Libya: Pervasive Peacemakers Promote Progress

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June 23, 2017: In the east the HoR (House of Representatives) government openly criticized Qatar for working with Iran and Sudan to back Islamic terrorists in Libya. Qatar along with Turkey and Sudan always backed more Islamic rebel groups and continues to support the rival Tripoli government. Qatar, Turkey and Sudan have long believed that you can coexist with Islamic conservatives. That concept has become less viable as it becomes apparent that the ancient tradition of Islamic conservatives eventually evolving into Islamic terrorists was still functioning. This process produced al Qaeda and its evil spawn ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant). Many Arabs deal with this by insisting that al Qaeda and ISIL are both creations of the United States and Israel. There is no evidence for this but to many Moslems, especially Arabs, it feels good. Most Islamic terrorist groups in Libya will not accept anything less than an Islamic dictatorship. ISIL was seen as a common threat because ISIL would not cooperate with any other Islamic terrorist factions and insisted that all Islamic terror groups obey ISIL or be declared an enemy of Islam. With ISIL now much diminished on the defensive in Libya there are still reports of Sudanese fighting with Islamic terror groups in eastern Libya. The new anti-Qatar criticism is the aftermath of a June 5 th diplomatic showdown between most of the Arabian states and Qatar over the Islamic terrorism issue. But the issue of Qatari and Iranian support of Islamic terrorism in Libya goes way back.

Various Libyan governments have been complaining about Qatar since 2014. Initially this came as a surprise because in late 2011, after the fall of the Kaddafi government neighboring Sudan, long the target of Kaddafi meddling, welcomed the change in Libya. But there were side effects. Huge amounts of weapons were stolen from Kaddafi era warehouses and some of the Libyan arms were showing up in Sudan, where Darfur (western Sudan) rebels were working with Libyan smugglers to get the weapons into Sudan.

By June 2014 Libyans in Benghazi exposed a Sudanese operation to supply some Islamic terrorist groups in the city with weapons and ammo. Sudanese transports secretly flew the stuff into Benghazi airport. The staff at the airport were bribed or intimidated into keeping quiet about the operation. Some Sudanese officials also flew in to meet with Islamic terrorist militia leaders. Sudan denied this but In 2014 Libyans claimed that a Sudanese transport plane entered Libyan air space on September 7 and landed at Tripoli, loaded with weapons that were taken aboard at an airfield in Sudan. The day before police in southeast Libya (Kufra) seized a Sudanese transport when the cargo was found to be weapons and ammo. The aircraft had landed to refuel before it continued on to Tripoli. The Libyan government accused Sudan of backing the Islamic terrorists in Tripoli. Sudan was already known to support many Islamic terrorist groups in the region, but always denied it when caught.

By late 2014 a pro-Islamic faction had established a dissident government in Tripoli that had support from Turkey, Sudan and Qatar while the elected government (forced to move east to Tobruk) had most of the world recognizing it, along with most of the Islamic majority nations. Turkey was under growing international pressure to support the Tobruk government and responded by accusing its foreign critics of conspiring against Turkey. At the same time Tobruk government, and its military commander Khalifa Belgacem Hiftar had active support from Egypt and the UAE (United Arab Emirates)

The Tobruk (now HoR) government pointed out that the Islamic terrorists have plenty of weapons (stolen from Kaddafi era stockpiles or smuggled in from Sudan) and some military supplies for Islamic terrorists were still blatantly flown in from Sudan as recently as mid-2015.

In late 2015 The Tobruk government banned Yemenis, Iranians and Pakistanis from entering the country. Too many people from those countries have been encountered fighting for Islamic terror groups in Libya. The Tobruk government had earlier banned Sudanese, Bangladeshis, Palestinians and Syrians for the same reasons. This ban did not keep these people out but made it more difficult for them to get into Libya and move around there freely.

In late 2016 it was revealed that most of the dead ISIL men in Sirte came from Tunisia, Egypt, Sudan and Nigeria (in that order) and many surviving ISIL men seem to be trying to return home. It was later discovered that Sudanese aircraft were flying the families of Sudanese Islamic terrorists back to Sudan. This was especially the case for families of Sudanese killed in Libya while fighting for Islamic terror groups. In 2017 the HoR government accused the Palestinian Hamas government in Gaza to assisting smugglers to get cash and weapons to Islamic terror groups in eastern Libya. Hamas also had the support of Iran.

The UN has banned anyone from exporting weapons to anyone in Libya. UN investigators have admitted that various nations (like Egypt, UAE, Qatar and Sudan) do send weapons but the UN can’t (or won’t) do much about it.

