nice place, I can hear the guns and explosions close by and it’s scary.”
Protests Against the Extention of the GNC’s Mandate Passed Peacefully
This is a modicum of good news. Read the Libya Herald article here.
Despite months of planning and weeks of security concerns, yesterday’s protests against the extension of the General National Congress(GNC) beyond 7 February passed without incident, attracting far fewer protesters than anticipated.
Some two thousand people gathered in Tripoli and several hundred in Benghazi yesterday, with still smaller demonstrations reported in other towns, including Shahat, Beida, Tobruk and Ajdabiya. Amidst much flag-waving and chanting, protestors carried brooms and dustbin bags, calling for a clean-up of Congress. “Martyrs, martyrs, for you, Libya,” a group in Tripoli’s Martyrs’ Square chanted. “Yes to Libya, no to armed groups,” another chanted, referring to the belief held by some that the GNC is heavily-influenced by militias.Independent Benghazi Congressman, Mohamed Busidra, told this paper, however, that the media had exaggerated the public’s desire to see the dissolution of the GNC. “I think personally that everything happening now is due to the political isolation law and Mahmoud Jibril, the head of the National Forces Alliances (NFA),” Busidra said.
The Feb 7 Extension of GNC issue
There is little English language coverage of this important issue, but AFP explains it as follows:
The congress has adopted a new roadmap and timetable, which allow for two scenarios. A general election is to be held at the end of the year if the constitutional body adopts a new charter within four months of its own election set for 20 February. But if the commission deems itself with 60 days incapable of completing the job, a Plan B allows for it to call for immediate presidential and legislative polls for a fresh period of 18 months.
While Karim Mezran of the Atlantic Council writes in his blog post entitled Deepening Polarization in Libya, No Agreement in Sight:
An emerging and worrying trend of political blocs within the General National Congress (GNC) forming alliances with certain militia groups—creating new and divisive power centers—threatens to derail the transition as these power centers prioritize self-interest over the collective good. The injection of weapons onto the political scene not only hampers substantive efforts to build a new Libyan state, but also emboldens criminal elements and political factions with parochial interests.
Efforts to broker an agreement that would create an opening for nascent institutions overcome this stumbling block have now collapsed. The goal was to have every GNC member sign a pledge upholding these principles. It appears that the two major political blocs—the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated Justice and Construction Party and Mahmoud Jibril’s National Forces Alliance (NFA)—agreed. Given the fragmented, multi-polarity that characterizes Libyan politics today, however, the proposed solution collapsed after its rejection by, most notably, the al-Wafa Islamist bloc led by Abdulwahab al-Qaid.
Zintanis militias, which have so far reluctantly stood by the government, already pledged to side with the people if it takes an aggressive stance against the GNC. Meanwhile, Misratan militias, who withdrew from the capital amid widespread condemnation following the fatal clashes in Ghargour in November 2013, have promised to return to Tripoli if need be to defend the legislature and the revolution. Out of public view, Prime Minister Ali Zidan manipulates the factions gripping the legislature to maintain a hold on power, despite growing pressure from external forces urging a “no confidence” vote to oust his administration.
And the bottom line is in Mezran’s words ‘The legislature is banking on the fact that the constitutional committee cannot admit weakness, leaving the legislature in power for several more months.’ It is impossible to know the motivations, but if this exists as the widespread view that is quite damaging for the legislatures already woeful credibility. One truly cannot predict if or when there will be an outpouring of public support for a mass upheaval to sweep away the current system.
Libya PM Threatens Eastern Protesters with Troops
I’m always skeptical when I read a headline like this and sometimes, the subsequent article just makes me cringe with its gullibility. This time however, Reuters’ Ghaith Shennib adds a little bit of nuance, he knows full well that troops are not going to be deployed against Jadhran and Co. if some ultimatum is overstepped and he lets the reader draw that conclusion. It would be better if the issue was analyzed more directly, but such is nature of journalism these days. You can read the whole thing by clicking here or my selections below.
Zeidan has repeatedly warned he may use force to free up three key ports where protesters demanding more autonomy from Tripoli have cut off around 600,000 barrels per day of oil exports since summer. Negotiations have gone nowhere with the eastern federalists who have set up their own self-styled Cyrenaica government. But local eastern tribal leaders and officials say support is waning for Jathran within the federalist movement. An attempt to load a tanker at Es Sider port ended abruptly when the navy opened fire, making clear how difficult it would be for Jathran to sell oil independently of Tripoli. But with Libya’s nascent army still in training, most analysts say it will also be difficult for Zeidan to send troops to free up the ports, where Jathran has dug in with his own militia.
Is Jadhran’s Support Waning?
Reuters has published a boldly titled article: “Support crumbles in east Libya for oil blockade leader”. On the one hand, I’m quite eager for news of the Cyrenaican tribes turning against Jadhran so that the oil can get flowing and the Libyan economy and constitutional process can get back on track. Yet given developments up and till now, I am of course skeptical that things are moving in that direction. So you can read the whole article here to judge by yourself. Or glance at some of the key paragraphs I put below.
Even Jathran’s own tribe and leaders in its hometown speak angrily about getting exports flowing again as capital Tripoli warns it may no longer be able to pay public salaries because the blockade has slashed oil revenues. Surveying the potholed roads and abandoned buildings of Ajdabiya, mayor Salem Abdullah is all for fighting for more autonomy and oil wealth from the central government – but not for the blockade. “We are opposed the closure of the oil ports,” he told Reuters. “This has had a very, very negative impact.”
“The right way for us to have been represented would be by elections,” Abdullah said, slamming his right hand on the office desk in frustration. “If you want to represent by force you cannot talk in name of the people.” Jathran’s al-Magharba tribe is pressuring him to withdraw his men to free up at least 600,000 barrels a day of badly needed oil exports. Several meetings have been held though an attempt to negotiate failed in December. “Sit-ins in front of ports to demand your rights are fine… but shutting down ports is not acceptable. Oil is Libya’s only income and belongs to all Libyans,” said Saleh Atawich, the top Magharba leader.
He has put the strength of his force at more than 20,000 but few in the east believe this, and some oil industry and local estimates put his troop levels at below 5,000….. Jathran says his self-appointed government has formed an oil company to sell crude by bypassing Tripoli’s authority. His group has only appointed a director, and claims to rely otherwise on sympathetic former NOC staff.
Libya: Date Set for Vote to Select Constitutional Panel
Well, nothing like the Libyan propensity to wait for the 11th hour. With only twenty days to go the Libyans have finally announced a date for the Constituent Assembly elections. There has not been enough campaigning or voter registration and it appears that turnout will be far lower than in the GNC elections. Moreover, no one knows how various armed groups will try to influence the voting process to make sure that the constitutional court is staked with people who will support their regional and local interests. Read more from Reuters here.
Madagascar’s Radio DJ President Jockeys for Power
Here is my latest in the Huffington Post with Brian Klass about what electoral violence and manipulation in Madagascar have to say about larger issues throughout Africa.
Only amateurs steal elections on election day anymore. Today, the pros manipulate elections long before the voting begins — making sure the playing field is so uneven that election day rigging is unnecessary.
In Africa and around the developing world, election-day rigging is amateur hour. International observers easily detect ballot box stuffing. Other forms of pre-election manipulation, however, remain shrouded in an opportunistic cloud, allowing strongmen to do their dirty work and get away with it.
Let’s be clear: this is not to say that Madagascar’s election was stolen. We don’t know if it was, because there was so little transparency surrounding critical aspects of democratic fairness. Western governments also need to recognize that elections are a step forward, not a panacea. Madagascar’s election did nothing to change the underlying dynamics that sparked the crisis. Grenade attacks, bleeding protestors, and Putin-esque power grabs make clear that the crisis is not over. International pressure should address the causes of toxic politics, not just the symptoms.
America can help. During President Obama’s tour of Africa last year, he promised that to build global democracy, America is “interested in investing not in strongmen, but in strong institutions.” But until the lessons from Madagascar’s December 20 vote are learned and policies are adapted accordingly, strongmen will win, democratic institutions will lose, and America’s promise will remain empty words.
Power Cut Misery to Continue Until Warshefana Clashes Resolved
Homes across Tripoli will continue to face rolling power cuts until the fighting in Warshefana has ended and security in the area stabilised, the General Electric Company of Libya (GECOL) said today. Read more from the Libya Herald here.
Sebha Still Awaiting Military Support
According to the Libya Herald, “No military reinforcements from the north of the country have yet arrived in Sebha, despite government promises and media reports” since the fighting broke out there in early January. Read more here. This is stark indication at how low the government’s willingness and capacity to face down its enemies is.
Egyptian Embassy Staff ‘Seized’ in Libya
In retaliation for Egyptian actions against Shabaan Hadiya a leader of the infamous Revolutionaries Operations Room, there has been a revenge attack in Libya which is the kidnapping of Egyptian embassy officials. Read about it from BBC here.
Several kidnappings of officials in Libya recently have been blamed on militias. They are often paid by the government, but their allegiance and who controls them remain in doubt.
On Friday a Libyan militia commander was arrested in Egypt. Shabaan Hadiya is the leader of the Revolutionaries’ Operation Room, one of the militias that sprang up during the fight to topple Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.
Libya Chaos Worsens
The Voice of America has published an article with interviews by Karim Mezran and Bill Lawrence entitled “Libya Chaos Worsens”, but haven’t we heard that headline before? It has some interesting bits which I repeat below. For the full article click here.
Gripped by months of political turmoil analysts fear the country is edging closer to a possible break-up. A defiant Zeidan in a bid to head off a vote of no confidence by the country’s parliament, the General National Congress (GNC), told a news conference on Wednesday a vote of no confidence won’t solve the country’s problems. “I would be happy for a vote of no confidence, but we would not be happy for the government to be left to a caretaker government. I have asked the GNC to choose a Prime Minister. I will not leave the country in an executive vacuum,” Zeidan said.
Karim Mezran, a senior fellow with the Washington DC-based Atlantic Council, says that three-fourths of the GNC are against Zeidan and want him replaced but that the prime minister has managed to block a vote by playing to a minority of lawmakers – preventing a required quorum from being reached. “Zeidan is clinging to his position no matter what, but what he is doing in effect is to keep Libya stuck,” says Mezran. “Libya is stuck with a government that is not popular and a Congress that has lost its consensus and the situation is the country is close to becoming a failed state.”
“Libya is not one big mess,” says North Africa expert Bill Lawrence, a visiting professor of Political Science and International Affairs at George Washington University. “It is a bunch of little messes that are not very related. So, the string of assassinations in Benghazi is very different from the political game involved in the militias and their GNC allies in Tripoli, which is different from what’s going on in the borders, which is different from the fighting over smuggling of the trafficking in the South, different from the ethnic conflicts in other communities, and what is happening at the oil facilities. We tend to conflate this all because of the catastrophic weakness of the military and the police.” Of the challenges facing Libya, the biggest “existential threat” to the country comes from the federalist movement in the East, says Lawrence. “By resisting the demands for federalism because of fears it will result in the break-up of the country, politicians from Western Libya are in danger of creating a self-fulfilling prophecy whereby their resistance pushes the federalists to become separatists.”
Killings of Briton and New Zealander Underscore Libya’s Security Breakdown
Interviewed for an article for The Guardian, I make the case that the recent killings in Libya are part of the larger situation and that groups that want the central government to fail are clearly taking aim at foreigners.
“I would stick my neck out and say this is some kind of Salafist or jihadist group,” said Jason Pack, a researcher at Cambridge University who runs Libya-analysis.com. ”The only people who randomly kill foreigners are the jihadists. These extreme tactics are being used by the Islamists at a time the population is turning against them and the government is trying to break free. When they don’t know how to cut a pipeline, killing westerners is an easier way of keeping foreign investors away.”
The prospects of the killers being identified and of security being improved are undermined by the continuing anarchic conditions across post-Gaddafi Libya in which different localities are controlled by communal militias while peace and oil production is only maintained by local deals and pay-offs by the Tripoli government led by prime minister, Ali Zeidan, and the oil companies themselves. ”This is part of a larger trend of extortion,” Pack said.
“The ‘political’ agenda of these groups is merely a veneer for extortion. The Libyan government finds itself in a conundrum because it has practised appeasement and scrambled to meet the demands of the militias. It has laid down deadlines threatened to use force but has never carried out those threats.”
Anna Baldinetti looking for research assistant
Professor Anna Baldinetti, a good friend of mine and one of the real leaders in the Libya field has asked me to circulate the following announcement to the Middle Eastern Studies community as she is looking for a UK based research assistant.
Here is the announcement
Anna Baldinetti, Professor of History and Political Science at the University of Perugia and former Evans-Pritchard Lecturer at All Souls College, Oxford, is looking for a part-time paid research assistant who is resident in England and has library privileges as a major UK academic library. The successful candidate will be familiar with Arabic and English. Knowledge of Libya and its historiography is a plus, but not required. He or she will be able to help Prof Baldinetti to gather documentation in Arabic on women, family and youth in Libya scattered in various UK libraries (mainly Durham, Oxford, and Soas). The student ( he/she can be based anywhere in the UK) should acquire them by interlibrary loan, make photocopies and send them to me. The pay is 15 euros (about 12 pounds) an hour and of course Prof Baldinetti will refund the interlibrary loans fees as well as other expenses. This is a great opportunity for a young enterprising graduate student working on Libya as it has the potential to develop into further collaboration with Prof Baldinetti. If you are interested please contact email@example.com with your CV.
Libya in 2014???
Although some wonder if there will continue to be a whole Libya throughout 2014, I have no doubts. I’d like to first share my article in Majalla with Haley Cook about Libya’s Prospects in the new year. Next I’d like to pass along some content from Libya Business News which was quite succinct and accurate in this context:
As 2013 draws to a close, Libya’s General National Congress has voted to extend its mandate until late December 2014. Given the failure of the parliament to draft a constitution, this is not a surprise, but many have also been disappointed by the GNC’s failure to bring the militias under control and to secure oil exports. A recent decision to make Sharia law the foundation of all legislation and state institutions in the country has also caused confusion, while legislation banning non-Shariah-compliant banking by 2015 is strangling access to funds.
But as we welcome a new year there may be some brightness on the horizon, with the likely resumption of oil exports from Hariga, and a vote of confidence from KPMG, which is launching a member firmin Tripoli. With another challenging but potentially rewarding year to come, we at Libya Business News wish all Libyans at home and abroad a happy, peaceful and prosperous 2014.
Khattala with the Candlestick in the Diplomatic Mission
David Kirkpatrick’s New York Times investigative report about the causes of the killing of Chris Stevens is the best account yet produced of the motivations of the key players and causes of the tragedy. I am still a little skeptical about the importance of the silly anti-Islamic YouTube video made in California, but I don’t doubt that Kirkpatrick is correct that many different causes combined together to fuel the attack. I also think Kirkpatrick is wrong to down play the revenge element for the killing of Al Qaeda operative Abu Yahya Al-Libi.
Most importantly, Kirkpatrick connects the dots between the killing of Chris Stevens and that of Abdul-Fattih Younis. These events are most certainly the two most significant incidents that have derailed the NTC’s and GNC’s attempts to build a central government and keep the Islamist militias in check. Fascinating, Abu Khattala is directly implicated in both incidents and therefore despite being a mental ill, loner with less than a hundred followers, he can be said to be the key figure who has ‘defeated’ Mahmoud Gibril’s and the NTC’s political vision for post-Qadhafi Libya. What a shame and how depressing. To read the whole report click here.
Happy Libyan Independence Day and Merry Christmas
Libya Probes Deadly Army Checkpoint Bombing
Sunday’s suicide bombing in Benghazi could be a sign that al Qaeda is no longer using Libya as a haven—but instead turning the country into a battlefield. …. Rami El Obeidi, the former intelligence chief of the rebels during the uprising against Gaddafi and a commander of some of the soldiers who were killed in Sunday’s explosion, told The Daily Beast that his preliminary information showed the bomber was actually from Mali, not Libya. The bomber is likely one of the hundreds of jihadists in Mali who fled north when the French intervened a year ago to quash a radical Muslim insurgency in the sub-Saharan African state, El Obeidi said…. The Libyan army unit targeted was one of the few that had gone head-to-head with hardline Islamist militias and had tried to counter Al Qaeda’s growing presence in Libya. “It had caused serious disruption to jihadist logistics supply routes between Derna and Benghazi,” says El Obeidi. For the whole story click here.
The incident on Sunday comes just days after Colonel Fethallah al-Gaziri, the newly appointed chief of military intelligence in Benghazi, was assassinated during a visit to his family in the city of Derna….The security post’s chief, Fraj al-Abdelli, who was wounded in the attack, said the checkpoint had received several threats since arresting four people in November who were carrying weapons, explosives, money and a hit list.
Will the Arab Spring Still Blossom in Tunisia?
Today the Arab Spring is 3 years old. Is the movement over? Is it still going on? Is the term ‘Arab Spring’ a legitimate/accurate one? I am actually of the belief that the Arab Spring is long over and with hindsight we now know that the term should only refer to the period of time from Dec 17th, 2010 until October 23rd, 2011. I.e. from when Mohammad Bou ‘Azizi self immolated sparking the revolution in Tunisia until when Qadhafi was killed and the liberation was declared in Libya. Seen in this light the Arab Spring was a North Africa focused movements and events in Syria, Bahrain, and Yemen were offshoots, but never had a similar trajectory. The Arab Spring was about using new forms of mobilization and organization to express dissent which had boiled over after long years of stagnant authoritarianism which was not producing jobs or dignity and did not present Muslims with regimes they considered Islamically legitimate. The Arab Spring was ideal in the predominantly Sunni, religious, and highly politically engaged societies of North Africa. It has not fared so well in multi-sectarian (Syria/Bahrain) or non-Arab societies (copycat movements in Africa/Ukraine/elsewhere).
