Islamic State Will Flourish if the West Picks Sides in Libya
Here is my February 18, 2015 article in The Spectator advocating for us to keep focused on the mediation effort in Libya.
Here is my February 18, 2015 article in The Spectator advocating for us to keep focused on the mediation effort in Libya.
Here is my first ever one-on-one feature length (i.e. a whole half hour segment) TV interview. It is with the witty and acerbic Slavic beauty, Oksana Boyko – - the anchor for Russia Today’s World’s Apart programme. We discuss the good, bad, and ugly about Nato’s intervention in Libya in 2011, the toppling of Qadhafi, the fallout from that action, Libya’s descent into a multipronged civil war, the position of ISIS in the country at present, and how Western policy can or cannot be changed to deal with the new kinds of threats emanating from the region. To watch click here.
Here is a simple overview from the BBC of the kind of coverage ISIS is getting in Libya. I am quoted saying the rather usual but important stuff like that ISIS ‘problem’ cannot be solved without a political solution in Libya.
Moreover, Libya is rich in oil and, earlier this month, gunmen claiming to represent IS raided a French-run oil facility in al-Mabruk, south of Sirte city, killing at least 11 guards. “They are able to attack oil pipelines, but as of yet lack the capability to sell smuggled oil on the open market. Nonetheless, many IS-aligned fighters collect salaries from the Libyan state,” Jason Pack, a researcher in Libyan history at the UK’s Cambridge University, told the BBC…..
Mr Pack points out that the country has three main power blocks:
- Libya Dawn (a mixture of Islamist and non-Islamist militias allied with the Tripoli-based government),
- Operation Dignity (led by forces loyal to General Khalifa Haftar and allied with the internationally recognised government based in the eastern city of Tobruk) and
- Jihadist groups (which include IS, al-Qaeda and Ansar al-Sharia – the most powerful of them).
“There is a civil war between the two main groups [Libya Dawn and Operation Dignity]. The jihadists act as spoilers,” Mr Pack told the BBC.
He is opposed to Egypt’s military intervention, saying it could make the internationally recognised government wrongly conclude that it could defeat its rivals – a perception that has grown following its 23 February decision to withdraw from UN-brokered peace talks.
“You need a national unity government to tackle IS. It is in Libya because the political process has failed,” Mr Pack told the BBC.
To read the whole article click here.
Here is the longest most in-depth radio interview I have ever given. With the excellent, sonorous, and highly informed presenter of Voice of the Cape’s Drivetime commuter radio program the acclaimed author, lecturer and academic, Shafiq Morton, we discuss the current political situation in Libya, the place of ISIS in the Libyan civil war, as well as Libyan social problems of racism and Xenophobia. To listen to the 19 minute interview and to hear me cough and struggle with my cold as I try to explain the complex issues Libya faces to a general audience click here.
My latest on AJE giving a brief overview of the way that negotiations in Geneva and Ghadames appear to be affecting the situation on the ground in Libya.
For peace negotiations to successfully halt a conflict, three conditions are usually required: the existence of discrete warring parties, represented at the talks by acknowledged leaders, each of whom possess sufficient clout to enforce any agreed upon peace terms on their supporters. Despite the heroic efforts of international mediators and the courageous confidence building measures embraced by the negotiations’ participants, Libya’s current civil war lacks all three prerequisites for a mediated solution to hold….
A bloc of moderates has actually been formed and more actors are willing to join the talks each week. And yet, it is this momentum for rapprochement which has put significant strain on the fundamental alliances which had previously held together the political and military wings of Dawn and Dignity….Over the next weeks, centrifugal forces within each block are likely to gain in strength, reducing the potential effectiveness of any negotiated bargain. Meanwhile, new tribal, regional, local, and militia stakeholders are likely to emerge demanding to be accommodated or to cause havoc.
To read the whole article click here.
It is my pleasure to invite you to a panel discussion in LONDON on February 9th from 1100-1300 about the current situation in Libya, exploring possibilities for both further escalation and political reconciliation, analysing future security challenges, and associated effects upon regional and European security in the near to medium term.
The discussion will be chaired by Jason Pack, President and Founder of Libya-Analysis and confirmed panellists include:
You may register and find out more details by clicking here.
All parties know that these talks are the last chance for a nonmilitary solution. If dialogue fails, the country will be de facto partitioned and the war over resources will resume with increased intensity. If that happens, Italy’s prime minister, Matteo Renzi, has threatened to push for a peacekeeping force.
If the international community wishes to give both sides the right incentives to reach a lasting deal, Western democracies must reconsider the logic behind their policies. The Nov. 6, 2014, ruling by the Tripoli-based Libyan Supreme Court provides the perfect pretext. It stated that the constitutional amendment giving rise to the House of Representatives was procedurally invalid, that the June 2014 election should never have happened, and that consequently the ensuing body cannot be vested with sovereignty.
Western nations have barely responded — meekly pointing out that they are studying the decision and that the court’s ruling was made under duress. But Islamist militia pressure on the court does not necessarily invalidate its carefully worded opinion, which states that neither the House, nor its opponents, nor the expired Parliament, are to be considered Libya’s sovereign authority.
Western governments are reluctant to acknowledge the implications of the Supreme Court ruling because many of them are secretly cheering for the Tobruk faction to either reconquer the country or dominate a national unity government. After all, the Tobruk government claims to be fighting Ansar al-Sharia in Benghazi — the very same group that killed the American ambassador, Christopher Stevens, in 2012.
I conclude that:
The door is still open for Western nations to formally withdraw their recognition of the House of Representatives in light of the Supreme Court decision. Because the Islamist-aligned “government” in Tripoli is fracturing by the day and possesses an even more tenuous claim to legitimacy than its rival, such a move would leave Libya without any sovereign authority.
Western nations should make clear that they will not recognize any sovereign authority if negotiations fail to produce a national unity government committed to completing the constitutional process. They should also take strong steps to prevent regional interference while simultaneously inviting both sides’ external patrons to the table.
I also received these comments from Fergal Hatchell in response to my NYT article. Fergal spent time working in Misrata last year with both businessmen and militiamen alike, all of whom he says were extremely decent to him.
It was my experience that the bulk of Misratans love their families and wanted only to live in peace. However, now they want vengeance, as you rightly state. I’m in constant contact with lots of friends there and I detect this in what they say.If the UN, or somebody, doesn’t do what you say i.e. stop recognising Tobruk and give more leverage to the Supreme Court’s decision, we are only prolonging the agony on the Libyan people. Hopefully, your vision of the future for Libya will be seen by someone in authority. It’s the only lasting solution.
As clashes between Libya’s two rival power centres intensify and Bernardino Leon’s mediation efforts look increasingly unlikely to succeed, concerns are growing among the international community that terror groups will take advantage of this chaos to strengthen their presence in Libya. This could have a devastating and destabilizing effect not only on the Sahel region but also on Europe. Read my contributions on this topic at Voice of America news, here and here.
Jason Pack, president of consultancy Libya-Analysis.Com, said Libya has become the major source of destabilization in the region.
“Libya is a huge exporter of terror, arms and illegal migrants to Europe,” Pack said. “It is a force for destabilization in the Sahel region in north Africa, in the southern Mediterranean and the Middle East.”
Egypt and the United Arab Emirates are supporting the Tobruk government militarily and have carried out airstrikes on Islamist militant positions, Pack said.
“This is an unwinnable conflict between the Tobruk government and the Tripoli government,” he said. “Fueling in more arms on one side or another is going to drive to the country more towards chaos.”
For any Arabic speakers, see also this clip of myself and Mohammed Buisier on the ‘Free Hour Show’ discussing the postponement of UN-mediated dialogue between Tobruk and Tripoli in light of the worsening political and security division between the forces in this conflict.
If you are Washington, DC based I suggest you attend “ Libya in 2015: The Scramble for Oil and Scenarios for Transition” an event at the Middle East Institute on 18th and Massachusetts that I will be speaking at along with Karim Mezran and David Mack. It on Wednesday January 7 at noon. You can RSVP by clicking here.
The extent of international support that the HoR will receive is currently in flux as the Libyan Supreme Court ruled that the seventh constitutional amendment issued in March 2014 was unconstitutional and hence so were the June elections that brought the HoR to power. The HoR has rejected the ruling claiming it was made at ‘gunpoint’ in Tripoli.” and “The Supreme Court ruling, while complicating matters, could represent a window of opportunity. In fact, the ruling could serve ‘to level the playing field’ between the two camps and make it easier for international actors to engage all parties as potentially legitimate political actors. According to Mohamed Eljarh, nonresident fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center, “The international community’s next step is key. Despite the UNSMIL statement that it is studying the Supreme Court’s ruling with its international partners,the EU ambassadors to Libya met with the Minister of Health in al-Thinni’s government in Tunis shortly after the ruling, suggesting it is business as usual with the Tobruk government”. For the international community to be able to play a positive role, they must show a greater inclination to engage with the Tripoli government, especially in the wake of the court’s decision.
Despite this new potential for division, all domestic and international actors should agree on the form of a ‘National Unity’ government incorporating all the major political factions (MLA, Muslim Brotherhood, HoR members, Liberal-leaning technocrats, Berbers/Amazigh, Federalists, key tribal leaders, Tebu, and Toureg). Such an agreement would bypass the need for each actor to definitively ‘take sides’ by choosing to recognize one governing body as opposed to the other.
A meeting between Tobruk-based PM Abdallah al-Thinni and Head of UNSMIL Bernardino Leon was targeted today by a car bomb in Shahat. No victims were reported so far, even though at least ten bystanders were wounded by the explosion. Most worryingly, the meeting was supposed to take place in the nearby city of Baida, but was moved to Shahat only briefly before its scheduled time due to security concerns. This seems to suggest not only a breach of security procedures in the areas supposedly under control of the internationally recognized institutions, but also the presence of well placed informants of antagonist groups in the security apparatus of the Tobruk-based administration. Both Thinni’s government and the UNSMIL have quickly issued statements reaffirming their commitment to seek a political and peaceful solution to the ongoing crisis despite this terrorist attack.
To make things worse, especially for the country’s strained finances, during the past week the oil and ports sectors were marred by a series of setbacks. First, the el-Sharara oil field was stormed by gunmen, rumored to be Tuareg fighters affiliated with Misratan forces, who forced the oilfield’s production to stop. Then, news emerged about the ongoing blockade at Hariga’s port, where a tanker has been prevented from loading oil for the past three days. The block is enforced by members of the local security forces in response to the missed payments of their salaries during the past few months. Lastly, the El Fil oilfield near Murzuq was also forced to stop its production on Sunday due to security concerns and failures in the provision of electricity.
It is worth noting that the El Sharara and El Fil oilfields account respectively for 200,000 bpd and 130,000 bpd, while Hariga’s port has an export capacity of up to 120,000 bpd. Therefore, even though reserves in refineries connected to blocked oilfields are still high and optimism permeates stakeholders statements, Libya’s oil output is poised to be hit by a strong decrease in the medium term if these issues are not quickly resolved.
All in all, the past week seems to have pushed Libya into an even deeper and more complex crisis than the one we had before. To get a broader overview of what the past few days have meant for the country and see how theye relate to the broader international arena, you can head over to The Telegraph and read this article from Richard Spencer and David Blair which contains my contribution:
Jason Pack, from the consulting group Libya Analysis, said that outside backing was driving both sides in Libya’s civil war into ideologically more hardline positions. Gen Haftar and his allies were “flaunting their anti-Islamist credentials” in order to win international support. Meanwhile “waving the banner of the [Muslim] Brotherhood or jihad has drawn recruits and Qatari money for the Misurata-led alliance,” wrote Mr Pack.
Experts believe that Qatar and the other outside players are making it even harder to resolve Libya’s conflict by negotiation. “This intervention by foreign countries – despite signing up to agreements saying they would not intervene – is unhelpful because it’s encouraging each side to believe there is a military solution to the problem,” said Sir Richard Dalton, a former British Ambassador to Libya.
By Jason Pack in The Time Literary Supplement (TLS), October 31, 2014, No. 5822 Review available to read by clicking here
After PM Thinni’s visit to Khartoum in the past few days, Sudan’s Foreign Minister Ali Karti has reportedly announced the devising of a Sudanese plan to host talks with all relevant Libyan actors and facilitate the reaching of a political deal. The ‘Sudanese initiative’ thus becomes the third publicly announced plan aiming to reach a political solution to the current Libyan crisis after those promoted by Algeria and the UNSMIL.
Both the Algerian and UNSMIL-brokered initiatives were expected to have meaningful sessions undertaken throughout the month of October, which has been instead characterized by a spike in violence in Benghazi and by the less bloody but equally crucial battle for the control of financial and oil-related institutional assets. In the past days, UNSMIL’s Head Bernardino Leon has been effectively working hard to bring forth the second round of UNSMIL-sponsored talks by meeting with a number of representatives from both camps, including with the highly controversial Mufti al-Ghariani. These talks, however, have been so far inconclusive and failed in getting opposing camps back to the negotiation tables.
