Libya: Unite Or Starve

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March 9, 2015: Peace talks between the Tripoli and Tobruk governments are not just an effort to bring back peace and prosperity but also a matter of survival. The appearance of ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) in Libya has caused thousands of the more fanatic Islamic terrorists to sign in as affiliates of this highly destructive and uncompromising group. This has not created a united ISIL force and ISIL appears to spend most of its time raiding and looting just to get fed and resupplied with fuel and ammo. There are still organized Islamic terrorists groups fighting government (both Tripoli and Tobruk) forces but there is less of that because of the need to find something to eat.

Thus a more immediate problem for everyone is the destruction of the economy and the fact that over a third of the population has left their homes, either to flee the country or to get away from the fighting. Most of the population now faces growing shortages of food, medicine and other essentials. The continuing loss of oil income hurts everyone. Islamic terrorist groups have become more rapacious because they have to eat and will increasingly to so at the expense of local civilians. This economic urgency, more than anything else, is encouraging all (except the most extreme religious zealots) to try negotiation.

Many Arab nations want the West to intervene. The main justification for this idemand is the widely accepted belief in the Arab world that that mess in Libya is all the fault of the West (whose intervention on the side of the rebels in 2011 was supposed to have made everything all right in Libya) and that the West created ISIL and Islamic terrorism in general. This sort of criticism does not get much publicity in the West, not least because it is so bizarre. But in the Arab world this inability to accept responsibility and blame is widespread and makes it difficult to solve internal problems. Inside Libya the Tobruk government blames the West for not intervening and continuing to maintain an arms embargo against Libya. The West tells the Libyans they have to get the two governments merged and then the West will help. Libyans don’t like to hear advice like that. The West wonders why Arab states don’t intervene militarily. In part that’s because of the belief that the West caused the mess and should clean it up. Then there is the fear of failure and unwillingness to attack other Arabs since that causes long term resentments. Egypt recently got involved after ISIL beheaded 20 Egyptian Christians and put the video on the Internet. Egyptian military commanders are unwilling to get too involved in Libya because their forces are not as well trained and ready as they should be and fighting in Libya would make this too obvious.  So the Egyptians stick with elements of their military that are well trained (the air force and special operations units) and effective. It appears that the Egyptian involvement will largely consist of air strikes and some special operations troops. There will also be some illegal (according the UN embargo) supplies of weapons and ammunition.

In the west (south of Sirte, 500 kilometers east of Tripoli) security forces regained control of an oil field someone attacked on the 6th. Nine foreign workers (one Austrian, one Czech and seven from outside Europe) were found to be missing, but no one has taken credit for kidnapping them. ISIL likes to distribute videos of Westerners being beheaded. If not this then a demand for a multi-million dollar ransom that, if paid, would finance still more Islamic terror activity. For Libya the implications of attacks like this is that foreign workers are persuaded to stay away, further crippling Libyan oil production. The nine foreign workers are listed as “missing” and may have simply fled into the desert and have not been able to get back in contact yet.

ISIL and other Islamic terror groups have apparently decided that attacks on oil facilities is their most effective tactic in weakening their opposition (the Tripoli and Tobruk governments) and taking over the country. This terrifies most Libyans because they realize that the only thing ISIL (and other Islamic terrorists) are good at is killing and publicizing their atrocities, not running an economy or rebuilding anything. This is motivating Libyans to either get out of the country or, for the majority, to pressure their leaders (tribal, political, local strongman) to make peace, cooperate and avoid catastrophe.

The UN recognized Tobruk government wants to import a large quantity of weapons from Ukraine, Serbia and Czech Republic. This includes 150 armored vehicles, 24 fighter jets, seven helicopters gunships, over 20,000 assault rifles and grenade launchers plus millions of rounds of ammunition. The UN refuses to allow this because of the danger of some of the weapons being captured (or bought via corruption) by Islamic terrorists. The Tobruk government points out that the Islamic terrorists have plenty of weapons (stolen from Kaddafi era stockpiles or smuggled in from Sudan) and the Tobruk government has to have more and better weapons if it is to prevail. So far the UN refuses to budge believing that a more useful solution is the merger of the Tripoli and Tobruk governments. A unified government could handle ISIL and be a better candidate for foreign military assistance.

