بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
The government of al-Siraj in Libya: executing the international custodianship and proceeding towards fragmentation or further security and political chaos in case of resistance.
Despite all the threats issued by the military forces loyal to the General National Congress (GNC) led by Nouri Bousahmin, stating that they are prepared to engage in a long-term war against all those who attempt to protect or give access to the "Unity Government" of Fayez al-Siraj, and despite the refusal of the parliament in Tobruk, led by Aguila Saleh and its interim government led by Abdullah al-Thani to vote for the Unity Government, in addition to the decision by the National Salvation Government, led by Khalifah al-Ghweil, to close the airspace several times to prevent the aircraft carrying the members of the Presidency Council coming from Tunis to land in Tripoli, Fayez al-Siraj and most of his governing team succeeded in entering Tripoli by sea on 30 March 2016. Hence, Libya now has three governments: the first claiming to dominate Tripoli and most of the Western areas, known as the "Salvation Government" led by Khalifah al-Ghweil; the second in Tobruk governing most of the areas in the east of the country and known as the "Interim Government" led by Abdullah al-Thani; and the third government that is known as the "Government of National Accord" (GNA) resulting from the al-Sukhayrat agreement in Morocco under the auspices of the United Nations and led by Fayez al-Siraj which entered Tripoli amid the rejection of the Salvation and the Interim governments but enjoys the substantial backing of the West.
After the Government of National Accord had entered Tripoli, the Salvation government - backed by Al-Fajr Libya Brigades - was expected to carry out its threats to stage a "comprehensive armed confrontation", for which the internationally-sponsored Fayez al-Siraj's government had declared it was ready stating that "the only option available for the Salvation Government is a safe exit instead of a battle that is not in its interest." Hence, how did the Government of National Accord succeed in entering Tripoli despite all the threats? What is the level of Western backing it enjoys? What was the reaction of its rivals in western and eastern Libya? What are the challenges that the Government of National Accord is facing? What are the scenarios the Kufr major powers have devised for Libya? And finally, what are the chances of the al-Siraj government in succeeding in the tasks assigned to it by the UN Mission, i.e. official broker of Western plans and interests?
First: The Events Surrounding the Entry of the Government of National Accord to Tripoli
Fayez al-Siraj and some members of the Presidency Council had attempted to enter Tripoli by air from Tunisia but the Salvation Government closed the airspace to prevent them from landing at the Mitiga airport. This prompted the decision-makers and protectors of the Government of National Accord to alter the security arrangements for al-Siraj's entry to Tripoli. An Italian frigate ferried al-Siraj and the rest of his cabinet team under heavy protection by French, US and British gunboats to the naval base of Boussetta in Tripoli in a scene akin to the entry of the collaborators to Baghdad aboard US tanks.
The question is: why did the Fajr Libya Forces and their allies not move to expel or apprehend the government of Fayez al-Siraj? The answer to this is that when Fayez al-Siraj and his cabinet arrived at the naval base of Boussetta, which they are currently using as their headquarters to run their affairs until a location is prepared for them in the city of Janzour, armoured vehicles and soldiers were securing the base against any potential attack. More importantly, the leaders of the Fajr Libya Brigades had received text messages on their mobiles, in Libyan dialect, warning them against approaching the Boussetta base and should they fail to comply, they would be subjected to heavy shelling by Apache helicopters which were deployed on Western frigates and very close to the scene of events.
Nevertheless, some clashes erupted in Omar al-Mokhtar Street, Tripoli, between the Deterrent Forces affiliated to Abdul Rahman al-Tawil, who supports Fayez al-Siraj's government, and the Resistance forces belonging to Saleh Badi which are affiliated to the Ghweil government. The Deterrent Brigade and the al-Nawasi Brigade had secured the areas close to the Boussetta naval base, such as al-Shatt Road, and dominated Martyrs' Square and the General Staff Headquarters (former Girls College), the Tuesday Market island and the surrounding areas. Once the locale of Fayez al-Siraj's government was secured by loyal brigades, as well as the airspace and the sea by Western forces, Fayez al-Siraj held a press conference in which he confirmed his arrival and gave his vision for the forthcoming phase.
