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Ed Webb

The Libyan Civil War Is About to Get Worse - 0 views

  • Yet another clash between the two main Libya camps is now brewing, and events in recent weeks suggest that the fighting will be more devastating than at any time before—and still may not produce a definitive victory for either side.
  • Facing stiff resistance from disparate militias nominally aligned with the government, the LNA has failed to breach downtown Tripoli. On top of this, the marshal’s campaign, while destructive, has been hampered by gross strategic and tactical inefficiency. The resulting war of attrition and slower pace of combat revealed yet another flaw in his coalition: Few eastern Libyan fighters wish to risk their lives for Haftar 600 miles away from home.
  • the UAE carried out more than 900 air strikes in the greater Tripoli area last year using Chinese combat drones and, occasionally, French-made fighter jets. The Emirati military intervention helped contain the GNA’s forces but did not push Haftar’s objectives forward. Instead, it had an adverse effect by provoking other regional powers. Turkey responded to the UAE by deploying Bayraktar TB2 drones and several dozen Turkish officers to carry out roughly 250 strikes in an effort to help the GNA resist Haftar’s onslaught. The stalemate also inspired Russia to increase its own involvement in Libya.
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  • In September 2019, a few hundred Russian mercenaries joined the front-line effort near Tripoli in support of Haftar’s forces
  • forced a desperate GNA to sign a controversial maritime accord that granted Ankara notional gas-drilling rights in the eastern Mediterranean in return for Turkey launching a full-blown military intervention in support of the anti-Haftar camp
  • According to open-source data analyzed by aircraft-tracking specialist Gerjon, the Emiratis, since mid-January, have flown more than 100 cargo planes to Libya (or western Egypt, near the Libyan border). These planes likely carried with them thousands of tons of military hardware. Other clues suggest that the number of Emirati personnel on Libyan soil has also increased. All of this indicates that Haftar’s coalition and its allies are going to try, once again, to achieve total victory by force.
  • Few international actors are willing to contradict the UAE, and while the GNA’s isolation grows, no Western government wants to exert any meaningful pressure on Haftar
  • During January and February, at least three cargo ships from Turkey delivered about 3,500 tons’ worth of equipment and ammunition each. The Turkish presence on Libyan soil currently comprises several hundred men. They train Libyan fighters on urban warfare with an emphasis on tactics to fend off armored vehicles. Against attacks from the sky, Ankara relies on electronic-warfare technology and a combination of U.S.– and indigenously developed air defense systems. Similar protection has been set up at the air base of Misrata, a powerful anti-Haftar city to the west of Sirte, which the LNA took on Jan. 6.
  • Notwithstanding its attempt to tap underwater hydrocarbons in the Mediterranean, Ankara has no intention of renouncing its commercial interests in Libya or its wider geopolitical aspirations in the rest of Africa.
  • To counter Turkey’s new intervention, the pro-Haftar government in eastern Libya formalized its alignment with the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad, allowing the LNA to purchase technical advice from Damascus using material and diplomatic rewards. A few hundred Syrian contractors hired from pro-Assad militias are now reportedly in Libya, on Haftar’s side
  • Because Turkey’s presence and its arsenal have made it difficult for the UAE to fly its combat drones anymore, the LNA and its allies have begun a relentless shelling campaign using Grad rockets and other projectiles. Such salvos on Tripoli don’t just hit legitimate military targets—they also hit civilians. Unguided rockets are inherently indiscriminate, and the pro-GNA camp can do almost nothing to prevent this kind of attack
  • a philosophy of collective punishment
  • the pro-Haftar camp has been imposing a $1.5 billion-a-month oil blockade on Libya since mid-January. Fuel shortages may soon become more widespread as a result. Suppression of the nation’s only dollar-generating activity is also a means of cutting off the internationally recognized Central Bank in Tripoli and potentially supplanting it with an LNA-friendly alternative where all oil-export proceeds would be captured going forward
  • Moscow’s intervention in Libya is far more mercurial. In the last three months of 2019, Kremlin-linked paramilitary company Wagner shifted the balance of the conflict by joining the fight alongside Haftar. Then, in early January, several days before President Vladimir Putin took part in a request for a Libyan ceasefire, the Russian contingent on the Tripoli front line suddenly became less active.
  • The dynamic between Ankara and Moscow is as much rooted in their common disdain for Europe as it is in mutual animosity. That means Russia could tolerate Turkey a while longer if it feels its interests would be better served by doing so. Such an ebb-and-flow approach amplifies Moscow’s influence and could eventually push the Europeans out of the Libyan theater altogether. Russia may just as easily change its mind and invest into helping the LNA deliver a resounding defeat to Erdogan
  • since late December, more than 4,000 Turkish-backed Syrian mercenaries have arrived in Tripoli and its surrounding area. Most of them are battle-hardened Islamist fighters who belong to three large anti-government militias. Turkey is also busy upgrading its fleet of combat drones scattered across northwest Libya
  • the UAE has sought to bring about the emergence in Tripoli of a government that is void of any influence from political Islam writ large. Because of this, Abu Dhabi will not accept a negotiated settlement with Erdogan’s Islamist government. Making matters worse, neither the United States nor any EU country is willing to use its own regional clout to stand in the Emiratis’ way. Therefore, regardless of whether that endangers a great number of civilian lives, the Libyan war is likely to continue escalating before any political resolution is seriously explored.
Ed Webb

In Libya, the U.N. and EU Are Leaving Migrants to Die as Civil War Rages - 0 views

  • a seemingly endless series of scandals across a network of detention centers ostensibly run by the Libyan Department for Combating Illegal Migration, which is associated with the U.N.-backed, Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA). In reality, many of the detention centers are controlled by militias.
  • Tens of thousands of refugees and migrants have been locked up indefinitely in Libyan detention centers over the past two and a half years, after they were intercepted by the Libyan coast guard trying to reach Italy across the Mediterranean Sea. Since 2017, the Libyan coast guard has been supported with equipment and training worth tens of millions of dollars by the European Union. This money comes from the Trust Fund for Africa—a multibillion-dollar fund created at the height of the so-called migration crisis, with the aim of preventing migration to Europe by increasing border controls and funding projects in 26 African countries
  • EU’s deal with Libya—a country without a stable government where conflict is raging—has been repeatedly condemned by human rights organizations. They say the EU is supporting the coast guard with the aim of circumventing the international law principle of non-refoulement, which would prohibit European ships from returning asylum-seekers and refugees to a country where they could face persecution
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  • In January, dozens of migrants and refugees were sold directly to human traffickers from the Souq al-Khamis detention center in Khoms, soon after they were delivered there by the Libyan coast guard.
  • Since the latest conflict began in Tripoli in April, after eastern Gen. Khalifa Haftar ordered his self-styled Libyan National Army to advance on the capital, refugees and migrants say their lives have become even worse. Detainees in five detention centers told Foreign Policy they have been forced to assist GNA-associated militias by loading or moving weapons, cleaning military bases on the front lines, and even—in a few cases—fighting with guns.
  • In July, at least 53 detainees were killed in the Tajoura detention center, in eastern Tripoli, when a bomb dropped by Haftar’s forces directly hit the hall they were locked in, close to a weapons store. Survivors accused the GNA government of using them as “human shields.”
  • while UNHCR and IOM do some important work, they are actively involved in whitewashing the devastating and horrific impacts of hardening European Union policy aimed at keeping refugees and migrants out of Europe. “They are constantly watering down the problems that are happening in the detention centers,” said one aid official. “They are encouraging the situation to continue. … They are paid by the EU to do [the EU’s] fucking job.”
  • While UNHCR has helped 1,540 refugees leave Libya in 2019, this is only a small percentage of those stuck in a cycle between detention centers, smugglers, and the Libyan coast guard, some of whom have waited years to be considered for evacuation. In May alone, nearly as many refugees (1,224) were returned from the Mediterranean Sea and locked up in detention
  • While the United Nations Support Mission in Libya and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights have been pointedly critical, UNHCR and IOM regularly thank the EU for funding through their social media accounts, without mentioning that the EU plays a central role in sending refugees and migrants to detention centers in the first place
  • According to Crisp, the problems include: “dependence on EU funding and inability to change EU policy; a government that is supported by both the UN and EU; weak government institutions that are closely linked to militias; desperate refugees who don’t understand why UNHCR can’t do more for them; irregular and limited access to the refugees; concerns over staff safety and security,”
  • it was clear the U.N. is “totally overwhelmed” with the situation, yet it has management who are always “on the defensive.” 
  • “In almost every country where there is an emergency there are always complaints, there are always issues and critics, but what we see in Libya is a complete mess,”
  • When asked about the European Union’s role in facilitating the exploitation, torture, and abuse of thousands of refugees and migrants in Libya, EU spokespeople regularly point to the presence of the U.N. in detention centers, saying the EU is trying to improve conditions through these means and would like the centers closed.
  • the bombing survivor said he has lost hope in UNHCR and is ready to return to smugglers. “I will try the sea again and again. I’ve got nothing to lose,” he said, adding, “I want the world to know how people are suffering in Libya, because many people die and lose their minds here.”
Ed Webb

