The Wart for Libyan Oil Illustration by Greg Groesch/The Washington Times

At the dawn of the 20th century, America was feeling brash and bold. Having just defeated Spain in a war that ranged from Cuba to the Philippines, it was clear that we were an emerging power. But what was that going to mean?

The 19th century idea of “Manifest Destiny,” which required that, by some sort of divine right, we should rule the Western Hemisphere had faded, but — as the Philippines showed — the temptation of American colonialism was strong.

In that context, John Hay wrote a letter to a friend. Hay began his government career as private secretary to Abraham Lincoln and at the time he wrote the letter was U.S.…  Seguir leyendo »

It’s a “scandal,” according to U.N. Secretary General António Guterres. Many more say it’s a mess. It’s also a critical battlefield for the future of the Arab world, according to engaged capitals.

It’s Libya.

The 2011 international military intervention in Libya was about being on the right side of history, just as the Arab Spring was supposed to bring a new and bright democratic future to the entire region. The Paris of Nicolas Sarkozy, followed by the London of David Cameron, was enthusiastically charging full speed ahead, while the Washington of Barack Obama was relunctantly “leading from behind.” And after half a year of bombing, the bizarre 42-year rule of Col.…  Seguir leyendo »

La doble tragedia de Libia

La situación de Libia, un país rico en petróleo y segmentado tribalmente, se asemeja a la de otros países devastados por la guerra en el Gran Oriente Medio, entre ellos Afganistán, Siria y Yemen. En cada caso, una combinación de luchas internas y de intervención externa desacertada ha sostenido un conflicto que viene de largo.

Al recordar las invasiones lideradas por Estados Unidos de Afganistán (2001) e Irak (2003) en su memoria de 2014 Duty, el ex secretario de Defensa Robert Gates sostenía que Estados Unidos era bueno a la hora de derrocar un régimen, pero que no tenía ni idea de lo que debería ocupar su lugar.…  Seguir leyendo »

Forces loyal to Libya's U.N.-recognized Government of National Accord parade a Pantsir air defense system truck in Tripoli on Wednesday after capturing it at from forces loyal to Libya's eastern-based strongman Khalifa Hifter. (Mahmud Turkia/AFP/Getty Images)

Last month, Field Marshall Khalifa Hifter, commander of the Libyan Arab Armed Forces (LAAF), surprised Libyans on the eve of Ramadan with an address calling on them to reject “all the institutions” established by the 2015 Libyan Political Agreement (LPA).

Four days later he claimed a mandate for military rule. But this has yet to transpire, with Hifter forced into negotiations with civilian counterparts. As his military fortunes have also taken a significant setback, Hifter is now on the defensive on all fronts. The coming weeks may be decisive for his ambitions.

Libya’s government dysfunction continues

The LPA, signed under the auspices of the United Nations in 2015, paved the way for the formation of a unity “Government of National Accord” (GNA) and sought to accommodate rival factions by maintaining the eastern-based House of Representatives as the parliament and the Tripoli-based remnants of the previous parliament as a consultative body.…  Seguir leyendo »

Posters of Field Marshall Khalifa Haftar line the streets of the eastern Libyan city of al-Bayda, where the (unrecognised) interim government in located, November 2018. CRISISGROUP

In a short televised speech late on 27 April, Khalifa Haftar declared that he accepted the people’s “mandate” to scrap the 2015 UN-mediated Libyan Political Agreement (LPA) and empower the General Command of the Arab Libyan Armed Forces (ALAF), the military force he heads, to take charge of the country’s governing institutions.

The LPA gives international recognition to the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord, against which Haftar has waged a deadly war since April 2019. While neither Haftar nor the allied Tobruk-based House of Representatives and its government has recognised the LPA, they have accepted it as the basis for negotiations.…  Seguir leyendo »

Libyan Army soldiers wear masks to protect themselves from the coronavirus during a military operation in Tripoli, on March 25. Credit Amru Salahuddien/Anadolu Agency, via Getty Images

On a recent visit to Libya, I met a family living in an improvised shelter in a displaced persons camp east of Tripoli. One of the tens of thousands Libyan families uprooted by war, the family of seven was living in a room barely 20 paces long and half as wide. A clothesline, a pile of mattresses, a hot plate and the stench of body odor filled the room. Outside, they faced a shortage of potable water and abusive taunts from locals.

The spread of the novel coronavirus will have a devastating effect on the Middle East’s communities of refugees and migrants.…  Seguir leyendo »

Syria’s foreign minister, Walid al-Moallem, meets Libya’s eastern government deputy prime minister, Abdul Rahman al-Ahiresh.

The most recent ally of Khalifa Haftar, the general who has been attacking the Libyan capital Tripoli since April last year, is Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.