Oil Progress Fracked

The National Oil Corporation (NOC) revealed that production has continued to rise this year to record (since 2011) levels. It was 800,000 BPD (barrels per day) in April and that reached 880,000 BPD in May. NOC expects to keep that up until, by the end of 2017, 1.3 million BPD is reached. On the down side the world price for oil keeps falling, despite OPEC (the Arab dominated oil cartel) efforts to reduce overall production and drive up the price. The problem is that the United States and Canada are producing a lot more due to new technologies (like fracking) that open up huge new sources that were long known but not reachable.

OPEC has exempted Libya from production limits but this will only last until pre-2011 levels (1.6 million BPD) are reached. Meanwhile the production increases are largely the result of much less fighting near the main eastern oil ports. Between February and March this violence had reduced production to about 600,000 BPD but now the NOC sees production hitting a million BPD (a quarter of that natural gas equivalents) by the end of August and continuing to increase into 2018. But it all depends on an end of fighting over oil facilities. Meanwhile there are technical problems, mostly the result of years without proper maintenance that cause production to occasionally dip. For example, that happened recently when production fell to 788,000 BPD. In theory the oil is exported and the cash received buys essential items like food, medicine and other consumer items. In practice there is still a problem with corruption and a lot of the oil money disappearing before the needed imports can reach most Libyans.

Gangsters And NGOs Work Together

The EU (European Union) is trying to get the two Libyan governments (GNA and HoR) that control the Libyan coast to cooperate with EU efforts to assist and expand a Libyan coast guard that will halt, or at least reduce, the flow of illegal migrants from Libya to Italy. This effort is hobbled by the small size of the current coast guard and the rampant corruption in Libya, which makes it difficult to find Libyans that will serve in this coast guard and refuse bribes from the criminal gangs that control the illegal migration.

The gangs have an easier time of it now that more European NGOs (non-governmental organizations) are sending rescue boats to meet smuggler boats off the Libyan coast and escort them to Italy. This is done to prevent some of these smuggler boats from sinking in bad weather or simply because they are not fit for the journey. It has gotten to the point where the NGO rescue ships will take up position just outside (or even inside) Libyan territorial waters (that extend 22 kilometers from the coast). The smuggler boats head right for the NGO ships and then any smugglers on board return to Libya while the NGOs sees that the illegal migrants reach Italy. Some of the NGOs are demanding that the EU stop supporting the Libyan coast guard, which increasingly stops smuggler boats full of illegal migrants before they reach the NGO rescue ships outside (or even inside) territorial waters.

Italy and the rest of Europe want peace and a unified government in Libya mainly because Libya is the source of most of the illegal migrants crossing the Mediterranean and landing in Italy where, because of EU treaties and European sensibilities, Italy must absorb these illegal migrants or allow them to move on to other EU countries that offer better economic opportunities. In 2016 181,000 of these illegals reached Italy but nearly three percent of those who tried died along the way. So far in 2017 the death rate of illegal migrants coming by sea is down a bit but the migration will continue as long as Libya is in chaos. Until 2016 about half the illegal migrants entering Europe were coming in via Italy. With the land route via the Balkans largely blocked this year, most of the illegal migrants now get to Italy via Libya. The criminal gangs (and some Islamic terror groups) that control the Libya based people smuggling are getting rich (over a billion dollars a year) off this business and can afford to bribe local militias to leave them alone. If that fails, the gangs try intimidation. The gangs consider the NGOs allies and the EU military ships patrolling the Libyan coast harmless if you don’t fire on them.

June 20, 2017: In the east (620 kilometers east of Tripoli) an ISIL suicide car bomber was identified as Sudanese. The car bomb went off at a security checkpoint outside the oil export port of Es Sider. Security personnel collected the body parts and other material from the car and identified the nationality of the bomber and the group he was from.

June 16, 2017: In the east (Benghazi) HoR soldiers continued clearing the few remaining neighborhoods controlled Islamic terrorist or criminal gangs (sometimes it is hard to tell the difference) and lost three soldiers to landmines and two from sniper fire. At least two Islamic terrorists were killed and many more fled. Increasingly Islamic terrorists in coastal cities are heading south to more defensible (but more isolated) towns in central and southern Libya.

June 10, 2017: Fighting continues in Derna (200 kilometers southwest of Benghazi). In the last two days at least three Islamic terrorists have been killed and HoR forces continue seeking to drive all Islamic terror groups out of the city.