Italy Caused Chaos in Libya by Mismanaging Migration Policy - 0 views

  • Over three days in May 2017, the Italian secret service—masquerading as a humanitarian nongovernmental organization—summoned to Rome two dozen delegates from the southern edge of the Sahara desert. The pretext was to promote a peace deal for their war-torn region; the real goal was to bring them on board with an Italian plan to curb migration.
  • the pitfalls of a foreign policy that conflates peace and development with migration control
  • The Tuareg, the Tebu, and the Awlad Suleiman—the groups represented at the summit—are the gatekeepers of the desert crossed by those hoping to reach the Libyan coast to embark on a sea journey to Europe.
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  • Migration, however, was never much of a concern for the inhabitants of the Sahara. For the most part, they move freely across borders, and their economies depend heavily on the transit of people and goods.
  • What was meant to be “A dialogue on peace, development, security and human rights in the trans-border regions of Libya, Chad, and Niger,” according to the government’s agenda, became a failed attempt to co-opt some of the poorest people on the planet in a fight against migration from which they had little to gain.
  • The interior ministers of the three countries attended the gathering, as well as one vice president of the GNA—hardly a typical NGO summit. The summit was ostensibly organized by the Ara Pacis Initiative, a group that claims to be an “international not for profit organization based in Rome, dedicated to the human dimension of peace.” Its peculiar inspiration, according to its website, is the altar of peace built in Rome by emperor Augustus. The founder and sole active member of Ara Pacis is Maria Nicoletta Gaida, an Italian American former actress with little background in the humanitarian sector
  • The mysterious man with the ponytail started off with an offer meant to capture the goodwill of his audience: “We will ask for Italy’s commitment to immediately establish cultural identity centers for the trans-border tribes,” he said. Italy would staff these centers with teachers “that will keep alive the history and the culture of these great people.” He also promised health clinics connected via webcam to Italian hospitals. “These are small things,” he said, “for the seed from which the plant grows is always small.”
  • “After peace,” he said, “comes security and development.” The delegates should “deal with the issue of immigration and terrorism through border control mechanisms based on the optimization of reception centers that already exist in your countries.”
  • “My minister is ready to support any of your requests,” he said at one point. In return, he asked for the tribes’ backing in curbing migration: That would “give him the strength to go to Europe and defeat our enemies,” he said, without clarifying who those enemies might be.
  • At roughly the same time as the meeting near Rome, the Italian intelligence services reportedly brokered a multimillion-euro payment to Libyan militias involved in trafficking to enlist them as a coast guard force, a claim that Italy denies.
  • The International Organization for Migration manages one key pillar of the EU’s migration policy in Libya, namely the so-called voluntary repatriation of stranded migrants.
  • these agencies have repeatedly proved useless when it comes to defending the human rights of migrants in Libya. Indeed, the Associated Press revealed last month that the EU’s humanitarian spending has often been diverted to militias and traffickers—sometimes with the knowledge of U.N. officials.
  • Sergio De Caprio, known by the public as Capitano Ultimo, became a legend in Italy after arresting the godfather of the Sicilian mafia Totò Riina in 1993. His exploits inspired novels and a TV series. In 2016 and 2017, he was transferred to the secret service. While his anti-mafia record is legendary, his foreign-policy credentials are unknown. His appointment affirmed the Italian government’s belief that migration is essentially a criminal problem, and that smuggling rings can be fought in the same way as mafia organizations.
  • “The social components of southern Libya are many more than just Awlad Suleiman, Tebu, and Tuaregs,” he argued. Moreover, he said, “their representatives know their identity and history well and are perfectly able to preserve their traditions.”
  • “Rather than cultural centers,” he said, “let’s open factories, so that the youth can have a hope, an alternative to joining criminal gangs.”
  • Although the south of the Sahara is rich in oil, gold, and uranium, local populations suffer abject poverty. The Saharan delegates laid out their priorities: Negotiating peace was their main aim—and supposedly the reason they had flown all the way to Rome. They saw Italy as having a European mandate to mediate peace in Libya by virtue of its old colonial ties. But still the war raged on
  • if a border force was what Europe really wanted, the tribes could welcome military equipment. The United Arab Emirates, the Tuareg leader reminded De Caprio, had lent their helicopters and pilots for border patrol after just one meeting, and this was already their fifth visit to Italy.
  • There is no accountability for Europe’s multibillion-euro spending spree on projects to curb migration. In vast regions such as southern Libya that are inaccessible to diplomatic missions, let alone humanitarian agencies, officials are able to pocket the money for themselves. Migration spending thus ends up fostering corruption, rather than development.
  • when the Libyans sought ambitious development projects they were offered handicraft workshops instead
  • Humanitarian catastrophe looms over the wider Sahara region as Islamist insurgencies in the bordering Sahel region displace 4.2 million people. The Libyan war has escalated into an international conflict
  • The parties in the Libyan conflict store weapons “in close proximity” to migrant detention centers, according to the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, so these become a target of the bombing
  • Italy and Europe’s credibility has been severely undermined by their single-minded pursuit of migration control when dealing with Libya and other African countries
  • At least 36,000 people have been returned to Libya as they attempted to leave the country since 2017 by a Libyan coast guard that Europe funded and equipped. Unsurprisingly, given the way they were recruited, coast guard officers have been found to be involved in such crimes as detaining and extorting ransoms from migrants, whipping shipwreck survivors, shooting migrants, sinking their dinghies, and ignoring distress calls
  • For several years the Community of Sant’Egidio, a Catholic organization of which Giro is a prominent member, had been mediating peace among the Saharan peoples. The association is involved in several conflict resolution initiatives around the world and has been credited with ending a bloody civil war in Mozambique in 1992.
  • Europe’s “migration obsession … a sickness that has infected all 28 EU countries
  • Mogherini’s tenure as EU foreign-policy chief will be remembered for its unprecedented callousness toward the plight of migrants and refugees; she now co-chairs a newly formed U.N. High-Level Panel on Internal Displacement
  • “Do you realize what it would mean if Libya fell into Turkish and Russian hands, at the expense of Europe? We would lose everything.” What would we lose? I asked him. “Everything! Control over migration, political control, economic control, the oil. … Eventually, we would lose it all.”
Ed Webb

Italian Fishermen, Caught Amid EU Migrant Politics, Are Being Captured in Libya - 1 views

  • The 180-mile stretch of the Mediterranean sea that separates Sicily from Libya has been a diplomatic battleground in Italian-Libyan relations for years
  • allowed Libya to quietly claim a bigger portion of the Mediterranean: a controversial move that has put the lives and livelihoods of Italian fishermen at greater risk for almost a decade
  • Libyans have continued to treat foreign fishing in that 74-mile stretch as a territorial invasion—and as a theft of their natural resources, to be punished through detention and bail payment
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  • The maritime dispute dates back to the 1970s, when Libya began using force to protect its self-proclaimed fishing waters off the Gulf of Sidra from foreign fishing vessels, 12 miles from its coast. But it worsened in 2005, when then-Libyan leader Muammar al-Qaddafi unilaterally extended the country’s waters from 12 to 74 miles offshore. Those claims were always formally rejected by main EU member states, and according to Stefano Marcuzzi, a Libya analyst at the NATO Defense College Foundation in Rome, many maritime law experts still consider them illegitimate. “Territorial waters can be extended up to 74 miles, according to the 1982 Montego Bay Convention, but that refers to oceans,” Marcuzzi said. “The extension of that principle to the closed waters of the Mediterranean basin is debatable.”
  • The EU has kept prioritizing migration containment by signing agreements with Libya’s coast guard, which is part of Tripoli’s navy, over proper nation-building and regional-stabilization policies—with mixed results
  • about 40 fishermen have been injured and detained in the past 25 years. More than 50 boats have been seized, and the release of each one has cost up to 50,000 euros, a price usually paid by the fishermen themselves.  
  • since civil war broke out in Libya in 2011, Italy and the EU have lost much of their influence in the country.
  • “Our families’ income has depended on fishing for generations. Despite the risks, we have no choice but to keep sailing these troubled waters, because that’s where red prawns live,” said Asaro, who was among the first Sicilian fishermen to experience detention—and a show trial—in Libya. In 1996, around 50 miles off the coast of the city of Misrata, the Libyan coast guard chased Asaro’s vessel for four hours before they began shooting at his crew, who were then jailed in Libya for six months. He’s since been detained twice more, most recently in 2012, near Benghazi, when he was released after eight days on an 8,000-euro bail he paid out of his own pocket.
  • The EU’s inability to see Libya outside the lens of migration has also allowed the country to take control of a bigger portion of the Mediterranean
  • allowing Libyans to assert larger maritime sovereignty has allowed them the opportunity to advance claims over natural resources, such as in the fishing dispute, and given them a base for potential military and trade movements deeper in the Mediterranean Sea
  • Since Rome and Tripoli signed an EU-backed agreement in 2017 to curb migrant flows across the Mediterranean, vessels from the EU have been barred from operating in the 74 miles off the Libyan coast, and Italy has been helping to train and equip the Libyan coast guard—one of the groups that has been detaining its own fishermen
  • “Before 2011, the Italian navy supported us. Now as soon as we are 50 miles from the Libyan coasts, they also tell us to leave. It seems as if they prefer to leave us with a smaller piece of sea to fish rather than irritating Libyans, who could then retaliate through migration deals,” said Roberto Figuccia, another fisherman from Mazara del Vallo who’s been captured by the Libyan coast guard and detained in Libya twice, in 2015 and 2018.
  • the Italian government’s inability to negotiate a fishing agreement with Libya has led Italian captains to forge their own ties with Haftar
  • “If the Mediterranean has become a battleground, it is not only because of migrants,” said Asaro, who recently ran—and lost—in local elections with the Lega party, which is known for its far-right and anti-EU rhetoric. He believes that Lega, unlike Italy’s other political parties, would stand up for Italian citizens’ rights over EU agreements. “I no longer feel as a European citizen. The EU has left us alone.”
Ed Webb

