Friday, 23 June 2017


Wednesday 21.7.2017 the European Parliament hall hosted protagonists of migration management in the Mediterranean met at an international conference on migrants. Two days before the start of the work of the European Council of 22-23 June, the president of the European Parliament Antonio Tajani wanted to discuss immigration program guidelines and take stock of the results achieved.
In his introductory speech, Mr Tajani acknowledged as "the face of this tragedy that worries our fellow citizens of Europe can sometimes appear weak, even indifferent," adding that "the current system of division of refugees has failed. In the last five years the union has had over 3,6 million applications for asylum, only 2.5 million between 2015 and 2016 ". To remedy the weakness of the reception system, the European Parliament will try to launch by July 2017 , "a reform that aims to redistribute in an automatic asylum seekers from countries with excess demand and to harmonize across the EU the criteria to apply for kindergarten".
For initial greetings have been joined by the European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker,who wanted to commemorate the achievement of a set goal for many years, that of a European coast guard, flanked by Operation Sophia led by Admiral Enrico Credendino. For the diehard critics of reception policies, the Luxembourg asks not forget "that behind the figures and statistics bare there are women and children who would have preferred to stay at home rather than take the road of an uncertain exile." To solve the root of the travel drama of hope, the European Commission proposed "an outside investment plan for Africa and the Neighborhood" hoping "the timeliness of the co-legislators to ensure that this fund will be operational in a short time."
But much of the institutional greetings of Presidents had expected the intervention of the Libyan Premier (or at least, the Libyan government recognized by the international community) Fayez al-Sarraj. He launched a heartfelt appeal to EU Members to do even more than hitherto for Libya.
The fact his country "does not have the means to manage these flows by itself" neither has the tools "to ensure a minimum of health services" to migrants in camps in Libya.
In these hotpot, assures the High Representative for the CFSP Federica Mogherini,people are held "in dramatic living conditions." On a positive note in the Libyan scenario is the (too) slow establishment of a new coastguard, that without adequate means, and hindered, as pointed out by the Libyan premier, by "drug trafficking that overlap the trafficking in human beings human ", saved in recent months 23,000 lives. Sarraj has repeatedly said the gratitude of Tripoli to the Italian Government, which signed a protocol with the Libyans "fundamental to better manage flows through efficient electronic platform."
Yet shipwrecks off the Libyan coasts continue to be the order of the day, the last Monday when 130 migrants set sail on a raft, only 4 were still breathing while a fishing boat picked them into the sea. The 90 million of EU Fund for Africa are not enough to restore financial stability in Tripoli and political authority to manage the return and fight the smugglers. For this the Sarraj speech ended with a point against the UN, which does not decide to suspend trade sanctions against Libya, blocking economic recovery: "Two weeks ago we presented an official request to the UN for lifting the embargo against Libya to allow us to more effectively lead the fight to migration flows. We ask the European Parliament to support this request ".

Wednesday, 21 June 2017


Nearly six years after his death, the shadow of Mouammar Kadhafi still hangs over Libya. In October 2011, the bloody end of the former dictator had marked the end of the resistance from government forces after nine months of civil war. But the embers had been quick to turn on in a country torn among ethnic groups, tribes and clans since the fall of the "Guide". Since 2014, which is sometimes called the "Libyan Civil War" has seen to three self-proclaimed governments and several jihadist groups including the Islamic State.
The noise of weapons also conceals another ghost of Gaddafi: the huge treasure he had managed to send out of Libya before falling. These hundreds million have excited dozens of treasure hunters, but also the different factions sharing power between Tripoli and Benghazi. We were writing here in 2015 how individuals had set out to find scattered riches of the Gaddafi family worldwide.

Diamonds fantasized

"By some estimates, this windfall made of gold, bundles of dollars or diamonds amounted to nearly 150 million €. But no one laid hands on since the revolution", explained at the time US site The Daily Beast, which published a lengthy investigation on the subject. In any case the assertions of the US authorities which estimated rather the evaporated Gaddafi "treasure" to 800 or 900 million $.
In 2013, South Africa officially recorded the handover to the Libyan government about 780 million dollars deposited by the Gaddafi family in the country's banks. No trace of diamonds or gold bars however.
But a new report of the Security Council of the UN published early in June claims that hundreds of millions of dollars sheltered by the ousted dictator had so far escaped the UN investigators were able to trace the path of some large wads of cash.   
"Investigations revealed that even more money than what was estimated was first sent to South Africa through financial institutions. Information revealed in 2016 shows that 800 million dollars were transferred to an account of the South African bank Standard Bank to another of Stanbic Bank Kenya, "says the Quartz news site which relies on data from UN report.
Business in Ouagadougou
Another part of the loot was traced in West Africa. Investigators of the UN Security Council said they were alerted at least by six people about attempts to return the money in Libya. "In one case, the UN report cites 560 million dollars in 100 bills that were hidden in steel boxes somewhere in Ouagadougou, capital of Burkina Faso," notes Quartz site.
The money would have been stored waiting to be returned to Libya by a local Burkinabe company, International Transportation Company convoy, which had received a commission from 10 to 15% of the sum to effect the transfer. The Burkina government has denied the existence of this company yet it has a mailing address in Ouagadougou according to the UN.
The best way to collect a sum of  Gaddafi treasure is perhaps to "participate" in his return.