On the other hand, with the benefit of (limited) hindsight it is worth appreciating the ongoing evolution that the Misratan and Tobruk-based camps are undergoing vis-à-vis external pressures. With regards to the Tobruk camp, it is worth looking at al-Thinni’s trip to Sudan in itself. Only a few weeks ago, Khartoum was accused by the Tobruk establishment of arming the Misratan camp and breeding Islamist militias throughout the country. Thinni’s trip, however, should not only be seen as an attempt to restore ties with this strategic partner, but also as a sign of the dissatisfaction of several HoR members with the government’s previous stance towards negotiations. In this sense, Thinni’s recent openings to rival militias, as well as the overtures made by his newly appointed Foreign Minister, show signs of mounting internal pressure from the HoR camp to dismiss the hardline stance adopted by the Prime Minister after his appointment in September and push for a political deal with moderate counterparts.
As for the Islamist camp, Borzou Daraghi reports for the Financial Times on the somewhat under-appreciated dynamic by which the broad alliance of Islamist-leaning forces, established by virtue of the overtly-aggressive rhetoric employed by Haftar which lumped them all together, is actually facilitating the tilt of more moderate forces towards the radical end of the spectrum:
During the past few months, as war has intensified between the Haftar camp and Libya Dawn, evidence has grown of strengthening ties between the extremist groups and the mainstream Islamist militias, even as their political allies continue talks with western diplomats and the UN aimed at ending the stand-off.
Mr Hassi recently acknowledged that his allies in Benghazi were fighting alongside Ansar al-Sharia against the forces of Mr Haftar and the Tubruq government. “Ansar al-Sharia are part of the brigades defending Benghazi against outlaw forces,” said Ali Ramadan Abu Zaqouk, one of about 30 members of the recently elected parliament close to Mr Hassi.
Nonetheless, although not necessarily encouraging per se, these shifts and tensions within camps tell us the story of relatively fluid blocks which are not yet crystallized in a Syrian-like scenario, where envisioning negotiation talks is now a wild fantasy. As Leon recently reiterated, however, the clock is ticking fast and Libyan actors must avoid the further deterioration of this situation beyond the point of no return. With three negotiation initiatives available on the market, it is now up to Libyan buyers to act more decisively to make them successful.
Finally, as analysts and observers focus on developments in the political arena and in the coastal areas, the southern Libyan mainland is being dangerously overlooked. Even though the events of In Amenas have not been repeat as of yet, it is best to assume that this is the result of a tactical choice by armed groups active across the Sahara, rather than the consequence of their eradication and defeat following from French intervention in the region. You can read my take on this in my contribution to this piece on The National:
Jason Pack, a Libya expert at Cambridge University, says militants pushed out from northern Mali have set up training camps in Libya’s south, adding that the region has become “much more” than a transit route for gunmen and smugglers.
“Drones have spotted training camps and Western intelligence officers have been to these places,” he said. “I don’t have precise figures. But I’m sure that there are Libyans among these jihadist groups.” Both Mr Pack and Mr Fazzani also drew links between extremists entrenched in Libya’s remote south and powerful Islamist militia in the north and east of the country.
Here is an overview article with Mattia Toaldo and I discussing the situation on the ground and what international actors need to do in Libya. It interestingly reveals that the Al-Thinni government is now getting support from Russia as they have become more biased and reliant on outside intervention from Egypt to project their power. You can read the text or listen to the radio podcast by using the link here. Also it appears that major international actors are meeting with members of the HoR and government in La Valletta, Malta. Here is some brief information about that here.
Chris Bray is the world’s only backgammon writer with a regular column appearing in a major print newspaper, the UK’s The Independent. On October 11th, he discussed the first inaugural UK Open which I won by winning 9 out of ten matches as well as 8 in a row against many of this island’s best players.
Bray took as his subject material, the fascinating 2nd game of the match which ended when I passed my opponent’s recube to 8 . You can read the article by clicking here. To my eyes even more fascinating were the initial cube to 2 and the my recube to 4 earlier in the game and most especially the cube to 8 that Martin Birkhahn my opponent did not spin. That cube could have come just the turn before the position dealt with in Bray’s article. I certainly would have taken and Martin would likely have won eight points right there and might even have gammoned me for 16 points and the whole match! The fascinating sequence of four cubing positions can be followed by clicking on the links embedded in the sentences above. It shows high pressure match backgammon at its most intellectually and psychologically challenging. Enjoy
As Haftar’s counter-offensive is still underway in Benghazi, the US, Italy, France, Germany and the UK issued on Saturday a new joint statement regarding latest developments in Libya. In it, Libya’s key Western partners vented their frustration for the lack of positive developments in the country and, most importantly, finally appeared to be taking a more critical stance towards the House of Representatives and the lack of inclusiveness and propensity to dialogue showed so far by its government.
We are also concerned by Khalifa Hifter’s attacks in Benghazi. We consider that Libya’s security challenges and the fight against terrorist organizations can only be sustainably addressed by regular armed forces under the control of a central authority which is accountable to a democratic and inclusive parliament.
(…) We agree that there is no military solution to the Libyan crisis. We are particularly dismayed that after meetings in Ghadames and Tripoli, parties have not respected calls for a ceasefire.
A more engaging approach towards the HoR and Thinni’s government from the international community could very well prove to be the event required to kick start a virtuous cycle inside Libya. Strong international pressure could in fact allow moderates from both camps to gain momentum to carry out a new set of negotiations within a more inclusive framework than the one employed for the Ghadames talks.
This could hold true especially in light of the widespread understanding that no coalition, let alone any single militia, has a shot at winning this military confrontation, even with substantial outside support. You can read my analysis of recent developments and the current outlook for Libya in a piece I wrote with Rhiannon Smith for Al-Jazeera:
None of Libya’s factions are strong enough to rule the whole country and it seems unlikely that any are deluded enough to think they can score a knockout blow, even if buttressed by outside help. (…) On October 15, Haftar renewed his offensive in Benghazi while Zintani forces in the west attempted to retake Kikla from Operation Dawn.
In recent months, both the Zintanis and Haftar’s forces have been overpowered by their Dawn opponents and this coordinated anti-Islamist offensive does not mean they suddenly believe they can beat the Islamists militarily, despite Haftar’s rhetoric. Rather, it is a move to strengthen their position before entering peace talks or before Haftar steps down leaving the way for more institutional actors. Indeed, during the offensive the Libyan Army announced it had adopted Haftar’s Operation Dignity campaign as its own, allowing the Tobruk administration to take credit for any military advances by Haftar’s campaign, while also making clear that the body is no more legitimate than its overtly militia-aligned adversary – Operation Dawn.
One group who has no stake in the success of a new round of negotiations and will surely try to derail the process is represented by the broad Salafi-Jihadist camp. As events in the past few months have made clear, even though Libya has not become a recipient of active foreign Jihadist fighters to the degree of Syria, groups like Ansar al-Shari’a and the Derna Shoura Council of Islamic Youth have greatly benefited from the widespread lawlessness marring the country since the fall of Qadhafi.
Furthermore, the tactics and antics recently employed by Libyan groups, starting with the campaigns of targeted killings up to the military strategies employed during the siege of Benina Airport, are a clear sign of the international connections and linkages between Libyan Salafi-Jihadist groups and the broad Jihadist movement active in the Middle East. You can hear my take on this as well as on the broader Libyan situation in my contribution to Radio France Internationale.
Egypt has doubled down in its involvement in the fight against Ansar Al Sharia, with officials disclosing that Egyptian warplanes have bombed Ansar Sharia positions in the eastern city of Benghazi. The operation, they said, was requested by the Thinni administration based in the eastern city of Tobruk. State officials estimated that the operation would last three to six months and involve the use of an Egyptian navy vessel as a command center off the Mediterranean coast near Tobruk. Renegade Libyan general Khalifa Haftar, who has vowed to wipe out the Islamist militias, is not leading the operation with Cairo dealing directly with a newly appointed Libyan chief of staff.
Egypt has made no secret of its support of the elected administration based in Tobruk, viewing the presence of hard-line extremists near its western border as a direct national security threat. It had made no secret of its willingness to offer military support to the Tobruk-based government, saying it would train and arm its forces. Egypt’s direct military involvement, however, strengthens the argument that Libya has become a proxy battleground for larger regional struggles, with Turkey and Qatar backing the Islamist militias while Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates support their opponents. It is interesting to see if the Anti-Islamist faction could turn its back on Haftar, if his last ditch attempt to regain control of Benghazi fails.
It is unclear as to Egypt’s involvement can accomplish. The strikes executed by Egypt this past summer, in conjunction with the United Arab Emirates, proved to be ineffective as the Islamists managed to take control of Tripoli. With that being said, Egypt’s decision to take action in Benghazi will surely increase the level of instability in east Libya. It will be interesting to see how oil markets react to this news as most of Libya’s oil resources lie in the eastern part of the country. To read an AP story in which I was quoted criticizing the short-sightedness of the Egyptian decision, click here.
Jason Pack, a Libya expert at Britain’s Cambridge University, also warned of the complexity of the Libyan conflict, saying Egyptian involvement could have unforeseen consequences.
“Egyptians are making the same mistakes in Libya that the West made in Iraq and Afghanistan,” Pack said. “They support one side over the other. But in Libya the divisions are not between Islamists and non-Islamists. The conflict is very complex.”
As discussed in the past few days, the crisis in Libya appears to be edging closer to a turning point, for the better or the worse. Inside the country, in an attempt to erase the losses registered over the summer, Zintani and Haftar’s forces are re-organising themselves and coordinating their activities with institutions in Tobruk. Meanwhile, the Misratan-led camp enjoyed a crucial victory in the past week when the Central Bank, in a display of the de facto power enjoyed by the al-Hassi government, transferred funds to commercial banks for paying three months of family allowances.
In this context, Libya’s international partners should jump on this rare moment of military impasse and political balance to promote dialogue and direct negotiations between all parties, if necessary exerting pressure on their clients within the country. So far, Libya’s factions have in fact demonstrated not only a scarce appetite for compromise, but also a general deficit of negotiating and bargaining skills. International assistance will thus have to play a vital role in ensuring that upcoming talks will yield better results than the meager ones obtained during the first rounds of Ghamades’ talks. You can read more on the crucial international dimension of upcoming negotiations in a piece written by me and Karim Mezran, here at The Hill:
UN Special Representative Bernardino Leon has insisted that another meeting, this time inclusive of the rival military leaders, be convened as soon as possible. Algeria has offered to host such a meeting. (…) Unanimous approval from the United States and European countries is expected over the coming days. But the U.S. must do more than passively issue its support; it must lean on its regional allies to make the conference a success.
Egypt and the United Arab Emirates have so far been intransigent in their support of the anti-Islamists. They have been bombing Islamist arsenals but have failed to tip the scales. Washington ‘leaked’ its allies indiscretions, but has yet to pressure them to stop. Now it must do so. It should start with covert diplomacy. But if that fails overt threats must be made. Egypt and the UAE are staunch American allies — some might say clients. Obama possessed the tools to bring them into line. He must not be hesitant to deploy them.
Finding a peaceful solution to the Libyan crisis will not be easy. The effort can succeed only with the wholehearted support of all the involved international actors — each pressuring their Libyan clients to buy into a negotiated – rather than an armed – resolution to the conflict. If handled correctly and inclusively, the Algerian-sponsored meetings could yield a decisive breakthrough.
Despite the lack of attention displayed by international media outlets, recent developments are leading Libya closer and closer to a breaking point. With French troops quietly setting up shop in northern Niger and the Ghadames talks displaying all the limits of engagement limited to internationally recognised institutions, Libya’s international partners are slowly coming to realise that much broader and sustained efforts are needed in order to achieve a lasting political solutions in the country.
In this sense, international patrons seem to be finally realising that their local proxies are unable to decisively tip the balance of the conflict and consequently momentum is gathering for new talks and dialogue initiatives to be held in the coming weeks. Most importantly, these initiatives will need to engage all of the country’s stakeholders and to move past simplistic and backfiring Islamist vs non-Islamist narratives. The clock is ticking for Libya and a political solution must be achieved before it is too late for its people, institutions and instustries.
You can read here my latest article for the Middle East Eye which focuses on these issues and prospects analysing them in greater details:
As the situation deteriorates with massive suicide bombing operations rocking Benghazi, Libya is increasingly becoming a vacuum for foreign meddling, encouraging the calcification of the country’s many factions into two loose and unnatural blocs as they attempt to align themselves with outside paymasters. In reality, the current struggle between the anti-Islamist and Islamist umbrella groupings for control of Tripolitania and Benghazi is nested inside a web of ongoing local conflicts. Many of the main actors (the federalists, Zintan, Haftar, Misrata, Ansar Sharia) are simply franchised players who could step away from these political blocs to go it alone at any time. Attempts to present the conflict in Libya as a polarised Clauzewitzian war between two sides distorts the reality.
(…) Fortunately over the last days, perspectives seem to be changing and momentum is gathering behind a new Algerian initiative for a UN-supported mediation effort that actually brings all the stakeholders together and refuses to see the conflict as a binary struggle between two polarised opponents.