Trump aide drew plan on napkin to partition Libya into three | World news | The Guardian - 0 views

  • A senior White House foreign policy official has pushed a plan to partition Libya, and once drew a picture of how the country could be divided into three areas on a napkin in a meeting with a senior European diplomat
  • Sebastian Gorka, a deputy assistant to Donald Trump under pressure over his past ties with Hungarian far-right groups, suggested the idea of partition in the weeks leading up to the US president’s inauguration, according to an official with knowledge of the matter. The European diplomat responded that this would be “the worst solution” for Libya
  • Gorka is vying for the job of presidential special envoy to Libya
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  • sharp differences have emerged over how much say Russia should have in Libya’s fate
  • While the GNA has been seen by some as the best option for achieving stability in the country, it has struggled against a rival government based in Tobruk, eastern Libya, backed by Khalifa Haftar, an anti-Islamist military strongman. Haftar, who would not back partition, has support in some parts of the Egyptian and Russian governments
  • Haftar, a 73-year-old field marshal and former Gaddafi general who later became his bitter opponent, presents himself as a bulwark against Islamism and the Muslim Brotherhood, which makes him appealing to elements of the Trump foreign policy team
  • Gorka has alarmed foreign diplomats with his views on Libya’s future. The map he drew on a napkin during the transition period cut Libya into three sections, apparently based on the old Ottoman provinces of Cyrenaica in the east, Tripolitania in the north-west and Fezzan in the south-west.
  • Gorka’s rivals for the envoy job include Pete Hoekstra, a former congressman and lobbyist, and Phillip Escaravage, a former US intelligence official who worked on Libya for more than a decade
  • At least one European ally has privately expressed frustration at the US state department’s lack of a position on Libya, voicing concerns over Russia’s growing influence
  • Representatives of the Tobruk government, including Haftar, have sought to influence the Trump administration, calling for the US to radically change its position and withdraw support for the Sarraj government.
  • Ari Ben-Menashe, an Israeli security consultant based in Canada, whose company has a $6m (£4.9m) contract to lobby on behalf of Haftar and Aguila Saleh Issa, the head of the Libyan house of representatives in Tobruk, said the White House had been “briefed” on Libya and was “willing to play on our terms”
Ed Webb

It's Russia's Syrian Mercenaries vs. Turkey's Syrian Mercenaries in Libya's War - 0 views

  • Saar is among the Syrian rebels paid by Turkey to fight alongside the forces of the Government of National Accord (GNA), one of the sides claiming power in the protracted Libyan conflict, which began with an uprising against Muammar al-Qaddafi in 2011 and is now a battle for lucrative oil deals and regional influence. The GNA is recognized by the United Nations and backed by the Muslim Brotherhood, a transnational group that propagates political Islam with the support of powerful allies such as Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Shared allegiance with the Brothers brought Turkey to the interim government’s aid, and its enhanced military support has recently turned the tide of the war in the GNA’s favor.
  • A 38-year-old father of four, Saar metamorphosed from a rebel to a mercenary as a consequence of prolonged privations inflicted by unending war in Syria. “My wife and four children live in a tent. I don’t have money to buy cement blocks to build a room for them,” he told Foreign Policy over the phone from Libya. “When my wife gave birth, I didn’t even have money to buy diapers and milk for the baby.”
  • Saar is an Arab, not a Turkmen, but he chose to join the group to earn a living. In 2018, he was among the rebels hired by Turkey to oust Kurdish militias and hundreds of thousands of civilians from Afrin in northern Syria. (Turkey accuses the Kurdish militias of conducting terrorist attacks inside Turkey and instigating secession.) In Afrin, Saar was paid 450 Turkish liras, a paltry stipend that comes to $46 a month. Libya, however, is a much more profitable assignment. “In my four months in Libya, I have earned more than I did in years of fighting in Syria. I earn $2,000 a month,”
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  • in Syria, other former rebels, dealing with the same deprivation, were being enticed to join the same war—but on the side of the commander Khalifa Haftar, the GNA’s main rival backed by Russia, the United Arab Emirates, and Egypt.
  • In March, Russia turned to Syria for reinforcements. It roped in its Syrian ally Assad to back its preferred Libyan warlord and began scouting for men willing to render services in a foreign conflict in exchange for cash.
  • Syrian rebels say the man tasked with leading this recruitment drive was Col. Alexander Zorin, who in 2016 served as the Russian defense ministry’s envoy at the Geneva-based task force on cessation of hostilities in Syria. Zorin is better known in Syria as “the godfather” of reconciliation deals between the regime and rebels in Ghouta, Daraa, and Quneitra.
  • In cooperation with Assad’s intelligence officials, Zorin is believed to have initiated negotiations with a number of rebel groups to send them to fight in Libya. Abu Tareq (his name has been changed for this article), the leader of a rebel group that fought the Islamic State in Quneitra in southern Syria, told Foreign Policy he met Zorin and agreed to go to Libya along with his fighters. “We met him, and he told us we were going to Libya with the security company [Wagner],” said Tareq from Syria. “He made a generous offer, $5,000 per month for a commander and $1,000 for a fighter. Of course, we agreed, because the financial situation is horrible in our area.”
  • amnesty for those who fled the draft and those against whom the regime kept a file for payback later.
  • Tareq and Mamtineh, and the men fighting for them, soon discovered they had been misled. They were lured with the assurance that they would merely guard oil installations in Haftar-controlled eastern Libya, but upon arrival at their training center in Homs, they found out that they were expected to fight and die for Haftar—and that the monthly salary would be much lower, only about $200. “Another Russian general at the base in Homs, I didn’t know his name, read out the terms of the contract before all of us. It wasn’t what Zorin promised. We refused and asked to be sent back home,”
  • Libyan analysts say Syrians are already in eastern Libya strengthening Haftar’s defenses. Anas El Gomati, the founder and director of the first public policy think tank established in Tripoli, Libya, said that, while Russian mercenaries of the Wagner Group led the offensive in Haftar’s yearlong attempt to conquer Tripoli, Syrians had been sent to back up the warlord in eastern Libya.
  • Mercenaries come at a cost, they don’t know the lay of the land, and are struggling to make ground in urban terrain
Ed Webb

