Libya: Unite, Flee Or Starve To Death

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April 22, 2015: UN officials insist they are close to a final peace deal between the Tripoli (a more pro-Islamic terrorist group in the west) and Tobruk (elected, recognized by the UN, anti-Islamic terrorist and based in the east) governments. Unfortunately “close” (“80 percent” according to the UN) is not a unified government. Meanwhile the Tripoli government coalition is falling apart and they are losing territory to better organized and led Tobruk forces. The big problem with the Tripoli government is that many of their factions are Islamic terror groups and some have switched to ISIL, which is at war with all non-ISIL Islamic terror groups (who are not considered Islamic enough). The lack of UN recognition hurts Tripoli quite a bit. For example the fact that the Central Bank and National Oil Company are still based in Tripoli has not helped the Tripoli government as much as expected. These two institutions insist on being neutral and exporting oil and collecting payment to pay salaries for government workers and buy food and other essentials for all Libyans. This arrangement is encouraged (and occasionally enforced) by the UN and the major international banks.

The international financial community also prevents the Tobruk government from selling oil directly and also makes it difficult for the Central Bank from becoming corrupt (stealing the money) and ineffective (not paying for essentials like food, which is mostly imported). These are all informal and uneasy arrangements which are constantly threatened by the corruption that is still pervasive in Libya. The leaders of the two governments and the major factions know that without a functioning central government Libya will eventually collapse into horrific turmoil, with massive starvation and violence. The country is dependent on the oil income, a situation which former dictator Kaddafi exploited for decades to remain in power. Kaddafi created a coalition that has to be recreated for Libya (and most Libyans) to survive. Many (up to a quarter) of Libyans have already given up and fled the country since 2011 and if there is not a peace deal soon most of the remaining Libyans will also have to flee or die.

NATO countries are now talking about another round of military intervention in Libya. The reason is growing illegal migration to Europe. This is what prompted NATO to send peacekeepers to the Balkans in the 1990s. In Libya the situation is worse because there is little, if any, government presence in most of Libya and the migration situation is worse. Since 2012 NATO has urged various Libyan governments to halt the growing number of (mostly) African and migrants coming to Libya then paying smugglers to get them to Europe, where they can claim asylum and greatly improve their economic situation. By 2013 it was estimated that 500 people a day were illegally crossing the southern border in an effort to make it to Europe. That number appears to have nearly tripled since then. Since 2000 over 250,000 illegal migrants from Africa have reached Europe, mainly through Italy. Most of these illegals have arrived since 2013 and over 80 percent moved via Libya. The recent deaths at sea have always been part of the risk the illegals endure and the rate of deaths has recently risen from about one percent of the migrants to nearly five percent. For the smugglers this is bad for business but it won’t stop the flow of illegals, just reduce it a bit.

This is more of a problem for Europeans than for 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 or just because the illegals are outsiders. Stopping them from getting into Libya is not easily done because the southern border is largely desert, as is most of the 5,000 kilometers of land borders. The coastline is nearly 1,800 kilometers long and only 300 kilometers from Italy. Smugglers have been taking advantage of these geographical facts for generations. Checkpoints on the few roads headed north are subject to bribes or simply going around. Without a unified government none of the existing factions (not even the Tripoli or Tobruk governments) can make much of a dent in the number of illegals headed to Europe via Libya.

With more illegals taking crowded boats (often supplied by Italian gangsters) to Italy (the closest European country to Libya) there are more accidents. The massive loss of life on the 18th (over 800 dead when an overloaded ship sunk) appears to have pushed NATO to seriously consider action. In addition to stopping the expensive (to maintain) and troublesome (who cause crime rates to rise) illegals there is also the fact that most of the migrants are Moslem and NATO countries now admit they have a major problem with these migrants as many choose to become Islamic terrorists. While these radical groups mainly kill other Moslems, they will kill non-Moslems and Westerners if they have the opportunity. Thus more NATO intervention in Libyan isn’t just humanitarian, it’s self-defense.

The smuggling gangs will continue because there is no government in Libya and so many people are willing to pay over $1,000 each (and up to five times that) to get taken overland into Libya and then by boat to Europe. For the smugglers this is a business currently worth over $100 million a year and profit margins are high. This has attracted gangs from all over the Mediterranean, especially those who handle illegal drugs smuggled via Africa. Much of the money goes to bribes and pay for thousands of gunmen, guides and fees for boat owners. There is little opposition to the gangs in Libya, or at least none that shooting back or offering cash won’t deal with. Restoring law and order in Libya is the easiest way to halt most of the illegal migrants. There is an internationally recognized elected government based in Tobruk that would appreciate some foreign help. Opposing this government are a lot of Islamic terrorist groups that hate non-Moslems in general and Europeans in particular. NATO got involved (providing air support to rebels) in 2011. But that only helped to remove the dictatorship, it did not do anything to create a workable new government, at least not yet.