(…) A new meeting in Spain or Algeria in late October could hold the key to keeping Libya united. Giving political promises to Libya’s key stakeholders is essential to incentivising a political rather than a military solution to the impasse. Realities on the ground are shifting rapidly, if we wait for the Central Bank to be looted or Libya’s oil ports to be blockaded it will then be too late to roll the clock back.
Backgammon is a game with three thousand year old antecedents. This doesn’t mean today’s backgammon enthusiasts need to accept the current flaws in the organization of its most prestigious tournament simply because this is the way things have been done for decades already. In this article in the September/October edition of Prime Time Backgammon entitled “The Tsunami hits Monte Carlo, the Hobgoblin of Continuity, and Ideas to Reinvigorate the World Championship”, I comment on the Japanese domination of World Class Backgammon, and explain the new double elimination format of Monte Carlo while delving into some of the positives and negatives of the format as well as what can be done to change it to make the World Championships more fun, more fair, more respectable and more lucrative. My goal is to bring more interest into backgammon and to grow the game that we all love. Click here to read my Manifesto of what should be done to reinvigorate the World Championships of Backgammon.
This article in the September/October edition of Prime Time Backgammon highlights the amazing performance of Akiko in winning the 2014 World Championships. It also focuses on some of the mathematical and psychological aspects of three-roll endings in Backgammon. It highlights Akiko’s aggressive style as well as the twists and turns of outrageous fortune by which she arrived at the pinnacle of her sport. Read more here.
While in the past few days Eid celebrations led to a slower pace of developments throughout Libya and the broader Middle Eastern region, today in London the Libyan Investment Agency (LIA) began its High Court $1bn action against Goldman Sachs. The case, as previously reported, aims to make the US investment bank accountable for the vast financial losses in which the LIA incurred following a series of high-risk derivative investments. A similar case for $1.5bn is expected to be brought forward by the LIA against the French Societe Generale in the next future.
You can read my take on this issue in a contribution to Kit Chellel’s article for Bloomberg on the subject:
“At present the LIA are doing whatever is going to play well with the domestic Libyan public not necessarily what will win them the lawsuit,” said Jason Pack, a Cambridge University academic specializing in Libyan history and founder of the consulting firm Libya-Analysis.com.
“It’s very popular in Libya to say that Western companies took advantage of Libya in the Qaddafi period and were making money hand-over-fist,” Pack said in an e-mail. In fact, LIA employees were “as sophisticated as most Western finance professionals and had access to world-class advisers.” They “were aware how the game is played,” he said.
This article in the May/June edition of Prime Time Backgammon explores the psychological dimensions of backgammon match play by analyzing the cube strategies of Lars Trabolt and Slava Pryadkin in their 2013 World Championship finals match. My goal was to examine those situations in which the world’s best players deliberately vary from the computer-recommended moves. I observed that Lars Trabolt’s “non-bot plays” (I prefer not to call them errors) earlier in the match (before he fell behind significantly) were small issues of deliberate cautiousness (i.e. avoiding leaving lots of blots, not cubing/recubing when he technically should have, and dropping too early). These sub-optimal decisions could be thought of as having been forced by Praydkin’s aggressive tactics and cube play — which this article explores in more detail. Studying the match in its entirety, I find that Slava’s doubling strategy was consistent and global: it reveals a clear plan calculated to maximize his chances against a technically superior opponent who was well versed in modern theory.
Generally, the advice to weaker players playing long matches against the best players in the world is to cube early in gammonish positions, while also taking deeply/aggressively in high-volatility situations. Study of Slava’s play provides a tutorial in this strategy. As such this article is a must read for Open-level backgammon players who wish to beat the world’s best. This installment looks in particular at Slava’s recube to 4 trailing 20-away, 19-away. By cubing a smidge early, Slava forced Lars to take but gave himself plenty of opportunities to score a gammon and split the match right open. This recube should be understood as an example of the money strategy of ‘doubling the opponent in’ rather than ‘out’. Slava executed this flawless and the dice favoured him allowing him to pull ahead 13-6. To read the full article click here.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.”
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.
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.”
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.”
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”.
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.
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.
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”.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
Click here for details and instructions on how to attend: http://www.libya-analysis.com/media/Sept-10-Caabu-Panel-Annoucement.pdf
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.
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.”
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).
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, by Ethan Chorin. London: Saqi Books, 2012.
By Jason Pack in Middle East Journal Vol. 67, No. 2, Spring 2013
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.”
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.
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):
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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’.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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 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
Building on my policy monograph, I am the editor of a Forthcoming book with Palgrave Macmillan: The 2011 Libyan Uprisings and the Struggle for the Post-Qadhafi Future. Its release date is June 2013. It is a work of contemporary history. As such, it analyzes the Libyan uprisings thematically and analytically rather than chronologically.
In 2011, spontaneous popular uprisings overthrew Muammar Qadhafi — one of the world’s most infamous tyrants. Paradoxically, Qadhafi’s own efforts to “reform” Libya’s economy and rebuild his country’s international relationships since 2003 set the stage for his downfall. Despite the enabling effects of twenty-first century communications technology and the aid of NATO jets, the 2011 Libyan uprisings were largely organized along traditional regional, local, and tribal cleavages. The future of post-Qadhafi Libya will be determined by a struggle between “center” and “periphery.” This contest has deep resonances in Libyan history. A work of contemporary political history, this volume analyzes the 2011 Libyan uprisings thematically — focusing on the role of economics, outside actors, tribes, ethnic minorities, and Islamists. This volume’s contributors include the British Ambassador to Libya during the uprisings, the President of the American University of Cairo, a former commander of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, and the world’s leading academic and security specialists in Libyan affairs.
Table of Contents:
Introduction: The Center and the Periphery by Jason Pack
Chapter 1: Civil War and Civil Activism by George Joffé
Chapter 2: Dynamics of Continuity and Change by Youssef Mohammed Sawani
Chapter 3: The Post-Qadhafi Economy by Ronald Bruce St John
Chapter 4: The Role of Outside Actors by Ambassador Richard Northern and Jason Pack
Chapter 5: The Rise of Tribal Politics by Wolfram Lacher
Chapter 6: The South by Henry Smith
Chapter 7: Islamists by Noman Benotman, Jason Pack, and James Brandon
Afterword: Libya—A Journey From Extraordinary to Ordinary by Lisa Anderson
In Transforming Libya’s Ungoverned Spaces through Development , I use the assassination attempt on the Libyan PM in Sebha as a jumping off point to explain how Libya can never achieve security unless the economy is kick started. The article focuses on the Southwestern province of Fezzan and how critical it remains to larger developments in the Sahel region and Libya’s coastal regions.
As political posturing surrounding the murder of US Ambassador Christopher Stevens four months ago continues to dominate news about Libya in the Western media, Libya has silently reached the crossroads. Vast swathes of the country are on the verge of becoming ungovernable, while the new democratically elected Libyan authorities are struggling to gain traction in the hinterlands and to prevent local powerbrokers from enshrining their own fiefdoms.
As the focus of the current Ali Zidan government remains squarely on security – narrowly defined and implemented via old-fashioned mechanisms such as imposing military governance and co-opting militiamen with handouts – national infrastructure planning and getting the cranes moving has lagged. Yet, to achieve security, the economy must create wealth, jobs and a sense of inclusion for all of Libya’s regions.
The Fezzan urgently needs to be integrated into the rest of Libya via infrastructural investment, job creation, demobilisation of militias and strategic partnerships with outside universities and corporations. The current crisis represents a great opportunity. One can only hope Libya does not become yet another example in a long list of wasted opportunities and wasted revolutions.
Well here is a first: The first time a Congressman has gone out of his way to respond to an article of mine. In this instance, Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) has totally missed the point of my article and accused me of misquoting him (although I did not) while totally dodging the substantive point about how his remarks inhibit understanding and cooperation between the US and Libya. Moreover, Brad Sherman misses that if the US is concerned about Libya (or Cyrenaica in particular) becoming an ungoverned space where terrorists can operate than we have to diplomatically engage in Libya and help with capacity building and the forging of institutions like a national army and not take the approach of Sherman, that is to simply lambast the Libyans and claim that their government contains “evil jihadist elements” and should be doing more to fight terror. It is high time for Rep. Sherman to grow up and see the world in all its nuances and to ignore the simplistic narrative of his constituents.
Jason Pack’s op-ed on January 4, 2013, entitled “Another missed opportunity on Benghazi,” misstated my remarks at a hearing in the House Foreign Affairs Committee on December 20, 2012. Mr. Pack quoted me as referring to the Libyan government as “a coalition… which includes some of the most evil jihadist elements imaginable.” I actually stated that, “The fact is, this is a government that is a coalition that includes, or at least countenances, some of the most evil jihadist elements imaginable.”
Here is my latest on what US politicians and statesmen should actually be saying and thinking about Libya rather than engaging in the blame game over the Ambassador’s death. I warn against the dangers of the US securitizing its bilateral relationship with Libya and instead call for Congress to double down on capacity building assistance and committing itself to helping the Libyan government consolidate its authority.
Yet again the Obama Administration has missed an opportunity to turn a crisis into a sincere reassessment of the unsustainability of America’s current policies. And I’m not talking about the president’s compromises to avert the fiscal cliff, but rather his December 30 statement about the Benghazi attack.Given the state of (mis-)understanding of Libyan realities on the Hill, it is unsurprising that Congress seeks to treat the new Libyan government as untrustworthy partners and therefore seek to securitize our bilateral relationship. This is exactly the wrong policy. It certainly would not have prevented fifty jihadists armed with rocket launchers from incinerating the Special Mission in Benghazi.
After reflection on the facts, the incoming secretary of State should reject this Beltway consensus and instead empower our diplomats to open training facilities, hospitals, and American cultural centers – as Ambassador Stevens was in Benghazi to do.Therefore, rather than engaging in the blame game and securitizing our relationship with Libya, Congress should unveil a package of targeted capacity-building assistance. We share many objectives and values with the Libyan people and their current leadership. Helping them build their country and construct functional institutions is a far better investment for our scarce resources than any state-of-the-art fortified compound.
My latest opinion piece for AJE asks the question, “Finally an elected Libyan cabinet, but is it fearsome enough to govern?” When all the ministers are finally sworn in after delays, more delays, further delays, investigations, and possible replacements, I hope that we have the chance to answer in the affirmative.
After yet another last minute delay, it now appears that on November 14th, Libya’s first elected cabinet will finally be sworn into office, possibly without six key ministers who are under investigation. They will replace the interim non-elected one which should have been replaced nearly two months ago and has been governing as a lame-duck since July…After this wearying wait, the prevailing wisdom is that the new cabinet will combine technocratic competence with the full legitimacy of being selected by an electoral body, and Libya’s most intractable problems can finally be tackled head on….Until now, none of the leaders of post-Gaddafi Libya (elected or unelected, military or civilian) have shown the ability to put aside their factional or personal interests and take the bold steps the country needs. Will Ali Zidan’s government be able to provide that? The jury is still out.
It is a positive sign that Ali Zidan has refused to give in to militia demands to reshuffle his cabinet immediately but instead will wait for the committee to make its recommendations, showing that in a few instances, the legitimate central government can stand up to the self-appointed armed few.
We assert [that] the GNC cannot blame the security situation for its inability to create jobs and rebuild Libya. It must use its control over the oil spigots and purse strings in a clever manner to lead the country forward into a brighter future.
The GNC and the new government have the elected mandate to lead. They can only do so successfully if they encourage citizens to exercise their right to political participation without allowing a minority to resort to making demands at the point of a gun and subverting Libya’s transition to democracy in the process.
An Analysis by the Tripoli Post of 2012 Mo Ibrahim Index of African Governance: Governance in Libya (in Gaddafi Era) ‘Imbalanced’
Jason Pack, president of Libya-Analysis.com, was sceptical of some of the findings of the Index and commented that the data that make up the health score (maternal and child mortality, some basic immunisations, treatment of some diseases) only look at a certain basic standard of health, and gives Libya a surprisingly high health score of 98/100. By most accounts, Libya requires expansion to existing healthcare facilities, the building of new facilities, and improvements in the quality of healthcare. When asked by The Tripoli Post what the Libyan government could do to achieve a better rating next year Mr Pack replied that Libya has much potential, provided that security is achieved; other reform areas hinge upon this key principle.
“Libya still needs to make improvements in disarming and demobilising the brigades to build effective government security forces that are able to uphold and protect the rule of law. The current government needs to work to prevent the kind of corruption that flourished in the Gaddafi era and continued into the NTC period in certain instances in the absence of accountability. They should also work on improving public management. Once safety and the rule of law are achieved, then major improvements in sustainable economic opportunity through infrastructure improvements and a better business environment are possible.”