Does Erdogan think Sisi is bluffing in Libya? - 0 views

  • UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in July described conditions in Libya as "gloomy," adding that "time is not on our side." He expressed concern about foreign interference in the war, the 400,000 Libyans displaced by the conflict, and the spike in COVID-19 cases.
  • The World Bank had designated Libya at risk of endemic poverty as a fragile state experiencing high intensity conflict, and that was before the pandemic.
  • Egypt backs Khalifa Hifter, a military strongman whose forces have been rapidly losing ground to the Libyan Government of National Accord thanks to Turkey’s military intervention on the government side.
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  • Libya has become one of the Middle East’s regional fault lines, with Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia on one side, and Turkey and Qatar on the other
  • Russia and France also back Hifter, and Erdogan has been at odds with NATO ally French President Emmanuel Macron over differences over Libya
  • The United Nations recognizes the Government of National Accord, so Erdogan believes he has international legitimacy on his side.
  • If this all seems very 1914, even worse are the random acts that can escalate things.
  • On July 20, Sisi said a parliamentary resolution that day approving combat missions outside the country’s border had provided Egypt’s intervention in Libya “international legitimacy” if it decides to deploy
  • Sisi declared any move by the government to take Sirte, the hometown of former dictator Moammar Gadhafi and gateway to the fields, as a red line for Egypt. Sisi also has called for further arming of Libyan tribes in the region to hold off the Turkish-backed government offensive
  • Erdogan is loath to grant a seat at the table to Hifter, and may not take Sisi’s warning about the use of force seriously, Metin Gurcan writes.  “Sisi may be eager for an intervention, hoping to boost his popularity in the Arab world and sustain the UAE’s financial backing, but Ankara doubts the Egyptian military shares his eagerness,” writes Gurcan. “According to Turkish assessments, Egypt’s military would be reluctant to engage in a cross-border campaign with ambiguous military goals and risk losses that might damage its credibility and fuel internal rifts.”
  • The Turkish assessment is that Algeria and Tunisia would see Egyptian intervention as an unwanted escalation, as Simon Speakman Cordall explains, and that the United States and Russia, both close allies of Egypt, would advise against it.
  • “All those who have faith in Erdogan's Libyan policy, which is now contained by Russia, can count on the inconsistency of Turkey's president. There is nothing permanent for Erdogan. Hence, although a war with Egypt that could have erupted due to his miscalculation is averted for the time being, one can never know what the near future might bring.”
  • Erdogan’s personal relationships with both Putin and Trump have “strengthened Ankara’s hand” and “averted serious crises, which could even have escalated into direct military confrontations between Turkish and US/Russian forces, most notably in Syria” adding, “Ankara has also not held back from using its ties with Moscow and Washington against these powers, depending on the occasion.”
  • The Libyan conflict is, regrettably, on a path of "Syrianization," as Fehim Tastekin called it, the result of the jihadis shipped there by Turkey to fight on behalf of the Libyan government against Hifter.
  • as in Syria, Putin is working all angles, not only with Erdogan and Sisi, but also with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed (known as MBZ) and others
Ed Webb

How quarrel over tobacco sent Libya into darkness - 1 views

  • In the past, Libya generated surplus electricity, which it exported to Tunisia and Egypt. Today, it has a power generation deficit of about 75% of its domestic needs, according to some officials. It also has no central government to protect the provision of power it does generate
  • On Dec. 17, a group of young men from Zawiya were taken hostage by Warshefana militias because a cargo of shisha — smoking tobacco — belonging to a Warshefana trader was confiscated. To pressure the government and local authorities into helping free the men, another local militia from Zawiya shut down the pipeline supplying gas to almost every power station in western and southern Libya. Members of the Zawiya militia later appeared in a video explaining what had happened. This episode is not unusual in lawless Libya, where local authority does not exist and what central government there is cannot enforce law and order. In November, an incident involving the antics of a pet monkey and a girl's headscarf sparked one of the worst rounds of violence in Sabha, in southern Libya, leaving some 20 people dead and scores injured.
  • It took the mediation of numerous officials and local tribal leaders to secure the release of the hostages, ensure the return of the tobacco shipment and restore electricity generation to its previous capacity, thus reinstating the “regular” blackout hours prior to the incident — between five and nine hours a day.
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  • Every Libyan city, big and small, is by now accustomed to blackouts during certain hours almost every day of the week. The situation in recent months, however, has become unbearable, with the blackouts becoming longer and less predictable, making it difficult for hospitals and individuals with special needs to cope and carry out their daily routines. Some people have bought generators for personal use during blackouts, but the majority of people cannot afford them and access to cash through the banking system is severely restricted due to the banks' chronic liquidity problems.
  • Power cuts coupled with economic difficulties are exacerbating the fragility of the UN-backed Government of National Accord, which has little authority over the country, including Tripoli, where it is seated. It has been little more than a year since the Libyan Political Agreement was signed in Morocco on December 15, 2015, and nearly a year since the government it established installed itself in Tripoli. Little, however, has changed for the better in terms of daily life. In fact, the security situation and economic situation, including rising prices and lack of access to cash, are getting worse.
Ed Webb

IRIN | Niger sends Sudanese refugees back to Libya - 0 views

  • Niger has deported at least 132 Sudanese refugees and asylum seekers back to Libya, drawing criticism that it is flouting international law by sending them back to dangerous and inhumane conditions from which they recently escaped.
  • Human rights advocates expressed alarm at what they said was a violation of non-refoulement, the international law that prohibits states from sending refugees and asylum seekers back to countries where they may be in harm’s way.
  • a worrying precedent for hundreds of thousands of migrants and asylum seekers who are increasingly trapped in Libya with no route of exit to safety.
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  • Agadez is a major transit hub for migrants travelling from West Africa to Libya en route to Europe. But since last December, more than 1,700 Sudanese refugees and asylum seekers have fled from Libya to Niger, according to the latest UNHCR figures. This is a significant reversal of the trend of people travelling north from east and west Africa to the Libyan coast, to cross the sea and seek protection in Europe.
  • Since the beginning of 2017, the Libyan Coast Guard says it has returned almost 19,000 people to Libya. A recent lawsuit filed with the European Court of Human Rights alleges that these people were returned against their will and subjected to inhumane treatment, including beatings, rape, and torture.
  • The majority of the Sudanese who have come to Agadez are from Darfur, which has been embroiled in conflict since 2003. Many had previously been registered with the UNHCR in camps for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Sudan, or in refugee camps in Chad. They travelled to Libya in recent years in search of economic opportunity, or with the intention of crossing the sea to Europe, but got caught in the lawlessness and violence that has characterised the country since the 2011 revolution.
  • The Nigerien government has been wary of the presence of the Sudanese since they began to arrive in December, and has characterised many of them as mercenaries in Libyan militias. “We understood that there was a real danger because you have some people who were fighters in [the] south of Libya,” Mohamed Bazoum, Niger’s interior minister, told IRIN in March. “They came here because now they expect to go to Europe.”
Ed Webb

They can't sail for Europe - so what's happening to migrants trapped in Libya? | Middle... - 0 views

  • the group were first taken to an official centre in Zawiya. “There were 1,200 of us, stacked in hundreds in each room,” she says. “We were so tight that we could not lie down, we had to take turns to sleep."
  • “Once we were inside the detention centre, they started to blackmail us. They used the phones they had taken away to contact our friends in Libya and ask for money in exchange for our release or else directly called our relatives, threatening to kill us if they did not find a way to send money."
  • Libya has become the preferred destination for migrants and refugees heading for Europe. In the first half of 2017, at least 2,030 people died or went missing while crossing the Mediterranean for southern Europe. The greatest number set off from Libya.
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  • armed Libyan groups are receiving payoffs to stop boats leaving Libya, in exchange for aid, aircraft hangars and money
  • Laura Thompson of the International Organisation for Migration told AFP on Wednesday that there “are somewhere around 31 or 32 detention centres, and around half are controlled by, or are in the areas controlled by, the government”. She said that nobody knew how many people were being kept in the facilities, where conditions were "extremely bad”.
  • illegal facilities, directly run by armed militias involved in human trafficking and fuel smuggling, often with the complicity of members of the coastguard service
  • Male captives are frequently beaten until they can somehow get relatives to send more money to Libya, or else set to work in factories or oil refineries. Women may end up being trafficked sexually.
  • a UNICEF report released in February, "detention centres run by militias are nothing but forced labour camps, armed robbery prisons. For thousands of migrant women and children, prison is a hell of rape, violence, sexual exploitation, hunger, and repeated abuses."
  • "Europeans think the problem in Libya is politics,” he says, “but we cannot build a government of national unity without a national army."
  • “When the centres are overflowing, migrants are taken out, there is no money to feed them all,” Ibrahim says. “Some guards are good people, but some of them are corrupt.”He hints at the tangled relationship which exists between centre personnel, smugglers, militia and human traffickers, which pass desperate migrants between themselves like a resaleable human commodity.The guards at detention centres may take money from the traffickers, then hand the migrants over.Or smugglers tip off the coastguard when their migrants are due to sail to Europe so that they will be captured and passed to militias.Or militias will seize migrants in the streets on the grounds that they do not carry the necessary documentation, a requirement in Libya. “They pretend to arrest illegal migrants and then keep them in their centres without food and water, take their money, exploit them, abuse women,” Ibrahim says.
  • The coastguard has repeatedly denied that its members are involved in the people-trafficking trade.But a UN report has found that:"Abuses against migrants were widely reported, including executions, torture and deprivation of food, water and access to sanitation. The International Organisation for Migration also reported enslavement of sub-Saharan migrants. Smugglers, as well as the Department to Counter Illegal Migration and the coastguard, are directly involved in such grave human rights violations."
  • Happiness and Bright's mother - I am never told her name - took all the money that their families could spare, then crossed the Sahara, reached the Libyan coast and paid smugglers to take them to Europe. It was then they were captured and brought to Surman.Happiness says that her friend became ill after Bright was born but received no medical aid. “Now her body is in the nearby hospital. It can’t be sent back to her family. She lost her documents at sea, and her family does not have the money to send the corpse.”
  • “They use us as slaves, and when we are no longer needed, they throw us away,” he says. "Humanitarian organisations do not come here. Sometimes some locals come to us with soap and bread. But no international."
  • She too crossed the Sahara, this time to escape Boko Haram. She was determined that her children would not grow up afraid, fearing every day that they would die."I do not care if they [the coastguards] have stopped me, I will try again," she says, looking at her newborn children. "I know it's dangerous. Nigeria is also dangerous. If war does not kill you, hunger will kill you, and here we are prisoners, the same hell. It's worth trying to cross the sea again.”Princess has yet to learn: she will be lucky to escape Libya.
Ed Webb