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

UN Security Council resolution 2357 helps but does not solve situation in Libya

Across the general Haftar, backed by Russia, Egypt and UAE. Amid an uncertain environment, where everyone is fighting for their interests but not for the political stability of Libya. Meanwhile, we are still looking for a replacement special UN envoy Martin Kobler on the Libyan issue is going around, but again nothing has changed. The future of Libya continues to worry UN, where two of the Security Council meeting in seven days and a resolution no. 2357 voted on Monday 12.6.2017 may not be enough to unravel the thread of a drawing which appears more and more tangled. Libya is still an unstable country with a weak government and a victim of a risiko that, if poorly played by the powers of the world, could set off an already teetering, where wrecks are on the agenda.

On the one hand Fayez al-Sarraj, who was appointed head of government under an agreement among some Libyan factions in December of 2015 and recognized by the international community, he continues to "control" Tripoli from the western part of the country. Across Khalifa Haftar, the general funded by Egypt and supported by Russia under his control is the eastern part of Libya and its base is in Tobruk. In the middle of a current of intertwined interests, which also stars some of those countries that on the morning of Monday12.6 voted unanimously the UN resolution. A document made possible by the mediation of the UK which aims to stabilize the situation in Libya through an arms embargo, after the recent violations with respect to a first resolution, passed by the Security Council months ago.
"The Mediterranean, especially along the coasts of Libya, is facing multiple challenges: trafficking in human beings and smuggling of weapons, as well as the smuggling of oil and other products. All this feeds the volatility of the situation in the country and can worsen the duration and complexity of the crisis in Libya - said in his explanation of vote Undersecretary for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation VincenzoAmendola, during the Security Council on Monday 12. The stabilization of Libya is the best way to address this issue: Italy is convinced that this strategy can work through the President's support Council (al-Sarraj, ed) and made possible by institutional structure Libyan Political Agreement (LPA)".
And it is Italy, in fact, at risk of having the strongest collateral damage from other people risiko. Since the end of 2015 that Italians executives are supporting the government of national unity headed by Libyan al-Sarraj, with the aim of ensuring stability in the whole region, a lost stability after the Arab Spring and the death of General Gaddafi. Italy is obviously considered one of the most important players on the Libyan issue, and it is no coincidence that to attend the vote on the resolution in 2357 there was the undersecretary Amendola, the only country in the Council of 15 to show up with a member of his government and not with UN ambassador. An important political signal, but insufficient to improve the situation.
Also because the support to al-Sarraj, today, is anything but unanimous. If Russia and Egypt have explicitly positioned on the side of General Haftar, the United States continue to stand by the window as a few months ago: Bilateral meeting April between the US president and the Italian prime minister Donald Trump Paolo Gentiloni, Trump had thrown the stone pretending to support Italy on the Libyan front, only to withdraw her hand and declare not to see "a US role in Libya: we are too engaged on other fronts. " And there's more. Because on the one hand the United Kingdom and France support the government so al-Sarraj (as evidenced by the words of the ambassadors on the 2357 resolution), but continue to support him in a less convinced Italy. While on the other hand, the Libyan situation has come to break the balance even in the Middle East. The UAE in fact, who have recently isolated by Saudi Arabia, Qatar, accusing him of supporting terrorist groups in Libya, are the focus of a recent report by the UNSC (United Nations Sanctions Committee). Nearly 300 pages "silent" in which UN Commission explains, as reported, that UAE are providing direct and indirect support to the Libyan National Army of which General Haftar is the head, and that allowed the alternative movement to Sarraj government to strengthen its presence in Libya.
Against the background of this battlefield where everyone is fighting without admitting it and where the instability in Libya seem to suit a lot more stability, the UN presents the challenge for peace showing weaker countries. Despite the resolution adopted on the embargo of arms, in fact, UN is still looking for a new special envoy to Libya: the mandate of Martin Kobler will expire by the end of June but is still obscure the identity of who will replace him. And despite Kobler highlights the need "not to compromise the basic principles that unite us and make us human,"the game in Libya continues to appear less and less human: with Egypt, Russia and UAE on the one hand, Italy with weak sheltered UN umbrella, the other and  USA in the middle, to make it even more uncertain a context of strange alliances and interwoven interests.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017


We reached by phone old friend Edward Luttwak, military analyst, economist and politologist; since 2004 he is a consultant to the Washington International Strategic Studies Center. He is also a consultant to the US Ministry of Defense, the National Security Council, and the US Department of State. He is a member of the National Security Study Group of the Department of Defense and works at the Treasury Department, more precisely the Institute of Fiscal and Monetary Policies. He is a member of the Italia-Usa Foundation.
With him we talked about the Libyan crisis.

- Luttwak, in short: what kind of approach must Italy have with Libya?
"Approach? No, Italy must invade Libya, should do it tomorrow, what do you expect? "

- But professor, invade with force?
"And what else? Do you have armored divisions? Use them! Why do you keep them in the barracks? Let us the generals over the age of 55 ... the rest in Libya. "

- Professor but it would be aggression to a foreign state ...
"Which state? Libya is a constellation of tribes, I'm sorry that the efforts of your Minniti (Italian Min Interior) are out of the ordinary. Needless to be pervading: it takes military who handle the territory, heavily armed. "

- How many men for such a mission?
"Everyone you have, for you Italian, Libya is the backbone of your economy, too close to leaving it on the grip of gangs. Libyans, like Somalis, will hardly manage without Western leadership. "

- But the Italians?
"if I were Italian would not pay more than a penny ... spend my money for the national interest of others? But in what other country of the world is it so? Tell me…".

