Libya and Türkiye have reached a new level of cooperation in economy, energy and communication, according to Walid Ammar al-Lafi, the minister of State for Communication and Political Affairs of Libya.
“The Turkish government and Libya’s Government of National Accord (GNA) have the will to develop and strengthen their long-standing strategic ties, which have witnessed major developments, especially in recent years,” al-Lafi said as he spoke on the sidelines of an event in Istanbul.
The pair are gearing up to organize a key economic summit in Tripoli, al-Lafi said, adding, “We are aware of the interest of the two leaders on this matter, which has granted it more action capacity and priority.”
Türkiye and Libya work together on communication and combating disinformation, which benefits not only the two governments but also their respective people, al-Lafi noted.
“It is natural that there will be systematic campaigns and counterattacks against Türkiye, which is a country with a key role in the region,” al-Lafi pointed out. “However, undoubtedly, we want to learn and benefit from (Türkiye’s) experiences to strengthen our public institutions and train our staff in this field back in Libya.”
He said he and Turkish Presidential Communications Director Fahrettin continue working together on the issue.
Referring to the recent civil war in Libya, which he said has “influenced media negatively about the spread of hate speech and provocation,” al-Lafi argued that the current crisis in Gaza, too, has “exposed the partiality” of communication platforms.
“The fake news serviced about Gaza have an adverse impact,” the Libyan minister stressed, lauding neutral platforms and activists as “the power of the communication age despite these manipulation efforts.”
“They affect the global perspective with broadcasts negated by traditional media and because of this, they have contributed to the humanitarian pause in Gaza,” al-Lafi said.
Türkiye and Libya have seen closer ties in recent years, especially after the signing of security and maritime boundary pacts in November 2019, along with Türkiye’s aid to help the legitimate Libyan government push back putschist Haftar’s forces.
In the Libyan crisis, Türkiye supported the U.N.-recognized legitimate government in Tripoli against the eastern-based illegitimate forces led by Haftar, who was backed by Egypt, France, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Russia.
Türkiye’s support for the U.N.-recognized Tripoli government was critical in repelling the Haftar forces’ offensive to capture the capital, Tripoli. It led to a period of stability, resulting in the formation of a united government.
In the current situation, Türkiye suggests that an election reflecting the will of the Libyan people should be held to establish a long-lasting and stable government in the country.
Libya is central to Türkiye’s efforts to revive ties with North Africa.
The Turkish Parliament is currently mulling a motion to extend the mandate of Turkish troops in Libya for two more years, which argued that “the risks and threats arising from Libya persist for Türkiye and the entire region and if attacks resume against the legitimate government, Türkiye’s interests in both the Mediterranean basin and North Africa will be adversely affected.”
The pair also enjoy a landmark maritime boundaries deal, which secured Libya’s rights to the vast expanse of the Mediterranean and clarified western maritime borders for Türkiye.
The deal, approved by the U.N., was a preemptive action against potential deals between Greece, Egypt and the Greek Cypriot administration in the divided island of Cyprus, whose northern part is controlled by the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC).
Türkiye and Libya also signed a hydrocarbon drilling agreement in October 2022 to explore hydrocarbons in Libya’s exclusive economic zone and the mainland by Türkiye.
Speaking to Libyan media on Sunday, the Chairman of the National Oil Corporation (NOC), Farhat Bengdara said his entity does not have a police or security force to combat fuel smuggling.
He said it is the responsibility of others, such as security forces, to combat fuel smuggling, not the NOC.
He said the NOC is responsible for only for its ports only, and he challenge anyone who says that smuggling occurs from the ports that are under the control of the NOC. The NOC chairman was keen to deflect criticism about Libya’s costly fuel smuggling problem.
Bengdara pointed out that reducing or replacing fuel subsidies is also not within the competencies of the NOC.
He said replacing fuel subsidies can only be done legally to guarantee the citizen’s right to financial compensation or health care.
The huge GECOL fuel bill
Bengdara also pointed out that the General Electricity Company of Libya (GECOL) increased its consumption of subsidised diesel fuel enormously over the last year because GECOL added to the national electrical network 3,000 megawatts.
This has ended power cuts across the country but entailed a huge bill for the NOC and the country, including increased volume of subsidised fuel.
He said diesel fuel prices have increased significantly, and 72 percent of the NOC’s diesel bill goes to GECOL.
National debate on sustainability of huge fuel subsidies
Bengdara was speaking on the back of an increased national debate about the sustainability of fuel subsidies, including those to GECOL.
The debate has also included the barter system where the NOC is not paid in cash for its fuel supplies. This causes an accounting anomaly whereby the real cost of subsidies and the hard currency fuel import bill to the Libyan state and citizen are artificially underreported in the state budget and its deficit.
Fuel is imported using hard currency – then subsidised
Libya does not have sufficient oil processing capacity to process all its consumed fuel locally. It has a huge fuel import bill in hard currency which is then subsidised.
The irrationality of huge subsidies for imported fuel
Increasingly, Libyans are becoming aware that subsidising imported fuel, a huge amount of which is being smuggled to neighbouring states, is irrational. Opportunity costs are being discussed as Libya needs much investment on infrastructure, economic diversification, HR development, health, education etc.
Government fearful of introducing fuel subsidies
The government’s Supreme Council for Energy has been discussing various options to replace fuel subsidies – including through cash payments or set fuel quantities.
A source at the High Energy Committee told Libya Herald that the committee has been unable to agree on which option to implement, and how. He admitted that there is a political reluctance by the Tripoli based interim, unelected, government to impose fuel subsidy reform. This has been the case with all interim governments since the 2011 revolution that ended the 42-year Qaddafi regime.
Indeed, even the Qaddafi regime quickly backtracked on an increase in fuel prices before 2011 after mounting public displeasure on the move.
Libya’s Oil Minister criticises IOCs for not fulfilling development commitments amidst the nation’s ongoing post-2011 political and security challenges.
Libya, home to Africa’s most substantial proven oil reserves, has recently been in the spotlight following pointed criticisms from its Oil and Gas Minister, Mohamed Oun.
In an enlightening interview with S&P Global Commodity Insights on the 21st of November, Oun condemned international oil companies (IOCs) for not meeting their development commitments in the nation’s tumultuous oil territories, which have been engulfed in disarray since the ousting of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.
The crux of Oun’s grievances lies in the period following the US decision to lift sanctions on Libya in 2004, which culminated in the engagement of predominantly US oil firms during Libya’s licensing round in 2005. These firms pledged to undertake comprehensive development plans and seismic surveys, but the ensuing political turmoil and conflicts have severely curtailed these initiatives.
The minister’s criticisms are rooted in a post-2008 environment where security concerns and political fragmentation have severely hampered operational capabilities. According to Oun, the IOCs have been remarkably lax since then, failing to act on specific project commitments.
The disruptions intensified post-2011, resulting in a notable downturn in oil production. A blockade in the summer of 2022 saw Libya’s output dwindle to 650,000 barrels per day (b/d), although it has partially recovered to around 1.2 million b/d, which is still short of its pre-conflict capacity.
Oun has been forthright in suggesting that IOCs failing to honour their agreements should relinquish their concessions to Libya’s National Oil Corporation (NOC). He accused these entities of leveraging Libya’s dependency on oil revenue and foreign expertise to renegotiate contracts for more favourable terms, which he perceives as unjust.
The interview also shed light on negotiations by TotalEnergies and ConocoPhillips with NOC to increase their paid cost to 13% from 6.5% without the oil ministry’s involvement. This move has been met with astonishment by Oun, who has been part of Libya’s oil sector since 1974. The companies and NOC have not publicly addressed these negotiations.
Oun also noted Eni’s successful renegotiation with NOC, which increased its share in a deal to develop offshore reserves, setting a precedent for other IOCs to follow. Such renegotiations pose a challenge to Libya’s sovereignty over its resources.
Despite the challenges, Libya is aiming to rejuvenate its oil sector with an ambitious target to elevate its production capacity to 2 million b/d within the next five years. This aspiration includes collaborations with existing IOCs and the advancement of extant fields.
Looking to capitalise on its untapped potential, Libya anticipates launching a licencing round in 2024 to invite exploration of several onshore and offshore blocks. This is part of a grander scheme to not just escalate oil production but also to amplify gas output, currently at about 2.6 billion cubic feet per day (bcf/d), with an enormous reserve of 56 trillion cubic feet (TCF).
Despite Libya’s lofty ambitions for its hydrocarbon sectors, the domestic demand for gas, particularly for electricity generation, is absorbing a large portion of its production, thus limiting export capabilities. Although the Mellitah Oil & Gas joint venture between Eni and NOC could technically export between 300-400 million cubic feet per day (MMcf/d) to Italy via the Greenstream pipeline, fulfilling domestic requirements takes precedence.
Oun’s assertive comments and the strategies he has outlined underscore the intricate balance between national goals, the realities of domestic consumption, and the role of international firms in Libya’s oil sector. His vision for a more resilient and self-sufficient Libyan oil industry is evident, but the route to realising such a vision, against a backdrop of instability and external influences, is laden with obstacles. As Libya moves forward, the global community remains watchful, eager to see how the nation will manoeuvre within the ever-evolving global energy market.
Libya’s oil minister has accused international oil companies operating in the country of taking advantage of the political instability in the country to delay their development plans.
“Most of the IOCs have committed to specific projects and up till now they have unfortunately not acted as they should act,” Mohamed Oun told S&P Platts in an interview.
Earlier this year, Libya’s National Oil Corporation issued a statement saying that oil majors including BP and Italy’s Eni had lifted the force majeure declared on their Libyan operations, effectively returning to the country.
The White House Does Not Expect Arab States to Weaponize Oil
At the time, the National Oil Corporation said the international companies had notified it of their intentions to resume their contractual obligations with the Libyan state oil company. Now, however, the oil minister is accusing the same companies of trying to exploit the security problems of Libya to negotiate better contractual terms and are in no hurry to resume oil and gas production.
Late last year Libya called on the super-majors to return to its oil and gas field. Then, earlier this year, Libya prepared to launch its first oil and gas tender in 17 years as the situation improved enough to allow it to boost oil production to some 1.2 million bpd and keep it there for much of the year.
The tender will be held in 2024 and should help Libya move closer to its target of 2 million bpd in daily oil output by 2026. According to the African Energy Chamber, Libya’s maximum production capacity is 1.8 million bpd by 2024 but Tripoli insists it can boost this to 3 million bpd in two to three years.
Libya is currently producing some 1.24 million bpd, according to the National Oil Corporation. So far this year, production has hovered around 1.2 million barrels daily with interruptions due to protests and field blockades rarer than in previous years.
The spate of controversies surrounding Europe’s migration policies toward North African countries — chiefly Tunisia, the principal sea departure point for refugees and migrants seeking to cross the Mediterranean to Europe — raises grave questions about the sustainability and ethics of these existing strategies. Worryingly entangled with a precarious political environment and an escalating human rights crisis, the contours of these policies have proven not only ineffectual in curbing the flow of irregular migration but also have significantly contributed to amplifying existing problems — a classic case of doubling down on failing policy, one might argue.
There is no shortage of alarming narratives on flawed migration management in Tunisia, underscoring tactics that veer significantly from the principles of human rights and international law. The assertions of horrific abuses, from indiscriminate expulsions of asylum-seekers to collusion of security forces with smuggling networks, paint a grim picture of a system that is fundamentally flawed on multiple fronts. Over the summer of 2023 alone, about 86 percent of illegally expelled sub-Saharan Africans reportedly experienced physical violence, with an astonishing 85 percent attributing this violence to the hands of security forces — an alarming series of findings that highlights the severity of the situation.
Yet, as accounts of systematic abuses, corruption, and collusion pour in, they consistently fail to perturb the irregular migratory flow, a glaring testament to the gravity of the failure of the EU’s deterrence and externalization policies. Add to these the EU’s strategic attempts to bottle up displacement along, for instance, the Tunisian coastline have spearheaded a grim spiral of human suffering without signaling any significant dent in the fundamental challenges driving human mobility.
Furthermore, the socioeconomic context of Tunisia, battling underdevelopment, poor governance, and regional insecurity, significantly exacerbates this problem. The government’s response, void of any coherent strategy or policy, oscillates between xenophobic rhetoric, abusive practices, and draconian actions.
Can these strategies, backed by the EU and the US, be validly defended when they appear to be guided by a culture of impunity and an utter disregard for the rule of law?
The humanitarian catastrophe gripping Tunisia is, in large part, a self-inflicted wound born from misguided policies. The situation calls for a radical rethink of the stance on migration cooperation with Tunisia, one that prioritizes safeguarding human security by fostering sustainable solutions over knee-jerk reactions and policies rooted in exclusion and deterrence. Anything short of that would only amount to a doubling down on profound policy failure — an untenable proposition at a time when the stakes could not be higher.
Current approaches are not only ineffectual but also unsustainable and, given the catastrophe they have spawned, highly indefensible. Yet, such assessments appear lost in the fog of Brussels’ dogged pursuit of a problematic agenda, specifically, these border externalization strategies conceived in 2021. Under this axiom, the EU has enthusiastically fostered migration cooperation agreements with at least 14 countries. With a war chest swelling into billions of euros aimed at bolstering border controls, laying siege on people smugglers, and stymieing the flood of asylum-seekers and migrants, the policy has largely been unyielding.
Implementing this strategy was perceived as a preventive measure to thwart the overall movement of migrants — mainly from the Western Balkans, the Middle East, and Africa — before gracing the EU’s external borders. On paper, it seemed a tenable course of action; however, it has not borne the anticipated outcome. Far from slowing migration, the EU’s extravagant spending on border management and fortification has inadvertently expedited the humanitarian crisis.
Even more troubling is the revelations in a letter from European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen that outlines forthcoming plans to institute “new anti-smuggling operational partnerships” with Tunisia and Egypt. The audaciousness of this plan lies in its blatant neglect of well-documented accounts reporting abuses against migrants in both countries. Such malign neglect punctuates a habitual disregard for the proximal determinants of migration, effectively hampering the development of a targeted approach or strategy.
There is simply no appetite, political capital, or even notable civil society advocacy for measures beyond securitization and deterrence by focusing on systemic changes that address the drivers of irregular migration while channeling dramatic increases in emergency support services for displaced people. Instead, what we have is the perpetuation and institutionalization of unfortunate knee-jerk responses from Brussels, borne out of framing migrant surges as a security and political issue rather than admitting it as the humanitarian crisis that it most certainly is. This simplified understanding of a complex phenomenon effectively glorifies a culture of dismissing evident failures as a mere consequence of insufficient funding or security mobilization.
The vicious cycle of misdiagnosis and mistreatment does more harm than good. The conventional wisdom of border controls and migration agreements, while having their place, need to transition toward addressing the root causes that push desperate thousands to risk treacherous journeys, abuse, neglect, and indefinite detention for a chance to make it to Europe. A distinctive tilt toward human-centered policies that underscore key drivers of migration, such as conflict, poverty, and inequality, is not just desirable but an absolute necessity. Until the EU adjusts its stance on this issue, it risks further worsening the humanitarian catastrophe, while simultaneously hemorrhaging resources with trivial, if any, gains to show.
With Europe cannibalizing its budget, diverting development aid and conflict management funding toward building “Fortress Europe,” little is left to fund targeted solutions designed to improve living conditions and stem migratory flows from origin states. It is unlikely the current political environment, which is increasingly skewing to the anti-immigrant right, will ever agree to create legal and safe pathways for asylum-seekers and refugees. Nor will boilerplate messaging about upholding commitments to human rights galvanize sufficient public support for alternative approaches to what is quickly snowballing into Europe’s next biggest crisis — notwithstanding Ukraine.
While some may understand the EU’s bumbling attempts to avert a hybrid crisis, its current approaches are inadequate and, in many ways, counterproductive. What is needed now, more than ever, is a serious course correction in Europe’s migration policies. It can at least begin by ensuring transparency and accountability on migration spending, since the current opacity of funding and lack of precise records make it difficult to assess the cost and efficacy of border externalization.
Beyond that, Europe needs to address a discernible vulnerability in how third countries continue weaponizing desperate migrants, turning them into a tool for leverage and geopolitical gamesmanship. Should that dynamic persist, Europe risks becoming a financier and underwriter for the glaring failures and tragic consequences of its doubling down on failure.
Hafed Al-Ghwell is a senior fellow and executive director of the North Africa Initiative at the Foreign Policy Institute of the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies in Washington DC.
Storm Daniel meets Libya’s fractured infrastructures and political landscape, revealing a calamity molded by natural and unnatural causes.
Last September, flooding caused by Storm Daniel swept away entire communities and led to over 10,000 people reported dead in Libya. However, is the environment the only factor to blame? Libya’s tumultuous political landscape shows that this catastrophe was only partly due to the environment. The alarming death toll stems from the convergence of politics and climate change.
The heavy rain and flooding in the eastern part of Libya were brought by medicanes, which are a result of low pressure areas in the Mediterranean Sea that convert into tropical cyclones. While Storm Daniel set meteorological records in Africa, the collapse of two major dams only intensified the consequences of this natural disaster. These vital infrastructures had not been maintained since 2002.
Within those dam cracks lies the story of a state marked by a decade of civil war and NATO’s military intervention.
Libya was once the most prosperous country in Africa, with complimentary healthcare and education to all, assured housing for every citizen and subsidized access to electricity, water and gasoline. Notably, the nation recorded the highest life expectancy across the continent.
Dictator Muammar Gaddafi led a socialist regime until 2011 when protests broke out. Armed forces firing into the crowd sparked a national uprising, prompting the United Nations’ approval for “all necessary measures” to protect civilians. This support, including a NATO bombing campaign backing the rebels, led to the overthrow of Gaddafi’s regime. In the wake of power vacuums, internal conflicts gained international support resulting in an influx of foreign weapons and a sequence of proxy wars.
The socio-political history of Libya holds a lot of mixed emotions. During Gaddafi’s era, it began with acknowledgements from the United Nations Human Rights Council recognizing improvements in the country’s human rights practices. This initial optimism was soon overshadowed by citizens looking to emancipate themselves from a regime that had been in place for over 30 years. Backed by NATO’s militia, they traded an unelected and corrupt regime for two rival governments battling for power and control of the country.
The dam collapses are a mere fragment of the chaos resulting from Western-initiated regime change and the broader disorder post-Gaddafi. Public Water Commission experts warned the central infrastructure agency about the aging dams.
Unfortunately, these warnings were overseen by corrupt authorities under Gaddafi-regime at the time. Amid a civil war, the Turkish company hired to repair the dams left the country, pocketing millions of dollars for preliminary work and leaving behind the dangerous dams and Derna’s population.
Libyan citizens caught between regional fissures and international intervention were victims of a political stalemate that only contributed to the latest catastrophe. After Storm Daniel, the residents of Derna mourn thousands of lives and hold onto the hope that their grief can serve as a unifying force for their nation.
Were the floods solely an outcome of the environment? While Mother Nature played a part, Libyan citizens must endure the consequences of this failed state.
The Great Sand Sea Desert stretches over an area of 72,000km² linking Egypt and Libya. If you find yourself in a particular part of the desert in south-east Libya and south-western parts of Egypt, you’ll spot pieces of yellow glass scattered across the sandy landscape.
It was first described in a scientific paper in 1933 and is known as Libyan desert glass. Mineral collectors value it for its beauty, its relative rarity—and its mystery. A pendant found in Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamun’s tomb contains a piece of the glass. Natural glasses are found elsewhere in the world; examples include moldavites from the Ries crater in Europe and tektites from the Ivory Coast. But none are as rich in silica as Libyan desert glass, nor are they found in such large lumps and quantities.
The origin of the glass has been the subject of debate among scientists for almost a century. Some suggested it might be from volcanoes on the moon. Others propose it’s the product of lightning strikes (“fulgurites”—glass that forms from fusion of sand and soil where they are hit by lightning). Other theories suggest it’s the result of sedimentary or hydrothermal processes; caused by a massive explosion of a meteor in the air; or that it came from a nearby meteorite crater.
Now, thanks to advanced microscopy technology, we believe we have the answer. Along with colleagues from universities and science centers in Germany, Egypt, and Morocco, I have identified Libyan desert glass as originating from the impact of a meteorite on the Earth’s surface.
Space collisions are a primary process in the solar system, as planets and their natural satellites accreted via the asteroids and planet embryos (also called planetesimals) colliding with each other. These impacts helped our planet to assemble, too.
Under the microscope
In 1996 scientists determined that the glass was close to 29 million years old. A later study suggested the source material was composed of quartz grains coated with mixed clay minerals and iron and titanium oxides.
This latter finding raised more questions since the proposed age is older than the matching source material in the relevant area of the Great Sand Sea desert. To put it simply, those source materials didn’t exist in that location 29 million years ago.
For our recent study, a co-author obtained two pieces of glass from a local who had collected them in the Al Jaouf region in south-eastern Libya.
We studied the samples with a state-of-the-art transmission electron microscopy (TEM) technique, which allows us to see tiny particles of material—20,000 times smaller than the thickness of a paper sheet. Using this super-high magnification technique, we found small minerals in this glass: different types of zirconium oxide (ZrO₂).
Minerals are composed of chemical elements, atoms of which form regular three-dimensional packaging. Imagine putting eggs or soda bottles on the shelf of a supermarket: layers on top of layers to ensure the most efficient storage. Similarly, atoms assemble into a crystal lattice that is unique for each mineral. Minerals that have the same chemical composition but different atomic structures (different ways of atom packaging into the crystal lattice) are called polymorphs.
One polymorph of ZrO₂ that we observed in Libyan desert glass is called cubic zirconia—the kind seen in some jewelry as a synthetic replacement for diamonds. This mineral can only form at a high temperature between 2,250°C and 2,700°C.
Another polymorph of ZrO₂ that we observed was a very rare one called ortho-II or OII. It forms at very high pressure—about 130,000 atmospheres, a unit of pressure.
Such pressure and temperature conditions provided us with the proof for the meteorite impact origin of the glass. That’s because such conditions can only be obtained in the Earth’s crust by a meteorite impact or the explosion of an atomic bomb.
More mysteries to solve
If our finding is correct (and we believe it is), the parental crater—where the meteorite hit the Earth’s surface—should be somewhere nearby. The nearest known meteorite craters, named GP and Oasis, are 2km and 18km in diameter respectively, and quite far away from where the glass we tested was found. They are too far and too small to be considered the parental craters for such massive amounts of impact glass, all concentrated in one spot.
So, while we’ve solved part of the mystery, more questions remain. Where is the parental crater? How big is it—and where is it? Could it have been eroded, deformed, or covered by sand? More investigations will be required, likely in the form of remote sensing studies coupled with geophysics.
Abdoulaye Bathily, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), met with the Deputy Head of the Presidential Council, Abdallah Al-Lafi, to discuss the progress of the national reconciliation process and exchange views on the political challenges related to enabling electoral laws. Libyans are eager to put an end to successive interim arrangements and establish an elected and legitimate leadership.
Now more than ever, Libya needs to overcome the current institutional fragmentation and work towards an inclusive political agreement that would pave the way for peaceful and transparent elections throughout the country. All Libyan leaders have agreed to amend the draft laws, urging the country’s two chambers to finalize and implement electoral laws within a reasonable timeframe. The citizens long for unified political, military, security, and economic institutions that can safeguard the territorial integrity and national identity of the country.
