Tripoli residents face dilemma after Libya Dawn take control of capital

The Guardian reports: Every night is a night of fear in the house of the date palms, a luxurious villa in the western suburbs of Tripoli. Its occupants are among thousands of city residents scared of being arrested by Islamist militias of Libya Dawn, which last week took over the Libyan capital and are targeting those from opposing tribes.

Like many of their neighbours, this family – at their request of anonymity – has sent the women away to safety, but the men left behind face a dilemma. If they leave too, the house, which has elegant carefully-tended date palms in the small courtyard, will likely be broken into and robbed. If they stay, and the militias find them, it could be worse.

“We can’t leave, or the place will be destroyed,” says the youngest son, a student. “We have to stay. These are long nights, I am telling you.”

A particular feature of the occupation of Tripoli by Libya Dawn, the newest of the Middle East’s self-proclaimed revolutionary movements, is the focus on residents from the wrong tribe.

The city was captured after a five week battle, involving heavy and indiscriminate artillery bombardments between Libya Dawn and tribal fighters from Zintan, Warshafan and Warfallah. Now residents whose family names indicate membership of those tribes are being rounded-up, whatever their politics, however tenuous their connection with those tribes. [Continue reading...]

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Libya’s spiritual leader leaves UK after directing Islamist takeover of Tripoli

The Guardian reports: Libya’s most senior religious authority, the grand mufti Sheikh Sadik al-Ghariani, is believed to have fled Britain after it emerged that he was helping to direct the Islamist takeover of Tripoli from the UK.

Ghariani left the UK for Qatar as Home Office officials began examining broadcasts he had made to Islamist groups using an internet television station owned by a relative in Devon.

The radical cleric used the website Tanasuh to celebrate the violent capture of Tripoli by an Islamist militia force, Libya Dawn, and to call for a widening of the rebellion.

The Arabic-language website, which is viewed thousands of times a day in Libya, is registered to a close relative at a white-washed terraced house near Exeter city centre.

The Foreign Office confirmed on Friday that Ghariani was in Britain. They said he had come in a private capacity and was not invited by ministers or officials. The cleric is understood to have left the country of his own volition rather than being excluded by the Home Office on the grounds of national security or “unacceptable behaviour”. [Continue reading...]

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Unappealing as nation-building may be, the alternative is usually even worse

Suzanne Nossel writes: Obama had good reason to be wary of nation-building [in Libya], having spent a good part of his presidency trying to unwind commitments George W. Bush made to Afghanistan and Iraq. But he now finds himself caught in a dilemma. On one hand, rebuilding failed states and conflict-torn societies is expensive, dangerous, unpredictable, open-ended, and painstakingly slow. Rather than thanks, an assertive approach can elicit debilitating and deadly political backlash. Because of its intense and sustained involvement, the nation-builder is held morally and politically accountable for the consequences of its efforts — even more so than the government that strafes a country from 30,000 feet. At least so far, as bad as the crisis in Libya is, international blame isn’t being pinned on Washington. On the other hand, failure to stabilize a nation after a debilitating war can undermine even the most decisive military action. Bad actors may be removed from authority, but the power vacuums, rivalries, corruption, incompetence, and dysfunction they leave behind can be as dangerous, if not more so. Terrorists and spoilers can encroach on weakly governed and poorly secured territory. Neighbors can jump into the fray, sparking regional conflagrations.

The nation-builder’s dilemma is not new. Failure to restore a beleaguered Germany after World War I arguably sowed the seeds of World War II. The massive investments of the Marshall Plan were designed to avoid a repeat, and they benefited from underlying political, economic, and institutional strengths in Japan and Germany. International military engagements in Bosnia, Kosovo, Somalia, Haiti, and South Sudan were all followed by contested nation-building engagements, most of which continue in some form to this day.

The paradox of distaste for nation-building and the imperative to nation-build should prompt long-term strategic thinking about how to get done what no single government wants to do. Three principles can help: burden sharing; creative alignments of capabilities and political credibility; and greater attention to how international post-conflict missions can build national pride and smooth the path to full sovereignty for nations in transition.