This union was formalised last week with the opening of a “Libyan embassy” in Damascus. The alarming partnership has been forged almost completely without comment. What happens with Libya no longer seems to concern anyone. It’s as though the whole conflict has ceased to exist.

Libya is not the Middle East’s forgotten war, it is the ignored war. Having burned for almost five years now, the country has almost entirely collapsed, a situation which minimal political will could have prevented.…  Seguir leyendo »

Qué está en juego en Libia

La actual guerra en Libia es un microcosmos de la tragedia que ha atrapado a muchos países del Medio Oriente. De no resolverse pronto, la lucha en Libia podría sembrar inestabilidad entre los países vecinos, como Túnez y Egipto, y disparar la huida de más oleadas de refugiados hacia Europa.

La crisis libia tiene sus orígenes en una guerra civil entre varios grupos divididos por lealtades tribales y regionales, así como sus creencias ideológicas. Todos se disputan el control de los ingresos que genera el petróleo para el país. Sin embargo, al momento son básicamente dos los frentes del conflicto: el Gobierno de Acuerdo Nacional (Government of National Accord, GNA), reconocido internacionalmente y dominado por islamistas, que aún controla la capital, Trípoli; y la Cámara de Representantes (con sede en Tobruk) junto con el Ejército Nacional Libio (Libyan National Army, LNA), bajo el mando del mariscal de campo Jalifa Hafter.…  Seguir leyendo »

Una asignatura pendiente en Libia

Un Estado fallido. En eso se ha convertido Libia a lo largo de la última década, pasando de protagonizar una de las llamadas “Primaveras Árabes” a sumirse en el invierno más severo. La caída del régimen autoritario de Muamar el Gadafi en 2011 no terminó de traer las mejoras en las condiciones sociales que algunos esperaban, sino que puso a los libios a merced del desgobierno y la miseria. Sin que el mundo haya reparado demasiado en ello, la guerra civil que lleva años hostigando a Libia corre el peligro de hacerse crónica.

La comunidad internacional no puede rehuir sus responsabilidades ante esta trágica deriva.…  Seguir leyendo »

Mahmud Turkia/AFP via Getty Images Fighters loyal to the Government of National Accord, which has been reinforced by Turkish-backed Syrian militia forces, at a lookout post near the front line, Tripoli, Libya, January 12, 2020

At a mud-caked intersection this month, some hundred-and-fifty feet from the front line, a lanky militia fighter approached and then abruptly turned around when he saw me, a Westerner. I’ve been covering Libya’s conflicts for years and noticed some minor but distinctive details about his appearance: a do-rag tied around his head, an olive green tactical vest, and perhaps a certain military bearing. The Libyan commander I was with confirmed it, with a chuckle: “That’s not a Libyan look.”

Fifteen minutes later, I was inside a poured-concrete villa that served as the living quarters for a group of war-hardened Syrian fighters.…  Seguir leyendo »

Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (R) speak as they attend an inauguration ceremony of a new gas pipeline "TurkStream" on 8 January 2020 in Istanbul. AFP/Ozan KOSE

What happened in Moscow? 

On Monday, Russian government officials hosted Libya’s two rival leaders, whose respective military forces have been at war for nine months, in a bid to usher them toward a ceasefire agreement. One is Faiez Serraj, who heads the internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli; the other is Field Marshall Khalifa Haftar, who leads a coalition called the Arab Libyan Armed Forces (ALAF), previously known as the Libyan National Army (LNA). Haftar’s coalition does not recognise the Serraj government, and in April launched an offensive to take control of the Libyan capital. Fighting has killed over 2,000 people, put Tripoli under siege by Haftar’s forces and sucked in several foreign powers.…  Seguir leyendo »

This week, Libyan cease-fire talks brokered by Russia and Turkey addressed the country’s latest bout of conflict, which has claimed more than 2,000 lives and displaced hundreds of thousands of Libyans. Negotiations took place between the Government of National Accord (GNA) and rival Libyan Arab Armed Forces (LAAF).

Russia and Turkey’s involvement represented a change in international engagement with Libya’s conflict, as they asserted their leadership in the political process and attempted to sideline Western countries and the United Nations. It looked as if it was set to pay off. The prime minister of the GNA, Fayez Serraj, agreed to the deal, but commander of the LAAF, Khalifa Hifter, left Moscow without signing.…  Seguir leyendo »

Los críticos del presidente turco Recep Tayyip Erdoğan en el extranjero lo consideran un megalómano cuasidictatorial. Pero ahora Erdoğan (que fue primer ministro de Turquía durante once años antes de ser elegido presidente en 2014) también es un apostador imprudente. Turquía ha comenzado a desplegar tropas en Libia a pedido del Gobierno de Acuerdo Nacional (GAN), que tiene el respaldo de Naciones Unidas y lleva ocho meses rodeado en Trípoli por el avance de las fuerzas del Ejército Nacional Libio (ENL) comandadas por el mariscal Khalifa Haftar.