- And welcome? We cannot let people die at sea, is it okay?
"Hospitality? But even if third class country like Turkey save lives and then take them to your shores, or even worse, deliver them to your navy forces. Do they take humanitarian awards at home and what is left for you? Huge cost to handle it all. "

- And with NGOs?
"With NGOs it is not necessary to deal with, they have not been sovereign. Are you currently doing a favor? Absolutely not, you have everything to lose. If they want to help distribute migrants across the Mediterranean. Do you realize they are based on you? What do you do with the Libyan coasts? "

- Let's go back to the mission.
"The mission must be traditional, invasion and garrison. Occupation of all strategic areas, from infrastructure to industrial poles. You have an army capable of supporting this kind of operation, this time with diplomatic cleverness you are not going anywhere. Libya in this state for Italy is an economic vortex, do you expect the Egyptians to invade the Libyan territory? At that point you will be cut off and you will pay your iniquity. "

- However, intervening involves risks in human terms, very high ...
"True, but do the military serve to preserve national interests or else what do you need for the army?"

With this question, which is complex to give answers, we leave it to Luttwak, who reiterates the use of conventional force for the Libyan question. The analyst surely, in his extreme pragmatism, reminds us of the evident Italian immobility of the last three years.



Marginalized from Europe, which has no intention of sharing the flows of illegal immigrants that we welcome in bulk from Libya, Italy is now also ridiculed daily by the pseudo Libyan government of Fayez al-Sarraj whose feeble Coast Guard with its poor and small means is teaching a lesson to the Italian military fleets and the EU in terms of the contrast to the traffickers.
As last Thursday on Saturday the Libyan Coast Guard took back 438 illegal migrants stranded at sea by patrol boats as they left Libya on two boats and two barges. He reported the spokesman for the Libyan navy, Admiral Ayob Amr Ghasem. The project, at 7 on Saturday morning, was carried eight miles off the coast of Mellitah, the town west of Tripoli where the headquarters of the ENI Greenstream pipeline terminal.
Illegal migrants are representative of the sample of nationalities from raggiugono time Italy illegally from West Africa and Bangladesh, almost all economic migrants who do not fleeing war or persecution and that they would not be entitled to any asylum under international law .
The Ghasem Admiral stated that the four vessels were escorted by a "protecting group" of traffickers on two Viper speedboats that have been attacked by Libyan patrol boats with the destruction of one, the other's escape and the arrest of five criminals Libyans armed with Kalashnikovs.

"In the presence of the High Commissioner for Refugees" Ghasem ANSA reported yet, "the migrants were handed over to the reception center of al-Nasr while during the operation" the presence of international NGOs ships was detected " that seemed to be waiting barges and rafts loaded with illegal immigrants to pick them up and take them to Italy.
In recent weeks the Libyan Coast Guard, in line with agreements with Italy, has conducted various block operations of migrants engaging in at least two occasions clashes in focus with the traffickers accompanying the migrant boats towards the open sea where they were detected the rescue ships of various NGOs.
But the Italian government that does not only cover the remaining credibility of ridicule and national dignity?
We train the crews of the Libyan Coast Guard patrol boats that give old and badly armed but then leave them alone to face the traffickers?
We deploy a dozen warships in the Strait of Sicily and as many European ships, with aircraft, helicopters, drones and satellites at a cost of hundreds of millions of euro per year, and there you must report the Libyans that the NGO ships have been meeting with traffickers to embark illegal immigrants?

Yes, because beyond the politically correct language that requires the use of terms "inclusive" (and reminiscent of "newspeak" Orwellian regime of 1984) it was indeed illegal as evidenced by the fact that more than a thousand captured smugglers October 2013 today by military fleets and then handed over to the Italian authorities (for the most part immediately released except those accused of causing tragic shipwrecks) are all charged with "illegal immigration." This means that their customers are defined as "illegal immigrants" at least until they land in Italy and possibly seeking asylum.
Better start to speak out on an issue as serious enough to destabilize the EU and sow chaos in Italy.
Is it possible that in Rome no one knows anything of traffickers-NGO relationships reported by the Libyans? Or you stop your eyes and ears not to endanger the business lobbies of the aid and those of reception: only the latter will share this year about 5 billion Euros, slightly less than the 6 billion that according to raking Europol estimates annually in Libya traffickers.
The prime minister Paolo Gentiloni and Interior Minister Marco Minniti and escape from the ambiguity inherent in the affirmation "manage the flows" to tell us clearly if you really have the will to stop illegal immigration is unacceptable for its social and political costs and related to security or if they do not have the will or the ability because of lobbying which they are subjected.

The difference is significant not only to understand if Italy still has a residue of national sovereignty but also to realize if the current political class is able to solve problems or limited only to magnify them to allow national or foreign lobbies profit from it. Exceptionally, by, especially in elections.
If we still have a sovereignty we expect the government to prevent access to national ports to all foreign ships, civilian and military, which tranship illegal migrants?
An action motivated by ambiguity and reticence dimolte NGOs, which, however, have also declined in part to provide clarification on their work and their lenders before a parliamentary committee, but also justified under international law.
Of safe havens where disembark the "castaways" collected at sea, as established by the Hamburg Convention, there are several in Malta, in Tunisia and in the same Tripoli Libya, far closer than the Italians, while the naval vessels of the European fleet This would force to land in their countries flag migrants, as advocated (but should order it) Minniti days ago.
Of course such an initiative would remove the already scarce solidarity that Europe has granted us the "sweetener" fleet of Frontex and Operation Sophia to which no Member State would participate with their ships and were to take charge of the rescue illegal migrants at sea.
Not bad because European fleets (such as Italian ones) have so far done nothing to combat the traffickers while on the concrete floor to stop the migratory flows from Libya would be possible in a few days, especially now that the Libyan Coast Guard seems to really fight the traffickers.