To achieve these goals, it is crucial to work with the country’s stakeholders and focus on three main objectives. First, it is important to convince Libya’s House of Representatives and the High State Council to consider proposals from the High National Election Commission, addressing any legal loopholes and technical shortcomings in the draft electoral rules.
Additionally, exploring the possibility of convening a meeting of key actors to reach a political agreement on four contested issues outlined in the last briefing is essential. Second, written proposals should be developed to address the technical flaws and contested aspects of the draft electoral laws, aiming for their amendment and urging the two chambers to finalize and implement them within a reasonable electoral timeline.
During this period, Libya showed little interest in developing election laws. However, the Misrata Sea Port Customs Center intercepted a ship that had entered the port because it had passed through the port of Haifa, which is occupied by the Zionist entity in Palestine. The ship had come from Turkey before passing through the port of Haifa.
The Misrata Port Customs Center took all necessary legal measures regarding the ship, in preparation for blacklisting it. This was done for violating the principles of boycotting the Zionist enemy, in accordance with Article 203 of Customs Law No. 10 of 2010 and Law No. 62 of 1967 regarding the boycott of Israel. According to Article 1, the Italian company mentioned below will be removed from the blacklist and its products will be allowed to enter and be imported into Libya, provided that sufficient guarantees are provided. The Italian company is Cotoneficio Busted Milano, located at Via Romagnosail, Italy.
During this period, Libya showed no interest in developing election laws. However, the Misrata Sea Port Customs Center halted a ship that had entered the port because it had passed through the occupied port of Haifa in Palestine, which is controlled by the Zionist entity. The ship had come from Turkey before passing through Haifa. The Misrata Port Customs Center took all necessary measures to address the ship’s legality and prepare for its blacklisting.
This was done in accordance with Article 203 of Customs Law No. 10 of 2010 and Law No. 62 of 1967, which pertain to boycotting Israel. As stated in Article 1, the Italian company mentioned below, Cotoneficio Busted Milano located at Via Romognosail, Italy, will be removed from the blacklist. Consequently, its products will be allowed to enter and be imported into Libya upon providing the necessary guarantees.
It is important to note that the House of Representatives has passed a law that criminalizes any form of dealing with Israel. Additionally, the country had previously requested Western country ambassadors to leave.
Due to their countries’ support for the Israeli occupation government’s aggression against the Gaza Strip, they decided to amend the law that criminalizes normalization with Israel. They aimed to increase the penalties outlined in Law No. 62, which was issued in 1957 and already criminalized normalization with Israel.
On April 1, 2002, Libyan leader Gaddafi delivered a speech calling for a Pan-Arab war against the existence of the state of Israel. He claimed that “thousands of Libyans are ready to defend the Palestinian people.” In this speech, Gaddafi expressed his refusal to recognize Israel as a state. He stated that Libya would only acknowledge a Palestinian state that extended from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea.
In 2007, Israeli President Shimon Peres reportedly showed interest in having Gaddafi mediate peace talks with the Palestinians in Jordan. Then, in 2011, Saif al-Gaddafi conducted talks on behalf of Libya with Israeli minister Ayoob Kara. The discussions involved Libyan recognition of Israel, assistance in securing the release of Gilad Shalit from Hamas custody, and a potential visit by Gaddafi to Israel.
Bathily mentioned that the Derna disaster demonstrated a spontaneous unity between Libyan political and military factions. However, it also highlighted serious governance issues, as there is currently competition to lead Derna’s reconstruction effort. Bathily welcomed the discussion of election laws by Parliament (House of Representatives) on October 5th but noted that amendments are still needed for them to be effectively implemented. Additionally, tensions persist among armed groups based in Tripoli, and attacks on civic space continue.
Prof. Miral Sabry AlAshry is Co-lead for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) at the Centre for Freedom of the Media, the Department of Journalism Studies at the University of Sheffield.
Certainty and inevitability of the victory of the Palestinian resistance over the occupier is not a guesswork, a bet that has a share of chances of victory, or out of desire or wishes. Rather, it is a fact recorded by the experiences of the struggling peoples, who made sacrifices and presented their children on the altar of freedom, and history recorded this in the clearest way, on its pages and its most beautiful lines, its bravery, and heroism until it achieved glory and snatched its freedom and independence from the fangs and claws of the colonialists.
From Latin America in the Far West to Angola, Algeria, Libya, in Africa and Vietnam in the Far East, and other countries, peoples rose up, despite their poverty and weak capabilities, to confront the occupying armies, armed to the brim with soldiers, weapons, and alliances. They fought fierce and unproportional battles, and faced with their primitive weapons armor, tanks, and modern aircraft.
The sophistication of weapons, size of armies, and strength of alliances on the side of the occupier do not guarantee victory. There are other factors that are more effective in resolving the conflict in the interest of the resistance in the end. The occupier cannot bear a large number of victims, because the occupier has profit and loss account for their occupation.
If the cost increases, the occupier packs its bags, gathers its forces, and leaves, as it is not willing to bear the blows of the resistance, which does not evaluate its struggle according to the criteria of profit and loss. Its goal is clear, and the path to it is clearer, realizing that it is a long river of blood, tears, and pain, and on its banks, the entire people stand supportive, and fully prepared to make every effort and sacrifice.
All colonized peoples paid the price scores of times to gain their freedom, with relentless resistance and unrelenting determination, despite all the violations committed by the occupier against them. They compensated for the difference in the balance of power with their enemy by adopting the method of guerrilla warfare, which proved effective in exhausting the enemy’s army, until it falls and announces surrender.
The resistance is usually poorly armed, and its enemy imposes a stifling siege on it, isolating it from its social stronghold, as the Italians did in Cyrenaica, by cramming the people into detention centers, hoping to cut off any supplies to the mujahideen, spreading spies and informants around them, and tightening the noose around them, in order to eliminate the resistance.
But all of its measures are doomed to failure, and the resistance resorts to withdrawal and latency when the enemy begins to escalate by implementing exceptional measures and more violent attacks. Then it returns to taking the initiative to deliver a painful strike to the enemy in an unexpected place, as soon as the wave of escalation subsides.
Theorists describe this type of war as the dog-flea war, as the dog has a large area to defend against a very small, light, and fast enemy, which stings at any site in this large area, and when the dog’s claws reach and scratch the site, the flea will have left and back to base safely.
In this unproportional war on the level of force, the occupier only succeeds in killing huge numbers of the population. Whenever it suffers a painful sting, unleashes the whip of its vengeance on civilians, by arresting and killing them. Therefore, the colonized peoples are subjected to what resembles eradication. Algeria contributed more than a million and a half in the battle for liberation from French colonialism, and Libya lost half of its population to death and displacement in the war with the Italian colonialists. Some estimates suggest that in the battle to liberate Vietnam, approximately two million people were killed, while the Viet Cong resistance front lost about 85 thousand dead.
While nature is generous with mountains and desert with the Algerian resistance, and with dense forests with the Vietnamese resistance, resistance men resort to them after carrying out a commando operation, to prepare for another. However, the resistance in Gaza missed such natural cover, with the loss of extension in the land which is confined between the sea and the enemy, therefore The Palestinian resistance in Gaza resorted to digging tunnels and bunkers to hide its weapons and draw up confrontation plans, from which the resistance fighters would emerge to surprise the enemy and engage with them, or launch surprise attacks.
At the military field level, this round between the Palestinian resistance and the occupation appears different from previous confrontations. The resistance developed its weapons and strategies, and added many tactics to this type of war, to slaughter its enemy, while the occupation forces continued to fight with the same methods as traditional armies, advancing cautiously. On the ground, with air and sea cover, yet wary of mines, ambushes, and surprises at the hands of the resistance.
On the political level, the results were not limited to Palestine or the region but rather caused a major shock globally. There is no country that the fragments of war have not reached, in varying proportions. Rather, it forced the most powerful countries to mobilize their fleets, all their agencies, and the media.
Perhaps what the American writer Robert Taber mentioned in his book (The War of the Oppressed), published in 1981, is something similar to a prophecy or early forecast of the outcomes of the popular liberation wars, this round of conflict in occupied Palestine has achieved, or almost achieved. “It is a confrontation between the haves and the have-nots, between the rich nations and the poor nations. It is reshaping the world we knew, and its outcome may determine the shape and essence of the expected future, not only in the current broad and existing theaters of operations, but everywhere as well.”
Fall of masks of falsification and deception
Major Western newspapers and media channels wrote off all the past decades of conflict, between the Zionist military occupation force and the Palestinian popular resistance seeking to get rid of the occupier and regain their freedom. Indeed, western media is ignoring all the occupier’s violations, crimes, and violations of international law. There is no mention of killing civilians, arresting them, demolishing their homes, destroying their agricultural crops, or confiscating their lands, and the desecration of their mosques.
In the narrative of this media, the history of the conflict began on the day the Palestinian resistance carried out its attack on October 7th and Hamas is the aggressor. With all impudence, the Western media jumped directly to a natural conclusion and a legitimate reaction in all laws, customs, and laws to all the violations committed by the occupation gangs on a daily basis against the Palestinian people, as if the resistance movements were motivated by criminal tendencies, with no goal other than killing and intimidation, and justified the occupation gangs for all their crimes and violations.
This media, despite its different platforms and orientations, all adopted the narratives of the occupation entity, including false and fabricated stories, and its newscasters began interviewing their guests with a specific and repeated question, as if one party had formulated it, and ordered all broadcasters, on all major channels, to launch their interviews with it, especially if it was known that the guest has inclinations and sympathy with the cause of the Palestinian people. Do you condemn the attack carried out by Hamas on the morning of Saturday, October 7? While describing the attack as terroristic, brutal, bloody, etc.
If the guest tries to place the event in question in its historical context, and concludes that it is an inevitable result of the occupation’s practices over 75 years, his/her interlocutor will immediately interrupt him. Leave history now and stay with the brutal attack. Do you condemn it or not?
The strict and biased guidance through all major Western media platforms, and through their most famous symbols and programs, against a people defending themselves, their land, and their sanctities, in favour of the occupying entity, did not succeed in concealing the truth, as it failed to cover up the horrific crimes and massacres carried out by the occupying fighter jet and its missiles in Gaza.
Indeed, such media was forced to return to relative moderation in order to salvage some of its credibility, which is at stake after such bias and falsification of facts were exposed, by promoting the narrative of the occupying entity, without scrutiny and verification from independent sources in adherence to professionalism, and without considering the opposing party’s narrative too, as objectivity requires.
There may be more than one reason for this failure, as opinion polls have shown that young age groups rely on obtaining information from social media, follow activist blogs and channels on various websites, and have little interest in newspapers and satellite channels.
This means that traditional media are no longer monopolizes the media space, which pushed it, against its will, to correct itself and return, even if only slightly, to the professional path, with the increasing power and influence of immigrants and progressive movements in Western societies, which are aware of the reality and nature of this conflict, and it has become certain that the traditional media has lost much of its credibility, and then, from its impact, and from the results of this round of conflict, it will raise controversy in all circles of public opinion, about the nature of the conflict and its consequences, and the just cause of the Palestinian people will win many supporters, and this will force all media outlets to adopt a more just, moderate, and balanced discourse.
The masks of falsity and deception have fallen, and the ugly face of bias has appeared blatantly this time, after it was able in the past decades to direct public opinion towards the narrative presented by the occupying entity and the forces supporting it in all political and media circles.
Despite its tremendous technological progress, and despite its almost absolute dominance over the industry and formulation of media discourse, the Western media lacked the wisdom that would have guided it, during its coverage of the 2022 World Cup, to realize the transformations taking place due to the spread of alternative media through social media.
The narrative that it presented sought to promote that Qatar had no right to host the World Cup, doubting its capabilities, and its expectations of an unsuccessful tournament, which were refuted by activists and fans from different countries, who transmitted in audio and video all the beautiful events, the wonderful festive atmosphere in the stadiums and outside them, and Qatar’s preparations to provide all amenities to the World Cup guests.
Libya’s city of Derna was already host to migrants – its floods have now created a new generation of climate refugees.
Often, in the middle of the night, Khadijah can hear screaming.
It could be the woman in the classroom next door, who has refused to change out of her abaya since Libya was hit with deadly floods on September 10. She fears more floods are on the way and wants to remain hidden from them, in the belief that her flowing robe will protect her, says Khadijah, 60.
end of list Or perhaps it’s any one of many who saw their mother, father, child or grandparent swept into the sea when the dams burst above the eastern city of Derna, submerging it and its sleeping populace.
“The living are the ones who suffer; the dead are relieved,” Khadijah told Al Jazeera.
Khadija is one of thousands of people from the flood-battered city who have taken shelter in government schools after their houses were destroyed. She says she feels humiliated.
“Imagine closing your eyes on your own bed and then suddenly finding yourself lying on the cold floor of a public school,” she said, wiping away tears.
“I experienced most wars and disasters, [Muammar] Gaddafi’s siege of the city in the 1990s, the ISIS [ISIL] war in 2016, and the war of [Khalifa] Haftar’s forces in 2018, but what happened now was different [and] what came after it was more humiliating,” she added solemnly.
Khadija, her relatives, the 20 or so other families at the school they’re sheltering in, and the hundreds sheltering elsewhere are now “climate refugees”, the informal term used for those displaced by environmental disasters.
But Derna was itself a refuge for thousands of migrants from neighbouring nations, alongside Libya’s own internally displaced population who settled in the coastal city from other parts of the country.
While the reasons they fled vary, climate-induced pressures compound with factors such as conflict and poverty, a complex web driving displacement in the region that will only continue in the years to come, experts have said.
Pushed out slowly – or all of a sudden
Khadija and other Libyans from Derna are entangled in this complex web but the stage was already set for the disaster that engulfed their homes and loved ones.
Storm Daniel was up to 50 times more likely to occur and 50 percent more intense because of human-caused climate change, according to the World Weather Attribution group.
The ailing, mismanaged dams were a key factor, as well.
“It can’t really be [overstated] how important the infrastructure issue is, because that’s one of the main catalysts for climate displacement,” Benjamin Freedman, an analyst at the Middle East Institute, told Al Jazeera.
The failing dams, alongside migrants “who weren’t necessarily properly settled”, created the “perfect storm for an outrageous humanitarian disaster”, he added.
While the flash flood created a sudden push for survivors to flee, most people who leave their lands for environmental reasons do so due to “slow-onset conditions” like multi-year droughts, Aimee-Noel Mbiyozo, a senior research consultant at the Institute for Security Studies, told Al Jazeera.
Before the floods, Libya was host to more than 705,000 refugees and migrants from more than 44 nationalities, according to Michela Pugliese, a migration and asylum researcher at Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor.
More than 230,000 of these refugees and migrants were living in eastern Libya, the part of the country devastated by the storm, the majority having arrived from neighbouring countries like Chad, Egypt, Niger, Nigeria and Sudan, she added.
Some 8,000 of them lived in Derna specifically, but it is likely that many others were present and not officially reported, said Pugliese.
While the reasons they ended up in Libya varied – many hoping to ultimately depart to Europe – some left their homes over lost livelihoods because of climate disasters.
“A lot of people coming [to] Libya from Chad, Sudan, and Niger were employed in the agricultural sector at home and came to Libya after having lost crops or livestock assets due to climate events like drought or floods,” Pugliese said.
International law doesn’t recognise climate refugees
Discerning just how many of Derna’s 8,000 refugees were climate refugees, and how many Libyans have now become climate refugees due to the floods, is a challenge – largely because that term doesn’t exist under international law.
“This term has no legal basis under refugee law yet, so neither UNHCR [the UN refugee agency] registering asylum seekers, nor legal desks aiding migrants, would use this as an official category,” said Pugliese.
Mbiyozo added that people who move for climate-linked reasons rarely identify it as such.
“We ask people, why have you moved and they almost never say, ‘climate change’,” she said.
“They’re going to tell you it’s to find a better economic opportunity, so they’re moving for jobs or for livelihood. But then you have to go a level deeper and say, ‘Well, what’s changed?’”
In West Africa, for example, a refugee may be fleeing Boko Haram because the armed group took their cattle due to dwindling resources, she said.
Climate change in the context of migration, therefore, is a “fragility amplifier or a threat amplifier”, said Mbiyozo.
Freedman said that, as climate disasters become more common, there needs to be a system in place to identify people fleeing because of them.
When these groups of people attempt to claim asylum in Western countries specifically, they are denied at a much much higher rate due to the arbitrariness of the category, he said.
But the situation will only continue to worsen, “especially when we’re dealing with potentially 1.2 billion people displaced internally and externally by intensifying climate weather events by 2050,” Freedman added.
Mbiyozo argued, however, that if the laws were rewritten, namely the UN Refugee Convention of 1951, a lot of Western countries “would pull back what they currently offer”.
“Everybody in the refugee space kno intuitively that if you were to redraw these things, you get less protection because that’s the political climate right now,” she said, adding that Italy, for example, is trying to deny as many asylum seekers as it can.
‘Nothing but promises’
Despite an unwillingness from Western countries to take on new categories of refugees, experts say most climate-linked movement stays local, with many pushed from rural areas to urban cities.
Among the 40,000 people displaced in Libya’s floods, many moved to towns and villages further east and several hundred moved west, said Pugliese.
Among them, are the “twice-displaced” too, pushed from their countries to Libya, and then pushed again from Derna to elsewhere.
“It is far too early to tell what will happen to [these displaced peoples], as for now the response is still purely a humanitarian one,” said Pugliese.
Urooba Jamal is a journalist at Al Jazeera focusing on the Middle East and North Africa. She has previously reported from Europe, Canada, and Latin America.
As Moscow tightens its grip on the eastern regions of Libya, it has triggered new geopolitical tremors within the wider North Africa region, parts of the Mediterranean and even further west, across the Atlantic. The catastrophic flooding in September, which left up to 20,000 people dead in Derna, has turned into a strategic opportunity for Russia to increase its influence in the region. Notorious putschist Khalifa Haftar, who controls most of eastern Libya, is leveraging this same crisis to strengthen his reign, widening his ties with Moscow and, oddly enough, the US too. That is not all, but why is this alarming?
Of course, Russia’s cozy “partnership” with Haftar is no secret. However, the increasing contacts with Russia, including a late September visit to Moscow and meetings with President Vladimir Putin, raise concerns about a rapid expansion of Russian influence and huge shift from a passive, often covert, role to a more active reengagement in Libya. Having successfully reorganized its primary “agent” in Africa’s hotspots, the Wagner private military company, Russia is transitioning away from maintaining a significant but under-acknowledged presence in Libya’s east and south, where Haftar, the self-proclaimed Libyan National Army’s supreme leader, holds sway.
Particularly concerning are the unconfirmed reports that Moscow is pushing Haftar to sign a deal for the supply of air defense systems and pilot training in exchange for Russia establishing air and naval bases in Libya to sustain its operations there, as well as in the Sahel. The deal signals Moscow’s intent to legitimize the activities that were previously undertaken covertly by Wagner in Libya and across Africa under the auspices of its Ministry of Defense. It is a profound shift in Moscow’s ties to Haftar that date back to 2016, when he sought foreign military expertise from Russia, France and the US to combat extremist strongholds in Benghazi and Derna. Russia seized this opportunity to regain a foothold in Libya through Wagner’s mercenaries, which have since established themselves in Sirte and Jufra, close to lucrative oil sites.
The last time Russia was this actively engaged in Libya, the Haftar-Moscow partnership almost led to the seizure of Tripoli, which ultimately failed thanks to Turkiye’s intervention. Since then, they have resorted to consolidating Haftar’s grip on an expansive region, which he now leverages in ongoing negotiations on an enduring political settlement. Over the past few years, Haftar’s “empire” has afforded Moscow all the cover it needed to continue carving out significant strategic advantages in Libya, turning it into a power projection platform toward the Sahel and potentially the Mediterranean. The Russian mercenaries in Libya now number between 1,000 and 1,500, supported by about 1,000 pro-Damascus Syrian militiamen that rotate between Benghazi and Syria.
By lurching toward a profound shift — setting aside its motives that may or may not involve Russia’s troubles in Ukraine — Moscow is signaling that it is here to stay in Libya. Even more worrying is the swift centralization and accumulation of power within the ranks of Haftar’s immediate family and inner circle. At its core is an intricate process of nepotism masquerading as military restructuring. Command responsibilities previously distributed across various military personnel are now unmistakably converging under a coterie of Haftar loyalists, effectively marginalizing potential adversaries.
However, this introspective campaign for supremacy does not stop at merely subordinating the entire military command to Haftar pseudo-dynasty. It also involves an unchecked incursion into Libya’s economic and political domains by erecting patronage structures and initiating a variety of revenue-generating ventures. By broadening its influence, fostering alliances and dependency, the Haftar parallel regime can leverage these ill-begotten gains politically as the situation unfolds. To Russia, this is particularly encouraging because its long-term agenda for Libya will endure well into the future.
The emergence of Saddam Haftar, Khalifa Haftar’s youngest son, paints a vivid picture of an ambitious figure spearheading the family’s political and economic pursuits. As he continues to make his mark in Libya’s complex landscape, his incremental growth and influence not only provide insights on the Haftar family’s overall roadmap, but they also reflect Russia’s intentions as it seeks to reestablish itself after an unceremonious exit in 2011. However, even with a cunning gambit and its careful execution, the prospect of Moscow securing a legitimate defense agreement — as a first of many coups de grace — with Haftar’s parallel regime is fraught with difficulties, although they are not insurmountable.
The internationally recognized Libyan government led by Abdul Hamid Dbeibeh will still have to approve such an agreement and, given the current climate, that is very unlikely. Besides, even within Haftar’s own fiefdom, there are problems. The eastern-based House of Representatives still retains the legal authority to scuttle such a deal if its ratification diminishes the influence of Aguila Saleh, the head of the parliament, who is keen to carve out his own sphere in post-settlement Libya.
However, the West should not bet on these apparent bottlenecks and lull itself into inaction merely based on “what-ifs” and an endless game of geopolitical probabilities. The developing situation in Libya, while in its infancy, is still an unvarnished reflection of Russia’s broader geopolitical ambitions and Europe seriously needs to pay attention.
Firstly, the fragility of Libya, a nation still grappling with long-standing political divisions and a protracted conflict between the east and the west, provides the perfect storm for Russia’s ambitions. By aligning with Haftar, Russia not only gains a strategic ally but also a platform from which it can influence the region’s dynamics. Besides, cultivating a closer relationship will prop up a post-Haftar dynasty, potentially catalyzing a new conflict hotspot right at what some would call Europe’s doorstep.
The quasi-military Wagner group continues to entrench itself in Libya, despite the recent loss of its leader Yevgeny Prigozhin. Yet, across Western capitals, there is still a palpable dismissive narrative that continues to frame Wagner and Russia’s presence in Libya as mere opportunism. The reality, however, is that the mercenary group is only a small part of a prolonged engagement, just one manifestation of Russia’s geopolitical ambitions that extend far beyond military or naval bases for spying in NATO’s backyard or being a proverbial thorn in the soft underbelly of Euro-Atlantic hegemony.