With Libya increasingly back in the news since the tragic 9/11 attack in Benghazi and the prominence given to this issue in the Presidential Debates (it was the first question in the foreign policy debate), Al-Jazeera’s 23/10/12 Inside Story tackles the subject of Libyan internal politics one year after the country was liberated from Col. Qadhafi. The show’s three guests were: Abdelmonem Alyasser, a Libyan MP and a member of the National Security Committee; Jason Pack, a researcher of Libyan history at St Catharine’s College, Cambridge University; and Faraj Najem, a Libyan historian and author of Tribes, Islam and the State of Libya.
The show is 24 minutes long and there are no commercials. It starts with a 4 minute intro to the topic and then there are three guests of which I was one. I have three extended (i.e. over a minute long) segments where I speak. So if you want to cut just to those bits: They begin at 4:40, 10:05, and 17:10. You can watch all my segments in less than 5 minutes.
Year After Gaddafi Death Libya Confronts Successes and Failures a succinct summary of the main issues from Leela Jacinto of France 24.
In the long term though, the solution lies in disbanding the militias and putting together a professional national army. But that, notes Pack, is easier said than done, given the political hurdles facing the nation. In the three months since the national assembly election, two new prime ministers have been appointed, neither of which has been able to present a cabinet list that satisfied legislators. “Even if the politicians want to crack down on the militias, they can’t do that because they need a cabinet and bureaucracy first,” explained Pack.
In a country that moved from colonialism to monarchy to dictatorship, democracy is a new phenomenon, and Libyans are slowly learning the ropes – some would say too slowly. “Some Libyan intellectuals understand that it’s a win-together or lose-together situation,” said Pack. “But the politicians aren’t acting that way.”
My latest op-ed on Libya’s cabinet crisis in the Guardian’s Comment is Free, co-authored with my new Director of Research Haley Cook: Democracy is Messy – Especially in Libya.
After Abushagur’s list was voted down, he was allowed to present an emergency replacement cabinet list. This was swiftly defeated – triggering a successful no confidence vote against him and reopening the process of selecting a new prime minister.
Libya’s already weak central authorities will now be left without a proper government for another few weeks, at exactly the time that they need to crack down on the militias and Islamist radicals who attacked the American mission in Benghazi, killing ambassador Chris Stevens.
It is rumoured that the NFA and the Justice and Construction party are in back-channel negotiations. If an agreement were to materialise – which would have been unthinkable a month ago – it could produce a solid unity government able to take the necessary bold decisions to crack down on the militias and renew major public infrastructure projects.
It must also be remembered that despite the cabinet crisis there is not a complete power vacuum in Libya. The democratically elected Congress is still in place and despite the terrorist attack on the American mission, Libyans have spontaneously united to denounce violence and rebuild their nation.
It is far too early to predict the demise of the Libyan democratic experiment.
Libya Awaits Announcement of New Government by AFP explains Abu Shagur’s miscalculation in proposing a cabinet dominated by his allies in the Al-Kib government.
Analysts said Abu Shagur faces an uphill task. “The first challenge is security,” said Jason Pack, a Libyan history researcher at Cambridge University and president of online repository libya-analysis.com. “The central government does not yet have sufficient military capacity to provide adequate security for its own parliamentary offices, let alone for the complex process of disarming and demobilising the hundreds of militias,” he added.
Carlo Binda, director of the US-based National Democratic Institute’s Libya branch, said Abu Shagur to his credit had “shown sensitivity and political sophistication by appointing deputies and ministers from each of the regions”. Binda downplayed the Zawiyah protest’s significance, saying it reflected one “local grievance”, and stressed that regional and tribal politics were not the main reason the GNC rejected his proposed Cabinet.
“It was rejected for a collection of reasons… You can’t possibly satisfy each and every interest when trying to compose a Cabinet. Then you would have a Cabinet of six million people,” Binda said. Pack agreed: “Anyone in Abu Shagur’s position would be hard-pressed to come up with a list that could please everybody.”
In late breaking developments, the anti-militia protests and occupations of militia bases have expanded their scope. Some pro-GNC militias bases were also occupied. AFP reports these happenings in 11 Killed As Libyans Depose Benghazi Militias — Ansar Al Sharia members flee as protesters storm and torch its compound which quotes Jason Pack framing the big picture.
Libyan protesters ousted a jihadist militia from its headquarters and seized a raft of other paramilitary bases in second city Benghazi early Saturday in heavy clashes that left 11 people dead.
But to the alarm of senior officials, the demonstrators also stormed a raft of other paramilitary bases in the city controlled by former rebel units that had declared their loyalty to the central government.
“We came peacefully and asked them with our loudspeakers to disarm,” said protester Nasser Saad, stressing that armed reinforcements only came after the demonstration was attacked. But one of the brigade’s fighters, Ahmad Faraj, insisted that the goal of the attackers was not the suppression of militias but the seizure of the base’s armoury. “They were coming to take our weapons,” he said. “We are part of the ministry of defence, we fought in the revolution, we can’t just walk away and hand over heavy weapons to a bunch of drunks and criminals.” National assembly chief Mohammad Al Megaref, who had initially welcomed the Benghazi protest, urged the demonstrators to withdraw from the bases of loyal brigades. He named Raf Allah Al Sahati and February 17 Brigades, and Shield Libya. Libya specialist Jason Pack said that the scale of the anti-militia protest in Benghazi showed the “depth and breadth of support for the United States that prevails in Libya in the wake of the attack on Ambassador Chris Stevens.”
“Now with the people calling for a hardline anti-militia policy, Libyan leaders may find themselves steeled with the requisite courage to purge these groups from the Libyan body politic,” Pack said.
Jason Pack with Andrea Khalil in The Wall St. Journal on how and why the majority of Libyans support the USA not only in an abstract sense but wish for increased American engagement in their country. It may be behind a firewall. So I’m presenting many of the sections here.
September 11th now signifies a national tragedy not only for the United States but also for Libya. The killing of Ambassador Christopher Stevens in Benghazi during LAST Tuesday’s attack on the U.S. MISSION has upset the delicate political transition from dictatorship to democracy that was unfolding here in Libya. It also has obscured parliament’s prudent selection LAST Wednesday evening of Mustafa Abushagour—a moderate Islamist and respected technocrat—as prime minister. Yet spontaneous street demonstrations THROUGHOUT THE WEEK denouncing the attack AND SEEKING TO PRESSURE THE GOVERNMENT TO ACT AGAINST ITS PERPETRATORS suggest that Libyans are determined to build an inclusive society, free from fear.
According to a recent Gallup poll, Libyans hold a more favorable attitude toward Americans than even Canadians. This is in STARK contrast to the situation in Egypt, Yemen, and elsewhere, where the storming of the American embassies seems to have been a grass-roots undertaking.
As days have passed since the attack on the consulate, Libyans’ popular condemnation has only amplified. A meeting took place on Thursday evening at the Shbelia Hotel in order to coordinate CITIZEN action against the militants. The people who attended also wanted to goad the government into reining in the myriad militias that fought the struggle against Gadhafi and have since deepened their hold on local politics since his ouster. According to one activist, “There is no government response—because there is no government.”
On Thursday, Prime Minister Abushagour issued a strong statement condemning the attack, expressing solidarity with the U.S., and promising to bring the criminals to justice. THIS IMMEDIATELY PROMPTED TALK of an upcoming government offensive to shut down all the roads in eastern Libya and sweep for militants. FRIDAY, BENGHAZI’S BENINA AIRPORT WAS CLOSED TO LIMIT ESCAPE OF SUSPECTS. Despite such HIGH HOPES and at least SIXTEEN arrests, experts doubt that the Libyan authorities have the firepower or organizational know-how to tackle the nonstate actors in their midst. Moreover, this attack has further added to the perception that the Libyan government does not effectively control the territory it supposedly governs. BY SATURDAY AS THE GRAND SWEEP HAD NOT MATERIALIZED, PUBLIC PRESSURE MOUNTED FOR BOLDER GOVERNMENT ACTION.
CIVIL SOCIETY AND YOUTH ACTIVISTS PLANNED A ” FRIDAY TO RESCUE BENGHAZI” DEMONSTRATION. TRIBAL SHEIKHS FROM ACROSS EASTERN LIBYA MEET TO COORDINATE THEIR LOCAL EFFORTS TO COLLECT WEAPONS AND PRESSURE THE GOVERNMENT TO DISSOLVE MILITIAS. ALL WHO SPOKE AT THE MEETING READ STATEMENTS CONDEMING THE VILE KILLING OF THE US AMBASSADOR.
GIVEN THE PROFOUND WEAKNESS OF THE LIBYAN GOVERNMENT, IT CANNOT FILL THE SECURITY VACUUM ALL BY ITSELF. How, then, could there be a silver lining to this tragedy for both the U.S. and Libya? IT could prompt LIBYANS TO DECISIVELY UNITE AGAINST THE EXTREMISTS AND NONSTATE ACTORS IN THEIR MIDST WHILE ALSO GOADING the U.S. to INCREASE capacity-building assistance to the Libyan people—helping them construct the requisite institutions for a democratic and prosperous future. In the words of Sen. John McCain, “Libya is wealthy. It does not need our money . . . It needs our technical expertise.” Based on our observation, popular sentiment throughout Libya longs for such increased international cooperation.
My Latest in FP– Honoring Chris Stevens : How the U.S. ambassador killed this week in Benghazi would have handled Libya.
I met Ambassador Stevens on a handful of occasions. He was a casual and approachable man who boasted an impressive personal touch. His killing is not only a tragedy for both Americans and Libyans — it is an attack on the engagement efforts between the two countries that he symbolized. It is no small irony that Stevens was killed as he was in Benghazi to open up an American cultural center. The likely long-term effect of this tragedy is that the U.S. mission in Benghazi will be shut down indefinitely, and plans to open a full consulate will be shelved. This is terrible news for the new Libya: Benghazi needs the mission, the cultural center, and the consulate to help overcome its decades of isolation under Muammar al-Qaddafi.
Amid a week filled with tragedy, Libya took another step forward: On Sept. 12, the GNC convened to elect Mustafa Abu Shagur as prime minister, making him the first truly elected leader in the country’s history. So joyous was this news that many Libyans resumed their habit of firing celebratory rounds into the night sky. Abu Shagur knows that the security situation must be his top priority, but building the fledgling Libyan security services will require active Western, and especially American, involvement. The goal of the consulate attack was to scare away just such assistance. To prevail over the terrorists, the United States must remain involved in Libyan capacity building. As I wrote back in February, there is much more the United States can do to help its Libyan allies, including serving as a matchmaker between Libyan officials and the American private sector and engaging with moderate Islamists and mainstream militias.
Before the attack, there was a sense that Libya’s sporadic violence consisted of regional or tribal conflicts that did not pose much direct threat to foreigners. It will be extremely dangerous if this healthy perception shifts. If America cuts and runs or lashes out in revenge, security and stability will deteriorate, foreign direct investment will dry up, and the Libyan economy outside of the oil sector will stagnate. That will provide fertile soil for the worst elements inside Libya to regain a foothold.
Carefully crafted American engagement can help restore positive momentum to the political transition currently underway in Libya. In the wake of the savage killing of its ambassador, it’s time for the United States to double down.
The Bomb Attacks in Libya: Are Gaddafi Loyalists Behind Them?: Or are the jihadists? The incidents pile up even as the newly elected government has not quite established a security regimen — An article by Time Magazine’s Steven Sotloff which quotes me.
“We know that Gaddafi loyalists are behind these bombings” says a source close to the country’s newly elected president Muhammad Muqaryef. In the last few months, the security services have intensified the campaign against the late dictator’s loyalists in strongholds such as Bani Walid and Tarhuna. In a recent interview with TIME, Prime Minister Abdel Rahmin al-Kib noted that a bomb making cell in Tripoli was captured, yielding much information about how the loosely organized cells operate.
Some however believe jihadists are behind the bombings because many of the attacks have singled out Western targets such as the U.S. consulate in Benghazi and convoys carrying the British ambassador and the United Nations special envoy to Libya.
Some Libyan analysts believe the government has found a convenient scapegoat in the disgruntled loyalists. “It’s easy for the government to blame Gaddafi supporters for the violence,” explains Anas El Gomati, Director of Governance and Security at Al Sadeq Institute. But the real culprit is government negligence he says. “It’s a case of violence in a vacuum.”
The National Transitional Council (NTC), the interim government that overthrew Qaddafi received low marks for its handling of the post revolution security situation. It failed to stabilize the country and demobilize the more than 100,000 fighters who toppled the former regime. “The problem is that Libya is awash in groups with grievances against the central authorities combined with easy access to guns, money, and bomb making materials,” notes Jason Pack, a researcher of Libyan history at Cambridge University.
In an extensive French-language interview with France 24, I explain how it is unlikely that Qadhafi loyalists actually conducted the August 19th attacks in Tripoli, yet it is quite likely that the GNC’s stating this helps them rally the Libyan people against the attackers.
Selon les autorités libyennes, un groupe resté fidèle à Mouammar Kadhafi serait lié aux attentats meurtriers survenus dimanche à Tripoli. Une assertion difficilement vérifiable, selon Jason Pack, chercheur à Cambridge.