Just alongside their patrol with our powerful fleets to stop the boats and rafts just set sail, returning migrants in Libyan territory in equipped areas where the UN, after much talk, could finally establish refugee camps from which repatriate illegal migrants.
Let there by mistake: we are not making any a humanitarian mission, we do not welcome people persecuted or threatened with genocide (as Yazidis and Chaldean Christians massacred by ISIS) or people fleeing despotic regimes (such as the thousand Vietnamese boat people that three Italian military ships gathered in the Pacific in 1979). We welcome just anyone with money to pay handsomely traffickers in collusion with jihadi terrorism for over 95% of men are asking not even prove his real identity.
assisted and coordinated Rejections would cease died at sea (and in the Libyan desert) but also flows because no one would pay and risk his life knowing that he can not reach the Italian coast and Europe.

Roma could also ask the Tunis Cooperation (cost us less than what we spend on the reception) which has already collected UN camps for migrants at sea and in 2011 allowed the return with an international airlift of one million workers foreigners, Asians and Africans who fled from Libya during the war against Muammar Gheddafi.
As for traffickers intelligence of the Italian naval missions (Safe Sea) and European (Operation Sophia), led by Italian admirals, they have collected all the information needed to detect and neutralize criminal networks that manage the flow, independently and in cooperation with any Libyan authorities.
It would be enough little, if there was the will, even to prevent traffickers from obtaining supplies of rubber boats, bought in China and directed at Libyan ports via Turkey and Malta. A "legitimate trade" that military fleets are not allowed to fight but that probably could be compromised by exercising the right and repeated pressure on the Maltese government that does not help either welcomes immigrants but derive profit on inflatable boats business.
In short, it's just a matter of will and political capacity. If the Italian government's priorities are still the national interests now prove it: in a week we can clear streams with the same vessels that we have used so far to enrich the traffickers and the reception lobby.

Monday, 12 June 2017

after 12 June 2017 LIBYA NEAR FUTURE?

The developments in Libya indicate a sharp rise in tension and the possibility that this should result in a new civil war. Behind this trend there are powerful regional and international influences that support General Haftar, reinforces the current intransigent and weakens the moderates. Therefore, the possibility that they may resolve the crisis politically the wishes of the international community seem markedly fade.
From international diplomacy to the regional
With the Agreement Skhirat international diplomacy launched in December 2015, the Presidential Council (Cp), chaired by Fayez Serraj, with the expectation that it agglomerasse forces in presence and opened the way for a full political and constitutional standards. This attempt failed. Numerous forces in Libya have indicated the need to move from a lowered agreement on the country from the outside by one, more "inclusive", "between Libyans." This indication was quoted by the international diplomacy, which has in fact begun to correct the Skhirat setting. However international diplomacy in Libya is in a phase of withdrawal - for various reasons, many of which do not concern Libya -, the initiative is now in the hands of the region: Algeria, Tunisia and Egypt.
The new route involves a compromise at the summit between the Cp and Serrraj Haftar who later defined in detail by the joint work of the Chamber of Deputies of Tobruk and the State Council of Tripoli. The two institutions, albeit with difficulty, especially in Tobruk, in recent months have designated the two committees held as needed, but can not start work because there is no agreement at the summit. Tried again in Abu Dhabi on May 2 with the Serraj-Haftar meeting, the agreement was not in fact emerged.
The "among Libyans" process is an illusion, in the prevailing conditions, the "among Libyans" process is not only the victim of ill will but it is an illusion. To be made should include Haftar, but the latter will take part will be excluded only if the Islamists, all Islamists (ie only if he will have in the government a political leadership role as well as military). On the other hand, the revolutionaries, including Islamists magna pars, the very idea that Haftar becomes part of the process prefer to continue the armed struggle against him and his allies. This paralyzes the moderates and creates a stall just as the Skhirat agreements.
Therefore, the task of the regional trio looking for a political solution to the Libyan crisis is not really easy. Meanwhile, because the goals of the three governments are not homogeneous: it is true that Egypt pursues a compromise solution, but it does so with the intent to heavily tip the balance on the side of Haftar. In days past, Algeria has moved to the highest levels to Cairo to emphasize that bombing Derna (in response to the massacre of Copts in Minya made by jihadists from Libya) does not solve the issues of the security of Egypt.
The looming welding intransigent
But although the trio was able to secure a compromise, reducing the ambitions of Cairo, the Arab conservatives GCC (and perhaps of Russia), the emergence of a moderate coalition government including Haftar and other personality rightly or wrongly perceived as part of the former regime still result in violent reaction against intransigent, which includes not only Khalifa Ghwell and Nouri Busahmein, but also a part, not easily definable, the Misrata revolutionary militias as well as the diverse range of more markedly Islamist militias now fighting in central and southern areas of Libya against the Libyan National Army (LNA) of Haftar. Among these forces there are disagreements, but the realization of a compromise with Haftar the would weld immediately.
Besides this welding it is looming understand the developments of Sebha, Sirte and jufra that goes on since December last year. From the outset it was clear that the coalition forces then attacked the LNA in the "oil crescent" south of Sirte, under the leadership of the Defense Brigades in Benghazi (Bdb), was a coalition of revolutionaries, that the Islamists and not, radicals and less radical, united by the conviction of duty at any cost prevent a return of the forces of the past, starting from Haftar. In this context, the small army that started its "long march" from the south of the country to get to Sirte and Benghazi resulted leaning nothing less than the defense minister of the Cp, al-Mahdi al-Barghati (in contradiction to the policy compromise pursued by the same Cp).
Among military clashes and difficult diplomacy
Since then complicity with Bdb within the Cp has continued to emerge in various episodes until May 18, and a clash between LNA revolutionary forces in Brak al-Shati (60 km north of Sebha) has not put end to a real massacre men Haftar, taken by surprise, but not only by Bdb but also the Third Force of Misrata that, stationed in the region since 2014, it is now directly under Barghati and then the National Accord Government.
Serraj the day after he suspended from his duties both Barghati is the commander of the Third Force, Jamal al-Traiki, waiting to carry out inspections, but admitted that such investigations are never completed the development confirms what was already evident in December 2016 that is - in the words of International Crisis Group - that "there is a fragmentation in the coalition that supports the Presidency" Tip: If the ICP moves to heal the rift between Tripoli and Tobruk, the result is that it breaks.
The role of the US and Europe
Diplomacy is therefore faced with a tough reality that, after the failure of Skhirat agreements now also calls into question the feasibility of their modification through dialogue "among Libyans." But the road is uphill because the reconsolidation of the alliance between the United States and wiring recommendations conservative GCC in terms of "anti-terrorism" strengthens the regional front that supports Haftar, then dims the chances of compromise, undermines dialogue "among Libyans" confirms the revolutionary front in its reasons and widens.
The European interests are very damaged from this perspective. There will be a European response? Immediately after his election, there have been Emmanuel Macron statements which reveal a sharp intake of French responsibility to Libya, but still it does not define the terms, especially in the European dimension. To know if Europe will respond to the worsening of the crisis in Libya will have to wait at least the German elections. Hopefully it's not too late.

