The farce that is Libya

Opinion Saturday 28/May/2016 09:35 AM
By: Times News Service
The farce that is Libya

If you were to write Libya’s current events as a novel, a publisher would throw it out, on the grounds that it was too improbable even as a work of fiction.
​Just consider: Libya has a new government, the Government of National Accord (GNA), which is backed, indeed created by western powers, yet supported by almost nobody in Libya. So much so that, two months after arriving in Tripoli, its seven strong presidency council - two members having already quit - the rest - when there're there - cannot even leave the naval base. They hold sham meetings in a bunker with visiting dignitaries and are protected by paid Dawn militias on the base.
The Prime Minister's Office in Tripoli is occupied by Libya Dawn people. Dawn created the National Salvation Government in Tripoli.
​The farce escalated on March 31, when the GNA, more accurately the Presidency Council, chosen not by election but by a UN-chaired commission, arrived in the Libyan capital by boat. Boat? Yes, because Libya Dawn, the coalition of extremist and Misrata militias that controls Tripoli, had then threatened to shoot down their plane. An Italian warship conveyed these seven men, bearing a UN mandate, to a spot just over the horizon. Then a rusty Libyan naval cutter ferried them the last few miles, to preserve the illusion that this was a Libyan operation, not one engineered by Western puppet-masters.
​Once in the naval base, the council, which is not part of the yet to be confirmed 30 Ministers and 60 Deputy Ministers of the GNA, are led by a “designate prime minister” Fayez Serraj, a businessman, who has been unable to move into the city though he now frequently visits other countries; staying anywhere but Libya if he can. Dawn still controls the city, and the pro-Dawn pro-Muslim Brotherhood chiefs of central bank and oil remain in post. So Serraj and his Council HAD to make a deal with Dawn!
PC/GNA members can’t even get into the government offices, which are still occupied by Dawn’s own National Salvation Government.
​Instead, the GNA has agreed that Libya Dawn can be its security force.
What the PC/GNA have done is let the members of Dawn create, accepted by the UN, a State Council, supposedly an advisory body only but increasingly seen as the power in Tripoli with Misratan Abdel Rahman Swehli as its head and cooperating with his cousin, the ambitious Deputy designate PM Ahmed Maetig, seem both to have effectively usurped Serraj's authority.
In turn, this has infuriated the elected parliament, based in the eastern city of Tobruk. That parliament -the HOR - refuses to vote for the new phantom GNA government, and members are dismayed to see Dawn now cemented in control of the capital through the State Council.
As as result, the East, Cyrenaica, appear to be breaking away. Early in May they tried to sell their own oil. The UN stopped them. The UN issued an edict to blockade Tobruk port - Hariga - Libya’s only current export terminal. Then after a few days the blockade was negotiated away. What was agreed is unknown.
Now the East are about to issue their own currency.
​Libya Dawn might control the capital, reducing the GNA to impotence, but Tobruk has some very strong cards also. The east has most of Libya’s oil. Its National Army, commanded by Gen.Khalifa Haftar, is more powerful than Dawn’s. In the east, its units have occupied key oil fields in the Sirte Basin and other strategic positions. In the west, its allied units in Zintan have closed pipelines that pass through their territory from oil fields to Zawia, Tripoli's only real oil port, while proudly announcing newly-formed combat units loyal to the Libyan Army and Hafter.
The east has most of the oil, and knows it is in a powerful position to issue its own currency, 4 billion Libyan Dinars no less, printed in Russia, and available to the people from the 1st June, even as Tripoli’s central bank also starts distributing their notes printed in Britain.
​With Tobruk holding the key economic and military cards, though the PC first called such currency counterfeit, Serraj this week agreed a compromise; the east can issue its currency, if it cooperates with the Tripoli bank so that both currencies co-exist. Lets see how long that lasts.
It must be noted that on the 'US Embassy of Libya' Facebook site, the Americans issued a categoric statement that the Russian made money was counterfeit. I wonder will they issue a retraction?
​The reality is that the civil war goes on, and the east, disenchanted by the shambles of a “unity” government and interference of the international community, has in effect broken away, taking Libya’s oil with it, and leaving western powers grasping at straws and looking incompetent.
​This has not stopped pro-Dawn elements in Serraj's presidency council from starting a purge of foreign embassies to instal their own people. With the power of UN backing, the purge cannot be opposed. A mass clearout is taking place in Libyan embassies across the world. But these purges will only further antagonise Tobruk, and indeed all Libyans who feel that an extremist-Misrata coalition of militias should not rule Libya to the exclusion of everyone else. The West should be ashamed.
​The farce is speading beyond Libya’s shores. After the revelation revealed in The Times that British special forces are not just advising, but fighting alongside Misrata forces battling IS, the head of the British parliament’s powerful foreign affairs committee, Crispin Blunt MP, has demanded Prime Minister Cameron come clean about exactly what the SAS is up to in Libya. His concern: That British units will become embroiled not just in Misrata’s war against IS, but with its bigger battle against Haftar’s forces. Hafter's forces are covertly advised by Russian and French special forces, leading to the possibility of a very awkward confrontation. Let alone the fact that Egypt and the UAE also support the East Libyans.
​Meanwhile, the US is rushing ahead with plans to arm GNA forces, who will be only Dawn militias, after Haftar said categorically he does not accept the GNA as a legitimate government. The US insists the weapons will only be used against IS, but if Dawn militias turn them on Haftar’s forces, the west will find itself embroiled in a proxy war. While Washington supports the GNA, Moscow in particular is increasingly throwing its weight behind the elected parliament in Tobruk, raising the prospect of a diplomatic mailstrom similar to that which is now unfolding in Syria.
No, a publisher would say, shaking their head, this kind of mess is just not credible. Not even as fiction.
Could western powers, with such powerful intelligence services, with so much brain-power and stored experience, really contrive this mess? All I can say is, good luck to future historians, or come to that, congressional and parliamentary inquiries, trying to untangle this mess.
The very short answer for those who can't wait for historians or parliamentary reports is the fact that both Washington and London are seduced at the very highest levels by the formidable internationally organised Muslim Brotherhood who support the militias of Tripoli and Misrata and want the control of Libya and her assets inside and outside the country.
We in the West couldn't have made the situation worse if we tried. - Exclusive to Times of Oman