Leaders of several African countries are calling on the West to intervene in Libya in order to stop instability from spreading across the Sahel and threatening fragile governments in the region.
It is fair to say that the problem in southern Libya has never been resolved since the overthrow of Gadaffi. There is no reason to expect it will be solved soon. Establishing an anti-Islamist government with General Haftar as head of the armed forces is likely to make the situation worse, even if he is able to subdue some of the tribes in the south. As at the overthrow of Gadaffi, militants will simply migrate from Libya to surrounding countries making the situation even worse for neighbors. Mali's difficulties in the north will remain until the government provides the area with a degree of autonomy.
Chadian President Idriss Deby told the security forum being held in Dakar, Senegal:
"The solution to the crisis that is shaking this country is not in African hands, but in the hands of the West, notably NATO.Now Libya is fertile ground for terrorism and all sorts of criminals"I expect that this fondness for NATO intervention shows that Chad's present government needs support from NATO because it is still kept in power by western interests. Deby said that the West had an obligation to finish what it started. However what it started was the overthrow of the Gadaffi regime for various reasons, including a chance to obtain better contracts for oil and install a regime even more amenable to control by western capital. It was Gadaffi who claimed that he was fighting terrorists. Now that some of those same radical Islamists threaten the western-supported Tobruk government, and its anti-Islamist leader of the armed forces Haftar, all of a sudden there is a terrorist threat to the region.
The radical Islamists were some of the fiercest opponents and fighters against Gadaffi since he had long imprisoned, tortured, and oppressed many of them. One radical Islamist jihadist leader was Abdelhakim Belhadj:
Belhadj was arrested with his pregnant wife in 2004 at Kuala Lumpur International Airport, Malaysia. Transferred on the same plane to Bangkok, he was then placed in the custody of the CIA, where he was retained at a secret prison at the airport. Returned to Libya on the rendition aircraft N313P, he was held at the Abu Salim prison for seven years.While Libya, Syria, and Egypt were all roundly criticized by the west for their human rights records, they were at the same time chosen by the CIA as destinations for the rendition of terror suspects, as proper places for interrogation and torture. Having done their job of overthrowing Gadaffi, these Islamists were supposed to disappear back into the woodwork just as were the jihadists who drove the troops of the USSR Evil Empire out of Afghanistan.
President Macky Sall of Senegal said that the West needed to provide more support for the armed forces in the region who were poorly equipped. The French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said that problems in southern Libya depended upon a solution to Libyan's political crisis. France already has 3,200 troops in the Sahel region. Back on Sept. 9th, France had called for western intervention in Libya to counter the terrorist threat. Later on the 18th, a number of countries met and rejected foreign intervention:
Libya's struggling elected government and representatives of 15 neighbouring nations have unanimously rejected the idea of military intervention as a way to restore stability in the oil-rich North African nation, which some say is on the brink of civil war.Now the pendulum is moving back towards intervention.
No doubt western countries are anxious that Libyan neighbors, or at least some of them, initiate this request as it will give any intervention a patina of legitimacy. There is already evidence of intervention by Egypt and the UAE among others on the side of General Haftar. The reaction of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) continues to be optimistic. The UNSMIL issued a statement saying in part:
“The move by the parties to identify their respective delegations to the talks is a step in the right direction. In agreeing to take part in this dialogue, all the parties have clearly signaled their determination to spare no effort towards safeguarding Libya’s political transition and forging ahead with building a modern democratic state based on the rule of law and respect for human rights.”The statement claims that this move shows that all parties are committed to finding a peaceful political solution to the present military and political crisis in Libya. The Mission will continue consulting with the parties in order to finalize details such as the place and time of the next meeting.
Earlier talks in Ghadames in September achieved nothing. There is no reason to believe that these will be any more successful. The Tripoli government insists that its legitimacy must be recognized as a condition of dialogue. Prime minister Al-Thinni of the Tobruk government goes even further and demands that it be recognized as the sole legitimate government and that the Tripoli government in effect surrender:
Thinni laid down new conditions for talks with the rival government, asking the Tripoli administration to recognize the elected parliament first, the website said. Armed groups such as Dawn also had to withdraw from the capital.The statement did recognize the obvious fact that there are ongoing battles between the government forces led by Khalifa Haftar and anti-government militias including battles for oil ports in the east. The statement said that the Mission was deeply alarmed by the escalation in fighting which it claims undermines the efforts to convene the dialogue. The dialogue has already been postponed from last week. The statement said:
“All parties should desist from any action that obstructs the dialogue efforts and endangers the country’s economic lifeline. Libyan oil is a strategic asset that belongs to all the Libyan people, who deserve an opportunity for stability and prosperity.”
Of course the statement fails to mention that these facilities are now guarded by the same militia and former rebels who had seized the ports and kept them out of production earlier for almost a year. They are now allied with the Tobruk government so everything is fine. The statement also says that "those threatening Libya's peace, stability, or security, could be subject to sanctions". This does not mean that the Tobruk government or General Haftar will be subject to sanctions. If anyone is sanctioned it could be those leading some of the anti-government militia or representatives of the Tripoli government. The UNSMIL statement made no mention of the Libyan Supreme Court decision that the June elections were unconstitutional and the Tobruk government should be dissolved. No doubt they are still studying the decision since it was made on November 6. The international community and the press, for the most part, also conveniently ignore the ruling, although even Voice of America reported briefly on the event when it happened.