Wednesday, 7 June 2017


Ultimately, the road to stability in Libya does pass through Cairo, but most importantly through Tripoli and Misrata.
Libya has been in the news over the past week, for grim reasons. The Manchester bomber, Salman Abedi, was a Brit of Libyan descent.  He is suspected to have been radicalized by ISIS in Libya, and went there just days before the attack. In Egypt, the government has alleged that last Friday’s deadly attack against Christians in Minya, south of Cairo, was carried out by militants who trained in Libya, and ordered retaliatory airstrikes against camps there. Meanwhile, in Libya’s capital, Tripoli, recent fighting between rival militias has left dozens dead. The country’s severe instability and ongoing conflicts continue to have local, regional, and international ramifications.
Increasingly, many Western capitals see Egypt as a key component to a diplomatic solution in Libya. But while Egypt may deliver its Libyan proxies, it will be a challenge for the United Nations to keep them under the same tent as those who backed its mediation from the start—and which Cairo, incidentally, considers to be by and large too Islamist.
A year and a half since the signing of the U.N.-backed Libyan Political Agreement (LPA) in Skhirat, Morocco, the political process in Libya needs a reboot. The LPA sought to create a single national unity government for all of Libya—but after five years of conflict following the fall of Gadhafi, three governments compete for dominance. The Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA), headed by Prime Minister Fayez Serraj, is recognized by the U.N. and the international community. It has so far proven highly ineffective. In the east, the House of Representatives and its allied strongman, Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, never approved the LPA, while an interim government headed by Abdullah al Thinni keeps operating in this part of the country. Finally, a third government is based in Tripoli: the National Salvation Government, which represents the more radical anti-Gadhafi militias loyal to the country’s mufti.
Egypt and the UAE have been backing Haftar militarily and financially since the beginning of the conflict. Despite their general distaste for the strongman, the United States and Europe have finally acquiesced over the last year to the fact that given that backing, Haftar has to be part of a solution, or there will be no solution. And almost inevitably, they have been looking to Egypt as the country that—in cooperation with its UAE backers—can deliver Haftar.
In parallel with the decline of the U.N. mission to Libya, Egyptian diplomacy has gained momentum and is now seen in many Western capitals as the key to a new settlement. In conjunction with soft power diplomacy, Egypt has also showed that hard power is firmly on the table. The second wave of airstrikes against militants, regardless of whether they were involved in the Minya attack or not, mark an escalation of the Egyptian military’s now-open involvement in Libya.
If Egyptian involvement is key in Libya, the inverse is also true: Libya is pivotal to Egypt’s security and economic interests. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi said in his recent Riyadh speech that the disintegration of state institutions has benefitted terrorist organizations and that Egypt fully supports efforts to maintain the “unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity” of states in the region. One could tell that Libya weighed heavily on his mind, and Cairo has been working hard to achieve favorable outcomes. But does the road to stability in Libya pass through Cairo?

Libya is key for Egypt

El-Sissi’s statements indicate Egypt’s security, economic, and ideological interests.
On security, Egypt is set on avoiding the breakup of the Libyan state and fighting extremist elements there, including al-Qaida and ISIS affiliates. Egypt’s long border with Libya has been porous since 2011, with weapons, militants, and drugs passing back and forth. As Egypt is fighting its own ISIS affiliate in the east of the country, the stability and security of its western border is paramount. The wide open border, which runs 1,115 kilometers, has been increasingly difficult to police: In 2015, eight Mexican tourists who were on safari in the Western desert were killed when an Egyptian army helicopter mistook their group for militants and fired on them.
On economics, an estimated 750,000 Egyptians live and work in Libya. While this is a sizable drop from the 2 million Egyptians who resided in Libya before Gadhafi was toppled, it is still a significant number. In addition, Egyptian oil companies are planning to resume operations in Libya, including the large-scale importation of hydrocarbons.
Cairo’s third motivation is ideological. Following the ouster of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood-led government in 2013, Cairo declared the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization and has aimed to suppress the movement in Libya as well. Cairo fears that if the Brotherhood and other Islamist groups gain a stronger governing foothold in Libya, the country might become a safe haven for the Egyptian Brotherhood (much like Turkey and Qatar have been). Especially on this last point, Haftar, who recently cited Egypt’s 2013 coup as a source of inspiration, has been a natural ally. From start, he has construed the fight against the Muslim Brotherhood within the broader fight against terrorism.