The most important thing Fayez al-Siraj tried to convey is that he would work towards unifying the state's institutions and executing a bundle of pressing measures to alleviate the suffering of the citizens; that he would also work toward enforcing a ceasefire and unifying all the efforts to fight Daesh. He also claimed that he would abide by the political agreements, especially in respect of achieving national reconciliation and the return of the displaced and the expelled. He went on to say that his government could give all the parties concerned a host of guarantees including the implementing of Shari'ah and achieving the aims of the February revolution.
2- The Level of Western Backing to the Government of Fayez al-Siraj:
No sooner had the Government of National Accord set foot in the Boussetta base on 30 March and Fayez al-Siraj ended his press conference, than Western politicians rushed, on the same day, to release a flurry of statements supporting Fayez al-Siraj and his government which confirms emphatically that this government is sponsored by international powers. French foreign minister Jean Marc Ayrault hastened to announce that he was "delighted by this courageous decision"; he called on all the Libyan institutions to rally behind the new authorities. He added: "The Libyan national unity government can count on France's total support to face the challenges which it is confronted by and first and foremost the urgent necessity to end Daesh's advance." Italy for her part expressed, through her foreign minister Paolo Gentiloni, her "satisfaction" at the arrival of the Unity Government's Presidency Council to Tripoli. Gentiloni deemed it "another step forward for the stabilisation of Libya." He added: "Further progress is now possible for the Libyan people based on the determination of the premier Siraj and the presidential council" and reiterated "Italy has always been in the forefront with numerous diplomatic initiatives aiming at the stabilisation of Libya"
Paolo Gentiloni concluded: “I hope that the Libyan people will assure their full support and utmost cooperation to the Presidential Council and to the Government of National Accord, and that political and financial institutions will cooperate to enable the immediate and peaceful transfer of power.” In order to corroborate the powerhouse the government of Fayez al-Siraj has recently acquired, the Italian foreign minister visited Tripoli on 12 April 2016 being the first senior Western official to visit Libya since the arrival of the government in Tripoli on 30 March 2016. Paolo Gentiloni announced that support for the Government of National Accord was "not something that can be decided in Rome or in London or in Washington."
As for the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission, Federica Mogherini, she deemed "the arrival of the Presidency Council in the capital represents a unique opportunity for Libyans from all factions to reunite and reconcile on the basis of the Libyan Political Agreement." She pointed out that "the EU has a package of immediate and substantial support totalling €100m in a number of different areas. The implementation will be prioritised upon the request of the Libyan authorities."
British foreign secretary, Philip Hammond, announced that the Government of National Accord was the "sole legitimate government" in Libya endorsed unanimously by the UN Security Council; he also reiterated the commitment of his country and the international community to help that government. Hammond added at a press briefing that he had held a telephone call with the head of the Presidency Council of the GNA in which he confirmed the support of the United Kingdom to Fayez al-Siraj for his government. He pointed out that "the GNA needs to start work in Tripoli as soon as the security situation allows."
US Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs and Department Spokesperson, John Kirby, welcomed the arrival of the Libyan Presidency Council in Tripoli and called on the Libyan public institutions to facilitate the peaceful transfer of power.
Meanwhile, State Department's Special Envoy for Libya, Jonathan Wiener had tweeted a day earlier: "The Presidential Council of National Accord Government has to move to Tripoli by virtue of the Libyan political accord." The envoy expressed his concern over the deliberate closure of the airspace to prevent the arrival of the GNA to the capital to assume its work and confirmed that the US was prepared to support the GNA in humanitarian, economic and security aspects and in all it needed to surpass the current crisis.
One day after the arrival of Fayez al-Siraj in Tripoli, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg announced that NATO was prepared, in line with the decisions of the Wales summit, to help Libya in building her defence and security institutions at the request of the GNA in coordination with other international efforts. The NATO chief welcomed the arrival of the Libyan prime minister Fayez al-Siraj and members of the Presidency Council to the Libyan capital Tripoli and deemed it "an important step in Libya's democratic transition and path to peace." He wished "the Presidential Council success in developing an inclusive and peaceful political process, aimed at promoting national reconciliation on the basis of the values of democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law."