Derna was once an ISIL stronghold. By the end of 2016 most of the remaining ISIL members and their families (a thousand or so people, most of them armed) fled south from their former bases in Sirte and Benghazi. HoR forces followed the ISIL remnants to Derna, which had been largely free of ISIL control since early 2016. ISIL had spent several months trying to take Derna and failed. Derna is about the same size (100,000 population) as the former ISIL “capital” Sirte. The ISIL reverses at Derna were the result of stubborn local militias and the recent arrival of Hiftar forces, which were unsuccessful in establishing control. Hiftar was not popular with some of the Derna militias, especially those composed of Islamic conservatives and these groups eventually fought back. Now they are under attack again by Hiftar forces and being pushed out of the area. The GNA accuses Hiftar of illegally attempting to take control of Derna while Hiftar says he wants to remove any Islamic conservative or terrorist militias still in Derna.

June 5, 2017: Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE (United Arab Emirates) and Bahrain cut diplomatic, economic and military relations with Qatar. Ambassadors were expelled, borders were closed and Qatar was made to feel very unwelcome. Yemen and several other Moslem nations followed the suit. This included the HoR government in Libya. The expulsion comes after years of criticisms over Qatari support for Islamic terrorism and the perception among Arab states that Qatar could not be trusted.

June 3, 2017: The UN estimated that in May 18 people were killed and 68 wounded because of continued fighting and Islamic terrorist activity. The actual losses are believed to be much higher because of heavy fighting during late May in Tripoli and central Libya. Most of the fighting now can best be described as police work with both the GNA and HoR forces shutting down Islamic terrorist, militia and criminal gangs that have been a threat to peace since 2011. The GNA still has problems with rival militias fighting each other in Tripoli and a few other areas. In Benghazi the army is shutting down some of the self-defense militias that were ineffective and sometimes the cause of problems. The GNA and HoR are still trying to work out their political differences but both recognize that first there must be peace and a revived economy.

June 2, 2017: In south central Libya (770 kilometers south of Tripoli) HoR (Hiftar) and local militias together battled GNA forces and some Islamic terror groups. Much of the current fighting took place in and around the town of Hun.

June 1, 2017: In Tripoli the GNA shut down Dar al Ifta, an Islamic extremist operation run by a radical cleric (Mufti Sadiq al Ghariani) who locals call the “Mufti of Qatar” because Ghariani openly backed Qatar and Qatari support for Islamic terror groups in Libya. Ghariani also criticized the GNA and HoR for not being Islamic enough and frequently issued fatwas (religious rulings) critical of those two governments. Qatar officially backs the GNA but in Libya is noted mainly for its material support for Islamic terrorist groups.

May 28, 2017: In the southwest five Libyan farmers visiting their land on the Algerian border (Illizi Province) were shot at by armed men from Algeria. One Libyan was killed and four wounded. The victims were not sure if the attackers were Algerian soldiers patrolling the Libyan border or Algerian Islamic terrorists who often cross the border to buy supplies in Libya, sometimes at the nearby border town of Ghat. There is not much government on the Libyan side of the border with local Tuareg tribal leaders doing the best they can. These Tuareg have cooperated with Algeria before and have asked for Algerian help in identifying the shooters.

May 26, 2017: Egypt has become more openly active in the Libyan civil war. The pro-Egypt HoR government that rules eastern Libya and much of the oil apparently recently asked Egypt to bomb certain Islamic terror ground in the inland city of Derna. HoR military forces (ground troops and warplanes) have also been fighting in Derna and wanted to coordinate their operations with the Egyptian airstrikes that began on May 26th in retaliation for an ISIL attack on Egyptian Christians in Egypt. The air raids used the latest Egyptian warplanes (French made Rafales and American made F-16Cs). The only possible opposition was some older Mirage F1 warplanes the UN backed GNA (Government of National Accord) has been refurbishing near the coastal city of Misrata. None of these have shown up to oppose the Egyptian air strikes. Egypt also sent a few dozen additional special operations troops to reinforce the small (under a hundred) force of Egyptian troops in eastern Libya working with the Hiftar forces. Several hundred foreign special operations troops and technical personnel have been in Libya, mostly eastern Libya, since 2011. Egypt has been trying to persuade the U.S., France and Russia to send in more special operations troops. Libya has been one area where Egypt and Qatar have been on the same side as both have supported the HoR and their military commander Khalifa Hiftar. Qatar was one of the new Arab states that sent warplanes in 2011 to join the NATO air campaign against Libyan dictator Kaddafi.

 

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