I’ve been musing on these questions because I wrote a retrospective of the Arab Spring for the L.A. Times addressing how the failures to ‘transition to democracy’ in Iraq, Egypt, and Libya have served as excellent warnings to Tunisians of what not to do. Moreover, looking back at the fall out from the Arab Spring movements, it does appear that only Tunisia has a real chance IN THE SHORT TERM to create a society governed by the rule of law, a constitution, and functioning accountable institutions. Read the whole article by clicking here or some highlights below.
Tunisia’s stalled transition remains the last, best prospect for a democratic blossoming from the Arab Spring. Hope lives on because Tunisia has learned from the other derailed democratic experiments in the region, notably in Iraq, Egypt and Libya….
First, learning from mistakes in Iraq and Libya, Tunisian politics are becoming more inclusive, in spite of initial echoes of de-Baathification. Although Ben Ali’s political party was formally disbanded in 2011, the ruling Islamist Nahda movement has shelved a proposed controversial “immunization of the revolution” law, a virtual carbon copy of Libya’s Political Isolation Law…. Third, unlike in Egypt and Libya, Tunisia’s ruling elites having been working toward coalition governance…. Finally, on Saturday, a way to implement this pledge was devised by appointing Mehdi Jomaa, a consensus candidate and the current minister of industry, as the caretaker prime minister…..
So far, however, three years after starting the Arab Spring, Tunisia has learned three valuable lessons from Iraq, Egypt and Libya:
Don’t disband your military or let it act as a state within a state, but do make it powerful enough to provide security. Seek consensus and compromise whenever possible. Include experienced and noncorrupt members of the former regime, or you’ll risk throwing the democratic baby out with the dictatorial Baath water.
The Coming Showdown?
As Reuters reports, negotiations between government officials and Eastern separatists could result tomorrow in a deal that would bring an end to over five months of closed oil ports and loss of billions of dollars in government revenue. However, if the armed protesters are unwilling to compromise and begin illegally selling oil out of Ras Lanuf, Sidra, and Zueitina, then the government may follow through on its past threats to meet such an action with force.
It is interesting to note that the self-declared prime minister of a self-appointed autonomous government in the East claims that he will be meeting with a group of government officials directly, while Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan stated that negotiations will not be directly with those responsible but rather through the intermediary of local tribal leaders.
“We will hold talks with a government committee on Saturday,” said Abd-Rabbo al-Barassi, prime minister of Jathran’s self-declared eastern government.
“If they agree on our demands, then the ports will reopen on Sunday. If they don’t agree, then we’ll insist on selling the oil without government coordination,” he told Reuters by telephone. He did not say which officials the group would be meeting in the east.
You can read more here: “East Libya group allows one day for talks on reopening oil ports”.
‘Everything You Can Imagine’ Smuggled to Libya
Magharebia interviewed Ali Hashem al-Zway, head of the Supreme Security Committee for the town of Jaghbub near the Egyptian border, about the difficulties of combating smuggling in remote areas. Libya lacks a comprehensive border security system, and as seen from this interview security is left in some areas to ad-hoc local forces grown out of militias from the 2011 Libyan revolution such as the Supreme Security Committees rather than specialized trained forces with a dedicated budget.
Al-Zway said that among the items smuggled into Libya for sale on the black market were “narcotic Tramadol pills, bags of expired chicken liver and medications…[e]verything you can imagine”, and he also spoke of arresting groups of illegal immigrants from “Egypt, Sudan, Bangladesh and Pakistan” as well as the Libyans involved in the human trafficking.
He complained of not having enough equipment to do the job due to lack of support from the Jaghbub local council and lack of support from the central government. When asked if the government had provided funding and equipment he replied, “nothing, except for three vehicles that we received from the Supreme Security Committee in Tobruk, which we report to.”
You can read the rest of the interview here: ‘Everything is smuggled in Libya’.
Breaking the Libyan Oil Blockade
I have just published another feature in The Majalla with Haley Cook entitled “Breaking the Libyan Oil Blockade“.
As five months of disruptions in oil and gas production continue, the Libyan government has been unable to negotiate solutions to most of the separate strikes and blockades, and unable or unwilling to use violence. Increasing disruptions to electricity and fuel could turn additional public sentiment against such tactics and help bring an end to the growing economic crisis.
Libya is currently facing one of its most complex dilemmas. The continuing occupation of multiple oil and gas production sites, pipelines, platforms and export terminals by armed protestors has cut oil production to a sixth of the level it was at as late as July. As this cut in production, and thus in government revenue, forces Libya to dip into its savings to keep the government operating, a rash of assassinations of security officials, criminal activity, and sporadic militia clashes have spread the nascent Libyan security institutions thin. A recent political opinion focus group survey conducted by the National Democratic Institute found that “Libyans blame the government for continued insecurity and express a desire for the state to exert its authority and address the issue.”
Libya Assembly Votes for Sharia Law
In lieu of actual progress in the constitutional process, the GNC has voted to have Sharia law serve as THE SOURCE of legislation in the country. The question then becomes does this clarify matters or only further obfuscate them? Will this make the uncertainty about the constitution worse or better? My inclination is that this step only increases the opacity of Libya’s legal system and will further promote dysfunction in the credit markets and in issues surrounding property law, etc. Read the story from AJE here.
Libya’s National Assembly has voted to make Sharia, Islamic law, the foundation of all legislation and state institutions in the country.The immediate scope of the General National Congress”s (GNC) decision on Wednesday was not clear, but a special committee will review all existing laws to guarantee they comply with Islamic law.
The GNC’s decision came shortly before a vote to form a 60-member committee that will draft the new constitution.
Libya’s Post-Qadhafi Fissures: Federalists, Islamists, Berbers & the Militias
On December 2nd, I presented a paper entitled: Libya’s Post-Qadhafi Fissures: Federalists, Islamists, Berbers & the Militias to a general audience at St. Catharine’s College. I started with an overview of the present situation in Libya and then focused on explaining the roots of the social and political fissures in the country at present. To watch on YouTube click here.
U.S. Plan for GPF Faces Obstacles
An accessible overview from the Washington Post about why training in the security sector in Libya is not going to be a magic bullet for Libya’s woes. The article points out how different international actors are not coordinating on training and are hence driving more unhealthy competition. In fact, as I’ve been saying for years already the majority of training must be in the civilian sectors like water, health, administration, finance, etc. As for military training it can only work if done multilaterally not bilaterally. Read the whole article here.
U.S. officials say the hope is that the General Purpose Force — a trained Libyan military organization — will start to fill the country’s festering security vacuum, initially by protecting vital government installations and the individuals struggling to make this country run. The Obama administration hopes the force eventually will form the core of a new national army.
The United States and its partners, who say they are training to “NATO standards,” are not the only ones moving to fill the security vacuum. A wealth of outside actors are rushing to bolster favored militias or to capitalize on the oil-rich country’s prevailing anarchy. Turkey is conducting military training for up to 3,000 Libyan recruits, and wealthy Persian Gulf states — as well as private companies and black-market arms dealers — are supplying favored groups. Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia also have expressed willingness to play a role in training Libya’s security forces, U.S. officials said. “We have certainly seen multiple agendas playing out in the course of multiple external partners,’’ said the U.S. defense official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the touchy situation and U.S. goals. For now, Libya’s government and legislature are weak and divided along a deepening fault line. On one side is a liberal-leaning coalition known as the National Forces Alliance, supported by heavily armed militias from the western mountain town of Zintan. On the other side are Islamist groups that include the Muslim Brotherhood and Islamist militias.
Even as the United States is shipping Humvees to the government, a Qatari businessman, who insisted that his name not be used, said he recently completed a $14.8 million deal that would supply 100 armored Toyota Land Cruisers to Islamist militias under the umbrella of Libya’s Interior Ministry. Islamist militia leaders accuse the United Arab Emirates, Qatar’s gulf rival, of trying to counter Qatar’s influence by funneling money and training to more secular groups, particularly the Qaqaa brigade, a militia from Zintan that backs the National Forces Alliance.
Localizing Power in Libya
The Libyan government needs a new approach to its current crisis. Similarly, the international community needs to recalibrate its assistance to Libya. Teaming up with FP’s Mohamed Al-Jarh, we have crafted a policy relevant piece for the Atlantic Council.
On Friday November 15, Tripoli witnessed its bloodiest day since its liberation from Muammar Qaddafi. This current crisis allows the government an unprecedented opportunity to change course and to abandon its previously failed policies. Finally, the inhabitants of Tripoli and Benghazi are attempting to reclaim ownership of their cities from the militias.
To meet the demands of the Libyan people, the Libyan authorities and the international community need to start engaging in efforts at “localizing” power. As we pointed out in the New York Times on October 18, the cancellation of some military aid to Egypt should allow President Barack Obama to redirect part of the withheld funds towards projects in Libya without the need for congressional approval. Furthermore, despite his pledge to not resign, Prime Minster Ali Zeidan should step down and allow for the formation of a national unity government which will fulfill a caretaker function—recalibrating the relationship between center and periphery while overseeing the elections for the constitutional committee. To read the rest click here.
Does Libya Need a Lesson in Devolved Government?
A review of my book by The Spectator magazine shows that the key struggles between the centre and the periphery need to be addressed via localization and incorporating the periphery into the center. Moreover, the reviewer feels that the keys to the present crisis are explained via the central metaphor of our volume. Quite flattering and thanks you David Blackburn. Read the whole article here.
Recent news from Libya has not inspired confidence. Terrorism, riots, murder, a temporarily kidnapped prime minster, oil stuck at export terminals – it’s a dispiriting litany of apparently unconnected events. Yet careful study of the region’s history and the aftermath of the uprisings against Colonel Gaddafi suggest that peripheral forces in Libya are, as they often do, resisting impositions from the centre. That is the central thesis of a collection of essays The 2011 Libyan Uprisings and the Struggle for the Post-Qadafi Future, edited by Jason Pack of Cambridge University. Pack & Co argue that the Libyan uprising was not homogenous. There were ‘multiple simultaneous uprisings’…
Pack & Co make a convincing case that central government, supported by the western allies and their aid agencies, must ‘localise’ (devolve) power by giving the various strongmen a stake in the administration of justice, the economy and the development of public services. Only then, they argue, can Libya build strong civic institutions to withstand greater tremors than those of the moment.
Tripoli Eats Cake to Celebrate Libyan Militias’ Withdrawal
Finally, the revenge of the cake-eaters. I only hope this festival atmosphere can be harnessed into real concrete action to keep the militias out. Read more on Tripolitanian customs and how popular action evicted the militias from the BBC’s Rana Jawad here.
Tripoli residents have been brandishing and eating pastries on the streets this week as a symbol of their victory in forcing militias from elsewhere in Libya to withdraw from the capital. The city is famous for its baryoosh – a croissant-like brioche – but since the fall of Muammar Gaddafi, its residents have been derided by some in the provinces as cake-eaters.
The problem for the new government in the two years since the killing of Libya’s long-time ruler is that many of these brigades have refused to disarm and refused to leave the capital – until events last Friday. The bigger quandary for officials will be how to ensure their disbandment and disarmament or integration into the legitimate security forces.
When asked if they were prepared to face militias in the event of further civilian protests against them, the policeman from Benghazi replied: “We are here to protect the people. “If there is a protest, God willing we will be the first ones there.” This will give a sceptical public some hope. But for now the words of Louis XVI of France’s queen is proving sustenance to some of the protesters. “We ate the croissants Marie Antoinette said we should eat and the militias left,” one Tripoli resident quipped.
The EU’s Libyan Headache Is Growing Worse
Three Libya experts Claudia Gazzani of the ICG, Luiz Martinez of CERI, and Jason Pack of Libya-Analysis.com and Cambridge University debated on the German Radio station Deutsch Walle what the EU should do in Libya and the likelihood of separatism. The three shared their widely divergent views about the federalist situation in Cyrenaica and the role the EU can and should play in the country. Read more here.
Jason Pack, Libya expert at the University of Cambridge in the UK, thinks that all support is vital, particularly the training for civil servants. “The Libyans have money and resources and good people in some areas, but they can’t administer their ministries and don’t manage to pay the men guarding the oilfields on time,” he told DW.
Pack, on the other hand, sees no danger that the country will break apart, and argues that most of the people of Cyrenaica are not separatists. He said there needs to be a common international process. All the states that once rebelled against Gadhafi – even the predominantly Islamic ones – should work together. That, he argues, would send a strong signal to the militias and everyone who stands in the way of a peaceful solution.
Learning from Past Mistakes (Review of The 2011 Libyan Uprisings)
Jason Pack has assembled articles by both new and well-known experts on Libya to produce a book of consistently high quality, which is not all that common in edited works. Both timely and excellent, The 2011 Libyan Uprisings and the Struggle for the Post-Qadhafi Future examines the causes and evolution of the Libyan revolution and will help those struggling to understand Libya’s difficulties in building stable political structures that might finally allow its people to benefit from its oil and gas resources.
Looking ahead, he [Youssef Sawani] points out that the elections and politics in general are likely to remain dominated by tribal and local concerns, in what he calls “the inherent indecisiveness of the perpetual dynamics of Libyan life.” In the few months since the book was published, his forecast has proved correct…. Wolfram Lacher provides an essential survey of tribes and tribal politics….
Henry Smith takes this further in his study of the often-ignored but strategically important and restive south, which is heavily influenced by—and can influence—Saharan politics. There is a fascinating analysis of the relationship of the main tribal groups with the center over time, and with each other and with the Tuareg and Tubu minorities. The challenge now is to persuade local groups to commit themselves to national goals. I would have liked to see an additional chapter looking in more detail at the Jebel Nafusa and Misrata. The chapter that breaks new ground is one on Islamists by Pack, Norman Benotman and James Brandon.
This book has appeared too soon to provide answers to many of the questions that it poses, but it is a considerable achievement to produce such a volume so quickly. It will help policymakers, businessmen and analysts struggling to understand the new Libya as its leaders learn from the mistakes of the past and persuade local forces who feel they made the revolution to put national interests above their own.
Read the whole review here.
Morocco’s Growing Cannabis Debate
In an article for Foreign Policy, James Roslington — a Cambridge specialist on Morocco — and I analyze the debate on the legalization of cannabis in Morocco. We look at how the timing of the debate on cannabis is a result of wider trends as the Moroccan state attempts to navigate its way through growing unrest and the global economic crisis in the post-Arab Spring era. To read the whole article click here.
Morocco regularly vies with Afghanistan for the title of the world’s biggest producer of cannabis — its output was recently estimated at nearly 40,000 tons annually — yet open debate on the role of the plant in the country’s economy remains infrequent. In recent years, despite improvements in production, both small farmers and big producers have seen their cannabis-related income plummet.
The Moroccan government has recognized that whack-a-mole policing, by itself, can no longer deal with popular discontent. As part of the Moroccan strategy to insulate itself from the unrest plaguing its neighbors, the state appears to have switched tack — now preferring to employ carrots as well as sticks to tighten its political grip over the restive north. To buttress these efforts, the supreme political authority in Morocco is clearly exploring the possibility of legislation to legalize cannabis. Legalization would boost tax revenue and prop up the economy of the region.
Oil and Power in the New Libya
Nate Mason former Commercial Attache for the US Embassy in Libya has finally tried his able hand at op-ed writing. Here he discusses the question of centralization vs. decentralization and how this debate contributes to administrative brokenness in the new Libya. He frames the issue in a novel and fascinating way. I disagree with a few of the points but that is what makes horseracing. In Mason’s vision Libya is too centralized. In my vision it is too decentralized. I don’t consider the current GNC system and the drive for consensus as ‘centralized’ nor do I consider the constant requirement for the levers of government to be pulled in Tripoli as an “issue of centralization.” I see it as an issue of dysfunction. I advocate enough centralization that authority can be devolved to a periphery that is empowered to act but to act only on behalf of the central government. Click here for Nate’s full article.
Libya’s post revolution transitional governments have maintained the “Committees Everywhere” governance style: a consensus-driven and obsessively centralized model created by Colonel Muammar Qaddafi. For example, even minor decisions such as prioritizing construction projects in far-off towns and villages remain firmly on Tripoli’s agenda. Local leaders generally select representatives sent to Tripoli based on a combination of loyalty and dispensability, ensuring the representatives lack the authority to make decisions without phoning home. As a result, the General National Congress behaves as a mammoth committee of the country’s local notables. It is no surprise that its decisions are few and irresolute.
In Libya, tribal, religious, and community leaders—not national officials—have so far prevented the anarchy existent since the revolution from devolving into pure chaos. The current, highly-centralized governance structure should be recognized as the Qaddafi holdover that it is, and Libya should look to the traditional community structures that have demonstrated success. In fact, a national dialogue that brings militia and traditional leaders together to discuss governance is gaining traction even as violence escalates in Benghazi and Tripoli. Prime Minister Zidan, with the enthusiastic support of foreign governments, should use his temporarily heightened stature to convene this dialogue as soon as is practical.
Libya: Will Failure Lead to Partition?
The Gulf Cultural Club held an event entitled “Libya: Will Failure Lead to Partition?” with speakers including Libya-Analysis.com President Jason Pack, Dr. Guma El-Gamaty of Libya’s Al-Taghyeer Party, and Libyan British Business Council Chairman Rt. Hon. Lord Trefgarne. The Tripoli Post published a summary of the event here.
The speakers recognized the current difficulties that Libya faces, but none of the agreed with the question in the event title that failure would lead to partition.
As reported from the event in the Tripoli Post:
Jason Pack the author of The 2011 Libyan uprisings and the struggle for the post Gaddafi future said that as a result of the uprisings, Libya has shifted from a decentralised dictatorship back to its more traditional power structure – a weak centre having difficulty making inroads with a rebellious and disunited periphery which does not recognise its claim to be the sole legitimate sovereign.
