All Out Fighting for Tripoli Resumes, the Demise of the Negotiations Illusion?
On Saturday November 22nd, Operation Dignity forces announced the start of a new military offensive to retake control of Tripoli and surrounding areas. On this occasion, Operation Dignity spokesperson Mohammed al-Hijazi announced that all airports and maritime ports under control of Fajr Libya forces, with the exception of those of Zwara, would be considered legitimate targets due to their use as weapons supply points by Misratan forces and their allies. This declaration came a few hours before Zintani forces finally gained the upper hand in the month-long battle for the strategic town of Kikla, located south of Tripoli, thus setting the stage for a renewed battle for the control of the capital.
Since then, two airstrikes have been carried out over Mitiga airport, leading to its closure and to the re-destination of commercial flights from Tripoli to Misrata. After the sporadic strikes carried out during last summer by unidentified forces likely to be connected to the UAE and Egypt, the military branch of the Tobruk establishment has newly raised the profile of its (aerial) attacks in the West in a potentially devastating way.
To be sure, it remains to be seen whether Operation Dignity forces will have the actual operational capability to follow through with imposing a blockade on all airports and maritime ports in the hands of Fajr Libya. Nonetheless, these developments could likely prove to be the last fatal straw to any lingering hope of achieving a negotiated solution to this crisis. Clearly, after the ruling of Libya’s Supreme Court on November 6th that declared the HoR illegitimate, the Tobruk-based establishment has fully embraced the military option as the only feasible way to bring the current crisis to a favorable and definitive end.
A further proof of the military-oriented approach taken by Thinni’s government and what remains of the HoR is well displayed by the decision to re-instate Khalifa Haftar and Saqr Geroushi into the Libyan Army. Besides sending a clear message to the rival al-Hassi government, that quickly proceeded to declare a new phase of war against them, the HoR and Thinni are increasingly putting Libya’s international partners and UNSMIL’s Bernardino Leon in the uncomfortable position of being seen has tacitly supporting this military escalation on the basis of the international recognition granted to the HoR and its government.
As hopes of bringing relevant Libyan stakeholders to the same table dramatically falter, we are left wondering what approach and strategy will be employed next to tackle this crisis by the broad international community (minus countries supporting proxies in Libya) over the course of the coming weeks. In light of these recent developments, it is difficult not to lend an ear to the interview to Professor Andreas Dittman, published today by Deutsche Welle, who strongly puts Libyans in charge of their recent miseries:
The basic conditions for development are actually very good for Libya. Of all the six countries involved in the Arab Spring, Libya has by far the best conditions. The country has a relatively small population, just over 6 million inhabitants. In addition, Libya has oil reserves that will last for another six-and-a-half decades.
(…) Any political successes – the democratic elections, successfully putting a president into office – have been torpedoed by the militias. When they don’t agree with certain election results, they refuse to recognize their legitimacy and try to impose their ideas by force.
That is to say, Libya itself is to blame? Yes. Of course, there were external factors that contributed to Gadhafi’s relatively quick toppling from power. But what Libya is currently doing wrong is, in a sense, homemade – that is to say, its own fault. Given the current developments, we can’t always refer solely to external influences. At the moment, Libyans are destroying their own country.