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A case of failure - Richard Galustian

A former distinguished US State Department official who has now switched jobs to work for the United Nations, Jeffrey Feltman, as under-secretary general for political affairs, arrived in Tripoli this week.

His visit came as the UN’s efforts to implement the Libyan Political Agreement (LPA) continue to face political deadlock with justifiable fears from the UN that their efforts look likely to fall apart.

Given the decades Feltman spent in the State Department, he will no doubt be perceived by the Libyans to be speaking for the US as well as the UN.

It first must be said that Libya is a prime example of the failure of US and Western interventionist foreign policy. The US, European Union and the UN would be doing everyone a favour if it kept its noses out of Libyan business.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian visited Libya just before Christmas in a continuing futile attempt to impose a forced marriage between UN-selected and backed Fayez Serraj and the head of the Libyan National Army (LNA), Field Marshall Khalifa Haftar.

An absolute impossibility.

The current situation in Libya shows that the Libyan Political Agreement processes that the UN, fronted most recently by France, tried to implement since its signing two years ago cannot be accepted.

Now here comes Feltman to repeat Le Drain’s pitch.

The fact is the LNA and Haftar controls almost all the oil in Libya and the majority of the country’s territory. Whereas Serraj is unable to move beyond the small naval base situated by the sea in Tripoli, heavily protected by paid militias.

Following Le Drian’s meeting in Tripoli with Serraj just before Christmas, Le Drian flew to Benghazi for a meeting with Haftar.

Le Drian, the UN or Western powers still fail to understand the LPA is rejected by all including the Libyan people.

Haftar appears to be the best man for the job, to bring stability to Libya, supported by Libyans

The east Libyans still believe international support is given to the Muslim Brotherhood Party and its members, something Haftar vehemently opposes and always will.

Further, let’s be even clearer.

Haftar announced in late December that the Libyan Political Agreement “expired” two years after the Libyan political parties signed it.

Haftar said this in a televised speech to the nation: “As of December 17, 2017, the so-called political agreement expired. Therefore, all bodies resulting from this agreement automatically lost their legitimacy, which is questioned since day one.”

Why the UN persists with this fantasy of the LPA is beyond logic.

Facilitated by Haftar, the UAE is preparing to intervene even more in Libya via the Al Khadim air base in East Libya. Al Khadim AFB, which is effectively owned by the UAE, and located in Al Marj province near where Haftar’s main HQ is, has recently added to it a new large parking area and a number of aircraft shelters that will accommodate a variety of UAE aircraft.

Haftar appears to be the best man for the job, to bring stability to Libya, supported by Libyans not foreigners with the exception of benign mediation assistance by Russia, as requested on January 6 by the speaker of the Tobruk-based parliament.

“We see that Russia’s role assists in the reconciliation between the Libyans,” Aguila Saleh Issa said.

Having declared that Haftar seems a potential choice for president, he has made some errors of judgement; an example is elevating his sons to senior military ranks neither of whom have any history of military training.

This is a very unpopular mistake. Such nepotism could cost him the presidency.

A potential further mistake for his political ambitions, given the prominent role women traditionally have taken in Libyan civil society and politics, is a report the other day by a French reporter from Le Figaro who wrote of his recent trip to Benghazi describing being escorted by LNA officers.

The reporter called it “the city of men” and claims women are “almost invisible” there. The reporter said that his LNA escorts were Saudi-influenced Salafists who forbade him to take any photographs of women if seen.

This strategic alliance Haftar made with Saudi could end Haftar’s political plans for good. These developments will unfold over the coming months and Libya’s and Haftar’s future should be understood by spring.

The imminent issue is: who is the man that can secure Libya internally and stop millions of migrants, mostly economic ones, from destroying European life as we have known it?

Is it Haftar or the UN selected Serraj?

The UN, US and EU, as stated at the beginning of this piece must stop interfering.

Richard Galustian is a political and security advisor based in MENA countries for nearly 40 years.

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