Comme lors des précédentes attaques, les autorités libyennes ont presque immédiatement accusé des partisans de l’ancien régime de Mouammar Kadhafi. “Nous sommes sûrs que c’est le travail des forces fidèles à Kadhafi”, déclarait tout ainsi le vice-ministre libyen de l’Intérieur, Omar al-Khadhraoui, sur l’antenne de FRANCE 24.
Une assertion “difficile à prouver”, selon Jason Pack, chercheur en histoire du Moyen-Orient à l’université de Cambridge et président de Libya-Analysis.com. “C’est le motif que le gouvernement libyen donne quand il y a une attaque. C’est une façon de rassembler l’opinion contre les assaillants, quelles que soient leurs motivations”, ajoute-t-il.
Toutefois, Jason Pack reste optimiste : “Ce ne sont pas une ou deux attaques qui vont interrompre le processus en cours en Libye”.
Al-Keib expresses his views to Time Magazine in What Lies Ahead for Libya: An interview with the Prime Minister.
Keib suggested the best way to defuse the burgeoning crisis was to increase decentralization by empowering municipalities and provinces, and moving a number of government companies to marginalized regions. “People must feel that they are a part of the whole process and they are getting their share,” he explained.
His decentralized vision sounds much like the one Gaddafi tried and failed to implement in the late 1980s. In the wake of a 1986 American bombing, a vulnerable Gaddafi sought to spread out his government, bent on preventing a repeat of the devastating attack that paralyzed the capital. But after a few years, he returned the ministries back to Tripoli, when he realized that little work could be accomplished with institutions spread out over the vast desert country. Some analysts believe instituting a decentralized model today would undermine the fragile Libyan state rather than strengthening peripheral support. “It would weaken the central government, making it difficult to improve security and secure the nation’s borders,” explained Jason Pack, a researcher of Libyan History at Cambridge University.
Keib does not discount his country’s problems but he remains optimistic. “Libya is going through a lot of very difficult times now,” he said as he headed out for his last meal before sunrise. “But overall it’s OK. I guarantee you it will be much better in the near future.”
I joined Michel Cousins Editor-in-Chief of the Libya Herald, Professor Saad Jawad of the LSE, and Ahmad Gibreel of the Libyan Mission in London on August 8th for a panel discussion on Voice of Russia Radio to discuss the handover of power to the elected government in Libya. Our wide ranging discussion touched upon the struggle between the Centre and the Periphery, the role of Sharia in the new Libya State, issues of federalism/decentralization, and the actions of the newly elected General National Council. This panel is accessible to the lay listener but contains enough details to be of interest to specialists.
The Problem with Removing Dictators a hard hitting op-ed in Al-Jazeera English about the complexities of outside intervention in Syria. I make the argument that regional rather than outside intervention is key to resolving the crisis, while explaining in detail how outside intervention inherently short circuits organic nation building processes.
Instead of interpreting Annan’s departure as a definitive failure of diplomacy, the international community should take seriously his reasons for stepping down and heed his warnings both about Syria’s internal fragmentation and the risks of a divided international community turning Syria’s civil conflict into a multi-state proxy war. As he pointed out, much more important than removing Bashar al-Assad is what happens afterwards. It is for these reasons that a consensus-based regional solution represents the best way forward, rather than one imposed from afar.
Before embarking on a new course that might culminate in military intervention, Western leaders should review their “success rate” at militarily removing dictators. Previous instances of regime decapitation not only removed the dictator but also destroyed the mechanisms that had been holding the state together, which led to greater instability and suffering. The main reason for this is that, since the European empires have been decolonised, the world’s most brutal tyrants have emerged in the most volatile parts of the former colonial empires. These dictators and their supporters forcibly held together states that are not always considered “nations”.
In the absence of a “strongman”, such states require organic processes to formulate new identities and viable, inclusive institutions. Outside intervention short-circuits this. Although direct outside intervention can create space for political transformation, it also runs the risk of short-circuiting that very process by fashioning and supporting power centres willing to collaborate at the expense of home-grown actors.
The real question after June’s Houla Massacre, July’s withdrawal of the UN peacekeeping mission, and Annan’s resignation in early August is not how to get Russia and China to support a Western-led UN Security Council Resolution on international intervention in Syria.
Instead, it is how the Syrian people might construct their own national institutions, national identity, and sufficient unity to tackle the trials they will face after Assad. Getting the regional powers that are funding and arming the Syrian opposition – reportedly primarily Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Turkey – to coordinate their efforts and achieve some degree of unanimity with more hesitant regional players such as Lebanon and Iraq would help not only resolve the crisis but could help build unity inside the Syrian opposition. Such a development would have the makings of the regional solution that we advocated for months ago in the Christian Science Monitor.
Here is some special content for any German Speakers that may frequent Libya-Analysis.com. It is an article length interview for the Austrian Newspaper Der Standard about the larger context of the Libyan Elections and my views and analysis of them.
derStandard.at: Die “New York Times” sieht in dem vermutlichen Wahlsieg der liberalen Allianz von Mahmud Jibril in Libyen einen Fels in der islamistischen Brandung, die seit dem Arabischen Frühling konservative Kräfte in die neuerdings demokratisch gewählten Parlamente der Region spült. Richtig?
Jason Pack: Wer das so sieht, der missversteht das libysche Wahlsystem, das nur zum Teil auf Parteilisten beruht, zum Großteil aber auf der lokalen Kandidatur von Einzelpersonen. Das ist ein großer Unterschied zu den Wahlen in Tunesien und Ägypten. Man kann theoretisch auf Parteiebene gewinnen und trotzdem keine Mehrheit im Parlament haben, weil die Abgeordneten, die in den Bezirken gewählt wurden, anders stimmen.
derStandard.at: Ist die Gefahr, dass Libyen in zwei oder mehr Teile zerfällt, gebannt?
Pack: Der Diskurs in Libyen dreht sich weit stärker um Föderalismus als um regionale Unabhängigkeit. Auch die Föderalisten in der Cyrenaika, die am Tag vor der Wahl einen Hubschrauber abgeschossen haben, streben nicht wirklich einen eigenen Staat an, sondern wollen eine gleichgestellte Vertretung mit Tripolitanien und eine sehr dezentralisierte Regierungsform. Sie fordern zum Beispiel gleich viele Sitze im Parlament, obwohl die Cyrenaika nicht einmal ein Drittel der Bevölkerung hat. Ich glaube nicht, dass eine Aufspaltung Libyens machbar ist, es funktioniert schon nicht in puncto Infrastruktur.
My latest on Al Jazeera English Opinion Libya’s Election: Uncertainty before and after. On the eve of Libya’s historic election, much is at stake but little is certain.
The interim government has often pointed to its lack of an elected mandate as a reason for making no decisions that would have a key long-term impact. Only the July 7 election can remove this excuse for political (and, by extension, economic) paralysis.
Should elections be further pushed back until after the month of Ramadan (which begins on July 20), this window of opportunity for post-war political progress, once missed, may never re-appear. First of all, the election itself, even though based on an arbitrary draft constitutional declaration written by the NTC, would maintain faith in the political process. More importantly, in the continued absence of a legitimate central decision-making authority to disarm and demobilise Libya’s remaining armed brigades, there would be a greater potential for isolated incidents of violence to spiral into a state of chaos and stagnation.
While the General National Congress election will bring new top level leadership, it will not itself change the balance of power between the central government and local militia. Regional bickering and wrangling will, no doubt, continue, but will those dramas play out with the most powerful armed groups – those of Zintan and Misrata – again using coercive means to secure important posts in the new government and potentially ruin it? Will enough of the framers of Libya’s new constitution favour federalism to derail the forging of national unity? Will they choose a presidential or parliamentary system? Neither the most informed outside pundits nor the Libyans themselves can state with any degree of confidence what the future may hold. Libya, like the other Arab Spring countries, remains a work in progress whose fortunes cannot be foretold, and will likely be fundamentally affected by honest mistakes, fortunate and unfortunate circumstances and coincidences – and disappointing false starts.
My latest on Al-Jazeera English Opinion ICC Captive Is Pawn in Struggle between Militias and the NTC: Four ICC officials detained by Libyan militia are prisoners of the political chaos gripping the North African state.
The fault lines dividing the interim Libyan central government from both the militias and the international community are starkly illustrated by the ongoing saga surrounding the detention of four International Criminal Court (ICC) officials in Libya since June 7.
In today’s Libya, the NTC does not have a monopoly on force. Far from it. It is the plethora of regional militias that effectively control the country. This ongoing tug of war between the NTC and the militias does not bode well for Taylor and her colleagues. The most probable explanation for all the diplomatic manoeuvring is that the NTC simply lacks the power to compel the Zintani militia to release her, but simultaneously wishes to use the Taylor issue to stake out a populist position. Moreover, since Taylor’s incarceration on June 7, the Libyans have a powerful bargaining chip to trade for the ICC’s “determination” that Libya now possesses the judicial capacity to try Saif.
The NTC is clearly caught up in a zero-sum struggle for power with the militias, setting a bad precedent for the forging of a working relationship between the militias and the soon-to-be-elected new government. Caught in the whirlwind is Melinda Taylor, whose bosses at the ICC do not seem to appreciate how power is currently being contested in the new Libya. The ICC appears willing to appease the NTC, but what are they offering the Zintani militiamen who actually hold her captive? As far as I can tell, nothing.
An article I co-authored for the Australian — Libya wants ICC hamstrung via Aussie’s capture
THE detention of International Criminal Court officials in Libya – including Australian Melinda Taylor – highlights the key fault lines in post-Gaddafi Libya among the central government, the militias and various international actors.
Taylor, a lawyer assigned to represent deposed dauphin Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, was incarcerated earlier this month for allegedly passing her client coded messages from Mohammad Ismael, a former Gaddafi-regime official wanted for war crimes.
Cognizant of its challenges, yet reluctant to relinquish its most prized prisoner, the NTC understood that another acrimonious meeting with ICC defense counsel would be detrimental to its case to try the younger Qadhafi. As Jihani told one of the authors in December, ‘if we don’t start to investigate and prosecute Saif, the demand to turn him over to the ICC will come.’
In arresting Taylor and her colleagues, the NTC has sought to hamstring the ICC’s investigation while sending the court a message that Libya will not tolerate an infringement of its sovereignty.
The Libya Analysis team pere et fils write for Christian Science Monitor about the likely best case scenario for Syria — Look to Yemen as model for Syria’s transition after Bashar al-Assad: Recent history in Iraq and Libya shows that the departure of a tyrant can lead to a deterioration in stability and an increase in human suffering. In Syria, a Yemen-style transition (dictator forced into exile to be replaced by a transition figure) may be the best possible outcome.
Since the European empires have been decolonized, brutal tyrants have arisen to hold together the most volatile remnants of empire – states that are not really nations. Iraq, Syria, and Libya are just a few examples of colonial amalgamations of different sectarian, ethnic, or regional groups.
In the 20th century, the colonial overlords and then their post-colonial strongmen replacements kept their internal fissures in check by force. Understanding this history, UN-Arab League special envoy Kofi Annan is right to be wary of military intervention in Syria and to seek regional support for a political transition there. An ill-conceived international intervention to remove Assad – especially if it lacked regional support – could easily unleash a war of all against all.
Looking to Yemen – which many have called a failed state – as a model for anything may seem counterintuitive. The country is fraught with internal strife, high rates of poverty, drought, drug abuse, and Islamist terrorism. But Annan and others have hinted that the recent process for political transition in Yemen is the one they hope to largely duplicate in Syria.
A few tweaks to Annan’s proposals would improve its chances of success. First, the path to peace in Syria requires an “imposed non-military solution.” This would be a political transition driven by outside powers with broad international support.
My AJE Opinion piece and latest salvo against Federalism, co-authored with Ronald Bruce St John and featuring some commentary about the tough week Libya just had – Libya’s missteps threaten descent into federalism: Decentralisation in the north African state would cause strife, waste, and bloated bureaucracies.
It is finally official: Libya’s elections will be delayed from their scheduled date of June 19 and held on July 7. This unsurprising decision followed on the heels of the Libyan Election Commission repeatedly leaking news about a delay since late April. However, the Commission’s decision to wait until the proverbial eleventh hour before announcing the delay strikes many Libyans and outside observers as representative of the National Transitional Council’s (NTC) many missteps since Gaddafi’s fall and their inability to establish a functioning administration.
It also capped one of the least encouraging weeks in post-Gaddafi Libya’s brief history. On the morning of June 5,militiamen from Tarhouna (50km south of Tripoli) stormed the international airport and President Mustafa Abdel-Jalil instantly caved into their demand that their imprisoned militia leader be released. On Tuesday night, the American Consulate in Benghazi was bombed, likely a revenge for the American assassination of top al-Qaeda official Abu Yahya Al-Libi in a drone strike in Pakistan the previous day. On Thursday, a rally of armed Salafists and Islamists took place along the waterfront in Benghazi. They were campaigning for the immediate imposition of Islamic Sharia law.