Petko vs. Lars: The Semi-Final of the WC of BG Analyzed
Many in the backgammon community feel that the World Championships at Monte Carlo are a bit of a misnomer. The World Championships no longer usually feature the majority of the world’s best players and its Championship division field is not the strongest field of players on the international circuit, as the top flights at Chicago and Copenhagen are arguably quite a bit stronger. And yet, in some years the World Championship manages to live up to its billing. Its longer matches and relaxed format can produce stunningly high quality play, dramatic matches, and psychological fireworks. 2013 was such a year. In this article and in another next month, we will investigate the two most important, well-played, and exciting matches of Monte Carlo 2013. These matches also happened to be the only two displayed on the big screen in the main playing room, accompanied by insightful live commentary by Falafel: the Semi-final between Petko Kostadinov (USA) and Lars Trabalt (DEN) and the Final between Vyacheslav Pryadkin (UKR) and Lars Trabolt (DEN)….
In over five hours and thirty games, Lars Trabolt managed to come back from a 0-10 to 23 deficit to reach his third World Championship final in the span of six years. He had done so against a strong, yet clearly fatigued opponent whose tendencies he accurately diagnosed and ruthless exploited. Had Lars not played such brilliant backgammon, Petko’s errors as highlighted in this article would likely never have transpired. Backgammon is a game of Ying and Yang, ebb and flow. Students of backgammon should study and re-study this match for its myriad psychological and positional insights. Fate would have it that many of the key areas of backgammon are amply covered in this match: attacking middle game cubes, backgames, recubes, racing cubes at uneven scores, and the exploitation of psychological dynamics.
To read the full article click here.
No One Wants to Govern Libya
Here is the broadest circulation piece I’ve done to date. It is an opinion piece for the New York Times about how “Libya is truly ruled by everyone and no one.” It also assesses why the Obama has a new opportunity to engage further in Libya and doing so wouldn’t be a moment too soon. In fact it might already be too late, but that is no excuse for sitting on our hands. So if you haven’t done so already you can read the piece here.
Some have described the kidnapping as a pseudo-coup. But coups usually aim to overthrow one government and replace it with another. Things are different in Libya. None of the country’s competing armed factions are capable of governing alone. Each wishes to protect its special privileges while preventing its opponents from governing. Libya is truly ruled by everyone and no one.
How Mr. Zeidan emerges from this crisis will depend on his political savvy. His government might fall because of his public humiliation — or he could muddle through. Either way, Western policy makers should seek not to support Mr. Zeidan or any other politician, but rather to bolster the rule of law in Libya. The cancellation of some military aid to Egypt could grant President Obama a novel opportunity to redirect some of the funds withheld from Egypt toward institution building in Libya without the need for Congressional approval. To date, the Obama administration has been hamstrung by Republican obstruction on Libya, which has focused on scoring political points through endless investigations of last year’s attack on the United States diplomatic mission in Benghazi. Mr. Obama should now seize this opportunity to create a virtuous precedent by switching his financial support from those who have perpetrated a coup to a country that might suffer one.
Militia Rivalries Threaten New War in post-Revolt Libya
It would seem that the press has turned very apocalyptic about Libya. Sadly, this is for good reason. Here is a link to a good overview of the different factions in the country.
Zeidan had been held in a government office by gunmen from an Islamist militia allied to the Shield Force. Details of his release are still hazy, but a loyal militia fired rocket-propelled grenades outside the office just beforehand. Riccardo Fabiani, a North Africa analyst with Eurasia Group said militias appeared to be using their muscle for specific demands. But that might spin out of control if accusations Zeidan’s political foes orchestrated his abduction proved true.
Libya is still negotiating with Britain, Turkey and Italy over training for its nascent armed forces, but NATO said last week it was still considering how the security situation on the ground might affect its assistance. U.S. military training is in the planning stages, and Britain has said its main training may start early next year.
More Political Turmoil For Libya Likely in Coming Days
The Voice of America website is the only English language forum currently pointing out the dynamic that is quite clear in Libya right now: that after the completion of ‘Eid al-Adha, Zidan’s enemies have return to their efforts to weaken him and oust his government. Some accuse him of being implicated in the bribery scandal of GNC members who wrote personal checks in to federalist protesters occupying the oil terminals in the East in an attempt to buy them off. Others accuse him of complicity with the Americans in the Abu Anas al-Libi affair and yet others accuse him of personal corruption. It looks as if Zidan has chosen to secretly negotiate with those behind his kidnapping as he refused to name them prior to the ‘Eid. In short, even the dramatic events of the last two weeks may not have stemmed the cycle of appeasement and blackmail into which Libya has descended.
Now Libyans are bracing for more turmoil after Prime Minister Ali Zeidan has promised to implicate political rivals in his abduction last week, claiming the incident was a coup attempt by his adversaries in parliament. Zeidan made his threat this week in an interview with Al-Arabiya saying he would name names, of those involved in his seven-hour kidnapping, setting the stage for a political showdown after the end of the three-day Eid religious holiday.
Analysts say the militias form a parallel state and that if Zeidan is to survive, he needs to curb their power – no small feat when Libya has yet to form a national army or a functioning police force since Gadhafi’s ouster. Support for Zeidan has waned among ordinary Libyans who have seen no significant improvement since he was elected last October by a narrow margin in the General National Congress. He is Libya’s third prime minister since Gadhafi’s ouster. “People are getting tired,” said Nareen Abbas, an activist. “While we have seen an improvement in what we can buy with the opening of new shops, this has nothing to do with the government. We have not seen any improvement when it comes to security and there has been no progress on deciding how to elect a committee to draft a new constitution. We are stuck.”
Read more here.
Washington Sees No Threat to Libya Links from Abu Anas Seizure
Like their Libyan counterparts, American spokespeople are trying to downplay the damage to bilateral relations that the events of the past two weeks might have had.
As suspected Al Qaeda terrorist Nazih Al-Ruqaii (alias Abu Anas Al-Libi) went before a US judge in the Southern District of New York against the wishes of the Libyan government, State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki explained yesterday that the US values its relationship with Libya saying, “we work closely with [Libya] on a range of issues, and we expect that will continue”.
Read more here.
Libyan PM’s Abduction Raises Disturbing Questions
Delving deeper into the symbolism of Zidan’s brief kidnapping and its implications for the US-Libya relationship, I said the following to France 24′s crack research team. To read the whole article click here.
Zeidan’s abduction came only days after Islamic militants and militias expressed outrage over a weekend raid by US special forces that resulted in the seizure of al Qaeda suspect Nazih Abdul-Hamed al-Ruqai, also known as Abu Anas al-Libi.
“Of course it’s linked,” said Jason Pack, president of Libya-Analysis.com and a researcher at Cambridge University. “There’s a great symbolism here. This happened in the Corinthia Hotel, where Western diplomats and businessmen tend to stay. The message is clear: we’re upset you [the US] violated the sovereignty of our country. We’re going to abduct someone you think is important, someone who’s supposedly seen as a Western stooge.”
The Libyan government has denied that it had any prior knowledge of the US raid but this has failed to reassure many Libyans.
On Wednesday, Zeidan met with Libi’s family and assured them that his government would do everything to ensure his legal rights were protected. But the Libyan prime minister has also noted that relations with Washington, a key ally of his government, would not be affected.
Interview with Jason Pack by Der Standard of Austria
Gruß to my Germano-phone readership. Here is an article length interview with me in Der Standard of Austria about the symbolism of Ali Zidan’s capture.
Obwohl viele Libyer darüber besorgt sind, dass Islamisten das Land für Waffenhandel und die Planung von Anschlägen nutzen, gibt es auch einen kleinen Teil der Bevölkerung, der empört darüber war, dass die USA die Souveränität des Landes verletzt haben, um einen libyschen Staatsbürger festzunehmen. Als Reaktion darauf haben sie jemanden festgehalten, der Autorität und westlichen Einfluss in Libyen repräsentiert. Dafür haben sie sich Premier Zeidan ausgesucht.
Das kann symbolisch bedeuten, dass sie im Premier einen Vertreter des Westens sehen – das ist zwar ziemlich absurd, aber ein kraftvolles Zeichen. Die Leute, die das gemacht haben, sind sicher keine Islamisten oder gar Jihadisten. Aber sie wollen sicher keine starke Zentralregierung. Diese Gruppen wollen niemanden – seien es die USA oder eine Zentralregierung -, der sich in ihre Interessen einmischt.
Was it the Revolutionaries’ Operations Room in the Corinthia with the Candlestick?
Libyan PM Ali Zidan has been kidnapped, but by whom and why? Most journalistic reports suggest it was the nefarious Revolutionaries’ Operations Room (Ghurfat Amaliyat al-Thuwar) created by Nuri Abusahmain by decree 143 of 7 July. Yet there is evidence to suggest that this is not the case and that hyper nefarious elements such as the Duru3 actually conducted the kidnapping. And yet, others say that the Duru3 is actually behind the Revolutionaries’ Operations Room.
Either way, it is clear that the kidnapping is highly symbolic. It links Zidan to the West and says in a way that all Libyans will understand: American came here to Libya and violated Libyan sovereignty by kidnapping Abu Anas Al-Libi, so we will kidnap someone who the West cares about. And who did they kidnap? Ali Zidan, their own PM. And where did they kidnap him? In the Corinthia. The hotel that most Libyans associated with Western companies, governments and their dealing with the Qadhafi regime.
What does this symbolism mean to some Libyans? It means that Zidan is linked to the West and to the Qadhafi regime and that he lacks legitimacy and is not governing on behalf of Libyans. It is why they accused him of ‘corruption’ in coordinating with the US about the Raid on Abu Anas al-Libi.
What are the implications of this? They are vast. Zidan is tarred and feathered as a collaborator and his positive links to the West are something that one has to conceal in many parts of Libya even though most Libyans still look positively at the US and are happy for capacity building assistance and help in apprehending jihadists.. What will happen next no one knows?
Jason Pack on BBCNews about the abduction of Anas al Libi
On BBC News Channel at 20:00 on October 7th, I made the controversial and fairly speculative case that the Libyan government was likely aware of the American operation to seize Abu Anas al-Libi and that the raid was tacitly supported by many Libyans and could signal increased US-Libya security cooperation. To watch via the internet a low resolution copy of the clip click here. To download a higher resolution file click here.
Al-Qaeda Suspect Seized by US was Granted UK Asylum in 1990s
In an intriguing Voice of Russia Radio Programme, Brendan Cole points out that Abu Anas al-Libi who was seized in Tripoli on October 5th by US Special Forces agents likely acting in coordination with their Libyan counterparts had been previously granted asylum in the UK even though his terrorist connections were well known.
On the FBI’s most wanted list for more than a decade, a British connection to the man whose real name is Nazih Abdul-Hamed al-Ruqai has emerged. He is thought to have arrived in Britain after he and other Libyan followers of al-Qaeda, at the request of Colonel Gaddafi, were kicked out of Sudan.
He went to Qatar before coming to Britain in 1995, where he was given asylum after saying that he was persecuted by the Gaddafi regime. Scotland Yard anti-terrorist officers raided his home in 2000, when he was placed on the FBI’s Most Wanted list after the 1998 US embassy bombings. By then al-Liby had fled.
Libya’s Berbers: A Microcosm of the Country’s Fissures
In The Atlantic, Will Raynolds and I dissect the views of the Berber community towards the constitution illustrating how Libya’s Berbers are a microcosm of the country as a whole — filled with hope, intransigence, dysfunctionality, and brilliance.
While it is true that Berbers, Cyrenaicans, and Tubu were all disadvantaged under Qadhafi and have not witnessed much economic development since the revolution, the central government is actually bending over backwards to appease their mutually contradictory demands. In so doing, the central government has given away most of their legitimate power and allowed the parameters of the debate to be set by their localist and “Federalist” opponents. Federalism in the Libyan context is code language for a weak central government, with each region having veto rights over important policies. Moreover, it lacks any compelling economical, historical, or structural logic. Yet, this Federalism is increasingly popular among large swathes of the population because it appeals to wounded pride, paranoia, and the discourse of deprivation that characterizes so many of Libya’s insular communities — and which was on vivid display in our conversations in Jadu. Absorbed by communal self-righteousness and victimhood, most Libyans forget that the federalist experiment under King Idriss, from 1951-63, failed, and that it is incompatible with coherent infrastructure plans, a successful petroleum industry (which is absolutely vital to the country), and reducing the myriad layers of government that lead to corruption and inefficiency.
Libya, After The Revolution: A Study Tour with Political Tours
Libya, After The Revolution: A Study Tour with Political Tours
Are you looking to go to Libya and become intimately versed in the country’s political and social fissures as well as the current economic situation?
Political Tours, the current affairs travel company is leading a unique study to Libya this November. (Sat 16 Nov – Sun 24 Nov)
This eight day tour examines how the country can emerge from current instability that has beset it since the revolution. It is the second tour run by Political Tours to the region, and includes meetings with leading members of the government, community leaders, diplomats and local media. The week combines analysis with an overview of key social and economic trends in the country and is designed for policy makers, investors as well as groups with a strong interest in foreign affairs. For further details about the tour please contact Nicholas Wood on 07855 266 151. For more info on how you can attend click here and for special opportunities mention that you were routed to Political Tours via Libya-Analysis.com
Libyan Constitutionality and Sovereignty post-Qadhafi: the Islamist, Regionalist, and Amazigh challenges
Youssef Sawani and I attack the question of the struggle for the post-Qadhafi future from a novel angle in our long overdue JNAS article. In it we trace how various groups have contested the NTC’s and GNC’s attempts to ‘delimit the rules of the political game’ by critiquing the provisions of the Temporary Constitutional Declaration (TCD). What emerges is a nuanced presentation — relying heavily on Arabic source material– of the fight for legitimacy, sovereignty, and control of the moral high ground in the new Libya. We cannot promise it will be easy or uplifting reading, but it should be enlightening. To access the article via the Taylor and Francis website click here.
Since the overthrow of Muammar Qadhafi, Libya’s political and security institutions have suffered from a power vacuum. The interim governments’ absence of ‘real power’ has been mirrored by their corresponding absence of ‘abstract authority’. Both dynamics are indicative of an ongoing struggle over what constitutes sovereign, legitimate authority in post-Qadhafi Libya. From the National Transitional Council’s (NTC’s) inception until its handover of power, it claimed to possess ‘temporary’ sovereign authority – sufficient to administer Libya and define the rules of the post-Qadhafi transitional phase. Throughout the protracted constitutional drafting process, the country has been ‘governed’ according to the Temporary Constitutional Declaration (TCD)
issued by the NTC in August 2011. Amendments to – and popular contestation of – the TCD have constrained Libya’s political evolution, impeded the constitutional drafting process, and impinged upon the legitimacy of the General National Congress (GNC)– the NTC’s successor body. This article will illustrate how and why the TCD was contested by Islamists, federalists,
and certain Berber groups. Our use of copious Arabic primary source material allows the views of these groups to be presented in their own words. The NTC’s responses to its challengers reveal a distinct pattern: it attempted to incorporate Islamists into its framework, it appeased Cyrenaican federalists, and it ignored the grievances of Berber activists. The implications of this
highly unbalanced strategy remain at the core of Libya’s present instability and the GNC’s inability to stand up against its myriad challengers.
Losing Libya’s Revolution
Nicholas Pelham’s latest contribution to the New York Review of Books on Libya, “Losing Libya’s Revolution“, gives a sobering look at the increasing difficulty of achieving a functioning state in the midst of Libya’s many militias. Writing about those who seek greater local autonomy to make up for the shortcomings of the central government, Pelham says “Libya could yet end up looking much like the Persian Gulf: a dot-to-dot of city-states along the coast, much as it was before the Great Powers in Versailles almost a century ago began assembling the region into protectorates and nation-states.” You can read the full article here.
The article also has positive press for my edited volume The 2011 Libyan Uprisings and the Search for the Post-Qadhafi Future. As Pelham mentions:
Also worth mentioning is The 2011 Libyan Uprisings and the Struggle for the Post-Qadhafi Future, edited by Jason Pack (Palgrave, 2013). Unlike the others, which all put Qaddafi on their front cover and reduce coverage of the revolution against him to their last pages, this compendium alone focuses on the forces determining Libya’s future.
The Struggle for the Post-Qadhafi Future Presented at the House of Commons
Last week I gave a talk for the Council for the Advancement of Arab British Understanding at the House of Commons on the topic of the struggle for the post-Qadhafi future. Also present in the panel were former Libyan Islamic Fighting Group commander Noman Benotman, now with the Quilliam Foundation, and Nicholas Pelham, correspondent for The Economist. Noman Benotman also authored one of the chapters in the book I edited The 2011 Libyan Uprisings and the Struggle for the Post-Qadhafi Future from where I drew a number of themes for last week’s talk.
As I described the development of the increasing power struggles and social and political fragmentation after Qadhafi:
“Developments since 2011 have re-created those power relationships that prevailed for more than a century, as in the process of defeating Gaddafi Libyan society was mobilised along local/regional/tribal/and religious cleavages and the militias that came into being were united only for the purpose of ousting the dictator.
“When he was gone the possibility for a transformative discourse that would unite Libyans and help them exit the centre/periphery trap existed but it was not sufficiently seized upon by the new leadership.”
While transcripts or video of the event is not yet available, an event summary with many quotes from the proceedings is available here from the Tripoli Post.