3 - Reactions of the Domestic Rivals to Fayez al-Siraj's Government
The stance of the rivals of Fayez al-Siraj 's government was at first uncompromising in rejecting its legitimacy and even its presence in Tripoli since they deemed it "a coup against the authority". In a press conference he held in Tripoli on the evening of al-Siraj's arrival, the head of the Salvation Government, Khalifah al Ghweil, mentioned: "The entry of the Presidency Council to the capital Tripoli is illegitimate and we will not leave the capital Tripoli until we ensure the future of the revolution." Al-Ghweil described the GNA as the "illegitimate intrusive government" and called on the "rebels in the whole of Libya to resist" it. Al-Ghweil added: "We demand from Fayez al-Siraj and his government to leave the capital Tripoli immediately; otherwise the rebels will resort to using force and they will be arrested and put on trial before the Libyan people because they lack legitimacy. This is because they have failed to issue a clear and forthright communiqué supporting the principles of 17 February revolution. We also reject the international trusteeship irrespective of the justifications."
As for the General National Congress, the first deputy head, Awad Abdul Sadiq, said the Congress would bring to account the naval officers who had given access to the trusteeship government to enter Tripoli. He confirmed that the GNC "will issue a decision against those putschists; and we are surprised by some of the rebels who offer protection to the trusteeship government." Awad Abdul Sadiq added that the Congress will "take the appropriate legal precautionary measures against this illegal intrusion. The Congress cannot be held responsible for any commitments undertaken by this government."
As for the Fatwa House, sheikh Sadiq al-Ghariani said in a statement via al-Tanasuh channel: "I advise the Presidency Council to go back to where it has come from and to spare the country the fitna of infighting." Al-Ghariani added that the Presidency Council of the GNA had been "imposed by force, and the only legitimate body in Libya so far is the GNC." He also stipulated amending the draft political agreement so that the consensual government that comes after this amendment may be approved.
The head of the Salvation Government had announced one week before the arrival of Fayez al-Siraj 's government to Tripoli a "maximum state of emergency throughout the whole country" and warned the head and members of the Presidency Council of the GNA against coming to Tripoli by saying: "This move is illegal" and pointing out that "its members could be arrested." However, days after the government of Fayez al-Siraj settled in Tripoli, this position changed dramatically due to the significant Western support al-Siraj had received; several Western threats of invasion were made should al-Siraj request it to neutralise his rivals by force. Khalifah al-Ghweil expounded in a communiqué he released on Thursday 31 March that his opposition to the Presidency Council of the GNA "would be conducted via peaceful and legal means, without resorting to the use of force or inciting an infighting between the children of the one single country." The Salvation Government then announced in a communiqué issued on Tuesday evening, 5 April 2016, that it was stepping down. The government of Khalifah al-Ghweil said: "We inform you of our decision to cease our work in our quality as an executive entity, president, deputies and ministers." It added that it "had decided to step down in order to avert a bloodshed and to spare the country the calamity of division and fragmentation." The head of the Salvation Government, Khalifah al- Ghweil, decided few days later to modify his intractable position in order to give what he referred to as "the good children of the country", rebels, dignitaries, scholars and the civil society institutions the chance to generate a solution to the crisis the country was experiencing. However, the Salvation Government retracted on 6 April 2016 and requested from the heads of the organisations and institutions affiliated to it to resume the tasks assigned to them "due to the exigencies of the common interest and the sensitivity of the conditions the country is experiencing."
As for the GNC, it decided on Tuesday 5 April 2016 to refer the "political agreement" and the bodies emanating from it to the judiciary authorities to determine its legitimacy. It called for a positive response to the lawsuit and to enabling the judiciary to look into the issue. In one of its statements, the GNC deemed the meeting of the members of National Congress close to the government of Fayez al-Siraj and their claim that they had amended the Constitutional Declaration and given legitimacy to the Supreme State Council, as "illegitimate and contradictory" to the Constitutional Declaration. The GNC stressed in its statement that any meeting held outside the GNC was deemed null and void and pointed out that it had held an official meeting today that fulfilled the required quorum to debate its agenda.
