No indication of a real solution in Libya soon

The real reins of power are in the hands of warlords, militia leaders, the Brotherhood and the Turkish interests’ lobby
Thursday 10/06/2021
A file picture shows Libya’s new Prime Minister Abdulhamid Dbeibah, speaking during a news conference in Tripoli, Libya. (REUTERS)
A file picture shows Libya’s new Prime Minister Abdulhamid Dbeibah, speaking during a news conference in Tripoli, Libya. (REUTERS)

There is nothing that augurs a better future for Libya. All that has been said about an end to the crisis that had worsened for years, remains just words stemming from wishful-thinking.

I have said before that what happened in Libya in 2011 had nothing to do with what happened in Tunisia and Egypt, but was an extension of what had happened in Iraq in 2003 when an external military intervention led to a strike at the structure of the state and the complete destruction of its security and military institutions with a view to eradicating the ideological foundations of the regime.

This deliberately created a vacuum, which was filled by the militias that quickly took control of the political scene and controlled the joints of the new system of government. They formed their own economic entities within their areas of influence. The militias’ activities became a source of influence, wealth and social prestige.

For 18 years, the militias of Iraq were not disbanded, but rather turned into forces parallel to the regular army that was formed later along with the security services. Rebel cells emerged from within, not only against the central authority, but also against the occupation forces that had paved the way for them to appear in such a violent fashion.

If Iran has exploited the vacuum in Iraq to serve its national project on sectarian grounds, Turkey is now playing the same game in Libya. It is defying the international community and trampling on all the consensus that were formed, whether between the actors at home under the auspices of the United Nations or at the regional and global levels.

Turkey benefits from the militia incubator that was established since 2011 under the umbrella of NATO, and from the help of forces of political Islam and their allies who shield themselves behind Erdogan’s regime, defend that regime’s role in their country to no end and continue every day to search for justifications for that role, whether by distorting history, jumping over geographic borders, or doing away with strategic considerations and concepts.

The situation in Libya does not herald any real hope for closing the chapter on the past. Those who fuel the flames of sedition continue to seek to revive the embers that may rekindle the fire any time.

The Presidency Council and the Government of National Unity are incapable of taking the initiative to impose reason and logic. The real reins of power are in the hands of warlords, militia leaders, the Brotherhood and the Turkish interests’ lobby with its financial, economic, ideological and cultural dimensions, especially in Tripoli and Misrata.

This camp does not reflect the viewpoint of the vast majority of Libyans, but is nonetheless the most influential and effective of all camps. In the end, the people remain a gelatinous mass distributed over a vast area of land, and divided by a vast array of concerns and needs.  There are no strong parties nor influential institutions capable of unifying ranks and leading people to face the reality imposed on them.

The faction that rejects the political settlement is betting on disrupting the implementation of the military agreement, and behind it the final ceasefire.

The most basic provision of the agreement for those who are familiar with it, is the one that stipulates that the coastal road between the eastern and western regions is to be opened, allowing citizens, workers and merchants to move through Sirte and Misrata, without resorting to winding detours along desert roads.

But the militias have vehemently rejected this provision and ignored the mediations of the US and German ambassadors, the UN envoy and the attempts by the president Mohammed Menfi and premier Abdulhamid Dbeibah to persuade them.

It has disregarded the decisions of the Joint Military Committee and is still seeking to blackmail the government to obtain $700 million in exchange for opening the road, a prohibitive request intended to keep the situation the way it is.

The same factions reject the withdrawal of foreign forces and mercenaries and put pressure on the government to maintain Turkish troops and legitimise their presence as allied forces that entered the country based on an agreement between the previous government and Erdogan.

They do not accept addressing the issue of dissolving the militias, which they consider to be regular military forces, while they consider the army forces as militias that must be disbanded, thus leaving no room for the unification of the armed forces.

Such military unification is the overriding goal without which the country cannot overcome its divisions.

The conflict thus takes on several aspects, regional, provincial and ideological and Dbeibah is in the trench with those militias that are regionally closest to him instead of siding with the public interest. even if it is with gestures of courtesy towards opponents and even enemies. Dbeibah should be insteadd embodying his job description as head of a government of national unity and not as the premier of the Tripoli region.

These same factions obstruct the course of the elections, which they fear they will not win. Sometimes they call for a referendum on the draft constitution first, knowing that it is controversial and will likely be rejected by most Libyans. They also clamour for the head of state not to be elected by direct popular vote, but by parliament, given that it is possible to buy the voices of dozens of MPs but it is impossible to buy the ballots of millions of voters.  Their goal in all of this is to mortgage the choice of Libyans and keep the levers of power in their hands to exercise the dictatorship of the minority that does not recognise the right of the majority to determine its fate.

It is only logical that the factions that reject the political settlement are the same that obstruct national reconciliation and prevent the end of the conflict. It is logical that it is these factions that clamour for the militias to remain in their camps and for foreign forces to stay in their bases and for the political and geographical divisions to continue unchanged.

It is the factions that are manoeuvring to obstruct the elections. If the international community imposes the vote on a specific date, they will find the means to overturn the results, as happened in the past, especially since the Brotherhood sees itself alone controlling the political scene and the Turks will not accept anything short of staying in the country in order to ensure their interests.

The Presidency Council appears to be in a state of utter paralysis and the prime minister tends to focus on forging external relations more than interacting with challenges within Libya.

With a closer look at the scene one realises that the authorities which came out of the political dialogue forum are of the same than the Sarraj government formed after the Skhirat Agreement,

All is accompanied by enough cunning to tell the international community what it wants to hear and to arrange deals under the table to thwart its efforts, so that the interests and privileges of officials and the concerns and sufferings of citizens continue while the real solution to the crisis remains elusive.