A Libyan Revenant | Newlines Magazine - 0 views

  • After detaining the men for more than a month, the Saudis returned them to Libya, but not to the internationally recognized government in Tripoli, the Government of National Accord or GNA — as they were required to do by international law. Instead, they dispatched them to a rival and unrecognized administration in eastern Libya, aligned with the anti-Islamist militia commander Gen. Khalifa Haftar, who was backed by Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates. It was not a repatriation, then, but a rendition. And the Saudis likely knew full well what lay in store for the men at the hands of their bitter foe.In the months ahead, the two Libyans, who hailed from the seaside town of Az Zawiyah west of Tripoli, were incarcerated in eastern Libya’s most notorious prisons, where they were allegedly tortured by pro-Haftar militias
  • Released from captivity a year and half later after pledging support to Haftar, one of the men, a militia commander named Mahmud bin Rajab, reneged on his promise and played a role in thwarting Haftar’s plan in April 2019 to quickly seize Tripoli — a scheme that Saudi Arabia had promised to bankroll and that received military support from the UAE and Egypt, among other countries
  • For the Saudis and their autocratic Arab allies, the saga of the Zawiyans’ captivity was but one blunder in their larger Libyan misadventure, which has handed their rival Turkey uncontested influence over much of western Libya
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  • the Middle East’s proxy wars and ideological rivalries have spilled across borders, ensnaring both the innocent and not so innocent — and perpetuating Libya’s vicious cycles of retribution
  • The Emiratis had been flying hundreds of drone sorties in support of Haftar since the start of his attack, and the resulting psychological impact on the GNA forces had been severe. The twisted remains of Toyota trucks at the Naqliya Camp were evidence of this. Fearing the drones, none of the GNA fighters slept in their trucks anymore, and hardly anyone used them for movement on the battlefield.
  • It would be another three months before the arrival of Russian mercenaries from the so-called Wagner Group would shift the momentum in Haftar’s favor by improving the precision of his artillery, and then another two months before a larger Turkish intervention, including drones and Syrian mercenaries, would arrive to save the embattled GNA and turn the tables once again
  • a breezy display of military jargon, one that I’d often encountered among Libya’s young militia commanders. Like many of them, bin Rajab’s military experience was gained through battles during and after the revolution. He rose through dint of charisma, patronage, and social ties rather than formal training
  • In Libya alone, countless citizens have lost their lives to the direct actions of foreign states like Emirati drone strikes, or indirect interference like the continued foreign backing of Libyan militias who murder and torture with impunity. Recently, there are signs of a softening of these harmful regional enmities, such as the end of the Saudi-led embargo of Qatar and Ankara’s quiet engagement with Cairo, Riyadh, and Abu Dhabi. But the damage caused by years of foreign interventions has yet to fully mend.
  • The massacre of up to a thousand Morsi supporters from the Muslim Brotherhood left Libyan Islamists fearing similar suppression in their own country. For their part, Libyan anti-Islamists were emboldened by the ascent of al-Sisi’s friendly regime next door
  • Libya was now split into two warring political camps: the anti-Haftar and Islamist factions in Tripoli, who called themselves “Libya Dawn,” and Haftar’s Operation Dignity based in the east. Foreign powers quickly joined, sending arms and advisers and conducting airstrikes. Egypt, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Russia, and France backed Haftar’s side, while Turkey and Qatar backed his opponents.
  • On the evening of their departure, an ambulance took the men to the runway at Jeddah’s international airport. During the drive, a Saudi doctor in a white coat asked bin Rajab questions about his health and took his blood pressure. As he exited the vehicle, someone was filming him with a camera. The Libyan consul, whom bin Rajab was told would be present, was nowhere to be seen. Bin Rajab tried to stall, but a Saudi military officer muscled him onto a Libyan military cargo plane. Inside, the Libyan soldiers who bound his mouth with tape spoke in the dialect of eastern Libya, the territory controlled by Haftar.
  • For over a year, Haftar had denied holding the three prisoners, causing GNA officials to suspect they were still in Saudi Arabia. It was not until Haftar’s LAAF swapped a prisoner with the GNA that an eyewitness, a fellow detainee in Benghazi, provided the first confirmation of their incarceration in eastern Libya. Then, in the spring of 2019, a delegation of elders from Az Zawiyah visited Haftar at his base outside Benghazi, who agreed to release the prisoners, reportedly under pressure from the Saudis. Bin Rajab told me that protests by the men’s friends and families in front of Saudi diplomatic facilities in Istanbul, Geneva, and London played a role, as did growing international scrutiny on the Kingdom in the wake of the Jamal Khashoggi killing. Human rights organizations and foreign diplomats were also raising the Libyans’ case with the Saudi government.
  • By mid-2020, Turkish-backed GNA fighters had forced Haftar’s LAAF out of western Libya and compelled him to accept a U.N.-brokered cease-fire.
  • The civil war erupted in May 2014, when Haftar and his militia allies launched a military campaign called Operation Dignity in Benghazi, framed as an effort to eliminate the city’s Islamists, including radical jihadists, and restore security. In fact, the operation was the first step in Haftar’s bid for national power. His public threats to expand his military campaign to Tripoli triggered a countermove by anti-Haftar and Islamist armed groups in western Libya.
  • Libyans have often told me that their fates are being decided abroad and that Libyan elites have all but surrendered their country’s sovereignty to their foreign patrons
  • Libyans still have agency to derail the best-laid plans of foreign capitals
anonymous