The effects of this ongoing geopolitical chess are already tangible. With each new Russian move to extend its presence, the balance of power in Libya keeps tilting, mostly in favor of the Haftar-dominated east — affording Tobruk and Sirte unprecedented leverage in securing an enduring, albeit controversial and lopsided, settlement of Libya’s protracted political divisions. Moreover, Russia has also not been shy about making inroads with Haftar’s western rival, the Tripoli-based, Western-backed caretaker government led by Prime Minister Dbeibeh.
By playing both sides, Russia is shifting from a passive role in a UN-managed process to active participation, which is potentially concerning. While Russia will continue publicly endorsing the UN process, it could also use its newly cultivated ties with both sides to covertly push for a settlement that safeguards Moscow’s long-term interests, to the detriment of Libyan aspirations for restoring long-lost sovereignty in a stable, unified state. In other words, if Moscow’s interests are better served by a Libya in perpetual tumult, then the shift toward a more active role will not bode well, both for Libyans and the West’s still-unclear vision for the North African country’s future.
The spillover effects of a Libya in perpetual limbo — drifting from one foreign-backed convulsion to the next — are immense, potentially resulting in increased migration flows toward Europe, the worsening of governance in Libya and the further entrenchment of malign actors. It is not just Libya that should be concerned. The potential spread of instability into the wider North Africa region, extending to the Sahel and the Horn of Africa, could worsen the already volatile security dynamics there, creating new vulnerabilities or introducing new complexities that only serve to extend the power vacuums caused by prolonged conflicts.
In conclusion, Russia’s tactical efforts to fortify its military presence in eastern Libya cannot be viewed in isolation by Europe. Such assertive maneuvers, including the potential realization of a naval base on Europe’s southern flank, could shift the delicate balance of power in the region. This could have ramifications not only for Libya’s internal dynamics but also for the global geopolitical landscape, posing a tangible threat at Europe’s doorstep.
Therefore, it is vital for Europe to confidently navigate this strategic conundrum. To counter the growing impact of Russia’s influence in Libya, Europe needs to display geopolitical sagacity. This could involve taking more decisive action in Libya, revitalizing diplomatic dialogue or strengthening the bloc’s collective defense capacity. As Europe seeks to safeguard its regional interests, it must also advocate for a stable, peaceful Libya — which, in the end, is the true necessity for all parties involved.
Hafed Al-Ghwell is a senior fellow and executive director of the North Africa Initiative at the Foreign Policy Institute of the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies in Washington DC.
Amid the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, away from the fanfare of the news media, Libya ended its civil war. The two main sides, the Tobruk-based House of Representatives and the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord, sat down under the supervision of the UN Support Mission in Libya, and agreed to a ceasefire in August 2020. By September they had signed the Montreux Convention, containing a three part proposal for economic, military and political reconciliation. On October 23, the civil war ended. The Secretary General of the UN, Antonio Guterres, called it a “fundamental step towards peace and stability.”
However, the Libyan triumph was not done yet. In January 2021, the peace talks were able to agree on a process for creating a unified government and to hold elections in December. And in February, a construction businessman al-Dbeibeh was appointed Prime Minister, the first Prime Minister of a unified Libya since 2014. The UN hailed “a better, safer, and more peaceful future.” UN press releases from the time drip with the optimism of an aircraft carrier with patriotic music blaring over seas of servicemen while the banners above proclaim: Mission Accomplished!
Unfortunately, the cracks were already there. Al-Dbeibah, the new Prime Minister, is a former Gaddafi oligarch who has been described as having won power (unexpectedly) through a combination of “corruption, money laundering, financing of the Muslim Brotherhood, [and] vote buying.” By 2022, the country had split back into its old factions, there were two prime ministers, two legislatures (incidentally the same two that have run the country since 2014), two armies and the ceasefire had broken down killing dozens. In short, the two sides had used the UN to regroup and rearm, funded by the oil money that was flowing again, only to restart the war.
But never fear, the UN is here. This June, the UN negotiated a new agreement to hold elections and form a new government. It remains to be seen if the new Bouznika deal can prove a lasting peace, or whether it will end up on the scrap heap of history with the Geneva, Skhirat, Tunis, Palermo, Berlin, Montreux, and Cairo deals. The latter seems a safe bet for the time being.
Libya is an invention – as Metternich might say, it is “only a geographical expression.”
The state we now call Libya is composed of a few straight lines in the sand, drawn by the British, French and Italians from the 19th century to 1945. Unlike much of the Arab world, its people are largely descended from the pre-Arab Berbers, which means that the entire country, particularly the southern non-Arab region of Fezzan and the eastern region of Cyrenaica, are tribal (including urban centers like Benghazi and Tobruk). Both Gaddafi and his predecessor, Idris as-Senussi (Libya’s British-installed king), utilized tribes and Islam as a way to maintain support while preventing a national identity capable of opposing them from forming. Idris in particular divided Libya between the Bedouin tribes of his native Cyrenaica and the settled tribes of Tripolitania while embedding his Sufi order, the Senussis, in the former.
So it is unsurprising that as the political situation destabilized in 2014, the country split neatly between four regions. In Cyrenaica, the House of Representatives formed a nationalist government with the backing of the revolution’s US-backed generalissimo Khalifa Haftar. Meanwhile, Tripolitania was split between the Misrata militias of the Government of National Accord (a UN creation in 2015) and the Islamists of the National Salvation Government. The southern region of Fezzan, which is not Arab, was taken over by local tribes.
These divisions match the tribal and historical break up of Libya, and cannot be undone until the power of the tribal militias is broken or the country is dissolved, since both sides are happy to control the territory of their own tribes, all of which conveniently have more than enough oil beneath them to enrich their leaders. This partly explains why it is a civil war with relatively limited campaigns into opposing territory (with the exception of Haftar, who launched sporadic if unsuccessful attempts to capture Tripoli, and Islamic State who spread in 2014 in central Libya amid the chaos).
From the very beginning of the civil war, a fruitless peace has been sought. From as early as 2015, the UN had successfully persuaded both the Tripoli and Tobruk governments to form a unity government, the Government of National Accord (GNA), only for both sides to back out the following year, creating three rival governments. By 2017, the GNA had subsumed the Tripoli government, returning to the 2014 division between east and west after the Misrata militias (who dominated the west) threw their support behind the GNA.
This is almost entirely similar to the aforementioned peace process in 2020 when the two sides came together, only for one to back out the next year returning the nation to violence. Hence it is with some skepticism that one could view the return to the negotiating table this June. With both sides entrenched in their own fiefdoms, there is little to incentivize them to abandon power in a permanent peace. The explanation for the continued violence and inability of peace to succeed is threefold: autocratic egos, tribal militias and self-interested foreigners. All three are too powerful for Libya’s good.
In the process, several figures have gained an undue amount of power. Chief among them is General Khalifa Haftar, once a senior figure in Gaddafi’s army who went into exile in the 1980s for opposing the regime. Since returning he has led a militia in the east that goes by the misnomer of the Libyan National Army (LNA).
Through them, he has used the eastern government (the House of Representatives) as a mouthpiece while de facto running the government. Until the east is able to rid itself of him, it will never be able to permanently enter a national government. At the political level, two figures come to mind. The current Prime Minister, Abdul Hamid al-Dbeibah, has used his position to delay the promised elections to remain in power. Similarly, the recently removed eastern Prime Minister Fathi Bashagha, a long-time political kingmaker in the Misrata militias, has a record (as in 2022) of destabilizing the nation to gain power.
The tribal militias that dominate Libya are themselves a key roadblock to peace. While some have ideological backing (the Shield Force and Libya Dawn on the Islamist side and the LNA on the nationalist side), most (including the above) sit somewhere on the spectrum between being the personal vehicle of thugs and being a tribal mechanism to control national positions of patronage. That both al-Dbeibah and Bashagha, the two competing Prime Ministers, are from Misrata, Libya’s third largest city, is telling. Misrata militias are the most successful example of this process.
They led the removal of Gaddafi with Derna and Zentan militias, then clipped the wings of their rivals so that they have been able to dominate both the eastern and western governments since. Incidentally, the fact that two-thirds of Misrata’s population is Turkish (including Bashagha) helps explain why their politicians have been so willing to cut deals with and reliant on Turkey. And a similar process has been repeated (less successfully than the Misratis) throughout Libya.
Aside from domestic actors, foreign governments have been heavily involved in the conflict and peace process. Turkey is a classic example of the strong influence that foreign nations have had in Libya. Rather than work through the UN, numerous nations have undermined peace and enabled the perpetuation of the conflict.
While the actions of Libya’s neighbors, like Egypt, in propping up regimes on their border to maintain border security, are understandable, others are not. The now infamous Wagner Group cut its teeth fighting for Haftar beginning in 2018. Similarly, Turkey has acted as a gun runner for the Tripoli government. What Turkey, Russia, Egypt and others want is to gain influence over a government with immense oil wealth and curry favor with whichever politician on the ground is willing to play ball.
But perhaps the most surprising involvement is France, which has acted as gun runners for Haftar in contravention of the EU, NATO and UN position of backing the Tripoli government. This is egregious for numerous reasons; not only does France deserve criticism for backing a rebellion against the internationally-recognized government, but as a key force behind the 2011 violence, France is partially responsible for the Tripoli government it is now trying to topple. Macron even called Erdogan a “criminal” for backing the internationally-recognized government even as his own government fuels the war.
The apparent explanation for the bizarre situation between NATO allies France and Turkey is that Libya has ended up as a pawn in a Franco-Turkish proxy war in the Mediterranean driven less by Libyan oil than Cypriot oil. Cyprus (as well as Greece, Israel and Egypt) have extensive oil fields that France is funding the exploration of, but which are disputed by Turkey and North Cyprus. The exact value of the field depends on whether a 2019 deal between Turkey and the Tripoli government unilaterally divvying up the Cypriot sea bed between themselves is upheld, hence the involvement of France in backing the Tobruk government.
What comes next?
So what are the options for Libya going forward? There appear to be four options: Islamism, tribalism, nationalism or intransigence. Noticeably, democracy does not feature here. That is because no one in power wants it. Let us assume that intransigence is not an option since it would mean allowing the war and humanitarian crisis to continue (an unbearable tragedy). Nor is Islamism a likely option. While some Islamists are more moderate, even democratic, in the mold of Tunisia’s Ennadha, their figurehead Mahmoud Jibril has recently died, leaving the movement in the hands of weakened militias who lack the capacity to govern Libya and have close ties to groups like al-Qaeda and Islamic State (meaning even if they could govern, they should not be allowed to).
That leaves effectively three choices: to back either east or west, to continue trying to create a unity government between them, or to dissolve the country. The advantage of backing a side is that either Haftar or al-Dbeibah would utilize their nationalist instinct to bring the nation together. In Haftar’s case he has a strong relationship with the Americans, Egyptians and French, and has secular credentials and military ability.
Meanwhile, Al-Dbeibah runs the internationally-recognized government, and is thus the UN’s choice. The disadvantage of either option is that both are autocrats in the making. Haftar is a classic military strongman, and all pretense of working with a democratic and liberal House of Representatives would likely collapse if he won power. Al-Dbeibah is more reliant on tribal and Islamist forces, meaning that a government he led would be weaker and possibly unable to rule the country–that said, given his delaying tactics on the elections, his dictatorial tendencies are not in doubt.
Furthermore, to engineer the victory of one side over the other seems unlikely. The various international actors have failed. Haftar has made it to Tripoli on numerous occasions but never taken it, while the Tripoli governments have never crossed into Cyrenaica, nor have they demonstrated an interest in doing so. And were a victory to be achieved, it would likely involve such a spilling of blood that it would be undesirable.
The nuclear option would be to dissolve Libya. As previously noted, in many ways it is an artificial and colonial invention between a tribal and Sufist east and an urban and Islamist west. That would avoid either side having to lose, giving both Haftar and al-Dbeibah their own fiefdoms, ending the war. There is plenty of oil for both sides to make use of in order to fund the recovery (estimated to cost half a trillion dollars). While both countries would remain authoritarian, at least the rebuilding (which Libyans want prioritized) could begin and that may be the best the international community can hope for. Of course, it is unclear if either side would accept, but with peace talks to save the Libyan state in a never ending loop of failure, now is the time to consider having a serious discussion about whether the idea of Libya can be saved at all.
The Return of Gaddafi
When elections first started to be discussed for a unity government in 2020, many international observers were taken by surprise when the ugly head of Gaddafi reared itself, more specifically, the head of his son and right hand man Saif. They were even more surprised to discover he is polling in second place behind al-Dbeibah; ahead of both Haftar and Bashagha. Wanted by the ICC for crimes against humanity, he was sentenced to death in absentia by the Tripoli government. However, he was released by Haftar’s allies in 2017, shortly after which, according to an Al-Jazeera investigation, he funneled money into Macron’s election campaign.
The sudden rise of Saif Gaddafi is notable as it suggests the exhaustion of the Libyan people with their predicament, and the collection of mafia thugs and petty warlords who have created it. Though they may not have liked Gaddafi’s regime, his North Korean-style police state or the international isolation after the 1992 Lockerbie bombing, they also remember that Libya was extremely wealthy, with one of the world’s most comprehensive social safety nets, and a higher Human Development Index than Russia and Brazil, as well as all its neighbors. Most Libyans may not remember Gaddafi fondly, but the current situation is so bad that he has begun to be seen as the lesser of two evils.
Libya’s predicament is solvable and that solution does not need to involve Said al-Gaddafi. But it will require creativity, and quite likely UN acceptance of a nationalist dictator or dictators over the current anarchy.
Theo J. Harper is Director of Digital Media and a Senior Editor at the HIR. He is from the UK studying History, and is interested in diplomatic theory and history as well as the Middle East and South-East Asia.
In 2022, the Central Office for Combating Trafficking in Cultural Property (OCBC) launched a preliminary investigation into the seizure of a large, draped and fragmentary marble torso in France.
This investigation, conducted under the authority of the Paris public prosecutor’s office (specialized section for combating organized crime), began following a report made by the Louvre Museum after an application for an export certificate.
The museum then alerted the French Museums Department (Ministry of Culture), which in turn alerted the OCBC. The request came from a foreign gallery acting on behalf of a private client living in France.
Following an in-depth study by the French Archaeological Mission in Libya, the bust was authenticated as originating from the necropolis of ancient Cyrene (or its immediate surroundings), a site that has been the target of looting for many years. The bust is therefore one of the categories of artefacts on the ICOM Red List of Libyan Heritage in Danger.
French investigations have brought to light a number of clues pointing to the illicit discovery of the sculpture. Faced with speculation that the sculpture had been looted, the gallery compensated its client and accepted the request for its return to the Libyan state, a decision validated by the magistrate in charge of the investigation.
The bust seized by the OCBC was returned on October 12, 2023, during a ceremony held at the Libyan Embassy, which formalized the return of this cultural asset to its country of origin and highlighted the international cooperation between the two countries.
This case is exemplary in the way professionals from different sectors, including museums, the Ministry of Culture, the justice system, French law enforcement agencies, and the art market, worked together to identify the illegal status of the bust and secure its return.
This case also highlights the importance of the ICOM Red Lists in preventing the purchase of objects illegally placed on the market by raising awareness on the most vulnerable categories of objects in a country or region. It is, therefore, a very useful tool in the exercise of due diligence by art market professionals.
This case also highlights the important role played by actors in the art world, such as galleries, which can play a significant role in restituting an object to its rightful owner once its illicit provenance has been demonstrated.
‘Whoever wants to win should come’ as the oil-rich nation rebuilds and opens up to the world, Mohammed Ali Al-Hawij tells Al Majalla.
Libya is stuck in a political impasse, with the country split between rival power centres claiming legitimacy to control the nation.
Talks over a constitutional framework to help set up elections that could restore a unified government have yet to reach any agreement. This uncertainty persists after the country has been hit by the shockwaves from a range of factors, from the COVID-19 pandemic to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Then came the catastrophic floods in September. They killed at least 5,000 people in the eastern city of Derna and left behind significant challenges related to reconstruction. A quarter of the city’s neighbourhoods were wiped off the map. Thousands of people are still missing.
It adds to a sense of fragility rooted in the political division that followed the 2011 civil war, which has already had far-reaching economic implications. Libya’s gross domestic product per capita fell by 50% between 2011 and 2020, when if it had continued on its pre-conflict trajectory, it would have risen by 68%, according to the findings of a recent report from the World Bank produced after the Derna disaster.
Floods in September in Libya killed at least 5,000 people in the eastern city of Derna and left behind significant challenges related to reconstruction.
Libya has significant potential if it can leverage its considerable financial resources.
That message was conveyed in an interview with the minister for economy and trade in the internationally recognised Government of National Unity – Mohammed Ali Al-Hawij – who spoke exclusively to Al Majalla.
Here is the conversation, which was held in Tripoli.
Did the Derna disaster reveal the depth of Libya’s political crisis?
Disasters occur in all countries, especially because of floods. Still, in Libya, we suffer from the negative impact of divisions among state institutions, political instability, the suspension of projects since 2010, the cessation of maintenance programmes for dams and other facilities, and the lack of legislatively approved budgets.
This may have led to the emergence of corruption, which isn’t limited to financial corruption. This is a clear indication of the divisions marring Libyan institutions, and this may lead to some damage, such as the lack of maintenance of dams, for example, and the cessation of development projects.
What do you think of the International Monetary Fund’s warning of Libya against complete dependence on oil despite increased production?
We started with a new vision: to diversify a national economy that isn’t dependent on oil. We try to see more agricultural activities to boost food security – examples include wheat production, olive oil production, and cereal production or industrial activities, relying on national raw materials. We know that Libya’s strategic location helps in this direction, and Libya has many resources. Hopefully, after seven years, the Libyan economy will be one of the best in the new vision.
Are you still facing a challenging investment environment due to the political division, despite the dealings of several large countries with the Government of National Unity?
All fields are open to foreign companies, whether European, American, or Arab.
Now we offer them all facilities, whether 100% foreign or in partnership with Libyans, especially in technology. Libya’s geographical location is rich in transit trade, solar energy, and proximity to Europe and Africa. Libya is a rare investment opportunity in the Mediterranean and even the world.
Now, the opportunity is available to all countries. We have no reservations about any government or any sector, including oil. Oil is also available for foreign companies to invest in exploration and other activities. All sectors are open.
The law is a guarantor, and there are great incentives. Law 109/2010, with its fortified articles, is known among international laws. There’s no priority for one over another, and controls and conditions are set by the National Oil Corporation (NOC).
Libya is trying to raise its oil production rates and reach normal levels during the first quarter of next year.
We now produce 1.2m bpd , and OPEC has set our quota at 1.4m bpd. The NOC has set its goal of 2m bpd in the short term; we must now develop our fields to reach that goal; the main target is 3m bpd, but we’re talking about the target in the short term.
Now, the opportunity is available to all countries. We have no reservations about any government or any sector, including oil. Oil is also available for foreign companies to invest in exploration and other activities. All sectors are open.
This programme has really been influential in development, so any company that enters into exploration or drilling with us from any country is welcome. Higher oil prices have positive effects on any oil-dependent economy; it increases fiscal reserves. It also helps cover expenses.
As I told you, oil and gas finance 98% of the Libyan budget; the higher the oil price, the higher the revenue and the more the financial reserves. Oil is a commodity we sell, and if prices increase, we will not object.
Libya is entering a reconstruction phase in all fields, especially in Derna. Hence, financing is needed. Where would it come from?
Either from domestic oil and gas resources, from the private sector, or foreign investment – there are three primary resources from international banks: the Islamic Development Bank, the African Development Bank, and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.
Today, these are some of the sources of funding.
What are your main goals in the next five years?
We have three goals.
First, political stability. This is number one; the countries of the world are helping us in political stability that leads to the unification of institutions.
Second, economic development, which comes by diversifying the economy so that we don’t depend on oil only. Therefore, the outside world gives us stability, so that we can achieve economic development; economic development contributes to foreign investment, which we welcome – from funds, international and Arab banks, such as the Islamic Development Bank, the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development, and others.
Third, the international community is helping us by contributing to management and the provision of a vision. The 10-year vision for Libya depends on diversifying the resources of the economy, as I said, such as agricultural and industrial activities, services, petrochemicals, and so on.
The international community is helping us. The 10-year vision for Libya depends on diversifying the economy’s resources, such as agricultural and industrial activities, services, petrochemicals, and so on.
Because of the period of instability in Libya, international reconstruction funds can engage with us, primarily like those of the Gulf countries, and their contribution to either investments or reconstruction funds to finance major infrastructure projects.
We’re part of this world, so we ask the countries of the Arab League, the European Union, North America and countries like China to engage with us in the reconstruction of Libya in all fields.
Two years ago, Libyan Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibeh announced the launch of the “Return of Life” scheme for development programmes and projects in Libya. Where does this plan stand now?
There was no stability in the previous phase, but today, we have projects that the Government of National Unity collectively called the “Return of Life.”
There were large contracts in the past that were put on hold in 2010-2011; Turkey, for example, has large contracts that will be relaunched, and the Government of National Unity is now seeking to revive all old projects such as railways, highways, airports, housing, city development, and universities.
These are all aimed at reconstruction, especially in frozen old contracts with Korea, Italy, and Turkey. We’re now, as a government of national unity, reviving these projects and developing new ones. It’s important to engage the private sector and its capital. We’ve now moved from dependence on the State to dependence on the private sector, whether it is a local private sector or a foreign private sector. We’ll rise in a short time because we want to save time.
In the relevant ministries – the Ministry of Economy, the Ministry of Planning, the Ministry of Finance – we’ve started to develop a vision to diversify the economy with the aim of reducing the contribution of oil to GDP.
We want to decrease this contribution from 70% to 40% only, and we want oil, instead of being sold as a raw material, to be converted here into industrial products. As you know, alternative energies, such as green energy and solar energy, have begun to compete with oil. We have focused on solar energy to generate electricity, the construction of half a million housing units, airports, transit trade facilities, and roads.
We’ve started to develop a vision to diversify the economy with the aim of reducing the contribution of oil to GDP. We want to decrease this contribution from 70% to 40%, and we want oil, instead of being sold as a raw material, to be converted here into industrial products.
We are considering a road between Misrata and Niger and a road from Benghazi to Port Sudan. This is in addition to completing universities and sports facilities. This is in terms of infrastructure. As for wheat production in the south, we encourage the private sector in southern Libya to pursue projects in this regard for us to be self-sufficient with wheat.
The oil sector was also dead; now, life is returning to it, and oil services are provided by Libyan labour.
So it seems the investors who come to Libya today will win first?
We’re entering the investment stage, and we welcome everyone. First come, first serve.
We mean the Gulf states. We have ports, for example, and this is an investment that we must welcome. Also, we have some industrial sectors. Libya is a gateway to Africa and a gateway to Europe, and it has many sectors. We’re waiting because investment is still weak. Hence, we encourage it.
In the past, it was all governmental, but now we encourage the private sector and all countries that invest in Libya in all fields – there’s no reservation in any sector.
Libya has a lot of wealth, but what about security while armed groups loyal to two governments deploy in the east and west of the country?
Currently, we’re investing in areas with arrangements, such as free zones in Misrata, Benghazi, and Tobruk – all considered safe.
Even the south is safe. We’re addressing a misconception that has taken root in the minds of many over the past years. On the contrary, these places are all secured by armed forces.