Sharing the burdens of rebuilding a war-torn nation is often best achieved through the United Nations, which currently has more than 118,000 personnel deployed in peacekeeping operations in 16 countries, alongside another 10 political missions that don’t involve military forces. U.N. peacekeeping and related missions have played an indispensable role in midwifing relative political stability in Guatemala, El Salvador, Cambodia, Mozambique, Namibia, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. But in Libya, there was no U.N. peacekeeping mission after Qaddafi’s ouster — only a small, unsecured stabilization effort. Cost concerns raised by Britain and France, coupled with the Libyans’ own reticence, scuttled early talk of a more ambitious U.N. presence. This understaffed operation was woefully unable to tackle Libya’s most serious security challenges, struggling instead to keep its own personnel out of danger. As discussions about an expanded U.N. presence in Libya now get underway, it’s worth recognizing that wherever the next stabilization operation occurs — eastern Ukraine, Syria — the United Nations’ role is unique and essential and should be adequately funded, equipped, and thought out ahead of time. It is hard to fathom any solution to the White House’s nation-building dilemma that doesn’t begin at U.N. headquarters in New York. [Continue reading...]

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Egypt, UAE launched airstrikes in Libya

Foreign Policy: Two airstrikes in the past week on Islamist militias fighting for control of Tripoli, Libya, are raising questions about who was behind the attacks and whether the United States knew about or condoned them. On Saturday, Aug. 23, Agence France-Presse reported that Islamist militants in Libya pointed the finger at Egypt and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The Egyptian military quickly denied any involvement. On Monday, the New York Times reported that American officials confirmed that the Egyptians and Emiratis had launched the strikes, but said they’d caught the United States by surprise.

That claim seemed incredible, though, in light of the presence in the region of the U.S. military, which would have certainly detected a series of airstrikes. “With as many Aegis-class ships as the U.S. Navy has in the Persian Gulf and Mediterranean, there is no possible way the UAE could pull this off without the U.S. knowing it,” said Christopher Harmer, a former Navy officer and an analyst with the Institute for the Study of War. Harmer said that he had no information about U.S. involvement, “but the U.S. government knows who bombed what,” he said.

Egypt and the UAE are highly motivated to strike out at Islamist fighters, whose gains in Libya are only the latest reminder that a new wave of religiously aligned political groups and militias threaten secular regimes and monarchies across the region.

“Libya is a serious situation,” Moroccan Foreign Minister Salaheddine Mezouar told Foreign Policy earlier this month. Morocco has organized a political dialogue among various factions in Libya in an effort to bring the country together. Mezouar has also worked closely with Egypt on the issue, specifically discussing concerns about terrorism in his July visit to Cairo.

State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki provided no additional information on the strikes during a press briefing on Monday. She reiterated the Obama administration’s policy that “Libya’s challenges are political, and violence will not resolve them.” She added: “Our focus is on the political process there. We believe outside interference exacerbates current divisions and undermines Libya’s democratic transition.”

When asked whether Washington would be “disappointed” if Egypt and the UAE had conducted the airstrikes, Psaki replied, “I’m not going to go down that rabbit hole.” [Continue reading...]

The Associated Press today reports: Egypt and the United Arab Emirates secretly carried out airstrikes against Islamist militias inside Libya, U.S. officials said Tuesday, decrying the intervention as an escalation of the North African country’s already debilitating turmoil. They said the United States had no prior notification of the attacks.

One official said the two countries and Saudi Arabia have been supporting for months a renegade general’s campaign against Libyan militant groups, but that the Saudis don’t appear to have played a role in recent strikes. Another official said Washington knew about Egyptian and U.A.E. plans for a possible operation and warned them against going through with the effort.

