Notes about liberated LibyaFebruary 19, 2013
I have not written about Libya for some time because I still can’t figure out, I am still not able to imagine in what state Libyan society really is.
The chaos has gone on long enough that even the most fervent supporter of the NATO air war and the destruction of the old state authority must have realized, that things are worse now.
Most towns experience electricity, water, and gasoline shortages. There are still around one million Libyan refugees in neighboring countries, particularly Tunisia and Egypt, in addition to tens of thousands of internally displaced persons. 1.5 million people (80 percent of the labor force) have now to be employed by the authorities because the private sector of the economy has all but collapsed.
It is not an overstatement to say that Libya’s economy is destroyed. The budget deficit in 2011 was 27 percent of GDP, compared to a budget surplus of 16 percent in 2010. Similarly, the current account surplus in 2011 was 1.3 percent of GDP, it was 20 percent in 2010.
Grievances against Gaddafi were based on tribal tensions, on resentments of wealthy Libyans against Gaddafi’s socialist reforms, on islamic fanaticism resenting a secular state.
The tribes may still hope to gain more autonomy, the wealthy libyans may try to profit from the chaos (disaster capitalism) and become millionaires or even billionaires like the oligarchs after the disintegration of the Soviet Union, the Islamists may still dream of a califat.
Gaddafi waged a war on radical extremism and kept the situation under control. More than 600 Islamists were in jails. After the fall of Gaddafi, they walked free and joined radical groups (including those operating in Mali).
The criminals, the hoodlums, the uneducated, useless young men who had no future in Gaddafi’s Libya have found a home in the various militias and can now indulge in terrorizing their fellow countrymen.
Are their guns and their ruthlessness enough to keep them in power? They got a lot of weapons from their Western sponsors. Qatar, the UAE, Britain sent shiploads of assault rifles, machine guns, RPG’s, missiles. France dropped tons of weapons from the air, everybody could take what he wanted and what he could carry or load onto the available trucks.
The militiamen will make good use of the weapons in further military adventures (Algeria, Mali) if they get tired of terrorizing Libyans, but for now they appear to have enough fun in their home country as Islamic extremists are making inroads in the eastern province of Cyrenaica and crime is on the rise in the absence of a trained and committed police force.
US surveillance drones have started to fly across Eastern Libya (Derna, Benghazi, and the Green Mountains) in search of jihadist training camps.
Restricting the surveillance to Eastern Libya will not be sufficient, as most of the country, and especially Libya’s southwestern border is ungoverned territory. A planned US drone base in Niger therefore shall make it possible to launch drones against Islamists in the southwestern region of Fezzan, which is beginning to rival Yemen as one of the globe’s lawless spaces and has become an area of heavy arms trafficking.
About 40,000 Libyans were killed in the NATO air war and the killing still goes on (for instance in Bani Walid and Sirte) but there must be still hundreds of thousand sane and lucid Libyans alive who understand what they have lost.
The militias reinforced their presence in Bani Walid, a town of around 70,000, in preparation of the second anniversary of the armed insurgency against Gaddafi with another motorized unit of 35 vehicles, aiding the brigade that was already occupying the city. The militias have set up a headquarter of their operations at the Bani Walid airport.
The Jordan Times reports today again deadly clashes in Bani Walid, the continuous shelling of the town by militias, and the sending of reinforcement from Misrata.
It has to be mentioned in this content, that Misrata was enraged by the death of rebel Omran Shaban after two months in detention in Bani Walid. He was the most famous rebel from Misrata and he was the man who found Colonel Muammar Gaddafi hiding in a drain pipe in Sirte on October 20, 2011. The ruling national congress gave Bani Walid a deadline to hand over those who abducted Shaban and who are suspected of torturing him to death.
A leaflet circulating in Tripoli calls for a “popular revolt” and a civil disobedience movement to bring down the current regime. It encourages Libyans to stock up with food and fuel in anticipation of what it says will be a complete shutdown of the country.
It is unclear who is behind the leaflet and the calls for protests but officials of the new regime and Islamic groups accuse Gaddafi supporters of fomenting protests to sow disorder and instability.
Even in Benghazi — cradle of the NATO aided rebellion — calls for protests have been relayed on social networks by federalists and various civil society groups and Mohamed al-Mufti, a prominent Gaddafi dissident and former political prisoner stated: “The calls to demonstrate are justified because of several accumulated problems, such as inflation, the high cost of living, and high unemployment among the youth.”