Set against this background, the significance of Saturday’s official postponement of the elections comes into clearer focus. The NTC is in control of neither the country nor the bureaucracy. Despite these failings, they must succeed in their most important task, their very reason d’etre: transition power to an elected government.
Jason Pack commented tersely: “Gaddafi considered OK in today’s Libya? That isn’t what Libyans are saying: as frustrated as many are with today’s lack of security, no one wants to go back to a strongman. Besides, why discuss now whether Libya would have been better off with or without intervention? Political analysts don’t deal with counterfactuals. The current situation in Libya post-liberation may have deteriorated due to the NTC’s poor ability to consolidate power, with the militias left largely in control, but none of this means that the NATO No-fly zone and the concept of intervention per se wasn’t morally and strategically justified and successful executed. The West helped a genuinely Libyan movement to overthrow their dictator.”
Libya: Uncertainty abounds around Elections and Federalism – By Jason Pack and Ronald Bruce St John
It is all but official that, Libya’s elections will be delayed. But by how long nobody knows. The Libyan Election Commission has repeatedly leaked news about a delay but made it clear that they are still not ready to announce it officially. Simultaneously, they have semi-officially promised the public that the delayed elections will take place before Ramadan begins on July 20th. This game of shadows and mirrors borders on the surreal, given that the elections’ scheduled date, June 19th, is less than two weeks away. Borrowing from Churchill ‘[We] cannot forecast to you the action of [Libya]. It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma; but perhaps there is a key’.
Yet in early June, Western Diplomats stationed in Tripoli were anonymously stating that the overarching reason for the imminent delay is that the ballot papers will not be ready on time. On the other hand, the Election Commission themselves have attempt to justify the ‘potential’ delay by pointing to the fact that the finalized list of candidates and parties was just released on Tuesday, June 5th, which would only allow for two weeks of campaigning — clearly not enough to allow voters to make informed decisions. Many speculate that the real rationale underlying this song and dance is that if a delay were announced presently, the Election Commission is not yet sure it would be able to hold the elections by the new date. While the Egyptians and Tunisians have both managed to hold their elections on time, the Libyans seem not even prepared enough to be able to delay their elections coherently. In short, true to form, uncertainty reigns in post-Qaddafi Libya.
My Al Jazeera Op-ed about how the century old politics of mistrust between the West and Libya must end.
Western politicians should no longer refer to Lockerbie when dealing with Libya’s new leadership.
Libya’s relationship with the West has long been fraught with many paradoxes. Despite being almost entirely dependent on Western expertise and markets to produce and conusme its oil, former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi pursued virulently anti-Western foreign policies…. As long as Megrahi lived, he symbolised a century of mistrust. With his passing, a new era of cooperation may blossom.
Review of Mohamed Fekini and the Fight to Free Libya, by Angelo Del Boca (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010).
By Jason Pack in Middle East Journal Vol. 66, No. 2, May 2012
Libya: NTC Must Assert Itself And Consign Federalism To The Dustbin Of History — My Article in African Arguments
In the run-up to the June elections many militias and civil society organizations are lambasting the interim government’s mission to centralize authority rather than, more importantly, its lacklustre results at achieving that task. On March 5th, notables in Benghazi – Libya’s second city and capital of the Eastern region of Cyrenaica – proposed to compensate for the ineffectiveness of the central NTC authorities by asking them to relinquish certain powers to sub-state bodies such as an autonomous Cyrenaican provincial government. On April 17th, they met again to demand that NTC authorities change the election law and stake their claim to Libya’s resource rich Sirte basin.
Federalism in Libya: Tried and Failed – An Al Jazeera Opinion Commentary
Given Libya’s history and infrastructure, appeasement of local actors via regional autonomy is a recipe for disaster.
In today’s Libya, local is king. Today’s Libya requires the rapid creation of nation-wide institutions and human capital that Libyan history shows is incompatible with federalism.
In the long term, enshrining a federal system would almost certainly doom the implementation of any coherent, countrywide development plan.
Libya violence ‘puts poll timing at risk’ by AFP– contains quotes and analysis from most of the Libya guild.
“Militias and local citizen groups constitute the primary barrier to stability, reconstruction and a democratic transition,” said Jason Pack, a researcher at Cambridge University and president of Libya-Analysis.com.
But Pack said the polls are likely be postponed — not because Libya is not ready or able to hold them on time, but because the NTC is failing to make the “difficult decisions needed to carry them out” on schedule.
Watch My appearance on Iranian State TV. My segment starts at 15:40. I Discuss why federalism won’t work in Libya and how Obama should and will do everything in his power to avert an Israeli attack on Iran. Don’t be bothered by the crazy anti-Western tone of the rest of the Double Standards program. It is meant to be satirical and not actually meant to be taken all that seriously.
The Economist seized upon Van Creveld’s paradigm that nuclear proliferation is not a big deal and may even bring stability in a recent article. In so doing, they adopt my reading of both the threat of Syria turning into a failed state and how it could have a spillover effect onto the Iran situation.
Mr van Creveld’s main point, obviously, is that Israel and America are inflating the Iranian nuclear threat. “Iranians are rational people, they’re not interested in suicide,” he says. “As a nuclear power, Israel has very little to fear from an Iranian nuclear weapon.” In a Project Syndicate piece co-written with Jason Pack of Cambridge University earlier this month, Mr van Creveld argued that while the situation in Iran is not a grave threat to regional stability, it’s distracting us from the situation in Syria, which is. The violence “could spill over into Lebanon, Jordan, and Israel, increasing the risk of a regional conflagration… Events in Syria appear increasingly similar to the civil war in Lebanon in the 1980s.” An Israeli or American attack on Iran would vastly exacerbate the dangers, inflaming anti-Israeli and anti-American sentiment and turning the Syrian conflict into a staging ground for radical Islamists.
My In-Depth Al Jazeera English opinion piece “Solve Syria, leave Iran alone” with Martin Van Creveld. This article builds on our NYT article entitled “In the Arab Spring, Watch Turkey” which attacks the view that the West is involved in a Cold War with Iran as incorrect and demonstrates how Turkey is the primary victor of the Arab Spring.
The world must turn its attention to Syria, not Iran, to avoid escalation into a regional war.
The real threat is not Iran’s pursuit of a nuclear weapon, but Israel’s attempts to halt it, which would surely incur Iranian retaliation via the Strait of Hormuz. This would cause the price of oil to skyrocket to more than $200 a barrel and send the world’s major economies into sustained free fall. In fact, despite the faux solidarity that US President Barack Obama expressed at the conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in early March, Israel’s sabre-rattling appears to be galvanising a US modus vivendi with Iran in order to avert an Israeli attack.
Now is not the time to provoke Iran, but rather to tend to Syria’s troubles before it is too late - for example, by publicly offering Assad a way out of the country that would safeguard the minority Alawite community if he were toppled or forced to flee. If the Syrian situation is ignored, its spill-over may inadvertently provoke Israeli or Iranian action, inciting a regional war and a global depression.
I am editing a volume about the 2011 Libyan Uprisings. It builds on the central thesis of my monograph – that the the revolution in Libya was a series of discrete ‘Uprisings’ and that within the Uprisings the periphery conquered the centre.
The book will feature many of the world’s top Libya experts in the fields of diplomacy, economics, social media, military, etc. — each expert will contribute a chapter about a discrete aspect of the Uprisings.
I expect the book to be released in early to mid 2013. For more details about the contributors or the publisher stay posted. At this point these must remain top secret.
Solve Syria, Don’t Provoke Iran a mini-magnum opus with Martin Van Creveld about why an Israeli attack on Iran would cause a global depression.
Acknowledging the virtual Armageddon that could follow from an ill-conceived attack on Iran is not appeasement. It is simply recognition of the reality that Israel and the West have little to fear from Iran – even an Iran with limited nuclear capacity.
Now is not the time to provoke Iran, but rather to tend to Syria’s troubles before it is too late – for example, by publicly offering Assad a way out of the country that will safeguard the minority Alawite community if he is toppled or forced to flee. If the Syria situation is ignored, its consequences could provoke Israeli or Iranian action, setting the region aflame and triggering a global depression.
Libya: NTC Must Exercise Authority And Tackle Militias. This is the Libya Herald op-ed version of my monograph.
The current situation in Libya can best be characterized as a struggle pitting the ‘center’ that controls national institutions, the flow of oil, and billions in unfrozen assets against a marginalized ‘periphery’ that can challenge the center’s legitimacy via its use of force and appeal to local loyalties.
The key problem today is not security, per se, but rather a hesitant NTC that is often reluctant to exercise its authority — preferring negotiations and extending patronage networks to its opponents rather than swiftly enacting government decrees. At present, the NTC appears to be operating under a mistaken “security and legitimacy-first” doctrine which maintains that bold initiatives cannot be undertaken until further stability is achieved and an elected government takes office after the June elections. Paradoxically, only by redressing the current center-periphery imbalance can Libya achieve the security required to jump-start its economy and hold free and fair elections.
في أعقاب الحرب: الصراع على ليبيا في مرحلة ما بعد القذافي [Executive summary of my monograph translated into Arabic]
My Monograph on Libya’s Militia Problem “In War’s Wake: The Struggle for Post-Qadhafi Libya”
During the 2011 uprisings in Libya, rebel militias emerged throughout regime-held territory, fighting Qadhafi’s forces despite being largely cut off from coordination with the center of opposition power. By revolution’s end, these peripheral militias were stronger than the interim government’s forces and had resorted to jockeying for power against each other via gun battles in downtown Tripoli. How can the international community help avoid further deterioration in a country devastated by months of war?
In this new study, Jason Pack and Barak Barfi explain why the United States must take a proactive stance in ensuring that Libyan authorities win the peace, not just the war. Although Washington cannot overtly interfere in the country’s internal politics, it can pave the way for NGOs, intergovernmental organizations, private firms, and foreign officials to help the National Transitional Council establish institutions capable of connecting with the periphery. Only then will the center be up to the crucial tasks of building capacity, jumpstarting the economy, and defeating the inherent centrifugal force of the militias.
U.S. Needs A Grand Strategy not Grand Standing in its relationship with China. An op-ed I co-authored for the Australian with an old friend from Oxford, Brant Moscovitch.
Romney’s longstanding efforts to paint himselfas someone willing to ‘‘stand up to China’’ exemplifies an alarming trend of China-bashing in US politics.
It is understandable that US politicians of all stripes vie to be seen as the one most capable of clipping the wings of their
country’s pre-eminent challenger. Yet such grandstanding must not be confused with long-term strategic thinking.
Dean Acheson once famously quipped following World War II that Britain had ‘‘lost an empire, and has not yet found a role’’. In retrospect, the US has lacked a sense of its role in the world since 1991.
Qatar: Kingmakers in Syria? My CNN article with Shashank Joshi on Qatar’s role in Syria expressing our take on Qatari motivations, capabilities, and limitations when it comes to intervention in Syria.
It used to be said that ‘when America sneezes, the world catches a cold’. In the new multipolar world, a new aphorism may be in order. For 2012, we propose: ‘when Qatar whispers, the tyrants whimper’.
Qatar has what Western powers lack in the Arab World: near-limitless reserves of disposable cash, a media network respected by Arab publics, and the ability to intervene with special forces and military trainers without risking tremendous blowback at home or in the court of international public opinion. Following their successes in Libya and buttressed by their expanding regional connections with ascendant Islamist movements and the new regional juggernaut Turkey, the Qataris have emerged as the quiet kingmakers. Alone, they cannot make things happen – but they can forge diplomatic coalitions, shape the popular narrative, and lend their unique skills to targeted interventions.
Qatar’s bold vision of involvement in post-Gadhafi Libya has already caused prominent figures in the National Transitional Council and the non-Islamist militias to speak out against Qatar’s meddling. The Arab League is also fundamentally divided. Two of Syria’s neighbors, Lebanon and Iraq, have no wish to go along with tougher measures – and could easily frustrate an embargo through their long land borders. Moreover, when Qatar has tried to broker peace deals in the Levant, as it did in Lebanon in 2008, more established regional powers were able to unravel the threads.
The Qataris seem to have mastered the role of agitators, facilitators, bankrollers, and power brokers – but punching so far above your weight can leave you perilously off balance.
My Article with Van Creveld in the New York Times entitled “In the Arab Spring, Watch Turkey”. It attacks the view that the West is involved in a Cold War with Iran as incorrect and demonstrates how Turkey is the primary victor of the Arab Spring.
Moreover, Western observers have missed the primary thread of events — namely, the ongoing asymmetric Turkish-Iranian “soft” partition of the Arab republics. Concomitantly, the American position as regional hegemon is vanishing. Today, only the Arab monarchies and Israel continue to look to the United States as their primary patron.
To investigate how these changing dynamics are seen by actors within the region, one of us (Jason Pack) spent his Christmas holidays in Erbil, the capital of the Kurdistan Regional Government, or K.R.G., in Iraq. Following the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, K.R.G. officials bemoaned their need of a regional patron to protect them from dominance by Baghdad.