Over 30,000 Egyptians have left Libya in the last two weeks to escape the growing Islamic terrorist violence. This flight was triggered by a February 15th ISIL video showing 20 Egyptian Christians (Copts) being beheaded on a Libyan beach. Many Egyptians still work in Libya doing jobs Libyans will not or cannot do and being paid for with oil income. Before the 2011 revolution over a million Egyptians worked in Libya. But the growing chaos in Libya has sharply cut oil production and many Egyptians are returning because they are losing their jobs or not getting paid. Since mid-February Egypt has declared war on ISIL but has not carried out any more air strikes against ISIL targets in Libya since mid-February. It does appear that Egypt is preparing for another round of attacks.

March 7, 2015: In Morocco three days of UN sponsored peace talks between Libyan factions ended. Those who attended agreed to resume talks on the 11th, giving all the factions time to decide which options they could work with to achieve peace and unity.

In response to an attack on oilfields in central Libya the national oil company closed down and evacuated eleven oil fields in the area that had been recently attacked and looted. Security forces regained control of the oil field attacked yesterday, the one where foreign worked disappeared, and encountered resistance while doing so. At least ten were killed, including seven soldiers.

March 6, 2015: In the west (south of Sirte, 500 kilometers east of Tripoli) unidentified gunmen attacked and looted an oilfield, killing eight security guards and causing some damage. The attackers collected portable (like electronics and weapons) or mobile (vehicles) and most departed.

March 5, 2015:  Three days of peace talks between the Tripoli and Tobruk government began in Morocco. The Tobruk government ordered its air force to halt attacks for three days in order to help the peace talks move forward.

March 3, 2015: The Tobruk government has appointed Khalifa Belgacem Hiftar head of the military and promoted him to three-star general. In January the Tobruk officially recognized Hiftar for the first time. Until then Hiftar had, technically, been just another self-made warlord. Hiftar, a former Kaddafi general and long-time Kaddafi opponent created a coalition of tribal militias and army units in late 2013 and proved to be very effective fighting the Islamic terrorists in eastern Libya. Since early 2014 Hiftar has managed to get most of the post-Kaddafi armed forces under his control and backs Tobruk pleas for foreign assistance in obtaining more weapons and other military supplies. Hiftar is a career military man and speaks with experience in these matters. One big advantage Hiftar has is that he takes care of his troops and uses tactics that minimize casualties among his troops. This makes Hiftar very popular with forces he controls and makes it easier to attract new factions (usually tribal militias).

In the west (south of Sirte, 500 kilometers east of Tripoli) Islamic terrorists attacked two oil fields, looted them and were apparently headed for a third one. These attacks have been going on since February and apparently more Islamic terrorist groups have realized that, while guarded, a large enough raiding force can overcome the oil field security and provide lots of loot (especially food, medical supplies, fuel, weapons and vehicles).

March 1, 2015: In the east (Benghazi) two mortar shells hit a residential neighborhood leaving two dead and seven wounded. The fire came from an area controlled by Islamic terrorists who were fighting troops seeking to clear the last Islamic terrorists out of the city. This fighting has been going on since last November and since then most of the city has been cleared of Islamic terrorists.

Tunisia revealed that it had greatly reinforced its security forces on the Libyan border in the wake of the recent ISIL murder of 20 Egyptians. Tunisia is much less hospitable place for groups like ISIL and the increased border security is part of that.

February 27, 2015: One of the few operational warplanes the Tripoli government has crashed about five kilometers from the Tunisia border. It is unclear if the aircraft was shot down or crashed due to an equipment problem.

February 22, 2015: In Libya a bomb went off in the capital near the empty Iranian embassy compound. A grenade was also thrown into the compound. No one was injured and there was not much damage.

February 21, 2015: In the east (Darna) ISIL attacked a police station, the home of a politician and a fuel station with bombs (two of them suicide car bombers) leaving over 40 dead and nearly as many wounded. Most of the victims were civilians. ISIL said this was in retaliation for attacks by Egyptian aircraft and forces of the Tobruk government.

February 19, 2015:  In the west (Sirte, 500 kilometers east of Tripoli) ISIL gunmen took control of a university after earlier occupying government buildings. The Tripoli government technically controls Sirte and has sent several hundred troops to deal with the ISIL actions.

February 16, 2015: Egypt is now openly bombing ISIL targets in Libya, in reaction to the ISIL mass murder of 21 Egyptian Christians. Earlier today the Egyptian Air Force announced that it had hit ISIL targets in the city of Darna, which has been controlled by Islamic terrorists since 2014 and that those groups have recently declared allegiance to ISIL. Another round of air strikes were carried out before the end of the day. The Libyan Air Force also made some attacks and all the air attacks today apparently killed at least fifty people (most of them Islamic terrorists).

 

 

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