Libya: Tribe Or Religion Takes Precedence Over National Loyalty

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July 19, 2014: The inability to compromise and cooperate has crippled the economy and the ability to govern the country. With various militias holding oilfields and export terminals hostage the main source of national income has, so far this year, averaged less than a third of normal. Thus essential imports (especially food and medical supplies) are being paid for with cash reserves. These reserves will only last a year or two before most of the population becomes destitute and faces starvation. More Libyans are coming to accept this possibility but there is still no widespread willingness to compromise and work out a solution to this deadlock. The final results of the June 25 th election are being released on the 20 th and this is expected to generate more violence as the Islamic terrorist militias oppose the expected result (that the Islamic radical parties have lost their majority).

One response to this looming disaster is the Libyan National Army. This militia coalition was organized by former general Khalifa Hiftar earlier this year and has grown in strength and area controlled since it began fighting Islamic terrorist militias last May. Hiftar first moved into Benghazi itself with militias and troops loyal to Hiftar making air and ground attacks on militia controlled neighborhoods in the city. This has cleared most Islamic terrorist groups out of the city. Now Hiftar is building up his forces (especially his alliance with the Zintan militias) in Tripoli. Tripoli is where Islamic terrorist militias are concentrating forces in preparation for an effort to take control of the national capital and halt Hiftar. Libyan Islamic terrorists fighting in Syria have been called home to fight and asked to bring any foreign volunteers with them to the Hiftar forces. The Islamic terrorists need all the help they can get because Hiftar is working in cooperation with many powerful tribal leaders, who have always been hostile to the Islamic terrorists (who tend to operate like warlords and despise tribal leaders as “part of the problem”). Hiftar also has some support from Libyan militias, especially the Zintan coalition in the west. Hiftar also appeals to the Libyan military and many troops and their commanders have already defected to Hiftar.

The Islamic terrorists are seen as a threat to tribal leadership, not just because the Islamic terrorist leaders have been disdainful of tribal leaders but because the Islamic terrorists often threatened tribal leaders with violence unless the tribes submit to Islamic rule. This was reflected in the June 25th parliament elections, which saw the pro-Islamic terrorist groups lose their majority (something the Islamic terrorists are not willing to accept). While the Islamic terrorist groups are more fanatic and ruthless, Hiftar has provided tribal militias with military training and professional leadership. The only edge Islamic terrorists have is their ability to call on foreign Islamic terrorists to come help. This just increases the violence and number of casualties. As was seen in neighboring Algeria and Egypt, when faced with Islamic terrorists as a foe there is no negotiation option; only a fight to the death. This is going to get messy before it gets better.

Defeating the Islamic terrorist groups is only half the battle. Once the terrorists are gone there is still the problem of Libyan tribes not getting along with each other. Each tribe demands more than other tribes will agree to. Compromise does not come easily and tribal leaders have to deal with followers driven by a well-developed sense of entitlement. There is not enough oil wealth to satisfy the demands of all Libyans and that may prove to be a more difficult problem than the Islamic terrorists.  

Many army units have joined Hiftar, providing him with some fighter bombers and helicopter gunships plus numerous artillery weapons and armored vehicles. Hiftar spends a lot of time organizing all the militias and armed forces units that have joined his cause or at least become allied with it (like Zintan). Unified command is one big advantage he has over the many Islamic and tribal militias that oppose unity and peace. Hiftar is representing the majority of Libyans who want peace and prosperity, not endless bickering and lack of national unity. Hiftar says it will take until the end of the year to complete his plan to destroy the Islamic terror and tribal militias. He points to the steady advance of his forces and the sharp decline in assassinations of government officials and those who oppose the Islamic terrorists. At the same time there has been an increase in the number of Islamic terrorist leaders being killed and people in Benghazi note that the Islamic terrorist gunmen have been less active in harassing ordinary citizens. Hiftar is popular with his armed followers because he uses tactics that minimize friendly casualties.