The Tobruk government is depending on its international recognition, UN support and cordial relations with many foreign nations to enable it to eventually gain control of the Central Bank and National Oil Company. So far this effort has not worked. In January Tobruk forces seized the Benghazi branch of the Libyan Central Bank. Although the Central Bank (which controls over $100 billion in cash and gold reserves) headquarters are still in Tripoli the bank officials have managed to convince the UN that they are neutral and trying to continue paying government salaries and bills for essential imports. The Tobruk government is still trying to get its own man to take over the bank but for the moment the UN has advised Tobruk to go along with the “functional neutrality” of the Central Bank until a peace deal with the Tripoli government. Because of that the UN criticized the seizure of the Benghazi branch. The Tobruk government insisted this was done, in part, to prevent Islamic terrorist groups from trying to attack the branch, whose vaults contain a lot of cash (and remain intact and under guard.) Tobruk forces claim to control 90 percent of Benghazi but Islamic terrorist groups continue to hold out in parts of the city. Heavy fighting in Benghazi has been going on since October and left over 800 dead so far.

Egypt has continuing problems with the civil war in neighboring Libya. Despite that Egyptians are still trying to sneak across the border to take jobs Libyans are not accustomed to performing. Weapons stolen from Libyan government warehouses during the initial 2011 Libyan rebellion continue to find their way into Egypt, keeping local gangsters, terrorists and smugglers who supply Gaza supplied and dangerous. Nearly 50,000 Egyptians have left Libya since February to escape the growing Islamic terrorist violence there. This flight was triggered by a February 15th ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) 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. This is a common practice in all Arab oil states. 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 February.

Neighboring Algeria, which does have a working government, believes there are at least 20,000 illegal migrants in the country and based on data from smugglers arrested at the borders that number is going to increase. The cause is continuing or growing rest to the south (Mali and Niger especially) and in Libya. While most of these illegals want to continue on to Europe, the Europeans are making illegal entry more difficult thus stranding more illegals in Algeria. The illegals are causing more anger among Algerians and growing incidents of violence against illegals.

April 20, 2015: In Tripoli a bomb exploded outside the Spanish embassy compound but caused no injuries and little damage. ISIL is suspected because it has attacked embassies before, even though nearly all of them have been closed and the only people inside are Libyan security and maintenance personnel.

April 19, 2015: ISIL released a video showing masked ISIL men murdering 35 Ethiopian and Eritrean Christians (who were apparently trying to get to Europe). Two months earlier ISIL released a similar video showing the murder of 20 Egyptian Christians.

April 18, 2015: Over 800 illegal migrants from Libya died when their overloaded ship capsized. There have been a growing number of such incidents and over 1,700 such immigrant deaths have occurred so far this year and a third of those were in April, which isn’t over yet. For all of 2014 there were 3,300 such deaths.

April 17, 2015: Forces loyal to the Tobruk government continue their efforts to fight their way into Tripoli. The fighting today left at least 21 dead. The Tobruk government has been advancing since late last year but progress is slow and the dozens of major pro-Tripoli militias, often tribe or city based, have frequently offered determined resistance. But the continued progress of the Tobruk forces contributes to growing NATO willingness to intervene again. This fighting is carried out by local militias who have different loyalties.

April 15, 2015: Libyan Air Force (which is loyal to the Tobruk government) aircraft bombed rebel targets in Tripoli. A frequent target of these air strikes is the Libyan Dawn militia, one of the largest groups supporting the Tripoli government.

April 13, 2015: On the Algerian side of the Libyan border (where it meets the Niger border) Algerian troops found a cache of more than 400 kg (880 pounds) weapons, most of it was explosives for making bombs.

In Tripoli gunmen fired into the South Korean embassy compound, killing two Libyan security guards but caused little damage. ISIL is suspected.

April 10, 2015: In the east (Benghazi) Islamic terrorist gunmen clashed with soldiers and pro-government militiamen. At least a dozen died and over fifty were wounded. The Tobruk government forces control most of the city but some Islamic terrorist groups still operate on the outskirts.

April 6, 2015: In the west (Misrata) a suicide car bomb went off near some local militiamen, killing six people including three civilian bystanders. Misrata is controlled by militias mostly loyal to the Tripoli government.

April 4, 2015: Forces loyal to the Tobruk government continue their efforts to fight their way into Tripoli and took control of a neighborhood in the southern part of the city. Air support destroyed two warplanes at a Tripoli airport to prevent pro-Tripoli forces from getting any more warplanes back into the air.

April 1, 2015:  Oil production is now over 600,000 barrels a day but tribes living near oil facilities continue threaten violence if they do not get additional benefits.          

March 31, 2015:  The prime minister of the Tripoli government was dismissed by his parliament. The Tripoli government has been having a bad year so far and dissent in parliament led to this dismissal

March 30, 2015: A UN brokered ceasefire has led to the withdrawal of forces from the Sidra Oil Crescent area thus putting more oil production into service.

 

 

 

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