Libya: The Tyranny Of The Righteous

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April 28, 2014: What makes the many militias in Libya so difficult to eliminate or control is the fact that many of them are led by Islamic conservatives who use the threat of exposing misbehavior by politicians (use of alcohol, prostitutes or anything considered “un-Islamic”) to bully the government into leaving the militia alone. Thus militias led by guys who do not misbehave (according to the Koran) are difficult to control. Fortunately many militias are led by men who talk the talk but do not walk the walk and are vulnerable. At the same time Islamic radical politicians have a lot of popular support because many Libyans believe devout politicians are the best chance to deal with the corruption that cripples the government and the economy. Unfortunately this is a case of “hope springs eternal” because the track record of pious politicians in Moslem countries shows that these fellows have a short shelf live and eventually, often quite quickly succumb to the temptations of easy money and sinful pleasures.

France is particularly concerned about the continuing unrest in Libya and the ability of Islamic terrorists to establish bases and training facilities there. Because of all that, this year there have been several incidents of Islamic terrorists moving into northern Mali from Libya and until the Libyan government establishes some control over the many Islamic terrorists roaming Libya, more will show up. There are also some terrorist bases in Niger, but the government there is more eager than their Libyan counterparts to do something about it. The Libyan government is more concerned about “foreign interference” (in getting rid of Islamic terrorist groups). This is in large part because many Islamic radicals got elected to parliament in Libya and they interfere with any efforts to deal with Islamic terrorist groups in Libya. Yet it’s not just the Western nations that are complaining about this, but all of Libya’s neighbors as well. This is expected to result in some “direct action” (commando or missile attacks) in Libya, with or without government permission. When and if that happens the French counter-terrorism forces in Mali have to be prepared for some Libyan based Islamic terror groups seeking to find refuge in northern Mali.

Libya has another unpleasant side effect, the reluctance of Western powers to get too involved with seemingly well-meaning rebels. Western nations saw what happened in Libya in 2011 when NATO provided air support and after the quick rebel victory the rebels could not unite and form a government. The Libyan rebels are still fighting each other there and tolerating Islamic terrorist groups. Syria looks to be more of the same and the West does not want to support it. To Iran, this is all an opportunity that cannot be passed up. The Arab oil states are also undismayed and freely arm and subsidize Islamic radical rebel groups.

Under pressure from European countries the Libyan government has said it will try to halt the large number of African migrants coming to Libya then paying Libyan smugglers to get them to Europe, where they can claim asylum and greatly improve their economic situation. The problem is that the Libyan smugglers are doing so much business that they can afford to bribe (or hire a militia to intimidate) Libyan officials to back off. Over 500 people a day are illegally crossing the southern border in an effort to make it to Europe. This is more of a problem for Europeans than Libyans who see the largely black African illegals as a nuisance, mainly because the migrants are just passing through. These travelers don’t want to stay in Libya, which is generally very hostile to these unwanted visitors. The illegals are easy to spot and the locals will sometimes murder migrants who cause any problems. Stopping them from getting into Libya is not easily done because the southern border is largely desert that smugglers have been getting across easily for generations. Checkpoints on the few roads headed north are subject to bribes or simply going around.

The eastern oil export ports are not functioning yet because of the need to check for damage and do some maintenance. Only one of the four oil parts is ready for use right now. The government is also starting an investigation of corruption in the oil industry, which was one of the key demands of the militias that had closed these ports for up to eight months. Meanwhile only about 200,000 barrels a day are being exported. This number has to get over a million barrels a day to prevent economic collapse and social chaos in Libya. It was this prospect that persuaded the eastern militias to give up the oil-export facilities.

The U.S. has publically pledged to help Libya improve its security situation. Only the training for the army was mentioned, but it was implied that other assistance was being supplied to deal with Islamic terrorism and renegade militias in general. One area of technical assistance might be help in controlling the proliferation of unregulated radio and TV stations since 2011. Many of these are run by various Islamic terrorist militias and used for propaganda and to incite devote (or simply concerned) Moslems to come out and support one religious issue or another. The government could use some technical assistance and advice as it strives to regain control of the airwaves.

The security forces are more and more active shutting down blatant instances of illegal behavior. For example markets that allow weapons and drugs to be sold are being raided and militiamen openly committing crimes have to watch out for nearby police or soldiers, who will often interfere.