Freedomhouse Report: Libya - 0 views

  • al-Qadhafi has sought to promote the status of women and to encourage them to participate in his Jamahiriya project
  • e directly challenged the prevailing conservatism in Libya, though his regime at times has struck a conciliatory tone with the Islamist political opposition and the conservative populace at the expense of women's rights
  • al-Qadhafi has pushed for women to become equal citizens and has introduced legislation aimed at reducing discrimination between the sexes.
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  • provide women with greater access to education and employment
  • These efforts by the state have run against Libya's extremely conservative patriarchal tr
  • ditions and tribal culture, which continue to foster gender discrimination.
  • or example, women still face unequal treatment in many aspects of family law.
  • o not permit any genuinely independent organizations or political groups to exist. Membership in any group or organization that is not sanctioned by the state is punishable by death under Law No. 71 of 1972. There are a number of women's organizations in Libya that purport to be independent, but they are all in fact closely linked to the state. Consequently, their efforts to promote women's emancipation have yielded little progress.
  • promote a greater awareness of domestic violence and the fact that more women are entering the workforce.
  • government temporarily restricted women from leaving the country without their male guardian, a step that the authorities later denied.
  • Libya has no constitution
  • aws and key declarations
  • 1977 Declaration of the Authority of the People and the 1988 Great Green Charter of Human Rights in the Age of the Masses (Great Green Charter).
  • In addition, Article 1 of Law No. 20 of 1991
  • Women have been eligible to become judges since 1981, although they remain underrepresented in the judiciary. The first female judge was appointed in 1991, and currently there are an estimated 50 female judges
  • An adult woman is recognized as a full person before the court and is equal to a man throughout all stages of litigation and legal proceedings. However, in some instances, women are not considered to be as authentic witnesses as men.
  • Libya acceded to the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in 1989. At that time, it made reservations to Article 2 and Article 16, in relation to rights and responsibilities in marriage, divorce, and parenthood, on the grounds that these articles should be applied without prejudice to Shari'a. Libya made an additional general reservation in 1995, declaring that no aspect of accession can conflict with the laws of personal status derived from Shari'a.[15]
  • In June 2004, Libya became the first country in the Arab region to ratify the Optional Protocol to CEDAW.[16] The protocol allows Libyan groups and individuals to petition the UN CEDAW committee if they believe their rights under the convention have been violated.[17] However, because the committee can only issue nonbinding recommendations to states in response to these petitions, the practical effects of the protocol remain unclea
  • There are no genuinely independent nongovernmental women's rights groups in Libya. Several women's organizations claim to be independent, such as Al-Wafa Association for Human Services, which seeks to improve the status of women and "to further women's education and social standing."[18] However, all such organizations have close ties to the authorities. The charity Al-Wattasimu, for example, organized an international conference on women's rights in Tripoli in April 2007. Participants sought to draft new concepts and principles on women's rights and "to realize a strategic support group project for African women."[19] Al-Wattasimu is run by Aisha al-Qadhafi, the daughter of Muammar al-Qadhafi.
  • zations claim to be independent, such as Al-Wafa Association for Human Services, which seeks to improve the status of
  • has encoura
  • ged women to participate in the workforce and to exercise their economic rights.
  • Society in general still considers women's primary role to be in the home. While more young women in Libya aspire to pursue professional careers, their working lives are often cut short when they marry.
  • Their political rights and civic voice remain extremely limited on account of the nature of the regime and the fact that all political activity must be sanctioned by the authorities. Recent years have brought no real change in this respect, and women continue to play a marginal role in state institutions. For example, just 36 women gained s
  • eats in the 468-seat General People's Congress in the March 2009 indirect elections
  • Women remain underrepresented in the judiciary, with none serving on the Supreme Court
  • nces. For all its discourse on women's rights, the regime clearly remains extremely reluctant to appoint women to senior positions.
  • Women are even less likely to participate in the Basic People's Congresses in rural areas, and in some cases those who do attend choose to do so indirectly on account of conservative social attitudes.
  • Women have gained access to new sources of information in recent years, but the extent to which they can use this information to empower themselves in their civic and pol
  • itical lives remains limited by the general restrictions on independent political activity.
  • gime. Women increasingly use the Internet as a source of information, though satellite television, which is more accessible, is the most influential medium
  • t the same time, social and cultural attitudes are being influenced by growing access to satellite television and the Internet, and by a partial opening in the domestic media, which has led to an increased awareness of women's issues and greater room for discussion. The expansion of mobile telephone access has also give
  • n women a greater degree of freedom, especially in dealings with the opposite sex.
Ed Webb

Turkey Rattled by Weak Hand in Libya as Russia and Egypt Advance - 0 views

  • By assisting Egypt to protect its western border, Moscow has re-forged the military links of its former alliance with Cairo
  • The 75-year-old Haftar, who retains the loyalty of the parliament in Tobruk, is a central actor in the Libyan civil war. A former ally of deposed Libyan strong man Moammar Gadhafi who received his military training in the Soviet Union, Haftar maintains deep ties with Russia. Haftar’s forces control most of Libya’s oil facilities, particularly after they captured the ports along Libya’s “Oil Crescent” in September 2016, resulting in a rise in oil production from 300,000 barrels per day (bpd) to over 700,000 bpd in January 2017.  On February 21, 2018 Russian oil giant Rosneft signed an investment and crude oil purchasing agreement with Libya’s National Oil Corporation, paving the way for a major Russian role in Libya’s oil industry.
  • In January 2017, Haftar was invited aboard Russia’s aircraft carrier in the Mediterranean in order to conduct a video conference with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu
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  • During Ahmet Davutoğlu’s tenure as Turkey’s prime minister, relations between Ankara and the Tobruk-based parliament deteriorated to the point where all Turkish firms were expelled from Libya. 
  • Ankara's efforts to gain influence in Libya pale in comparison to the security assets that Moscow and Egypt may be preparing for a more expanded military presence in Libya. On November 7, 2018, Haftar and his senior staff visited Moscow for their latest meeting with Russia's defense minister Sergei Shoigu. Following the session, the Libyan Armed Forces released a video showing the presence of Yevgeny Prigozhin, an associate of Russian President Vladimir Putin and linked to several Russian private military companies, including the Wagner Group that allegedly participated in operations in Syria. Prigozhin's presence at the Haftar-Shoigu meeting has suggested to observers within Russia and beyond that Moscow may be gearing up for some form of increased intervention in Libya with operations similar to those conducted in Syria.
  • from November 3 to 16, Egypt hosted a two-week long joint exercise with the militaries of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Kuwait, and Jordan. Dubbed Arab Shield 1, the exercise involved land, naval, and air forces as well as Special Forces and took place at Egypt's base in Marsa Matrouh. While some view the exercises as a step toward creating an 'Arab NATO' to confront Iran, the massive joint Arab exercise on Egypt's Mediterranean coast sent a clear signal to Turkey and demonstrated the sort of coalition Egypt could muster should it decide to expand its military footprint in Libya
  • both Russia and Egypt have strategic incentives to escalate their support for the aging Libyan commander Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar.  In April 2018, the general suffered a stroke and required hospitalization in an intensive care unit in Paris.  Although two of Haftar's sons are commanders in the Libyan National Army, it is unclear whether either one of them could maintain the loyalty of the coalition of diverse factions that have united under the figure of Khalifa Haftar.  It would behoove both Moscow and Cairo to press their current advantage and deepen their respective positions in preparation for a post-Haftar era.
  • Moscow’s military presence in Libya would enable the Kremlin to complete a Russian ring around the southern half of the eastern Mediterranean. It is worth noting that Vladimir Putin's Russia is more popular than NATO in Greece and among Greek Cypriots. With only 195 nautical miles (360 km) separating Tobruk and Crete, Turkey thus faces the prospect of eventually finding itself encircled by a Russian presence among all of its regional adversaries
  • The change in the balance of power in North Africa in favor of Russia and Egypt inevitably and severely undermines Turkey's already challenging strategic position in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Ed Webb

How has Russia forced Turkey to compromise on Libya? - 1 views

  • on July 22, Moscow extracted a Turkish pledge for "creating conditions for a lasting and sustainable ceasefire” in Libya, the joint statement announced after a series of ministerial-level meetings between Ankara and Moscow. The “high-level consultations” were initiated during Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s visit to Istanbul on Jan. 9 to “de-escalate the situation on the ground and pave the way for a political process in Libya." Turkey and Russia disclosed that they agreed on four points, of which the following two are the most important: "Continue joint efforts, including encouraging the Libyan parties, with a view to creating conditions for a lasting and sustainable cease-fire,” and “facilitate the advancement of the intra-Libyan political dialogue in line with the conclusions of the Berlin Conference” that was held in September 2019 with the participation of major powers.
  • Turkey committed itself, upon Russian demand, to refrain from going to war for Sirte and al-Jufra
  • a Turkish-Egyptian war looks to have been averted
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  • Russia hasn't only legitimized Egypt's involvement in the Libyan game but also succeeded in having Turkey on board the diplomatic track.
  • The risk of war in Libya involving Turkey has not been permanently prevented
Ed Webb

It's Turkey's Libya now | European Council on Foreign Relations - 1 views

  • Turkish military support has driven the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) to sweeping victories that have effectively killed off Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar’s hopes of conquering Tripoli, while creating significant fractures within his camp. As Turkey grows more assertive and stamps its authority on Libya, Europeans need to use these shifting dynamics to create a new political reality in Libya – one that might finally have a chance of success, given his dramatically weakened position
  • Turkey’s new assertiveness is a direct result of the failure of the Berlin conference held in January. The German initiative was designed to align international actors on a political route out of the morass in Libya, but it did little to deter the United Arab Emirates’ massive mobilisation in support of Haftar. Ankara has now demonstrated a firm intent to remove Haftar from Tripoli and its environs. Turkey’s Libya intervention appears to be following Russia’s Syria playbook – from the legitimising act of a formal invitation that had parliamentary approval (in stark contrast to the covert intervention of all other states involved in the war) to its exploitation of divisions between European countries whenever it felt threatened by them
  • Haftar’s forces still launch missile attacks on Tripoli each day and control Libya’s oil.
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  • Haftar’s response to this discontent was to launch what was effectively a coup: he annulled the Libyan Political Agreement, which forms the basis of Libya’s political institutions, and claimed full control. But this brazen power grab only seems to have further alienated important constituencies in southern Libya, which responded by declaring their allegiance to the GNA, while eastern tribes continue to hedge their bets.
  • there may finally be an opportunity for some political progress – which has been blocked in the past year by, more than anything, the intransigence of Haftar and his external backers, who seemed to truly believe that total military victory was in sight. This dream is now dead
  • Other European states – particularly Germany, Italy, and the United Kingdom – should press France and Greece to escape Haftar’s sinking ship. This could allow Europeans to work more forcefully through the United Nations to create a patchwork of local deals, building on recent Libyan initiatives that bring together warring communities in western Libya while using Saleh’s initiative to restart the Geneva dialogue between Libya’s political factions.
  • Europe’s window of opportunity in Libya is closing. It needs to move fast if it is to forcefully protect its interests and its role as a barrier against Russian encroachment into the country, while preventing the development of another Syria-style conflict in its neighbourhood.
Ed Webb

