Yesterday the commander of the Libyan National Army of the internationally-recognized House of Representatives(HoR) government in Tobruk launched new attacks he calls "Operation Doom" against areas of Benghazi still held by Islamists.
As described in the pro-HoR Libya Herald the operation was announced early on Saturday by General Haftar in the presence of all the top military brass in the Benghazi area. Haftar has been attempting to retake all of Benghazi for almost a year. Much of the city is in ruins from bombing and shelling. Some parts of the city are still controlled by the Shura Council of Benghazi Revolutionaries but some of that group have joined the Islamic State that also now is in parts of the city according to some reports.The Libya Observer which supports the Tripoli-based General National Congress(GNC) government also reported on the new operation, noting it is happening more than a year after he launched Operation Dignity in May of 2014 to control Benghazi and had promised to move on to free Libya of all Islamists. He attacked two Islamist bases and then his allies attacked and burned the parliament setting in motion the present conflict. His present operations in Benghazi and elsewhere are still described as part of his Operation Dignity. Haftar rejects the both the new Libyan Political Agreement as amended to meet concerns of the GNC government with the previous draft, but also the previous draft that the HoR supported. He rejects any negotiations with the GNC militia, Libya Dawn, whom he calls terrorists and refuses to even consider a ceasefire. Haftar and his Air Force Chief Saqir Al-Jaroushi have both been named as being subject to sanctions by the EU. It is not clear if there was any follow through by the EU authorities. Haftar has consistently snubbed his nose at the UN and laughed at the idea of his being sanctioned claiming the threat was meaningless. He has since been offered aid by the Arab League and signed a military agreement with Jordan. In the past he has bombed Mitiga airport in Tripoli just before Tripoli delegates were to go to peace talks. He announced an offensive to take Tripoli just before peace talks first began about a year ago now.According to the Observer, Al-Jaorushi said the Doom Operation would be moved on to the cities of Misrata, Tripoli and others in areas controlled by the GNC government after Benghazi was completely retaken. It is not surprising that the UN should consider the new airstrikes in Benghazi "a clear attempt to undermine and derail the on-going efforts to end the conflict at a time when the negotiations have entered a final and most critical stage." I have no idea what Leon thinks he is going to accomplish by this strong rhetorical condemnation of Haftar. In ordinary circumstances the HoR government would have long ago fired their commander in chief for acts counter to government policy such as rejecting a draft agreement that the HoR accepted. However, Haftar recently prevented prime minister Al Thinni from flying to a conference in Malta and had his security forces try to arrest him. Not a peep out of the HoR government about this so far. Clearly if the HoR tries to fire Haftar they would be facing a military coup and a government by military council. Haftar wants such a council to take over once the HoR mandate runs out near the end of October.Leon will no doubt report about the dialogue process tomorrow. According to the Observer the speaker of the GNC Nuri Sahmain has called the GNC dialogue team home immediately, claiming that the dialogue could not succeed while Haftar's violent military operation in Benghazi continued. The GNC supports the Shura Council but of course not the Islamic State. It remains to be seen if this recall will actually be fully carried out. When the HoR recalled their negotiators to Tobruk, two came back to Tobruk and the other two stayed and not only participated in the dialogue but made an agreement with 25 members of the HoR who had boycotted the parliament to return. This was an agreement that Leon hailed as a great breakthrough.The Observer reports:
Tobruk Parliament said on Friday that the agreement reached in Skhirat, between its delegation to the dialogue and parliament boycotters on a new transitional phase, is not binding.Among the demands by the speaker, Aqalih Saleh was that the Government of National Accord(GNA) or unity government be given a vote of confidence by the HoR only not the GNC as well. Another demand is that all laws and appointments previously made by the HoR be recognized as valid. This would ensure that Khalifa Haftar and all his cronies who served under Gadaffi would remain in their positions. If these reports are correct there will be no one from either the HoR or the GNC left at Skhirat to engage in the dialogue. We will soon see if the dialogue is finished for now or still continuing.The statement reiterated the call for the dialogue team to withdraw and return to the HoR headquarters in Tobruk. It also insisted on obtaining a written answer from the Head of the UNSMIL, Bernardino Leon, to the letter addressed to him by the Speaker of Tobruk parliament on September 06.