Libya Tribune

The July 2017 peace plan the UN sponsored and still supports is still serving as an outline for national unification.

This is supposed to be accomplished by national elections before the end of 2018. The UN backed GNA (Government of National Accord in Tripoli) has become less able to compete in those elections than the technically outlaw (according to the UN) HoR (House of Representatives government in Tobruk) which now controls or contests control in most of the country.

The July 2017 agreement has been amended and extended several times and that has delayed plans for a nationwide ceasefire, an exact date for national elections and UN recognition of the LNA (Libyan National Army).

The current understanding is that that elections will be held in 2018 and that the HoR is recognized as the major political player in the country.

In late 2017 the HNEC (High National Elections Commission in Libya) began registering voters and by 2018 had determined that there were about 1.8 million potential voters and had shown that it was possible to register nearly all of them by mid-2018.

Most local leaders agree that elections should be held this year and that there should be no foreign military intervention. The Libyans do welcome foreign investment and the improved security situation has more nations (like Germany) announcing that they will soon reopen their embassies in Tripoli.

Currently the only two people likely to win a fair national election for president is Seif al-Islam Kaddafi (a son of the former dictator) and Khalifa Hiftar.

This would be an ironic match because Hiftar was once a general in Kaddafi’s army, but disagreed with the dictator and fled to the United States in 1990 with the help of the CIA.

When the Libyan revolution broke out in 2011 Hiftar returned to Libya and joined the rebels. The first post-Kaddafi elections in 2012 had nearly three million people voting. But since then many Libyans have fled the country or have given up on elections and just want peace.

They might even elected Seif Kaddafi, who never held a government job and was considered the “good son” of the former dictator. Nevertheless he is still wanted by the ICC for war crimes (during 2011) and was convicted by a GNA court but later freed and granted full amnesty by HoR (at the behest of Hiftar).

The UN now admits that they ignored the complexity of local politics in Libya and the ability of many local groups to block a nation-wide deal.

It turned out that the HoR and their military leader Khalifa Hiftar had a lot more nationwide support than the UN or GNA realized or wanted to admit. HoR also had the LNA which has been demonized by many Europeans for a number of reasons most Libyans and Arab nations disagree with.

The LNA was created by Hiftar and is the only organized and disciplined military force in the country. The LNA was initially founded to shut down Islamic terrorist groups and Libyan militias that supported them in eastern Libya.

In contrast the GNA tried to build a national government with the support of militias, many of them supporting a new government using Islamic (Sharia) law and most Libyans had had enough of that because it was a tactic the former dictator Kaddafi has used to rule the country for decades until the 2011 revolution killed him and destroyed his hated government.

The UN and EU (European Union) were also appalled by Hiftar’s harsh tactics against the people smuggling gangs that were responsible for most illegal of the illegal migrants arriving in Europe.

Some EU countries (like Italy and France) backed Hiftar early on but more importantly so did most Libyans. Hiftar has said that because of national support the LNA could easily take Tripoli, the traditional capital if the UN negotiations failed. But Hiftar also pointed out that Tripoli was not a priority, dealing with smuggling gangs, Islamic terrorists and corruption in general was.

Another advantage Hiftar had was that he was from eastern Libya and neighboring Egypt was keen to support his counterterrorism efforts. In contrast the GNA in the west had tiny Tunisia and mighty Algeria as neighbors.

While Tunisia was where the 2011 Arab Spring revolution began (and one of the few places where it succeeded) Tunisia had all it could handle fighting local Islamic terrorists and those coming from Libya.

Despite all this experience in fighting Islamic terrorism Algeria refuses to send troops to support any military operations outside Algeria, particularly in Libya or Mali. One can understand the reluctance to get involved with the civil war in Libya. Algeria does take sides.

For example Algeria continues to side with Qatar in its feud with the other Gulf Arab oil states (and their allies, like Egypt and Israel). That means Algeria backs the UN faction in Libya while the UAE and most other Arab states back the HoR/Hiftar group.

Actually Algeria was reluctant to back the UN approved government for Libya and that proved to be warranted when Hiftar rejected the UN proposal and demanded a more practical solution. This is a big deal for Algeria because of the long border they share with Libya.

It is also a big deal for the UN, which considers Algeria the most successful North African nation when it comes to dealing with Islamic terrorism. Algeria has done well at guarding its Libyan (and Mali) borders but is keeping its troops at home no matter what. That means the Tripoli government got no help from Algeria.

Egypt was quite different and became a major foreign participant in unifying the Libyan armed forces under the command of general Hiftar.

Israel is not involved but approves of anyone who is active fighting Islamic terror groups and especially ISIL. This puts Israel at odds with some of its Western allies.

In Libya there is an Arab preference for LNA commander Hiftar, which a growing number of Western leaders want to prosecute as a war criminal.

That has not stopped Hiftar from travelling regularly to Europe, Russia, Egypt and the UAE to negotiate and plan how to bring peace and unity to Libya.

Hiftar visited the UAE early in January (to discuss military aid) and Egypt later to discuss what can be done to improve security along the Libyan-Egyptian border. Egypt and UAE have always been the primary supporters of the LNA and Hiftar. The UAE has supplied both Egypt and the LNA with AT-802U manned aircraft and Chinese UAVs (similar to the American Predator) for surveillance and missile attack.

The AT-802U is an armed version of a popular AT-802 crop duster. The LNA controlled Marj airbase in eastern Libya has played a major role in keeping Libyan based Islamic terrorists away from Egypt. This material support from Egypt and the UAE is increasing.

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