We’re addressing a misconception that has taken root in the minds of many over the past years that Libya is not safe. On the contrary, these places are all secured by armed forces.
Unlike previous years, investors are secure in any place they choose for their project. We also secure investors from a legal point of view.
Ultimately, whoever comes now will win now… Whoever wants to win should come to Libya. As I said in the beginning, the oil sector was also dead; now, life is returning to it, and oil services are being provided by Libyan labour.
As I said, the NOC has established a promising scheme under the prime minister’s guidance. I would also like to emphasise that investment is safe again, and as I mentioned, we invest in some sectors and encourage investment in other sectors, especially agriculture.
Russia is moving to expand its military presence in eastern Libya, a plan that could lead to a naval base, giving it a significant foothold on Europe’s southern doorstep.
A defense accord is being hammered out between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Libya’s eastern military commander Khalifa Haftar following their meeting in Moscow in late September, according to people briefed on the matter, who asked not to be identified discussing sensitive issues.
The escalation of Russian activity in Libya represents a fresh challenge to the U.S. and its European allies, which are already locked in a standoff with the Kremlin over its invasion of Ukraine and the country’s potential role in any wider Middle East conflict stemming from the Israel-Hamas war. Russia has been heavily active in neighboring Syria throughout that country’s decade-long civil war.
The threat is being taken “very seriously” by the U.S. administration, said Jonathan Winer, a former U.S. special envoy to Libya. “Keeping Russia out of the Mediterranean has been a key strategic objective — if Russia gets ports there, that gives it the ability to spy on all of the European Union.”
Russia has had a covert presence in the North African oil exporter for several years via the Wagner mercenary group, which moved in during the power vacuum and civil war that followed the NATO-backed removal of Muammar Qaddafi in 2011. The Russian defense ministry has been systematically taking control of Wagner’s activities since its mutinous leader Yevgeny Prigozhin and his top aides died in a mysterious plane crash in August.
The groundwork done by Wagner to advance the Kremlin’s interests in Africa and the Middle East has allowed Moscow to quickly ramp up its foreign military assets. It’s also seeking a naval base on the Red Sea in Sudan, which would give it permanent access to the Suez Canal, Indian Ocean and Arabian Peninsula, though a civil conflict in that country may put back those plans.
Libya is divided between dueling administrations in the western capital, Tripoli, and the east, where Haftar holds sway. It’s common for each side to oppose foreign policies and other decisions made by its rival.
Haftar, 79, controls many of the major oil facilities in Libya, an OPEC producer that’s home to some 40% of Africa’s reserves. He’s looking for air-defense systems to protect him against rival forces in Tripoli, who have been backed by Turkey’s military, according to people close to his self-styled Libyan National Army.
He also wants training for his air force pilots and special forces, they said. In return, a handful of air bases currently occupied by Wagner paramilitaries will be upgraded to host Russian forces.
Russian warships may also get permanent docking rights at a Libyan port, most likely Tobruk, located just a few hundred kilometers across the Mediterranean from Greece and Italy, according to other people with knowledge of the talks. However, that is a longer-term prospect because it will require substantial upgrading of port facilities, they said. Russia so far has only one naval base in the Mediterranean, at Syria’s Tartus.
Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, didn’t reply to questions on the potential military deal. The Defense Ministry in Moscow didn’t respond to requests for comment. A spokesman for the Libyan National Army, Ahmed Al-Mismari, didn’t pick up calls to his phone. The Tripoli-based Libyan government didn’t respond to requests for comment.
Haftar’s Sept. 28 audience with Putin marked a breakthrough for the Libyan commander in his relations with Russia. During his previous visit to Moscow in 2020, Putin declined to meet him while lower-ranking officials pressed him to sign a ceasefire with Tripoli. He left the country abruptly without accepting a deal.
Haftar’s deepening ties with Moscow have raised concern in Washington and prompted a series of high-level visits to the country this year in a bid to persuade him to change course.
A week before his talks with Putin, the commander of U.S. forces in Africa, General Michael Langley, and the current U.S. special envoy to Libya, Richard Norland, met Haftar in Benghazi. They pressed him to remove foreign forces, according to U.S. Africa Command.
Libya should be in a position to “choose from a range of security cooperation partners,” Norland told reporters in a conference call last month. He denounced the Russian military role in Libya as “destabilizing.”
U.S. President Joe Biden’s problem is that Russia is offering military assistance that the U.S. cannot provide because of Haftar’s failed attempt to overthrow the internationally recognized government in Tripoli in 2019-2020, according to Winer, the former U.S. envoy. At the same time, it hasn’t been prepared to discuss sanctions, he said, so there’s little obvious cost for Haftar in turning to Putin.
Nevertheless, a defense deal with Russia will reinforce divisions between the east and west of Libya, currently governed by rival administrations, and make it less likely the country can reunite after more than a decade of strife since the overthrow of Qaddafi, said Claudia Gazzini, senior Libya analyst at the International Crisis Group.
That scenario suits Russia just fine, said Kirill Semenov from the Kremlin-founded Russian International Affairs Center.
“For Haftar, the key is to maintain his armed forces and the U.S. isn’t giving him any other option but to stick with Russia as his main partner.”
A plethora of meetings and statements, but to one outcome! There are no elections on the foreseeable horizon that could open a window of change and bring hope to end the current state of affairs, in which lives, money, time, and sovereignty are wasted. The basic points of disagreement still exist, and they are almost just an excuse to abort the elections, circumvent to form a new government, and extend the transitional phase that the de facto authorities do not want to leave.
Following his meeting with the Chairman of the High National Election Commission (HNEC), the UN envoy Abdoulaye Bathily praised HNEC’s preparations for the electoral process, stressing that the United Nations will provide full support to HNEC to conduct the elections. The meeting discussed election laws, which HNEC had previously announced that it had received from the House of Representatives (HoR).
The discussion focused on the technical aspects of the laws, as HNEC, as well as UNSMIL, presented some technical observations about the laws, and it appears that the 6+6 Committee responded to these observations and made the required amendments. However, The High Council of State’s (HCS) declared adherence to the Bouznika version, confirms that the amendments went beyond technical points to Items of controversial issues, which the six-party committee sought to reach a formula that would be acceptable to both houses.
However, such acceptance did not come from the HoR and its speaker, who violated the Constitutional Amendment, and presented the draft laws for discussion in the HoR sessions, then referred them to HNEC, without informing the HCS and UNSMIL, instead addressing the UN Secretary-General urging him to mobilize international support for the formation of a new government.
Agila Saleh knows that changing the government requires the approval of the HCS, and therefore some concessions must be made in the draft laws, such as acceptance of HCS position in preventing the candidacy of military personnel and candidates with dual nationalities. This concession Agila cannot make, because in doing so he agrees to exclude his key ally Khalifa Haftar. This is a scenario that will hasten his ouster from HoR presidency, and the introduction of a new presidency that will be more intransigent in its positions.
Agila Saleh’s bypassing of the UN envoy, and addressing Guterres directly, was an attempt to marginalize the role of the envoy, who did not announce any clear change in his position, and is still urging everyone to negotiate and agree on the draft election laws. Bathily also does not see that the matter warrants for the formation of a new government, but rather to go on working with the existence of a unified government, inclusive of all parties.
Western countries, and foremost the USA, support Bathily’s vision and position on the elections and government issues, but they do not put enough pressure to push all parties, especially those intransigents in their positions, to respond and engage in Bathily’s project.
The de facto authorities, east and west, realize that expanding participation in any dialogue sponsored by UNSMIL means the entry of political and military parties with different positions and interests, and through the space granted to them in the dialogue, they will have an influence on the outcomes, which will necessarily not be what the HoR and the HCS want.
After all the six-party committee meetings in Morocco, the laws it adopted, and then the additional meetings at home, in response to pressure from some parties to amend some items, and the UN envoy’s continued meetings and consultations, the election file did not advance an inch, and therefore all these meetings and consultations were running in a vicious circle.
The way to overcome the current stalemate is to search for a new approach to conduct parliamentary elections, which supporters expand every day, and bypass the parties to the conflict that will not accept any elections or results that would end their authority. This certainly requires international and regional consensus, the features of which have not yet emerged.
As Israelis and Palestinians mourn the dead and fearfully await news of those now missing, the tendency to look for someone to blame is impossible for many to resist. Israelis and their supporters want to pin all the blame on Hamas, whose direct responsibility for the horrific attack on Israeli civilians is beyond question. Those more sympathetic to the Palestinian cause see the tragedy as the inevitable result of decades of occupation and Israel’s harsh and prolonged treatment of its Palestinian subjects.
News, analysis, and background on the ongoing conflict.
Others insist there is plenty of blame to go around, and that anyone who sees one side as wholly innocent and the other as solely responsible has lost any capacity for fair-minded judgment.
Inevitably, arguing over which of the immediate protagonists is most at fault obscures other important causes that are only loosely related to the long conflict between Zionist Israelis and Palestinian Arabs. We should not lose sight of these other factors even during the present crisis, however, because their effects may continue to echo long after the current fighting stops.
Where one begins to trace causes is inherently arbitrary (Theodor Herzl’s 1896 book, The Jewish State? the 1917 Balfour Declaration? the Arab revolt of 1936? the 1947 U.N. partition plan? the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, or the 1967 Six-Day War?), but I’ll start in 1991, when the United States emerged as the unchallenged external power in Middle East affairs and began trying to construct a regional order that served its interests.
Within that broader context, there are at least five key episodes or elements that helped bring us to the tragic events of the past two weeks.
The first moment was the 1991 Gulf War and its aftermath: the Madrid peace conference. The Gulf War was a stunning display of U.S. military power and diplomatic artistry that removed the threat that Saddam Hussein had posed to the regional balance of power. With the Soviet Union nearing collapse, the United States was now firmly in the driver’s seat. Then- President George H. W. Bush, Secretary of State James Baker, and an experienced Middle East team seized upon this opportunity to convene a peace conference in October 1991, which included representatives from Israel, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, the European Economic Community, and a joint Jordanian/Palestinian delegation.
Although the conference did not produce tangible results—let alone a final peace agreement—it laid the groundwork for a serious effort to construct a peaceful regional order. It is tantalizing to contemplate what might have been achieved if Bush had been reelected in 1992 and his team had been given the opportunity to continue their work.
Yet Madrid also contained a fateful flaw, one that sowed the seeds of much future trouble. Iran was not invited to participate in the conference, and it responded to being excluded by organizing a meeting of “rejectionist” forces and reaching out to Palestinian groups—including Hamas and Islamic Jihad—that it had previously ignored.
As Trita Parsi observes in his book Treacherous Alliance, “Iran viewed itself as a major regional power and expected a seat at the table,” because Madrid was “not seen as just a conference on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but as the defining moment in forming the new Middle East order.” Tehran’s response to Madrid was primarily strategic rather than ideological: It sought to demonstrate to the United States and others that it could derail their efforts to create a new regional order if its interests were not taken into account.
And that is precisely what happened, as suicide bombings and other acts of extremist violence disrupted the Oslo Accords negotiation process and undermined Israeli support for a negotiated settlement. Over time, as peace remained elusive and relations between Iran and the West deteriorated further, the ties between Hamas and Iran grew stronger.
The second critical event was the fateful combination of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and the subsequent U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003. The decision to invade Iraq was only tangentially related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, even though Ba’athist Iraq had backed the Palestinian cause in several ways. The George W. Bush administration believed that toppling Saddam would eliminate the supposed threat of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, remind adversaries of U.S. power, strike a blow against terrorism more broadly, and pave the way for a radical transformation of the entire Middle East along democratic lines.
What they got, alas, was a costly quagmire in Iraq and a dramatic improvement in Iran’s strategic position. This shift in the balance of power in the Gulf alarmed Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states, and perceptions of a shared threat from Iran began to reshape regional relationships in important ways, including by altering some Arab states’ relations with Israel.
Fears of U.S.-led “regime change” also encouraged Iran to pursue a latent nuclear weapons capability, leading to a steady increase in its enrichment capacity and ever-tighter U.S. and U.N. sanctions.
With hindsight, a third key event was then-U.S. President Donald Trump’s fateful abandonment of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with Iran and his adoption of a policy of “maximum pressure” instead. This foolish decision had several unfortunate effects: Leaving the JCPOA allowed Iran to restart its nuclear program and move much closer to an actual weapons capability, and the maximum pressure campaign led Iran to attack oil shipments and facilities in the Persian Gulf and Saudi Arabia, to show the United States that its attempt to compel or overthrow them was not without costs and risks.
As one would expect, these developments heightened the concerns of the Saudis and increased their interest in acquiring nuclear infrastructure of their own. And as realist theory predicts, perceptions of a growing threat from Iran encouraged quiet but significant forms of security cooperation between Israel and several Gulf states.
The fourth development was the so-called Abraham Accords, in some ways a logical extension of Trump’s decision to leave the JCPOA. The brainchild of amateur strategist (and Trump’s son-in-law) Jared Kushner, the accords were a series of bilateral agreements normalizing relations between Israel and Morocco, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, and Sudan.
Critics noted that the accords did relatively little to advance the cause of peace because none of the participating Arab governments were actively hostile to Israel or capable of harming it. Others warned that regional peace would remain elusive as long as the fate of the 7 million Palestinians living under Israeli control was unresolved.
The Biden administration continued along much the same path. It took no meaningful steps to stop Israel’s increasingly far-right government from backing violent actions by extremist settlers, which led to a surge in Palestinian deaths and displacements over the past two years. After failing to fulfill a campaign promise to immediately rejoin the JCPOA, Biden and Co. focused their main efforts on persuading Saudi Arabia to normalize relations with Israel in exchange for some sort of U.S. security guarantee and perhaps access to advanced nuclear technology.
The motivation for this effort had little to do with Israel-Palestine, however, and was mostly intended to keep Saudi Arabia from moving closer to China. Linking a security commitment to Saudi Arabia with normalization was primarily a way to overcome U.S. congressional reluctance to a sweetheart deal with Riyadh. Like Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his cabinet, top U.S. officials appear to have assumed that there was nothing that any Palestinian group could do to derail or slow this process or draw attention back to their plight.
Unfortunately, the rumored deal gave Hamas a powerful incentive to show just how wrong this assumption was. Recognizing this fact in no way justifies what Hamas did and especially the intentional brutality of the attacks; it is simply to acknowledge that Hamas’s decision to do something—and especially its timing—was a response to regional developments that were driven to a considerable extent by other concerns.
As I noted in my last column, the fifth factor is not a single event but rather the United States’ enduring failure to bring the so-called peace process to a successful end. Washington had monopolized stewardship of the peace process ever since the Oslo Accords (which, as the name implies, came about due to Norwegian mediation), and its various efforts over the years ultimately led nowhere. Former U.S. Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama repeatedly declared that the United States—the world’s most powerful country in the full flush of its so-called unipolar moment—was committed to achieving a two-state solution, but that outcome is now farther away than ever and probably impossible.
These background elements are important because the nature of the future global order is up for grabs, and several influential states are challenging the intermittently liberal and inconsistently followed “rules-based order” that the United States has championed for decades.
China, Russia, India, South Africa, Brazil, Iran, and others openly call for a more multipolar order, where power is more evenly shared. They want to see a world where the United States no longer acts as the so-called indispensable power, as one that expects others to follow its rules while reserving the right to disregard them whenever they prove inconvenient.
Unfortunately for the United States, the five events I just described and their impact on the region provide potent ammunition for the revisionist position (as Russian President Vladimir Putin was quick to point out last week). “Just look at the Middle East,” they might say. “The United States has been managing the region by itself for more than three decades, and what has its ‘leadership’ produced? We see devastating wars in Iraq, Syria, Sudan, and Yemen.
Lebanon is on life support, there is anarchy in Libya, and Egypt is lurching toward collapse. Terrorist groups have morphed and mutated and sown fear on several continents, and Iran keeps edging closer to the bomb. There is no security for Israel and neither security nor justice for the Palestinians. This is what you get when you let Washington run everything, my friends. Whatever their intentions may have been, U.S. leaders have repeatedly shown us that they lack the wisdom and objectivity to deliver positive results, not even for themselves.”
One can easily imagine a Chinese official adding: “May I point out that we have good relations with everyone in the region, and our only vital interest there is reliable access to energy. We are therefore committed to keeping the region quiet and peaceful, which is why we helped Iran and Saudi Arabia reestablish ties last year. Isn’t it obvious that the world would benefit if the U.S. role there declined and ours increased?”
If you don’t think a message like this would resonate outside the comfortable confines of the trans-Atlantic community, then you haven’t been paying attention. And if you are also someone who thinks that addressing the challenge of a rising China is a top priority, you may want to reflect on how the United States’ past actions contributed to the present crisis—and how the shadow of the past will continue to undermine the U.S. standing in the world in the future.
To their credit, over the past week Biden and his foreign-policy team have been doing what they do best, namely, managing a crisis that was at least partly of their own making. They are working overtime to limit the damage, prevent the conflict from spreading, contain the domestic political fallout, and (fingers crossed) bring the violence to an end. We should all hope that their efforts succeed.
But as I noted more than a year ago, the administration’s foreign-policy team are best seen as skilled mechanics but not architects, and in an era where the institutional architecture of world politics is increasingly an issue and new blueprints are needed. They are adept at using the tools of U.S. power and the machinery of government to address short-term problems, but they are stuck in an outdated vision of America’s global role, to include how its handling of its various Middle East clients. It is obvious that they badly misread where the Middle East was headed, and applying Band-Aids today—even if it is being done with energy and skill—will still leave the underlying wounds untreated.
If the end result of Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s current ministrations is merely a return to the pre-Oct. 7 status quo, I fear that the rest of the world will look on, shake its head in dismay and disapproval, and conclude that it’s time for a different approach.
Stephen M. Walt, a columnist at Foreign Policy and the Robert and Renée Belfer professor of international relations at Harvard University.
“I wanted the novel to open with a parting because I think whenever you take somebody that you love to an airport, or train station or wherever, the world seems to completely change the moment they leave”
My Friends, the extraordinary third novel from Hisham Matar, is the story of three Libyan friends in exile.
“I wanted the novel to open with a parting because I think whenever you take somebody that you love to an airport, or train station or wherever, the world seems to completely change the moment they leave. I thought that would be a very good place to start because in a sense a novel is a departure, it is a setting off.”
The story is told across a walk in London, from St Pancras to Shepherd’s Bush, on one day in November 2016, after the narrator, Khaled, says goodbye to his old friend of two decades, Hosam, at the station and walks back home.
It is a walk of a few hours, and yet it spans decades, as Khaled revisits his past. Born and raised in Libya, he leaves in the early 1980s to attend university in Edinburgh as an 18-year-old student on a government scholarship, expecting to return home to his family after graduation. But when news comes of students rounded up and thrown in jail by the authorities back in Libya, Khaled and his friend Mustafa decide to travel to London to join a demonstration in front of the Libyan Embassy.
All along, everything I wrote, I felt I wrote at the expense of this book
This is the precise moment that Khaled’s life is wrenched from its predictable course. When officials inside the embassy open fire on the peaceful crowd outside, Khaled first hears the sound of the bullets as “a series of tears like the wind ripping sails”.
And then: “It literally pressed into me and then ran through me with unremitting force, unquestionable, until it reached the centre of my brain and halted there for a moment before turning back and scorching outwards, pushing with it everything that I was, everything that I did not even know I was, to the outer limits. I was now empty and standing, my life reduced to a single unbroken line of a swirl locked inside a child’s glass marble. And there it rolled out, that marble, rolled out of me, taking everything with it,” Matar writes. The scene, a searing 13 pages that culminates in the reaction of a young hospital doctor when he sees the extent of Khaled’s injuries, is devastatingly powerful.
The embassy moment
The Libyan Embassy shooting, which is the defining event of Khaled’s life, was a real event, of course. On 17th April 1984, 11 demonstrators were wounded and a young policewoman, Yvonne Fletcher, was murdered. When we meet in a pub in west London, I ask Hisham Matar about the challenge of interweaving real events with fictional characters. “I was very ambivalent about it for a while. I thought, maybe this is not the thing to do but it really just imposed itself on the narrative.”
It was another brazen attack by the dictatorship on civilians, but it was also happening in public, the international public, and others were affected by it
He remembers watching it on the news at the time, seeing the demonstrators on the ground, screaming. One was calling out for his mother. Matar was 13 years old and that image “never left me”, he says.
“Years and years” later, he became friends with two people whom he later discovered had been at the demonstration and had been shot. “It was through them, without necessarily wanting to know, I’ve learnt a lot about it, even though I wasn’t there.” When Matar realised he was going to write about it in the novel, one friend was “very generous” in talking about the experience in detail.
After Matar finished the novel, he invited his friend over for dinner and, full of trepidation, read the section aloud. “I was worried he would feel dispossessed of this experience, but I looked up after I read it and found his eyes were all red. He thanked me exactly for the thing I was worried he would be offended by. He said, ‘Thank you for taking something that happened to me and making something else of it, something different of it.’
“I think a lot of people who were there, and I suspect people who were not there—Libyans I mean—felt this strange contradiction. It was another brazen attack by the dictatorship on civilians, but it was also happening in public, the international public, and others were affected by it. I don’t think anybody knows how to talk about it, you know, really. And I think maybe those are the things to write about—when there isn’t a way to talk about it.”
Khaled survives but his life is forever changed. Having fallen foul of Colonel Qaddafi’s government he knows that he cannot return to Libya, it is not even safe to return to his studies in Edinburgh. In the immediate aftermath of the trauma, a Lebanese friend, Rana, saves him by letting him stay in her parents’ empty flat in London: “My ears were underwater and her voice a helicopter above”, Matar writes. Over the years that follow, Khaled, Mustafa and their friend Hosam, a writer, must live in exile, separated from their families but sustained by their—sometimes very complicated—friendship, until politics shift again, with revolution in Libya and the death of Qaddafi.
I think that books themselves have their own time and they oblige you, as a writer, to write them in the time they need to be written
Qaddafi is mentioned by name perhaps a handful of times, but his presence permeates the novel. Matar had been thinking about the novel since the Arab Spring in 2011—although he recently found a note from 2003 with an idea for a book about friends in exile “and the emotional country that certain deep friendships can provide”—and by 2014 he had a sense of how to proceed. He started work on My Friends, only to break off and write The Return, his 2017 Pulitzer Prize and Rathbones Folio Prize-winning memoir which documented his journey to Libya to discover what happened to his activist father, who was kidnapped and imprisoned by the Qaddafi government. Having found no trace of his father, and grieving, he made a trip to Italy to find solace in the paintings of the Sienese school, out of which came another memoir, A Month in Siena. Now, he says, “All along, everything I wrote, I felt I wrote at the expense of this book.
“Books exist in time in the obvious sense, they have their own temporal structure, we read them against the clock— how many pages, how long did it take you to read this—but I think that books themselves have their own time and they oblige you, as a writer, to write them in the time they need to be written. I couldn’t have written this earlier… I wouldn’t have been able to write about Qaddafi back then. It was just too close.”
Matar says of his first three books—the novels In the Country of Men, which was shortlisted for the Booker Prize, Anatomy of a Disappearance, and the memoir The Return—that “each is very different from the other, but they are all dealing with fathers and sons and with the very simple fact that you are born into consequence, and you are an inheritor of the aftermath of things and you have to somehow figure out how to deal with that. But this, I feel, is a book about contemporaries.”