Our man in Libya

Haftar rose to prominence by waging war on Islamists of all stripes in eastern Libya. Because of their ideological alignment, Egypt and the UAE have bet on Haftar and his Libyan National Army (LNA). Haftar also provides some prospect of stability, so despite being weary of his unpredictability, Cairo has had no better choice than to support him.
Thanks to Egyptian and Emirati support, Haftar’s military fortunes improved in 2016. The LNA took control of most of Benghazi and made headway in the Oil Crescent, the crucial resource-rich region just east of Sirte. Egypt tried to capitalize on this new balance of forces through diplomacy by convening a meeting of Libyan members of parliament in December 2016.
The resulting “Cairo Declaration” contained the main elements of what could soon become the U.N.-endorsed road map for Libya. It called for delegations from the House of Representatives and the Tripoli-based Council of State to agree on shrinking the Presidency Council from nine members to three, accelerating the approval of a new constitution, and holding parliamentary and presidential elections in early 2018.
For his part, Haftar refused to sit with Serraj in Cairo in February 2017, despite heavy pressure from Egypt. A so-called breakthrough came on May 2 in Abu Dhabi when the two finally met. Both Egypt and the UAE hailed this as evidence that a new agreement was at hand. Many in Western capitals want to believe it, too.

Trump vs. the Islamists

The election of Donald Trump has contributed to the shifting balance of power in Libya. He brought to power a group of advisers committed to fighting Islamists above all other concerns in the region. That, in turn, has given hope to Haftar and many members of his camp that the Libyan Field Marshal could be the focus of a new convergence between Egypt, the UAE, and the United States in the name of the fight against Islamists of all persuasions, both militant and moderate.
Members of President Trump’s inner circle, such as Steve Bannon, viewed the Muslim Brotherhood with hostility for years, suspecting it of being a Trojan horse to turn the United States into the “Islamic States of America.” An executive order to designate the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist group had gathered steam in the White House—while it has been put aside for now, as it risked alienating regional allies, the administration has viewed Islamist political actors and their backers with increased hostility.
Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood’s Palestinian offshoot, has been trying hard to rebrand and move away from its Egyptian counterpart. Nonetheless, it has found itself also in the line of fire. A new bill was introduced last week in the U.S. House of Representatives threatening to impose sanctions on Hamas’ international backers, such as Qatar. At a recent conference in Washington, former Defense Secretary Robert Gates stated that Qatar risked U.S. sanctions if it continued its support of the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas. Overall, there is a hardening of the U.S. position towards all Islamists, which means that on Libya, there is an alignment of interests between the United States on one hand, and Egypt and the UAE on the other.
Furthermore, the Manchester attack is likely to accelerate this Western move toward seeing Haftar’s LNA as a dependable partner in the fight against terrorism. The new French administration has already signaled that its priority will be building a Libyan army, and that this will have to include Haftar. Whether this pro-LNA shift will be combined with a new, inclusive political agreement is an open question.

Now what?

While raising high hopes internationally, the Haftar-Serraj meeting in Abu Dhabi received mixed reactions in Libya. Militias from the city of Misrata, key to supporting Serraj and fighting ISIS in the past, are now divided. Some are increasingly siding with the rival National Salvation Government in Tripoli, a coalition of radicals supported by the Mufti Gharyani. It is now clear that this coalition will oppose any move forward by Serraj in the dialogue with Haftar, threatening the fragile balance of power in Tripoli.
For almost all the forces in Western Libya, where the majority of Libyans live, there are two red lines in the current talks. First, the army needs to be under civilian oversight and the army cannot only consist of Haftar’s LNA. Second, and less explicit, the agreement will need to include also forces that Haftar and the Egyptians consider “too Islamist.” International pressure on Tripoli and Misrata to eliminate these red lines is unlikely to work.
It is up to the United Nations to navigate this minefield. Egypt has laid the groundwork for a new diplomatic initiative, but now the United Nations must turn it into a stabilizing factor and not the trigger of a new conflict in the relatively peaceful western half of Libya. The challenge is to include Haftar without losing the majority of Misrata and Tripoli. Ultimately, U.N. Secretary General  António Guterres and the new Special Representative he will soon have to appoint will have to expand the base of support for the Cairo Agreement to include eastern Libya, not shift its core from Tripoli to Marj, where Haftar’s headquarters are.
Ultimately, the road to stability in Libya does pass through Cairo, but also through (in order of importance) Brussels, Abu Dhabi, Washingnton, Moscow, Italy — and most importantly through Tripoli and Misrata. Regional and international buy-in for a new settlement is important, but Libyan buy-in is key. An agreement built around the “independence” of the military from the civilian government (as Haftar insists) and the exclusion of the forces that Cairo considers “too Islamist” is unlikely to get the support of key factions in Western Libya. Ultimately, these ambiguities in the Egyptian plan risk jeopardizing a core agreement between the local powers in Tripoli, Misrata, and Marj, making any deal external actors hammer out fragile at best.
While the meeting in Abu Dhabi may have raised hopes of a breakthrough in many Western capitals, the Egyptian (and Emirati) mediation is unlikely to work, unless these countries and their Libyan proxy Khalifa Haftar are ready for a real compromise. This will need to include crucial issues such as the inclusion of all actors in the political framework and civilian oversight of the military. Absent this, instability, and possibly escalation could still be part of the picture in Libya.


