Dimming hope in Libya

My hope for Libya becoming a unified country is diminishing.  It is a sad conclusion.  I had hoped for peace would come through the very capable UN negotiator, Martin Kobler.    A peace agreement was finally ready for signing in December 2015, giving rise to hope. Kobler was able to convince lawmakers from the Tobruk and Tripoli factions to sign the agreement,  but the leaders of both factions would not.

Wikipedia has done a phenomenal job of impartially chronicling events as follows:

 Libyan Civil War (2014 to present)

The Libyan civil war end in November 2011, and a period of calm existed until May 2014 when the newly elected congress in Tripoli was attacked. Today, the country is broken into two main factions  with the Tripoli and Tobruk governments controlling large portions of the west and east of Libya, respectively  and several other groups controlling parts of the country.

To control Libya, the entire Mediterranean coastline of Libya  must be secured.  This is where the export ports and refineries are located.  The regional airports and roads must also be secured for commerce to continue.  The onshore  oil fields are located more in the central part of the country and pipelines are bring the oil to the coastline for shipping.

The Wall Street Journal reported the destruction of the oil tank storage facility at Es Sider and Ras Lanuf with a million barrels of crude going up in smoke.  This was a dramatic show of force.   An astute commentator asked what good is the facility to ISIL if it is burned to the ground.  The answer is, that they have denied Libya the ability to export their oil,  one more step is seizing control of Libya.

Wall Street Article on ISIL attack

ISIL has control of Sirte, so this attack is a move to the east.   Next stop is likely Brega, which has a refinery and export port.  It would be a major prize to ISIL.     It is headquarters to Sirte Oil Company,  which before being nationalized by Gaddafi, was the Exxon oil company concession headquarters.

The Gulf News has a very insightful and timely article on the peace talks provided below:

There’s a ray of hope for Libya’s Peace Talks

Basically,  hope springs from the fact that ISIL has not been able to forge the essential ties to other influential groups, as it did in Syria.  I feel that this is likely because there isn’t the same condition of extreme  poverty and xenophobia (eventhough Gaddafi tried to instill western hatred) as in Syria.  So, ISIL is fighting both Tobruk and Tripoli government, from Sirte, home base of Gaddadi.

But still, ISIL may develop ties to other tribal groups, with their own militias.  The New York Times article on Jan 18, 2016 further analyzes the complex situation of the US trying to help defeat ISIL, without a united government in place:

 US courts unreliable allies to combat ISIL

In sum, everybody  wants national unity and a defeat of ISIL, but compromise is very elusive.  The trajectory, if based on past events, is frightening.

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

 

 

 

 

 

Libya- and the diminishing hope for peace

Avoiding a catastrophic war takes more cleverness than hubris- although both work.

“Force is all conquering, but it’s victories are short lived.”
Abraham Lincoln

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall take flack from both sides.”- Unofficial UN Motto

Imagine putting together a puzzle, and all of sudden, the pieces of the puzzle start dividing into more pieces.  But the pieces are hardly made of cardboard, but have money, arms and in many cases hold the most valuable resources of Libya- its oil fields.

Blessed UN  peacemaker Bernardino Leon of Spain has been attempting to negotiate a peace agreement among rival factions  in Libya.  It is far easier to topple a unpopular dictator, than to create a  unified country.   If Syria is the ultimate in a failed state and civil war by proxy,  then Libya easily qualifies for second place.

It has looked for many months as a peace agreement might be close at hand,  chiefly between the Tripoli based government and the Tobruk based government, but to also  include other rival factions.  The 42 year reign of Gaddafi came to an end in October 2011, after approximately 10 months of fighting.

There was great hope for a far more open and democratic society, post 2011 throughout Libya.  Things appeared to be returning to normal, with the election of a new President in 2013 – but there was a political storm brewing below the surface.  The second civil war began in May 2014 with Operation Dignity followed by Operation New Dawn.  These military operations captured the airport in Tripoli and drove the elected government out of Tripoli.

Leon’s time in Libya appears to be ending soon as he has accepted a position to head a thinktank in UAE, but not without controversy as UAE supports the Tobruk based government.

Leon Bernadino – New Assignment and Controversy

He will be replaced Martin Kobler, a German diplomat,  with extensive background in the Middle East.

German to take up UN Libya Post

The UN representatives can only make peace if the rival factions want peace.  If they believe more will be gained by waging war, then the Libyan civil war will continue.   But,  this immediately ends the attacks on Leon Bernardino, by the Tripoli based government, which I believe  were done  for popular support.  Bernardino had hammered out a peace proposal among the rival parties, but the Tripoli based government refused to sign it. Libyans have been fleeing their country in record numbers since last year as the civil war has continued.

So, perhaps the Tripoli government will sign the accord now, with Bernardino out of the picture.  Or more chaos will ensue.

Stay tuned,

Dave