The EU’s military operations in the Mediterranean should focus more heavily on combating human trafficking, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen wrote in a letter to member states ahead of the EU leaders summit on Thursday and Friday (26-27 October).
Since March 2020, the EU’s military mission IRINI has been operating in international waters of the Mediterranean Sea with the chief aim of enforcing the UN arms embargo on Libya – with the halting of illicit exports of Libyan oil, training of the Libyan coastguard and interruption of human trafficking as secondary missions.
Now, however, IRINI’s main aim should be preventing human trafficking and smuggling, von der Leyen argued in her letter.
“To strengthen external border control, Member States, on a proposal of the High Representative [Josep Borrell], could consider enhancing the task of Operation IRINI by giving more priority to combating human smuggling,” the Commission chief wrote.
Operation IRINI is financed by the European Peace Facility (EPF), an EU off-budget instrument controlled by member states that aims to bolster the EU’s ability to “prevent conflicts, build peace, and strengthen international security”.
Patrolling the Mediterranean
The change would make IRINI’s purpose similar to that of the EU naval mission it replaced – Operation Sophia – the main focus of which was to fight migrant smugglers and save lives at sea.
Sophia was wound down in March 2020, however, in part due to the high political pressure that ensued from its role in conducting search and rescue (SAR) operations, which some politicians argued created a ‘pull factor’ for migrants.
It is not an information of public domain whether Irini, which focused on the waters east of Libya, performed SAR operations. Since its creation, member states have repeatedly warned to suspend it, on the grounds that its maritime vessels can be, again, a ‘pull factor’.
However, according to international law, any vessel near to a boat in distress has the duty to perform or assist a rescue.
Sophia’s core scope was “to undertake systematic efforts to identify, capture and dispose of vessels and enabling assets used or suspected of being used by migrant smugglers,” to disrupt the business model of human traffickers networks in the whole Southern central Mediterranean, and to prevent loss of lives at sea.
Irini operation has as main scope to implement the UN arms embargo resolution Libya, to combat weapons being trafficked to Eastern Libya, the territory controlled by the Libya National Army (LNA), led by the Libyan-American warlord Khalifa Haftar.
The mission’s other tasks include combating smuggling, including petroleum and humans. Despite the mission also envisaging training the Libyan coast guard of the Tripoli government, this has not yet started.
Other missions in the Mediterranean include the Italian military operation “Mediterraneo sicuro” (safe Mediterranean) and joint operations between EU border agency Frontex and member states, such as operation Themis with Italy and Poseidon with Greece.
Third-country cooperation under scrutiny
The EU continues to seek closer relations with third countries (both of transit and countries of origins where people depart) to ‘curb’ migration, and the issue is a key priority in von der Leyen’s letter ahead of the summit.
“The external aspects of migration are essential for successful implementation of our policy. These consist of establishing wide’ranging partnerships with key countries, addressing the root causes of migration, preventing irregular departures, fighting the smuggling of migrants and increasing returns, as well as encouraging frameworks for legal migration,” von der Leyen wrote.
Western Libya is already well patrolled by the Libyan coastguard based in Tripoli that the EU financed with equipment, such as vessels, to intercept migrants at sea with several EU projects.
Support for Libya’s border management has been heavily criticised by civil society organisations, the UN, and journalists, who have pointed to evidence of widespread human rights abuses by the Libyan authorities during and after intercepting migrants at sea.
“We are providing support to many key partners with equipment and training to help prevent unauthorised border crossing. All five vessels promised to Libya have been delivered and we see the impact of increased patrols,” von der Leyen said. Euractiv interviewed ten migrants on board of the NGO boat Ocean Viking in July, which departed from Western Libya, who described their experiences of torture and deprivation of water and food in detention centres.
Nine migrants out of ten told Euractiv that they tried to cross the sea more than one time, and in most cases they had to pay ransoms to be freed from prison.
A UN fact finding mission published at the end of March, reported that the Libyan coast guard has been infiltrated by violent militias and that there is collusion between the coast guard and some smugglers and human traffickers.
Euractiv witnessed violent actions by the Libyan coast guard during a rescue on 7 July, when they fired close to speedboats with the migrants and the crew onboard.
The EU wants to adopt a similar arrangement with Tunisia. The so-called EU-Tunisia Memorandum of Understanding signed in July, aims to invest in Tunisia’s border management. Arrivals from Tunisia have surged over the past 12 months.
“Under the Memorandum of Understanding with Tunisia, we have delivered spare parts for Tunisian coast guards that are keeping 6 boats operational, and others will be repaired by the end of the year. More is expected to be delivered to countries in North Africa in the coming months,” the EU Commission president explained.
The ‘Eastern problem’
Departures from Eastern Libya have also increased this year.
According to international law, any vessel close to a boat in distress, has the obligation to perform or assist a rescue, which is considered concluded only when survivors are disembarked in a place of safety – which does not include Libya. Any return in an unsafe place where people can face a different range of abuses, has to be considered an illegal return (the so-called principle of non-refoulement).
In the meantime, militias in Eastern Libya have started to perform interceptions at sea.
The Tariq Ben Zeyad militia, led by Haftar’s son Saddam Haftar, has started to perform migrant interceptions, in waters close to the EU borders.
The hurricane that hit Libya on the night of Sept. 10, 2023, ruptured two dams in the northeast region of Libya, unleashing floods that destroyed Derna, a town of 90,000 residents on the Mediterranean coast.
More than 20,000 people died or went missing in the city, and as many as 40,000 residents fled the city. This is said to be the second most tragic dam disaster in history, after the dam failure in China’s Henan province in 1975.
The construction of the Derna dams began in 1973 by a former Yugoslavian company. The area had been plagued by the flooding of wadis (dry rivers) every time there was heavy rain, and the dams saved the town from trouble. But cracks requiring repair were found on the structures in 1998, and it was only in 2007 that the then Gaddafi regime finally asked a Turkish company to maintain the old dams and build a new one.
The regime collapsed in the “Arab Spring” protest movement of 2011 and the maintenance work was never completed as payments became overdue.
The Libyan government started to build large-scale dams in the 1970s because of the increase in oil revenue that was the main source of income for the country. Since his seizure of power in 1969, Colonel Gaddafi raised oil prices while nationalizing and increasing control over the oil industry. His move resulted in the implementation of the oil strategy by the Organization of the Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries (OAPEC) in 1973, throwing the world into an oil crisis.
Half a century ago, on Oct. 17, Arab oil producing countries announced an oil embargo on Israel’s backers and a 5% reduction in oil output to put pressure on Israel in the Fourth Arab-Israeli War that Arab countries launched two weeks earlier.
This increased oil prices by as much as 67% and caused panic among oil-consuming countries, including Japan. Due to its impact on the world economy, oil-consuming countries drastically changed their policies toward the Middle East, and Japan shifted to a pro-Arab stance out of consideration for the national interest of securing stable oil supplies.
The global impact of the oil crisis was not limited to the oil policies of developed countries. Professor Randall Hansen of the University of Toronto, who recently published a book titled “War, Work, and Want: How the OPEC Oil Crisis Cause Mass Migration and Revolution,” argues that the recent surge in migrants and refugees, the spread of terrorism, political instability in the Middle East, and the Iranian revolution of 1979 all have their origins in the oil crisis.
The oil crisis meant a surge in revenues for oil-producing countries and saved the financial woes of fragile regimes in the Middle East. It provided a stable source of income for nationalist regimes in countries such as Libya and Iraq and allowed them to survive their instabilities in the immediate aftermath of decolonization.
Oil wealth played an important role in providing social infrastructure to their peoples and thus gaining popular support for those revolutionary regimes with no experience in governing.
Supporting authoritarian regimes is not the only negative legacy of oil wealth. It was used as a boon to those fighting proxy wars within the Cold War structure. Pro-American oil producing countries, especially Saudi Arabia, made significant contributions to the U.S. Cold War strategy.
To counter the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the United States used Saudi mobilization of Muslims to fight against communism, and its financial power, as well as Pakistan’s military power, to help train Islamic volunteers against the Soviet Union. Professor Hansen estimates that between $350 million and $500 million flowed from Saudi Arabia annually. One result of the money flow was the birth of the international terrorist organization al-Qaida.
In the 1980s, Iraq was able to end the war against Iran undefeated thanks to significant financial support of more than $30 billion from pro-American oil producers such as Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. It also reflected the U.S. intention to contain the anti-American regime of the Islamic republic in Iran.
Al-Qaida and the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq are the “devils” of oil wealth that troubled the United States most after the Cold War and destabilized the world. The 21st century has so far been a period in which a lot of blood and treasure were spilled to defeat these regimes.
Problems will not be solved once these devils disappear. We must consider the seriousness of the fact that the positive effects of the oil crisis on Middle Eastern society, such as infrastructure development, are ignored and not properly inherited with the eradication of authoritarian regimes in the region.
The authoritarian regime in Iraq was brought down by a war, while those in Libya and Tunisia were removed by the Arab Spring protest movement, and the infrastructure expanded under the socialist policies of those regimes was left to deteriorate over time. Successor governments that advocate “democracy” are surprisingly indifferent to the maintenance and succession of such social infrastructure.
Infrastructure related to human resource development also expanded for a period, benefitting from oil revenues. This is because many nationalist regimes focused on improving educational standards, partly for ideological purposes.
As a result, according to the World Bank, the elementary school enrollment rates in Iraq and Iran, which were less than 60% before the oil crisis, rose to about 80% in the 1980s. In Libya, too, it went from less than 80% in the early 1970s to almost 100% in 10 years.
A quarter of a century ago, Galal Amin, a leftist economist at the American University in Cairo in Egypt, once told me: “The poor in rural Egypt, attracted by the wealth of oil, have worked in the Gulf oil-producing countries, many as migrant laborers, and have improved their living standards. The oil crisis and the resulting market economy contributed to the relief of the poor that could not be realized by Nasser’s socialism.”
The literacy rates in the Arab world stagnated again in the 21st century, hovering around 60 to 70%. This would mean that after losing their resources, the authoritarian nationalist regimes were no longer able to appease their people.
The enormous middle class that was nurtured by the high economic growth of the 1970s and the government-led policies were lost, and society itself became polarized. It can be said that this led to the Arab Spring.
In the 1970s and 1980s, developed countries including Japan supported the social and industrial infrastructure of the Middle East by receiving the return of oil wealth. After the oil crisis, in the late 1970s, nearly half of the construction projects Japan received from abroad came from Middle Eastern countries.
Even in non-oil-producing countries, Japanese technology in the form of yen loans spread into the Middle East. Even half a century later, elder people in the Middle East still retain the memory of Japanese companies that supported their countries’ development and high growth after the oil crisis, while their states were unable to function, and infrastructure collapsed due to conflicts and disasters.
Half a century later, the oil crisis seems to have sown only negative seeds. In this context, one has to wonder how long Japan will remain etched in the positive history of large-scale development and high growth in the Middle East.
Here is a timeline chronicling Libya’s years of chaos and division:
2011 – Revolt and civil war
An uprising against Muammar Gaddafi’s four-decade rule rapidly spreads, becoming an armed revolt aided by NATO air strikes. Gaddafi is ousted in August and killed in October.
2012 – Armed groups take root
A rebel council stages elections for an interim General National Congress which creates a transitional government but true power lies with an array of local armed groups.
Islamist militants gain ground and attack the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, killing the ambassador.
2013 – Growing divisions
Armed groups grow ever stronger, besieging government buildings and forcing the congress to bow to their demands. The body is divided and public trust is ebbing as it seeks to extend its 18-month term and delay elections.
Neighbouring Egypt, where the military has removed a Muslim Brotherhood government, is increasingly worried about militant groups in Libya and mistrustful of the Islamist-dominated congress.
2014 – East-west schism
Former army general Khalifa Haftar sets up a new Libyan National Army group that battles Islamist armed factions.
The congress rejects the results of an election for a new parliament – the House of Representatives (HoR) – and sets up a government that is backed by armed groups in the west.
Backed by Haftar, the newly elected parliament moves from Tripoli to the east in support of the previous caretaker government. Libya is now split between warring administrations in east and west.
2015 – Islamists on the march
Islamist groups take advantage of the chaos and Islamic State seizes the central city of Sirte in February. Militants also hold much of Benghazi and Derna.
In December, the warring parliamentary bodies sign the Libyan Political Agreement to set up a new transition under a Government of National Accord. The agreement confirms the HoR as Libya’s parliament but gives members of the congress a new role as an advisory second chamber – the High State Council.
The agreement forms the basis for diplomacy for years to come, but on the ground the east and west remain divided.
2016 – Islamic State driven back
Despite the political agreement, the HoR rejects the new government as it takes office in Tripoli, entrenching Libya’s east-west divide. Western armed factions eventually take Sirte from Islamic State as Haftar fights militants in Derna and Benghazi and seizes the energy-producing “oil crescent” region of central Libya.
2017-18 – Deepening chaos
Fighting intensifies as armed groups in the west battle for control of Tripoli while the eastern LNA and other major factions fight Islamist militant groups around the country. New peacemaking efforts quickly fall apart.
2019 – Haftar attacks Tripoli
After finally crushing Islamist groups in the east, Haftar drives his LNA through southern Libya, bringing most remaining oil fields under his control. In April, on the day the U.N. secretary general arrives in Tripoli for peace talks, Haftar launches a surprise offensive to capture the capital. His assault is backed by the UAE, Egypt and Russia.
Western Libyan armed groups come together to support the Tripoli government with help from Turkey, their alliance bolstered by a deal on maritime borders that angers Egypt and Greece.
2020 – Ceasefire
Turkey openly sends its troops to support Tripoli and Haftar’s offensive collapses. As his forces pull back, evidence of atrocities is found in the town of Tarhuna. The sides agree a formal ceasefire and the U.N. convenes Libyan politicians and civil society in Tunis for a new peacemaking effort aimed at holding national elections the following year.
2021 – A failed election process
The eastern and western factions all accept a new Government of National Unity (GNU) meant to oversee elections in December. But the HoR in the east and the HSC in the west cannot agree on a new constitution or rules for the vote and the election falls apart at the last minute.
2022 – Standoff
Both parliamentary bodies now say the unity government has lost its legitimacy but the prime minister refuses to quit. The HoR in eastern Libya appoints a rival administration, but it fails to enter Tripoli, leaving the unity government still in control and the political standoff unresolved.
2023 – Paralysis
An uneasy peace prevails, but behind the scenes political factions continue to manoeuvre and the standoff continues. Diplomacy is focused on U.N. efforts to bring forward elections but many Libyans suspect their leaders are happy to avoid a vote that could push them from power.
In August, rival armed factions in Tripoli battle over the seizure of a commander.
Libyan National Oil Corporation reports record-breaking September oil production, while Minister calls for caution amidst sovereign asset resolution concerns.
The National Oil Corporation (NOC) has reported robust oil production numbers for September, with a total output of 35,871,855 barrels. The recent statistics released on the NOC’s official Facebook page also revealed significant quantities of oil products (513,428 tons), petrochemical products (41,151 tons), and condensates (197,730 tons) during the same period. Additionally, natural gas production reached a substantial 1,044,320,321 cubic meters.
In light of these achievements, Minister of Oil and Gas, Mohammed Oun, has issued a stern reminder to adhere to House of Representatives’ Resolution No. 15 of 2023. The resolution calls for an immediate halt to all new procedures, contracts, or amendments related to sovereign assets, including oil, gas, and gold.
Minister Oun, in a formal communication dated October 16, addressed to the Chairman of the National Oil Corporation and the General Company for Gas Transmission and Distribution, emphasized the importance of full compliance with the decision as published in the Official Gazette. The resolution stipulates that any actions or commitments that contravene this directive will be considered null and void.
This call for vigilance follows concerns raised by eight industry experts regarding the National Oil Corporation’s ongoing negotiations. Under the oversight of the High Council of Energy, the NOC is in discussions with the Emirati consortium ADNOC, French oil giant Total, and Italian oil company Eni for the development of the “MN 7” field in Hamada Al Hamra.
The experts argue against removing the field from the purview of the Arabian Gulf Oil Company, citing potential risks associated with engaging companies lacking the requisite experience and capabilities. They also express concerns about transparency in the negotiation process, which could undermine fair competition and hinder the attainment of the most favorable terms and pricing.
Highlighting the long-known and confirmed reserves of the MN 7 field, the experts question its absence from prioritized development plans. They assert that the Arabian Gulf Oil Company is well-equipped to oversee its development, having already devised a comprehensive plan.
Furthermore, the field’s proximity to existing oil sector infrastructure makes it a cost-effective choice for development. The experts contend that the National Oil Corporation possesses the financial capacity to finance this endeavor and recommend engaging in dialogues with the government to secure the requisite funding.
The occupation entity in Palestine is still reeling, losing its sanity and balance, after being humiliated by destroying the myth of the invincible army, and tearing the propaganda spider web in which it wraps itself, as a striking force that none of the armies in the region are capable of confronting.
In a few hours, a young resistance force succeeded in penetrating all of the enemy’s fortifications, concrete, iron, and electronic. Everything it had built to provide the settlers with reassurance, collapsed like a sand palace on the seashore.
The horror of the shock held their tongues for hours, before they woke up to a blow that was the most humiliating in their entire history.
More than forty camps, bases, and settlements in which resistance men roam, hundreds of dead and prisoners, a valuable treasure of security and military information, are now in the possession of the resistance, according to Western newspapers. The most important result is the collapse of the settlers’ confidence in the ability of their security and military system to provide them with safety and stability.
The political, military, and strategic equations have changed radically, the path to normalization with the enemy was destroyed, thrones were shaken, and from under the ashes of frustration, emotions and slogans echoed across all cities of Muslim nations, shouting for Palestine, Al-Aqsa and the resistance.
The leaders of major countries and senior officials flocked to the occupation entity, only out of a strong feeling that shook deep within them, it (the entity) is collapsing, and if we do not move to help it, it may be finished off.
America moved its naval fleets for the primary purpose, which was to reassure the masses fleeing the population of the occupying entity towards the airports, fleeing the resistance that had reached the kitchens of their homes. America does not need to show extreme strength, because its military bases and warships are spread throughout most of the countries and seas of the region.
Can all the results and repercussions of the attack prompt us to say that the battle is still in its infancy, but it was decided in the first round on the morning of Saturday, October 7th?
It is true that the enemy is raining missiles and bombs on Gaza, and that the number of casualties has reached an unprecedented number in previous confrontations, with the declared blessing of the states claiming compliance with international law, democracy, and human rights, and complete silence and submission from their agents in the Arab countries, and all of this is expected, as in all rounds of the conflict the enemy resorts to aerial bombardment, with no distinction between civilian and resistance.
Yes, the price is high, and the cost in terms of blood, body parts, and tears is very high, which all colonized peoples have previously paid along the journey towards liberation and independence, armed with patience, perseverance, and the willingness to make all sacrifices, while the occupier’s patience runs out, and they take a thousand account of their victims.
Algeria paid about a million and a half, and millions were wounded in the battle for independence against the French occupier. Libya lost half of its population as martyrs, wounded and displaced during the Italian occupation. The Afghan people lost tens of thousands to gain their independence. The number of civilian deaths in the war to liberate Vietnam from the American invasion reached more than a million. While the liberation movement lost about 85,000 dead, America’s losses were 57,000 dead.
After a major battle in Hanoi, Vietnamese leader Ho Chi Minh asked his comrades about the number of dead, and he was told that we lost more than a thousand dead, and about twenty Americans were killed. He said: We have been victorious, and it is an inspiring phrase that is still on the tongues of all leaders of the wars of liberation.
The invaders are always keen on life, and they face great difficulties in convincing their people of the justice of their cause. With the return of the soldiers in coffins, anger increases, and therefore the effect of killing on the forces of the invaders is extremely influential. No matter how small the number, the outstanding Vietnamese leader, Ho Chi Minh, realized that every blow inflicted on the enemy is a victory, bringing the day closer to defeating the invaders and declaring liberation.
North African states and communities are no strangers to careful water management and its relevance to effective governance in challenging times. Old underground water channels, ingenious methods of water storage and collection, to today’s dams and hydropower projects, are time-spanning infrastructure innovations and techniques. They reflect the strategic importance of the careful conservation and use of water in one of the most water-stressed regions in the world.
Maghreb countries (Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, and Mauritania) receive an average of less than 1,000 cubic meters of renewable fresh water available per person per year.¹,² However, the growing global climate emergency is placing greater stress on the region’s water infrastructure, as the level, intensity, and variability of seasonal precipitation are radically changing with the climate. Similar climatic systems, hydrologic cycles, and geography mean that North African countries tend to suffer from similar climate-induced phenomena such as severe prolonged droughts and devastating wildfires.
Experts predict that precipitation will continue to decline in the coming years, even as the population grows—necessitating urgent interventions to pre-empt shortages, reduced hydropower, and agriculture capacity. Continued inaction will exacerbate the knock-on effects on sectors already experiencing social, economic, and political headwinds due to persistent instability and conflict.
However, this does not just apply to North Africa.
According to the United Nations’ (UN) Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), more than 500 million people across the globe face significant and interconnected climate risks.³ It is just for the Maghreb, that things will be worse. Average temperatures are expected to be 20 percent higher than the rest of the world in the coming years,⁴ but the sub-region is already experiencing climate-related shocks in the form of record-breaking heat waves, acute water shortages, biodiversity losses due to wildfires, and major risks to agricultural production.
Additionally, vulnerable sections of the population and those trapped in fragile contexts experiencing extreme poverty must now grapple with ever-scarcer water resources as populations grow, income levels rise, and urbanization intensifies—further compounding woes. Put simply, unmitigated climate risks are continuously adding new complexities to this sub-region in areas such as labor, human mobility, settlement, and habitability, as accelerated environmental degradation further endangers food and water security.
Already, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) predicts that absent swift action, crop yields around the world could be reduced by as much as 20% by 2050,⁵ with rain-fed farming systems suffering the greatest impacts. Reduced water resources will also threaten livestock rearing due to accelerated land degradation, reduced feed, and shrinking pasturelands. Even at sea, rising temperatures and reduced rainfall will also impact fisheries, which illustrates just how much inaction can easily and quickly result in warming becoming a crisis multiplier.
In the Maghreb, some of these impacts are already evident and, in some cases, becoming more prevalent. Poorer, rural communities are unable to maintain adequate levels of agricultural production to sustain their livelihoods since farming is a water-intensive activity extremely vulnerable to highly variable precipitation levels.
It does not end there.
In countries like Morocco, Tunisia, and Algeria, where the agricultural sector generates more than 10 percent of GDP,⁶ and is a major non-oil export, even the slightest disruption will have exponential effects on the economy and society. After all, 20-33% of the labor force in Morocco and Tunisia,⁷ for instance, derive their livelihood from the agriculture sector, which means as rainfall declines, forests burn and severe droughts become more frequent, large swaths of populations in North Africa could join the swelling ranks of jobless, desperate and impoverished.
It is no secret that the availability of water, uninterrupted access to it, and its well-managed use have enormous positive impacts on society such as agricultural transformations that can foster greater food security to sustain livelihoods, improve citizen wellbeing, and ultimately boost resilience against future shocks—including non-climate change-related ones. However, when all five Maghreb countries are considered highly or extremely water-stressed, additional risks and slow or inadequate responses to them are likely to upend the sub-region’s already fragile food-water-energy nexus.