As for the interim government, which governs most of east Libya from its headquarters in the city of al-Bayda', its position was similar to the Salvation Government despite their constant political differences and their 18-month armed struggle. Abdullah al-Thani insisted on running the state until the Council of Deputies gave the GNA a vote of confidence; he justified his move by stating that his government was an entity that the Council of Deputies had elected and that he "would hold on to this legitimacy". He addressed a press conference held in Benghazi saying: "We will not recognise a legitimacy dictated from abroad." He said that legitimacy should come from inside Libya and that "any decision outside the chamber of Council of Deputies would not be recognised." The spokesperson of Abdullah al-Tahni's government, Hatem al-Oraibi, said: "No acknowledgment shall be granted to statements made by foreign countries in respect of lending credibility to the GNA." He stressed that "the Interim Government will not recognise a legitimacy dictated from abroad" and "any decision from other than the Council of Deputies will not be recognised; legitimacy is taken from inside Libya."
The question now is: what are the short-term challenges that Fayez al-Siraj's government should meet in order to forge ahead with the tasks assigned to it by the Western powers amid this fierce opposition from its rivals and the deep divisions that Libya is experiencing in the east and the west of the country?
4 - The Challenges of the "Trusteeship" Accord Government in Tripoli
Although the Western powers expressed their full political, military and even diplomatic support to the Fayez al-Siraj government after sending several of their representatives to Libya and reopening their embassies, its practical survival would not be assured unless it relied on the tools of domestic support which will enable it to execute the plan designed by the international powers.
What are the most important tools that al-Siraj's government is working towards generating in order to strengthen its chances of survival and achieve acceptance among the masses and the political and intellectual elites?
I. The Constitutional Challenge:
A constitutional amendment or a new constitutional announcement was expected after a political agreement had been concluded in al Sukhayrat, thus paving the way for a common constitutional ground for the NGA to assume its task; but this narrative failed to materialise due to the refusal of the National Congress, which insists that it would not recognise the Presidency Council unless it accepted its conditions and the points raised by mufti Sadiq al-Ghariani, and the refusal of the Tobruk parliament whose members loyal to Khalifah Haftar continue to prevent the fulfilment of the required quorum to hold the meeting.
In order to bypass this first constitutional challenge, the State Council affiliated to the NGA held its first meeting on 5 April 2016 during which it voted unanimously to amend the Constitutional Declaration pertaining to the political agreement; this was after the Council of Deputies had failed to convene to ratify this amendment and after the required quorum to effectuate the constitutional amendment had been fulfilled by the presence of the second deputy of the of National Congress, Saleh al-Makhzoum. The following day Abdul Rahman al Swehli was voted in as the head of the Council by the members of the Supreme Council of State during its second session . Hence, the National Congress has become virtually non-existent since it was taken over by the Supreme Council of State through this legal chicanery.