April 26, 2014: In Benghazi a 15 year old Egyptian girl was kidnapped, apparently for ransom. The militias and criminal gangs are increasingly turning to kidnapping for ransom for raise cash and stay in business.

April 23, 2014: An army base 27 kilometers outside Tripoli that was used in 2012 by American Special Forces personnel to train Libyan counter-terrorism forces is now occupied by an Islamic terrorist group affiliated with al Qaeda. There are lots of abandoned military bases in Libya and the security forces are not yet large enough to maintain control of all of them.

April 19, 2014: Kidnappers holding two Tunisians are demanding the release of two Islamic terrorists held in Tunisia in return for the release of a Tunisian diplomat taken on April 17th and an embassy employee seized on March 21st.

April 15, 2014: In the capital the Jordanian ambassador was kidnapped by gunmen in civilian clothes. The kidnappers demanded the release of an Islamic terrorist from a Jordanian jail but the Jordanian government said it would not do that.

April 13, 2014: The interim prime minister resigned because of fears for the safety of his family. This was the result of a recent attack on members of his family.  Parliament fired the regular prime minister on March 12th because of the botched effort to prevent militias from exporting oil. That prime minister was also being investig ated for corruption . T he defense minister was installed as temporary prime minister was urged to use whatever means necessary to retake the eastern oil ports. Force was threatened and that helped negotiators work out a deal. The GNC (General National Congress), formed to create a new constitutio n, is considering which of seven candidates to be the new interim prime minister.

Security officials in Mali and Niger confirmed what many had suspected, that Islamic terrorist leader Mokhtar Belmokhtar (the planner of the January 2013 natural gas facility attack in southern Algeria that got 37 workers killed) of Islamic terrorist group Al Mourabitoun was alive and operating from a base in southern Libya. Al Mourabitoun was formed in August 2013 when two Islamic terrorist factions merged. The new group had already been detected operating in northern Mali and Niger (where it had carried out several daring attacks, including a prison break in June and twin bombings in May 2013). One faction was an al Qaeda splinter group led by Belmokhtar who had a reputation for always escaping the many efforts to kill or capture him. Belmokhtar was number two or three in the North African al Qaeda organization ( Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb or AQIM) but formed his own splinter group in late 2012. In November 2013 France announced that it had killed the second-in-command of Al Mourabitoun near the northern town of Tessalit and was still searching for Belmokhtar, despite reports that he might have died during an air attack in 2013. The appearance of these reports of Belmokhtar being alive and where he is may be part of an operation to get him to move and possibly confirm his location so an attack can be carried out. The U.S. is offering a $5 million reward for information that would lead to the capture of Belmokhtar.

April 11, 2014: In Tripoli two prisoners died during an attempt to break out of jail.

April 10, 2014: In Tripoli gunmen intercepted a vehicle transporting prisoners and freed ten of them.

April 9, 2014: The oil port of Herega was handed over to government control. A local militia had controlled the port since June 2013.

In Benghazi an air force officer died when a bomb placed under his car exploded. In nearby Derna an Islamic terrorist leader was killed by an unidentified assailant. 

April 7, 2014: Libya and Tunisia have reopened their main border crossing after it had been closed for a month. Both countries say they have resolved issues. The closure was officially about the safety of Libyans in Tunisia but an unspoken issue was smuggling. After paying bribes trucks roll freely across the border. Most of the illicit trade involves cheap (because it’s subsidized) Libyan fuel going to Tunisia. Smuggling is a big business here, with up to a fifth of the population depending on it. Closing border crossings was only a part of the smuggling problem. The smugglers are having more problems with the security forces on both sides of the frontier. It’s all about money of course as the smuggling deprives the governments of over half a billion dollars a year in revenue. But the smuggling, especially of cheap Libyan oil into Tunisia has become the primary livelihood for thousands of Libyan families. Locals believe the Libyan and Tunisian security forces are simply seeking a bigger cut of the smuggler profits. That’s how things work in this part of the world. The smugglers also have to find a patron, a “boss of all bosses” to negotiate deals with local army and police commanders. Everybody wants to get paid. 

April 6, 2014: The government negotiated a deal to reopen the four oil export ports seized by local militias last June-August. The turnover will be completed by the end of April.

In Benghazi thousands of government and commercial workers went on strike to demand better security.

April 5, 2014: In the northeast (near the Egyptian border) a militia released fifty Egyptian trucks and their drivers and passengers. The militias are demanding that Libya and Egypt stop prosecuting Libyan smugglers.

 

 

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