This could ultimately spark mass movements among populations that have little choice but to flee inhospitable zones, acute shortages of necessities, domestic or regional instability, and conflict. Worse yet, there has been very little progress so far because according to the indicators used in the UN’s first-ever assessment of water security in Africa, the entire continent has only improved its water security by 1.1%—between 2015 and 2020.⁸
It is long past due for the Maghreb to exploit its centuries-long history of tried-and-tested, sustainable water management practices to combat intensifying water scarcity. Modern, water-intensive farming of decadent decades past must give way to work alongside traditional irrigation and water management such as Tunisia’s sandy soil irrigation techniques that allow farms to thrive all year round and have become historical legacies. The same applies to Algeria’s “foggara” or Moroccan “khettara“—i.e., subsurface irrigation systems designed to deal with the aridity and heat of the Sahara, allowing constant water flows and preventing evaporation.
Even then, it will still not be enough since rapid urbanization has led to more than half of the sub-region populations living in coastal zones far from inland water sources like groundwater and mountain regions with greater precipitation. To date, North African countries are still struggling to design and build infrastructure to transport water to densely populated coastal cities in ways that do not drain desert aquifers and deplete groundwater—a finite resource—faster than it can be replenished.
In addition, there is little political will or capacity to engage in environmental or “green” urban planning that would allow densely populated cities to more efficiently use energy and water. As temperatures rise and rural populations move towards urban areas, it will only worsen resource scarcity and introduce new constraints before the sub-region can adapt, if at all. Given water security’s criticality, intensifying competition over this precious resource without adequate safeguards can quickly devolve into conflict among local communities experiencing heightened fragility, and nation-states given water scarcity’s destabilizing impacts at home.
On the other hand, cooperative engagement and management of shared water resources can catalyze sustainable cooperation even among rival actors or the most diametrically opposed communities. Fortunately, the lack of transboundary rivers and lakes means that the Maghreb is spared from the tensions and potential conflicts between riparian states over shared water resources, which are to likely occur with greater frequency as the effects of climate change may worsen in the coming decades. However, sprawling aquifers that tend to cross national borders can become a source of new conflict since—contrary to commonly held perceptions, groundwater sources are not infinite.
Morocco and Algeria are already locked in a quixotic rivalry over the Bounaim-Taffna basin,⁹ with both sides engaged in its reckless overexploitation with little to no prospects of any bilateral cooperation in managing this precious resource, despite the precedent set by the collaborative management of the North Western Sahara Aquifer System. It is unlikely that Rabat or Algiers will compartmentalize other sources of their rivalry to jointly manage the Bounaim-Taffna catchment, which would be mutually beneficial.
Unfortunately, as pressing domestic challenges mount, Maghreb countries will eschew much-needed cooperation for inaction or piecemeal interventions that will only aggravate climate-related woes even when there is sufficient capacity, expertise, will, and funding to safeguard the sub-region’s most vulnerable—its poor.
Hafed Al-Ghwell is a Senior Fellow with the Johns Hopkins SAIS Foreign Policy Institute (FPI) as a distinguished expert in international relations, particularly the political economies of the Middle East and North Africa. He also serves as the Director of FPI’s North Africa Initiative (NAI)—the continuation of an extensive career at the intersection of Arab world affairs, regional dynamics, geopolitics and geostrategic risks.
The geopolitical landscape in West Asia is currently undergoing significant shifts and developments that extend beyond the confines of specific regional conflicts. In this paper, I will explore the various factors and dynamics at play, shedding light on the broader implications and potential consequences of these events.
The presence of American aircraft carriers in the region cannot be solely attributed to the situation in Gaza. While the ongoing Gaza confrontation captures international attention, there are other underlying motivations for the American presence. Similarly, the Russians find satisfaction in the Gaza confrontation as it diverts attention from Ukraine. However, it is important to recognise that both the Americans and the Russians are ultimately compelled to intervene due to their strategic interests in the region.
China, a major player on the global stage, relies heavily on West Asia for its oil supply. It perceives a sense of threat in the region, but it also benefits from the diversion of American attention from East Asia. This diversion allows China to continue its ascent while the United States is preoccupied in the Middle East. It may even embolden China to take actions against Taiwan, a long-awaited step in its geopolitical ambitions.
Arab countries, on the other hand, have experienced a loss of confidence in Israel’s power. However, their greater fear lies in the rise of Islamist forces within the region. This complex dynamic creates a delicate balancing act for Arab nations as they navigate these competing concerns.
The Arab public, deeply angered by the ongoing conflicts and perceived injustices, poses a significant risk for further instability. The potential for a new wave of a more violent Arab Spring cannot be ignored, as public frustration reaches a boiling point.
Iran, a key regional power, faces a critical juncture. Its narrative and legitimacy are intertwined with its confrontations against the United States and Israel. Failure to intervene in regional conflicts, such as those in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen, risks undermining Iran’s established narrative and potentially eroding its influence.
The Palestinian Authority finds itself losing local support and legitimacy, largely due to the failure of the peace process and the consequential loss of the West Bank, Jerusalem and the collapse of the two-state solution. The disillusionment among Palestinians has led to increased scepticism regarding the Authority’s ability to effectively represent their interests.
Furthermore, there is growing concern that Jews may no longer perceive Israel as a safe haven. This apprehension could lead to an exodus of Jewish populations, further complicating the already tense situation in the region.
Economically, the country faces a significant risk of collapse, rendering it an unsafe environment for investment. Israel’s struggle to protect itself and establish partnerships with other nations exacerbates the challenges it faces in navigating the geopolitical landscape.
Internally, Israel grapples with divisions and a loss of faith in its identity as a “modern democratic state”. These internal rifts weaken the country’s ability to effectively address external challenges and maintain stability.
The current blow, despite the substantial losses witnessed in Gaza, carries profound implications. It serves as a stark reminder of the fragility of the region and the need for a comprehensive re-evaluation of existing approaches and strategies.
We find ourselves at a historical juncture, witnessing the creation of a new world order. The outcome of these geopolitical developments in West Asia will have far-reaching consequences, not only for the region but also for the global balance of power.
The Palestinian Resistance Movement, in the aftermath of the current conflicts, is poised to emerge stronger. This resurgence has the potential to reshape the entire region and serve as a catalyst for liberty and self-determination.
While West Europe’s decline gradually unfolds, economic factors contribute significantly to its weakening. This decline creates a power vacuum, leaving more room for Chinese influence, as the United States loses focus and redirects its attention elsewhere.
For many, these events may mark the second phase of escaping the grip of colonialism. The pursuit of genuine independence, free from American and European dominance, gains momentum as regional actors seek to redefine their relationships and assert their sovereignty.
The current situation in West Asia could be the catalyst for the rise of the Muslim world and the realisation of its rightful position in the world. As events unfold and geopolitical dynamics continue to evolve, it is essential to closely monitor and analyze these developments, understanding their implications for regional stability and the global order.
Dr Mohammad Makram Balawi is the Director General of League of Parliamentarians for alQuds
The U.S. must consider encouraging a ceasefire before stumbling into another complicated large-scale conflict.
Limited war is a form of warfare constrained by the exercise of deliberate restraint in the application of force and the pursuit of political-military goals that exclude annihilation. In Ukraine, all sides shared an interest in avoiding the use of nuclear weapons, and contrary to the Western narrative, Moscow’s goals were arguably confined to the destruction of hostile Ukrainian forces (“denazification”) and the establishment of a neutral Ukrainian state.
The U.S. must consider encouraging a ceasefire before stumbling into another in the application of force and the pursuit of political-military goals that exclude annihilation. In Ukraine, all sides shared an interest in avoiding the use of nuclear weapons, and contrary to the Western narrative, Moscow’s goals were arguably confined to the destruction of hostile Ukrainian forces (“denazification”) and the establishment of a neutral Ukrainian state.
In the Middle East, the situation is very different. When Hamas fighters attacked Israel’s heavily fortified border at daybreak on October 7, the first wave of roughly 1,000 fighters advanced behind a curtain of rocket fire using motorcycles, pickup trucks, paragliders, and speed boats, Israeli forces were surprised.
Ali Baraka, a senior Hamas official, said in an interview on October 8, “We made them think that Hamas was busy with governing Gaza, and that it wanted to focus on the 2.5 million Palestinians [in Gaza] and has abandoned the resistance altogether.”
In the days that followed, 3,000 fighters, including an unknown number from the Palestine Islamic Jihad (PIJ), penetrated Israeli territory, killing at least 1,300 Israelis and wounding approximately 3,500. Subsequent cross-border raids into Gaza revealed that some of the Israelis who were kidnapped were executed after entering Gaza.
The speed, coordination, and effectiveness of the Hamas operation was unexpected, but the horrific damage the Hamas fighters inflicted on Israel’s population was not surprising. Hamas exists for one purpose: to terrorize and kill Jews with the goal of destroying the State of Israel.
In response, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared war and mobilized 360,000 reservists to form an army of between 470,000 and 500,000. Netanyahu is obviously determined to impart a lasting object lesson, one that will crush Hamas in Gaza and probably eliminate any more talk inside the Palestinian population of a “two-state solution.” Having already pulverized Gaza from the air, the stage is now set for a battle of annihilation. The question is: whose annihilation?
Israeli rage is justified and widely shared by Americans. Like the Israelis, Americans are inclined to see terrorism through the lens of 19th-century piracy: “no quarter given, none expected.” In this total war setting, the Geneva Convention cannot apply to Hamas’s terrorist forces. But how long can the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) wage total war, depriving Gaza’s Arab population of food and water, without creating an enormous humanitarian disaster that will play for years in the news?
Can Hamas and its leadership be destroyed without killing large numbers of civilians who may hate the Israelis but have nothing to do with Hamas? Does it not serve Hamas’s purpose for the IDF to become bogged down in an open-ended, full-scale ground invasion of Gaza because the urban conflict will unavoidably entail loss of innocent life? Does it not seem ominous that Hamas is urging the population of Northern Gaza to remain in the ruins of the city?
Americans stand behind Israel, but many are unconvinced that killing more Arabs in Gaza will solve Israel’s security problem. Americans also have doubts about the Israeli government’s ultranationalist officials, Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich and National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir. These men are widely seen as emboldening Jewish extremists.
These questions and concerns may explain why Israel is rushing to carry the war into Gaza. If Russian forces arrive to help Egypt and Turkey establish a humanitarian corridor, there will be Russian and Turkish troops in Gaza to defend the distribution of humanitarian aid. Outpacing the arrival of Russians, Turks, and Egyptians makes sense.
These points notwithstanding, the Middle East today is very different from the Middle East in 1973. Technologies have altered the conduct of warfare, but more importantly, the societies and states of the Islamic world have also changed. Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Iran, and Turkey are different in character from what they were in the 1970s. None of the states bordering Israel will tolerate population shifts that introduce large numbers of Palestinian Arabs into their societies. Europeans want them even less.
Iran’s national leaders have already called on Islamic and Arab countries to form a united front against Israel, but Iran’s influence in these matters is more limited than most Americans realize. Iranian military power is largely restricted to Iran’s use of proxy militias like Hezbollah and their cooperation with the Pasdaran, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Iran is simply incapable of adding high-end conventional military forces to such a front. Tehran’s government also knows that the use of Iran’s formidable theater ballistic missile force against Israel risks almost certain Israeli nuclear retaliation.
The governments of Egypt, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, and Lebanon are very probably opposed to a general war against Israel, but their enraged populations could easily trap them into doing so. Scenes of celebration across the Middle East showing people waving Palestinian and Hamas flags, dancing, and singing in the streets are being shared on social media.
Turkey’s President Erdogan has offered to mediate between Hamas and Israel, but Erdoğan himself has warned that the war won’t just stop “in a week or two.” However, Turkey, a nation of more than 80 million, is the one actor in the region with the societal cohesion, martial culture, and military power to lead the Sunni Arab states in a confrontation with Israel.
In a regional war, Turkey can field large armies and air forces equipped with modern weapons, manned by disciplined and determined fighters. The advent of a regional Sunni Muslim alliance guided by Ankara and financed by Qatar resurrects the specter of advanced conventional warfare for the IDF, a form of warfare known to only a few of today’s IDF leaders.
Sadly, the region has not advanced much beyond the conditions described by Ramsay MacDonald, Britain’s Prime Minister in 1924 and again from 1929 to 1931:
We encouraged an Arab revolt against Turkey by promising to create an Arab Kingdom from the Arab provinces of the Ottoman Empire including Palestine. At the same time, we were encouraging the Jews to help us, by promising them that Palestine would be placed at their disposal for settlement and government, and, also at the same time, we were secretly making with France the Sykes-Picot agreement partitioning the territory which we had instructed our Governor-General of Egypt to promise to the Arabs. The story is one of crude duplicity, and we cannot expect to escape the reprobation which is its proper sequel.
Both the Jews and the Muslims continue to live inside civilizational conflicts that have defined Jerusalem since World War I.
With American offshore naval power, Washington is certainly poised to stumble into the conflict if it widens, but the use of American naval power will not end it. Although it is distasteful to the ruling political class in Washington, the Biden administration should consider taking the lead in supporting a ceasefire, even if it means cooperating with the Turks, Egyptians, and Russians to secure the arrival of humanitarian aid.
In Ukraine, Washington underestimated Russian resolve and military power. Washington should not repeat this mistake by underestimating the potential for a regional Muslim alliance that could threaten Israel’s existence. The possibility that Israel could end up like Ukraine should not be discounted.
Douglas Macgregor, Col. (ret.) is a senior fellow with The American Conservative, the former advisor to the Secretary of Defense in the Trump administration, a decorated combat veteran, and the author of five books.
The international community has a responsibility to make amends
The structure of a fund to reconstruct Derna must navigate political divides to be Libyan-owned and internationally overseen. A precedent for this is a fund developed in 2011 amid the civil war.
The tragedy that befell the Libyan city of Derna and the surrounding areas after two dams burst on 11 September 2023 following devastating floods has cost thousands of lives. Official estimates of the death toll stand at more than 4,000, but tens of thousands remain unaccounted for. Civil society figures report victims being buried in unmarked graves without being identified. Many thousands are also displaced. The death toll is therefore likely to be much higher.
There is plenty of blame to go around, from the failings of the Libyan state to maintain the dams that burst, to the flawed response of local authorities to the oncoming storm. Anger among the Libyan population is widespread, with calls growing for an independent international inquiry – rather than the several disconnected probes under way by Libyan agencies. Instead of taking responsibility, the response of the local authorities has been to close ranks, restrict press coverage and deflect blame. But the Libyan people are not appeased by this approach.
The scale of the challenge to respond to the crisis is especially daunting for a state whose bickering authorities have demonstrated little willingness to date to compromise in the national interest. Beyond the immediate challenge of supporting the victims and coordinating aid, there is a need to forge a plan for the reconstruction of the city. The World Bank and UNDP are conducting damage and recovery assessments, but with a significant part of the city completely destroyed, the cost of reconstructing Derna is likely to reach $1 billion.
The truth is that little of the money to reconstruct Derna is going to come from the international community. On 16 October, this was acknowledged by Abdulaye Bathily, the UN Special Representative, who noted that ‘related costs will be mostly borne by Libyan national resources’. This raises a critical set of questions over how this money will be managed, allocated and accounted for. The Libyan state has a questionable record of managing public projects. The ongoing governance divide and dispute between the House of Representatives and the internationally recognized Government of National Unity (GNU) has meant that the development chapter of the budget – which should focus on upgrading and building the nation’s infrastructure – remains blocked.
Politics is already threatening to get in the way. The eastern-based Government of National Stability (GNS) – which is not recognized internationally – initially issued a call for an international donor conference while the GNU has issued a request to the World Bank for assistance. Both governments already each had a vehicle for reconstruction in the Derna region, though the record of these funds inspires little confidence. The GNU-affiliated fund did not have its budget fulfilled and the GNS-affiliated fund stands accused of corruption.
Neither had made progress on reconstructing the city from the damage inflicted upon it in 2018 during a siege spearheaded by the Libyan Arab Armed Forces and neither will be up to the task of responding to the Derna tragedy. In a recent Chatham House webinar, a leading activist said that the level of trust the local population placed in the authorities was so low that they were refusing to leave the area because they believed that no reconstruction would happen unless they remained to apply pressure on the authorities. Libyans rightly fear that funds earmarked for reconstruction will end up lining the pockets of those with vested interests.
An agreement between the rival authorities over the structure of a reconstruction fund that is transparent and accountable is imperative. This will require international mediation, and there is a growing consensus on the international side of what is needed. ‘A unified national mechanism is required to effectively and efficiently take forward the reconstruction efforts in the flood-affected areas’, the United Nations Support Mission in Libya noted on 2 October. Options exist for the shape of the fund that could be developed.
These include the development of a World Bank-managed Multi-Donor Trust Fund. However, given that Libyan funds will be at play, there may be only limited willingness among Libyan authorities to allow international organizations to manage the funds without a direct role in decision-making. If the Libyan authorities could be convinced, then such a fund could deliver on its aims. If they refuse, no trust can be placed in the competing Libyan authorities to run their own funds without a degree of oversight that can only meaningfully be provided by the international community.
To achieve agreement among Libyans over the establishment of the fund, a potential route may be the Libyan High Financial Committee. The committee was formed this summer by the Presidency Council as an attempt to reach consensus on budgetary issues. After making some progress, divisions within it have emerged and eastern representatives withdrew. They could however, be encouraged to return to reach agreement on the structure of the fund, with international mediation.
For a precedent of a fund that is Libyan-owned and internationally overseen, it may make sense to look to the Temporary Financing Mechanism (TFM). The TFM was formed by the opposition in 2011 to distribute funds to those in areas of the country liberated from the Gaddafi regime. It was managed by a Libyan Advisory Committee and a steering committee chaired by Libyans and including donor states. The TFM responded to terms of reference developed in partnership with the international community and followed procurement rules provided by the World Bank. Critically, it also subjected itself to audits and published its books online every three months.
If progress is negligible, the possibility of releasing Libyan-specific assets frozen under sanctions for the fund could be used as leverage to encourage Libyan authorities to agree to highly robust mechanisms for accountability and transparency.
Failure to reach agreement will result in a chaotic situation where reconstruction efforts will, at best, be uncoordinated, and at worst, be completely ineffective or absent. It is critical that the international community coalesces around a position to work with the Libyan authorities to agree a suitable model. In so doing, they would be wise to leverage the anger and despair of a population that the international community has largely forgotten as it has focused on forging deals between rival elites. Libyans do not need or want pictures of foreign officials with the same discredited elites, they need action.
Tim Eaton – Senior Research Fellow, Middle East and North Africa Programme, Chatham House.
In Derna the deluge came in the middle of the night. “We heard what sounded like an explosion at two am,” said Adel. “All of a sudden after that the water entered our home.”
Heavy rains from Storm Daniel, which swept through the east of the country, caused two dams to burst and unleashing walls of water that scoured the coastal cities of the region.
With no early warning, Adel’s family, like thousands of others across the city, was completely unprepared.
“The water level was at six or seven metres,” he said. “We saved whoever we could. My brother, his wife, and six children all died. May they rest in peace.”
The floods have killed more than 4,300 people and WHO estimates that twice that number are unaccounted for. Grieving and bewildered residents tell the same story—an almost unimaginable catastrophe that swept everything before it.
Damage and displacement
Early drone and satellite images showed entire neighbourhoods wiped off the map, buildings reduced to rubble, and streets and bridges smashed beyond repair. Derna’s basic infrastructure along the riverbanks has been destroyed and three reservoirs are reportedly damaged.
More than 43,000 people have been displaced, left with literally nothing. They are badly in need of food, clean water, shelter, healthcare, and financial support.
Prices for basics such as bread, cooking oil, and vegetables have shot up. The fishing industry has come to a standstill, leaving those who depend on the sea for their living unable to earn money or feed their families.
The threat of disease from contaminated water looms large. And the floodwaters have shifted and exposed landmines and other unexploded ordnance of war, reviving one of the toxic legacies of the country’s recent conflict.
Immediately after the disaster, in mid September, a team of UN officials visited Derna, Al Bayda and Sousa to assess needs.
“What we saw in our mission is people confronting the catastrophic combination of an unprecedented natural disaster, years of conflict and insecurity,anddevastation of nearly all basic infrastructure,” said UNDP Libya Resident Representative Christopher Laker.
In Benghazi, UNDP is working with local authorities and the Benghazi Derna Construction Fund to mobilize a cadre of international experts who will contribute to the recovery.
“As I stand here on this level ground, once the site of Derna’s old market, and listen to the locals emphasize the profound significance of the old city in their lives, it reinforces our determination to help resurrect this city to its former, beloved state,” said Mohamed Shembesh, Regional Project Coordinator, UNDP Libya:
UNDP estimates, drawing on the latest satellite imagery and open access data by United Nations Satellite Centre, NASA, and the European Union, reveal that the floods have left behind more than one million tonnes of debris, equivalent to the volume needed to fill 65 football fields to a height of 1.8 metres, the size of an average adult.
The United Nations and its partners have launched an appeal for US$71 million to provide humanitarian and early recovery support to 250,000 people.
UNDP has deployed a SURGE team to support the Benghazi Derna Reconstruction Fund.
Repairing infrastructure and removing the rubble is a crucial first step. It accelerates the rebuilding process and offers a unique opportunity for an inclusive, environmentally sustainable recovery that actively engages Libyans and provides livelihood opportunities.
Observing from the sky
Reliable data will ensure that help is delivered quickly and where it is needed most. UNDP is gathering satellite imagery which will be available to all, and will be backed up by site visits, so that short- and long-term planning can best meet the needs of Libya’s citizens.
“We’re observing from the sky,” said Fabjan Lashi Digital Assessment Project Manager, UNDP Crisis Bureau. “More and more we have to rely on these tools because of the complex nature of crises and often no possibilities to visit the field. With new technology we can intervene faster and make better-informed decisions.”
That speed will be essential in the coming days and weeks as a potential second crisis looms.
“Rains are a few weeks away and could further impact our already limited access, with increased risk of flooding and landslides,” Dr Laker said. “We must act now to clear the mountains of rubble, begin vital repairs to water and sanitation infrastructure, and ensure people can earn a living and have access to cash, so that survivors don’t face a second emergency.”
International development partners can support the UN’s efforts to build Libya’s capacity for a coordinated, transparent, and conflict-sensitive recovery and reconstruction effort.
Libyans were vulnerable even before this tragedy. World Bank estimates show that the country experienced a 50 percent decline in GDP per capita between 2011 and 2020, and unemployment is high. The International Organization of Migration estimates that even before the storm Derna was hosting 2,801 displaced Libyans, as well as migrants from neighbouring countries.
UNDP’s crisis response revolves around alleviating further suffering and reducing further dependence on humanitarian and emergency assistance.
Tech companies have generally failed in protecting people from dangerous narratives fueled by disinformation, hate speech, and a lack of authentication checks. This is the current case with the ongoing war on Gaza, as big tech algorithms attempt to mask deeply-rooted bias on their platforms.