As for the second constitutional challenge, it is reflected in the finalising of the draft constitution and the referendum over it so that the country may move from the transitional period to a permanent one. And although the law related to establishing the Founding Commission of the constitution does not allow the commission to convene abroad, the UN mission did in fact move the meetings of the Commission from the city of al-Bayda' in Libya to the city of Salalah in Oman so that it may introduce what it wished in terms of the constitutional chapters; this was after the commission had been boycotted by some of its members and some chapters had been rejected because of the dictates of the UN mission. Indeed on 6 April 2016, the UN envoy, Martin Kobler, announced the end of the works of the Founding Commission of the Constitution Drafting Assembly which assumed its work on 19 March 2016 in Salalah. At a press conference, Kobler said: "I value with pride the tremendous efforts made by the CDA." He hypocritically added: "I hope that the Salalah Consensuses constitutes a fundamental pillar of a draft constitution around which all Libyans can gather." In fact, Kobler and those behind him from among the Kufr states had hastened to draft the constitution before the security conditions could settle so that they may introduce the chapters related to the "rights of women and minorities". For instance, within the constitution they introduced chapters related to establishing a Supreme Council for Women and to giving women a quota of representation in parliament and municipalities of at least 30%, as well as granting Libyan nationality to children of every Libyan woman married to a non-Libyan. And in order to foist the draft constitution that was not agreed upon, the legal quorum of the Commission was tampered with after it had been boycotted by 15 members representing more than half of the Libyan people in the western region; those were the deputies of the cities of Tripoli, Zliten, al-Zawia, Sabratha, al-Jafra, Marzaq and Wadi al-Shati this wasin addition to the boycott staged by representatives of al-Toubou tribes. Hence, the Commission was left with only some members of the eastern region and representatives of the south from the Tuareg tribes. This is how the UN Mission to Libya, headed by the German Martin Kobler and supported by the Kufr states in Europe and America, succeeded in imposing the draft constitution whose foisting coincided with the arrival of an international trusteeship government headed by Fayez al-Siraj which will work in the forthcoming days towards organising a referendum on the constitution.
II. The Religious Authority
The speech delivered by Libya's mufti, sheikh Sadiq al-Ghariani, on the day Fayez al-Siraj and his government sneaked into Tripoli by sea, had a major impact in destabilising their legitimacy since they represented a trusteeship and a government of occupation. Sheikh al-Ghariani threatened the Presidency Council with fighting and Jihad and warned of the consequences of their arrival to the country by saying: "Weapons are available in every household and people may resort again to Jihad and fight for decades, unruffled by the material support.” In his speech, Sadiq al-Ghariani stipulated five conditions related to the amendment of the draft political agreement before accepting the NGA saying: "We have tabled no more than five remarks on the political agreement of al-Sukhayrat and we dispatch them to the General National Congress; if they are amended, we will not have a problem with the draft agreement." In the televised speech, sheikh al-Ghariani expressed his reservations vis-à-vis the clauses and articles related to expounding the draft of the agreement, the definition of "terrorism", the military institution's role in overseeing security arrangements, the consultative role of the Council of State without being a partner of the Council of Deputies in legislating and the referential aspect of international law.
Al-Ghariani said: "The security arrangements are undertaken by the current military institutions; this means it is Haftar and his cronies. We said to them that security arrangements should be in the hands of people whose hands are not stained with the blood of innocent people. The Council of State is only a consultative body and its decision has no value before parliament; which means that parliament can reinstate Haftar even if the political agreement has dismissed him. It has also been mentioned in the draft that arbitration could be sought from international law, which contradicts the Islamic Shari'ah in several points."
In order to confront the speech of the mufti, the government of Fayez al-Siraj and those behind it inspired the League of "Libya's Scholars" to issue a communiqué on 31 March in which it recognised the government of al-Siraj and responded to the call for Jihad to repel the assailants by sheikh al-Ghariani. To quote from the communiqué: "In order to procure the common Shari'ah interests and to repel the widespread detriments, we call on the Presidency Council of the NGA to fear Allah the Almighty and work according to what pleases Him; to endeavour to generate a consensual government that can acquire the confidence of the Council of Deputies as soon as possible; to attend to the conditions of the country and those who live in it; to what they endure in terms social, economic and intellectual problems and to what Daesh is perpetrating in the country and devote time and effort to achieve this; and to move away from the ideologised movements, personal interests and different agendas."
The League addressed society by saying: "Let us all partake in salvaging this homeland whose people are suffering a great deal; so let us place the love of the homeland at the top of our priorities." The League then went on to address al-Ghariani, without referring to him by name, by saying: "All those who express their personal opinion and shroud it with the cloak of religion, accusing others of Kufr and apostasy only because they contradicted their opinion, should repent to Allah (swt) and return to Him; they should avert a bloodshed and refrain from calling for more killing. The country and the masses have had enough hardship, suffering and misery; the Deen of Allah (swt) takes the interests of the servants into account, safeguards their rights and provides them with security and protection."