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The CIA must tell the truth about my rendition at 12 years old

Khadija al-Saadi writes: Two very different flights landed at Mitiga military airport in Libya just over a decade ago. The first was organized by the CIA and MI6. On board were a family of six surrounded by guards, the frightened children separated from their parents, the father chained to a seat in a rear compartment with a needle stuck in his arm. The second flight, only a couple of days later, carried Tony Blair in comfort, on his way to shake hands and do business with Colonel Gaddafi.

I know about the first flight, because I was one of the children. I know about the chains and the needle because Sami al-Saadi — a long-time political opponent of Colonel Gaddafi — is my father and I saw him in that state. I was 12 years old, and was trying to keep my younger brothers and my six year-old sister calm. The guards took us to see our mother once on the 16-hour flight. She was crying, and told us that we were being taken to Gaddafi’s Libya. Shortly before the plane landed, a guard told me to say goodbye to my father, at the front of the plane. I forced myself ahead and saw him with a needle in his arm. I remember guards laughing at me. Then I fainted.

We were taken off the plane and bundled into cars. Hoods were pulled over my parents’ heads. Libyans forced my mother, sister and I into one car, my brothers and father another. The convoy drove to a secret prison outside Tripoli, where I was certain we were all going to be executed. All I knew about Libya at that time was that Colonel Gaddafi wanted to hurt my father, and that our family had always been moving from country to country to avoid being taken to him. Now we had been kidnapped, flown to Libya, and his people had us at their mercy. [Continue reading...]

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In Libya, parliament convenes amid battles

The New York Times reports: Libyan leaders, struggling to keep their country from spinning further out of control, convened a newly elected Parliament for its first session on Monday.

But raging militia battles in Tripoli, the capital, and in Benghazi, the second-largest city, forced them to hold the meeting in Tobruk, a relatively stable port in the east. And a senior Egyptian political figure suggested on Monday that his country might intervene in Libya militarily if calm cannot be restored.

The newly elected lawmakers vowed to prevent the collapse of their state.

“We will prove to the world that Libya is not a failed country,” Abu Bakr Bueira, the lawmaker presiding over the session, declared, according to news reports.

Although the street fighting in Tripoli and Benghazi is driven mainly by local militia rivalries, it is converging into the same national conflict. Islamists and their tribal or regional allies are on one side, fighting what they say is an authoritarian counterrevolution, while anti-Islamist groups with allied tribes and fragments of the former Qaddafi dictatorship’s forces are on the other side, fighting what they say is Islamist domination that has allowed the militia mayhem to spread. [Continue reading...]

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Western powers temporarily abandon democracy-building efforts in Libya

The Washington Post reports: Three years after Western powers helped Libyan rebels overthrow dictator Moammar Gaddafi, they have at least temporarily abandoned efforts on the ground to bolster Libya’s foundering democracy.

On Wednesday, France evacuated its embassy in Tripoli, where warring militias have traded rocket and artillery fire over the past two weeks in the worst violence in the capital since Gaddafi’s ouster. French ships moved diplomats and French and other European citizens across the Mediterranean to Toulon, just days after U.S. diplomats left by road for Tunisia and then traveled to Malta, where they have set up an embassy-in-absentia.

Although Britain has not formally suspended operations at its Tripoli mission, it has removed all but essential personnel and advised all citizens to leave the country. [Continue reading...]

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Still torn by factional fighting, post-revolt Libya is coming undone

The New York Times reports: For weeks, rival Libyan militias had been pounding one another’s positions with artillery, mortar rounds and rockets in a desperate fight to control the international airport in the capital, Tripoli. Then suddenly, early Saturday morning, the fighting just stopped.

The pause came as United States military warplanes circled overhead, providing air cover for a predawn evacuation of the American Embassy’s staff. Apparently fearing the planes, the militias held their fire just long enough for the ambassador and her staff to reach the Tunisian border — a reminder to Libyans of how even their most powerful allies were incapable of putting out their incendiary feuds.

American officials said the evacuation was a temporary measure after fighting drew too close to the embassy. But, coming so soon after the withdrawal of other diplomatic missions, including the United Nations, the moment appeared to signal a defeat — for Libyans who had convinced themselves that the country would band together to save the revolution, and for the country’s Western allies, who sometimes acted as if Libya’s stability would take care of itself.