Kurds Look to Old Enemies for Survival an Article by Jason Pack in The Australian. As the American withdrawal from Iraq leaves a void, Turkey is becoming the major power in Northern Iraq. This article was written in ERBIL, IRAQ [to view click here and scroll down and look to the right].
SINCE the invasion of Iraq in 2003, the US has been allied with the Kurds in their drive for regional autonomy. Washington has been committed to maintaining the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the Iraqi state. As a result, the Bush and Obama administrations have failed to articulate a clear policy objective with respect to future US ties with the Kurdistan Regional Government. The US has left the field without formalising its role as security guarantor or nationbuilder in Iraqi Kurdistan.
Erbil, Iraq—Beauty meets the Beast—aka Nancy Ajram, the Lebanese bombshell and Britney Spears of the Middle East, plays post-conflict Kurdistan
Tonight was Nancy Ajram’s first and presumably last ever concert in Iraq. Tickets were priced from $75 to $500, putting it within easy reach of the vast Armani wearing uber-elites that congregate in the capital of oil-rich Kurdistan.
My American companions and I arrived fashionably late because even though our house in the upscale Christian neighborhood of Ainkawa was a mere 10 minute walk from the concert, the cabbie we took to get there didn’t know where it was. Despite the fact that it was at the biggest banquet hall in Kurdistan and this concert is the biggest music happening the country has experience since Saddam’s fall, each time we asked for directions we got told to go in an entirely different direction, sometimes to different neighborhoods entirely. Erbil—called Howler in Kurdish—is a city in which half the buildings are less than eight years old and many of the nicer restaurants and government offices have only been open a couple of months. It was therefore, not that surprising that no one knows where anything is.
After arriving at the Galaxy hall and traversing an enormous dirt field, as the parking lot and roads leading to the hall are not yet built, we entered the brand-new, cavernous ball room and were haphazardly ushered to an empty table filled with half-eaten kabobs and soiled napkins. The hall seated about 1500 people arranged in tables of 8. It was 90% full. While listening to the debka style opening band, I approached a waiter and asked if we could have fresh kabobs (they were included in the ticket price). Three hours later when Nancy was almost done our food arrived. In the intervening period, I chatted with every waiter in the place and got a whole range of responses about the likelyhood of our being served. They ranged from a) your food will be out in five minutes to b) we are out of food as we only thought 1000 people would come but 1400 are here to c) everyone is being served sequentially and you are at the back of the room please just sit down and wait to d) I can’t bring you your food but go talk to the maitre d’ and maybe he can fix it.
Now, after waiting two hours during the hyper-repetitive opening act while starving, it was finally announced in Arabic that Nancy would be appearing if the audience just clapped and yelled loud enough. Then, at the top of their lungs, all the young Howlerians howled and the MC announced Nancy and the curtain covering the side door swung open. Droves of men surged towards the stage with their smart phones held above their heads to film her entrance. Rather than appearing on cue, ten minutes later she appeared and started singing, but the miking was so poor you could only hear the band and not her voice. Then, she stopped in the middle of the song to allow the MC to announce that everyone must return to their seats. Now all official communication in the concert hall was in Arabic. Advertisements, signs to the bathroom and backstage, the music sung by the warm up band, and of course the MCs communications to the audience.
It is unclear if this is the reason that stage commands were not heeded. For many young Kurds who were educated after 1991, Arabic is their third or fourth language. Generally, their native dialect of their regional or sectarian group is their first language (i.e. Kurmanji for northerners, Chaldean for Christians, Fayli for Shi’I Kurds, a nameless dialect for Yazidis, and some form of Sorani for most of the urban Sunni population etc.). Then their second language is Modern Standard Iraqi Sorani Kurdish which appears to be the official standardized language of the Kurdish Regional Government and is the official variant of the Sorani dialect traditionally prevalent in South Eastern Iraqi Kurdistan, which has increasingly become the literary language of Iraq Kurds over the last fifty years. The universally taught foreign language in school is English. Obviously, the American liberation/occupation and the Kurds’ position in the global economy makes English a necessity for individual success. However, some Kurds who have returned from the Diaspora are more likely to know German or Swedish as those are the centers of the Kurdish Diaspora. Arabic is, therefore, the fourth language of most of the Kurdish population and in some smaller towns, it is not spoken at all by people under thirty.
Yet it was in this language that Nancy was singing and that the MCs were trying to convey things to the crowd and encourage them to move back to their seats. For the next hour while Nancy tried in vain to sing the concert, the security failed to prevent people from standing up on chairs to take pictures, rushing towards the stage, blocking everyone’s view, and making so much noise that hearing her singing was impossible. After an hour or more, Nancy’s manager came on stage and told her to embrace the unstoppable by asking select women and men (particularly those with children or non-hijabed girlfriends and wives) to come on stage and have their picture taken with Nancy. This created a degree of order as everyone knew if they behave well they might be picked. But, the ruse only lasted about ten minutes as it became hyper-repetitive causing the natives to become restless. It also prevented singing from actually happening.
After Nancy had kissed many babies and let many women get their pictures with her taken by their brothers on their iphones, she announced, “Hadha ghayr haflat taswir, hiyya haflat musiqa. ‘Ibadu, ‘Ibadu min fadlaku wa khalni akun murtaha li ughani.” (This is not supposed to be a photo party but a concert, please give me some space so I can sing.) At this moment she stepped backwards away from the front edge of the stage, now instead of having the desired effect of causing people to back away from the stage, as she moved further and further back her security people also backpeddled causing a gap to appear between the security and the mob. With each step Nancy took backwards, the security also backpeddled and the mob surged into the gap. By the time Nancy was halfway back on the stage, scores of young Kurdish men were on the stage. By the time she had fled to the back of the stage behind the drums and stage equipment, the security men (all wearing black suits and red ties) were overwhelmed by the mob. Pinned against the wall, Nancy then knelt on the floor and the remnants of her security force formed a box around her, to prevent her from being molested. This worked for about a minute. Then, new audience members mobbed the stage –apparently to see what was happening — preventing the initial mob from retreating or advancing. After a few minutes of stalemate — during which time it was unclear what indignities she suffered — the concert lights were turned on and men in Peshmerga uniforms marched in from the back of the hall with AK-47s. This created a distraction ‘pulling’ the attention of members of the crowd away from the stage and towards the back of the hall. At this point, Nancy’s security team fought a rear-guard action to extricate her from the crowd by pushing and punching their way from the back of the stage to the side door. After surviving this nearly ten minute siege, Nancy was safely backstage, the lights were on, and the men with guns proceeded to clear out the concert hall.
At this point, the surreal began to turn into farce—the MC took the stage to address the mob as we exited the hall. Rather than berating the crowd members for being savages, a proof of Iraqi backwardness, the reason major Arab performers never come to Iraq, or an embarrassment to the Kurdish nation… The MC said ‘I see that Howler is very happy to have witnessed Nancy’s first concert in Iraq. She was very happy to sing for you as well. She apologizes that due to the crowd control and security issues that she will not be able to continue singing. The concert is now over, we are all happy, it was a great show, and we hope you have a wonderful evening. We apologize that Nancy did not get to sing the much anticipated premier of her new song in the Iraqi dialect which she hoped to unveil tonight. Please be safe and go home.’
Now on the way out, I looked at people’s faces and they did not seem shocked or angry. Then amidst the crowd, I noticed a woman in her mid forties that I recognized, she is the chief of staff to the Minister of Justice of the Kurdish Regional Government (the minister was the chief justice in the Saddam Trial, I do not mention her or his name so that this blog does not come up on searches about them. They are both extremely kind, gracious, and knowledgeable individuals who are striving to build Kurdistan). As it happens, I had just had a meeting with the Justice Minister two days previously and had talked at length with his chief of staff, so I signaled her out of the crowd as someone who spoke excellent English and would be able to share with me her insight into the evening’s events.
I opened the discussion by asking her what she thought of the concert. She responded that ‘People were very happy and it went very well.’ I told her I had the opposite impression. She then said, ‘It was a great night for Kurdistan that Nancy Ajram, a cultural icon of the whole Middle East, visited Irbil and people were very happy and do not know how to behave in such situations.’ Taking us into decidedly undiplomatic territory, I probed ‘Is it really a great night for Kurdistan? If I were Kurdish I would be embarrassed at how many of my countrymen behaved, especially the wealthy young men in fancy western clothing.’ She said, ‘no not at all, People merely behaved normally and enjoyed themselves, they were relaxed and felt they were in their home. And could behave as they wanted to. That is good.’ I wondered outloud if everyone got to enjoy themselves or if in fact some people enjoyed causing chaos and inconveniencing everyone else. Her husband jumped in saying ‘It was a great night for Kurdistan, it is a shame that they had such a cheap security firm, they must not have been Kurds or they could have controlled the crowd better. I used to live in London, I know this stuff happens all the time there when big stars like Michael Jackson play and they don’t have the best security. One hears of such incidents at concerts in Europe all the time.’
Later while walking out we met the maitre d’hotel who I had complained to about not getting served our food. As a non-diplomat, he was slightly more open with me. He explained that they expected 600 people, planned for 1000 and that 1400 showed. He said it was a very sad day for him as he failed to serve everyone food and that the concert was a failure. He wished it had never happened. I commiserated with him, assuring him it wasn’t his fault and that I understand how hard it can be to manage such an event. I told him there will be other opportunities to get both the food and the crowd control right. However, I doubt if I was Miss Ajram I would want to make a return visit anytime soon.
The website Al-Bawaba.com describes the incident slightly differently, stating:
Lebanese singer Nancy Ajram broke in hysterical tears during her recent concert in Irbil Iraq, after the audience forced themselves on stage and surrounded her from all sides. The singer became very scared during the concert, which did not go according to plans.What was considered to be very unusual during the incident is the fact that the security men assigned to protect Nancy from being attacked by fans also turned into fans and became preoccupied with trying to take pictures with her neglecting their assigned duties. This neglect of the security men led the audience to go on stage knowing they would not be stopped. At this point, Nancy’s business manager Jiji Lamara, the organizer of the event and the band played the role of the security men and tried to protect the singer from being hurt and toppled by fans. Nancy became terrified and began crying hysterically and as a result of the crowds of people pushing towards her was injured in her foot. It took Nancy over 15 minutes to get to her private car and flee the scene. Once she was able to escape, Nancy packed her bags and immediately left to go back home.
An Africa All Party Parliamentary Group event in the House of Commons co-hosted by the Royal Africa Society and Libya-Analysis.com and consisting of two Closed Briefing Sessions for MPs and one Open Session for MPs and the public.
The Complete Program (PDF)
Libya’s New Role in the World
Monday December 12th, 7-9pm
House of Commons, Committee Room 15
The audio of the session begins at around 37:00 minutes of the file. My 12 minute speech begins at 1:10:00, I get attacked for concieving the militias as a threat to stability in Libya by a Libyan/British woman who I know from St. Antony’s at 1:24:50, I respond to my attacker at 1:38:15, get my viewpoint supported by the most knowledgeable Libyan in the room at 1:45:25, comment on capitalism and the Old Guard in Libya at 1:54:10, and give my closing remarks about job creation at 2:15:25.
The State of the ‘Transition’ and Britain’s Role
Tuesday, November 29th, 11am–12:30pm
The House of Commons, Meeting Room M
Business Opportunities for British Companies
Wednesday December 7th, 10am-11:30am
The House of Commons, Meeting Room M
Read the substantive points raised in these sessions as submitted to HMG’s Foreign Affairs Select committee as written evidence.
LIBYA MUST BRING MILITIAS INTO THE FOLD: My humourous article in the Australian about the Zintani militias.
WITH the capture of Saif al-Islam Gaddafi on Sunday near the southwestern Libyan town of Awbari by militiamen loyal to the Zintan Military Council, and his transport northwards, Zintan has achieved international stardom. The neighbouring towns of Rajban and Yafran have every right to be jealous. They too could have been catapulted on to the world stage, aided by their easy to-pronounce Berber names.
The appointment of a new interim NTC cabinet this week is the right opportunity to jump-start the detente between the militias and the central authorities. The next step will be folding all of the militias into a new national army and police force. Giving them fancy unit names such as the Revolutionary Platoon of Jadu, the Misratah Martyrs Brigade, the Zintani Scourge of Saif, and the Zwaran Zombie Strike Force might help.
Capturing the Qaddafis: The new Libya has a chance to wipe the slate clean — or descend into regional bickering. My argument in FP about how both Abdullah Senussi and Saif, in their own ways, promoted the crony westernization which brought down the Gaddafi regime.
Saif was known for his seemingly genuine admiration of Western constitutionalism and technological progress. Senussi understood that Libya couldn’t survive isolated from the West, but also grasped that introducing Western technology and the discourse of human rights would complicate his continued efforts to repress the Libyan people.
