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Meltdown continues in Libya

The fallout of the continuing meltdown of Libya will be felt hard, particularly in the countries of southern Europe. The Tripoli and western town’s militias are continuing to make hundreds of millions of dollars sending even more tens of thousands of migrants north to the EU.

All changed for the worse over the past days with a number of pronouncements and events, though, reading mainstream media, you would be forgiven for thinking otherwise.

First Britain’s Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond, announced he did not need Parliament to send troops involving the UK in another quagmire that would prove similar to its disastrous involvement in Afghanistan. Within hours, he backtracked on that idea, under pressure from Parliament.

Meanwhile, the UN and the EU have anyway granted international recognition status to the Serraj Government of National Accord (GNA). This will give the UN-appointed GNA control of Libya’s vast foreign assets, estimated at $140 billion.

The saga further continued last Monday night when Libya’s new Prime Minister, Faiez Serraj, addressed via video-conferencing facilities more than 50 of the great and the good: EU foreign and defence ministers gathered at a dinner in Luxembourg,

Despite the fact that the House of Representatives (HOR) in Tobruk had not decided to accept the GNA, illogically the EU’s Federica Mogerini’s reaction to Serraj’s presentation that same evening, perpetuating the charade of his Unity government, was that she had €100 million to give him.

To remind readers, over two weeks ago, Serraj arrived in Tripoli by sea accompanied by no more than seven men, remnants of what should have been a nine-man Presidential Council. And where are the 30 ministers and 60 deputy ministers that constitute the GNA?

Western dignitaries have staged visits to the Libyan capital; a virtual ‘Potemkin village’ show

Plucked from obscurity by the UN, the Tripoli businessman was selected to bring peace to Libya. He is expected to end the war between the Islamist National Salvation government in Tripoli and the elected Parliament HOR. Furthermore, he is supposed to head a united Libyan army crushing both Isis and the migrant-smuggling gangs, the West’s twin Libya headaches. That is, of course, impossible.

To preserve this illusion, western dignitaries staged visits to the Libyan capital; a virtual ‘Potemkin village’ show. They land amid tight security guarded by their own small army and by the few militias who have taken Serraj’s side and his promise of fat pay rises. From there, it is a nervy two-mile dash in armoured vehicles down the coastal highway to the naval base. Once the dignitaries are inside, then there are the all-important photographs showing handshakes before scurrying away again.

Also last Monday, Philip Hammond paid a very short visit to Tripoli’s naval ‘bunker’, as it has become known.

A few days earlier, the Spanish, Italian, French and German foreign ministers completed the sham. Soon after the French and German VIP planes flew away, one militia blew up the home of a politician who had dared object to the new government. Hours later, another militia attacked the Tripoli home of Deputy Prime Minister Designate Ahmed Maiteeg. Neither man was home, wisely staying well clear of this militia-infested city but the second attack saw rival militias bring tanks onto the streets in fighting that spluttered for five hours.

Of Serraj there was no sign. He has spent most of the last few weeks abroad, in Cairo, Istanbul, London and Tunis, anywhere but Libya.

None of this was mentioned in Monday night’s Luxembourg gala dinner. EU leaders maintained the facade and, in fact, enhanced it, promising to send diplomats to Tripoli, a city almost equivalent to Sarajevo of the early 1990s.

Last month, both the EU and the UN threatened sanctions – asset freeze and travel bans – on ‘spoilers’, men daring to object to the Serraj government. One, Abdul Rahman Swehli, caved in quickly to EU pressure and was rewarded by being anointed as ‘President’ of the so-called State Council. Other ‘spoilers’, including Khalifa Haftar, can expect the same despite the fact the general has almost won the battles for Benghazi, Sirte and Derna against extremists.

Only one man has so far been named to the new list under President Barack Obama’s executive sanctions order against ‘spoiler’ Libyans and that is Khalifa al-Ghweil, the leader of the Islamist Tripoli government. No doubt, more will be added. The US executive order will be implemented by the UN not the EU.

Unless the HOR’s Ageela Saleh is also intimidated sufficiently by the UN to say yes soon to Serraj’s phantom GNA government, he could be next on the list. He is already sanctioned by the EU.

The UN’s Martin Kobler made Salah an offer, which, in Don Corleone’s words, he can’t refuse!

But even if the HOR does accept the GNA, which they allegedly did the other day, that still will not bring peace to Libya but only the facade of there being a unity government. Both Libya’s rival eastern and western central banks have announced plans to print their own new currency and export separately their own oil.

I predict a country that will split.

Richard Galustian is a security analyst.

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