July 18, 2014: The ceasefire between the two major militias in the capital (the Islamic terrorist Misrata militia and the anti-Islamic terrorist Zintan militia) fell apart because the Misrata leaders insisted the ceasefire only covered fighting at the airport, not in the rest of the city. The Zintan militia is actually a coalition of two dozen militias from western Libya. The Misrata militia is also a coalition and is loosely allied with several smaller Islamic terrorist militias from all over the country. These smaller Islamic terrorist groups are mainly what is fighting the Hiftar Libyan National Army in eastern Libya. Some pro-government militias are also opposing Hiftar in Benghazi and losing. Some of these militias have already switched sides and accepted control by Hiftar.

July 17, 2014: The government has asked the UN to provide peacekeepers to help protect Libyan oil production and exporting facilities. Currently most of these are controlled by tribal militias demanding a larger share of the oil income. Nearly all the tribes are demanding more oil income for themselves than is available. Negotiating a compromise has proved impossible so far. The government, which is now controlled by anti-Islamic terrorists parties, fears that without UN intervention Libya will cease to function. The government also wants UN help training soldiers and police. Such training has already been under way by the U.S. and other Western countries since 2013. But many of the trained troops return the Libya and then go join a militia (usually a tribal one) instead of the army or police. For too many Libyans tribe or religion takes precedence over national loyalty.

While the UN can’t do much to help out here, NATO and especially the U.S. can. But American help enrages the Islamic terrorist militias as it’s a core part of Islamic terrorist beliefs that the U.S. in particular and the West in general is at war with Islam and must be destroyed. The government may have to bite the bullet on this one because only the Western powers have the resources to stabilize Libyan. However, even the West, which sees Libya as in danger or turning into a major Islamic terrorist sanctuary, may lack the popular and political will to step in.

The Misrata and Zintan militias fighting over control of the Tripoli airport agreed to a ceasefire.

July 15, 2014: Oil production has increased to 588,000 barrels a day, 42 percent of normal output. This is a high for 2014 and is threatened by various militias talking about blocking production in order to get a larger share of oil money. A month ago production was closer to 100,000 barrels a day but government negotiators have had a lot of success in the last few weeks getting various militias to stop blockading production and shipping facilities. Unfortunately these deals often collapse later and new pressure groups decide to try and blockade something and succeed at it.  

July 14, 2014: Libya and Tunisia agreed to operate joint border patrols to inhibit the movement of Islamic terrorists between the two countries. Tunisia has its Islamic terrorists largely under control and the biggest problem is Libyan Islamic terrorist entering Tunisia to reinforce their much depleted Tunisian brethren.

July 13, 2014: In Tripoli the pro-Islamic terrorist Misrata militia attacked the main airport, which has been controlled by the Zintan militia since 2011. Over the next few days Misrata fired dozens of rockets at the airport, damaging 20 of the 31 airliners stuck at the airport when flight operations were suspended on the 13th. At least one of the damaged airliners was a total loss and five or six others were heavily damaged and probably out of action for months.  The control tower was also hit and before the airport can resume operations replacement equipment for the tower has to be imported, to replace gear damaged by the fighting. There is still a major airport in Benghazi and several smaller ones along the coast that can handle large airliners.

July 10, 2014: The UN announced it was shutting down many of its operations in Libya because of the worsening security situation. This is the tip of the iceberg as in the coastal cities, especially Tripoli and Benghazi, criminals and militia members (it’s often hard to tell them apart) are increasingly acting with impunity and threatening even senior, and well-guarded people (like government officials, militia leaders and powerful crime bosses, not to mention foreign aid workers and foreign workers in general). This dramatic drop in security is a primary recruiting tool for general Hiftar’s forces.

June 29, 2014: Two Tunisian diplomats were freed by an Islamic terrorist militia after being held for three months. Their captors had demanded the release of Islamic terrorists from Tunisian prison in return for the two diplomats but the Tunisian government refused to do this. Other arrangements, the details of which were not made public, were made. Apparently this involved cash payments to tribal and militia leaders to make the release happen.

 

 

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