“No one in Libya can win,” said Mahmoud Okok, 33, a civil engineer who lived near the airport and the United States Embassy, and who abandoned his apartment because of the shelling. A cousin who also lived near the airport was killed when a rocket landed on his home. Now Mr. Okok was moving, with his wife and young son, overseas.

“Enough is enough,” he said. “I have lost hope in Libyans.” [Continue reading...]

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U.S. diplomats and Marines close embassy and flee Libya fighting

The Daily Beast reports: Under the watchful eye of a military drone and three F-16 warplanes flying protective cover, 158 U.S. diplomats and 80 U.S. Marines evacuated the American embassy in Tripoli, Libya, on Saturday. Although there was no specific threat targeting the U.S. personnel, fighting between rival factions in the Libyan capital is raging amid fears the North African country is headed irreversibly toward anarchy. U.S. warships were positioned off the coast and more contingents of Marines were flown to the immediate vicinity, ready to deploy if needed to protect the evacuation convoy.

The Tripoli airport has been shut down by combat between two of the country’s most powerful militias, and most of the airplanes there have been destroyed or damaged so the evacuation had to be carried out overland: a five-hour drive to neighboring Tunisia. Under orders from Washington, the convoy pulled out of Tripoli at dawn and made it to safety by mid-day. It is unclear when or if the embassy will reopen.

Libya has been flirting with civil war for months as local gangs, ideological militias, Islamists and hopelessly dysfunctional state institutions have vied topsy-turvy for control. But this week Libya’s capital was rocked by some of the worst violence since the 2011 uprising that led to the NATO-backed ouster of strongman Muammar Gaddafi’s ouster, and with no sizeable national security force of its own, the government of Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thani has been unable to halt the descent into chaos. The U.S. isn’t alone in pulling out. Amid the rising violence, the United Nations has evacuated staff and Turkey announced Friday it was shuttering its embassy. The UK urged British citizens to leave Libya. [Continue reading...]

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Rival factions in Libyan capital battle for control of main airport

The New York Times reports: Rival militias in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, fought for control of the city’s main airport on Sunday, leaving at least six people dead and causing the cancellation of international flights, officials said.

The fighting, with rockets, machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades, was some of the fiercest in the capital in months and an urgent reminder of the chaos prevailing in the country: Nearly three years after the death of Libya’s dictator, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, the fighters who rebelled against him remained locked in a struggle for control of territory, resources and critical facilities, sidelining the central government.

The United Nations mission in Libya, which began to withdraw staff members last week because of security concerns, accelerated that withdrawal on Sunday, said a staff member who was not authorized to speak to the news media. A United Nations spokesman did not immediately return a call.

The deadliest of Libya’s recent fighting has occurred in the eastern city of Benghazi, where troops loyal to an army general named Khalifa Hifter are battling other armed militias, as part of what Mr. Hifter says is a national campaign to eradicate Libya’s powerful Islamist politicians and fighters. The clashes have opened new divisions across the country and aggravated Libya’s violence. [Continue reading...]

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The Arabs’ 100-Years War

Rami G. Khouri writes: The open warfare and shaken statehood that characterize Syria, Iraq and Libya are the painful commemoration of the Arabs’ own 100 Years War for stable, legitimate statehood. What the French, British and Italians left behind in Syria, Iraq and Libya after World War One led to the last 100 years of erratic patterns of development that have now erupted in open warfare within and among some countries.

Syria, Libya and Iraq are only the most dramatic examples of countries that suffer serious sectarian and other forms of warfare that could easily lead to the fracturing of those states into smaller ethnic units. Similar but less intense tensions define most Arab states. With the exception of Tunisia, the citizens of every Arab country have always been denied any say in defining the structure, values or policies of their state.

