Libya: Being On The Wrong Side Of Unity Or Death

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October 15, 2015: The UN thought it had a peace agreement on the 8 th but that has since proved overly optimistic. The current round of peace talks were thought to have addressed all the problems that have arisen in several months of negotiations. It did not. The UN is now demanding that the Tripoli government get its dissident factions under contr0l and agree to the terms for uniting the two governments or else. The UN wants the two governments to merge and then use their combined forces to deal with ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) and other groups threatening the economy (especially oil shipments) and the country in general. The UN is unlikely to completely give up on Libya as the recent deadline is ignored and the two rival governments know it. The main motivation the two governments have to merge is the growing likelihood that there will soon be mass starvation and even more chaos, death and people fleeing the country. Libya is running out of cash and options but still has plenty of factions willing to risk more damage in an effort to get their way.

The violence since 2011 has left over 32,000 dead and over a third of the population has fled the country, most of them to neighboring Tunisia. The people most likely to leave are the educated and talented Libyans the country needs most. This has made it difficult for the Tripoli and Tobruk governments to find qualified people to fill senior posts. It has gotten so bad that the prime minister of the Tobruk government complains of being forced to serve and not being allowed (by the military) to leave Libya, even for official business. That mass flight was made easier because about 85 percent of Libya's six million people live along the coast. Some five percent are still nomadic. Other minorities comprise about six percent of the population. Nearly 100 percent of the population speaks at least some Arabic and 97 percent are Sunni Moslems. The Berber are Sunni but were never big on Islamic radicalism. Kaddafi saw the Berbers as a threat because they were not Arab and had, for over a thousand years, resisted Arab domination.

The fighting has interfered with oil exports and without that income the country is broke. The country needs peace so that the oil facilities, the central bank and the network of government offices that pay government employees and import goods for distribution to most Libyans can function. While not all Libyans support any one government or leader, most do support restoration of the Kaddafi era welfare system and the oil revenues that paid for it. This was an efficient way to distribute the oil income so that most Libyans benefitted from it. During the decades of Kaddafi rule Libyans became dependent on these benefits and are angry at anyone who is harming this system. The Islamic terrorist militias sense they are facing a real threat because of the widespread hostility they face from Libyans concerned about surviving without the oil income.

Another things that annoys most Libyans is the lack of unity among the Islamic terrorist groups, each of whom considers themselves the anointed (by God) leader of an Islamic renaissance. This is a common pattern and the resulting feuds and outright wars between Islamic terrorist factions is a major reason why these groups rarely achieve much success. Too many of these Islamic terror groups are willing to interfere with, or even ban, free food sent in by foreign aid groups. Thus the locals see these holy warriors sending Libya straight to hell on earth. Militias affiliated with ISIL are generally opposed to any peace deal that does not involve everyone agreeing to ISIL ruling all of Libya. Most other Islamic terror groups are at least open to negotiations and some kind of deal.

The country is running out of money with which to buy food and other essentials. Some 85 percent of the $67 billion the government has currently is frozen and the $10 billion that is available will be gone by mid-2016 if the two rival governments (UN recognized Tobruk and the previous one in Tripoli) do not agree to merge. About 40 percent of the six million people left in Libya are in danger of injury from the violence or lack of food and other supplies. Many of these people have been driven from the homes and some are living in tents. A growing number have given up and fled the country.

Oil production is up to 380,000 barrels a day, which is 23 percent of the pre-revolution total of 1.6 million barrels. At current prices that would bring in $23 billion a year, enough for the country to survive on but not live as comfortably as they did when oil was selling for more than twice what it does now. Since 2011 the violence has not hurt the oil fields and the oil reserves (still in the ground) stands at 77 billion barrels (plus the equivalent of ten percent more in the form of natural gas). Even if production returned to 2011 levels there would still be a problem with the price of oil, which has fallen by more than half since 2012 because of worldwide overproduction.

October 13, 2015: In Sirte ISIL held a public burning of a large quantity of school books which it condemned as “un-Islamic”. This was another attempt to terrorize the population into submission. So far these efforts have just made the locals more determined to fight back. Because of local opposition like this ISIL has had a difficult time establishing territory it can actually rule. Meanwhile ISIL has established training and terrorist operations bases and is carrying out terror attacks and trying to spread ISIL to neighboring countries (especially Tunisia, Algeria and Egypt.)

October 12, 2015: In the northwest (Sabratha) a local militia kidnapped fifty Tunisians (who had come to Libya to work) in order to force Tunisia to free a militia leader who had recently been arrested in Tunisia after flying in from Iraq. Tunisia accused the militia leader of involvement with ISIL recruiting. His followers deny this and insist their leader was in Iraq on UN business. The issue was resolved the next day and the Tunisians released.

October 10, 2015: Tunisia arrested eleven ISIL members and destroyed three ISIL recruiting teams. The government estimates that over 3,000 Tunisians have already been recruited to fight for ISIL and other Islamic terrorist groups outside Tunisia.

October 8, 2015: The UN announced it had achieved a merger agreement between the Tobruk and Tripoli governments. The two governments must approve this new deal by the 20th.

In the east the Tobruk government controlled oil port of Zueitina resumed operations. This port has two million barrels in storage and can ship 70,000 barrels a day (about a billion dollars a year at current prices). It is only receiving 30,000 barrels a day from oil fields in the south but work is under way to increase that.

October 3, 2015: Algeria decided to keep the Libyan border closed until the two rival Libyan governments agreed to a unification deal the UN has been pushing. At that point the border will be reopened when the new government demonstrates that it is capable of policing its side of the border and dealing with all the Islamic terror groups operating there.

October 2, 2015: The Libyan government admitted it knew Egyptian troops sometimes pursue smugglers into Libya and that is often done in cooperation with Libya. For several years now the two countries have quietly cooperated to try and reduce the smuggling, especially since a lot of it involves weapons and Islamic terrorists.

October 1, 2015: ISIL attacked the Tobruk controlled oil export port of Es Sider. Militiamen guarding the port repulsed the attack losing one man plus several wounded. The attackers lost at least six dead and more wounded. This port has been closed since December 2014. Es Sider and other nearby port can ship 600,000 barrels a day but will remain shut down until the Tripoli force is defeated.

September 30, 2015: Near the Libyan border Tunisian police seized two cars that has been driven in from Libya along with a third vehicle. When the police opened fire on the three vehicles all the drivers got into the third vehicle and fled back into Libya. The two vehicles seized were rigged as suicide car bombs and were also carrying ten AK-47s, RPG rockers, ammo, cell phones, explosives and other equipment. There was also ISIL propaganda material. Police are searching for the men who brought the vehicles across the border and who intended to use them inside Tunisia.  

September 25, 2015: Outside Tripoli one of the most successful people smugglers in Libya, Salah al Maskhout, was ambushed and killed, along with his eight armed bodyguards. The incident appeared to be very professional and there is speculation foreign commandos carried out the attack. There was some evidence that Italian special operations forces were responsible but Italy denied it.

 

 

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