Libya might be on the brink of a civil war. With an escalating conflict brought about by a military strongman and a self-imposed leader Khalifa Haftar, who was once a commander under Gaddafi. Since the regime of Muammar Gaddafi ended in 2011, a number of military commanders have been competing to rule over Libya. A significant amount of territory in the east has been under the control of Khalifa Haftar ‘s National Army. In recent days, the capital city of Tripoli has been under assault by Haftar’s army. The airstrikes resulted in a number of casualties of over 1,000 wounded children and civilians and more than 250 reported deaths and has forced more than 25,000 to flee, according to the UN.
Reports say that a telephone call was made to Haftar by Trump. The conversation between the US president and Haftar is aimed to recognize their shared vision of transforming Libya into a stable democratic form of government. Securing oil resources and combating terrorism was also discussed on the said call. Weeks after the attack the United States president, through his advisors ordered the immediate ceasefire of the attack for reasons of endangering Libyan civilians.
Over the years, Libya’s small town such as Sirte and Derna including a large town of Benghazi suffered from myriads of destructions of infrastructure and human rights in the hands of terrorists wanting to be in control. Haftar’s creation of militia alliances is supported by Egypt, Saudi Arabia, UAE and Russia as evidenced by his troop’s sophisticated military equipment. Tripoli is led by UN supported Prime Minister Fayez Al-Sarraj, who is constantly accused of being supported by foreign powers. He has no military which is why he uses the local militias and has barely any power over Tripoli let alone the whole country. He is backed by the European Union, Qatar and, Turkey. Countries are taking sides because Libya’s ports are sensitive and strategic, serving many of the migrants who end up in Europe. Libya also has the biggest oil reserves in all of Africa, enough to influence global prices.
UN security council’s ceasefire agreement was not signed by Moscow nor Washington. Which indicates that Trump might be ready to ally with Russia, UAE, Saudi Arabia and, Egypt instead of the UN. Haftar is gaining support because of his conviction of driving terrorism out of Libya. The National Army under Haftar is controlling the eastern and southern regions, giving him more and more power, indicating to Tripoli that if they want a unified Libya, it will have to be under Haftar.
The whole case is awfully confusing and a huge contradiction is that US might be going against the UN backed government in Tripoli, as Trump showed support for Haftar and his advances. Haftar probably does not have a democratic government for Libya in mind. His actions suggest a military dictatorship as the escalation of human rights violations, and the creation of refugees and stronger militias rise. His plan to seize Tripoli will lead to a bloody battle between different international backed militias and severe casualties. But Haftar is determined and supported more than ever. The attacks orchestrated by Haftar’s Libyan National Army is indicative of a similar approach during the Gaddafi regime.
Contrary to the report made regarding the phone call between the US president, democracy is far from Haftar’s mind stressing that Libya is not yet ready, and say hypothetically Libya does become ready for democracy, will this self-imposed general step down to be under the power of another leader? Probably not. The most suffering victims here are Libyans, who have been waiting for a democratic Libya for decades and think of it as the best form of government suited for them. Haftar is a military dictator, most probably a new breed of Muammar Gaddafi. Most Libyans, if not all are opposing and banning a Gaddafi-like mode of leadership and prominent militia commanders are trying to prevent the comeback of Gaddafi’s regime. It seems that Libya is back to square one, and the Libyan dream for a democracy is far from becoming a reality.
Photo credit by Esam Omran Al-Fetori/Reuters.