Al-Jazeerah: Cross-Cultural Understanding
Opinion Editorials, April 2019
More than seven years after the Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s overthrow and brutal murder (on October 20, 2011) the situation remains in flux as former CIA-asset General Khalifa Haftar's forces launched an offensive against the forces loyal to the western-installed Libyan government of Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj.
According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), at least 4,500 people have been displaced since the clashes erupted six days ago, when General Khalifa Haftar ordered his forces to march on Tripoli.
As fighting continued on Wednesday, Haftar's Libyan National Army (LNA) took up positions some 11km south of the centre of the capital, which is protected by an array of militias and other groups loyal to the western-backed Government of National Accord (GNA).
Al Jazeera reporting from Tripoli, said the situation in the southern suburbs of the capital remained very tense, with the warring sides vying to take control of the city's disused international airport. "The situation in and around Tripoli's international airport is very tense after Haftar's forces managed to recapture the airport last night," Aljazeera said on Wednesday.
UN conference scrapped
Meanwhile, the UN had scheduled a three-day conference on April 14 in the southwestern town of Ghadames to discuss a constitutional framework for elections as a means of ending the North African country's eight-year political crisis.
But on Tuesday, the UN's envoy for Libya announced the postponement of the summit. "We cannot ask people to take part in the conference during gunfire and air strikes," Ghassan Salame said, vowing to hold the event "as soon as possible ... on the day when conditions of its success are ensured."
Libya has remained beset by turmoil since 2011, when a bloody NATO operation leading to the ouster and brutal death of President Muammar Gaddafi after four decades in power. Since then, the country’s stark political divisions have yielded two rival seats of power: one in eastern Libya, with which General Haftar is associated, and another in Tripoli, where it enjoys western support.
US eyes bigger role for Libyan warlord as civil war looms
With the US-backed UN process in disarray, former US officials tell Al-Monitor the United States is becoming more open to Hifter commanding a unified Libyan military as a means of stopping his offensive.
“The US doesn’t want Hifter to continue with this campaign,” a former US official told Al-Monitor. “I think they’d like to see him in a powerful position within the security apparatus of a unified Libyan state, but they want him to be incorporated into the state via a political solution to the conflict.”
In 2014, the then-US Africa Command chief Gen. David Rodriguez wanted to pair Hifter’s eastern troops with Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj’s forces in the west to battle the ‘Islamic State’, according to Jack Detsch of Al-Monitor.
“We wanted to combine those [forces] under Hifter and have a Libyan-led offensive against [the Islamic State] with our support,” said Donald Bolduc, the former commander of US Special Forces in Africa. “[If we had been] successful with that, then you put Hifter in charge, and then you build a national military.”
But Hifter balked at State Department-led efforts to rein in his authority. After Rodriguez retired in the summer of 2016, special envoy for Libya Jonathan Winer held two all-day meetings with Hifter in an effort to bring him under the authority of Sarraj’s UN-backed government. Hifter could have potentially been the head of Libya’s national military council or run for political office under the deal being contemplated.
“He would not do that,” said Winer, who stepped down in January 2017 and was never replaced.
Libya’s descent into civil war
The UN human rights body’s attitude toward the latest flareup of violence in Libya stands in stark contrast to its response to the one-sided US-NATO war waged in 2011 under the pretext of protecting civilian lives from repression at the hands of the government headed by Col. Muammar Gaddafi, Bill Van Auken, a former US presidential candidate in 2004, says adding: A UN resolution allowing for a no-fly zone was used as the pretext to launch a seven-month-long bombing campaign in support of CIA-backed Islamist militias to destroy Libya’s security forces and vital infrastructure and overthrow its government. This campaign culminated in the carpet bombing of the coastal city of Sirte, a Gaddafi stronghold, and the lynch-mob torture and murder of Gaddafi himself.
The present crisis and threat of a full-blown bloodbath in Libya are the direct product of the supposedly “humanitarian” intervention waged eight years ago under the fraudulent banner of the “Responsibility to Protect” (R2P), Bill Van Auken argued and said:
“Among the protagonists on either side of the developing conflict are the so-called “revolutionaries” and “democrats” the war was supposedly launched to protect. These include Khalifa Haftar himself, the former Gaddafi general who was flown into Benghazi after spending decades as an asset of the US Central Intelligence Agency and living in close proximity to its headquarters in Langley, Virginia, where he obtained US citizenship.”
How Libya's conflict can be resolved?
Military interference or attempts at peacekeeping in Libya will only result in a pause in the conflict, not a resolution. The current situation in Libya is in flux, and reports we get are slow in arriving and largely unreliable, Col Mikhail Khodarenok of the Russian Armed Forces says adding:
“It seems that at this point the military struggle in Libya isn't ruled by a strategy of fighting until victorious and without retreat. This is based on relatively small losses of personnel and military hardware. It would appear that, for now, parties to the conflict are busy not so much with continuously conducting offensive or defensive military operations, but rather with demonstrating their capabilities and intentions.
“It's been stated that the there is no military solution to the Libya conflict, and that political negotiations are the only way to unite the country and ensure its security, stability, and prosperity for all its residents.
It sounds nice, however it's is quite unlikely to happen in the context of the Middle East and Libya. This approach hasn't worked so far in any country of this region, nor did it produce any positive result, despite of all efforts. First of all, usually the contradictions between conflicting parties are way too big. Second, it can only lead to a freeze in the conflict at best, and sooner or later, war would break out again.
“So, the most realistic way to resolving the Libya situation is the victory of the strongest, as cynical as it may sound at first glance. A winner in this armed conflict would be able to unite the country, crush the rival military groups (by making them lay down their arms and give up further hostilities), stabilize the situation, and restore basic order. So, the truth is that it only makes real sense to hold negotiations with the leader who emerges victorious in this armed conflict. Anything else is nothing more than political games, fanning the conflict's flames to make it last longer”.
“The experience tells us that in recent decades, that's exactly how it has always played out in the Middle East and Northern Africa – the order in a conflict-ridden country was always restored by the victorious party, and never because it was "the right thing to do" according to any democratic procedures,” Col Mikhail Khodarenok concluded.
Abdus Sattar Ghazali is the Chief Editor of the Journal of America (www.journalofamerica.net).
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