spot_img

Tinderbox in Libya: why military intervention could be counterproductive


“Libya is in chaos and appears to be headed towards long-term instability. The mistakes made in 2011 must not be repeated. Any armed intervention can only take place after significant diplomatic activity as there is a high risk that intervention will worsen the situation.”

“Libya is in chaos and appears to be headed towards long-term instability. The mistakes made in 2011 must not be repeated. Any armed intervention can only take place after significant diplomatic activity as there is a high risk that intervention will worsen the situation.”

REUTERS
Arturo Varvelli, research fellow at the Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI) and author of numerous books on Libyan domestic and foreign politics, explained to East online why the advance of Islamic State is dangerous but also why any move made by the International community should be done so with extreme caution.
Arturo Varvelli, the recent news from Libya is extremely worrying and there is now talk of military intervention under the aegis of the UN. What do you think about this?

First of all, it is necessary to understand what is meant by military intervention and the context in which it will take place. The priority at the moment is to guarantee peace in the country. In this sense a peacekeeping intervention and at least a ceasefire should be preceded by a diplomatic effort that requires a timeframe that is, perhaps, incompatible with the media driven requirements of today’s political leaders. Significant progress has been achieved by United Nations envoy, Bernardino Leon, alongside the extraordinary work of the Italian Ambassador to Libya, Giuseppe Buccino Grimaldi. They have succeeded in bringing both governments to the negotiating table: the Tripoli government (the new General National Congress) and the rival Council of Deputies operating out of in Tobruk. The Tripoli government is made up of a variety of forces including Islamic groups, the Muslim Brotherhood, but also some secular forces such as those from Misurata.
What would be the best solution at the moment?

As I see it, a peacekeeping mission can only take place after a ceasefire and the formation of a government of national unity involving Libyans with experience of working in international institutions outside of Libya. Such individuals exist and they are extremely competent. It is important, however, to underline that without an agreement between the parties, the extremist fringes of the country would fall into the hands of Islamic State, who could easily radicalize the consensus.
In recent days we have heard a wide array of voices denouncing the presence of Islamic State in Libya, perhaps due to the current wave of emotion caused by the latest grisly video. How significant is the danger in real terms?

I certainly don’t wish to underestimate the potential danger posed by IS, but in recent days I have read reports that don’t correspond to the truth. For example, it may well be possible that flags of the Caliphate have been spotted in Tripoli, but if you speak to people living, there they describe a rather calm city. This is the case at the moment but the situation could change tomorrow. Reliable reports tell us that at currently only the city of Derna is completely in the hands of those allied to Al-Bagdadi. In September a group of 300 Libyan foreign fighters returned home and joined forces with a radical Islamic group made up of youngsters with limited combat experience. According to CNN this group numbered around 800 in December, now this figure could be nearer one thousand. In Sirte there are a few hundred. It is important not to get too carried away by media hyperbole: all of the conditions for Islamic radicalism in Libya to degenerate are present, but I would like to point out that IS is not the only Jihadist entity in Libya.  There are other groups that are more numerous and better structured, such as the Ansar Al-Sharia movement, which boasts over ten thousand men and has its headquarters in Benghazi. We should worry about all of these.

Libya is a complex country in which there are around 120 tribes, can you sum up the organization of the country for our readers

Questo contenuto è riservato agli abbonati

Abbonati per un anno a tutti i contenuti del sito e all'edizione cartacea + digitale della rivista di geopolitica

Abbonati ora €45

Abbonati per un anno alla versione digitale della rivista di geopolitica

Abbonati ora €20

- Advertisement -spot_img