By Sasha Toperich, Senior Fellow, Center for Transatlantic Relations, Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies
Article first appeared at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sasha-toperich/libya-tougher-un-sanction_b_5726084.html
Since July 13, Tripoli has been subjected to vicious attack by Muslim Brotherhood-supported militias from the city of Misrata in what they called Operation Libya Dawn (OLD). The attack centered mainly on Tripoli International Airport where a rival militia, labeled as “liberal,” has been in control of the airport for three years since Gaddafi’s ouster. The attack destroyed most airplanes and airport facilities, as well as the main fuel depot that lies near the airport, burning millions of gallons of fuel and sending clouds of dark smoke all over the city and miles beyond. Thousands of families were forced to flee the fighting. Long power outages became a daily occurrence and fuel shortages reduced traffic to a crawl, leading to shortages in all aspects of life. Practically all foreign embassies evacuated.
With Force and Fear, Muslim Brotherhood Clings to Power
What led to this unprecedented level of violence since 2011 was the intent of the Muslim Brotherhood and their allies to gain by force what they had lost at the ballot box in the general elections of June 25 this year. The new elections dealt the Islamist groups a severe blow. Less than 15 percent of the elected House of Representatives (HoR) members were Islamists in a wide rebuke to their agenda by the Libyan people. Furthermore, the new HoR convened in Tobruk in eastern Libya, about 1000 miles away from Tripoli, where the Muslim Brotherhood militias had little influence. Now they are trying to intimidate the families of the HoR delegates, to force them to back down and accept a clear coup. They also burned the home of Prime Minister Althinni and other political opponents to exercise pressure.
Nuri Abu Sahmain, the president of the defunct General National Congress (GNC), called for it to convene in Tripoli last Monday. Though fewer than 25 of the 200 member GNC answered the call, this did not dissuade them from refusing to hand over power and denying legitimacy to the new House of Representatives and asking one of their own, Omar Alhasi, to form a new government.
This is a clear and open overthrow of the democratically elected House of Representatives, and a willful and unacceptable use of force to impose the will of a small group on the Libyan people.
The international community, including the UN, U.S., EU and African Union, has repeatedly recognized the new House of Representatives that convened in Tobruk and requested from Abu Sahmain to relinquish his power and engage, as a member of the opposition, in peaceful dialogue that has long been overdue in Libya. But to no avail. Fear is spreading in the country. People are confronted with brutal everyday life and if they speak out and have their voices heard, they may suffer death.
Media Censorship and Journalists’ Freedom Hacked by Muslim Brotherhood
Libya Ahrar TV, based in Doha, Qatar, was one of the favorite TV channels in Libya. A couple of weeks before the attack on Tripoli airport, the channel’s founder Mahmoud Shammam was forced to resign, and was replaced by Ali Salabi (the brother of militant Ismael Salabi, and a formative member of the Muslim Brotherhood). Soon after, anchors started resigning one by one. The most famous resignation was done live by one of its lead anchormen, Nabil al-Hajj, who was constantly harassed during live interviews through his earpiece and was told what to say. Now Libya Ahrar simply shows documentaries — everyone has left because of its new pro-Brotherhood bias. Libya al Watania, a national government-owned TV channel, was invaded by Misrata militias during the Tripoli conflict. Their staff was prevented from coming inside the building and they regularly brought Misrata soldiers and conducted pro-militia shows. It became nothing short of a North Korean-style propaganda station and forced the Libyan government to request that it be pulled from Nilesat, which the reputable satellite provider did. Alasema TV was ransacked after Misrata militias took control of the capital. Its premises were burned, crew kidnapped, and the house of its founder, Mr. Usta burned. Now it’s just a black screen. This has been but a part of a sustained Brotherhood power grab of the media.
Muslim Brotherhood’s “Pink Panther Style” Democracy Disguise
Aly Bozakouk spent two weeks in jail during Gaddafi’s time, afterwards fleeing Libya to the United States where our country later granted him citizenship. After the Libyan revolution, Bozakouk went back to Libya, where he founded the “Citizenship Forum for Democracy and Human Development,” an NGO based in Benghazi and funded, among others, by the U.S. National Endowment for Democracy (NED), with a grant intended to promote civil society and democracy in Libya. He also ran for Libyan Congress, where in the last elections he won third place to represent the Benghazi district in the new House of Representatives. But Bozakouk, perceived as a “moderate” by the international media, instead of joining over 155 parliamentarians (out of 200) gathered in Tobruk and serving the people of Benghazi that duly elected him in the recent democratic elections, went to lead rallies in Misrata and Tripoli against the elected parliament and in support of the embattled Muslim Brotherhood.
In recent weeks, Bozakouk gave interviews for the Naba TV station, a private Libyan Muslim Brotherhood station, derailing the democratic process at every possible opportunity.
There is no question political dialogue is needed in Libya, involving all political parties, including the Muslim Brotherhood. The people in Libya voted for political parties to support building a unified army and police instead of feeding power to militias.
U.S. Taxpayers’ Money Ended Up Supporting Tyranny and Chaos in Libya
Bozakouk’s support of the decision by the Muslim Brotherhood and their Misrata militia to stay in power by use of force, his public justifications of death and destruction in Tripoli, the fact that thousands of innocents have had to flee their homes, his public support of the Majilis Shura Benghazi Revolutionaries, an umbrella organization to Ansar Al Sharia, is highly troubling. I am left wondering how Bozakouk will explain the $150,000 his NGO received from U.S. taxpayers’ money awarded by the NED when he gave his continued vocal support to those forces in Libya that are responsible for the current chaos.
House of Representatives Declares Leaders of Operation Libya Dawn Terrorists
The new HoR moved quickly to call for a cease-fire by all warring parties. When their call went unheeded, they declared that Operation Libya Dawn’s leadership and all groups supporting it are terrorist organizations. The declaration also included Ansar Al Sharia, the Libyan version of ISIS, also declared a terrorist organization by the U.S. government.
The U.S. government and the international community must explicitly and clearly rebuke the flagrant moves by the GNC leadership, controlled by the Islamists and their militias, as they stage a power grab by force and derail the democratic process represented by the newly elected House of Representatives. Expressions of concern are not enough.
UN Security Council Resolution 2174 — A Step in the Right Direction
The latest unanimously adopted UN Security Council Resolution 2174, calling for an immediate ceasefire and inclusive political dialogue, is a welcome move. Resolution 2174 also includes travel bans on those who hinder peace and without a doubt, Salah Badi, head of the Fajr Libya (Libyan Dawn) will be right at the top of the list. It is also critically important to take legal action against those individuals liable under the International Criminal Court for the destruction of civil aviation and facilities at Tripoli International Airport and all acts of revenge and terror against their political opponents, which continue unabated in Tripoli today. The leaders and proponents of these terrorist actions against life and property and the democratic process in Libya must be apprehended, their overseas assets confiscated. Only with such firm and bold action will these groups and those like them throughout the Middle East learn the limits of their illegal, immoral actions. Only then will they get the message that terror will not be tolerated, and Libya will be able to move forward.