Letter to Secretary of State John Kerry on Libya
In the year since Ambassador Chris Stevens’ death, U.S. engagement with Libya has sadly narrowed at precisely the time when it is needed more than ever. Yesterday I was part of a group of policy experts and Libya specialists who signed a letter addressed to Secretary of State John Kerry including a number of scholars, think tanks, business associations, former ambassadors, and other concerned individuals who believe strongly in the need for sustained U.S. engagement in Libya for the benefit of both nations. The letter was drafted by the Libya Working Group co-chaired by the Atlantic Council, Freedom House, and the Project on Middle East Democracy. It calls upon the United States to engage further with Libya by offering the following five types of support:
- “Support the recently announced National Dialogue to ensure that it empowers a diverse array of voices—not only political elites—and incorporates extensive outreach to each region.
- Pledge support and expertise for the constitution writing process.
- Expand cooperation and funding to address justice and security sector reform.
- Increase diplomatic engagement and public advocacy.
- Encourage the Libyan Government to resolve contract disputes and sign OPIC and Ex-Im agreements.”
The full text of the letter is available here.
Sept 10 Panel in the House of Commons Libya: The Struggle for the post-Qadhafi Future
Click here for details and instructions on how to attend: http://www.libya-analysis.com/media/Sept-10-Caabu-Panel-Annoucement.pdf
Libya’s Lessons on Syria
Teaming up with Karim Mezran and Haley Cook, I waded into the Syria debate that is on everyone’s mind with an article in FP about what lessons can be drawn from the multilateral Libya intervention that could be useful for formulating a plan in Syria. This delicate holding period while Obama is waiting for the Congressional vote is critical for Pentagon and White House planners to figure out exactly what their entrance and exit strategies are in Syria. Failure to define the long term objective could lead to another failed or lacklustre intervention.
Boxed into a corner by U.S. President Barack Obama’s “red line” that the Assad regime has crossed with its apparent use of chemical weapons on August 21, the United States finds itself on the verge of intervening militarily in Syria’s increasingly brutal and complex civil war.
Whatever the United States and its allies decide to do in Syria, scant attention has been paid to the few important lessons that can be drawn from the multilateral intervention in Libya two years ago. Libya teaches us three things: 1) any intervention has to have a clear political strategy defining the mission’s objectives as well as plans to counteract the undesirable but foreseeable consequences that are natural byproducts of any intervention 2) limited intervention — like the kind under consideration for Syria –could have very dangerous consequences, potentially more dangerous than a less limited intervention 3) the political legitimacy conferred by Arab and regional powers, such as Turkey or Qatar, is essential for the success and public relations aspect of the intervention, but also creates its own difficulties which must be actively counteracted.
Read the rest here.
More Press for The 2011 Libyan Uprisings and the Search for the Post Qadhafi Future: Libya Herald Edition
I’ve been in Libya this week giving a series of talks related to The 2011 Libyan Uprisings and the Search for the Post Qadhafi Future, among other things.
The Libya Herald has mentioned the talk I gave on August 28 for the Libya launch of the book at Tripoli’s former Jihad Hall. You can read more in “New book on the Libyan Revolution and the Post-revolution era launched in Tripoli“.
This event was mentioned as prelude to a book review written by Nate Mason, who formerly served as Commercial Attaché at the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli from December 2011 to March 2013.
Nate Mason writes:
“Is Libya a collection of tribes that cycle through power with the old tribal configurations from the Senussi era now returning to the fore? Or is Libya a collection of individuals with resources and justice dispensed primarily according to the law? Or is Libya really three countries confederated into one? Or is it an Islamic Emirate? The resolution of the tug-of-war between the centre and the periphery will come down to what Libyans decide and which groups have the power to implement their desires. Jason Pack’s The 2011 Libyan Uprisings and The Struggle for the Post-Qadhafi Future is an excellent book that will give readers the context to follow the choices as Libyans make them.”
Doom and Gloom in the Media
The Wall Street Journal’s Moneybeat blog proclaims that Libya is, “on the [b]rink of [c]haos”. Indeed, many of the news reports about Libya sound very grim these days, predicting a descent into chaos precipitated by a nightmare scenario of armed brigades fighting over shrinking spoils as oil production comes to some imagined inevitable halt dooming Libya to a vicious cycle where infighting hampers revenue which prevents the kind of governmental and societal programs that would help disarm and demobilize the militias.
Rather than looking at the ending of protests in Brega and lifting of force majeure on oil exports there as a positive sign, the author insists that Libya is still “a country descending into lawlessness”.
Certainly Libya is at its most chaotic since the spring and summer of 2011, but to claim that “in [Qadhafi's] absence it is falling apart” is misleading – Qadhafi himself was responsible for the lack of state institutions including a robust military that hampers the current interim government’s efforts to reign in the militias.
Another Positive Review of The 2011 Libyan Uprisings And The Struggle For The Post-Qadhafi Future
Magnus Taylor of African Arguments has reviewed my edited volume The 2011 Libyan Uprisings And The Struggle For The Post-Qadhafi Future on the African Arguments website. As the review begins:
Palgrave Macmillan has published what is probably the best analytical account of the 2011 Libyan Uprising currently available. The text is edited by Jason Pack – a researcher in Libyan history at Cambridge University and regular contributor to African Arguments. Pack provides us with a lengthy introduction and co-writes 2 other chapters. The book also includes contributions from several notable scholars and analysts of contemporary Libya including George Joffe (also an AA contributor), Ronald Bruce St John (author Libya: from Colony to revolution) and Noman Benotman (a former commander of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group and now head of the Quilliam Foundation).
NOC Declares Force Majeure at Four Ports
Libya is headed for a bit of a cash flow problem. After weeks of armed strikes at four major oil export terminals of Brega, Ras Lanuf, Sidra, and Zueitina including members of the Libyan army’s Petroleum Facilities Guard that is supposed to be protecting these very oil installations from those who seek to disrupt operations with weapons. These strikes are in addition to other oil installations throughout the country that have experienced armed protest for more political reasons.
‘“The above mentioned sea port terminals are closed due to Oil Security Guards who are on strike at these locations since the end of July 2013, which resulted total shutdown for these facilities and cease of all exports,” NOC said in the document, which is dated Aug. 18 and signed by Chairman Nuri Berruien.’
This is the first time that force majeure has been declared since 2011, when rebels battled Muammar Qadhafi for control of the country. With Libya’s main source of government revenue, and indeed the lifeblood of Libya’s economy, dwindling to a mere trickle, worries for Libya’s ability to support itself are on the rise. With so much of the economy dependent on government spending, such as major infrastructure projects still left on hold since February 2011, the entire country is held in thrall to these strikers.
The guards on strike are demanding higher salaries, and it is no surprise that the higher salaries now assigned to police officers by Prime Minister Ali Zeidan will help provide incentives for former revolutionaries to leave Libya’s various militias for official parts of the military and security forces. Yet paradoxically payment of these salaries is only possible if oil exports can continue.
Unlike in Egypt, Libya’s military and security forces have largely shied away from responding to protests -even armed ones – with force. These tactics could change if blockades of the ports and oil fields continue.
Federalism: Not Just for Cyrenaica?
It is no surprise that the largest proponents of a federal system of government in Libya are from Cyrenaica, Libya’s Eastern region that benefitted from the federalist model in Libya’s 1951 constitution. Some Cyrenaicans, most notably the self-declared Cyrenaican Transitional Council, seek to return to federalism as a way of overcoming the harm of neglect under Qadhafi’s 42-year centralized rule, even by force if necessary. It should be pointed out that there are proponents of federalism in each of Libya’s three main regions, not just in the East.
Sebha, capital of Libya’s southern Fezzan region, has also experienced federalist and anti-federalist demonstrations. With the Libya Herald‘s recent headline ‘Sebha Anti-Federalist Demo Flops‘ one wonders whether federalism proponents are on the rise in Fezzan, or whether the federalist question is simply a non-issue in Fezzan that has attracted scant attention.
Political Assassinations on the Rise?
Just how many politically motivated killings have there been in Libya since the fall of the Qadhafi regime and the end to the 2011 Libyan uprisings?
According to new research by Human Rights Watch, there have been at least 51 assassinations of police and military officers, lawyers, judges, and activists in Benghazi and Derna alone. Research into these killings on the rise has not determined a comprehensive pattern for motive, nor has it identified the groups or persons responsible.
According to Human Rights Watch,
The July 26, 2013, killing of Abdulasalam Elmessmary, was the first of a political activist since Muammar Gaddafi was ousted. The assassination appeared to signal a new turn in the violence with potentially serious implications for Libya’s stability. The other victims include two judges and at least 44 serving members of the security forces, most of whom had held positions in Gaddafi’s government. At least six were high-ranking officers under Gaddafi.
Twelve of the victims were killed by explosive devices while the rest where shot in front of or near their homes, workplaces, or cars.
Streamlined Cabinet Set Up to Confront Security Crisis
Never a dull moment in Libya. As the security situation is deteriorating, it appears the Political Isolation Law is not really being implemented and that Ali Zidan is not paying the price for abandoning his promises of a full cabinet reshuffle. That said, the formation of an emergency cabinet as reported by Libya Herald is probably good news, if they can get their act together and begin taking tough decisions and trying to get in control of the country and kick start the constitutional process.
Faced with the continuing security crisis, the Prime Minister, Ali Zeidan, has taken the step of temporarily replacing the full cabinet with an emergency streamlined one. The move – in effect creating an inner cabinet – was formally announced last night following consultations with the President of Congress, Nuri Abu Sahmain.
It had been expected. Last Wednesday, Zeidan announced that, contrary to previous reports, he would not reshuffle the government but instead create an inner cabinet to deal with the current situation. The move was precipitated by the spate of assassinations across Libya, notably in Benghazi where the prominent political activist Abdulsalam Musmari was murdered but also elsewhere, such as that of the commander of the Libya Shield battalion in Derna, Colonel Adnan Nuwaisiri. There have been even more attempted assassinations and attacks on security institutions.
Plato – Slave-Owning Aristocrat or Homosexual Mystic?
Plato – Slave-Owning Aristocrat or Homosexual Mystic? is a thought provoking book review I wrote for The Spectator about a new work of historical fiction about Plato’s life. Obviously it is not my standard fare: but Libya-Analysis readers will be interested to know that Plato briefly studied philosophy in Libya (and Egypt) and that Cyrene was a centre of culture even before Roman times.
For over two millennia, the writings of Plato had been at the very core of a Western education. Yet by the dawn of the 21st century, Plato appeared marginalized to the benign pedantry of Classics departments — engagement with his ideas having been spurned by many philosophers and educators over the preceding decades. To many his call to search for truth — and to live according to it — is no longer seen as applicable to our relativistic age. Neel Burton’s Plato: Letters to My Son attempts to rescue Plato from irrelevance and guide another generation of readers and leaders along the path of self-knowledge.
To understand the thrill of Burton’s timely intervention, it is essential to grasp why Plato has fallen out of fashion. After Karl Popper’s famous assault on ‘Plato’s totalitarianism’ in the middle of the 20th century, Plato was systematically critiqued in the context of the post-1968 culture wars movement and its spawn — multiculturalism — both of which took umbrage at the very notion of a canon of ‘dead white men’. As Plato epitomized the traditional canon and the process through which great books can motivate young men and women to defend Western cultural heritage, he became the object of particular scorn. These intellectuals asserted that Plato’s ideal of a hierarchical — and at the same time rigorously meritocratic, rational and just — society was merely a cover for racism, classism and misogyny. After all, despite his obvious brilliance, Plato was another white, slave-owning, male aristocrat.
Review of Exit Gaddafi: The Hidden History of the Libyan Revolution
Review of Exit Gaddafi: The Hidden History of the Libyan Revolution, by Ethan Chorin. London: Saqi Books, 2012.
By Jason Pack in Middle East Journal Vol. 67, No. 2, Spring 2013
More Press for The 2011 Libyan Uprisings and the Struggle for the Post-Qadhafi Future
The 2011 Libyan Uprisings and the Struggle for the Post-Qadhafi Future, the academic volume on the 2011 Libyan uprisings that I edited and was recently published by Palgrave Macmillan, has been getting more press.
The 21 June edition of the Africa News Update published by the Naval Postgraduate School’s Leader Development & Education for Sustained Peace Program highlights The 2011 Libyan Uprisings and the Struggle for the Post-Qadhafi Future as the issue’s featured monograph, and also featured the 2 May 2013 article “Libyan Stability at Risk” that I co-authored with Karim Mezran for Foreign Policy.
This issue also praised Libya-Analysis.com as “an excellent source on dynamic analysis and news on the country and its developments.”
A Law Unto Themselves
Understanding the militias is still the order of the day in Libya. But now the precedent of an elected government getting ousted in Egypt has given further legitimacy to ‘armed action in support of the people’ while potentially spurring Islamists and Islamist-leaning militias to give less weight to the democratic process. You can read more of our thoughts as published in The Majallah about the militias and the Islamists here.
It appears that, spurred on by members of the populace, the central government’s patience with militia-on-militia violence is finally wearing thin and that decisive actions may finally be in the offing. But nine months ago, we thought the swearing-in of Zeidan’s first cabinet was a similarly auspicious occasion—but that was proven to be overly optimistic.
While Egypt and Syria exercise dominance over the global headlines, Libya is rapidly approaching yet another fork in the road: the militias’ increasing assertiveness could destroy any prospects of a transition to constitutional democratic governance or, conversely, it could prove to be the militias’ final undoing. The Libyan people are growing weary of the myriad of armed groups who claim to be acting on their behalf. Possibly, the injection of some new blood into Libya’s top political echelon might gradually lead to a long-awaited change in the game plan. Conversely, there are indications that the oft-delayed constitutional process may never happen, or that it may unfold so slowly that the militias will entrench themselves as permanent, quasi-legitimate political actors. The rise of Afghan-style warlord-ism abetted by Pakistan-style Islamist-dominated government security forces seemed quite remote eighteen months ago. Now, it no longer does.
GNC One Year Later
One year after the 7 July 2012 General National Congress election, Libya’s first election in over fifty years, the General National Congress has not completed its primary function of overseeing the completion of Libya’s new constitution. Even the rules for electing the Committee of Sixty that will write the constitution have not been finalized.
Abdel Rahman Habil writing in Al Hayat (English translation in Al Monitor) views Libya’s militias as the largest barrier to building lasting government institutions and formulating a new constitution. Habil says:
‘Rare are the cases where an armed revolution has immediately moved toward democracy. This does not require less than a collective awareness and founding fathers who have the caliber [of the founding fathers of] the American revolution, let alone if the nation is plagued by factional, sectarian, regional or tribal affiliations, immature parties — which one takes to mean tribes more committed to the interests of their party’s members rather than the nation — not to mention egocentric purposes. The armed elite does not always lay down its weapons. How do they lose “revolutionary legitimacy” and “the gains of the revolution,” while many of them do not realize [the meaning of] the state, the law and other such abstract concepts.’
Umar Khan writing in the Libya Herald also chronicles the path of the people’s growing unhappiness with the GNC in its term so far, and the chaotic effect of armed groups on the collective decisions of its members. Provided that the GNC makes the policy choices necessary to disarm and demobilize remaining militias, there is some hope that new General National Congress President Nuri Abusahmain will be in a position to make good on his intentions to make the constitution the highest priority of the GNC. Khan writes:
‘The new GNC president, Nuri Abu Sahmain, has assured the people he will focus on the constitution and will try to take all parties together. But this is easier said than done with every party seeking bigger role in drafting the constitution. However with their announcement that they will boycott all GNC business except work on the constitution, the NFA and the Justice and Construction Party may just boost Sahmain’s position.’
It’s Not Easy Being Green
The Economist reports this week on the current life of Qadhafi loyalists in Muammar Qadhafi’s hometown of Sirte. Qadhafi supporters have taken to expressing their opposition to the new political order by wearing the color green, emblematic of Qadhafi’s rule, as well as displaying other small tokens showing their continued devotion to the dead dictator. Current laws prevent political parties from supporting Qadhafi’s Green Book philosophy, or any other overt ‘glorification’ of the former regime, and identifying oneself as a Qadhafi supporter risks attracting unwanted attention from the armed militias that view themselves as guardians of the revolution, enacting vigilante justice in absence of sufficient numbers of a trained official police force. As explained in the article ‘Where Green Refuses to Fade’:
Nervous of openly confessing their nostalgia, Sirte’s people practise their cult in code. Some dress in green, or less ostentatiously sport a green cigarette-lighter or key-ring. In some homes the colonel’s portrait still adorns the sitting-room wall. Others keep albums of the dictator’s weirdest costumes on their mobile phones.
What the article does not address is whether display of these markings associated with Qadhafi is merely a subversive expression of dislike of the new government, or whether these symbols, proving the conspiracy theorists right, are indicative of organized bands of Qadhafi loyalists planning acts of violence to undermine the new government. Some of the bombings and attacks against government officials since October 2012 are rumored to be revenge attacks by Qadhafi supporters.
The 2011 Libyan Uprisings Book Launch Talk with Pack, Benotman, Amb. Northern and Prof Bayly
Click here to watch the THE STRUGGLE FOR THE POST-QADHAFI FUTURE: ISLAMISTS, MILITIAS, AND FOREIGN POWERS featuring Jason Pack, Noman Benotman, Ambassador Richard Northern, and Professor Sir Christopher Bayly launching the 2011 Libyan Uprisings and the Struggle for the Post-Qadhafi Future.
You can also see the first segment below (and follow links to subsequent segments at the end):
New GNC President: Nuri Ali Abu Sahmain
Libya’s General National Congress (GNC) has voted on a successor to former GNC President Mohamed Magarief, who resigned last month after being affected by the new political isolation law. Nuri Ali Abu Sahmain is now the new President of the General National Congress, and therefore Libya’s new head of state until the drafting of a new constitution.