Over the past decade, tech companies like Meta, which envisioned “connecting the world,” and X (formerly known as Twitter), with its noble claim of “defending and respecting the user’s voice,” have heralded a vision of a technological utopia. However, this lofty narrative, although increasingly unfulfilled, not only hides the potential harms these tech giants can inflict, but also masks the deep-rooted global inequality crisis.
What becomes glaringly evident is the striking contrast between the extensive, stringent, and swift measures taken by social media companies to safeguard the interests of users in the Global North, in countries like the United States and Ukraine, and other countries in the Global South when political crises occur, such as Palestine, Myanmar, and Kenya.
In the wake of the events that unfolded in Israel and Palestine since October 7, the digital realm has been inundated with a deluge of disinformation, hate speech, incitement, and violent rhetoric. These dangerous narratives emanated not exclusively from one source: whilst Israeli officials and politicians disseminated videos, rationalizing attacks on Gaza and normalizing violence, social media platforms in general became fertile grounds for incitement and racism from users, further fueling settler violence against Palestinians. This is not a new occurrence.
Human rights groups had previously called for social media platforms to protect Palestinians, particularly following the 2021 events in Sheikh Jarrah and Gaza, and the burning of Huwara town earlier this year. In order for Palestinians, as well as social media users from the global majority more generally, to be protected from digital harm, social media companies need to take several steps in resolving the digital inequality they face.
Disinformation fanning the flames
This absence of safeguarding and proper content moderation and fact-checking is not an isolated incident limited to any one platform; rather, it is a widespread issue. In current events, X has seemingly allowed incitement and racist speech against Palestinians without adequate moderation. The platform’s owner even posted a tweet encouraging users to follow two accounts with a history of spreading disinformation, undermining the platform’s accountability.
Misinformation has plagued social media platforms these last few weeks, impacting and obstructing the proper flow of information. For instance, X permitted the wide dissemination of AI-generated images that were not flagged as fabricated, and which conveyed misleading information. Furthermore, some social media posts have spread videos taken during previous attacks on Gaza, or old videos of airstrikes in Syria or Ukraine as if they depict recent Israeli airstrikes on Gaza.
Further, Human Rights Watch verified videos showing that white phosphorus was used in Gaza and Lebanon in October, whilst some other videos circulating on social media were taken in the Donbas in Ukraine. The ceaseless waves of disinformation burden people and distract them from getting news from the ground. This makes the tech giants the biggest beneficiaries of disinformation.
Some international mainstream media outlets also fell into this trap and contributed to spreading disinformation that was subsequently used to justify violence on the ground. These platforms reported these alleged stories as verified news without conducting thorough authenticity checks. Such reporting has the potential to manipulate global audiences, and could exacerbate polarization and extremism in such events.
The repercussions of this hateful speech extend far beyond the confines of this region. It has contributed to the normalization of extremism and anti-Palestinian racism, but also of anti-semitism, especially in the absence of equitable international mainstream media coverage of events in this region.
Additionally, it has affected communities beyond the region, as exemplified by the recent murder of Wadea al-Fayoume, a six-year-old Muslim Palestinian-American boy in Chicago. Jewish communities were also affected by the online hatred rhetoric, leading to unconscionable attacks, such as the burning of the al-Hammah synagogue, a historic site in Tunisia.
Tech companies’ contradictions: Censorship, ads, and press freedom
On the other hand, Meta has imposed stricter censorship of Palestinian content. This has included the removal of visual documentation of the attack on the al-Ahli Hospital in Gaza on the night of October 17. Moreover, Meta has reduced the reach and viewership of Instagram stories in support of Palestine, among other content violations. The same occurred in 2021, which only compounds existent harm, and reflects the platform’s failure to address tech harms to human rights and access to information in times of crisis. In both instances, Meta claimed there were widespread technical glitches.
Furthermore, YouTube has allowed sponsored adverts by the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs on its platform, that justify the use of violence and deadly attacks against Palestinians. This follows the Ministry of Strategic Affairs employing the same tactic two years prior. Additionally, certain social media platforms have monitored and suspended the accounts of journalists and media organizations covering and documenting events in Palestine.
TikTok has “permanently banned” the official account of Mondoweiss, a website focused on developments in Palestine and Israel. Further, Instagram has suspended the account of a Mondoweiss correspondent based in the West Bank. This affects journalists’ right to labor, access to information, and the right to freedom of opinion and expression.
Disparities in safeguarding users in times of crisis
In the midst of this current crisis, major technology companies have displayed a marked divergence from their response to protect users in the Global North. Unlike their swift actions to safeguard American democracy during the storming of the US Capitol and their proactive measures to protect Ukrainian civilians from the outset of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, they neglected addressing disinformation, incitement, hate speech, and other content that perpetuates conflict extremism and escalates violence on the ground. This glaring disparity mirrors a broader crisis of global inequality, highlighting the urgent need for more equitable digital protection measures in regions affected by events.
The measures that tech companies have taken on the matter show that the protection of users varies, depending on various factors including, but not limited to, their countries’ economic and political purchase, as well as their countries’ support from the Global North. Furthermore, the adequacy of tech companies’ protective measures themselves can be called into question.
For example, Meta, following its commission of a due diligence report by the Business for Social Responsibility Network (BSR) in 2021 after events in Sheikh Jarrah and Gaza, rejected one of its key recommendations. The report, which found that Meta had censored Palestinian voices in 2021, recommended committing resources to support public research aimed at establishing the most effective balance between the legal obligations imposed on social media platforms and their policies and practices.
Unfortunately, it seems social media platforms invest resources based on their market size, not risks. It is important to note that Israel allocated approximately $319 million to social media advertising in 2021, with a staggering 95 percent of this budget dedicated to Meta platforms. This figure surpasses the collective advertising expenditures of Palestine, Jordan, and Egypt, solidifying Israel’s position as one of the largest advertising markets in the region.
The tech companies’ layoffs in the past couple of years, particularly misinformation and safety teams, made matters worse. In early 2023, YouTube, owned by Google, reduced its already small team of policy experts in charge of tackling misinformation to one person in charge of misinformation policy globally. Moreover, Meta’s layoffs in 2022 included employees who assisted in leading research on hate speech, misinformation, and trust.
Further, in December 2022, X discarded its Trust and Safety Council, where tens of civil society organizations and leaders from around the world had volunteered their time and effort, to enhance the platform’s safety. As such, tech companies are undermining processes of safeguarding their platforms from disinformation in times where these safeguards are desperately needed.
Similar issues have occurred across these platforms in the past, despite numerous pleas from local, regional, and international civil society representatives. These calls emphasized the need for the platforms to be prepared for similar events, especially in light of recurring escalations of tensions in the Middle East. However, tech companies have not allocated sufficient resources to protect users or conduct in-depth research to comprehend tensions and its consequences on their platforms, which reflects a fundamental structural defect in their business models.
Tech companies may argue that they are closely monitoring what is happening, and are responding to escalations from “trusted partners”. However, we are at a moment where they should acknowledge the “Whac-A-Mole” approach no longer suffices, and will not bring about lasting change.
This strategy is akin to applying small doses of painkillers to calm down minimally-resourced civil society organizations that document tech-related harms. To safeguard users worldwide, we must, now more than ever, urgently unite our efforts with all stakeholders to increase pressure on tech companies, imploring them to invest more in protecting users from tech-related harm.
Mona Shtaya is a Nonresident Fellow at TIMEP focusing on surveillance, privacy, and digital rights in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. She works as the MENA Campaigns and Partnerships Manager and corporate engagement lead in Digital Action.
It was also in the month of October, exactly 50 years ago, in 1973. The Egyptian and Syrian armies crossed the cease-fire lines ad inflicted heavy losses on the Israeli army. What a dreadful commotion in Tel Aviv! While their intelligence services had information that an attack was imminent, the political leadership remained cloaked in its arrogance: defeated in 1967, the Arabs could not fight any more; the occupation of Arab lands could go on unchecked and ad infinitum.
‘IS TRYING TO GO HOME AN AGGRESSION?’
At the time, many commentators in Europe and the United States denounced ‘an Egypto-Syrian aggression, unjustifiable, immoral and unprovoked’ – a term which Israel’s leaders are especially fond of since it makes it possible to obfuscate the root of these conflicts: the occupation. Michel Jobert, then French foreign minister displayed a clear-sightedness which honoured his country: ‘Does trying to set foot on one’s home territory necessarily constitute an aggression?’1 It is true that in those years the voice of Paris soared a thousand leagues above the occidental chorus and proclaimed that the recognition of the Palestinians’ national rights and the evacuation of the Arab territories occupied in 1967 were the keys to peace.
If, in 1973 the hope of putting an end to the occupation of Egypt’s Sinai and Syria’s Golan Heights was legitimate, fifty years later is the determination of the Palestinians to rid themselves of the Israeli occupation illegitimate? Tel Aviv, just as in October 1973, was caught short by the Palestinian action and suffered an exceptionally heavy military defeat. This time too, the occupiers’ arrogance, their contempt for the Palestinians, the conviction of this Jewish supremacist government that God is on its side, all contributed to its self-deception.
The attack, launched by a joint military command regrouping most of the Palestinian organisations under the leadership of the Ezzedine Al-Qassam Brigades (military wing of Hamas) was a surprise not only because of the moment chosen but also by its magnitude, its degree of organisation and the military capacities exhibited which made possible, among other feats, to overrun Israel’s military bases. It united all Palestinians and gained widespread support throughout the Arab world, even though its leaders are trying to come to terms with Israel on the backs of the Palestinians.
Even Mahmoud Abbas, President of a largely demonetised Palestinian Authority whose main reason for being is its security cooperation with the Israeli army, felt obliged to declare that his people ‘had the right to defend themselves against the colonists’ and occupation troops’ reign of terror’ and that ‘we must protect our people.’
Each time the Palestinians rebel, the West, – so prompt to glorify the resistance of the Ukrainians – speaks of terrorism. Thus, President Emmanuel Macron ‘firmly condemned the ongoing terrorist attacks against Israel’ without a word about the continuing occupation which is the source of the violence. The resilience of the Palestinians, tenacious, irrepressible, stubborn always amazes the occupiers and appears shocking in the eyes of many Westerners.
As at the time of the first Intifada in 1987, or the second in 2000, at the time of the armed actions on the West Bank or the mobilisation in favour of Jerusalem or the clashes around Gaza, under siege since 2007 and which has suffered six wars in 17 years (400 dead in 2006, 300 in 2008–2009, 160 in 2012, 2,100 in 2014, nearly 300 in 2021 and several dozen in the spring of 2023). The Israeli rulers accuse their enemies of ‘barbarity’, of disrespect for human life, in a word, of ‘terrorism.’
The accusation allows the accusers to wrap themselves in the cloak of righteousness and a clear conscience, camouflaging the apartheid system of an unbelievable brutality which oppresses the Palestinians every single day of their lives.
Let me remind readers once again that many terrorist organisations, pilloried as such in the course of recent history, have ceased to be pariahs and become legitimate interlocutors. The Irish Republican Army (IRA), the Algerian National Liberation Front, the African National Congress (ANC) and many others have been by turns described as ‘terrorists’, a word which serves to depoliticise their struggle, to present it as a confrontation between Good and Evil.
In the end the power structures had to negotiate with them. In 1967, following the Israeli aggression, General de Gaulle spoke these premonitory words: ‘Now Israel is organising, on the territories it has conquered, an occupation which will necessarily involve oppression, repression, and expulsions. If they encounter any resistance, they will call it terrorism.
THIS IS NOT AN ‘UNPROVOKED’ ATTACK
As in every war, one can only deplore the civilian casualties, but are there ‘good civilians’ for whom to shed a tear and‘bad civilians’ like the Palestinians who are killed every day on the West Bank and whose death elicits so little indignation?
700 Israeli casualties have already been counted as I write (and more than 400 on the Palestinian side), i.e., more than during the 1967 war against Egypt, Jordan, and Syria. The political and geopolitical context in the region will be completely turned around in a way which it is difficult to predict at this point. But what the current events lend credence to, once again, is the fact that an occupation always unleashes a resistance for which the occupiers alone are responsible
As article 2 of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen dating from 26 August 1789 proclaims: resistance to oppression is a fundamental right, one to which the Palestinians can justifiably lay claim.
Alain Gresh – Publication director of . A specialist in the Near East, he is the author of several books.
As technology becomes increasingly central to our lives and economies, the demand for rare earth elements and other critical mineral resources — essential raw materials that underpin the global transition to the low-carbon economies of the future — has grown exponentially.
These critical minerals are the lifeline of technologies ranging from semiconductors, flash memory and fiber optics to electric vehicle batteries and smartphones. As a result, competition for these assets is reshaping the geopolitical and geoeconomic landscape, far offsetting the conventional hegemony of oil, and laying out the contours of the next global resource scramble.
To meet goals laid out in the Paris Agreement, it is believed that 80 percent of confirmed fossil fuel supplies will need to stay in the ground. Yet, as we transition from these traditional energy sources to more sustainable alternatives, such as solar, wind, and geothermal energy, the demand for certain minerals and metals is set to balloon, which will likely transform Africa into a battleground for competing hegemonies seeking to monopolize the lifeblood of future economies.
By 2050, we could need close to 3 billion tons of metals such as lithium, cobalt and vanadium, which are useful in storing energy. Minerals such as manganese and graphite, which are essential for these new technologies, are found in abundance on the African continent, in addition to copper and other materials like indium, selenium and neodymium that are used in the manufacture of wind turbines and solar panels.
For optimists, such conditions could set Africa up for success as the world speeds up the move toward eco-friendly energy solutions. It will not be a new phenomenon, either, since the continent’s large deposits of gold, silver and other metals remain a wellspring of raw materials that fuel current manufacturing processes across the globe.
The extraction and export of these materials continues to play a significant role in Africa’s economic lifeline, driving exports, earning revenue, and contributing largely to gross domestic product. To date, minerals and fossil fuels made up over a third of all exports for most African countries. Moreover, a striking 42 out of 54 African countries depend heavily on these resources, with minerals providing a significant amount of revenue, foreign currency and jobs.t
Yet, despite holding such abundant natural wealth, Africa remains disadvantaged on a global scale and struggles to fully capitalize on its resources. This is mostly because, while its abundance is phenomenal, Africa still lacks the capacity and technology to develop these raw materials into more valuable finished products.
This has limited the continent’s opportunities to grow economically and to carve a more substantial place for itself in global supply chains. However, the global thirst for climate-friendly technologies and the will to transition away from energy sources that contribute to climate change presents a golden opportunity.
The continent could tap into its near limitless potential and become a focal point in the manufacture of everything from solar panels to batteries for electric vehicles. The growth of these clean energy industries carries a promise of industrial and employment expansion, which will then go on to secure unprecedented levels of socioeconomic development and prosperity.
Countries well-endowed with these vital minerals could attract substantial investments not only in the extraction of these resources, but also in advanced sectors that rely on them. Africa’s natural wealth, therefore, offers an opportunity to play a lead role in driving investments, and spearheading domestic and regional industrial evolution and growth.
To harness this opportunity fully, African countries need to beef up their manufacturing prowess, ramp up production, and encourage exports by bolstering domestic and cross-border collaborations and supply chain linkages.
Major global and regional forces are strengthening their footprints in Africa, staking claims in strategic areas.
Simply put, the African continent is increasingly indispensable, and the supply-chain risks stemming from the monopolization of these resources by a few countries such as China and Russia pose a significant threat of disruption to the global semiconductor and electric vehicle markets.
China currently commands the lion’s share of the global market for critical minerals — extracting 60 percent and processing about 80 percent of them — in addition to investing billions in Africa to fuel its ambitious Digital China strategy. Beijing’s practices occasionally raise eyebrows for capitalizing on soaring demand, political leverage, governance challenges, and exploiting cheap labor. Russia is not far behind, its footprints evident in deploying thousands of Wagner Group mercenaries to guard mineral resources.
Even the US, a mostly distant “partner” of the continent, cannot escape the surge of interest and attention in Africa, given that its countries have the minerals that will power the modern world. Recognizing Africa, specifically North Africa, as a crucial strategic partner can help Western economies in mitigating their dependencies on a single nation or region.
The Maghreb countries are well-positioned to serve as a gateway to Africa, despite not possessing vast reserves of these crucial minerals. They already serve as crucial gateways, both for the in and outflow of people and resources. In the future, their position will be critical in facilitating investments, talent growth, tech advancement and enabling the all-important trading markets for Africa’s huge, untapped mineral wealth deposits.
To unlock the potential of these resources, the US and Western countries should incentivize and strengthen collaborative private-sector partnerships with African nations that share democratic and rule-of-law values. For instance, Africa’s landmark African Continental Free Trade Area can be leveraged to support semiconductor, flash memory, and consumer electronics supply chains.
The far-seeing efforts by Western multinationals in the 1970s and 1980s offer valuable lessons for today’s context. By establishing manufacturing hubs and R&D centers in ASEAN countries, they kick-started the growth of these economies. Fostering a similar approach by encouraging multinationals to invest in Africa can yield the twofold benefit of growing the local economies while reducing dependency on Eastern powerhouses.
For instance, Google, Microsoft and IBM have already begun making inroads by opening R&D labs in various African countries. Intrinsic in this strategic equation is the clear message that critical minerals have not merely evolved as the new oil but also as crucial geopolitical pivot points. The traditional oil-driven geopolitics is giving way rapidly to geostrategic competition over these prized resources.
Thus, the international spotlight on Africa’s potential is not just a reflection of its burgeoning promise but also a smoking gun pointing to the heightening political and economic dynamics shaping the world. Major global and regional forces are fortifying their footprints in Africa, staking claims in strategic areas, increasing their soft power, and going all-in to compete for influence and projects.
The Maghreb countries are not immune to these global dynamics and, in many ways, are in the thick of the action. In aiming to act as the continental gateway, they will continually find themselves assuming center stage in an escalating global scramble for Africa’s future riches.
Increasingly, foreign powers, from China, Russia and the Gulf states, see Morocco and its Saharan neighbors as a strategic playground between the West and Africa, making these nations increasingly important players in these geopolitical and economic games.
Just as Morocco and others vie to be Africa’s portal, the broader North Africa region itself could also become a highly contested ground, especially if its countries endeavor to facilitate Africa’s rise on the world stage. To be the conduits for Africa’s potential should be seen not just as an opportunity, but also as a great responsibility.
Africa is no longer on the sidelines of the global scheme but rather the center of the attention. No longer does the old tag, “the forgotten continent,” hold. Instead, it is being sought after with such intensity that this renewed attention threatens to outweigh the continent’s capacity to absorb and utilize it effectively.
This is where the Maghreb’s strategic geographical advantage can be harnessed by leveraging the sub-region as an entry point, intermediary market, and a channel for investment and technology transfer, opening up unexplored opportunities. Ambitious but strategic planning, investment, and collaboration could steer these countries to become the custodians of the African resource map while serving their significant role in clean energy transformations across the globe.
Hafed Al-Ghwell is a senior fellow and executive director of the North Africa Initiative at the Foreign Policy Institute of the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, D.C., and the former adviser to the dean of the board of executive directors of the World Bank Group.
Europe has only itself to blame for the refugee crisis
On 11 September, massive floods created by Storm Daniel ruptured two dams built in the Seventies to protect Derna in eastern Libya, exposing its denizens to unstoppable torrents of water. The smell of rotting bodies and sewage seeping from busted pipes suffused the air. Bridges were broken, homes demolished. Contaminated water, wrecked sanitation systems, and the shortage of potable water has raised fears about the outbreak of cholera. The UN reports that 43,000 people have been displaced, with 11,300 killed and 9,000 still missing.
Though forgotten by the media in the face of more immediate Middle-Eastern tragedies, a UN mission is attempting to restore order. But such ambitions, reasonable in theory, fundamentally depend on the domestic political situation and whether the government in charge is competent or, as in Libya’s case, broken. Such analysis of Libya as a “failed state” is a longstanding characterisation in the West, and has similarly been revived in recent months as an explanation for the renewed flow of refugees to Europe.
But while blaming this on the breakdown of governance in Libya is a logical first step, we mustn’t stop there. That would be to ignore the roots of the dysfunction, which can be traced to the Nato-led intervention launched on 19 March, 2011. Libya’s state didn’t passively “fail”; the West triggered its failure through its programme of so-called humanitarian interventionism.
This isn’t to say that the description of state failure inside Libya is incorrect. It’s undeniable — indeed at present there isn’t a “state” to speak of. Not only does the country contain two rival governments (one in the capital, Tripoli, the other in Tobruk), but a Gaddafi-era general, Khalifa Haftar, acts autonomously and answers to neither administration, though he nominally backs the one in the east. Beyond him, a multitude of armed militias dominate fragments of the country and thrive by running illicit businesses. Terrorist groups and drug and human trafficking networks add to the mayhem. Outsiders — including Turkey, Russia, Egypt, Syria and the United Arab Emirates — have worsened the turmoil and violence by backing different Libyan clients.
These circumstances have made even the minimally competent governance needed to manage disasters such as Derna impossible. The nation’s infrastructure, especially Derna’s dams, had fallen into a state of disrepair, some of it damaged by the persistent violence. This was no secret: Libyan engineers had long been sounding the alarm. But institutions capable of taking responsibility for such critical tasks have become scarce since Libya’s state disintegrated in 2011.
For 42 years before that event, Muammar Gaddafi, a military officer who toppled the Western-supported monarchy of King Idris in 1969, ruled Libya in a brutal, authoritarian manner. But the country did at least have a central authority capable of policy-making and state action. Everything changed once the sudden shockwaves of the Arab Spring reached Libya and Gaddafi faced a popular uprising, which he promptly sought to crush. But as it gathered strength, clashes between protestors and security forces led to increasing bloodshed, and Western leaders, notably France’s president Nicolas Sarkozy and Britain’s prime minister David Cameron, demanded intervention to protect Libyan civilians.
Within a month of the intervention, some 600,000 people had fled, seeking safety in adjacent countries, most of them migrants from sub-Saharan Africa originally lured to the country by the prospect of finding jobs. But economic desperation soon induced migrants from neighbouring countries — the bulk of them from Niger, Egypt, Sudan and Chad — to head to Libya again, some seeking work, others a passageway out of Africa. It did not take long for Europeans to feel the ripple effects.
Though there were refugee flows from Libya to Europe even during Gaddafi’s rule, the country’s coast was more effectively policed because there was a functioning government. Gaddafi also cooperated directly with European leaders to reduce the exodus in exchange for cash: at one point he had demanded €5 billion annually, but in 2010 settled for €50 million over three years. But once the intervention put an end to Gaddafi’s regime and mayhem ensued, migrants from Libya and other African countries started crossing the Mediterranean to Europe in far larger numbers, many in makeshift boats.
Since then, this movement has ebbed and flowed, but never ceased. In March a legislator from Italian PM Giorgia Meloni’s Brothers of Italy party, citing intelligence reports, claimed that nearly 700,000 people are in Libya awaiting the opportunity to get to Europe. Though UN officials dismissed that figure, this much seems certain: whatever the precise number, Libya will remain a launch pad for destitute people eyeing Europe, no matter the EU’s payments to various African countries, and even Libyan militias, to stanch the flow.
And the arrival of droves of refugees on Europe’s shores has aggravated the discord within the EU as member states bicker over how the burden ought to be shared. The first refugee crisis peaked in 2015, but it is once again remaking European politics as far-Right parties exploit xenophobic tropes and play upon public anxieties to increase their appeal. Libya’s “state failure” has washed across the Mediterranean and into the countries of the leaders who precipitated it back in 2011.
