Written by: Dr. Sasha Toperich for USMilitary.com
Skeptics in North Africa are now convinced the Arab Spring was nothing but a Western conspiracy to divide and fragment the Middle East and give authority to the Muslim Brotherhood. There is some evidence to bolster that claim, made overtly clear by the British Permanent Representative to the UN?s recent declaration that the only group fighting ISIS in Libya is Fajr Libya. It should not be that difficult to remember that Fajr Libya is the name of the operation launched last May by the Misrata militia and their Muslim Brotherhood supporters, that lost in the general elections in Libya, resulting in the seizure of Tripoli by force, the destruction of Tripoli International Airport and most of the Libyan Airline. They forced the duly elected House of Representatives to flee to Tobruk in the east where they still meet. Meanwhile, the unpopular and defunct General National Congress returned to Tripoli with less than half its original membership and formed the so-called Salvation Government, resulting in a de facto division of the country into east and west, with parallel parliaments and governments. The Fajr Libya militias still rule the day, from Misrata all the way to the Tunisian border. Only pockets in the west of the country are under the control of Zintan such as Alwitia, a far western air – strip used by the Libyan Army as a base for occasional bombing missions. The Misrata militias unsuccessfully tried to overrun that base, and fighting continues to flare up in the west.
Security Council Should Approve Forming The Coalition to Fight ISIS in Libya
Statement by the British Permanent Representative to the UN drew sharp rebuke from the Libyan government(s) as interference in Libya?s domestic affairs. Soon after, the British government backed away from the statement, asserting the role of the Libyan army (as well as others, implicitly Fajr Libya) in fighting Islamist groups. Ibrahim Dabbashi, Libya’s Permanent Representative to the UN, recently spoke strongly at the Security Council against Britain’s role in supporting Fajr Libya and the Muslim Brotherhood and asking for an ease of sanctions against arming the Libyan military. The U.S. and British governments blocked that request made by Libya soon after the 21 Egyptian Copts were slaughtered by IS near Sirte. The UN Security Council also rejected Jordanian resolution calling for an international coalition to be led by Egypt in fight against ISIS in Libya, akin to the one formed for Syria and Iraq.
These actions, or better to say lack of actions, are what strengthens the arguments of many in the Middle East about sinister Western intentions (mainly by the UK and U.S.) to give major power to the Muslim Brotherhood and their allies who lost it in last May’s national parliamentary elections. Some even go further and accuse these powers of intending to divide Libya into two or three states.
Give A Chance For Possible Unity Government and Dialogue
Roughly two weeks ago, the former first GNC deputy wrote a well-publicized letter to the House of Representatives? Dr. Abubakr Buera, an influential figure, warning him of going down the UN unity government path and saying the Muslim Brotherhood and their allies cannot be trusted, from his personal experience in dealing with them during the GNC?s reign. The House of Representatives then announced the suspension of its participation in the UN-sponsored talks. After a visit by Bernardino Leon, the UN?s special envoy to Libya, to Tobruk, they agreed to return to the negotiations, just in motion in Morocco. It is not clear where this fourth session of talks will lead even when the follow up meetings are schedule to take place in Algeria and later in the Brussels. Insiders from HoR say UN?s Bernardino Leon promised to declare presence of the terrorist groups in some cities in Libya and need to fight them, to instruct armed militias to leave cities and not to return without the UN approval and that the ?coalition? rather then ?unity? government is to be formed. Or perhaps the fighting will continue, complicated now by the rise of ISIS in Libya, until both sides are worn down by the heavy toll of fighting as well as the rapidly worsening economic situation.
ISIS In Control Of Two Oil Fields In Central Libya
Meanwhile, the EU is watching events in Libya with concern, unwilling to challenge the U.S./UK for more robust intervention ? which Italy favors, increasingly worried about ISIS rising on the Mediterranean, close to their southern borders. Their concern is becoming more justified after the news of ISIS overrunning and controlling two oil fields in central Libya, after declaring the central coastal city of Sirte (the hometown of former dictator Gaddafi) as part of the Islamic State (IS), in addition to the previously declared one in Derna.
Libyans and others wonder why such a huge international coalition was assembled with U.S. leadership to fight ISIS in Iraq and Syria after some Western correspondents were brutally slaughtered there, while calls for another coalition to fight the spread of ISIS to North Africa were all but blocked. Even efforts to bolster the Libyan Army in its eight-month bloody fight against Ansar Al Sharia, a group declared as terrorist by the U.S. government and group responsible for the assassination of U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens on September 11, 2012 in Benghazi. The Libyan Army’s fight in that city has left parts of the city in shambles, forcing hundreds of families to flee. The city still suffers under major power cuts, shortages of gasoline and cooking gas, and scarcity of food and medicine. The hastily assembled army, under the leadership of Khalifa Haftar, has suffered great casualties and operates with very limited resources and ammos. The House of Representatives promoted Haftar to the rank of General and appointed him as chief of the armed forces. Just today, General Haftar has declared three days cease fire, to give the UN change to succeed. For the benefit of all Libyans, everyone should keep their fingers crossed.
Written by: Dr. Sasha Toperich, Senior Fellow, Center for Transatlantic Relations SAIS at Johns Hopkins University in Washington D.C.