By Giancarlo Elia Valori*
Are we sure we have so far well-interpreted Libya’s scenario, its strategic balances and the nature of our real interests in that complex system? Are we confident that the goal of a mature foreign policy is to be deceived by the first who comes by, when he babbles words he does not know, such as “democracy” and “freedom”?
Finally, are we sure that – at cultural level – our lifestyles can be exported and fully turned – without residues – into social, religious and anthropological contexts completely different from the European or Western ones?
I am afraid not.
Unlike contemporary linguistics, in political cultures the so-called “Sapir-Whorf” hypothesis – also known as the principle of linguistic relativity – applies, whereby the grammatical structure of a language affects and even changes the very structure of thought.
The West, but especially France and Great Britain, which more than others had referred to the principles of a “humanitarian war” against the so-called tyrant Muammar al-Minyar Gaddafi, disappeared immediately after the establishment of the National Transitional Council in August 2011 and the killing of the “tyrant” on October 20, 2011.
Geopolitics in the Brothers Grimm’s style of fairy tales, with the bad guy who gets the end he deserves.
Geopolitics for small talk during the afternoon tea, where the profile of the latest villain is sketched, with some shivers down the back because, as the poet Sylvia Plath wrote, “Every woman adores a Fascist / The boot in the face, the brute / Brute heart / of a brute like you”.
Hence moralistic and naive geopolitics, deprived of any analysis of the objective nature of the forces on the ground and unable to understand how, for instance, Libya’s destabilization would also cause the end of Tunisia, Algeria and Egypt.
It was obvious that the end of a soundly authoritarian regime would favour the jihad, but this obvious possibility was never considered by anyone.
Today we are making the same mistake by favouring the now hypothetical regime of Fajez al-Sarraj.
A government that, while al-Sarraj is on travel, appoints a Chief of the intelligence, who is notoriously close to General Haftar.
A government whose Presidential Council, of which al-Sarraj is member, is headquartered in the base of Abu Sittah, near Tripoli.
And it does not dare to set foot outside the door..
It is true, however, that the Government of National Accord, established on the basis of the Political Agreement for Libya brokered by the United Nations on December 17, 2015, finds its democratic justification precisely in the House of Representatives – the now de facto autonomous rival government of the East. In between, however, there is precisely General Khalifa Haftar with his “Operation Dignity”, who seems to be the only armed prophet of the region, apart from the small and increasingly irrelevant factions.
It is the Libyan National Army – namely General Haftar’s creature – that de facto controls the House of Representatives, which should also justify the “democratic” regime of the Presidency in the West, in the hands of a now disarmed al-Sarraj.
Only a madman – outside Libya – could conceive such a delicate and dangerous apparatus, but this crazy man often lives – like a Phantom of the Opera – in the UN corridors in New York.
General Haftar’ strategic aims are now very clear: to eradicate jihadist Islam at least from Eastern Libya; defend borders and the many Egyptian workers present in Cyrenaica; avoid the vast Libyan region being conquered by jihadist forces contrary to the interests of Saudi Arabia and the Arab Emirates that know all too well how powerful the Muslim Brotherhood is in that region, due to ancient ethno-religious traditions.
Al-Sarraj has been recently recommended – by the United Nations and by the even more inept European Union, not to mention the United States – to “reach an inclusive agreement” with Haftar’s forces – an inclusion which is reminiscent of a fox in a henhouse.
On top of it, in Tripoli there is also the National Salvation Government led by Khalifa al-Ghawil.
It was established as a point of reference representing the group of politicians that lost the Libyan elections of June 2014, by later using the armed forces of the “Libya Dawn Coalition”, the Islamist militias operating against al-Sarraj and Haftar during the “second Libyan civil war” of 2014-2016.
In fact “Libya Dawn” militias conquered the Tripoli airport in 2014.
Today we witness the creation of the Libyan National Guard – on the ashes of Libya Dawn (Fajr) – established last February, again in Tripoli.
However, it will not take orders from al-Sarraj’s Government of National Unity and it is composed of armed brigades mostly coming from Misrata.
Hence infiltrations of the Muslim Brotherhood and Ansar Al Sharia are very probable.
In all likelihood, the new armed force still supports Khalifa al-Ghawil, the perpetrator of a recent coup in Tripoli. He is always the primary point of reference for the Muslim Brotherhood, as well as Qatar and Turkey, which have very different prospects on Libya than Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the Arab Emirates.
The more al-Ghawil becomes dangerous, the more his issue is linked to the tensions between the EU and Turkey.
With the crazy overthrow of Gaddafi, we have also given this card to the Islam of “permanent jihad” and “sword jihad”, as well as to the regional Islamic powers in the Middle East.
Italy, the most naive country which knows nothing about the real balances currently existing in Libya, relies only on al-Sarraj to stop or limit the migrant flows from the Libyan coast.
It is just wishful thinking.
Meanwhile, the oil terminals of Sidra and Ras Lanuf have been reconquered by Khalifa Haftar who, after two years, has freed the Benghazi region from the jihadist militias and is heading for Tripoli, his next inevitable target.