UAE, Egypt prepare for Haftar's exit after loss of Wattiyah air base | | Mada Masr - 1 views

  • Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, two of the principal backers of the Libyan National Army (LNA), and its commander, Khalifa Haftar, have decided to abandon the renegade general after more than a year of a failed military campaign to take Tripoli, according to Libyan and Egyptian officials.
  • The move comes as Haftar is losing internal support as well, with powerful tribes and political allies in Libya abandoning him.
  • forces affiliated with the Government of National Accord (GNA) backed by Turkish airstrikes took control of the Wattiyah air base on Monday without any significant resistance from LNA forces.
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  • he most significant setback since Haftar launched an assault on Tripoli in April 2019, with the backing of France, the UAE, Egypt, Jordan and Russia
  • With Turkey deploying ever-increasing numbers of ethnically Turkish Syrian troops on the ground and drones in the skies, the GNA has dealt the LNA a series of setbacks since the start of April. 
  • Wattiyah had played a key role for Haftar, whose forces seized the air base in 2014, not only because it served as a key operations center for his assault on the Libyan capital but because it was one of the few former Libyan Air Force facilities spared from airstrikes in the 2011 NATO intervention, due the fact it had stored mostly decommissioned aircraft. Haftar had since restored many of the decommissioned jets to service.
  • the LNA’s closest air base is in Jufrah, some 490 km away from Tripoli in central Libya. The city of Tarhouna, 180 km southeast of Tripoli, is the LNA’s sole remaining stronghold for the assault on the capital.
  • A high-ranking GNA military source close to Osama al-Juwaili, who hails from the western city of Zintan and led the GNA forces attack on Wattiyah yesterday, told Mada Masr yesterday that the attack was carried out in coordination with Zintani forces aligned with Haftar inside the air base. 
  • After GNA forces took the air base, they posted images online of what they claimed were captured Russian-made Pantsir air defense systems mounted on trucks as well as manuals on how to use the equipment. 
  • “The Russians are not at all amused with some of the images that have been shared of the GNA troops capturing Russian weapons,” the Egyptian official says.
  • The GNA continued to make advances on Tuesday, seizing the towns of Jawsh, Badr and Tiji — all on the outskirts of the Nafusa Mountains — from LNA control. The GNA forces remain engaged in clashes to try to take the city of Asabiah, a crucial city along the LNA’s supply line and strategic location for Haftar’s forces located near Gharyan, the site of Haftar’s former main operations center. 
  • The Libyan political source who is close to Haftar says that the UAE, after consulting with Egypt, has called on the United Kingdom to intervene to support the political roadmap put forward by Aguila Saleh, the head of the Tobruk-based House of Representatives who was once a strong supporter of Haftar but is now vying for a larger stake in the political scene himself and moving against the general.
  • “What the spring of 2020 has revealed is that the UAE doesn’t possess the military or diplomatic wherewithal to continue protecting and strengthening Haftar’s ongoing offensive on Tripoli,” Harchaoui says. “Militarily and in terms of strategic savvy, the UAE is no match to NATO member Turkey, especially knowing that the latter enjoys Washington’s tacit acquiescence these days, over a year after the White House’s initial green light to Haftar. Meanwhile, the Russian state has just never provided the strategic support it could have, if it had genuine faith in Haftar’s adventure.”
  • none of this means that the UAE will necessarily tamp down its ambitions to take control of Tripoli. “The UAE will never relent or abandon this old obsession, even if it takes another decade — Libya is just too important from a Sunni-Arab perspective,”
  • if these states do discard Haftar, it will be a way for them to freshen up their stance and restore a tiny bit of their credibility by pretending it was Haftar’s fault all along. One must note that Russia will come out of this re-adjustment stronger and more influential in eastern Libya
  • Egypt is extremely worried that GNA-affiliated troops could head further east toward Egypt’s western border with Libya
  • Despite the president’s rhetoric, multiple Egyptian officials that have spoken to Mada Masr in recent weeks say that Egypt will not engage in a direct confrontation with Turkey in Libya, as long as Turkey keeps affiliated militias far away from the Egyptian borders
  • public support for Haftar is eroding, as there are increasing talks among a popular federalist current in the east of the country to withdraw support for Haftar’s war effort
  • In urban areas, like downtown Benghazi, some militias — which are not unlike those in Tripoli — will also feel emboldened, and may be tempted to break away from the LNA, a structure that has been hyper personalized by Haftar.
  • According to the UN special mission’s acting head, 58 civilians were killed and more than 100 wounded between April 1 and May 8, a significant increase in the number of civilian victims compared to the first three months of the year. Most of these casualties, according to Williams, could be attributed to Haftar’s forces, who have been carrying out indiscriminate bombing of the capital in recent weeks. 
  • Forces affiliated with the GNA have meted out harsh reprisals in the past. In 2012, Misrata forces besieged the city of Bani Walid, a stronghold for loyalists to former ruler Muammar Qadhafi, displacing thousands of families. Similar scenes surfaced when GNA forces took the cities of Sorman and Sabratha to the west of Tripoli in mid-April, stoking concerns of further reprisals.
Ed Webb

How a Lebanese company's role in shipping Turkish arms to Libya landed it in the crossh... - 0 views

  • The 40-year-old car carrier named Bana that plied the waters of the Mediterranean was unremarkable in almost all ways, except a dramatic one: the Lebanese-flagged vessel’s shipment of weapons from Turkey to Libya in January 2020 placed it squarely in a whirlwind of international intrigue
  • the European Union on Sept. 21 sanctioned the ship’s operator, Med Wave Shipping SA, a company that L’Orient Today has learned is owned by a Lebanese shipping magnate’s relative who ran for Parliament in 2018
  • Little is as it seems on the surface of the complex world of maritime shipping. A trail of documents, public statements and other information sheds light on the kaleidoscopic history of Med Wave Shipping SA and the Bana, one that is bookended by sanctions, marked by arms shipments and has passed through Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Libya and Italy.
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  • Med Wave Shipping SA’s formation was sparked by a controversial set of US sanctions. In October 2015, Washington designated Lebanese businessman Merhi Abou Merhi, several of his relatives and his portfolio of business holdings for alleged money laundering on behalf of a drug trafficker. Targeted in the sanctions, which were later lifted, was a vessel named the City of Misurata, later to change its name to Sham 1 and then finally to Bana. The US accused Abou Merhi of using the vessel to provide vehicle transportation services for Ayman Joumaa, an alleged Lebanese-Colombian drug kingpin.
  • the vessel made deliveries to Tobruk for groups affiliated with the Libyan National Army under the command of Khalifa Haftar in the eastern part of the war-torn country, according to UN investigators.A 2017 UN Security Council report detailing violations of the arms embargo in effect for Libya said that the Sham 1 delivered 300 Toyota pickups and armored Land Cruisers to Tobruk on Jan. 16 of that year before making another shipment on April 14.
  • the Bana, which was still registered to Med Wave Shipping SA at the time, left the Turkish port of Mersin for a journey ostensibly to Tunisia; however, it turned off its location transponder off the Libyan coast before calling to port in Tripoli, according to a forensic investigation by the BBC Africa Eye unit.
  • BBC Africa Eye confirmed that two Turkish Navy G-Class frigates escorted the Bana across the Mediterranean as it transported armored combat vehicles, self-propelled howitzers, cannons and an anti-aircraft gun to Tripoli. While the vessel had previously supplied forces allied with Haftar, on this trip, it delivered arms to the general’s rivals in Tripoli.
  • One of the Bana’s sailors told Italian police that 10 Turkish military and intelligence personnel guarded the weapons onboard the vessel on its trip from Mersin to Tripoli.
  • French President Emmanuel Macron referenced the shipment on Jan. 29 when he harshly criticized Turkey for what he called the country’s “broken promise” to stop sending military material to the Government of National Accord in Libya. France, meanwhile, has denied its backing of the Libyan National Army rivaling the GNA.
  • If implemented, these sanctions could target corruption among Lebanon’s elite. Given the multiplicity of their regional and international connections, the country’s poor data infrastructure and its strict banking secrecy law, the range of potential targets could be as deep as the sea.
Ed Webb

In Libya, traditional and social media are used to fuel war | Arab Tyrant Manual - 0 views

