Libya: Live Free And Die


December 3, 2014: Libya continues to be divided. There are currently two governments and dozens of major tribal and Islamic terrorists factions that are largely autonomous. The Tripoli and Tobruk governments are far apart and represent different groups. The Tobruk government has international recognition and won the last (this year) national elections. The Tobruk government is backed by many tribal organizations (and their militias) and most of the more secular Libyans (who tend to live in cities or along the coast).

The Tripoli government is backed by groups with more of a religious motivation as well as tribes and cities in the west that feel they deserve to run the country (as they long did under Kaddafi). The Tripoli government does not control all the Islamic terrorist groups that are technically under its command.

The only thing the two governments will sometimes agree on is the use of oil income, which the Tobruk government largely controls, buys essentials (like food) that will continue to be distributed to all Libyans. This is what always mattered most because the oil money pays for everything. The cash from oil sales is going into the Central Bank, which tends to answer to the Tobruk parliament because that is the one with international recognition and that provides access to the international banking system. The various factions are pressuring the Central Bank and courts to favor them but it is the international community that controls the ability of Libya to buy essentials (most of the food and everything else) needed to keep Libyans alive and the international community recognizes the Tobruk officials. Because of the violent response by Tripoli based Islamic terrorist militias, the legitimate government set up shop in the small port city of Tobruk (1,600 kilometers east of Tripoli) after encountering hostility from militias loyal to the pre-June government that refused to recognize the results of the June elections. Many other government offices moved to Tobruk but many stayed or could not get out in time.

The rival governments in Tripoli and the Tobruk are also fighting over who controls more than $100 billion held by the Central Bank. A lot of that cash is overseas and since Tobruk has international and UN support the Tripoli rebels are having a hard time maintaining control of any oil income. If the Tripoli government tries to sell oil on the black market they will have most of the world going after them with bank account shutdowns and seizure of the tankers they use (either in port or on the high seas). In the end, it’s the oil money that will bring peace, or abject poverty for all. The government is running out of cash and credit. Another year or two of this and life gets very miserable for Libyans. The UN speaks of Libya of sliding into a state of anarchy. No one is willing to intervene militarily and the UN has constant problems with gangsters and Islamic terrorists attacking aid efforts. This could end very badly.

The Tripoli government has support from Turkey, Sudan and Qatar while the Tobruk government has most of the world recognizing it, along with most of the Islamic world. This is especially true with neighboring Egypt and most of the Arab oil states. Egypt has proclaimed that it will not intervene militarily. While that is the official position Egypt is apparently providing substantial, and secret, support to the pro-Tobruk Hiftar coalition. This comes in the form of air support, weapons and other military supplies and even some Egyptian special operations troops. A major concern of the Egyptians is the movement of weapons and Islamic terrorists into Egypt and there are a lot more Egyptian troops and police on the Libyan border since the June elections. What the Egyptians need is pro-Egypt forces controlling the Libyan side of the frontier. Thus the support for the Hiftar forces, which arose in Eastern Libya as a coalition of Libyan Army units, tribal militias and anti-Islamic terrorist groups. General Hiftar and his coalition of tribal militias and army units is now officially part of the Tobruk government armed forces but still operates independently because the Tobruk is short of military experts and specialists capable of managing a military campaign. So is the Tripoli government and resulting lack of coordination among their armed components is another advantage the Tobruk government has.

Warplanes loyal to the Tobruk government bombed targets west of Tripoli that were believed involved with importing weapons and ammunition for forces loyal to the Tripoli government. At least four were killed and nearly twenty wounded. The Tobruk government has taken responsibility for all the recent air attacks on Tripoli. This was done in part to deal with rumors that foreign aircraft (from Egypt) were involved. Some of the air attacks have been on the Tripoli airport, which the Tobruk government believes is being used for military purposes.

Fighting continues in Benghazi with Hiftar forces continuing to slowly push Islamic terrorist groups out of the city. Nearly 500 have died and more than 2,000 wounded in eight weeks of fighting. Tobruk government forces continue to advance to the west along the coast and expand their control in the interior. Hiftar is a military professional and realizes that by keeping casualties low among his own forces he maintains an edge in morale and overall effectiveness. The opposition continues to suffer heavy desertions and lack of coordination, which the Hiftar forces take advantage of.

The international recognition and anti-Islamic terrorist attitude appeals to most Libyans. Unfortunately many Libyans, especially the tribes in the south (where the oil is) want autonomy as well as more of the oil money. At the moment the various tribes rule the south and deals have to be made with each of them to keep oil operations going. Along the coast the Islamic terrorist groups have often made deals with local militias that are more interested in local autonomy than religious fanaticism. The problem with Libya is that most residents consider themselves Libyans but too many of them are not willing to cooperate to make the country work. More and more Libyans are realizing and accepting the fact that compromise and cooperation is necessary for all to prosper (or even survive) but widespread acceptance of this reality is happening very slowly. Most Libyans are fed up with the continuing violence. The 2011 rebellion against Kadaffi left over 30,000 dead but the infighting since then has killed nearly as many. Most major factions agree on peace but Islamic terrorist groups in Tripoli and Benghazi, aided by tribal factions that want more power and money, continue to fight.

Elsewhere in the east (the coastal city of Derna) a local Islamic terrorist group (SCIY or Shura Council of Islamic Youth) that declared support for ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) in October is apparently now the official Libyan ISIL franchise. SCIY is not the only armed group in Derna (a city of about 150,000) but is trying to assert its authority and expand the territory it controls. This is good news for the Tobruk government because any ISIL affiliated Islamic terrorist militias will now suffer more international pressure as well as the need to attack other Islamic terrorist groups that have not declared for ISIL. SCIY has become a magnet for the most fanatic Islamic terrorist minded men in Libya and is gaining strength daily. There are now nearly a thousand SCIY men in the city and eventually there will have to be a deadly confrontation with them. Meanwhile the most dangerous aspect of SCIY is that ISIL level fanaticism means lots of suicide bombers are available and until SCIY is crushed there were be more of these types of attacks.

There is still fighting in Tripoli, despite the Misrata militia taking control of the city after months of fighting. It was this control that made possible the establishment of a rival government in Tripoli. Many factions in the Misrata coalition believe this rival government is a mistake but so far the Misrata groups is sticking with it. Some of these factions are resorting to violence.

December 1, 2014: The recent OPEC (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries) meeting in Austria reaffirmed OPEC recognition of the Tobruk government. OPEC data also showed that Libyan oil income fell from $32 billion in 2013 to about $12 billion this year. This decline is a combination of less oil shipped (because of the growing violence) and the plunging (from $110 to under $70 per barrel) price of oil. Libya is currently producing 700,000 barrels a day, down from the pre-war 1.5 million. The official OPEC recognition of the Tobruk government makes it much more difficult for the Tripoli government to sell any oil it manages to get to a port.

November 23, 2014:  Malta joins the growing list of countries that have pulled their diplomats from Tripoli because of the growing violence.

November 20, 2014:  The UN negotiated a 12 hour ceasefire in Benghazi. This is mainly to allow remaining civilians to flee and for bodies to be collected for burial. The Islamic terrorist groups agree to this because they feel a religious obligation to give their dead comrades a proper Islamic funeral. Such ceasefires have been rare in Benghazi.

The UN added the major Islamic terrorist group in Libya (Ansar al Sharia) to its blacklist of international terrorists. All major nations (including Turkey, which supports some Islamic terrorist groups) agreed over the next week or so to enforce the UN ban. Being on the blacklist makes it more difficult for a group to operate internationally.





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