It is no surprise, therefore, that Syria, Iraq and Libya should be at once so violent, fractious and brittle. The capture of cities and territory across northwestern Iraq by the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) symbolizes a common aspect of the fragmented nature of many Arab countries — the ruling party or family that runs the government is at war with well armed non-state actors that reflect widespread citizen discontent with the power and policies of the central state. The brittle Arab state is not simply melting away, as happened in Somalia over the last two decades; rather, the state in many cases has become just one armed protagonist in a battle against several other armed protagonists among its own citizens. [Continue reading...]

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In Libya, fears of all-out war as Islamist militias allied with parliament deploy in capital

The Washington Post reports: Powerful militias aligned with the Islamist-dominated parliament deployed in the Libyan capital Thursday, raising the specter of an all-out war with forces loyal to a renegade former general who wants the legislative body disbanded.

Known collectively as the Libya Central Shield, the militias from the western city of Misurata were heeding a call by the head of parliament, Nouri Abu Sahmein, to protect Tripoli after gunmen loyal to the ex-general, Khalifa Hifter, stormed it Sunday.

It marked the first time the Libya Central Shield has deployed to Tripoli since November, when its fighters opened fire on peaceful protesters outside their base, sparking clashes that left more than 40 dead and hundreds wounded.

The group’s main rivals, the Qaqa and Sawaiq brigades from the western city of Zintan, have allied with Hifter, threatening a confrontation in Tripoli between two of the country’s most powerful militia forces.

The deployment is the latest development in a long-brewing crisis that ignited Friday when Hifter led a fierce assault on Islamist militias in the eastern city of Benghazi. More than 70 were killed in the fighting, the heaviest in the country since the 2011 revolt that deposed autocrat Moammar Gaddafi. [Continue reading...]

The Washington Post also reports: Thousands of protesters took to the streets of Tripoli, Benghazi and other cities across Libya on Friday in support of a renegade general’s campaign against Islamist militias and his calls to suspend parliament.

The protest, dubbed the “Friday of Dignity,” took its name from the offensive launched by the former general, Khalifa Hifter, one week ago in the eastern city of Benghazi. Hifter has since garnered support from current and former military officers, political figures, civil society groups and the militias that dominate many Libyan cities.

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Libya’s rogue general gains stream of new allies

The Associated Press reports: Libya’s Interior Ministry, along with the country’s the U.N. ambassador and the commander of the air force, backed a renegade general’s offensive against Islamist lawmakers and extremist militias, further building support Wednesday for a campaign the government has described as a coup.

The show of support for Gen. Khalifa Hifter appears to have triggered a heavy backlash.

Libya’s navy chief Brig. Gen. Hassan Abu-Shanaq, some of whose units have allied with Hifter, was wounded in an assassination attempt in the capital, Tripoli, early Wednesday, along with his driver and a guard, the official news agency LANA said. The night before, the air forces headquarters in Tripoli came under a rocket attack but no casualties were reported.

Hifter has been leading an armed revolt in perhaps the biggest challenge yet to the country’s weak central government and fledgling security forces. He says his campaign, dubbed “Operation Dignity,” aims to break the power of Islamists who lead parliament and whom he accuses of opening the door to extremism and fueling Libya’s chaos.

Scores of Libyan military units and commanders have made already made loyalty pledges to Hifter’s “Libyan National Army” and his offensive, which began Friday, first against Islamist militias in the eastern city of Benghazi. A number of powerful militias also back Hifter, including ones from the western city of Zintan and Benghazi, Libya’s second largest city. [Continue reading...]

The Washington Post reports: [Ahmed Matiq, named prime minister two weeks ago in a disputed vote,] said at a news conference Wednesday that he wouldn’t step aside. Libyans “don’t want to return to having a military body rule them,” he said, presumably referring to Hifter.

A leader of one of the most powerful Islamist militias in Benghazi warned the ex-general not to try to take over the city.

“If he ever thinks of coming into Benghazi it will be his grave, like it was Gaddafi’s grave,” said Ismail Salabi, a leader of the Rafallah al-Sahati Brigade. He also echoed a common criticism by Hifter’s opponents — that he was trying to carry out a coup. “If he is looking for power he should remove his military uniform and go into politics,” he said. [Continue reading...]

