New escalation in Libya's civil war

The militia forces led by General Khalifa Haftar, which control large swathes of Libya, are now advancing on the capital Tripoli, where the internationally recognised government of Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj is based. A UN Security Council resolution calling for a halt to the attacks was blocked by Russia. What repercussions could the developments in Libya have?

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Dserkalo Tyschnja (UA) /

The international community is powerless

The escalation in the fighting around Tripoli says a lot about the state the world is in, writes political scientist Mykola Samikula in Dzerkalo Tyzhnia:

“The situation around the Libyan capital shows clearly just how serious a crisis the international community now finds itself in. The inability of the international institutions and Western democracies to prevent an escalation through diplomatic means poses a serious challenge. The instruments at their disposal are inadequate for ending the conflict. As a result, other states that are currently seeking a different balance of power are taking advantage of the situation. A return to a military dictatorship supported by authoritarian regimes outside the country looks increasingly likely.”

Jyllands-Posten (DK) /

Paris putting the EU in a difficult situation

Jyllands-Posten criticises France's strategy in Libya as hypocritical:

“When the EU countries jointly called for 'all military operations to cease immediately' and for Haftar 'to withdraw his troops from Tripoli', this was blocked by France. ... France supported Haftar to protect its oil interests in Libya. ... As in most dysfunctional countries a negotiated solution is the only conceivable option but it's impossible if foreign forces actively support the conflicting parties. ... As a consequence of France's hypocritical foreign policy the EU can do nothing in this situation but defend its outer borders as a prerequisite for Schengen cooperation.”

HuffPost Italia (IT) /

Trouble spot on Europe's threshold

The escalation won't go unnoticed in Europe, political scientist Umberto De Giovannangeli predicts in Huffington Post Italia:

“There are around 800,000 migrants in Libya planning to get to Europe via Italy. According to the Italian secret service, the first wave could comprise around 6,000 refugees willing to climb into the rubber boats of the unscrupulous people smugglers. They come from prisons and refugee camps. It's uncertain that the Libyan coast guard will be able to keep the situation in this section of the sea under control. On the other hand it's clear that Tripoli can no longer be regarded as safe today. The secret services stress that groups with direct ties to the IS are still massively present. These groups are determined to take advantage of the chaos.”

Snob (RU) /

Haftar has opponents not only in Tripoli

Even if Haftar takes Tripoli it won't mean the end of the Libyan civil war, political analyst and Islam expert Kirill Semyonov explains in Snob:

“This would make things a little easier for the international community. Because the UN-recognised government in Tripoli doesn't exactly wield much power. ... However, Haftar will hardly be recognised by the city of Misurata, with its 'Misurata Brigade'. That means that he'll have to take this city by force too. And the Berbers won't obey him either. Firstly because Haftar rejects the idea of the Berbers having any right to autonomy, and secondly because the forces allied with Haftar refuse to recognise part of the teachings of Ibadism - a school of Islam that differs from the Shia and Sunni branches. And the Berbers are for the most part Ibadists.”

Právo (CZ) /

From one dictatorship to the next

In the post-dictatorship period Libya has slid into chaos as Europe simply looks on helplessly, Právo sums up:

“With the prospect of another migration crisis it entails, the protracted conflict in Libya is extremely risky for Europe. Even if a political solution isn't reached - which is highly likely - European or European-Arab military intervention seems inconceivable. This means General Haftar will gain control of the country. And in this way after not even ten years the circle closes once more: from one dictator to the next.”

Corriere della Sera (IT) /

Italy will bear the consequences

Italy could face another wave of refugees as a result of the flare-up in fighting in Libya, columnist Goffredo Buccini comments in Corriere della Sera:

“Among the many players in this geopolitical game there is one in particular who risks paying a high price: Italy. Since Lampedusa's coastline is less than 400 kilometres away from where the strikes by rickety old planes, the feuds and tribal betrayals, and the incursions of poorly armed and trained gangs are taking place, we should perhaps be the ones paying most attention. Because the only thing that is sure in this staged guerilla warfare is destabilisation. And we will be the ones who face the most serious consequences of new instability in Libya.”