Sunday, 4 June 2017


The London bombing in the night of Saturday to Sunday 4 June left seven dead and at least 48 injured in London Bridge and Borough Market. For Denis MacShane, a former Labor MP and a former European affairs minister under Tony Blair, the Internet giants such as Google and Facebook must be attacked to fight terrorism.
Three attacks in Britain in a few weeks, how to explain this acceleration of horror?

Reply: it seems to be going on. One wonders whether, like France and all the European countries, we have a few jihadists who went to Iraq and Syria to fight with Daech and who were sent to perpetrate these crimes. One wonders if there are connections. Otherwise, they are radicalized through Google, Facebook, the Internet, and sites that encourage to kill themselves, especially killing young women, in popular places like the Bataclan or the concert in Manchester.

Twelve people have so far been arrested in connection with the investigation. Networks exist around these people, is England more porous to the penetration of these networks?

No more than France. We think of the Bataclan, the Promenade des Anglais in Nice, Toulouse, Charlie Hebdo, Brussels, Stockholm, Berlin. It is a very strong ideological force that is able to convert people and make them become terrorists. So we need a lot more information. The subject, which is now being addressed by the Prime Minister, is to explain why the monopolies of Internet giants, Google, Facebook, and the rest, let these people communicate in secret by protecting their identity, All the arguments that push some to commit terrorist acts? That's a good question for President Trump, it seems to me.

Will terrorism play on the elections next week? Is this a strong theme of the campaign in Britain?

Not at all. It must be emphasized that there is a kind of national unity on all the issues of terrorism that strike Great Britain. Brits had bombs, Irish nationalist terrorist acts, throughout the 1970s and 1980s. Total: 3,600 dead. It never became a political issue during the elections. After that, yes, there are debates: Why do not we put more pressure on Saudi Arabia to shut down the finance tap? Why do not we do more foreign policy so as not to have these places of permanent struggles in Libya, Syria and Iraq? However, these debates do not take place during the elections. I do not think it will influence the decision of the people on Thursday.

We know that the alert had been lowered after Manchester. Is the government's security policy in jeopardy?

Yes and no. Brits are investing enormously, it is true that Mrs. May has reduced the police force by 7,000. Brits have a huge problem in prisons. They are stuffed with people who are not guilty of violent crimes, but they are places of radicalization. There is also a question of the whole community that is sometimes tempted by anti-Israel rhetoric, anti-Jewish, anti-women, anti-American. They think that putting up a bomb, killing someone, like the Irish 30 years ago, is justified from an ideological point of view. Converting an entire country to remove such pressures is quite difficult. Difficult at home, at home, in any European country.

Saturday, 27 May 2017


At least 28 people were killed and more than 100 wounded Friday (Ramadan eve) in violent clashes between rival armed groups in the Libyan capital Tripoli.

These fights have loyalties to the government of national unity (GNA) backed by the international community to rival groups in the middle of residential neighborhoods.

Under the banner of dozens of militias, the capital has been in chronic insecurity since the fall of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. Some armed groups nevertheless aligned with the GNA after taking office in March 2016.

Friday's clashes resulted in at least 28 deaths and 128 injuries, said spokesman for the Ministry of Health Anwar Frajallah, without being able to specify immediately who were the victims.

He pointed out that the balance sheet could become heavier due to the existence of "critical cases". "Some hospitals have not been as able to report their balance sheets because of a telecom problems" he said.

A previous report revealed 13 dead and nearly 80 wounded.

A GNA security official, Hashem Bishhr, lamented 23 fatalities and more than 29 wounded in the ranks of the loyal forces.

Fighting began at dawn in the Abu Slim, Hadba and Salaheddin neighborhoods in southern Tripoli, where heavy tanks and weapons were deployed, witnesses said.

"I can hear explosions and artillery fire in the south. (I) condemns the action of these militias that threaten the security of Libyans before Ramadan, "the month of Muslim fasting that begins Saturday in Libya, wrote the British ambassador in Libya, Peter Millett, on his Twitter account.

"The voices of reason ... must prevail in the interest of the country," reacted UN envoy to Libya Martin Kobler. "We must protect civilians," he said in a statement to AFP, urging rival groups to refrain from resorting to violence for political ends.
"Gift" from ramadan

Late in the afternoon, the fighting faded, but intermittent shots were still heard from several parts of the capital.

Groups hostile to the GNA have claimed, on their Facebook pages, attacks against forces loyal to this executive backed by the international community.

The fighting began around a complex of ten luxurious villas that served as the headquarters of militias loyal to the former head of an unrecognized government, Khalifa Ghweil, dismissed from power after the formation of the GNA.

The GNA on Friday accused Ghweil and a militia leader Salah Badi of being responsible for the attacks promising to "mercilessly reply" The two men, from Misrata (west), were leaders of Fajr Libya coalition, which took power in Tripoli in 2014.

They "exceeded all limits. Nothing stops them, "denounced the GNA in a statement. "It is their gift to the citizens for the month of Ramadan".

