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Op-Ed: Libyan general Haftar receives trucks and ammunition

According to the Libya Observer, sources said the shipment was aboard a Saudi steamship and came from countries that are Haftar allies, and that also support his Operation Dignity against Islamists including those that were allies with the former Salvation government and General National Council (GNC). The shipment was said to have been taken to a supply camp in southern Tobruk. The UN Security Council unanimously approved in March a resolution extending the arms embargo on Libya originally imposed back in 2011. The embargo appears to be regularly broken with no penalties. As well as arms coming to Libya in this manner, no doubt others come with the Special Forces from several countries such as the UK, US, France, Italy and Jordan who are already operating in the country.

While some sources say that the new equipment will be used for a drive against the Islamic State in Sirte, others see them being used to take over control of the oil ports many of which are guarded by the Petroleum Facitities Guards(PFG) whose leader, Ibrahim Jodhran, is a foe of Haftar. Jodhran supports the GNC and its National Oil Company rather than the breakaway eastern National Oil Company. Ironically, in the past it was Jodhran who attempted to ship oil illegally and who kept ships with contracts with the Tripoli-based National Oil Co. from loading oil. There are numerous tweets from partisan observers both in favor of and opposing Haftar. Here is an example suggesting Haftar’s plans: Mohamed Eljarh ‏@Eljarh #Libya – Prez Council says G loyalists in neighboring countries are helping to facilitate/plan attacks on oil terminals. Doesn’t sound good.

The HoR government of PM Al-Thinni has complained of “illegal institutions in Tripoli” using threats and intimidation to prevent it from selling oil.The NOC in Tripoli has always had a monopoly on selling oil even under the GNC Salvation government. It now is cooperating with the GNA. The HoR has yet to give a vote of confidence in the GNA hence the HoR is calling it illegal. Official spokesperson for the Thinni government, Hatem Oraibi, made the statement after employees of the Arabian Gulf Oil Company (AGOCO) prevented attempts at the export of more than half a million barrels of oil from Tobruk’s Hariga terminal. What has happened since is still not clear. The ship involved is from Sharjah and is said to be flying an Indian flag.

The Oil Facilities Guard (OFG) spokesperson, Ali Al-Hassi, claimed that the Islamic State retreat from Derna is nothing more than a deal between the Islamic State and Haftar to create another front so the Haftar army can obtain more success on the ground and serve as a hindrance to the GNA and increase his popularity. Haftar has had recent successes in Benghazi. Al-Hassi said: “The deal is used to manifest that the so-called Libyan army leadership is right in its call for securing the oil fields if IS triumphed over the OFG force on Saturday.” The statement also claims that when IS retreated in a convoy of vehicles that they passed through security checkpoints at Martubah, Al-Hila, Al-Nawar, and Al-Mikhil. The LNA provides a different narrative claiming to have destroyed a number of vehicles. What is certain is the the OFG had absolutely no support from the LNA and Haftar when they were recently attacked south of Brega.

There are now many reports of Haftar airstrikes on Derna since the Islamic State has been forced out. Accounts differ as to whether it was Haftar’s Libyan National Army or the Shura Council of Derna Jihadists who are responsible for the Islamic State retreat. Probably both were involved but it appears as if Haftar intends to control more territory around Derna and continue attacks on the city. The Libya Herald reports on what it calls “unconfirmed air strikes” in Derna. The Libya Observer gives more detail, noting that there have now been three separate series of airstrikes on Derna since the Islamic State retreated. At least three civilians are reported killed. The Council contains some fighters associated with Al Qaeda. Haftar can simply claim he is fighting terrorism.

There is no word yet as to whether the HoR will meet on Monday to vote on the GNA. The international community so far appears to be ignoring the threat posed by Haftar to the success of the GNA. If Haftar tries to take control of the oil ports from the PFG surely the UN and the GNA will be forced to take notice.

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