As the Libya Herald reports:
Representing the town of Zuara near the border with Tunisia, he is the first member of minority Amazeigh community to achieve a leadership role in Libya since Sulaiman Barouni became the President of the short-lived Tripolitanian Republic in 1919.
Abu Sahmain, an independent member of the GNC, was also the top choice candidate for GNC President among Members of Congress aligned with the Justice and Construction party.
Buy The Book
The 2011 Libyan Uprisings and the Struggle for the Post-Qadhafi Future has been published. You can order your copy from Palgrave by clicking here or from Amazon USA by clicking here or Amazon UK by clicking here or from Amazon Europe by clicking here.
Ambassador Jones Spotted out and about in Tripoli
New U.S. Ambassador to Libya Deborah Jones is now officially on the job, and in the midst of a busy week of official meetings has managed to take time out to meet in public with ordinary Libyans. One of the things that made her predecessor, the late Ambassador Christopher Stevens, so effective as a representative not only of the U.S. government but of the American people was his ability to form personal connections with people by taking the time to interact with them in informal settings. It is excellent news that Ambassador Jones has been able to find a way to keep her promise to get out and about.
The U.S. Embassy in Tripoli has posted a photo album of the gathering on the embassy’s official Facebook page. If these snapshots are any indication, it looks like the Ambassador’s first week is off to a good start.
New Hospitals Planned for Libya
While many of the news reports out of Libya recently have focused on security concerns, there are also positive developments to highlight. One example is the recent signing of a LD 2 billion contract between the Ministry of Health and the British company International Hospitals Group (IHG) for IHG to design, build and operate nine hospitals across Libya.
This contract is notable not only for the quality healthcare these hospitals would provide to previously undeserved areas, but also as a signal that foreign investors are willing to stay involved in Libya, and that the current government is willing to sign long term contracts. According to the Libya Herald, this contract is ”one of the biggest single contracts signed by Libya post Revolution, and certainly by the Ministry of Health.”
Obama’s Crossing the Red Line on Syria
Here is a link to the June 19 CrossTalk program from Russia Today’s TV focused on Obama’s decision to openly arm the rebels in Syria. I am debating two extreme leftists about the need for action in Syria. I state that arming the rebels is not the ideal policy choice but given Obama’s prior setting of a red line that it was what he needed to do to retain his consistency and yet to respond in a phased and gradual way. It is no doubt a most unfortunate and tragic situation. Cross Talk is a highly entertaining and very adversarial TV program with a lot of sparks so in short if you are interested in Syria it is worth 22 minutes of your time.
The 2013 London Open and Why the Giants Keep on Winning
This year’s 2013 London Open held on May 18 and 19 illustrated in striking fashion what we all intrinsically know about the post-bot era in backgammon: it is impossible to win consistently without both a high understanding of modern backgammon theory which allows one to imitate the bots on most moves, while also possessing a great intuition about when to eschew the “bot- move” and play one’s opponent psychologically, tempting him to make errors. Striking the right balance between pure math and pure psychology is what makes great backgammon an art and not a science — although Walter Trice and Jake Jacobs did try to quantify this type of knowledge in their book Can a Fish Taste Twice as Good? Doubling in an Unequal Backgammon Match.
To read the article click here.
The First Brigade of the Libya Shield Force, one of the most prominent militia brigades in a quasi-official status with the Ministry of Defense, was involved on Saturday in a shooting that left at least 31 people dead when protests calling for the brigade’s dismantlement turned violent. It should be pointed out that despite having been nominally under direct control of the Ministry of Armed Forces Chief of Staff General Yousef Mangoush, this brigade and others with the Libya Shield name have never been officially transformed into military units. This sad incident is yet another reminder of the dangers inherent in the claim by a number of brigades and former revolutionary fighters that public security needs are best served by self-appointed protectors of the revolution, rather than official government institutions.
As the Christian Science Monitor wrote of Libya Shield Force Commander Wisam Ben Hamid back in October 2012:
‘For Ben Hamid, the LSF retains a grassroots legitimacy that national institutions currently lack. While Libya’s national police and army predate last year’s revolution, and served Qaddafi, LSF brigades have sprung from the fight to change the country. “The army and police don’t have a relationship with the people,” Ben Hamid says. “We’re of the people.” ‘
This type of mentality arguably led to the April 2013 militia blockades of the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Justice and other central government entities that prompted the General National Congress to pass a broad political isolation law barring certain levels of former Qadhafi regime officials from future public service. The ministry blockade and their aftermath demonstrated that armed brigades, when sufficiently motivated, have the power to affect the highest levels of government outside legitimate democratic processes, while the elected government does not have sufficient trained forces to counter these armed groups.
Perhaps the largest question in Libya right now is whether brigades bent on maintaining their own power by resisting dismantlement or official integration into the military or police would overthrow the government at some future point before the as many as 10 years needed to build a viable armed forces. In one possible answer to that billion dinar question, founder of Libya’s Sadeq Institute think tank Anas El Gomati told Al Jazeera’s Inside Story that Libya’s militias are too disorganized to truly create parallel institutions that would overthrow the existing state. In his assessment, “they may wear uniforms but effectively there is no sincere command or control … they are ill-disciplined, in terms of money there are many disputes … and for that reason security is weak at best.” Brigades have so far largely used the threat of force rather than outright attacks, but that could change if Libya’s militia groups representing a wide variety of interests from Islamists to federalists to specific towns or tribes ever decided to cooperate once more in a common purpose to replace a government they deemed illegitimate.
Playing on for Gammon in Albion: The 2013 British Open Final
After winning the 2013 British Open of Backgammon, I have decided to try my hand at writing Backgammon articles commenting on the psychology of the game, the influence of technology, analyzing various cube decisions, and various other themes. Below is the introductory paragraph of my first article, if you wish to read the whole article and see the various positions and analysis click here. If you would like to view the annotated game in ExtremeGammon format email me and I will send it to you.
Since the bot revolution of the 1990s, all major aspects of backgammon theory have been explored and our understanding of
key concept such as the race vs. timing, the price of gammons at different match scores, and the play of backgames and blitzes have all been transformed. Not only has big-picture theory progressed at breakneck speed, but these developments have rapidly trickled down from World Class players and theoreticians to large sections of the backgammon community via the staggering quantity of excellent educational backgammon literature published over the last twenty years. First Bill Robertie and Kit Wolseley explained the “real meaning” of the bot revolution with Robertie elegantly describing the concepts of connectivity, robustness, and non-commitment, and Wolseley bringing matchscore-influenced checker play to the masses. Now with websites like GammonVillage and authors like Steve Sax and Stick pushing our knowledge ever forward, few key tactical, theoretical, or match score dependent issues remain to be solved. In fact, it seems that top quality backgammon literature has simply become the juxtaposition of a few positions connected via a theme, such as Prime vs. Prime, 3-away 4-away cubes, or holding games at different scores, and drawing some conclusions about this position “type” . Some — such as Ryuichi Shiina — believe that now that we have found the holy grail of rollouts, analysis and grand concepts are no longer necessary. Yet, with all this wealth of potentially edifying and money-making knowledge at our finger tips, even the most diligent student of the game can only learn so much from study alone. Backgammon will always remain as much of an art as it is a science. And that is what makes the game truly great.
Autonomie de la Cyrénaïque : la Libye Menacée de Partition?
Here is a full length interview with France24 in French about the implications of federalism for Libya.
Samedi 1er juin, le dirigeant du Conseil de la Cyrénaïque a proclamé l’autonomie de cette région riche en pétrole de l’est de la Libye. Jason Pack, spécialiste de la Libye, ne croit cependant pas au retour du système fédéral dans le pays….
Entretien avec Jason Pack, chercheur en histoire de la Libye à l’université de Cambridge, président de Libya-Analysis.com et éditeur de “The 2011 Libyan Uprisings and the Struggle for the Post-qadhafi Future”, à paraître chez Palgrave Macmillan.
Le gouvernement central est faible et de nombreuses milices ne veulent pas se plier à son autorité. Mais je ne pense pas que toute la Cyrénaïque souhaite l’autonomie de la région. La décision du Conseil de la Cyrénaïque est émotionnelle, et non rationnelle.
Les milliers de personnes qui ont salué cette décision ne comprennent pas les implications, notamment économiques, d’une éventuelle autonomie de la Cyrénaïque. Les habitants de la Cyrénaïque pensent juste qu’ils vont avoir plus de poids sur les institutions fédérales.
Si le fédéralisme devait réapparaître en Libye, c’est que la Commission constituante l’aura décidé, et sans doute pas une sécession. Une telle décision serait inefficace car il faudrait créer de nouvelles structures administratives dans chaque État. De plus, le pays est encore en train de se développer : on construit des hôpitaux, des pipelines pour le pétrole et l’eau traversent déjà tout le pays. Pour que le développement du pays se fasse de façon cohérente, il faut un exécutif fort et centralisé. Rétablir des frontières internes et des administrations supplémentaires multiplierait les possibilités de corruption. C’est là toute la complexité d’une économie dépendante des ressources naturelles.
Libya PM Moves State Oil HQ to Troubled Benghazi
Are all of Zidan and the GNC’s moves pure appeasement? This latest attempt to not be booted out of power by the Political Isolation Law appears to be a totally transparent move to appeal to various Federalist demographics. One also wonders how it can be implemented at this time. Read more from Reuters.
Libya confirmed on Wednesday that the headquarters of the state energy firm would move to the volatile eastern city of Benghazi, a response to demands for more authority for the oil-rich region which may prove a headache for international companies.
The National Oil Corporation (NOC) has faced calls since the end of the 2011 war that ousted Muammar Gaddafi to move more of its operation to the eastern region, which accounts for around 80 percent of Libya’s oil wealth.
Zeidan made no detailed reference to a current plan that would split upstream activities, such as exploration and production, from downstream activities, such as refining and marketing, with the former to remain in Tripoli.
Oil is Libya’s economic lifeline. The OPEC member pumps at a rate of around 1.6 million barrels per day and has made the country rich despite its troubles.
Political Isolation Law Claims Its First Victim
President of the GNC Mohammad Magariaf stepped down from his position by tendering his resignation rather than waiting for the “inquisition” to force him from office. It is a dangerous precedent and one wonders if Magariaf plans to return to political life once it is shown that the country can’t function without technocrats and political leaders who fulfilled some functions under Qadhafi. Read more about this from the Libya Herald here. It certainly seems that Magariaf is trying to cultivate the image that he is a Cincinnatus figure when in fact he appears to be a political schemer.
Magarief, anticipating that he would have to leave his post soon by virtue of the newly enacted Political Isolation Law (PIL), had decided to leave gracefully rather than wait for the soon to be constituted PIL Commission to remove him.
The former GNC head is disqualified by virtue of the section of the PIL law that bars any former ambassadors under the Qaddafi regime from holding high office.
There is also a clause in the PIL law that allows for the GNC to exempt a person from the law – if they felt it was in the national interest. There obviously did not seem to be enough consensus in the GNC to apply this to Magarief.
“After the sacrifice…the nation still awaits more. Sacrifice is not forced upon people…it is taken by choice. A nation that does not appreciate those who sacrifice is denying its history”, added Magarief, hinting at his thirty-odd years in opposition to Qaddafi abroad.
Book Launch poster
The 2011 Libyan Uprisings and the Struggle for the Post-Qadhafi Future
Here is some advanced praise for the volume by the established authorities in the field:
“In the wake of Libya’s civil war, a number of volumes have appeared that chronicle the country’s civil war and its aftermath. Few, however, will be able to match the comprehensiveness and insights of The 2011 Libyan Uprisings and the Struggle for the Post-Qadhafi Future, which provides an admirable overview and synthesis of the different aspects of the country’s most recent upheaval by several noted Libya-watchers.”
—Dirk Vandewalle, Dartmouth College
“Deeply rooted in historical research, Jason Pack’s The 2011 Libyan Uprisings and the Struggle for the Post-Qadhafi Future is a work of original scholarship and analysis that sheds new light on the causes and origins of the Libyan uprisings, the continuous struggle throughout Libyan history between the center and the periphery, and the role of different domestic and international actors in the success of the revolt. The difficulties and hurdles of the transition from Jamahiriya to Jumhuriya are clearly exposed and discussed.”
—Karim Mezran, Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East
“Best Libya book since the uprisings against the Qadhafi regime. Sweeping introduction will introduce you to individual issues addressed by top experts. Despite ongoing change, this book will stand the test of time.”
—David Mack, Middle East Institute Scholar and former US Ambassador
Ministries Back to Work after Sieges End
Has the crisis been partially defused? Can Zidan stay and the GNC get back to work? It remains unclear. What is clear is that enormous delays and inefficiency have been added as a result of the current Political Isolation Law and the intimidation and resort to force surrounding it. Yet for the moment it appears the Libyan people have spoken: They prefer the idea that anyone connected to the former regime cannot hold a prominent position in public life, yet they do not want the gears of government to grind to a halt. Here is what the Libya Herald has to say in Ministries Back to Work after Sieges End.
Staff at the Foreign and Justice Ministries went back to work today after almost a fortnight of being kept out of the buildings by armed militiamen. The latter had originally mounted the blockades in support of the Political Isolation Law.
A week ago, after the Political Isolation Law was passed, the gunmen had refused to end up their sieges insisting they would remain until the government of Ali Zeidan was removed and that they saw that those had been working there who they said had been Qaddafi-era officials were removed.
The continued blocade had resulted in Marghani saying that he would move the Justice Ministry elsewhere, even out of Tripoli.
Following large demonstrations in Friday against the sieges, the militiamen withdrew and on Saturday, the judicial police returned to guard the Ministry of Justice while army units and the police moved in to guard the Foreign Ministry.
Britain Should Take the Lead in Libya
In response to the current crisis in Tripoli, I am unsurprisingly calling for more engagement and support for the Zidan government from the West. Otherwise it will be too late. In Britain Should Take the Lead in Libya I am putting forth the case for strong engagement from Cameron to try to build an international coalition to help in capacity building in Libya.
For the international community the attack against the French Embassy and the radicalization of the conflict between the militias and government institutions must serve as a wake-up call, and remind them that the gains of the NATO-led intervention are on the verge of being undone.
It is against this inauspicious backdrop of a full-fledged ‘struggle for post-Qaddafi Libya’– and not simply that of Mali backlash– that last month’s bombing, this week’s militia occupations, and passing of the destructive political isolation law must be understood. The perpetrators of the attack fully understand Western reluctance to engage in nation-building post-Iraq and Afghanistan and undoubtedly intended the bombing as a message to the foreign diplomatic and business communities to stay away from Libya.
Britain remains one of (if not the) world’s expert in the field of capacity building and Cameron has the political links to Obama and the relevant Middle Eastern players (Turkey, UAE, and Qatar) that Hollande lacks. Present conditions, however, demonstrate that the time for hesitation is over and that Britain should occupy the key position in forging a new international coalition for engagement.
Political Isolation Law Passed and Militias and Populists Still Boycott
Read it and weep — for the future of Libya. This is a sorry sorry day as the thuwwar have impose their desired ‘de-Qadhafification’ process on the GNC and it might well end up including the removal of a number of senior members of the GNC’s government. It truly appears that the militias might well succeed in subverting the democratic process and changing the whole government through populist violence and intimidation. It is thought that the ten year ban from public office called for in the Political Isolation Law passed on 5 May would apply to a number of members of the GNC, such as President Mohamed al-Magarief, at least several ministers, and possibly Prime Minister Ali Zidan. Though a new government without those who held leadership positions in ministries, universities, state-owned companies, or embassies during the Qadhafi years could be perceived as more legitimate by the Libyan public, it is doubtful that other armed groups will refrain from violence, intimidation, and populist mobilization against future governments now that it has proven to be a winning tactic.
Here are some highlights of al-Arabiyya’s coverage:
Gunmen on Monday demanded the Libyan government’s resignation as they besieged ministries despite the adoption of a law to purge officials from the regime of dead dictator Muammar Qaddafi from their posts.
“We are determined to continue our movement until the departure of (Prime Minister) Ali Zeidan,” said Osama Kaabar, a leader of the militias who had promised to lift their siege if the law was passed.
Blockades Polarizing Libya; Militiamen Now Hit Electricity Ministry
With the situation escalating, members of the government are continuing to appease the militias telling them that their demands to alter the rules of the political game by force are legitimate. Libya Herald catches how the Electricity Minister has undermined Zidan’s principled actions in calling for his supporters to the streets and not caving in the blockades. Read more here
Militiamen supporting the Political Isolation Law that would see Qaddafi-regime officials banned from holding senior government and state institution jobs took their armed campaign to the Ministry of Electricity today.
Since Monday, they have been blockading the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, claiming that Qaddafi-regime officials were working there. They also blockaded the Interior Ministry the same day. On Monday, they attacked the Finance Ministry, smashing equipment in offices, and on Tuesday took action at the Ministry of Justice.
“We are not against demonstrations,” said the Electricity Minister, Ali Muhairiq, this evening, confirming today’s protests. “They have legitimate demands.” But he did not confirm reports that the militiamen had entered the building and ransacked offices.
Libyan Stability at Risk
Karim Mezran and I again ascend the bully pulpit, advocating again for increased Western engagement in Libya in an unfortunately titled article, Libyan Stability at Risk, in Foreign Policy’s Middle East Channel. We all know that Libya has not been stable since 2010, but that the central government is truly on the verge of losing control of the transition process itself. Hence, we conclude, “It is no exaggeration to say that the internal political forces inside the country are balanced on a razor’s edge. An unexpected gust of political violence could lead to anarchy; a helping hand providing a gentle push in the right direction could ease the transition toward democracy and stability.”