III. The Economic Challenges
One of the most important tools exploited by the government of Fayez al-Siraj to propagate itself is the pledge to solve the economic crises people have been experiencing for years, especially in terms of making liquid assets, foodstuffs and domestic energy available. In order for the GNA to succeed, Western powers had to place four institutions at its disposal.
This proves that most of the economic crises the country had been enduring were in the first instance down to the conspiring of those institutions with the projects of the Western powers through the policy of starvation and what ensues in terms of persuading the masses to accept the trusteeship government as if it was the only government capable of saving them from hunger, poverty, price-increases and lack of cash in the banks. One day after he entered Tripoli, Fayez al-Siraj met with al-Siddiq al-Kabir, the Governor of Libya 's Central Bank; he also met with the banks' directors and reviewed with them the issue of making liquid assets available at the bank and reducing the exchange rate of the dollar against the Libyan dinar. After his meeting with al- Siddiq al-Kabir, Governor of Libya 's Central Bank, Fayez al Siraj announced that the "meeting was designed to tackle the issue of liquid assets and to make available the basic commodities, medicine and all that the citizens need to lead a decent life."
On 4 April 2016, the Presidency Council issued a decree to Libya's Central Bank demanding the freezing of the bank accounts of the ministries, public institutions and apparatuses funded by the Treasury; the decree excluded the Presidency Council's bank account holding "salaries and perks". This obviously was designed, in the first instance, to stop the financing of the institutions affiliated to the government of al-Ghweil and the National Congress.
As for the second measure designed to enable the NGA to dominate the economy of the country, it was the declaration of the Spokesman of the oil installations’ security force, Ali Al Hasi, a day after Fayez al-Siraj's government entered Tripoli in which he expressed his readiness to work under the legitimacy of the NGA with immediate effect and pledged to open all the seaports and place them under the disposal of the government. He also pledged to "protect the acquisitions of the Libyan people from the terrorists and the usurpers of power." This also confirms that the fall in oil production in Libya was not due to the security situation but rather an international political decision which the commander of the Petroleum Defence Guards,Ibrahim al-Jadhran, had worked towards executing in order to reduce the state's revenues thus placing the cash-strapped country at the mercy of the Western powers' dictates. The Libyan National Oil Corporation, which owns the largest reserves in Africa totalling 48 billion barrels, announced that it was affiliated to the NGA. This Tripoli-based Corporation had been affiliated to the Salvation Government since its establishment in August 2014. In a statement posted on the Corporation's website on 3 April 2016, the Corporation's CEO, Mustafa Sanalla, said: "We are working with the head of the government, Fayez al-Siraj, and the Presidency Council towards leaving the divisions behind us." He added that the Corporation assumes its activities within an international legal framework. Sanalla explained that the Corporation supported the United Nation Security Council's resolution on cooperating with the NGA that emanated from a peace agreement sponsored by the United Nations.
The international conspiracy against Libya became clearer on 1 April 2016 after the Security Council had announced its readiness to review the sanctions imposed on the Libyan Investment Authority (LIA) provided the NGA led by Fayez al-Siraj succeeded in overseeing the National Oil Corporation and the Central Bank. This came in response to a letter that Libya's envoy to the UN had sent to the Security Council requesting the lifting of the sanctions imposed on the LIA. The Libyan envoy only moved to lift the freeze imposed on the LIA once the government of Fayez al-Siraj arrived in Tripoli. It is worth mentioning that this Authority is also known as The Sovereign Wealth Fund of Libya. The fund has $67 billion under its management that the Kufr states froze after the fall of Gaddafi. We finally conclude the discussion about the economic tools placed at the disposal of the trusteeship government with the meeting that the Presidency Council of the Government of National Accord held on 7 April with a number of Libyan businessmen in Tripoli. At this meeting, the businessmen talked about the economic crisis and how to make foodstuffs available, thus shoring up the government of Fayez al-Siraj further among the poor and middle classes who have suffered a great deal in the past few years due to the rise in prices and lack of supply in basic commodities. The issue of the Libyan businessmen detained in the UAE with charges of aiding "armed groups" has turned into a public opinion in Libya; and on 9 April 2016 America demanded either the release of the Libyan businessmen immediately or that they be granted a fair and transparent trial as soon as possible, obviously with the aim of adding this issue to the achievement of Fayez al-Siraj's government.
