Libya’s three dimensional chess board
May 1, 2016 | 5:01 PM
by Richard J. C. Galustian

Though the end game in Libya appears to be close, I think we can expect it to slide fairly slowly down a chaotic path that could take months.

It is looking more and more likely that the UN selected, Presidency Council (PC) will declare Tripoli’s Government of National Accord (GNA) in power without Tobruk’s House of Representatives (HOR) approval which is contrary to the Libya Political Agreement (LPA) and that this will happen in the next few days in a special ceremony at a yet to be announced venue.

Hope for HOR support for the new UN creation GNA 'government' is slipping away.

But the GNA idea is becoming very unpopular with the citizens of Libya. The benchmark being a study of the currency slide over the last seven days in the black market which indicates the lack of confidence of the people in the GNA.

The PC is trying to promote though the media that some HOR members want to approve the GNA but that other HOR members continue to prevent a session from taking place to OK the PC’s plan. In addition, HOR President Ageela Saleh’s opposition to Fayez Serraj being prime minister is adding to the political paralysis.

Why the hurry? The PC is afraid that unless the GNA is formally installed quickly, the impetus behind the Libyan Political Agreement (LPA) and support for it will collapse. From the PC point of view, a move to declare the GNA as being 'approved' is critical. in Tripoli together with most of the west and south of Libya. These areas (other than Zintan) are likely to accept the GNA’s authority as they know its both created and approved by the UN/US & UK and that then translates into money coming back to the country that is currently being held in Western banks.

But this rush to judgement for a short term financial gain highlights the major problems to come in Libya.

The PC plan will actually further divide Libya between east and west, possibly pushing Libya towards de facto secession. Many political leaders in the east are opposed to the UN's creation, the GNA, having convinced themselves that it is anti-Cyrenaica, anti-Libyan National Army, pro-Muslim Brotherhood and pro-Misrata.

Clearly, the Libyan army and the Thinni government in Beida will refuse to accept the PC’s plan. The latter will continue operating in Beida, claiming, rightly, to be the legitimate government.

The result will be the exact opposite to what was the case earlier when the Thinni government in Beida was accepted internationally and the Ghwell National Salvation 'Government' in Tripoli was rejected.

Now it will be the Beida government that is shunned and the new Tripoli one accepted. One can be forgiven for being skeptical how this flip-flop by the West is expected to work.

There are many key questions that arise from this political tumble. First, what will happen to oil exports from the eastern terminals? Having just failed to make an oil sale with the uploading of the now blacklisted Indian-registered oil tanker Distya Ameya, the Tobruk lobby are unlikely to allow other exports to leave via Tobruk or Zuweitina. Ibrahim Jidran and his brothers seems to still control Sidra and Ras Lanouf and supports the LPA - mainly because they oppose General Hafter. But Sidra and Ras Lanouf are not pumping because of threats/damage from IS attacks. Oil exports from the east are anyway therefore in question.

Second, will the HOR itself divide with supporters of the GNA moving to Tripoli and opponents staying in Tobruk? What will Zintan do? With Omar Aswad still refusing to rejoin the PC, the town remains disconnected from the PC Council. At the very least, Zintanis are likely to continue to blockade oil and gas from the east going to Melltah and Zawia, hurting mostly Italy.

These unknowns can be real deal breakers.

Keep in the back off your mind the potential future importance of Saif Gaddafi still imprisoned in Zintan, though rumoured to be in comparative comfort.

Clearly, declaring GNA operational without adherence to the LPA agreement terms will leave it and the Presidency Council open to, at the very least, legal action from oil buyers who have already contracted with the East and more generally from a number of institutions and entities in and outside the country.

Supporters of the now official US sanctioned Ghwell and his Tripoli regime and the equally invalid GNC, say they intend to ask to the Libyan Supreme Court to rule on the legality of the LPA.

Pro-HOR lawyers, separately, are bound to also pursue their own legal action.

In this scenario the whole LPA project will inevitably collapse.

To make matters worse, in Libya’s present divide, the question of who liberates Sirte from IS is becoming a local obsession. General Khalifa Hafter has gained kudos and strength in the east for clearing much of Benghazi of extremists - although there is still fighting in Gwrsha and some pockets of resistance in Sabri and Suq Al-Hout - Haftar knows if goes on to liberate Sirte, such victory would greatly undermine the position of both Western puppets, the PC and the GNA as well as the international community itself.

Thus, the PC and their supporters realise the need for themselves to liberate Sirte first adding, inaccurately, that Haftar cannot succeed.

It was for that reason that Misrata's Swehli called on the PC to liberate Sirte saying its only possible using Misratan militias.

Consequently Misratan forces, unclear the numbers, have headed down to the Abu Grain area towards Sirte from the west, and others to Jufra, planning to move towards Sirte from the south. In Jufra, Misratan forces are also linking up with Tuareg fighters, coming from the south of Libya.

America through their ineffectual Libyan point man, Jonathan Winer, has thrown in his two cents worth saying its a must that "Misrata Military Council" in truth militias, have "joint command" to fight IS in Sirte.

But he, the UN and the UK are wrong not to leave the job of destroying IS to the Libyan National Army (LNA) led by General Khalifa Hafter.

Its extremely naive of the US and the UK to think that fighting IS will bring the East and West of Libya together.

That Hafter is the only player with air power is an important fact that should not be forgotten.

For countries such as Russia, Egypt and the UAE who are watching the Libyan situation closely, they are preparing for the next stage of Libya’s trajectory. Moscow, Cairo, and Abu Dhabi appear very unhappy with the Libyan split and the pending clashes in Sirte plus the echo effect of discord between the country’s regions.

Further more there is the tandem impact of an African 'invasion' of Europe whilst we watch Libya descend into greater chaos.

Sounds like a mega-upheaval is about to occur both in Europe and on Libya’s three dimensional chess board.

The West's overt support of its own creation, the GNA, needs to recognise that its propensity to not practice impartiality when it comes to the democratically elected House of Representatives (HOR), whether it is real or perceived, has led to an imbalance that in itself is the most threatening factor inhibiting the unity in Libya. - Exclusive to Times of Oman

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