Barbara Slavin reports: US Ambassador to Libya Deborah Jones said Wednesday that she would not condemn the actions of Gen. Khalifa Hifter, a former officer in Moammar Gadhafi’s army who has declared war on Islamic “terrorists” in Libya and forced the country to call new parliamentary elections for June 25.

Speaking at the Stimson Center in Washington, Jones repeated US State Department assertions that the Barack Obama administration did not support and had no advance knowledge of Hifter’s actions — which included sending forces to kill scores of Islamist fighters in eastern Libya last week and storming Libya’s parliament in Tripoli over the weekend. But she added that “it’s very difficult to step up and condemn” Hifter given that his forces are “going after very specific groups … on our list of terrorists.”

“I am not going to come out and condemn blanketly what he did,” she said.

Hifter defected from Gadhafi’s military two decades ago after a failed war in Chad and moved to northern Virginia where he acquired US citizenship. He has claimed that the US government backed him in the 1990s in unsuccessful efforts to overturn the Gadhafi regime.

Karim Mezran, an expert on Libya at the Atlantic Council, told Al-Monitor that there are “widespread rumors that Egypt and the United Arab Emirates” are backing Hifter in hopes that he will expunge the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist elements from the Libyan government and even take power as Abdel Fattah al-Sisi did in Egypt after ousting President Mohammed Morsi. “If they can conquer the east, the military balance will be in their favor,” Mezran said of Hifter’s forces.

Jones, asked by Al-Monitor if Egypt and the UAE were behind Hifter, who staged a failed coup in February, said, “I have nothing for you on than that” — the diplomatic equivalent of a non-denial — but that “Libyans who reside in the UAE and Egypt support him.” She added, “I hear a lot of support of his actions against these groups but less for him as an individual. The jury is still out because it’s not clear what the agenda is behind this.” [Continue reading...]

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Libyan special forces commander says his forces join renegade general

Reuters reports: The commander of Libyan army special forces said on Monday he had allied with renegade general Khalifa Haftar in his campaign against militant Islamists, highlighting the failure of central government in Tripoli to assert its authority.

The announcement gives a major boost to a campaign by Haftar, who has been denounced by the Tripoli government as attempting to stage a coup in the oil producer.

It remains unclear how many troops support Haftar, whose forces launched an attack on Islamist militants in Benghazi on Friday in which more than 70 people died. Militiamen apparently allied to Haftar also stormed parliament in Tripoli on Sunday.

The violence has compounded government’s apparent weakness in combating militias which helped oust Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 but now defy state authority. [Continue reading...]

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Libyan militias led by former general attack parliament and declare it dissolved

The Washington Post reports: Militias allied with a former Libyan general staged a brazen attack on Libya’s parliament on Sunday and declared it dissolved, in some of the worst fighting the capital has seen since the 2011 revolution.

By Sunday night, those forces announced that the elected General National Congress was being replaced by an existing constitutional drafting committee. It was far from certain that the order would be observed. But the power grab threatened to send Libya hurtling into a full-blown civil war.

Tripoli residents and journalists reported heavy fighting, including rocket attacks and gunfights, in several central neighborhoods. Dozens of vehicles mounted with antiaircraft guns could be seen speeding toward the center of the capital from a southeastern suburb. Plumes of black smoke rose over the city.

It was unclear whether ex-general Khalifa Haftar commanded sufficient force to prevail in the showdown in Tripoli — the latest chapter in a struggle for power, land and resources that has raged in this oil-rich country since the fall of longtime dictator Moammar Gaddafi. The central government has struggled unsuccessfully to rein in scores of militias that emerged from the anti-Gaddafi uprising. [Continue reading...]