4 - The Security Arrangements
Fayez al-Siraj and his government would not have been able to enter Tripoli with the direct help of the West only; it also enjoyed the help of some of the factions that had defected from the ranks of the Fajr Libya forces since the al-Sukhayrat agreement was signed. This scenario was expected because the Fajr Libya forces are not one single military body but rather a group of armed rebels affiliated to the various Islamic and nationalist movements. It was formed in May 2014 to repel the brigades loyal to Haftar in their attempt to dominate Tripoli and the western region. Furthermore, it was inevitable for some members of Fajr Libya to support the GNA since some operatives of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Armed Libyan Front had endorsed the al-Sukhayrat agreement.
International pressures have also succeeded in taming a sizable chunk of opponents including Khalifah Haftar, thus giving the security arrangements a chance to succeed in helping Fayez al-Siraj to impose his government in Tripoli. Diplomatic sources cited a Franco-Algerian role in helping the Presidency Council move to Tripoli. This was posted in the French website "Africa Intelligence" which quoted the Algerian Minister for Maghreb and Africa, Abdul Qader Messahel, as saying that Algeria and Saudi Arabia had recently "launched a secret diplomatic campaign in order to facilitate the arrival of Fayez al-Siraj to the Libyan capital." A Few days before al-Siraj arrived in Tripoli, a number of Algerian and Saudi diplomats rushed to Tunis to facilitate a host of meetings between the GNA and some of the factions that controlled Tripoli.
Hence, like the politicians who disagreed over the al-Sukhayrat agreement and its outcomes, so did the armed groups in both camps. Some of the brigades, including those previously affiliated to Fajr Libya, supported Fayez al-Siraj's government and deemed it an opportunity to achieve stability and prosperity while other brigades opposed the agreement and dubbed it as a betrayal of the martyrs' lives and an endorsement of the international trusteeship government. Consequently, no sooner had Fayez al-Siraj entered Tripoli than several armed brigades declared their affiliation to him under what they referred to as "the banner of legitimacy" represented by the GNA. This is why Tripoli did not witness any major incidents save for the small skirmishes in certain areas that occurred when some of the brigades averse to the al-Siraj government fired gunshots in the air to express their resentment and anger towards this new situation.
It is clear that the withdrawal on the ground of the brigades rejecting the al-Siraj government was due to the threat they had received from the Western forces deployed nearby who were ready to defend their puppet, Fayez al-Siraj, who in turn defends their colonial project in Libya.
It is obvious that Fayez al-Siraj has a plan to seek the help of the Kufr states and NATO in rebuilding the various security and military institutions and in fending off any threats from the rival brigades. However, the mood of the public opinion in Libya and the surrounding countries will not accept the notion of Western and NATO forces staging an aerial or land invasion. This is why the West has been hyping up the threat of illegal migration toEurope and the threat of the increasing number of Daesh operatives in Libya to pave the way for any potential military operations.
On 5 April, the German interior minister offered EU trade-off agreements with the North-African states on immigrants and refugees, akin to the agreement it has concluded with Turkey. The Commander of the US forces in Africa (AFRICOM) for his part said, on 7 April, that the armed operatives of Daesh had increased to between 4000 and 6000 in the past 18 months.
These statements, among others, are but preludes and pretexts for an invasion and military operations in case the government of Fayez al-Siraj got seriously threatened or in case the security arrangements undertaken to protect it failed.
5 - The Scenarios that Need Execution in Libya
It seems that the conditions in Tripoli and the western region at this stage are heading towards the option of calm and renouncing military confrontation between the GNA of Fayez al-Siraj and the Salvation Government of Khalifah al-Ghweil. This does not mean that one party is going to concede to the other; there will rather be a "peaceful confrontation" in which the government of Khalifah al-Ghweil will stick to its position towards the government of Fayez al-Siraj, attempting to topple it via legal and political means, while Fayez al-Siraj will continue to tighten his grip on the reins of power and consolidate the authority of his government on the ground with the backing of the international pressure exerted by the West on his rivals.
