Why Is Tripoli Imposing Economic Blockade On The East? – OpEd


The Tripoli centre is imposing a siege politically, supporting every legitimacy that comes through Parliament, but not militarily supporting Fathi Bashagha. Indeed, now that the clashes have taken place and ended, they have already proven that the army was not a party to the military operation and that the National Army deals with the Fathi Bashagha government independently — meaning that it does not interfere in matters of state management in areas controlled by the armed forces, as evidenced by, for example, these statements that issue a demand for municipalities not to deal with the national unity government. 

While the government of Abdul Hamid Dbeibeh has a power represented in the Central Bank of Libya and funds under the government of Dbeibeh, including the region, whether in the eastern or southern regions, a large part of it deals administratively with the government of Fathi Bashagha, but on the other hand, the government does not have the required capabilities to provide these municipalities with resources to perform services.

The Libyan Civil War is an ongoing struggle between four organisations seeking to control Libya after the revolution in 2011, most notably the presence of armed groups like ISIS and the Muslim Brotherhood outside the control of the government and another controller, the first “Libyan Government” and based in the eastern city of Benghazi, which got the internationally recognised government emanating from the House of Representatives, intensified in 2014 and took the city of Tobruk as its temporary headquarters. This government, known as the “Libyan Salvation Government”, is led by the Muslim Brotherhood and backed by Qatar and Turkey.

The second government is under the leadership of Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, who has the support of Egypt and the United Arab Emirates. Those internal political blocs affected Libya, and the United Nations facilitated a series of negotiations between the two rival governments. In 2016, a meeting between the two governments was held at Auberge de Castile in Valletta, Malta, which resulted in the signing of an UN-backed peace agreement in Skhirat, Morocco. In 2017, General Khalifa Haftar declared the Skhirat agreement “null”, and in April 2019, Haftar launched a military attack on the Libyan capital, Tripoli, which is under the control of Libya. The Government of National Accord led to the Libya Summit in Berlin, Germany on January 19, 2020.

In 2019, Ghassan Salame, head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya, proposed a plan that included a truce, an international meeting of the countries involved in the conflict, and another internal meeting, but the plan was not implemented. Then the Berlin Conference in 2020 adopted a ceasefire resolution as a result of Haftar’s forces’ attacks on Abu Qurain, in violation of the ceasefire . The Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement, “The losses of the Libyan conflict by the year 2025 will be worth a trillion dollars, and the West is responsible for this conflict.” And that the material losses are a result of US military interventions and Washington’s allies in NATO.

While Russia was the main supporter of the increase in war and conflict in Libya through a military intervention led by mercenaries to achieve more than strategic goals in the region, it is true that relations between Russia and Libya date back to the end of World War II. First: At the Potsdam Conference, Joseph Stalin tried to agree on a Russian mandate over Tripoli Governorate, Libya. Second: After his coup in 1969, Moscow supported Muammar Gaddafi with extensive military aid. 

Third, Putin assumed the relations declined due to the period of NATO’s reduced Russian influence in 2011 through its intervention and waging war. After that, the opportunity came for Russia when Libyan officer Khalifa Haftar assumed the military leadership in 2014. Moscow saw him as a suitable partner to ensure its interests in Libya.

The United Nations Regional Institute for Crime and Justice Research, in partnership with the European Union, revealed the study under the title “Illicit Financial Flows and Asset Recovery in the State of Libya”, estimating the average annual loss at $1.2 billion. It is represented by the migrant smuggling mafia, which generates approximately 236 million dollars. These activities generate annual revenues estimated at 450 million to 765 million dollars, of which 89 million to 236 million dollars are in Libya alone.

About $30 million worth of arms smuggling with the Libyan armed groups engaged in smuggling and consisting mainly of small arms and light weapons, with the limited lack of effective control over the vast desert lands in Libya, which contributed to creating a haven for arms smuggling, while the value of the Libyan arms trade in the period after the late leader Muammar Gaddafi was about 15 million to 30 million dollars annually.

Smuggling drugs from Italy and India with the increasing spread of tramadol and other prescription drugs, which are smuggled from abroad through ports, Italy is an important transit point for the Italian mafia and for groups from India and Sri Lanka.

Oil smuggling accounts for 20% of the militia’s income, and quantities estimated at between $750 million and $1 billion of Libyan oil are smuggled into Malta every year. In 2017, Italian police discovered a group that was smuggling fuel with an Italian mafia network, and at least 30 million euros worth of diesel was sold at European gas stations.

Transfers outside the control of the Central Bank by 10% are carried out through illegal means through money laundering operations and the issuance of false invoices for foreign trade transactions. This makes it difficult for the government to monitor money transfers by migrant workers.

Remittances from ISIS in Libya: The most serious issue of remittances, which is represented by sources of terrorist financing, is that the organisation receives ten million dollars in revenue per month.

Finally, peace in Libya will lead to significant economic gains, amounting to 162 billion dollars, according to the study by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) entitled “Peace in Libya: Benefits for Neighboring Countries and the World.” The study stresses “the importance of a rise in economic growth rates, an increase in investments, and job creation within Libya.”

Prof. Miral Sabry AlAshry

Prof. Miral Sabry AlAshry is Co-lead for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) at the Centre for Freedom of the Media, the Department of Journalism Studies at the University of Sheffield.

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