For the international community the attack against the French Embassy and the radicalization of the conflict between militias and government institutions must serve as a wake-up call, and remind them that the gains of the NATO-led intervention are at risk of being undone. The countries that helped overthrow Qaddafi should redouble their efforts to support the creation of professional armed forces and police, vocational training, and constitution writing. If greater support is withheld, the French Embassy attack may prove to be the start of a trend, in which case Libyan — and by extension North African — instability would become a permanent status quo. The crisis in Mali and the growing instability in Algeria — and most recently Tunisia — offer clear evidence in support of this conjecture.
It is against this inauspicious backdrop of a full-fledged “struggle for post-Qaddafi Libya” — and not simply that of Mali backlash — that last week’s bombing, this week’s militia occupations, and heated debates concerning the political isolation law must be understood.
Worse yet, the country’s fledgling national armed forces — historically weak under Qaddafi and being largely built from the ground up — have been subject to internal crises, only slowing their lackluster reconstruction. Most recently, officers from Eastern Libya demanded the removal of Chief of Staff Youssef Mangoush, citing his inability to restructure the armed forces and reinforce security. Moreover, the Southern Military Governor appointed to bring order to the country’s lawless south, recently denounced the lack of resources at his disposal, publicly admitting the impossibility of his task. The Libyan military is, to put it mildly, ill prepared for its mission to defend the state and maintain order.
Demonstration in Support of Political Isolation Law
Libya Herald tries to capture the revolutionary and dysfunctional climate in Tripoli now in the lead up to the vote on the Political Isolation law with all of the populist pressure trying to influence what should be a time for a cool, rationale, and calculated decision.
Around a thousand people demonstrated at the General National Congress (GNC) building today, in support of the Political Isolation Law.
Today’s GNC session was suspended ahead of the planned demonstration and the demonstrators were free to enter through the gates into the grounds of the GNC conference hall.
Leader of the Ummah al Wasat Party and a central figure of the Political Isolation Law movement, Saami Al Saadi, told the gathered crowd that the revolution was not only against Qaddafi but the whole corrupt system. Those involved with the old regime could not be allowed to continue in the Free Libya, he said.
Another demonstration is planned for Sunday, the day the GNC is scheduled to vote on the legislation. Demonstrators will apparently demand that details of the ballot be made public and one speaker said: “The people of Libya should know who voted in favour of the law and who opposed it.”
Libya Gunmen Surround Tripoli Foreign Ministry
Well in the latest very bad development the struggle between the militias and the central government has become overt with militiamen attempting to not only sway the votes on the Political Isolation law but to shut down the government if it doesn’t not cave in to their demands. Why the national army or Libya Shield forces are not called in to deal with this situation is insane, in short it bodes very ill for the creation of any sort of functioning central government if the militias get their way, but the GNC has followed the NTC in pretty much always caving in…. Read more about it from the BBC here.
Men in pick-up trucks bristling with anti-aircraft guns have blocked off Libya’s foreign ministry, demanding a jobs ban on Gaddafi-era officials.
Prime Minister Ali Zeidan, at a news conference, urged Libyans to back their government in the face of “people who want to destabilise the country”.
He also complained of other attacks and “acts of sabotage”, carried out by separate groups, against the interior ministry and national TV headquarters. But Libya’s Lana news agency said the action at the interior ministry was not linked to the events outside the foreign ministry.
French Embassy in Libya Attacked
The explosion of a car parked outside the French Embassy in Libya wounded two French guards on Tuesday in what appeared to be the first major terrorist attack on a diplomatic compound in the capital since the ouster of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi in 2011.
No one claimed responsibility Tuesday, following the pattern of earlier attacks. But Libyans immediately suspected militant Islamists angry over the French intervention in Mali, where French troops are supporting government efforts to oppose Islamic militants in the north of the country. The assault came a day after the French Parliament voted to extend the French military deployment there.
In January, Italy, the former colonial power in Libya, closed its consulate in Benghazi and withdrew its staff because of security concerns after an attempted ambush of the Italian consul. Last month, Libyan security officials said they had arrested two men in the kidnapping near Benghazi of five British humanitarian activists, at least two of them women who had been sexually assaulted.
The attack on the French Embassy, however, may raise new questions about the possibility that militants may now try to strike other targets in the capital as well. The country as a whole is viewed by outsiders as potentially perilous with many weapons in the hands of citizens and militias beyond government control. Most foreigners in Tripoli take elaborate security precautions.
The Constituent Assembly Will Be Elected
Read it and weep. As always the Libya Herald sums it up in the clearest fashion. The GNC has finally decided to pass the buck on its responsibility and true reason d’etre. And the way is paved for the GNC to further cave in to the populist demands of the Jacobins in the form of a self-defeating political isolation law. I tend to be optimistic about Libyan affairs but the events of the last months have made it truly difficult. But in this instance the only positive thing is that at least the GNC has made a definitive decision and the limbo that has existed on this question since 5 July 2012 is now over.
The General National Congress last night confirmed that the assembly that will draft Libya’s new Constitution shall be elected, as opposed to nominated, ending a long drawn-out debate that had kept Congress members from agreeing on other critical issues.
With regards to the isolation law that is yet to be passed, the GNC resolved that it was not unconstitutional and could not be overruled by the Supreme Court.
Having decided that the political isolation law project is constitutionally acceptable, as long as it complies with international conventions and human rights, the GNC can now focus on elaborating the final text that many in Libya are awaiting with impatience.
GNC Stalemate on Process for Selecting “Committee of 60″
Here is an excellent article by Sami Zaptia about the crucial legal, structural, and populist issues preventing the GNC from moving forward on selecting or electing the Constitutional Committee. This is a must read for all interested in Libya’s thorniest political issues.
Initially, the TCD in August 2011 stipulated that the 60 are chosen by the GNC. However, on the last day of its tenure in 2012, the National Transitional Council (NTC), headed by Mustafa Abdul Jalil, amended the TCD so that the 60 must be elected by the general public.It is believed that the NTC was forced to make this amendment in order to calm demands by Federalists in eastern Libya and in the face of a threat of a boycott of the 2012 GNC elections in the east.
For months after the elections, the GNC, feeling that it has the ultimate legitimacy and sovereignty, attempted to avoid the more troublesome process of election, preferring the easier selection route. However, under much political pressure, demonstrations and even armed attacks on its building, it caved in and announced that the 60 will be elected.Only weeks later after reaching that decision, the whole subject was turned on its head again as the Constitutional Court revoked the NTC amendment, declaring it unconstitutional, meaning that the GNC could, after all, select the 60.
On Tuesday the GNC was yet again unable to find consensus and reach a decision they could sell to the general public. Its members are still torn between sticking to their first instinct to select the 60 or giving-in to populist demands to elect the 60. Ultimately, they have decided to yet again postpone a vote on the issue to at least next week. A constitutional amendment to adjust the means of selecting the 60 needs a two-thirds majority. GNC members feel that they are unable to achieve such a high threshold. They are therefore considering whether to remove the two-thirds threshold requirement for the amendment, as a way to break the impasse.
John McCain in Libya
Senator John McCain made his fifth visit to Libya since the fall of Qadhafi on April 4, meeting with Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zidan, President of the General National Congress Mohamed Magarief, other officials, and NGOs. Top among the issues they discussed were the ongoing investigation into the death of U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens, and the future of U.S.-Libya defense cooperation.
When the Libya Herald asked Senator McCain to explain U.S. policy in providing security assistance, he replied that the “US will help with training and equipment…only if it were requested by the Libyan government – as determined by the needs of the Libyan government and Libyan people”. Any such technical assistance would not include U.S. troops on the ground acting as Libyan defense forces. Apparently there have been rumors on social media sites that NATO forces will return to Libya to make up for the shortcomings in Libya’s own military – leading to the Prime Minister’s office issuing a statement denying any such rumors.
Hopefully the U.S. government will continue to provide security assistance to Libya – vital to both the security of the Mediterranean and the Sahel – when requested.
Opinion: Libya – Technological Colony – To Be or Not to Be?
Here is a fascinating article about spurring technological development in the Libya Herald building on my article with Abullah Elmaazi in AJE.
Libya is blessed with energy resources which include petroleum, natural gas and materials from its vast desert land. There is the (justifiable) temptation to export as much as possible at the highest rate possible to generate the cash flow needed for the rapid building of the nation in the wake of the disastrous 40+ years of neglect. This, of course, is the right path; to build modern infrastructure, roads, schools, hospitals, and investing in future generations. But is it enough?
Per Chatham House’s 2012 Report ‘Resources Futures’, Libya holds fourth place in the largest bilateral resource trade relationships in fossil fuels: exporting crude oil to the EU27 at a value of 28.8 ($ bn). Libya is also one of the producer countries placed in high rank in vulnerability to international commodity price fluctuations. Producer countries particularly exposed to macroeconomic shocks from commodity price fluctuations are those whose i) their economies are particularly dependent on exports and ii) commodities account for a significant share of exports.
Continued economic growth based solely on natural Libyan resources simply further advance others’ technological advancements. The country has great human resources yet very little job creating capacity to absorb them. Without more focused development in Libyan technological sectors such as solar energy and water salination projects, etc., it is feasible that the end result will be to perpetuate Libyan dependence on other people’s technology – referred to as ‘technology colonization’.
Hisham Matar on NPR’s Fresh Air
Terry Gross interviewed Matar about his father and his recent article “The Return,” published in this week’s edition of the New Yorker. Matar — author of In the Country of Men – is a novelist who divides his time between New York and London.
Hisham Matar, welcome back to FRESH AIR. So when you set out for Libya, to see if you could find your father who had been imprisoned for many years, the last you’d heard of him was in 2010, you learned that somebody had seen him or said that they’d seen him in prison in 2002. So you really had no idea if he was alive or not. So when you go to Libya looking for your father, where do you start? What was the plan?
I’m going to try to sum up why your father was considered an enemy of the Gadhafi regime. So tell me if this is accurate. He had been in the military under the king, and then when the coup overthrew the king, and Gadhafi became president, your father was given a diplomatic position in the Libyan Permanent Mission to the U.N., largely to get rid of him without alienating him as a military man and risking turning military men against the regime. But then your father decided to continue to fight the Gadhafi regime and ran a militia that hoped to depose Gadhafi. Do I have that right?
Advisor to Libya PM ‘Abducted’
The latest happy news from Libya is that the PM’s chief of staff, Mohammad Ghatous, was abducted by the militiamen he was trying to negotiate with.
Ghatous’ disappearance comes less than a week after Zidan was besieged in his office by fighters who demanded his ouster over remarks he made threatening to summon outside help to confront the armed groups. On Sunday, the same day that Ghatous disappeared, dozens of fighters surrounded the justice ministry in a daylong siege and also called for minister Salah al-Marghani’s resignation.
Al-Marghani had told a Libyan TV station that some of the fighters were illegitimate groups and were operating illegal prisons. He demanded that they relinquish control over them to the justice ministry. Zidan and al-Marghani also held a joint news conference on Sunday, saying that fighters would be held accountable for any attacks.
A Thawing of Libyan Politics?
The latest straight dope from Karim Mezran – A Thawing of Libyan Politics? speaks to the possibility of a national reconciliation and joint political agenda formulated outside of the GNC by the NFA and Brotherhood. If this could work it would be a very significant development, I have my doubts but would love to be proven wrong. Either way it is a masterfully written article by Karim.
Recent developments in Libya suggest an opening in the country’s otherwise deadlocked political process, increasing the likelihood of resolving several key issues holding back the country’s transition.
At the March 14 Brotherhood-NFA meeting, the two sides agreed to form several commissions, each dealing with an issue of national significance, in order to forge an agreement on each. The commissions will be open to all political forces, giving them the potential to serve as vehicles for compromise, an area in which the GNC has failed.
Since the July 2012 elections, when the NFA took a plurality of seats in the GNC (including thirty-nine of eighty party-list seats) the coalition has largely faltered, losing membership and influence to more ideologically coherent Islamist groups within the congress. Just one day after national dialogue talks, on March 15, the NFA showed signs of reversing this trend, holding a party convention now being heralded as a possible turning point in the group’s downward slide. Prime Minister Ali Zidan, supported by the NFA but not formally a member, delivered a powerful speech addressing a number of key issues and galvanizing his more liberal-minded cohorts.
Ending political gridlock in Libya has never been more pressing. On March 18 an armed convoy from Misrata surrounded Tripoli to communicate precisely this grievance. The Misratans demanded the removal of Zidan and the formation of a government focused on improving the welfare of the Libyan people.
Like the GNC’s political groups, Zidan too appears to be responding to recent lawlessness with political maneuvering of his own. Last week, at the conclusion of Zidan’s trip to the United States, Libyan authorities announced the arrested of a suspect in the Benghazi incident. The dubious timing of the arrest strongly suggests it may be a gambit by the Libyan government, under pressure from the United States, to buy more time.
Never before have Sawan and Jibril, who command the two largest political groupings in the GNC, worked together constructively. A more cohesive NFA that can also work with the Brotherhood and Islamists may thus enable the Congress to finally get back on track. And a functioning GNC capable of addressing the legitimate grievances of still-restless militias, as well as a strong Zidan-led government, may ultimately be the best hope for bringing about the security sector reform that is essential to improving the prospects for a meaningful democratic transition.
Libya: Two Years Later
I teamed up with the former Prime Minister of Libya, Dr. Mustafa Abushagur to produce an Huffington Post op-ed about the current bad security climate in Libya and what steps the GNC needs to take to get out of its constitutional, political and security deadlock.
In short, Libyans want to put the Qadhafi era behind them, but they also want capable individuals to draft the constitution, keep the lights on and the oil flowing. To achieve this they need a strong, moderate leadership that establishes national consensus, and a vibrant civil society that pushes the debate forward while also supporting crucial government initiatives.
In strengthening the hands of the moderates and getting the cranes moving, Western governments and business can play an essential role. Police trainers and capacity building professionals should descend on Libya as part of a coordinated multilateral effort to follow through on international commitments to the Libyan people. Just as American technology was needed to enforce the No-Fly Zone, American acumen and experience is now needed to help train Libya’s army and develop its command and control structures. Simultaneously to the government to government dimension, American businessmen should flock to events where high-level Libyan officials, private sector entrepreneurs, and experts in the legal and security challenges of operating in Libya will come together under one roof to explain to foreign companies how they can enter and prosper in the Libyan market. The FDI Libya Conference being held in London in late May is a prime example.
Deborah Jones Nominated as New U.S. Ambassador to Libya
The U.S. has had no Ambassador to Libya since the killing of Ambassador Chris Stevens on September 11, 2012. Career diplomats Laurence Pope and then William Roebuck have served as Chargé d’Affaires since that time. The announcement of a new Ambassador during the middle of Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan’s visit to the U.S. shows that the U.S. is actually paying attention to Libya, long overshadowed by other objectives in the region.
As hoped for, President Barack Obama’s choice for a new Ambassador is one with extensive Middle East experience. Ambassador Jones was previously Ambassador to Kuwait from 2008-2011, and has also had posts in Iraq, Syria and Turkey. She is currently a Scholar-in-Residence at the Middle East Institute.
We should expect more Chargés d’Affaires in Libya in the unknown months between Ambassador Jones’s nomination and confirmation by the Senate. Any delays or obstacles in her confirmation are more likely to be the Senate turning Libya into a political issue rather than anything in her background. The Christian Science Monitor notes that Ambassador Jones “has kept a low profile since returning to Washington after her Kuwait assignment, perhaps purposefully avoiding the kind of controversy that could doom future diplomatic prospects.”
Libyan PM Ali Zeidan Visits the U.S.
Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan is in the in the U.S. this week to express approval renewal of the United Nations Mission in Libya and have some key meetings with President Barack Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry, National Security Adviser Tom Donilon, and other senior U.S. officials. This visit signals that Libya continues to actively solicit capacity building in all areas, welcome investment from U.S. companies, and maintain a close and cordial bilateral relationship markedly different from the Qaddafi years.
Prime Minister Zeidan said in remarks on March 13 with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry that
“I would like to confirm the importance of the relationship with the United States and the strategic aspect with the – of this new Libya. This relationship will be at the best level in various aspects – political, economic, and education and oil and the area of security cooperation – in order to achieve stability and peace in the Middle East and the Mediterranean and North Africa and the coast and the desert…We dealt with various aspects of our relationship, and various issues of cooperation in the future, regardless of the education of Libyans here in America or our military cooperation, security cooperation, and economic and political cooperation, particularly trying to retrieve the money that was stolen from Libya, and the American Administration is committed to help us. And in the area of training and various other fields, the most important is the security cooperation in order to establish security and stability in the world and in the area of the Middle East and North Africa.”
Based on White House statements after Ali Zeidan’s meetings there, the U.S. rightly is committed to supporting Libya’s stability as part of an international team.
The President expressed the United States’ support for the Libyan people and their government as they continue their democratic transition. The President reaffirmed his commitment to ensuring that the perpetrators of the September 11 attacks against the U.S. mission in Benghazi are brought to justice, and stressed the importance of Libya’s cooperation with the ongoing investigation. The two leaders discussed how the United States and Libya could work together, along with the United Nations Support Mission in Libya and our partners in the international community, to strengthen Libya’s government institutions, and particularly to enhance security and the rule of law.
Security Guards Injured Trying to Evict Congress Occupiers
Just in from the Libya Herald, Security Guards Injured Trying to Evict Congress Occupiers. This combined with the attack on a Coptic church in Benghazi and tribal fighting in the Nafusa Mountains against the Mashashiyya and the situation in Libya does not look good right now. In fact, it looks like the GNC is doing anything and everything to not exercise its power and to appease its enemies. Quite a shame.
Three security personnel were injured in the early hours of this morning, one of them seriously, while trying to evict war-wounded revolutionaries who have been occupying the Congress headquarters for almost a month.The security forces said they did not retaliate when they realised the protestors had gelatina explosives and withdrew to avoid any further casualties.