In seeking a prime mover for the disaster in Derna and the refugee crisis however, we must return to the Nato-led intervention and the mindset that drove it. As I show in my 2016 book, The Conceit of Humanitarian Intervention, the 2011 uprising in Libya was never as peaceful as was widely reported; nor, as was often alleged, did Gaddafi’s forces train heavy weapons on demonstrators with abandon. Gaddafi’s opponents also exaggerated the number of civilians that were killed by his security forces, as did Western advocates of armed intervention.
The frightening estimates of those who were still in danger of being killed ultimately amounted to guesswork. (White House Middle East expert Dennis Ross’s warning that 100,000 people in Benghazi — which then had a population of about 674,000 — would die was an egregious example.) Likewise, as US intelligence officials subsequently stated, the claim of Susan Rice, the American ambassador to the UN that Gaddafi had distributed Viagra to his troops so that they could commit mass rape lacked evidence.
Still, as the violence in Libya continued, demands for forceful action to stop it intensified, in part because the Responsibility to Protect doctrine (R2P), which offered a plan to stop mass atrocities, was in its heyday. Its principles had even been included in the Outcome Document the UN adopted in 2005, its 50th anniversary.
The essence of R2P — elaborated upon in a report from December 2001 — was that state sovereignty was not unconditional. When governments proved demonstrably incapable of fulfilling their basic responsibility to protect their people, or worse were subjecting them to atrocities, the international community was duty-bound to step in, using military force if other means had failed. This was the moral reasoning that led the UN Security Council to pass Resolution 1973 on 17 March, 2011, as Gaddafi’s crackdown continued.
The resolution authorised a military operation — led by Nato but including states outside the alliance — whose remit was to protect Libyan civilians. But the campaign quickly morphed into one that, whether by design or default, overthrew Gaddafi, who was eventually murdered by rebel forces. The power vacuum was soon filled by the anarchy and violence that persists to this day.
That denouement was preventable. R2P didn’t merely call for military intervention, as a last resort, to save civilians from harm; it also stressed the importance of establishing order and helping to promote economic recovery thereafter. But the countries that spearheaded the 2011 intervention were not nearly as enthusiastic about the former as they were about the latter. Ironically, one of R2P’s originators later described the intervention as a “textbook case of the R2P norm working exactly as it was supposed to”.
In the event, it proved to be a wrecking ball that shattered the Libyan state and saddled its people with the task of making their broken country whole again. Strikingly, while the major Western powers vigorously called attention to the dangers facing Libyan civilians in 2011, they do not display the same fervour today, never mind that the confirmed deaths in Derna alone far exceed the total for all of Libya in 2011. Nor have the high priests of humanitarian intervention outside officialdom demanded action in Derna or even publicised its plight with the passion they summoned back in 2011.
Samantha Power, now the head of the US Agency for International Development, then a National Security Council staffer, visited Armenia and Azerbaijan recently to take stock of the refugee crisis that was created by the Azerbaijan’s army conquest of Nagorno Karabakh, the country’s Armenian-majority enclave that declared its independence in 1992.
Derna, however, was not on her travel schedule, even though she was among the prominent voices that called for the 2011 humanitarian intervention that left Libya in the disarray that soon earned it the “failed state” moniker. As for the press, after an initial spate of reportage, the coverage of Derna’s suffering has trailed off, even though the miseries of its people are still very much in evidence.
The humanitarian intervention movement, and R2P, its programme, was motivated by a high-minded mission: eliminating or at least mitigating the persistent, serious harm of mass atrocities committed mainly by governments. Yet the lesson offered by Libya — and Iraq and Afghanistan too — is that deploying military force in other countries in order to stop bloodshed and oppression can unwittingly promote prolonged disorder and violence, upending the lives of the intended beneficiaries.
Perhaps Western leaders have learned this lesson. Then again, the hubris produced by overweening power dies hard. Some neoconservatives and liberal internationalists of a markedly millenarian mindset continue to believe that their earlier failures were rooted not in extravagant ambitions but in deficiencies of planning and implementation that can be fixed. As long as this delusion continues, more Libya-like interventions animated by visions of benevolent social engineering await.
Rajan Menon is the Director of the Grand Strategy programme at Defense Priorities and a senior research fellow at Columbia University.
The Wagner Uprising and Its Far-Reaching Impact on Russia and Beyond
June 23-24, 2023. Over those days, Russia, the sanctioned world power, was not destabilized by the nuclear enemy in Washington, but by one man, who made his wealth serving food to school children and soldiers. A caterer who attempted a revolution.
A bald man, who apparently wore wigs during his days off, as the Russian secret police claimed to have discovered when they searched his home in St Petersburg. The photos of the wig-wearing Yevgeny Prigozhin were shown on national TV, making fun of the ultranationalist, who for many Russians is a hero, a courageous character risking his life visiting the front lines in Ukraine, screaming his anger and frustration about Moscow’s failures in the war. The media treasured his prison-colored language, since a convict he once was, in younger years.
“Until recently”, noted CNN (July 6, 2023), Russian state TV “lionized Wagner’s operation in Ukraine”, but the outlets “now appear to be vilifying the founder of the private military company, following the failed uprising”. On June 23-24, Prigozhin ordered tanks to move towards the capital. Some of his estimated 50,000 fighters, many recruited in prisons and familiar with brutality, closed in on Moscow.
President Putin, almost a quarter of a century in power, took the threat seriously. He changed into a black suit and on national TV compared the uprising to the wartime turmoil that led to the Russian revolution of 1917: “It’s an attempt to subvert us from inside. This is treason in the face of those who are fighting on the front” (CNBC, June 26, 2023).
In the end, the attempted coup d’état lasted just 24 hours. Nevertheless, the almost revolution shocked the world, and probably stunned the Russian people. They saw how a Russian city, Rostov-on-Don, one million inhabitants, was occupied by Wagner’s fighters without a shot fired. Helicopter attacks on the mercenaries, who had taken to the highway to reach the capital, were reported; a missile strike was aimed at Wagner fighters, and a dozen or so Russian pilots were shot down by the rebels.
A Stab in the Back
Where were the defenders on the ground, Russians to fight Russians? Moscow had created a monster, a 858 billion ruble, $9.8 billion fighting machine, as estimated by the Russian TV propagandist Dmitry Kiselyov in his July 2, 2023 ‘News of the week’ program (Russian TV). These fighters were surrounded by and used to death.
Ukraine’s President, Volodymyr Zelensky, estimated (CNN, July 1, 2023) that 21,000 Wagner mercenaries have been killed in Eastern Ukraine alone; an estimated 80,000 Wagner fighters were wounded. Now this battle-hardened private army did not shy away from facing national forces, which, in the early hours of the uprising, were nowhere to be seen. Roads leading into the capital were blocked by buses, taxis, lorries; workers ripped up the pavement to slow the rebels.
In those 24 hours, Russia seemed to forget the occupation of Crimea and the invasion of Ukraine. The war, a nightmare, was on the way home, destabilizing the Russian dream, the return to frightful power and glorious grandeur. “Armed by the Kremlin to fight in Ukraine”, wrote The Guardian (June 24, 2023), “the maverick warlord was now redirecting his forces at his enemies inside Russia in the most serious threat to the Kremlin since the 1991 Soviet coup d’etat attempt”. For Putin, apparently unprepared for this sudden challenge to his leadership, and not warned by his ever-present spies, the mutiny was “a stab in the back”.
The President claimed that Russia was “fighting for survival” and the reaction to this rebellion would be a “harsh retribution”. Repeat: “any internal mutiny is a deadly threat to our state, to us as a nation. It’s a strike against our nation, our people. And our actions to defend the fatherland from such a threat will be brutal” (The Guardian, June 24, 2023). “There was no question”, noted Benoit Vitkine (Le Monde June 24, 2023), Comrade Prigozhin “plunged the whole of Russia into a huge black hole”.
On June 25, Guardian reporter Pjotr Sauer insisted “the authority and self image of Putin has sustained lasting damage as a result of the revolt, and Prigozhin’s continued public presence could further undermine the Kremlin’s credibility”.
Prigozhin, known to be a ruthless and ambitious figure, was not thrown in shackles in front of a firing squad waiting for him on Red Square, but was received with 35 of his commanders by Putin in the Kremlin, five days after the uprising. The alleged traitor (without wig) was placed in the first row, facing Putin, the leader who had promised “harsh retribution” against the outlaw. Reuters revealed (July 14, 2023) that Putin said the mercenaries could keep fighting, but Prigozhin would be replaced by a seasoned war veteran, Andrei Troshev, who had been in action in Afghanistan and Chechnya. Prigozhin remained fearless and determined: “No, the boys won’t agree with such a decision”, the presumed traitor told the President.
An unusual figure, Alexander Lukashenko, the President of Belarus, “played a major role in ending the mutiny”, reported Gulf Today (June 28, 2023). The Belarus dictator, whose nation shares 1084 kilometers of border with Ukraine, persuaded Prigozhin in a phone conversation to halt the revolt, informing him that Putin had apparently made “a brutal decision to wipe out the mutineers”. Lukashenko then advised Putin not to rush to a violent judgement, but to propose to the rebels that they could find safety in neighboring Belarus.
Lukashenko revealed in public, that he feared that, should the rebels reach Moscow, a civil war could begin, and “God forbid, the turmoil would have spread, and the prerequisites for that were enormous, we could be next”, the dictator feared (Reuters, June 28, 20023), and “if Russia collapses we will all be under the rubble”. But then: “Mystery shrouds the fate of that deal as well”, reported Reuters (July 14, 2023). Lukashenko subsequently confirmed that Prigozhin had returned, for the time being, to St Petersburg and “his life was not in danger”. Lately Prigozhin was sighted in Belarus, where Wagner fighters are preparing local soldiers for war.
His Neck Was on the Line
In public, Lukashenko reflected on the future of Prigozhin. “Well everything happens in life. But if you think Putin is so malicious and vindictive that he will ‘kill’ Prigozhin tomorrow, no, this will not happen”. Prigozhin, whose residence and headquarters are in St Petersburg, where billions of roubels in cash were discovered along with his wigs, also owns the Internet Research Company, an online troll farm, and the Association for Free Research and International Cooperation, both of which are under U.S. sanctions and have worked alongside Wagner.
By the way, the confiscated cash piles in St Petersburg were not the illegally held property of Prigozhin, but cash to pay his troops, who insist on cash payments, as do the orphans and widows of Wagner fighters killed in action.The “Ukrainska Pravda” (June 24,2023)reported that Prigozhin confirmed that Russian security forces have found boxes full of money near his office …Russian media reported that the boxes contain a total of four billion roubles( appro 47 million dollars.”
ln a paper on the Wagner drama, Thomas Graham of the Council on Foreign Relations (June 24, 2023) is hesitant to predict the final outcome: “We do not know how close he (Prigozhin) is to the Russian President personally, but he certainly has a network of contacts inside the Kremlin and leverages the perception of ties to Putin to advance his business interests. Nevertheless, his ties to Putin did not deter him from launching the rebellion or Putin labelling him an outlaw, who should be severely punished”. To many Russians Prigozhin seemed brave.
No Russian general was seen going close to danger.Their critic dared “The Wagner boss questioned the strategy for the war fought in Ukraine, the reasons for it, suggesting the elite was profiting, and couldn’t care less how many Russian lives were lost”. His soldiers were sacrificed, because needed ammunition and weapons were not delivered and his fighters were sent to death by an incompetent man in Putin’s inner circle: Russia’s defense minister Sergei Shoigu, with whom the Wagner boss battled for the control of the Wagner group, particularly in Africa.
Their Arsenal is Russian
At stake were the vast money-making ventures Prigozhin developed and owned for the Kremlin in Africa and beyond. At the end, within one day, the rebellion collapsed, the insurgent-in-chief ordered his troops, advancing to Moscow, to return to their barracks near the front. His decision, CNN suggested, was “to save Russian blood, but the reality was that his neck was on the line”. On that fateful Saturday, “Russia appeared to have averted an immediate descent into civil war”, suggested Andrew Roth and Pjotr Sauer (The Guardian, June 24, 2023), and Africa moved back into center of foreign military affairs.
Wagner is active in at least eight African nations. An estimated 5000 fighters, are deployed. Wagner’s businesses in the Central African Republic, to give just one example, ranges from a 290 million dollar per year gold mine to precious hardwood processing and beer and vodka production as the “Moscow Times” (June 28, 2023)quoted the US economic News platform “Bloomberg.”. “With Wagner, Russia has managed to create a very powerful business machine and tool for influence in Africa”, stated International Crisis Group’s Central Africa Project director Enrica Picco, “so the system will not fail even if there are internal struggles in Russia. The Kremlin will not let the system fail; it’s too important to them” (Moscow Times, June 28, 2023).
“It is premature to assess the effect of the present state of war between Russia and Ukraine on military cooperation between Russia and Africa”, argued Abdelhak Bassou, Senior Fellow at the Policy Center for the New South, and Affiliated Professor at the faculty on Governance, Economic and Social Science at the Mohammed VI Polytechnic University (UM6P), in his paper on ‘Military Relations between Russia and Africa, before and after the war in Ukraine’. “Whatever the outcome of the war or its consequences, some African countries will continue to maintain relations with Russia because their arsenals are Russian (as in the case of Algeria and Egypt) or because they are tied to Russia by agreements made before the war in Ukraine”.
The recent revolt, wrote News.com (June 28, 2023) has “raised significant uncertainties about the future operations of the organization in distant regions. For years, Wagner has been viewed as a formidable tool of Moscow’s influence, particularly in Syria and Africa, acting as armed extension of the Russian government in various conflict-ridden areas”.
Wagner relies heavily on the Russian defense ministry for the provision of troops, equipment, and weapons in its operational theatres. Likewise Moscow depends on Wagner to maintain control over the troubled regions where the group operates, actively undermining Western influence. “The butterfly effect of Wagner group’s failed mutiny has severe implications for Russian influence abroad”, noted reporter Alex Blair on News.Com. With Prigozhin possibly moving into exile in Belarus “the fate of Wagner’s endeavors in exploiting anti-western regimes hangs in the balance”.
Helmut Sorge is a columnist at the Policy Center for the New South.
Libyans say climate change isn’t an excuse for the amount of neglect that happened with the maintenance of the dams.
When the heavy downpours started in Libya as Storm Daniel battered the country in September, people in Derna felt that the city’s two dams would protect them from devastating floods, and there was no concern to leave their homes.
But it wasn’t just rainfall. The devastating floods stemmed from the chain of mountains surrounding the northeastern coastal city and not from a tsunami in the Mediterranean.
The worst floods in the country’s history left more than 5,000 people dead and at least another 10,000 people are still missing. Entire neighbourhoods on the bank of the raging river were swept away. Climate change clearly played a key role in the collapse of the city’s two dams built in the 1970s to protect it from flooding.
The rainfall was unusually severe — the equivalent of a year’s rainfall in just 24 hours.
But there’s a consensus among many locals in the capital, Tripoli and elsewhere that years of negligence and political infighting are the main culprits and have greatly contributed to the severity of the unprecedented disaster.
Oil-rich Libya has been riven by political infighting, corruption and external interference since a 2011 uprising that toppled and later led to the death of the long-time ruler Muammar Gaddafi. Attempts stretching back a decade to form a unified functioning government have failed, and instead, two rival governments backed by their own military factions are based in Tripoli in the west and Tobruk in the east.
Now the two rival governments have tried to politically exploit the extreme weather event, says Moussa Tihosai, a Libyan analyst and researcher based in Tripoli.
“The political exploitation of the Derna crisis began from day one. But both sides then backed down because of embarrassment. Every government wants to undertake reconstruction and compete in rescue and relief operations to emerge as the saviour. In addition, the security services on both sides want to appear as a hero,” Mr Tihosai told Al Majalla.
One week after the torrential rain wiped off around a quarter of Derna, many locals took to the streets demanding the removal of those in power in the East and the West, accusing officials of political and financial corruption.
Venting their anger at all officials, they singled out the speaker of the eastern-based Libyan parliament, Aguila Saleh, as he framed the disaster in a religious context.
In the political and information war, the climate has been amplified and exploited by politicians, says Mr Tihosai.
Abdel-Hamid al-Hassadi survived the devastating flooding in eastern Libya but he lost some 90 people from his extended family.
The 23-year-old law graduate rushed upstairs along with his mother and his elder brother, as heavy rains lashed the city of Derna on the evening of Sept. 10. Soon, torrents of water were washing away buildings next to them.
“We witnessed the magnitude of the catastrophe,” al-Hassadi said in a phone interview from Derna, referring to the massive flooding that engulfed his city. “We have seen our neighbors’ dead bodies washing away in the floods.”
Heavy rains from Mediterranean storm Daniel caused the collapse of the two dams that spanned the narrow valley that divides the city. That sent a wall of water several meters high through its heart.
Ten days after the disaster, al-Hassadi and thousands of others remain in Derna, most of them waiting for a word about relatives and loved ones. For al-Hassadi, it’s the 290 relatives still missing.
The floods inundated as much as a quarter of the city, officials say. Thousands of people were killed, with many dead bodies still under the rubble or at sea, according to search teams. Government officials and aid agencies have given varied death tolls.
The World Health Organization says a total of 3,958 deaths have been registered in hospitals, but a previous death toll given by the head of Libya’s Red Crescent said at least 11,300 were killed. The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says at least 9,000 people are still missing.
Bashir Omar, a spokesman for the International Committee of the Red Cross, said the fatalities are in the thousands, but he did not give a specific toll for the number of retrieved bodies, since there are many groups involved in the recovery effort.
Many Derna residents, including women and children, are spending their days at the city’s collection points for the bodies. They are desperate to know who is inside body bags carried by ambulances.
Inside a school in the western part of the city, authorities posted photos of the retrieved bodies.
Anas Aweis, a 24-year-old resident of Derna, lost two brothers and is still searching for his father and four cousins. He went to the Ummul Qura school in the Sheiha neighborhood to inspect the exhibited photos.
“It’s chaos,” he said after spending two hours waiting in lines. “We want to know where they buried them if they died.”
The floods have displaced at least 40,000 people in eastern Libya, including 30,000 in Derna, according to the U.N.’s migration agency. Many have moved to other cities across Libya, hosted by local communities or sheltered in schools. There are risks to staying, including potential infection by waterborne diseases.
Rana Ksaifi, assistant chief of mission in Libya for the U.N.’s refugee agency, said the floods have left “unfathomable levels of destruction,” and triggered new waves of displacement in the already conflict-stricken nation.
The houseplants on the rooftop of Abdul Salam Anwisi’s building survived the waters that reached up to his 4th-floor apartment. Anwisi’s and a few other families rode out the deluge on the roof, which overlooks the Mediterranean Sea. They thought they wouldn’t live to see daylight. Now, as he sifts through the water-damaged debris of his home, it’s unclear what comes next.
“God predetermined and he did what he wanted,” he said.
Others across the country are calling for Libya’s leaders to be taken to task.
Hundreds of angry protesters gathered Monday outside Derna’s main mosque, criticizing the government’s lack of preparation and response. They lashed out at the political class that controls the oil-rich nation since the ouster and killing of longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi in 2011.
The North African country plunged into chaos after a NATO-backed uprising toppled and killed Gadhafi. For most of the past decade, Libya has been split between two rival administrations: one in the west backed by an array of lawless militias and armed groups, a second in the east, allied with the self-styled Libyan National Army, commanded by Gen. Khalifa Hifter. Neither government tolerates dissent.
Derna, as well as east and most of south Libya, is controlled by Hifter’s forces. However, funds for municipalities and other government agencies are controlled by the rival government in the capital, Tripoli.
Al-Hassadi, the law graduate, blamed local authorities for giving conflicting warnings to residents, leaving many defenseless. They asked residents to evacuate areas along the Mediterranean coast, but at the same time, they imposed a curfew, preventing people from leaving their homes.
“It was a mistake to impose a curfew,” he said.
The dams, Abu Mansour and Derna, were built by a Yugoslav construction company in the 1970s. They were meant to protect the city against heavy flooding, but years of no maintenance meant they were unable to keep the exceptional influx of water at bay.
Many Libyans are now calling for an international investigation and supervision of aid funds. The Supreme Council of State, an advisory body based in the capital of Tripoli, said that a “thorough international investigation” is needed to determine reasons behind the crisis in the city of Derna, the hardest-hit area.
“All are corrupt here … without exception,” said rights activist Tarik Lamloum.
“As long as the United States stands and we will stand forever, we’ll not ever let you be alone,” US President Joe Biden told Israelis in an address from Tel Aviv, before proceeding to repeat the same propaganda which NATO and mainstream media utilised to justify foreign intervention in Libya. His next move was to bring ISIS into the narrative: “atrocities that recall the worst ravages of ISIS”.
This manipulation follows Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s remarks after meeting US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, in Tel Aviv last week. “Hamas is ISIS, and just as ISIS was crushed, so too will Hamas be crushed. And Hamas should be treated exactly the way ISIS was treated,” Netanyahu stated.
One must also not forget Blinken’s threat. “Here in Israel, and everywhere, we will reaffirm the crystal-clear warning that President Biden issued yesterday to any adversary – state or non-state – thinking of taking advantage of the current crisis to attack Israel: Don’t. The United States has Israel’s back,” Blinken warned, while referring to the US deploying the largest aircraft carrier in the world to bolster Israel’s genocidal actions against Palestinians in Gaza.
Only the terror narrative sustains Israel’s current bloodbath against the Palestinians in Gaza. And only because the international community is too cowardly and complicit to call out Israel’s colonial violence. Meanwhile, the US promotes a false narrative that, together with Israel, both allegedly believe in “the fundamental dignity of every human life”. Basic empathy aside, which is non-existent anyway when speaking about colonial powers, how does the US$100 million in aid to Palestinians compare next to the $10 billion Biden will be requesting the US Congress for Israel?
The US is reciprocating Israel’s terror narrative with comparisons to 9/11, and justifying Israel’s colonial violence from the same narrative that brought the world’s powers together in the so-called “war on terror”. Positioning a US aircraft carrier against a besieged enclave, with a population that has been repeatedly displaced since 1948, and which is now estimated to have one million forcibly displaced Palestinians since 7 October, speaks of international engagement in colonial violence against Gaza. Not to mention the 3,785 Palestinians killed in Israel’s bombing of the area.
According to EU Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, “there is no contradiction in standing in solidarity with Israel and acting on the humanitarian needs of the Palestinian people”. But there is. There is contradiction in standing in solidarity with a colonial enterprise built over the remnants and buried history of ethnic cleansing, stolen land and massacred people. Unless, of course, it is former colonial powers and their weaker allies depending on political allegiances that do not want a true decolonial reversal – one that restores land ownership to its rightful people – the Palestinians. Acting in solidarity with Israel is violating the Palestinian people’s humanitarian needs – there is and will never be any equivalence.
But such is the politics guiding the international community, sheltering Israel from facing a reversal of the terror narrative that would shatter its core.
Ramona Wadi is an independent researcher, freelance journalist, book reviewer and blogger. Her writing covers a range of themes in relation to Palestine, Chile and Latin America.