The oil areas were taken by forces joining some Qaedist Salafists, the military of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Benghazi Defence Brigades , Misrata militias and the “Petroleum Defence Guards” of Ibrahim Jadhran.
Later the soldiers of old General Haftar came in – the General who was overthrown precisely by Gaddafi, who hold him responsible for the Libyan defeat in Chad.
Both Misrata militias and the Petroleum Defence Guards are loyal – at great cost – to al-Sarraj’s government.
But was it not al-Sarraj’s GNA supposed to be the “secular government” so much liked by the United Nations and the Europeans?
Jadhran, however, wants greater autonomy for Libya’s Eastern oil provinces. He opposes the Muslim Brotherhood currently de facto in power in Tripoli and, with his “Petroleum Defence Guards” – approximately 17,500 units -he controls the region and sometimes also other parts of Libya.
Today, however, this structure is in disarray but – apart from Haftar’s forces – in some regions, the oil areas are still held by the old groups of Jadhran, who is an ever more listless ally of al-Sarraj.
It is worth recalling that the Parliament of Eastern Libya supports the end of a united Libyan National Oil Corporation.
Furthermore, in Tripoli, al-Ghawil’s National Salvation Government, known as “the Tripoli-based Parliament”, bases its tenuous legitimacy on the General National Congress, which dates back to the old 2012 Libyan Parliament.
Most of the General National Congress members are also members of the Council of State, a body recognized by the Libyan Political Agreement brokered and managed, at the time, by the UN finest spirits.
A political area that recognized itself especially in the “Libya Dawn”, as well as in Misrata militias, now basically in favour of al-Sarraj, and in the five local Western Libyan militias.
Finally, in Tobruk – or rather in Al Bayda – there is also Al-Thinni’s government, in place since March 2014, that is direct heir to the transitional government elected immediately after Gaddafi’s fall, which should transfer its powers to al-Sarraj’s GNA.
We will wait for a long time.
Furthermore, apart from the forces of the Syrian-Iraqi Caliphate in Sirte, fought and eradicated at first by the militias linked to al-Sarraj and later by Haftar’s forces, the jihadist brigades not directly related to Al Baghdadi’s Caliphate are operating in Libya.
It is the Shura Council of Benghazi Revolutionaries, which was created by joining several jihadist militias just to counter Haftar’s ”Operation Dignity”. Then we have Ansar al-Sharia, whose Benghazi faction has merged with the above stated “Shura Council” and operates with militants who fought in Syria and Iraq throughout the Libyan territory.
Moreover there are the February 17th Brigade Martyrs Brigade; the Rafallah al-Sahati Brigade; the Shura Council of the Mujahideen in Derna; the Ajdabiya Revolutionaries Shura Council, in North-East Libya; the Tripoli Revolutionaries Brigade, the Tripoli Special Deterrence Force and the Libya Shield 1.
Now nearly all of these groups have their headquarters and operate in Western Libya, in Tripoli or in Misrata.
As early as 2011 Ansar al-Sharia, which was already operational immediately before Gaddafi’s fall, has organized training camps for foreign fighters, mainly Tunisians and Egyptians.
Under these conditions the war feeds itself: the more a group is fierce and organized, the more it can handle extortions, robberies, kidnappings and blackmails.
Meanwhile “Operation Dignity” is in crisis because the Libyan National Bank does not abide by the agreement to provide 40% of the oil proceeds to the Benghazi government, while the 60% payments to the Tripoli government are still vague and labile.
The separation of the National Oil Corporation (NOC) is in the air and, with said separation, we will have the stabilization ab aeterno of the Libyan chaos.
The worst case scenario for us.
Moreover, the city of Misrata is largely supported by the funding of Qatar, Turkey and Sudan.
For both sides it is a thorn in the flesh for the new Libyan State’s unity.
At the time, only a perfect idiot could create such a geopolitical situation. We found him – indeed, we found many of them.
What could be the solution? Support to Khalifa Haftar’s ‘”Operation Dignity”, also to avoid the General falling into the hands of the Russian Federation, which could aspire to two military bases in Cyrenaica. Moreover, Haftar is the only one having the design of a United Libya, of a non-Islamist State and of a correlation of forces not alien to the stability of the rest of the Maghreb region, which depends directly on the Libyan crisis.
The “disarmed prophets”, as always happened in the history of Western political thinking, must be abandoned to their fate.
About the author:
*Professor Giancarlo Elia Valori is an eminent Italian economist and businessman. He holds prestigious academic distinctions and national orders. Mr Valori has lectured on international affairs and economics at the world’s leading universities such as Peking University, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Yeshiva University in New York. He currently chairs “La Centrale Finanziaria Generale Spa”, he is also the honorary president of Huawei Italy, economic adviser to the Chinese giant HNA Group and member of the Ayan-Holding Board. In 1992 he was appointed Officier de la Légion d’Honneur de la République Francaise, with this motivation: “A man who can see across borders to understand the world” and in 2002 he received the title of “Honorable” of the Académie des Sciences de l’Institut de France.
This article was published by Modern Diplomacy