Será una locura en sentido militar y diplomático. Erdoğan ya tiene al lado de Turquía el perturbador ejemplo del conflicto sirio.…  Seguir leyendo »

Aphrodite rose gracefully out of the waters of the eastern Mediterranean and its Nereids guided sailors in distress. How did this sea, cradle of so many civilisations, end up as a military flashpoint? This year its eastern shores could become Europe’s equivalent of the South China Sea, bristling with great power tension, or a model for co-operation. I would like to believe the latter but it is going to require a leap of faith in the ability of hard-nosed autocrats to give ground and in terrorist groups to show restraint. That’s a stretch.

Let’s start with the positive. The discovery of large undersea hydrocarbon reserves is giving shape to a new regional constellation: Egypt and Cyprus, Israel and Greece.…  Seguir leyendo »

Angela Merkel greets Fayez al-Serraj, prime minister of the Government of National Accord of Libya, in May. Photo: Getty Images.

There has been a stark contrast between messaging coming from the international community and trends on the ground as Libya’s latest bout of civil war enters its eighth month.

Led by Germany, some states have been trying to build consensus for a ceasefire ahead of a summit that is expected to be held in Berlin in the next few months. Today marks the date of one of the final planning meetings for the summit.

The increasing use of drone technology, airstrikes and further influxes of fighters trend points in the opposite direction. Warring groups in Libya continue to receive support from external states, undermining international efforts to de-escalate the conflict.…  Seguir leyendo »

The continued violence between the two local forces competing for power, and their inability to cooperate has locked the conflict in a stalemate that sees no immediate end. In this excerpt from its Watch List 2019 – Second Update, Crisis Group urges the European Union and its member states to work towards an internationally-monitored ceasefire.

Since the outbreak of violence in Tripoli last April, the prospect of a negotiated settlement to end the competition for power in Libya has only grown more remote. The military offensive launched by the Libyan National Army (LNA), which is headed by Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar and based in the east, against forces allied with the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli has thwarted UN-led efforts.…  Seguir leyendo »

On Wednesday at least 44 migrants were killed and more than 130 injured when an airstrike hit a migrant detention center in Tajoura, 10 miles east of Tripoli, the capital of Libya. Hundreds of men, women and children, mostly from African countries, who left their homes for Europe, have been locked up for months — in some cases for years — at the detention center.

The civil war in Libya intensified in early April after Gen. Khalifa Hifter, the leader of eastern Libya militias, ordered his forces to advance on Tripoli, where the country’s internationally backed Government of National Accord is led by Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj.…  Seguir leyendo »

A Muqtada al-Sadr mobile phone cover for sale in a Baghdad market. Photo: Getty Images.

State weakness and protracted conflict continue to plague Iraq and Libya. A breakdown of the unitary state, competition for power and influence, and the absence of a social contract all continue to drive conflict, while allowing a proliferation of local armed groups to flourish.

Yet while such groups in both countries are often viewed solely as security actors, many of them are better considered as ‘hybrid’ networks that also span the political, economic and social spheres. Western policies to mitigate the threats presented by these groups must therefore extend beyond security-based interventions to necessarily inclusive and political approaches focusing on accountability as a route to peace.…  Seguir leyendo »

Khalifa Haftar arrives for a conference in Palermo in November 2018. Photo: Getty Images.

The Libyan Arab Armed Forces (LNA) led by Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar launched an offensive on the Libyan capital, Tripoli, on 3 April.  The offensive soon lost momentum as forces in western Libya nominally-aligned to the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) rallied to prevent the advance of Haftar’s forces. Significant reinforcements have been despatched from across the country, raising the prospect of a protracted period of fighting – everyone involved has few incentives to back down and many incentives to avoid failure.

If the fighting drags on, the LNA’s revenue generation model may be its undoing.

Securing the necessary funding for the LNA’s operations has been key to Haftar’s success and the sustainability of his effort to establish security and a military governing authority across territories under LNA control.…  Seguir leyendo »

Todas sus cuentas en las redes sociales han desaparecido de pronto, se han cerrado.

Es el 4 de abril de 2019 y el mariscal Haftar acaba de dar a sus tropas la orden de “marchar” hacia Trípoli. Al día siguiente explica: “Voy a limpiar la ciudad de terroristas”. El tono es inequívoco.

Los que han cerrado sus redes sociales son los numerosos libios, procuradores, jueces, abogados y activistas con los que trabajo ya desde hace años, que se encuentran en Bengasi, Trípoli y otras ciudades y que, en la incertidumbre sobre lo que va a ocurrir, se esconden mientras esperan el fuego de mortero y los bombardeos.…  Seguir leyendo »