Several thousand people turned up in Benghazi’s Tahrir on February 15, the second anniversary of the rebellion, but the mood was not celebratory at all. Speakers called for greater economic investment in the city and warned General National Congress President Mohamed Magarief that if he did not heed their demands he would be dismissed. They also demanded better security for the city, calling for the Chief of Staff, Yousef Mangoush, to be sacked.
At the same day a bomb was thrown at the car of Ahmed Al-Araq, who commanded a revolutionary brigade in the city during 2011. Araq had received a number of death threats on his cell phone in recent days.
Araq survived, but assassination attempts are frequent and many succeed.
Few foreigners have stayed in Benghazi, which was the starting point of the NATO controlled insurrection but is now the center of violence against foreign business representatives, international organizations (NGOs), and diplomats, as exemplified by the killing of US Ambassador Christopher Stevens and a recent gun attack on the Italian consul.
Ansar al-Shariah, the militia responsible for the killing of four US diplomats, is still strong and even growing, it carries a powerful appeal to unemployed youth. There are also groups of radicals entrenched in other towns, like Derna east of Benghazi.
Most Western governments have issued travel advisories and have urged their citizens to avoid visits to Libya or to leave Libya as soon as possible. Lufthansa and Austrian Airlines have suspended all flights to Libya for five days.
Already last year the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) had to suspend its activities in eastern and central Libya after its offices in Benghazi and Misrata were attacked. The UN headquarters in Tripoli was attacked by hand grenades, it is empty though, the UN staff has left already in 2011. Even the Central Tripoli Hospita came under fire occasionally as militiamen attacked each other.
Western and Arab diplomates unveiled a security plan in Paris on February 12, calling for European experts to train security forces and rebuild the military in new training installations inside Libya, including a two-year EU border security training program using civilian contractors. This plan shall allow to dismantle the dysfunctional, militia-dominated Supreme Security Committee and the unappropriately called “Libya Shield Force.”
That alone is surely not sufficient and therefore a few days ago arms and troops from Italy and Qatar have arrived at Tripoli’s Al Njela seaport, while US think tanks like the RAND corporation call for a permanent NATO mission to secure the survival of the National Transitional Council.
The Jamahiriya Green Resistance professes confidence on various blogs and social media accounts and constantly reports successful eliminations of NATO-rats (the summary labeling for militia members and officials of the NTC). Though it may be right, that Gaddafi-followers have more popular support than the mass media is allowed to acknowledge (a fact that should allow them to fight a prolonged guerilla campaign), the NATO/Qatar/UAE coalition will never permit a reinstatement of the old order and will rather destroy everything what is still left intact.
Though I would love to be wrong, at the moment it seems unlikely that Libya in the foreseeable future can become anything else than either a failed state or a NATO/Qatar/UAE protectorate.
Libya is of course a harrowing example of what will be the fate of Syria if it cannot fend off the NATO/GCC funded terrorists. While in recent weeks it looked like the Syrian Army has regained the initiative and is cleansing more and more areas from FSA gangs, the terrorists have responded with a strategy of systematically destroying infrastructure installations like electricity lines, transformer stations, water pipes, sewage treatment plants, and factories for essential goods.
The war of attrition is continuing and the West is in no mood to concede defeat.
The NY Times on February 18 laments, that: “Despite an American program of nonlethal assistance to the opponents of the Syrian government and $365 million in humanitarian aid, Mr. Obama appears to be running out of ways to speed Mr. Assad’s exit.” And explains the predicament, that weapons for the Syrian rebels could be used “against Israel, against American interests.” The NY Times concludes: “Against all that, however, is the grim reality that Mr. Assad seems no closer to leaving than he did months ago. For all of Mr. Obama’s deep reservations, the White House says it is taking no options off the table.”
Facing a rogue superpower which will stop at nothing and which is not restricted by any ethical considerations or notions like decency, responsibility, and compassion, the only thing, what the conscientious and sane people of the world can do is to make the population aware of what is really going on and mobilize public opinion in Western countries.
The courageous ones could also try to drop out, obstruct, disobey, throw a wrench and thereby make it more difficult for the Western powers to finish the job in Syria in the same way as it was done in Libya.