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Russia’s growing influence in Libya
June 10, 2016 | 4:33 PM
by Richard J. C. Galustian
 
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Russia’s growing prominence in Libya is reflecting their ever evolving new Middle East and North African policy.

While Libya has been divided between two parliaments and governments since 2014, Russia’s influence has grown with East Libya.

A review of the United Nations resolution on Libya’s arms embargo is likely to be voted upon early next week. However this will only be achieved if Russian concerns can be overcome.

Despite the international efforts a paradox remains. A partial lifting of the UN's arms embargo to one side will greatly increase the danger of swelling the intensity of the civil war and of risking some of those arms reaching IS.



The Russians do not understand the West's approach to extremists. Russia's logic is sound as shown in Syria. If it looks like a duck and walks and quacks like a duck; it probably is a duck, to paraphrase Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavarov comment on terrorists.

In Libya the two divided factions, the democratically elected eastern government and parliament, the House of Representatives (HoR), and the 'Libya Dawn' coalition of militias who created Tripoli's National Salvation Government (NSG), are now challenged by a third 'virtual' faction, the Government of National Accord (GNA) which was selected by the UN as a 9 man, now reduced to 7, Presidency Council (PC), which in effect constitutes a GNA quorum.



Let me be clear: The international community supports a non-existent GNA headed by a Western patsy designated prime minister and 6 other men. To boot, this fledgling Western selected so called government still faces huge unpopularity from the masses who resent Western interference in its internal affairs.

The GNA, having no military forces of their own, have agreed with Dawn Militias that they be re-badged 'the Presidential Guard' and that they be the recipients of new weapons permitted by the UN if the resolution is accepted by the Security Council.

Interestingly Russia's UN Ambassador Churkin said "the highest priority" in Libya should be to encourage the HoR Parliament in the East approval of the new GNA government. A new twist. If anyone can persuade the East and the HoR to 'bless' the GNA, it will be the Russians that will be the broker.

Let’s note that the cards are now in East Libya's favour. They receive weapons through Egypt; they control their oil; they made their own currency, courtesy of Russia.

The fact is IS is not a priority for Libyan adversaries and it is not as huge a threat as some would have us believe. Despite what tantamounts to propaganda by a compliant almost government manipulated Western media, there is a relatively small number of IS present in the country of hundreds not thousands.

If the West let arms like heavy artillery and most importantly ammunition to go to 'the Dawn' militias, a sizeable proportion will undoubtedly end up in extremists hands and the probable result will be that both will end up fighting Khalifa Haftar's Libyan Army of the East.

The Russians won't allow anything that doesn't protect the East Libyans. This Kremlin perspective is a reality Western nations don't seem to grasp. Equally the Russians still don't understand the West's unrealistic expectation to tag who’s who in Libya’s (and Syria's) terrorist spectrum. Neither do I.

Moscow knows Khalifa Haftar well as the Libyan General has made frequent trips to Russia. The Kremlin see’s Western behavior towards Haftar as mistaken. There is a disregard by the West for the actual players on the ground like Haftar, like the tribes, yet utmost consideration is given to 'the Dawn' extremists and Muslim Brotherhood militias which seems illogical and inconceivable.

Then there is UN Special Envoy to Libya, Martin Kobler. The other day he said "Libya is a country awash with weapons; 20 million pieces of weaponry in a land of six million inhabitants." Kobler then childishly added, that "these weapons do not fall from the sky" adding "These arms fuel the conflict and shipments must end". Yet he was in Vienna last month when it was agreed to do just that; to deliver more weapons.

Is he schizophrenic?

Kobler’s mixed messages are making the Russians even more assertive. Actually one cannot help noting an unexpected consequence has been that both (East & West) NOC's and both CBL's are talking to one another. The international community and it's mostly incompetent bureaucrats and diplomats would have you believe any such positive movements between Libyans is their doing; that's nonsense.

Britain's UN Ambassador Matthew Rycroft has presented this week to other Security Council members a British-drafted new Libya resolution and has stated he hopes for a vote as early as Monday.

Now we must wait for Russia's stance on the proposed resolution as it becomes a more strident player in the entire MENA region. Maybe the road to unity for Libya will end up going through Moscow.

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