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Friday, February 5, 2016

Rome meeting reveals several countries contemplating action against Islamic State in Libya

Officials from 23 different countries are meeting in Rome to review the fight against the Islamic State (ISIS or Daesh) in Syria, Iraq and also In Libya.

In Libya the Islamic State has a base in the city of Sirte and along the coast east and west of the city. It has even attacked the oil facilities at Ras Lanuf and El Sidra as well as blowing up a pipeline recently. It has also launched devastating suicide attacks. John Kerry, the US Secretary of State said at the Rome conference:
"In Libya, we are on the brink of getting a government of national unity. That country has resources. The last thing in the world you want is a false caliphate with access to billions of dollars of oil revenue."Actually, IS has not occupied any of the oil export ports but attacks them and set oil tanks on fire, and has also blown up pipelines. This hardly is a way of generating revenue. Their strategy is to prevent their enemies from gaining oil revenue rather than seeking it themselves. Kerry notes that the U.S.-led coalition mounting airstrikes on the Islamic State still have not achieved victory while "Daesh," as he calls the Islamic State, is being created and gaining a foothold in other countries such as Libya. He might have mentioned Yemen and Afghanistan as other countries where the Islamic State is beginning to operate.
Western nations are also considering intervention in Libya, but would like to legitimize the intervention through being asked to intervene by the new UN-brokered Government of National Accord(GNA). However, the GNA still has to be approved by the internationally-recognized House of Representatives(HoR) before its term begins. So far the HoR has refused to approve the GNA. They met four times without achieving a quorum and when they did finally reach a quorum they demanded the cabinet size of the GNA be reduced. They also demanded that a section of the Libyan Political Agreement, upon which the GNA is based, have an article deleted that would give the function of commander in chief of the Libyan National Army (LNA) to the senior officials of the GNA, the presidency council. The present commander in chief of the LNA, General Khalifa Haftar, refuses to give up his position and he appears to have majority support within the HoR for keeping his job. It may be some time before there is an effective GNA although Kerry claims that its formation is imminent. Members of the GNC who signed on to the LPA vehemently oppose Haftar.
Even if there is some deal worked out with Haftar and he allows the HoR to approve the GNA, the rival government in Tripoli, the General National Congress and its armed forces, have not agreed to allow the GNA to set up shop in Tripoli where the UN insists the GNA should be located. One prime reason the UN wants the government there is so that the GNA can have control over the Libyan Central Bank and the National Oil Company. Once the GNA gains control of those institutions it can starve the GNC of funds. If the HoR tried to carry on as a separate government the same thing could happen to it. However, the HoR is the legislative body of the new GNA and so it is unlikely to try to continue as a separate government.
The international community appears to be already involved militarily in Libya. Special forces troops from several countries, including the UK and US, are reported to have landed in eastern Libya. The US is already planning a third front against the Islamic State in Libya. No doubt these plans are being discussed at the Rome meeting.
If the UN-brokered government fails to be formed, western nations may simply co-operate with General Haftar who might approve military intervention as long as he is in control, although he claims that he does not want foreign intervention through the GNA. There have already been airstrikes against IS positions in Sirte by unidentified planes. Reporters don't seem to have much curiosity as to where they might be from. Perhaps some countries may begin a more extensive campaign of airstrikes as has been done in Iraq and Syria. The U.S.-led coalition did not bother to get government permission in Syria. If they cannot find anyone to ask them into Libya, they can simply go ahead in any event as a form of self-defense in the war on terror. That will always work.

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