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Op-Ed: Pressure rising for more foreign intervention in Libya

A UN Security Council report from their Panel of Experts on Libya have urged the formation of an international maritime force to “to assist the Libyan government in securing its territorial waters to prevent the entry into and exit from Libya of arms…the illicit export of crude oil and its derivatives and other natural resources”.” An article in the Tripoli Post suggests that the report might put pressure on the Security Council to remove the arms embargo so as to help the Libyan government “fight the spread of terrorism and extremist militias now controlling the capital Tripoli”. Tripoli has a competing government and Libya Dawn is an umbrella group of militia many of them are not extremist except in the world view of CIA-linked General Haftar supported by the government of prime minister Al-Thinni in Tobruk. What is being requested is intervention by the Security Council on the side of the Tobruk government in the conflict between the two rival governments. This is made crystal clear by the following passage: Earlier this month, Libya and Egypt asked the United Nations Security Council to lift the arms embargo on Libya, impose a naval blockade on areas not under government control such as Tripoli and Misurata ports and help build Libya’s army to tackle Islamic State and other militants.
In other words the Security Council should support the Tobruk government allowing arms to flow to it while at the same time ensuring that no arms are provided to the competing government in Tripoli. The UN report notes: ” The capacity of Libya to physically prevent arms transfers is almost nonexistent and there is no authorization to enforce the arms embargo on the high seas or in the air as there were during the 2011 revolution”. This is said without the least trace of irony or any thought that maybe the 2011 revolution was not a good idea. Then the move was against Gadaffi getting arms and in support of the rebels. Now the move would cut off arms to the rebels while they continued to flow to the Tobruk government, a government with powerful figures from the Gadaffi era. In the case of military leader Khalifa Haftar, with early links to the CIA, he was a vehement opponent to Gadaffi who was active in the 2011 revolution after returning from the US where he is a citizen. He was also active in the original overthrow of the monarchy by Gadaffi.
The Tripoli Post is patently a mouthpiece for the Tobruk government. There are a few issues it fails to mention including the burning of the Tripoli parliament as part of Haftar’s Operation Dignity and the bombings of Tripoli probably by UAE planes in coordination with Egypt and Haftar. The bombings also of another Tripoli airport. Nor is it mentioned that the Libyan Supreme Court last November declared the election of last June unconstitutional and that the House of Representatives in Tobruk should be dissolved. Nor is there a mention that the UN has been trying for months to find a political solution to the conflict through dialogue and peace talks between the parties in conflict. The arms embargo does apply to the Tobruk government but arms can be provided to the Tobruk government with the approval of a council committee. Arms are no doubt flowing in to both sides in violation of the arms embargo as the panel notes, but the only move the UN recommends is against the Tripoli government and no doubt the IS: The panel urged the Security Council to form an international maritime force “to assist the Libyan government in securing its territorial waters to prevent the entry into and exit from Libya of arms … the illicit export of crude oil and its derivatives and other natural resources.” The Libyan government for the panel is the Tobruk government while much of the country including the capital is in control of the Tripoli government. This action goes against the attempts at neutrality the UN envoy to Libya, Bernardino Leon, has tried to cultivate at least to some extent. So far the Libyan Mission has not made any comment on the report. The complicated “neutrality” of the UN Libyan mission is evident in this passage describing the UN role in the dialogue process: In addition, it is committed to creating a suitable environment for the interlocutors to ensure the success of the dialogue. Special Representative of the Secretary-General Bernardino Leon has reiterated to Libyan leaders the neutrality of the United Nations on many occasions, the last of which when he contacted Interim Prime Minister Abdullah Al-Thinni to offer condolences for the victims of the terrorist bombings in Al-Qubbah. In the telephone conversation, Leon said that a political agreement is the safeguard to Libya’s unity and ability to combat terrorism, and asked for the interim government’s public support for the dialogue. The Special Representative assured Mr. Al-Thinni that the international community remains fully supportive of the dialogue. Although the UN is said to be neutral, it then goes on to describe Abdullah Al-Thinni as the prime minister—although he is not said to be “Libyan” prime minister. There are penalties for obstructing the peace process and transition to democracy in Llibya. As this statement on Libya by the European Council notes: The EU reiterates its readiness to introduce as soon as it is deemed necessary and in full coordination with UNSRSG, restrictive measures against spoilers of the dialogue process in line with UNSCR 2174 which allows for the listing of individuals who threaten the peace, stability or security in Libya, or who undermine its political transition. Those responsible for violence and those who obstruct or undermine Libya’s democratic transition must face consequences for their actions. General Haftar and the Al-Thinni government have often acted against the peace, stability, and security of Libya. Don’t expect any punishment of Al-Thinni or Haftar for sabotaging the dialogue. They are potential allies in the western war on terror and already backed by Egypt and many important Arab allies in the middle east such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Haftar and al-Thinni are untouchable.
A Reuters article notes: A year ago the Security Council authorized states to board ships suspected of carrying oil from Libyan rebel-held ports and allowed the Libyan government to request that vessels carrying the oil be blacklisted by the council’s sanctions committee. The article fails to note that those same rebels are now still guarding the same ports but are loyal to the Tobruk government. Indeed the premier Al-Thinni signed the deal which led to stoppage of their actions. He was then head of the General National Council transitional government.
The Tobruk government has decided to withdraw from peace talks sabotaging the peace process and making any dialogue impossible. It is banking on the west joining in a campaign against Islamic terrorism. For Haftar and Egypt this includes not just the Islamic State but any Islamists that might be a threat to their power. So far the US and UK at least say they want a unity government before lifting the arms embargo. The US may be suspicious of Haftar’s ambitions and see him as part of the problem. He is the one who in effect started the present clashes through his Operation Dignity last May. His actions now will probably lead to an expanded and bloody civil war. This is no doubt exactly what the Islamic State wants since it will recruit fighters to its cause. They will claim democracy will not work for Islam as shown in Egypt. The only solution is violent jihad.

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