War-wounded revolutionaries and their supporters stormed the Congress building on 3 February. Most left later that day, but a small group staged a sit-in in the main debating chamber and have continued to occupy it. As a result, Congress members have since been forced to use other venues for their debates.
The former revolutionaries, many of whom had to have limbs amputated as a result of their injuries, have made various demands, including that the government should pay for their treatment abroad. Congress last week passed a law giving a series of benefits to disabled revolutionaries. It has said that, as a result, all their demands have been met and that there is no justification for the continued sit-in.In light of today’s incident, Congress decided to postpone today’s session. It had planned to vote today on the government’s LD-66 billion budget.
Review of Gerges’s Obama and the Middle East: The End of America’s Moment
Review of Obama and the Middle East: The End of America’s Moment by Fawaz Gerges. (New York: Palgrave Macmillian, 2012.)
By Jason Pack in Journal of North African Studies Vol. 18, No. 2, Spring 2013
Rebels with a Pen: Observations on the Newly Emerging Media Landscape in Libya
Anja Wollenberg and I compiled an overview of the evolution of print and broadcast media in the new Libya. We analyse Libya’s dynamic media sector commenting on the role of government regulation. Our article is published in The Journal of North African Studies 18:2, 191-210 under the title Rebels with a pen: observations on the newly emerging media landscape in Libya. Below is the abstract and you may read the whole article here. Below is the abstract:
The role of social media as a catalyst of the ‘Arab Spring’ has been subject to much debate – both by academics and the press. Likewise, the impact of international media, such as Al-Jazeera, has been thoroughly examined elsewhere. While acknowledging the significance of these players, this article explores the emergence of a new landscape of local print and broadcast media in revolutionary Libya that is both the result of the dramatic changes that the country has undergone and one of their facilitators. This article analyses the political impact of these new forms of media during and after the 2011 Libyan uprisings, with an emphasis on how the role and the self-image of journalists and media producers has evolved alongside with Libya’s political transformation. It is demonstrated that the new Libyan media began their life as ‘partisan advocates’ and that different societal currents are now struggling to set the new role of media. It concludes with an analysis of the newly implemented legal framework and institutions which govern the Libyan media. It remains unclear if recent legislation will protect independent media from the authorities or, conversely, allow the state to exert censorship and consolidate its ownership over the media. This article analyses the various approaches to media jurisdiction prevalent in post-Qadhafi Libya as reflecting various degrees of state intervention. This discussion reflects the inherent contradictions of a society which, with very little preparation, has had to manage the change from conditions of absolute governmental control to conditions of relative anarchy.
U.S.-Libya Cooperation Update
Secretary of State John Kerry’s first Middle East visit after taking office has been announced, and Libya is not one of the stops on his agenda. It can be inferred, however, that Libya will end up being a topic of discussion with multiple officials in his visits to the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy, Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar. I would prefer to see direct higher level discussions between U.S. officials and their Libyan counterparts rather than indirect talks with neighboring countries with mutual concerns, and in fact had hoped that Secretary Kerry would have added Libya to his agenda as I argued in Politico and on the Hill’s Congress Blog last week.
At least the U.S. and Libya are still actively discussing much needed technical assistance with Libya’s security forces and military. Ali Sheiki, spokesman for Chief of Staff General Yousef Mangoush, announced that General Mangoush and U.S. Chargé d’Affaires William Roebuck have been discussing U.S. technical training and maintenance for Libya’s Air Force. The Libya Herald’s report pointed out that the range of discussion rightly remained on vital training and that:
So far there has been no suggestion of equipping the [Libyan] Air Force with US fighter aircraft. Nor, in present circumstances, is it thought likely that any sales of such aircraft would be approved by the US Congress.
The 15th February 2013 Counter Revolution that Never Was
The straight dope from Sami Zaptia of the Libya Herald as to why a huge pro-federalist, anti-GNC demonstration did not materialize in Benghazi. Read The 15th February 2013 Counter Revolution that Never Was by clicking here.
A combination of the dissatisfied and Federalists in Benghazi were initially planning a large demonstration yesterday to express their discontent and frustration at the GNC and the current government.The demonstration was labeled the “correction of the course of the Revolution” and its main demands are decentralization, more local government and the transfer of government organizations that used to be located in Benghazi, such as the NOC, back to the city.
In reality, yesterday’s events were a series of happy celebrations, speeches and pledges of support to the new order. Speeches were made, flags were flown, fireworks were let off and car horns were blown all day and night with no security incursions reported by the end of the night.The proposed 15th February counter revolution to “correct the course of the Revolution” was at the end itself revolted against by the overwhelming majority of Libya’s population – including the people in the east and specifically in Benghazi.
Libya Needs International Assistance, Not Drone Attacks
And here is my second salvo: a collaboration with Noman Benotman and Haley Cook to monitor development among jihadists in the Sahel region, Algeria, and Libya. We formulated this article for The Hill calling on the Obama administration to eschew drone attacks and to engage in nation building in Libya to limit the spread of Islamist contagion.
Barack Obama wisely pledged in his recent State of the Union address to help Libyans “provide for their own security” including cooperation on counterterrorism. However, should the promised “direct action against those terrorists who pose the gravest threat to Americans” turn out to be code for conducting drone attacks on Libyan soil, then the president is on the verge of a catastrophic blunder which would irrevocably jeopardize vital American economic and strategic interests.
Until now foreign training of the Libyan army, police, and border guards has been small in scale. Most training has largely been conducted outside of Libya, in Jordan and Turkey. The U.S. for its part has discussed possible training of around 400 military special forces, but has not yet committed to firm details about the program. These positive cooperation measures are incomplete steps upon which we must rapidly build.
The new Libyan security plan announced on February 12 moves the location of training inside Libya, calling for a two-year EU border security training program using civilian trainers starting in June 2013. This plan should aid in dismantling the dysfunctional, militia-dominated Supreme Security Committee and Libya Shield Force.
The Importance of Stabilizing Libya
I have started a multi-pronged campaign to advocate for increased American capacity-building assistance to buttress Libya’s failing security institutions and to follow up on the February 12th Support Libya Conference in Paris. Here is my first salvo fired at policymakers in Foggy Bottom and on Capitol Hill: a special op-ed in Politico based on interviews with the top Libyan political leadership in the run up to the 2nd anniversary of the Libyan revolution. Libya was the real cause of the conflict in Mali and the recent tragedy in Algeria. This op-ed (co-authored with Karim Mezran of the Atlantic Council) outlines a platform of American engagement in North Africa and the Sahel that policymakers need to see.
From Cairo on the Nile to Tunis on the Mediterranean, a political vacuum has descended across North Africa… The spread of Salafist and jihadist groups, the war in Mali and the recent terrorist attack in Algeria are all direct consequences of the overthrow of Muammar Qadhafi. Paradoxically, international action in support of the Libyan people led to this whole mess, yet it is also the key to resolving it.
To help Zidan bring stability, win back the trust of his people and cement his legitimate authority against Magarief’s overreach, a new international coalition must help the Libyan government construct a coherent security apparatus. On Tuesday, representatives of the major Arab and Western powers — including the U.S. — met in Paris under the aegis of the Support Libya conference and finally agreed to “the rapid deployment of European experts” to train and rebuild Libyan security forces. To be effective, the whole process must be initiated, owned and managed by the Libyans, while building upon the international community’s role as guarantors of the Libyan revolution.
The coalition should start by training a new security force, approximately 6,000 strong. NATO countries should lead, but key Arab allies should also be given a prominent role. This force should receive on-the-job training while securing the country’s borders and physical institutions. American know-how is needed to build an army capable of handling diverse threats from nonstate actors, leaving the Europeans to focus on training the police.
U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron made a savvy surprise visit to Tripoli on Jan. 31. Secretary of State John Kerry should follow suit and go to Libya as part of his first trip to the Middle East. This would signal to the world America’s commitment to engagement. It could also signal the U.S.’s commitment to spearheading the diplomatic coalition and lending its unique technical expertise rather than continuing its role of passively “leading from behind.”
Saudi Arabia to Invest in Libya?
While much of the focus on Libyan business ties with Gulf countries has been on the UAE and Qatar, Saudi Arabia could also emerge as an important partner. During Libyan Oil and Gas Minister Abdelbari al-Arusi’s recent visit to Saudi Arabia he discussed with various Saudi Arabian businessmen the possibility of their investing in a whole range of Libyan industries including infrastructure, petrochemicals, tourism, health, and education. His time with the Eastern Province Chamber of Commerce was spent with the private business community, but he also paid a visit to the state-owned oil and gas giant Saudi Aramco.
During his visit to the Aramco Company, Aarusi said he discussed several issues related to oil and gas as well as means to benefit from Aramco’s services, adding he expected Libyan delegations to visit Aramco in the future in order to sign agreements.
If Saudi Aramco is seriously considering involvement in Libya, then the highest levels of the Saudi government must be in favor of closer bilateral ties. Are their joint refining projects on the horizon?
Libya’s Constitutional Committee to Be Elected
After a frustrating delay, Libya’s General National Congress (GNC) has finally decided on the method by which the committee to draft the new constitution will be selected: direct election as under Amendment Three to the Draft Constitutional Declaration. The ability of the GNC to meet and make vital decisions such as selecting a prime minister and approving his choice of government has been repeatedly hampered by inadequate security that has repeatedly allowed protesters – sometimes armed – to occupy the assembly hall. The GNC is now supposed to have its own security force to prevent such incidents. However, despite increased security, protesters occupied the hall yet on 3 February and were still there on 5 February. The GNC had to meet elsewhere in the meantime.
Despite these growing security concerns, there is hope that Libya would be able to carry out a second post-conflict election, following the successful conduct of the GNC election on 7 July 2012. The question is whether this system would be advisable. The GNC’s latest decision means that the future constitutional committee will be patterned after the 1951 constitutional committee, meaning that it will have exactly 60 members, with 20 members representing each of the three historical regions of Cyrenaica, Tripolitania, and Fezzan. Voters will select committee members only for their own region. This constitutional committee model has the difficulty that it may unfairly bias the future constitution in favor of a federal system of government before the first draft is even written. The pro-federalist militants who pushed the NTC into amending the Draft Constitutional Declaration just two days before the GNC election so that the constitutional committee would be elected by the people instead of selected by the GNC as a compromise for allowing the 7 July election to go forward have now gotten their wish.
It cannot be stressed enough that “appeasement of local actors via regional autonomy is a recipe for disaster.” Federalism in Libya – tried and failed.
Libya’s Spheres of Bad Influence
Libya’s Spheres of Bad Influence by Karim Mezran hits the nail on the head about the urgency of engaging in Libya. This is exactly the argument I made on BBC News Last night, but just not as eloquently as Mezran.
As many analysts have pointed out, the collapse of Libyan security and the transformation of Libyan territory into a safe haven for jihadi terrorists is causing a security nightmare in the area that could easily spill over into southern Europe through the porous coastal borders of Tunisia and Libya.
It is time for the Obama administration to understand that contrary to its previous evaluation, North Africa, because of the threat to international security that its destabilization can cause, should become an area of primary interest for the United States. At this point, it is important to ask what might be done to deter and prevent such a potentially catastrophic situation. The primary cause of this collapse in security is also the place where the solution lies: Libya.
The administration must engage Libyan institutions in a more proactive way, and these there must be a guarantee of physical protection for the members of the government, the assembly and local councils. The Libyan government should be pushed to ask for NATO support in training a military force to be put at the direct command of the Libyan prime minister to guarantee the enforcement of the central government’s control. If order is reconstituted in Libya, it will prevent the permanent establishment of terrorist organizations in the country, thus inflicting a hard blow to a burgeoning al-Qaeda network in North Africa.
Engagement in Libya Was and Remains the Right Answer
In the form of a book review of Exit Gaddafi: The Hidden History of the Libyan Revolution by Ethan Chorin for The Spectator Magazine, I make the case why diplomatically and commercially engaging with Libya was always the right answer. I think this is one of the most urgent and important contributions to the debate about Libya that I’ve been able to put out there, so I strongly urge you to read and comment on the article.
Chorin’s real legacy is his unique version of the events which led to the uprisings, especially his focus on the causative role of the US-Libya relationship. In so doing, he presents the most succinct and engaging account yet in print of the secret diplomacy that led to Gaddafi paying off the Lockerbie families and renouncing his WMD program. Chorin puts forth the fascinating – yet likely erroneous – thesis that Gaddafi’s brilliant negotiating turned the Lockerbie families from the greatest opponents of Libya’s normalization with the West into its greatest proponents. According to Chorin, greed lured Western diplomats and businessmen into Gaddafi’s masterful gambit. Furthermore, Chorin asserts that the Bush administration’s policies towards Libya were primarily shaped by its desire ‘to prove’ that its strategy in Iraq was having a successful deterrent effect elsewhere. He simply dismisses the concrete counterterrorism advantages garnered from intelligence sharing.
This bears little resemblance to the reality I experienced. Few State Department or FCO officials were under any illusions about Gaddafi (as demonstrated by Wikileaks cables), many felt Libyan HUMINT seriously strengthened the fight against Al-Qaida, and no official I ever met was primarily motivated to approach Libya to demonstrate that America’s Iraq policy had encouraged other rogue states to come clean. Rather, Western diplomats and companies engaged Libya, because it was both in their interests to do so and because engagement could be used as a means to open Libya to the internet, educational exchanges, infrastructural investment, foreign scrutiny, and outside cultural influences. A by-product of this new openness was to raise the ambitions, aspirations, and know-how of ordinary Libyans. If North Korea could have been pried open in a similar manner only through dealing with Kim Jong-Il, wouldn’t policymakers have been wise to do so? And wouldn’t it have made the glorious reign of Kim Jong-Un (aka The Great Successor) less likely?
Now read the actual article on the Spectator’s Book’s blog.
Alternate Introduction to Engagement in Libya was the Right Answer
Below is an alternative introduction with a contemporary affairs hook leading into my book review defending Western policy in Libya:
More than twenty-two months after the United States joined France, Britain, Qatar, and others in enforcing the no-fly zone over Libya, the morality, political wisdom, and international legality of helping rebel forces topple Muammar Gaddafi is still hotly debated.
Was it a success as it aided the Libyan people’s fight for freedom and led to successful elections bringing the Arab Spring’s only non-Islamist successor government to power? Or a failure as the post-Gaddafi central government is so weak and security so patchy that the British Ambassador’s motorcade was bombed and the U.S. Ambassador was assassinated by Islamist militants even though the authorities and the vast majority of the Libyan people hold favorable attitudes towards Britain and America?
Even the highest political officials in the land can’t seem to decide if the United States adopted the right policy in engaging in Libya. In fact, since the killing of Ambassador Christopher Stevens in Benghazi on September 11th, 2012 the subject of America’s role in Libya has become irrevocably tainted by partisanship.
In her last public act as Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton appeared before Congress on January 23rd. She presented vague admissions concerning the State Department’s and the intelligence community’s failings that led to the death of Ambassador Stevens. Freshman Senator from Kentucky Rand Paul claimed that Clinton should have been fired for the security lapses, while Senator McCain bravely redirected the discussion away from security and towards the larger issues of the US-Libya relationship. He bucked the consensus in Congress which holds that the US should invest more in security and less in ‘nation-building’ in societies in transition. McCain hit the nail on the head as he pointed out that Ambassador Stevens was inherently in danger in travelling to Benghazi, not because Americans are hated in Libya, but rather because the U.S. did not provide enough capacity building assistance to the Libyan authorities to help them construct central security mechanisms. He rightly acknowledged that American failings in Libya have been from engaging too little not too much.
Predictably, McCain’s fellow Republicans did not follow him into a high mind policy debate, rather they descended into a partisan blame game attempting to besmirch Obama’s entire approach to Libya – ignoring of course that it was merely a continuation of the Bush-era policy of engagement, deterrence, and détente.
Sparked by the urgency and politicization of the debate surrounding the “West’s Libya policy,” certain popular books have attempted to weigh in. A common theme has been to blame Western nations and multinational corporations for their role in the international “rehabilitation” of Gaddafi from 2003-2010. Lampooning Tony Blair for his “deal in the desert” has become common place in almost all British broadsheets. The standard argument holds the West as partially culpable for Gaddafi’s sins because it sold him sophisticated weapons and served him his Islamist enemies on a silver platter rather than sticking to Ronald Reagan’s un-nuanced aim of ousting “the mad dog of the Middle East.” This case is made most coherently in Ethan Chorin’s, Exit Gaddafi: The Hidden History of the Libyan Revolution (Saqi Books, October 2012).
Now read the actual article on the Spectator’s Book’s blog.
Review of Michael Willis’s Power and Politics in the Maghreb
Review of Power and Politics in the Maghreb: Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco from Independence to the Arab Spring, by Michael J. Willis. (London: Hurst & Co, 2012.)
By Jason Pack and James Roslington in Middle East Journal Vol. 67, No. 1, Winter 2013
What You Need to Know About Hillary Clinton’s Testimony
The National Journal has hit the salient points in its 9 Things You Want to Know About Hillary Clinton’s Testimony–and 1 You Need to Know: The scuffles, the praise, the questions about Benghazi–it all came out Wednesday morning and so did an ominous warning about al-Qaida.
8) Chris Stevens wanted to be there. In his opening statement, Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., the acting chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said that Ambassador Stevens wanted the special mission to be in Benghazi because it was the cradle of the Libyan revolution and essential for U.S. diplomacy.
But here is what you really need to know:
10) Clinton painted a very worrisome picture of the terrorist situation in Africa. Discussing the Islamist rebels in Mali, she sounded an alarm. Just because al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb has never attacked the United States doesn’t mean there’s no threat developing in the Sahara desert, she maintained ominously: “Before 2001, we hadn’t been attacked before the war of 1812 and Pearl Harbor,” she said.
