Saturday, September 27, 2014

Watch for more foreign involvement in Libya

A common narrative about what is happening in Libya will be about the threat of radical Islamist groups such as Ansar al-Sharia, a group thought to be responsible for the attack on the American consul in Benghazi which killed the ambassador among others.

Reuters has an article on the issue noting that a group of countries mostly Western and Arab state expressed readiness to help Libya's government confront "a growing presence of Islamic militant groups in the North African country." The entire narrative of what has happened fails to mention CIA-linked General Khalifa Haftar, Operation Dignity or his own attacks that started the present confrontation. Nor does the article mention that Haftar allies attacked and burned the Libyan parliament and kidnapped Islamist officials and legislators. The threat is apparently only from Islamist-linked militia. This is not so much news reporting as it is propaganda that ensures the public does not understand the context of what is happening. This is framing that will place discussion of what is happening in Libya in the appropriate context to justify foreign intervention.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon held a high-level meeting on the sidelines during a session of the General Assembly. The group discussed the situation in Libya. A summary of the meeting said: "The meeting recognized the lead role of the government of Libya in addressing the growing threat of terrorist groups, and the readiness to support the government in this regard," France, Britain, the United Staes, Saudi Arabia and Egypt were all at the meeting. The Reuters article stresses the issue of Ansar al-Sharia: Western countries are particularly concerned by the presence of Islamist militant group Ansar al-Sharia in Libya, which the United States blames for killing its ambassador and three other Americans in 2012 and classifies as a terrorist organisation. While the group is active in Benghazi, even there it is simply part of a larger umbrella organization of mostly Islamist militias who control most of Benghazi. In the capital, other groups such as the Misrata militia play a major role but again as part of a larger umbrella organization containing numerous groups.
 France has been taking the lead in urging international intervention. Laurent Fabius said at the UN meeting: "The efforts that are being used to fight Daesh (Islamic State) to limit the movements of foreign fighters and financing should also be used for these groups, We know there are groups on the south and east of Libya, and these, let's be realistic, will not be automatically neutralized just because, as we hope, there is a reconciliation in Libya. Of course the reconciliation is necessary but if we want Libyan forces to do what is necessary towards these terrorist groups, they need to be united. But we all know that other measures will need to be taken." However, these groups are part of much larger umbrella groups of militia who are not going to abandon militant groups simply because France, the US, and others consider them terrorists. Any move against them by foreign forces will simply unite the opposition that already controls Tripoli and Benghazi against foreign interference.
 All this talk about intervention is itself strange since just over a week ago the recognized Libyan government in Tobruk along with 15 other countries came out against any foreign intervention at a meeting in Madrid Spain: 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. The group claimed that there was no military solution to the crisis.
 There has already been foreign intervention in the form of night airstrikes on Islamist positions in Tripoli. General Haftar claimed that they were a joint operation involving his forces and the international community. The rebels claimed the UAE and Egypt were involved in the attacks as did the US. However, neither country accepted responsibility. The US later decided that it should take back its accusation against the UAE and Egypt. The government in Tobruk does not hold the UAE or Egypt responsible either, nor does the Libyan ambassador to the UN. The Libyan government, the UN, and all those countries who reject foreign intervention as a solution to Libya's problem have all fallen silent. Perhaps Reuters will do an investigative report. Meanwhile the Libyan government has a space problem in Tobruk: (Funny sidelight: Tobruk, being a fairly small place, doesn’t have sufficient accommodations for all the HoR legislators and bureaucrats, so they leased a Greek car ferry, the Elyros, to live on. Now the ship’s owner wants his ship back and has demanded that they leave. As of this date, they have refused to disembark.)

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