  • Every Libyan news outlet has obvious and sometimes unabashed biases – Libya24 for example, has given itself a reputation for taking a pro-Gaddafi stance, while others such as al-Nabaa are seen as overly sympathetic to the Muslim Brotherhood. The extent to which they allow debate and independent comment varies. As dozens of civilians have been killed since the start of Haftar’s offensive on Tripoli last week, a staunchly pro-Haftar news outlet, Libya Alhadath, broadcasts a steady stream of songs glorifying Haftar and his offensive, in a way reminiscent of Libya’s solitary state TV channel for most of the Gaddafi era.
  • most Libyan news outlets and TV channels have dramatically changed their stances over the past number of years as alliances have changed and new actors have emerged in the country
  • Libyans don’t trust local media.
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  • foreign media has been equally tarnished, through the partisanship of Arab outlets which are predominantly Gulf-based, such as Aljazeera, Alarabiya and Sky News Arabia
  • the lack of professionalism and dishonesty of TV channels has driven many to social media for news updates.
  • Well-intentioned citizen journalists enthusiastically spread rumours and misreported or exaggerated clashes, quickly creating a reputation for dishonesty that stuck to the sector as a whole.
  • Systematic posting of false information on social media accounts also became a favoured tactic of militias on all sides of the conflicts has become a trademark tactic
  • People living in the same area are often exposed to completely different realities depending on the media they consume.
  • A phenomenon new to Libya in this round of conflict is the large-scale attempts by gulf monarchies to fill social media with blatant propaganda in favour of their chosen sides
  • Haftar has long been backed by Saudi and the UAE, with the latter repeatedly breaching a United Nations arms embargo to provide his forces with attack aircrafts, armoured vehicles, helicopters and other ammunition
  • Khadeja Ramali, a Libyan data scientist, who has examined and mapped tweets mentioning Haftar since the offensive was launched. Her research has clearly shown a huge pro-Haftar push from accounts based in Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the UAE.
  • Qatar also joined with the Libya propaganda campaign, a few days late, to broadcast the UAE’s complicity in Haftar’s crimes
Ed Webb

US military accuses Russia of sending fighter jets to Libyan war | Financial Times - 0 views

  • The US military has accused Russia of deploying fighter jets to Libya to support renegade general Khalifa Haftar in a sign of Washington’s mounting concerns about Moscow’s role in the conflict in the north African state.
  • the US military said it had tracked the fourth-generation fighter jets as they flew from a Russian airbase to Libya, via Syria, where it believed the aircraft were repainted to camouflage their origin.
  • they are expanding their military footprint in Africa using government-supported mercenary groups like Wagner
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  • Libya’s interior ministry has said the aircraft included at least six MiG-29s and two Sukhoi 24s, and had flown to Libya from Hmeimim air base in Syria. Russia and the Wagner group have deployed forces in Syria to back president Bashar al-Assad in the country’s nine-year civil war.
  • Western diplomats view Russia’s role in Libya as opportunistic — a chance for Moscow to assert its influence in the region and expand its foothold in the east Mediterranean.
  • Diplomats say hundreds of Wagner fighters have been deployed to support Gen Haftar in Libya for some time. But more recently, an estimated 2,000 Syrian fighters have been dispatched to bolster Gen Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army.
  • Meanwhile, Turkey has increased its support for the government in Tripoli by dispatching several thousand Syrian militias and equipment, including Hawk air defence systems, that have negated Gen Haftar’s air superiority.
  • Fighters loyal to the UN-backed government took control of al-Watiya air base this month after a battle in which Turkish drones destroyed Russian-made Pantsir air-defence systems.
  • “That will be Russian mercenary pilots flying Russian-supplied aircraft to bomb Libyans.”
  • Frederic Wehrey, Libya specialist at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, described the Africom statement “as a major bold move against Russia” but expressed doubt on whether it would “translate into a more muscular US policy on Libya”.“The big unknown is the White House . . . because there are other allies that still have a hand in the fight like France and the Emirates, so will the US want to expend the political capital [by opposing those countries too].”
Ed Webb

When rescue at sea becomes a crime: who the Tunisian fishermen arrested in Italy really... - 0 views

  • On the night of Wednesday, August 29, 2018, six Tunisian fishermen were arrested in Italy. Earlier that day, they had set off from their hometown of Zarzis, the last important Tunisian port before Libya, to cast their nets in the open sea between North Africa and Sicily. The fishermen then sighted a small vessel whose engine had broken, and that had started taking in water. After giving the fourteen passengers water, milk and bread – which the fishermen carry in abundance, knowing they might encounter refugee boats in distress – they called the Italian coastguard, who told them they’d be coming soon. After hours of waiting, though, the men decided to tow the smaller boat in the direction of Lampedusa – Italy’s southernmost island – to help Italian authorities in their rescue operations. At around 24 miles from Lampedusa, the Guardia di Finanza (customs police) took the fourteen people on board, and then proceeded to violently arrest the six fishermen. According to the precautionary custody order issued by the judge in Agrigento (Sicily), the men stand accused of smuggling, a crime that could get them up to fifteen years of jail if the case goes to trial. The fishermen have since been held in Agrigento prison, and their boat has been seized.
  • Criminalising rescue, a process that has been pushed by different Italian governments since 2016, will continue to have tragic consequences for people on the move in the Mediterranean Sea
  • Among those arrested is Chamseddine Bourassine, the president of the Association “Le Pêcheur” pour le Développement et l’Environnement, which was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize this year for the Zarzis fishermen’s continuous engagement in saving lives in the Mediterranean.
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  • The fishermen of Zarzis have been on the frontline of rescue in the Central Mediterranean for over fifteen years. Their fishing grounds lying between Libya – the place from which most people making their way undocumented to Europe leave – and Sicily, they were often the first to come to the aid of refugee boats in distress. “The fishermen have never really had a choice: they work here, they encounter refugee boats regularly, so over the years they learnt to do rescue at sea”, explained Gammoudi. For years, fishermen from both sides of the Mediterranean were virtually alone in this endeavour.
  • In the months following the revolution, hundreds of boats left from Zarzis taking Tunisians from all over the country to Lampedusa. Several members of the fishermen’s association remember having to sleep on their fishing boats at night to prevent them from being stolen for the harga. Other fishermen instead, especially those who were indebted, decided to sell their boats, while some inhabitants of Zarzis took advantage of the power vacuum left by the revolution and made considerable profit by organising harga crossings. “At that time there was no police, no state, and even more misery. If you wanted Lampedusa, you could have it”, rationalised another fisherman. But Chamseddine Bourassine and his colleagues saw no future in moving to Europe, and made a moral pact not to sell their boats for migration.
  • the association also got involved in alerting the youth to the dangers of boat migration, as they regularly witnessed the risks involved and felt compelled to do something for younger generations hit hard by staggering unemployment rates. In this optic, they organised training for the local youth in boat mechanics, nets mending, and diving, and collaborated in different international projects, such as NEMO, organised by the CIHEAM-Bari and funded by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Directorate General for Cooperation Development. This project also helped the fishermen build a museum to explain traditional fishing methods, the first floor of which is dedicated to pictures and citations from the fishermen’s long-term voluntary involvement in coming to the rescue of refugees in danger at sea
  • When we see people at sea we rescue them. It’s not only because we follow the laws of the sea or of religion: we do it because it’s human”,
  • The situation deteriorated again though in the summer of 2017, as Italian Interior Minister Minniti struck deals with Libyan militias and coastguards to bring back and detain refugees in detention centres in Libya, while simultaneously passing laws criminalising and restricting the activity of NGO rescue boats in Italy. Media smear campaigns directed against acts of solidarity with migrants and refugees and against the work of rescue vessels in the Mediterranean poured even more fuel on already inflamed anti-immigration sentiments in Europe.
  • the fishermen opposed wholeheartedly the racism propagated by the C-Star members, and that having seen the death of fellow Africans at sea, they couldn’t but condemn these politics. Their efforts were cheered on by anti-racist networks in Sicily, who had in turn prevented the C-Star from docking in Catania port just a couple of days earlier. It is members from these same networks in Sicily together with friends of the fishermen in Tunisia and internationally that are now engaged in finding lawyers for Chamseddine and his five colleagues.
  • The fishermen’s arrest is the latest in a chain of actions taken by the Italian Lega and Five Star government to further criminalise rescue in the Mediterranean Sea, and to dissuade people from all acts of solidarity and basic compliance with international norms. This has alarmingly resulted in the number of deaths in 2018 increasing exponentially despite a drop in arrivals to Italy’s southern shores. While Chamseddine’s lawyer hasn’t yet been able to visit him in prison, his brother and cousin managed to go see him on Saturday. As for telling them about what happened on August 29, Chamseddine simply says that he was assisting people in distress at sea: he’d do it again.
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