Times of Oman
Libya after the lies and the spin
December 21, 2015 | 2:33 PM
by Richard J. C. Galustian
From left to right, Mohammed Chouaib, head of the HoR delegation from the UN-recognized government in the eastern city of Tobruk, Fayez Sarraj, Libyan Prime minister Designate and Dr. Saleh Almkhozom, Second Deputy Chairman of the Libyan General National Congress (GNC). - Supplied photo

Last week, the impossible finally occurred after three years of frustrating negotiations, blood, and failures: A Libyan government was formed by foreigners, by the United Nations on December 17, 2015 in Morocco. Sounds like a major success yes? Maybe.

Timely? Absolutely.

The real story of how the Libyan National Unity Government (NUG) emerged needs to be told to pundits, armchair generals, and perhaps, to Libyans of different stripes themselves in order to grasp what comes next in my humble opinion.

Clearly, a confluence of events helped the United Nations stitch together the NUG led by Faiez Seraj. Let’s review how the convergence of three events resulted in a possible 'workable' nexus.

At the Rome Conference of December 13, 2015, according to a good source, US Secretary of State John Kerry threw a "diplomatic tantrum", demanding that a NUG come together now. Kerry, fresh from his talks with new best pal Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov over the Syrian peace plan, the US Secretary of State is using his “rogue status” to make quick US diplomatic decisions I believe without consulting Washington or his own State Department.

Kerry, like his predecessor before him, Hillary Clinton, holds the “Libya file” close to his respective heart (as Clinton held the Libya 2011 file for example) and has apparently a “pass” by the Obama Administration to do whatever is needed, and fast. After all, the behaviour of the two DOS secretaries is symptomatic of Washington’s current environment of foreign policy “lack of centre” decision-making on the cuff. Obama’s lawyer mind, along with the bloated and utterly useless National Security Council, can’t make a decision to find their way out of a paper bag. Obama subcontracts important decisions to his appointees. Enter the swashbuckling, charming, not overly well endowed cerebrally, Irish- American, Kerry, who has secured Lavrov’s liking and backing. Amazing how this new American-Russian realpolitik works! So much for Ukraine and sanctions.

Another piece of the puzzle comes in the form of the very real threat from the IS extremists. As the American and Russian-led coalitions bomb IS and their heathen, reports began to circulate that Libya’s 'Daesh-stan' was expanding. A symbolic anticipated act being that the new UNESCO world heritage site at the ancient Roman city of Sabratha was in immediate danger destruction by IS.

Given the popular sentiment across much of the world to smash IS now and ask questions later about containment and destruction of their evil, vile, anti-social ideology, Kerry and Lavrov, along with their counterparts from the UN Security Council, to include several Arab states, said enough is enough with IS in Libya and want to bring the hammer down hard on the toxic extremists. These extremists include the hodgepodge coterie of not only IS but also the Muslim Brotherhood members and the Ansar Al Sharia. But first, a Libyan government needs to invite foreign intervention. Enter the NUG which is undoubtably ready to grant the necessary permission.

A third piece to the UN interconnection is about money. Lots and lots of money. The signing ceremony on 17th was spun beautifully and brilliantly by the United Nations. It is true that 80 HOR (Tobruk’s House of Representatives) and 25 GNC (Tripoli’s General National Congress) people were in attendance but few signed anything because they have no part in the new NUG. Instead, the plan was signed by 39 of the 40 Libya Dialogue people, all of whom have promised jobs and salaries courtesy of the UN. Surprise! And all of whom sense they are about to become what amounts to the legislative arm of a new government - a government gifted $100 billion in foreign assets. So the new deal is signed but only by the people who negotiated it.

Now, the Central Bank of Libya (CBL) and the Libyan National Oil Company (NOC) are about to function openly with this new UN installed government. In fact, CBL is about to start issuing loans. To boot, France’s Total and Italy’s ENI are part of the financial equation that will make NOC viable again. Money, and oil, it seems, is about to be used to again “buy off” those militias, factions, and tribes, that are alienated and ostracised by the international mandate. Everyone has their hands out shouting "Show me the money"!

What comes next may be called the “Frankenstein’s monster” option. Just as in Mary Shelly’s novel, Dr. Frankenstein attempts to create life from death. But in the end, there are lessons learned including the risks of tampering with nature's unique order, the dangers of ambition turning into obsession, and the necessity for human connection of any and every kind.

Now the UN has created the NUG, and there are major implications for how Libyans on the ground will behave in this new environment. As Henry Frankenstein’s character stated from the 1931 movie: “Look! It's moving. It's alive. It's alive... It's alive, it's moving, it's alive, it's alive, it's alive, it's alive, IT'S ALIVE!”

Dr Frankenstein—read here the UN and the West—are setting the stage for a military intervention to support their creation. Their base of operations in Libya may very well be the securely created salubrious residential city (adjacent to a UN Military Residential Compound) to instal and protect this new Seraj government. That residential complex is big enough to accommodate members of the new government, soldiers and embassies as deemed necessary. It is the ultimate Iraqi-type styled 'Green Zone' which sits next to the militarized UN facility as described. Britain is already talking 1,000 troops to be inserted into Libya “to train and advise” and other regional powers can offer up airpower from a number of regional bases or sea-based platforms. Italy’s 6.000 soldiers will provide the backbone necessity for implementing the UN’s version of nation building with this sown together NUG. Russia and Egypt are likely to contribute assets too.

The real question for the UN’s NUG is with the townsfolk's in the Frankenstein analogy.

The Seraj government needs to form a new parliament. Perhaps by combining the HOR and the GNC with the UN’s approved Libya Dialogue, there could be a new, functional branch. Toss in some Muslim Brotherhood members plus Abdelhakim Belhadj’s people and the numbers add up, for example a parliament of 250 people. Money helps grease these wheels to unite these 'townsfolks'. The Misratans, and others of their nature, will join the parade, based on their ability to use their famously astute business acumen. So what if Tripoli ends up looking like Beirut with its dysfunctional fiefdoms, divided by Zintan and Misrata in the main. If unhappy, the NUG will be a target.

Libya’s so-called village policeman—General Khalifa Haftar—may very well go along with the UN installed government for now but just as quickly turn against the monster when the abomination becomes clear. When UN Ambassador to Libya Martin Kobler met with Haftar to get his 'buy in', Kobler said “I met General Haftar. We had a long meeting. It was a good meeting, and very frank. The army must have an important role... security is of the utmost importance. Nothing moves without security. The government cannot go to Tripoli. The economy cannot survive well. You will have the assistance of the international security once security is better,” Kobler said, in anticipation of the lifting of the UN’s arms embargo to Libya. So be it, as dictated by the international community.

Perhaps the NUG will not last, and will only work 75 per cent percent but, I hate to admit, it is the best chance for Libya at this moment.

Let’s hope the UN and its creation the NUG, as the new third government, can agree to absorb the other two governments Libya has.

Subscribe to our newsletter and be the first to know all the latest news