Alaa al-Ameri reports: Haftar served as a high-ranking military officer under Muammar Qaddafi and was a prominent commander during Libya’s war with Chad in the 1980s. Following his capture by Chadian forces, he went into exile in the US in 1987, where he joined the National Front for the Salvation of Libya, a group of Libyan exiles who spent much of the 1980s and 1990s trying to kill Qaddafi. Haftar returned to Libya in 2011 in support of the revolution, and was appointed chief of staff to Colonel Abdul Fatah Younis, the National Transitional Council’s commander of revolutionary forces.

The Libya to which Haftar returned had seen the rise and fall of armed Islamist opposition to Qaddafi in the form of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) during the 1990s, and yesterday’s fighting was the latest chapter of a power struggle between Islamist and secularist strands of the 2011 revolution that has been playing itself out since the early days of the uprising against Qaddafi.

Islamist militias began consolidating their power over eastern Libya through targeted assassinations before the revolution was even over — and Younis was arguably their first victim. He was a former close Qaddafi ally, seen by some as Qaddafi’s second in command. He had taken part in the coup that brought Qaddafi to power in 1969, but he defected to the fledgling revolutionary government in February 2011 after he was sent to crush the rebellion in his native Benghazi. Unlike many of Qaddafi’s close circle, Younis was not known for ostentatious living or sadistic violence.

He had, however, coordinated counterinsurgency operations in eastern Libya against the LIFG in the 1990s.

One unique aspect of the LIFG is that it combined figures from a wide swathe of the Islamist spectrum. Some, like Abu Anas al Libi, who was captured in Tripoli by US Special Forces last year, gravitated toward al Qaeda. Others, like Abdelhakim Belhadj, a key military commander during the Libyan revolution and now a politician with the Muslim Brotherhood-linked al-Watan party, maintained a view of armed Islamism that opposes the targeting of civilians per se, but legitimizes military and government targets. The upshot is that the remnants of the LIFG in Libya represent a rare nexus of Muslim Brotherhood and more violent Islamist tendencies.

The legacy of the battle against the LIFG came home to roost at the height of the revolution in July 2011, when Younis was abducted by members of the February 17th Martyrs Brigade — one of the Islamist militias now under attack by Haftar’s forces — and was then reportedly shot dead for his role in the suppression of the LIFG 15 years earlier. His burned body, along with those of two of his officers, was later dumped on the outskirts of Benghazi.

After the revolution, attacks against military personnel continued, though they were initially dismissed as either the settling of old scores dating back to the conflict in the 1990s, or the work of Qaddafi loyalists seeking revenge on colleagues who had defected to the revolutionary forces. From 2012 onward, however, the attacks in eastern Libya seamlessly transitioned from targeting foreigners and Libyans connected to the old regime, to targeting anyone from the Army, police, or judiciary who challenged the dominance of Islamist militias. [Continue reading...]

Al Jazeera reports: Libya’s army chief ordered the deployment of militias to the capital Monday, a day after the storming of the parliament building in Tripoli apparently by a renegade general’s forces which also staged an attack in Benghazi on Friday.

Monday’s development paves the way for a possible showdown between the militias — which hail from Libya’s western and central regions — and the troops allied with Gen. Khalifa Haftar, whose forces said they also suspended parliament and demanded a hand over of power, blaming the house for empowering militias loyal to the Muslim Brotherhood.

According to a statement posted on the official Facebook page of the media officer for the President of the General National Congress, Nouri Abu Sahmain signed an order for “Libya’s Central Shield,” an umbrella group of powerful militias which answer to parliament, to confront “attempts to take over power” in Tripoli, apparently referring to Haftar’s forces. [Continue reading...]

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Libya remains in the grip of rivalrous rebel factions

The Los Angeles Times reports: Dragging deeply on a cigarette and swirling his espresso dregs, the curly-haired young militiaman offered up a vivid account of the battles he and fellow rebels waged to bring down dictator Moammar Kadafi — days of blazing bombardment, thirsty desert nights.

Then he voiced his dismay at the chokehold those same armed groups now maintain on Libya.

“We fought so hard to make a new country,” said the 28-year-old of Libyan extraction who left Britain to join the revolution that swept this North African nation in 2011. “Now it’s all about money. Money and guns.”