Both men were profoundly aware of the challenges the 21st century presented to the continued rule of the Qaddafi clan and urged a controlled opening to the West to save the “family business” — an effort that eventually backfired. Most outside observers assume that Senussi, as a security thug from the desert, was a reactionary figure who fought against Saif’s progressive détente with the West after 2003 and his economic privatization inside Libya. I came to meet Senussi while working in Libya in 2008 and discovered, to my great surprise, that, although he bordered on being illiterate — even in Arabic – he grasped the urgency of attracting foreign direct investment as much as any of the so-called Libyan reformers with doctoral degrees.
New Insights into Libyan History: A Review of Anna Baldinetti, The Origins of the Libyan Nation: Colonial Legacy, Exile and the Emergence of a New Nation-State (Oxford: Routledge, 2010).
By Jason Pack in Middle East Report, 261, Winter 2011
My Op-ed in the Guardian, Post-Gaddafi Libya should think local.
After a revolution that started at the periphery, Libya must empower local networks while avoiding factionalism.
Amid many questions about the future of post-Gaddafi Libya, one fact cannot be ignored: the Libyan revolution of 2011 is dissimilar – in scope, content, and origin – to its sister revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt. Indeed, it has almost no parallels in world history.
Generally, sweeping revolutionary change (France in 1789, Russia in 1917, etc) is carried out by an organised group at the centre of power with a distinct ideology. In Libya, the revolution originated in the periphery and is surprisingly devoid of ideology.
ooking forward, the NTC has frequently acknowledged the existence of a ground-swell of “localist” opinion that it would have to successfully appease to unite post-Gaddafi Libya. Mahmoud Jibril promised to step down after the liberation to appease this sentiment.
My Christian Science Monitor Article with Sami Zaptia. With Qaddafi dead, Libya must repay its backers with a ‘peace dividend,’ not favors: Now that Qaddafi is dead and Sirte is captured, Libyans can repay those countries who helped in his ouster not through kickbacks or development contracts, but by establishing a stable, democratic, economically open future for Libya. That’s the real ‘peace dividend.’
North Africans are famous for their culture of boundless hospitality. Yet as a result of their traumatic history with European colonialism, they understand that in international politics, “There is no such thing as a free lunch.”
Now that Libya is officially “liberated” and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has returned from a well-timed visit to Tripoli, officials of the State Department will no doubt attend briefings about how to reap the strategic dividends of America’s intervention. They must resist the temptation to publically, or even privately, ask the Libyans for payback in the form of preferential contracts. Surely no amount of oil, construction, infrastructure, or defense contracts can be better than a strong, moderate, and stable Libya that learns to select its business partners based on their merits rather than their nationality.
We believe the alliance powers should not ask the NTC to prostitute Libya’s vast treasure. Doing so would only cheapen the tremendous value of what the NATO alliance has done for Libya. The only true way the Libyans can repay the rest of the world for liberating them from Qaddafi is not through kickbacks, but by making the tough choices required to lay the foundation of a democratic, meritocratic, and economically open future.
My op-ed in Foreign Policy, Qaddafi’s Legacy: Only in his death is the Libyan leader’s radical vision of a decentralized republic becoming a reality.
In the end, for all Qaddafi’s pretensions of ideological revolution and professed commitment to ruling on behalf of a people who loved him, his regime had become an old-fashioned family dictatorship, with key security posts doled out to his sons and trusted loyalists. Now that he’s dead, Libyans have been given a double-edged sword: a chance to create a new political order from scratch.
The great irony of the 2011 Libyan revolution is that this spontaneous formation of local committees, drawing on traditional bonds of solidarity, is what Qaddafi preached in his Green Book but never implemented. His quote “Committees Everywhere” can still be seen on billboards across the country. However, the Brother Leader never envisioned that a true people’s democracy would have come about not as a result of his hypocritical exhortations but rather in determined opposition to them. Time will tell if the Libyans can keep it.
Libya’s Challenge: Not Re-building, but Rather Creating a Nation a special feature for British TV4 exploring Libya’s repository of archival documents and how Gaddafi used and abused Libyan history to buttress his regime.
Some of Libya’s most precious archives survived the violent overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi. But can they now help Libya’s new leaders forge a national identity, asks expert Jason Pack.
When I arrived in early September I was pleased to see that the only visual change to the centre’s exterior was the boarding-up of its windows. Miraculously, the 17 million documents concerning Libya’s 20th century history have all survived both the war and Gaddafi’s attempts to use and abuse history to buttress his claim to power.
What they may find hidden beneath the surface is that the different regions of Libya were never fully patched together. Therefore, what the National Transitional Council is now engaged in isn’t the rebuilding of Libya but actually the building of it from scratch.
Co-Authored with Shashank Joshi, Libya: Winning the Peace Collective for Chatham House’s The World Today.
It is neither too early nor too flagrantly self-congratulatory for NATO to declare victory in the military phase of its recent foray into North Africa. Nevertheless, just as the international community was crucial to the rebels’ success in overthrowing Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, so too will it be vital to the stabilisation efforts that are now underway, and in the ensuing process of transition to legitimate governance capped by the nation-wide elections slated for 2012.
More broadly, Tripoli’s capture by disparate militias, all loyal to the anti-Gaddafi cause but lacking joint command
and control structures, presents what may be the greatest opportunity of the Arab Spring – however fraught it may also be with the possibility for anarchy.
Crossing Into Libya – Jason Pack Survives Border Bureaucracy And Sustainable Development Consultants
I figured getting to Tripoli for another quick research trip would be significantly easier than the time I went to visit the Iraqi archives in late 2003. This time around, I thought it would be very unlikely that I would encounter what the Iraqis used to call an ‘Ali Baba border guard’. One such petty bureaucrat playfully attempted to enforce the HIV test that had been mandatory for foreign visitors under Saddam, thereby compelling me to cough up a hundred bucks to prevent him from sticking a dirty syringe in my vein. I had also heard that the Libyan road network from the Tunisian border to the capital was entirely secure, unlike the Amman-Bagdad route in 2003 which passed through the ‘Sunni Triangle’ near Fallujah where frequent IEDs necessitated lengthy detours onto local roads. On both accounts I was flat out wrong.
As soon as I was off the propeller plane at the Djerba airport, I spotted two hipsters at the baggage carousel positively oozing a metrosexual vibe. They turned out to be Arabic-speaking Georgetown grads, who over the course of the next 36 hours would alternatively style themselves as sustainable development consultants, green entrepreneurs, and experts in import-export. In their more candid and giddy moments they made such statements as “Libya feels like the Wild West. I am sure it is where I will make my first million.” Or even more revealing of the condescending and predatory nature of many ambitious Westerners in the development field, “When I was in Benghazi in April, it struck me that the people were in such dire need of skills and capacity building, you could rake in the cash simply by setting up a falafel restaurant if you could import decent ingredients and bring quality control to its operations. Imagine what you could do in the fields of desalinisation or genetically-engineered seeds modelled on Israeli agronomy methodology but produced in Jordan!” Although I did not share their motivations for coming to Libya, I knew that sticking with them would keep me safe and cut my costs in getting to Tripoli.
WSJ article with Sami Zaptia First Revolution, Now Democracy: The world is watching Libya’s transition.
From a technical and constitutional perspective, the NTC is correct to postpone the selection of a government until complete liberation is declared. But there is no mistaking the fact that the perpetual delay reflects ongoing squabbles among local factions for cabinet positions. Further delays, and continued lack of transparency in decision making, will cost the NTC the public’s trust.
The world is watching Libya’s story unfold with great interest. The NTC must again surprise the Libyan people and the world by voluntarily handing over power to local interests according to a genuine, decentralized democratic process.
I wrote to the Economist to correct a few factual mistakes in their article and argue that the pro-Qadhafi tribes [mostly Magarha and Qadhadhifa] will be severely disadvantaged in the new Libya.
It would be incorrect to assume that just because the NTC’s chairman, Mustafa Abdel Jalil, has nobly called for no revenge killings, as well as amnesty for former regime supporters without blood on their hands and future equal hiring practices, that such policies will be fully implemented.
As Tikrit and its tribesmen no doubt suffer in today’s post-Saddam Iraq, Sebha and Sirte as well as the Megarha and Gadadfa will be severely disadvantaged in the post-Qaddafi Libya. It is undesirable but unpreventable.
BBC World Service interview about the British Military Administration of Libya (1942-51) and lessons for today
The Seif Paradox: Was Gadhafi’s second son a modernizer or monster? The answer is: both.
After triumphantly and haphazardly bursting into Tripoli on Sunday evening, Libyan rebel fighters claimed to have captured Moammar Gadhafi’s second-eldest and most internationally famous son, Seif al-Islam. The initial reports announcing his capture were hastily confirmed by International Criminal Court President Luis Moreno-Ocampo, but have since been proven false. Seif appeared to journalists Monday night outside the Bab al-Aziziyya compound curiously and defiantly proclaiming that Tripoli is under Gadhafi’s control and that the rebels will be routed.
Seif’s latest media stunt only further enhances his mystique. Usually known for sipping champagne in an exquisitely tailored Italian suit after speaking about …
Guest Analyst on Al-Jazeera’s “The Stream” discussing the liberation of Tripoli and Libya’s uncertain future. We also comment on the role of Oil in Western decision making vis-a-vis Libya.
Review of Libya Since 1969: Qadhafi’s Revolution Revisited, edited by Dirk Vandewalle (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008).
By Jason Pack and Dana Moss in The Journal of North African Studies, Vol. 16, No. 2, June 2011
For my first live TV appearance, I was a Featured Guest on Al-Jazeera English’s Riz Khan Show alongside Dirk Vandewalle. We discussed the African Union’s peace plan and a I gave a cogent defense of the importance of a distinction between the rebel’s political leadership and the revolutionary fighters. This appears prescient as it is precisely this distinction which became the central dynamic in post-Qadhafian Libyan politics.
From Foreign Policy, Pack’s — The Two Faces of Libya’s Rebels: The anti-Qaddafi forces are a strange mix of ragtag fighters and defector technocrats. And more than guns, the latter desperately need Western moral support.
If you let strangers know that you research Libya for a living, there seems to be only one question on their minds: “Who are the Libyan rebels?” I’ve been asked it at cocktail parties, on ski lifts, at academic seminars, and even by Western journalists in Benghazi who have developed the flattering habit of Skype-ing me at odd hours. Americans seem captivated by this question, perhaps because they have heard senior U.S. officials from Defense Secretary Robert Gates to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to various Republican congressmen proclaim that they do not yet know enough about who the rebels are. I do not take such statements at face value. U.S. statesmen know quite well who the rebels are — but pretend otherwise to obscure the fact that the United States has yet to formulate a comprehensive policy toward them.
The rebels consist of two distinct groups: the fighters and the political leadership.
My first in Foreign Policy – Libya Is Too Big to Fail: International intervention is the right move — and not just for humanitarian reasons.
Despite what you may be hearing from critics of March 17′s U.N. Security Council resolution calling for a no-fly zone and “all necessary measures” to protect civilians from harm, Libya is not peripheral to the world system. It is at its very core. Libya possesses 1,800 kilometers of Mediterranean coastline. The country produces 2 percent of the world’s oil, with 85 percent of exports going to Europe. Libyan nationals have been prominent jihadists in Iraq. Since the beginning of the Great Recession and the slump in global demand in 2008, Libya has allocated $200 billion toward new infrastructure spending.
And yet Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, curiously described U.S. interests in Libya as “less than vital” in aWall Street Journal op-ed last week. He cautioned that even the modest step of participating in a multilateral no-fly zone would be incommensurate with America’s limited strategic interests. Harvard University professor Stephen Walt made a similar point. “For starters,” Walt argued, “let’s acknowledge that the United States has no vital strategic interests at stake in the outcome of the Libyan struggle.”
In 2008, I changed my career as an academic of Syria to become instead a professional engaged in the American and European efforts to bring Qaddafi in from the cold and forward the agenda of pro-market economic reform and Western investment in Libya. My logic then was the same as it is now: Libya is too important in the world system to have Western strategic priorities in Libya unfulfilled and U.S. businesses shut out. This logic is grounded in history and is also best for the aspirations of the Libyan people. Over the last six decades, successive U.S. and British administrations have consistently concluded that the “Libya question” merited great economic and diplomatic sacrifices. It still does.
An exposé of Abdullah Senussi commissioned by The Guardian on and based on my personal experiences with him and his son.
Gaddafi’s right-hand man should not be underestimated: Abdullah Senussi, shrewd, paranoid and honed by years of practising repression, is more than just a thug in a suit.
As the Gaddafi regime continues to fight on in Libya, we must ask ourselves what kind of men constitute Muammar Gaddafi’s inner circle of confidants and trusted allies. Are they thugs fighting to preserve their control over the spigots that pour black gold? Or do they believe that their cause is just and that the Gaddafi regime has genuinely inaugurated the era of the rule of the masses?
How are we to judge Abdullah Senussi? It never entered into his shrewd and paranoid mind that a leaderless mob inspired by revolutions in neighbouring countries, armed with Twitter and videos taken on their mobile phones could threaten the Gaddafi regime. When faced with this unforeseen scenario, Abdullah Senussi and those around him naturally fell back on what they knew best: killing their opponents.