What has become of Libya? Nine years ago, NATO launched a military offensive that destroyed the country. A country now without a state.
Before 2011, Libya was the most prosperous country in Africa. Today basic supplies are in short supply and water and electricity are lacking.
In the past eight months, oil production, a primary resource, diminished by 90% and there is a shortage of petrol.
Before NATO intervened, it was a destination for immigrants. It is now a country where people emigrate.
Due to the grave crisis instigated by the war, hundreds of thousands of Libyans and African migrants left the country to start a new life mainly in Europe. Politically, the situation is equally dramatic. Libya is divided. There is a transitional parliament and government – required by the UN – based in Tripoli. There is also a parallel parliament in Tobruk, Cyrenaica, a region under the control of a military junta, the self-proclaimed Libya National Army (LNA).
General Khalifa Haftar, the founder of the LNA, was a comrade of Gadhafi in the military revolt of 1969 that brought down the pro-western monarchy of al-Sanusi. He later became a CIA collaborator (and an American citizen). In 2011, he returned to Bengasi, the city where the so-called February 17 evolution took place.
Today, Haftar controls Cyrenaica and part of the region of Fezzan. Most importantly, he took over a large part of the oil sites of Libya, while the government headed by Fayez al-Sarraj, controlled by the Muslim Brotherhood movement, is confined to Tripolitania.
Let us see the conditions of these two poles. Supporting the government of al-Sarraj are Turkey, Qatar, and Iran, while it has the direct support of the governments of Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. France and Germany also lend some support.
The United States, instead, has one foot in each camp. No matter who wins this conflict, they will carry out the wishes of Washington. Nevertheless, the failure of Haftar to conquer Tripoli is changing the situation in Cyrenaica. There is ongoing political conflict between Haftar and the parliament in Tobruk.
An ally of his, Aguila Saleh Issa, president of the Tobruk Parliament, some months ago presented an inclusive opening the way for dialogue with the government of Tripoli, something that the head of the LNA has always refused to do. Indeed, at the end of April, Haftar proclaimed himself head of state and declared null and void both parliaments and the government of al-Sarraj. This move proved disastrous after the military defeat in June.
NATO is following these new developments with interest and is thinking of collaborating with the government of Tripoli, as recently affirmed by NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg. This ought to be seen from an anti-Russia perspective. Turkey was the architect of the defeat of Haftar. The move by NATO seems to be a gesture of approach to Ankara, in the hope of distancing it from Moscow whose government is becoming increasingly present on the Libyan scene. Western governments fear that the Russian experience of gains in Syria may be repeated in Libya. In the meantime, the real flesh and blood victims of this geopolitical war are the Libyans themselves.
Mostafa El Ayoubi