She noted that while what she called “core al-Qaida” in Pakistan and Afghanistan has been significantly degraded, “affiliates and wannabes” were very much alive in Africa and they have plans to target Western interests, as they did in Algeria this month, and to overthrow governments in the region—even Islamist governments established since the Arab Spring.
While Clinton offered examples where the U.S. has been able to turn around a deteriorating security situation—most notably Somalia, where we recently restored diplomatic relations, and Colombia, where the narco terror wars are more muted—none of it was terribly reassuring. In Somalia, she noted that we’d played a vital role. “We trained the Djiboutis, we trained the Burundis,” she said of the regional forces that helped restore some semblance of stability to Somalia. But Clinton noted that several months after the attacks on Benghazi, a “Pandora’s Box” of weapons had been opened up in the region.
- Let the Scramble for Oil Money Begin (19 Sep 2014)
- Is Operation Dignity Receiving Further Air Support from the UAE? (17 Sep 2014)
- Why Scottish Independence is Bad for Libya (11 Sep 2014)
- Libya: Stalemate or Calm before the (Return of the) Storm? (9 Sep 2014)
- Is Libya the New Battleground for the Islamist-Nationalist Proxy War? (9 Sep 2014)
- Thinni Given PM Mandate as Libya Dawn Tries to Put Facts on the Ground (2 Sep 2014)
- Thinni Resigns Again, Tries to Breathe Life into HoR (29 Aug 2014)
- Is the HoR Losing the Internal Battle for Legitimacy? (27 Aug 2014)
- Latest Strikes Make Libya the New Proxy War in The Region (26 Aug 2014)
- Is Operation Dawn Forces’s Tripoli Success The Beginning of the End or The Beginning of An Escalation In Conflict? (24 Aug 2014)
- As HoR Continues its Work, Arab League Shuns Call for Foreign Intervention (21 Aug 2014)
- Covert Intervention? Air Strike in Tripoli Sparks Anxiety Over Foreign Role in Libya (18 Aug 2014)
- HoR Tries Raising its Profile by Pushing for Intervention and Disbandment of Militias (14 Aug 2014)
- Libya at a Turning Point? HoR Agrees to Direct Presidential Elections as Fighting Continues Unabated (13 Aug 2014)
- Obama Discusses Libya With Thomas L. Friedman (11 Aug 2014)
- The NYT on the Impact of the 2012 Benghazi Assault on US Strikes in Iraq (9 Aug 2014)
- Despite Turmoil Libya’s Oil Production Remains Steady (8 Aug 2014)
- Bernard-Henri Levy Urges The West to Act Before the Clock Strikes Midnight (8 Aug 2014)
- Algeria and Egypt Defuse Intervention Talks as HoR Starts Its Works by Ordering Ceasefire (7 Aug 2014)
- Elders Hope to Facilitate an Agreement in Cyrenaica As GNC President Dismisses HoR As ‘Unconstitutional’ (6 Aug 2014)
- House of Representatives Postpones First Meeting Amid Violence and Displacements (3 Aug 2014)
- Escalating Violence in Libya Necessitates International Mediation (1 Aug 2014)
- Ansar Al-Sharia Claim Islamic Emirate in Benghazi (31 Jul 2014)
- Libya on the Brink: How to Stop the Fighting (30 Jul 2014)
- Libya Back in the Limelight, Will Actors on The Ground Capitalize from it? (30 Jul 2014)
- No Eid Celebrations as Libya Descends into Chaos (29 Jul 2014)
- Calls for Dialogue Fall on Deaf Ears as Militias Get Entrenched in Battle (27 Jul 2014)
- Will the House of Representatives be nipped in the bud by ongoing violence? (25 Jul 2014)
- Violence in the Capital Escalates as The Government Struggles to Sell Crude (25 Jul 2014)
- Are the Parliamentary Elections a Precursor for More Violence? (23 Jul 2014)
- As Fighting in the Captial Intensifies Zintanis Hold Airport (22 Jul 2014)
- Are The Islamists as Organized as The Media Portrays Them to Be? (21 Jul 2014)
- Islamist-Nationalist Rift Intensifies as Another Prominent Female Activist is Assassinated and Airport Workers Strike (17 Jul 2014)
- Damage to the Airport and Aircrafts Are a Big Blow to a Weakened Business Sector (15 Jul 2014)
- Is Tripoli Witnessing A Civil War between Misrata and Zintan or is this a minor clash between rogue brigades? (15 Jul 2014)
- Despite Strikes in Brega, Ras Lanuf and Sidra Set to Open (14 Jul 2014)
- Jadhran Hands over Port and Signs of Grand Bargain Emerging (4 Jul 2014)
- The House of Representatives Election (26 Jun 2014)
- Election Day Guide (25 Jun 2014)
- Mary Fitzgerald’s Interview with Hiftar (24 Jun 2014)
- Turks and Qataris Ordered to Leave Eastern Libya (23 Jun 2014)
- Call for Part Time Consultants (21 Jun 2014)
- Three Things to Watch for in the Libya Elections (21 Jun 2014)
- Libya’s Faustian Bargains: The Hardcopy (12 Jun 2014)
- Setting the Record Straight on the US’s role in Libya (10 Jun 2014)
- Maiteg Accepts Supreme Court Decision and Resigns (10 Jun 2014)
- Maetig Seizes Prime Ministry Building (3 Jun 2014)
- Thinni Vows to Stay On (29 May 2014)
- Ansar al-Sharia Mishandles the Media War (28 May 2014)
- A Sober Evaluation of Hiftar’s Movement (If we can call it that) (23 May 2014)
- The World According to Hiftar (23 May 2014)
- “Leaders” of Libyan Army “Suspend” GNC (19 May 2014)
- Game Theory, Kidnappings and the Pitfalls of Appeasement in Libya (17 May 2014)
- Libya: Swinging Pendulums and Political Crematoria (16 May 2014)
- Jordanian Ambassador Freed After Libya Kidnap (14 May 2014)
- Libya’s Unexpected Strength (8 May 2014)
- Ides of March Cambridge Invitational Tournament – March 2014 (8 May 2014)
- Who’s for Prime Minister? (7 May 2014)
- Jordan to Release Libyan Militant in Exchange for Ambassador (29 Apr 2014)
- Invitation to Launching of Atlantic Council Report “Libya’s Faustian Bargains” (29 Apr 2014)
- Libya Lifts Force Majeure on Second Oil Port (28 Apr 2014)
- Rejoice and Export Crude, ya Libiyya (7 Apr 2014)
- Libyan rebels and Government Agree to Gradually Reopen Occupied Oil Ports (7 Apr 2014)
- Some April First Foolery Libyan Style (5 Apr 2014)
- Libya Sees “Good Intentions” in Oil Port Talks; Rebel Split Seen (4 Apr 2014)
- Jadhran’s Supporters Still Being Paid until November (2 Apr 2014)
- Crimea as Europe’s Existential Question (28 Mar 2014)
- Zeidan Speaks to Christian Amanpour (26 Mar 2014)
- ENI Talks Gas with Libya, Shoring Up Non-Russian Supply (24 Mar 2014)
- Lars Trabolt vs Vyachslav Pryadkin in The WC Final — PART 1: Limiting Gammonish Volitility (24 Mar 2014)
- Libya Leads World in Traffic Deaths Per Capita (20 Mar 2014)
- Iraqi Insurgency Tactics Being Used by Jihadists in Libya (17 Mar 2014)
- Sometimes It Is Tough Being a Pirate (17 Mar 2014)
- Consensus Principle and Regional Development Budget Approved by Congress (13 Mar 2014)
- Libya’s Prime Minister Ousted in Chaos Over Tanker (12 Mar 2014)
- Libyan Oil Stolen at Sidra (9 Mar 2014)
- The Future of Libya: Is ‘Pakistanisation’ a Foregone Conclusion? (8 Mar 2014)
- An Absurd Connection between Ukraine and Libya (8 Mar 2014)
- Possible Presidential Election? (6 Mar 2014)
- GNC Members’ Cars Burned as Protestors Vandalise Congress (3 Mar 2014)
- The Battle for Benghazi (1 Mar 2014)
- Constitutional Committee Election Final Turnout Put at Half Million (24 Feb 2014)
- 45 Percent Turnout in Constitutional Committee Elections but 13 Seats Cannot be Declared (22 Feb 2014)
- Too Cool for a Coup, Part Two (21 Feb 2014)
- New Alignments between Zintan, GNC, Islamists and the Population (21 Feb 2014)
- To Coup, Or Not to Coup? (16 Feb 2014)
- Jadhran’s Brother to Be Returned to Libya after Arrest in UAE (13 Feb 2014)
- Libya vs Western Bankers (13 Feb 2014)
- Correcting the Course of Libya’s Revolution (Part 1/2) (12 Feb 2014)
- Even Federalism Won’t Placate the Federalists (11 Feb 2014)
- Zeidan’s Newly Proposed Cabinet has Been Rejected (11 Feb 2014)
- Dunks and Dodging Bullets: Americans Chase Hoop Dreams in Libya (9 Feb 2014)
- Protests Against the Extention of the GNC’s Mandate Passed Peacefully (8 Feb 2014)
- The Feb 7 Extension of GNC issue (6 Feb 2014)
- Libya PM Threatens Eastern Protesters with Troops (5 Feb 2014)
- Is Jadhran’s Support Waning? (1 Feb 2014)
- Libya: Date Set for Vote to Select Constitutional Panel (31 Jan 2014)
- Madagascar’s Radio DJ President Jockeys for Power (28 Jan 2014)
- Power Cut Misery to Continue Until Warshefana Clashes Resolved (28 Jan 2014)
- Sebha Still Awaiting Military Support (28 Jan 2014)
- Egyptian Embassy Staff ‘Seized’ in Libya (26 Jan 2014)
- Libya Chaos Worsens (10 Jan 2014)
- Killings of Briton and New Zealander Underscore Libya’s Security Breakdown (4 Jan 2014)
- Anna Baldinetti looking for research assistant (3 Jan 2014)
- Libya in 2014??? (31 Dec 2013)
- Khattala with the Candlestick in the Diplomatic Mission (30 Dec 2013)
- Happy Libyan Independence Day and Merry Christmas (24 Dec 2013)
- Libya Probes Deadly Army Checkpoint Bombing (23 Dec 2013)
- Will the Arab Spring Still Blossom in Tunisia? (17 Dec 2013)
- The Coming Showdown? (14 Dec 2013)
- ‘Everything You Can Imagine’ Smuggled to Libya (12 Dec 2013)
- Breaking the Libyan Oil Blockade (9 Dec 2013)
- Libya Assembly Votes for Sharia Law (5 Dec 2013)
- Libya’s Post-Qadhafi Fissures: Federalists, Islamists, Berbers & the Militias (5 Dec 2013)
- U.S. Plan for GPF Faces Obstacles (3 Dec 2013)
- Localizing Power in Libya (26 Nov 2013)
- Does Libya Need a Lesson in Devolved Government? (24 Nov 2013)
- Tripoli Eats Cake to Celebrate Libyan Militias’ Withdrawal (24 Nov 2013)
- The EU’s Libyan Headache Is Growing Worse (16 Nov 2013)
- Learning from Past Mistakes (Review of The 2011 Libyan Uprisings) (8 Nov 2013)
- Morocco’s Growing Cannabis Debate (6 Nov 2013)
- Oil and Power in the New Libya (6 Nov 2013)
- Libya: Will Failure Lead to Partition? (1 Nov 2013)
- Petko vs. Lars: The Semi-Final of the WC of BG Analyzed (30 Oct 2013)
- No One Wants to Govern Libya (21 Oct 2013)
- Militia Rivalries Threaten New War in post-Revolt Libya (19 Oct 2013)
- More Political Turmoil For Libya Likely in Coming Days (18 Oct 2013)
- Washington Sees No Threat to Libya Links from Abu Anas Seizure (16 Oct 2013)
- Libyan PM’s Abduction Raises Disturbing Questions (11 Oct 2013)
- Interview with Jason Pack by Der Standard of Austria (11 Oct 2013)
- Was it the Revolutionaries’ Operations Room in the Corinthia with the Candlestick? (10 Oct 2013)
- Jason Pack on BBCNews about the abduction of Anas al Libi (8 Oct 2013)
- Al-Qaeda Suspect Seized by US was Granted UK Asylum in 1990s (8 Oct 2013)
- Libya’s Berbers: A Microcosm of the Country’s Fissures (8 Oct 2013)
- Libya, After The Revolution: A Study Tour with Political Tours (7 Oct 2013)
- Libyan Constitutionality and Sovereignty post-Qadhafi: the Islamist, Regionalist, and Amazigh challenges (27 Sep 2013)
- Losing Libya’s Revolution (26 Sep 2013)
- The Struggle for the Post-Qadhafi Future Presented at the House of Commons (17 Sep 2013)
- Letter to Secretary of State John Kerry on Libya (11 Sep 2013)
- Sept 10 Panel in the House of Commons Libya: The Struggle for the post-Qadhafi Future (6 Sep 2013)
- Libya’s Lessons on Syria (6 Sep 2013)
- More Press for The 2011 Libyan Uprisings and the Search for the Post Qadhafi Future: Libya Herald Edition (2 Sep 2013)
- Doom and Gloom in the Media (24 Aug 2013)
- Another Positive Review of The 2011 Libyan Uprisings And The Struggle For The Post-Qadhafi Future (23 Aug 2013)
- NOC Declares Force Majeure at Four Ports (20 Aug 2013)
- Federalism: Not Just for Cyrenaica? (18 Aug 2013)
- Political Assassinations on the Rise? (9 Aug 2013)
- Streamlined Cabinet Set Up to Confront Security Crisis (8 Aug 2013)
- Plato – Slave-Owning Aristocrat or Homosexual Mystic? (31 Jul 2013)
- Review of Exit Gaddafi: The Hidden History of the Libyan Revolution (24 Jul 2013)
- More Press for The 2011 Libyan Uprisings and the Struggle for the Post-Qadhafi Future (18 Jul 2013)
- A Law Unto Themselves (17 Jul 2013)
- GNC One Year Later (10 Jul 2013)
- It’s Not Easy Being Green (1 Jul 2013)
- The 2011 Libyan Uprisings Book Launch Talk with Pack, Benotman, Amb. Northern and Prof Bayly (29 Jun 2013)
- New GNC President: Nuri Ali Abu Sahmain (25 Jun 2013)
- Buy The Book (23 Jun 2013)
- Ambassador Jones Spotted out and about in Tripoli (22 Jun 2013)
- New Hospitals Planned for Libya (20 Jun 2013)
- Obama’s Crossing the Red Line on Syria (20 Jun 2013)
- The 2013 London Open and Why the Giants Keep on Winning (14 Jun 2013)
- Brigades Everywhere (12 Jun 2013)
- Playing on for Gammon in Albion: The 2013 British Open Final (10 Jun 2013)
- Autonomie de la Cyrénaïque : la Libye Menacée de Partition? (5 Jun 2013)
- Libya PM Moves State Oil HQ to Troubled Benghazi (29 May 2013)
- Political Isolation Law Claims Its First Victim (28 May 2013)
- Book Launch poster (17 May 2013)
- The 2011 Libyan Uprisings and the Struggle for the Post-Qadhafi Future (13 May 2013)
- Ministries Back to Work after Sieges End (13 May 2013)
- Britain Should Take the Lead in Libya (8 May 2013)
- Political Isolation Law Passed and Militias and Populists Still Boycott (7 May 2013)
- Blockades Polarizing Libya; Militiamen Now Hit Electricity Ministry (3 May 2013)
- Libyan Stability at Risk (2 May 2013)
- Demonstration in Support of Political Isolation Law (2 May 2013)
- Libya Gunmen Surround Tripoli Foreign Ministry (29 Apr 2013)
- French Embassy in Libya Attacked (23 Apr 2013)
- The Constituent Assembly Will Be Elected (12 Apr 2013)
- GNC Stalemate on Process for Selecting “Committee of 60″ (6 Apr 2013)
- John McCain in Libya (6 Apr 2013)
- Opinion: Libya – Technological Colony – To Be or Not to Be? (3 Apr 2013)
- Hisham Matar on NPR’s Fresh Air (3 Apr 2013)
- Advisor to Libya PM ‘Abducted’ (2 Apr 2013)
- A Thawing of Libyan Politics? (21 Mar 2013)
- Libya: Two Years Later (20 Mar 2013)
- Deborah Jones Nominated as New U.S. Ambassador to Libya (14 Mar 2013)
- Libyan PM Ali Zeidan Visits the U.S. (14 Mar 2013)
- Security Guards Injured Trying to Evict Congress Occupiers (3 Mar 2013)
- Review of Gerges’s Obama and the Middle East: The End of America’s Moment (26 Feb 2013)
- Rebels with a Pen: Observations on the Newly Emerging Media Landscape in Libya (26 Feb 2013)
- U.S.-Libya Cooperation Update (21 Feb 2013)
- The 15th February 2013 Counter Revolution that Never Was (17 Feb 2013)
- Libya Needs International Assistance, Not Drone Attacks (15 Feb 2013)
- The Importance of Stabilizing Libya (15 Feb 2013)
- Saudi Arabia to Invest in Libya? (7 Feb 2013)
- Libya’s Constitutional Committee to Be Elected (6 Feb 2013)
- Libya’s Spheres of Bad Influence (1 Feb 2013)
- Engagement in Libya Was and Remains the Right Answer (31 Jan 2013)
- Alternate Introduction to Engagement in Libya was the Right Answer (31 Jan 2013)
- Review of Michael Willis’s Power and Politics in the Maghreb (30 Jan 2013)
- What You Need to Know About Hillary Clinton’s Testimony (24 Jan 2013)