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Does Anybody Remember Libya?

Four years after the Libyan state was smashed by US and European air forces and Western-backed rebels, the country is no closer to stability

This post first appeared on Russia Insider

This article originally appeared at Neo Presse. Translated from the German by Boris Jaruselski

After the toppling and the death of the dictator Muammar al-Ghaddfi, after the bombing mainly by the French and US air forces, and after a short flush of victory, the country descended into a still ongoing and bloody civil war. To maintain an overview of the parties involved in the fighting, is hard even for seasoned observers.

“To all intents and purposes, there is practically no more state in Libya”, according to the head of the commission of the African Union, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. On one side, there is the government of Abdullah Thenni, who resigned in August, and a transitional president Aguila Saleh Issa, with the government seat in Tobruk, who controls further regions in the east. 

On the other side, there is Islamic opposition government of the former president Nuri Buhsamein and the prime minister Khalifa al-ghawi, who have their seat in Triopolis. In the far west of the country, Tuareg tribes are ruling, who are in alliance with the national congress of Buhsamein. Many militias and other interest groups dispersed across the country, are in between. The city of Syrte and the surrounding areas, are in the hands of the “Islamic State” and the Salafi Ansar-Al-Sharia militia. IS declared a Emirate in Libya in autumn last year, and goes on warring against both government sides, while having strongly fortified their reign of terror in Syrte.

Most of the crude wells and fields, are controlled and held by the government in Tobruk, the Alliance of National Forces. The military subsidiary are militia's and brigades, the National Libyan Army, armed forces of the United Arab Emirates and the Egyptian Air Force. And then there is support from Russia, Belorussia and Saudi Arabia. The opposition government, seated in Tripolis, employs troops of the Libyan Army, a conglomerate of diverse militias, the influential milita “Libya Dawn”, which among other areas, also controls the important port city of Misurata, the Muslim Brotherhood and numerous Berber and Tuareg tribes. These are supported by Turkey, the Sudan, Qatar and the Ukraine. Egyptian engaging and intervening has foreign policy backgrounds, as Egypt is keen on limiting the expansion of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Islamic State, so as to prevent a “two fronted war”. Russia's and Belorussia's interests are primarily economical in nature, as even the conflict, this region was a good market for weapons and ammunition.

The Turkish government of Recep Erdogan has ever since the Arab Spring been a active supporter of Islamic movements, which is the case for Qatar and the Sudan. The role played by the Ukraine, is very murky, but could as well be based on economics. It is getting increasingly harder to obtain reliable information, due to such a construct of forces and a very confusing situation. It is estimated, that approximately 450000 people are displaced internally and about 1 million have left the country and gone into Tunisia. Since the country is viewed as a “hub” for refugees going towards Europe across the Mediterranean, another 250000 are in the country, so that the relief organizations and the UN are estimating about 2 million people, who need humanitarian support. Since February this year, there are increased efforts by the UN towards a peace plan.

The efforts are geared towards achieving and unity government and stabilizing the country in this way. This solution is particularly fostered by the US, Great Britain, France, Italy and Germany. Moral obligations and the implementing of the desired peace plan is laudable and a pious wish, but the realities on the ground are different. Because of the ongoing negotiations, the Islamic State is capitalizing on the favours of the present and is reinforcing it's status in the region. It isn't without sound reason, that the Italian Forein Minister Paolo Gentiloni is warning of “new Somalia”, while the British Ambassador in Libya, Peter Millet, is demanding another western military alliance, which is to carry out air strikes against IS. That way, the spiral of the civil war, foreign interventions, and continuing violence and the suffering, is extended and extended again.

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