Wednesday, September 17, 2014

More mysterious plane attacks on Islamist positions near Tripoli

General Saqr Jarrushi, an aide to CIA-linked General Hafter, claimed that their forces carried out an air strike on the town of Gharyan, 120 kilometers southwest of the Libyan capital of Tripoli.

Militia in the town are associated with the umbrella group Libya Dawn of mostly Islamist militias that control Tripoli and the international airport there. The same group had been targeted on several nights as it wrested control of Tripoli and the international airport from the Zintan brigades that are allies of Haftar. The rebels accused the UAE and Egypt of being behind the attacks, as did the US — at least for a time. Haftar claimed it was a joint operation by his forces and the international community. The planes involved were not of a type that are part of the Libyan air force.
 The Libyan state news agency said that 15 people were wounded in the recent raid directed at a munitions depot. General Haftar began the main conflict with Islamist militias in May and called it Operation Dignity. He attacked two Islamist bases in Benghazi where he had his headquarters. His allies, the Zintan brigades, attacked the elected parliament, burned it, and kidnapped a number of Islamist legislators and officials. Afterwards they continued to provide security for the Tripoli international airport. However, after lengthy clashes, they were driven out by militia from Misrata and are now being bombarded in an area called Warshefana on the outskirts of the city. The area is surrounded on all sides by militia who are bombarding the area and keeping out supplies.
 Forces loyal to Haftar are threatening to bomb Benghazi port unless authorities closed it to prevent arms from coming in for Islamist militia. He is prepared to ruin the port apparently to prevent it being used to supply the militias. The new legislators elected in June were to meet originally in Benghazi as the interim government had passed a law to move it there. However, before its scheduled meeting, Benghazi was taken over by an umbrella group of Islamist militias who over-ran military bases run by Libyan Special Forces who are allies of Haftar, Haftar still controls an airport on the outskirts from which he still seems able to launch some bombing attacks locally at least.
 It is not clear if he would be able to launch attacks near Tripoli. He may be protecting some foreign government that is giving him aid. The elected legislators finally met in the eastern city of Tobruk. They are loosely allied with Haftar, although the interim government had called Operation Dignity an attempted coup and ordered Haftar arrested. As with many orders of the earlier government the order was never carried out. Many Islamist groups do not recognize the government in Tobruk.
The internationally recognized government in Tobruk has lost control of many ministries. Islamist groups reconvened the General National Congress and it has appointed a new prime minister.
 The head of the UN mission in Libya, Bernardino Leon, who has been on the job only two weeks, said that only a political solution could solve the crisis. However, with the Islamist militias in control of Tripoli and Benghazi and with Haftar resorting to air bombardments after being defeated on the ground and having the internationally recognized government in an area under his control, it seems unlikely that either side is willing to recognize the other as a legitimate partner to forge a political solution. I would not be surprised if within a short time the west will suddenly discover that all the Islamists in Libya are akin to Ansar al-Sharia and need to be defeated and banned from politics as in Egypt. The CIA-linked General Haftar will save Libya from Islamists copying the formula of el-Sisi in Egypt. France is already calling for intervention.

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