Forces loyal to the GNA had managed to gain influence in Tripoli by chasing rival groups of their strongholds in March in and around the city center at the cost of heavy fighting.

Since then, there has been unusual calm in the capital, although several sectors remain out of control.

Six years after the revolt ended the dictatorship of Muammar Gaddafi, Libya remains stuck in an endless crisis of transition, victim of persistent insecurity, a tattered economy and incessant political rivalries.

The young militia fighters carried in a comrade who was covered in blood and motionless. It was 1:30 p.m. Friday at the Al Mokhtar Clinic, under maintenance by Emaco Group Libya, and Libya’s civil war had just reignited in this fractured capital.
“Move on, clear the way,” one fighter screamed. “He’s dying.”
Five hours earlier, on the eve of the holy Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, fierce clashes erupted between rival militias. They tore apart a two-month lull in the violence and upended the lives of countless Libyans in neighborhoods that turned into battle zones overnight.
The fighting also underscored the security and logistical challenges British investigators could face if they consider visiting Libya to pursue clues in the Manchester concert suicide bombing that killed 22 people this week. The bomber, Salman Abedi, was of Libyan origin, and his father and brother were arrested in Tripoli. Both are in the custody of a counterterrorism militia aligned with the Western-backed government.
Those challenges were evident during an hours-long drive Friday in a city fragmented as much by politics, ideology and geography as it is by violence and the thirst for power. In the southeastern enclaves, militias deployed tanks and used heavy artillery, leaving families trapped inside their homes and sending many civilians and fighters to hospitals with injuries. Authorities could not provide reliable casualty figures.
The renewed fighting in Libya arrived on the eve of Ramadan.
But in the northern neighborhoods, untouched by Friday’s violence, Tripoli residents surreally socialized in cafes and water-skied in the Mediterranean Sea, even as the sound of explosions and gunfire thundered nearby. Huge plumes of black smoke from burning buildings rose over the city.
“This has become normal for us,” said Shukri Salim, 27, a Libyan Airlines employee, who was having coffee with friends in a cafe and watching a televised soccer match.
“I knew it was Ramadan and the war is going to start,” said his friend Ayoub Aldabaa, 27, an accountant, who was with him. “We’re so accustomed to this.”
Last year, too, fighting engulfed the capital during Ramadan. That time, the clashes involved different militias.
It has been mostly like this since the 2011 populist uprising, part of the Arab Spring, that ousted Libyan dictator Moammar Gaddafi and led to his killing. A constellation of tribal and regional militias emerged, seizing advantage of the power vacuum and abundance of weapons in a quest for power and wealth.
Today, militias have carved up the oil-producing country into fiefdoms, each aligned with one of three competing governments. And Tripoli, as expected, has been a major battleground with armed groups fighting for control of neighborhoods, even streets and buildings.
Friday’s violence pitted militias aligned with the U.N.-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) against Islamist-leaning forces of the self-declared National Salvation government who are trying to reclaim territory lost in recent months, according to security officials.
A spokesman for the National Salvation government said a GNA-aligned militia erected a fake checkpoint to kidnap some of its fighters. “So we decided to attack the GNA boys,” said the spokesman, Brig. Gen. Mahmud Zaghal.
But there has also been speculation for weeks that the National Salvation militias were planning a counterattack. A Facebook page created by its supporters carried a post on Thursday night announcing that it would launch assaults against rivals in southern Tripoli.
The clashes Friday mostly unfolded in the neighborhoods of Abu Salim, Salahedeen and Al Habda. Fighting also erupted in areas near the Rixos Hotel, which has been used by officials and lawmakers aligned with the GNA government.
Last October, their new legislative body was ousted from the buildings by the Salvation militias. In December, the area was the scene of heavy fighting over several days. Militias aligned with the GNA currently are in control of the complex and surrounding neighborhoods.
“We will retake the Rixos,” Zaghal vowed.
At the Al Mokhtar Clinic, the toll of the fighting was obvious. Doctors and nurses were inundated by the wounded. One man arrived with blood splattered on his legs.
“My brother was injured,” another man said as he waited outside. “He was just standing in front of his house when the shells landed.”
But the militia fighters were most visible at the clinic.
“I want to get inside the room,” one fighter screamed, as others held him back from accosting the doctors and nurses.
Other fighters, clad in black and clutching AK-47 rifles, stood outside.
At 1:53 p.m., screams filled the room. Some militia fighters cried, their faces now filled with anguish.
Their comrade had died on the operating table.
An hour later, Aldabaa and Salim were in the cafe. As they have done during previous clashes, they called friends and family around the city to make sure they were safe. They also checked Twitter and Facebook to see which neighborhoods had turned into no-go zones.
Salim had just spoken to a friend who was stuck in his home as fighters pummeled each other outside.
He and Aldabaa had both taken part in the revolution. Salim said he did not regret fighting against the Gaddafi regime, but “regretted the people who came after the revolution.”
Aldabaa blamed the Western countries for helping the rebellion that ousted Gaddafi, and now regrets that the revolution happened at all.
“We were expecting to take the country in a better direction,” he said. “Unfortunately, we left it in a worse condition.”
At 3:15 p.m. near the Rixos Hotel, militia fighters in pickup trucks waited for the next offensive. Graffiti on the wall of the complex read: “Free Libya.”
By 4:30 p.m., drivers were in lines at gas stations around the city, preparing for shortages that usually come after each clash.
And the people of Tripoli were certainly expecting more fighting.