The rebel groups that worked together to oust Kadafi have fragmented into rivalrous factions whose outsized collective power has sapped Libya’s oil wealth, turned a nascent government structure to tatters and ushered in a grim cycle of assassinations, abductions and firefights in the streets. [Continue reading...]

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Video: Inside Libya’s militias

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Under militia rule, Libya is beginning to disintegrate. Are the interventionists to blame?

o13-iconOwen Jones writes: It’s called the pottery store rule: “you break it, you own it”. But it doesn’t just apply to pots and mugs, but to nations. In the build-up to the catastrophic invasion of Iraq, it was invoked by Colin Powell, then US secretary of state. “You are going to be the proud owner of 25 million people,” he reportedly told George W Bush. “You will own all their hopes, aspirations and problems.” But while many of these military interventions have left nations shattered, western governments have resembled the customer who walks away whistling, hoping no one has noticed the mess left behind. Our media have been all too complicit in allowing them to leave the scene.

Libya is a striking example. The UN-authorised air campaign in 2011 is often lauded as a shining example of successful foreign intervention. Sure, the initial mandate – which was simply to protect civilians – was exceeded by nations who had only recently been selling arms to Muammar Gaddafi, and the bombing evolved into regime-change despite Russia’s protests. But with a murderous thug ejected from power, who could object?

Today’s Libya is overrun by militias and faces a deteriorating human rights situation, mounting chaos that is infecting other countries, growing internal splits, and even the threat of civil war. Only occasionally does this growing crisis creep into the headlines: like when an oil tanker is seized by rebellious militia; or when a British oil worker is shot dead while having a picnic; or when the country’s prime minister is kidnapped.

According to Amnesty International, the “mounting curbs on freedom of expression are threatening the rights Libyans sought to gain“. A repressive Gaddafi-era law has been amended to criminalise any insults to officials or the general national congress (the interim parliament). One journalist, Amara al-Khattabi, was put on trial for alleging corruption among judges. Satellite television stations deemed critical of the authorities have been banned, one station has been attacked with rocket-propelled grenades, and journalists have been assassinated. [Continue reading...]

Jones concludes: “No wonder western governments and journalists who hailed the success of this intervention are so silent. But here are the consequences of their war, and they must take responsibility for them.”

Once again we are offered a picture of Libya, the uprising against Gaddafi, and the chaos that has followed, as something in which the interventionists are all powerful and the Libyans themselves are like headless chickens set loose by Western overlords.

But here’s a radical idea: Maybe the anarchic state into which Libya has fallen is primarily the responsibility of its militia rulers.

If the only way of holding a country together is through the force of authoritarian rule, is that an argument in favor of authoritarianism or does it merely reveal the flimsiness of national identity?

The anti-interventionists who seem to feel nostalgic about the stability of Libya and Syria pre-2011, also seem to find it very easy to tolerate oppression which they themselves do not face.

No one enjoying democratic freedoms has the right or should have the audacity to believe that they can instigate someone else’s revolution. But the one thing on which most observers agree is that the uprisings in Libya and Syria were homegrown.

Facing well-armed government forces, the revolutionaries sought foreign support, just as Americans fighting for independence from Britain gladly accepted weapons and money from France.

Beneath a facade of anti-interventionist harmlessness (“It’s none of our business to interfere in the political affairs of others”) lurks an Orientalist contempt for Libyans and Syrians — populations whose political aspirations could apparently have continued being effectively suppressed by Gaddafi and Assad were it not for the meddlesome interference of Western neo-liberal interventionists.

When Owen says that those who supported NATO intervention in Libya should now “take responsibility,” it sounds like he’s expecting mea culpas in the form like this: intervention turns out to be a terrible thing. I promise to never support it again.

Yet those who argue that intervention in Libya was a terrible thing, need to present a credible supporting argument which I have yet to hear: why they believe Libya would now be in a better condition had NATO not become involved.

Absent the intervention, would Libyans now be living in relative peace, or, on the contrary, might Libya now more closely resemble Syria?

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