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Abandoning Libya Is A Mistake – OpEd

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By Linda S. Heard

The self-assigned capital of Daesh, Raqqa, is being pounded from the air, forcing fighters to send their families across the border to Mosul for safety. For the West, the Paris attacks have been a game changer.

Now that Daesh commanders have seen the writing on the wall, they are turning their attention to lawless Libya attempting to consolidate a new nest in the city of Sirte, Muammar Qaddafi’s birthplace.

Sirte is fast becoming a springboard to attack neighboring states and a gateway to a crescent of coveted coastal oil fields and refineries; more prized than ever when the group’s oil revenues are dwindling due to US and Russian attacks on its oil convoys in Syria.

Why wouldn’t they relocate to Libya when major powers that patted themselves on the back for liberating the country have since left it to fester, despite appeals for help from its internationally recognized government in Tobruk?

While it’s true that the United Nations has worked to bring the political sides together, a move that only led to reconciliation on paper, anarchy continues to reign transforming this once wealthy Arab country where its citizens enjoyed peace and plenty into an impoverished failed state.

Even if political reconciliation had succeeded, the armed militias and terrorists would still have had to be dealt with. Daesh has been regrouping in Libya for some time, posing a serious threat to Tunisia that has suffered several attacks on its nationals and tourists, as well as Egypt that shares a long porous border with Libya. It’s beyond belief that subsequent to the group’s beheading of Coptic Christians, provoking Cairo to launch airstrikes against the perpetrators, Egypt was slammed by the Obama administration that’s also refusing calls from the Libyan government to lift the arms embargo.

That makes no sense at all when terrorists have no trouble at all importing heavy weapons when Libya’s coastlines aren’t being sufficiently patrolled. Worse, US plans to train an 8,000-strong Libyan force were shredded last year because the country is bereft of an effective, unified government. Hasn’t Iraq taught Obama anything at all?

The Egyptian president has since called upon NATO to “help the Libyan people and the Libyan economy” by stopping “the flow of funds and weapons” to terrorists. “Libya is “a danger that threatens all of us,” he warned early last month. But for some unfathomable reason, nobody is listening.

This is exactly the same scenario that unfolded in Iraq, where Daesh shocked the region by the ease with which it captured Mosul. Instead of standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the Al-Maliki government in an emergency, despite its incompetence and sectarian bias, US inaction permitted Daesh to expand and flourish. Syria is almost a mirror image.

The US-led coalition blames the Assad regime for the rise of Daesh there on the grounds of its brutality, but could they have grabbed half of Syria if President Obama hadn’t stepped back from his own “red line” or, at the very least, waged his anti-Daesh campaign with vigor before Russia entered the fray?

A few days ago, the European Union sealed a deal with Turkey to prevent refugees crossing the Mediterranean en route to Greece in return for a $3.2 billion payout plus the carrot of visa-free travel for Turks throughout the Schengen area as well as the fast tracking of stalled negotiations on Turkey’s membership of the Union.

If Ankara sticks to its side of the bargain, refugees flooding into Europe will dramatically reduce, but they will find other routes and one of those is likely to be Libya, which is just 290 miles away from the island of Lampedusa, Italy’s most southernmost tip. Should Daesh grows in strength in Libya terrorizing the population, you can bet there’ll by not only sub-Saharan Africans fleeing poverty on those rickety vessels but also Libyans seeking safety.

In the meantime, Daesh is following a “have weapons will travel” policy. It’s metastasizing throughout the Middle East and North Africa and has cells in many European countries awaiting orders to strike. What will it take for the international community to be galvanized into taking action wherever this cancer spreads?

Arab News

Arab News

Arab News is Saudi Arabia's first English-language newspaper. It was founded in 1975 by Hisham and Mohammed Ali Hafiz. Today, it is one of 29 publications produced by Saudi Research & Publishing Company (SRPC), a subsidiary of Saudi Research & Marketing Group (SRMG).

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