Asharq Al-Awsat (SA) /

The General can put an end to the chaos

Regional and international powers are secretly supporting General Haftar's plans, the Saudi newspaper Asharq Al-awsat suspects:

“Although all the governments are calling for a peaceful solution and an end to military operations they wouldn't have a problem if Khalifa Haftar were to spearhead a decisive military solution. The political communiqués from Paris, Washington, Moscow and Cairo don't threaten with sanctions but call for a political solution that everyone knows is not practicable. ... The negotiations with the militias would therefore have failed anyway since they insist on keeping their weapons, the petrol fields and their territories.”

Corriere della Sera (IT) /

Haftar will never submit

The UN wants General Haftar to lead the national army but the supreme command to remain in the hands of a civilian authority. It was just this compromise solution that started the ball rolling, explains geopolitics analyst Franco Venturini in Corriere della Sera:

“The general, who wants to become the new Gaddafi, is supposed to submit to the orders of a civilian, perhaps even al-Sarraj? Never. At the end of March Haftar, who can already count on the support of Egypt and the United Emirates in addition to that of France and Russia, made a short visit to Saudi Arabia, which has long been his real sponsor. This is where he got his resources and back-up. Operation Tripoli could begin. The goal is to make it clear to the UN and the international community that Haftar won't go along with this compromise.”

taz, die tageszeitung (DE) /

France ignoring Europe in Africa

France is mainly to blame for the fact that the EU states are so at odds over how to deal with Libya, taz points out:

“Because France has abandoned the joint position on supporting a political process and is unilaterally backing Haftar and his military solution. ... France sees itself in the Sahara and the Sahelian zone as the number one military peacekeeping power. ... And as always when it comes to Africa, France sees no reason to coordinate its policy in Libya with its other European partners. The EU may provide diplomatic legitimacy and a framework within which other European countries help France to bear the burdens of its engagement, but the engagement itself is to be defined by Paris alone, thank you very much.”

Avvenire (IT) /

He who controls the oil has the power

All sides in this conflict have only one objective, columnist Giorgio Ferrari comments in Avvenire:

“You don't need a crystal ball to see that Haftar wasn't acting on his own initiative. Behind the belligerent behaviour of the Satrap from Kyrenaika is the greed for oil, fuelled by France, but which is basically the real objective of all sides. Ninety percent of Libya's income comes from crude oil and natural gas. These are the largest reserves in Africa and among the top ten in the world. It is the oil reserves in the desert and the pipelines of the Gulf of Sirte which Haftar is trying to bring under his control for good: he who controls the oil controls all Libya.”

NV (UA) /

Why Putin is backing Haftar

It would be in Moscow's interest if Khalifa Haftar took power, Novoya Vremya believes:

“If he won and took power in Libya, Russia would gain a means of exerting strong pressure on the European Union: namely the possibility of controlling the flood of refugees who reach the EU through Libya. If Haftar were to announce that he was opening the borders for everyone who wants to make it to Europe, two-thirds of Africa's population would make their way there. Europe would be ready to make any concession to stem the flow. Enter Putin, with his influence over the Libyan field marshal.”

The Daily Telegraph (GB) /

The price of shortsightedness

The West created a power vacuum with its military operation in 2011, The Daily Telegraph complains:

“The situation is a study in the failures of Western intervention. On the one hand, the Europeans were keen to help remove Muammar Gaddafi - a bloodthirsty dictator who faced a genuine popular revolt. On the other hand, they didn't want to commit to the kind of nation-building tried in Iraq, with its tremendous toll in money and lives. … There is no point in intervention if there is no commitment to a follow-up. ... In future, there has to be a long‑term plan and politicians have to be honest about what it is likely to involve.”