With all the calls made by Nouri Bousahmin and Khalifah al-Ghweil for dialogue and renouncing violence yet without recognising the government of Fayez al-Siraj, the conditions could move towards armed confrontation at any moment, especially if the government of Fayez al-Siraj started to expand its security and military dominance at the expense of the areas under the influence of the Fajr Libya Brigades and all the brigades loyal to the government of Khalifah al-Ghweil and the National Congress. Amid the calls for dialogue and the renunciation of infighting between the masses, America, and her Western allies, are expected to work towards weakening the political influence and the popular support of those who oppose the government of Fayez al-Siraj by enabling this government to succeed in ironing out some of the outstanding economic issues from which the masses have been suffering such as the availability of foodstuffs, medicine and liquid assets.
As for the eastern region, the plan according to which America and her Western allies are proceeding is to let the chieftains of that area, namely al-Thani, Saleh and Haftar and their institutions, namely the government, parliament and the army, to work in isolation of their refusal to acknowledge the government of Fayez al-Siraj while they continue to receive regional support from Egypt and the UAE. The aim behind this narrative is to generate the appropriate political and popular conditions to proceed towards federalisation and division. What confirms that America is seriously working towards fragmenting Libya through the eastern region is the following:
First - There is a lack of serious intimidation or demand from the Western powers or the UN to the government of Abdullah al-Thani to dissolve itself as it was demanded from the government of Khalifah al-Ghweil in Tripoli. Besides, the speaker of the Tobruk parliament, Aguila Saleh, and all those behind him, have declared that they would not recognise the government of Fayez al-Siraj if it were not approved by parliament in a legitimate manner and in a private session, and that the constitutional amendments are exclusively the competency of parliament; in the same breath they welcomed the Presidency Council and the role of the UN and the Western powers in terms of what they are undertaking to shore up the GNA in Tripoli at the expense of the Salvation Government.
It is clear that some regional states, headed by Egypt and the UAE, are playing a major role in consolidating the government of Abdullah al-Thani in the city of al-Bayda' and the army commander Khalifah Haftar in Benghazi and the parliament speaker Aguila Saleh in Tobruk through the visits, direct military assistance and political and diplomatic support. There has never been any serious demand for these three bodies and their leaders to join the GNA as was the case in terms of the pressure and the threats issued to the government of Khalifah al-Ghweil, the National Congress and the military brigades loyal to them in Tripoli to dissolve themselves since they were "illegitimate entities". What substantiates the aforementioned is the following:
1 - Although the Council of Deputies has failed to hold a session several times in order to give a vote of confidence to the government represented by the head of the Presidency Council Fayez al-Siraj due to deliberate manoeuvres by the members loyal to Aguila and Haftar, the UAE foreign ministry, backed by international cooperation, confirmed the importance of what it referred to as the "constitutional endorsement" of the Libyan government by the Council of Deputies in line with the outcomes of the al-Sukhayrat agreement. The UAE foreign ministry said in a communiqué released on 5 April 2016: "This endorsement is essential in consolidating and achieving the consensual political process." Nevertheless, the Emirates welcomed the arrival of the Presidency Council's leader Fayez al-Siraj and the members of the Council nominated by the UN Mission to the capital Tripoli. It described the move as a "positive step" towards the political solution to the Libyan crisis.
2 - Although the National Forces Alliance is participating with force in the GNA through its member Fayez al-Siraj, the president of the Alliance, Mahmoud Jibril, however, called on the UN Envoy to Libya, Martin Kobler, to invite the Political Dialogue Committee to "an urgent meeting". In a letter to the UN Envoy to Libya on 6 April 2016, Mahmoud Jibril deemed the meeting of the Council of State and its amending of the constitutional agreement, as well as the election of a president and two vice-presidents, a transgression against the competencies of the Council of Deputies and a flagrant violation of the political agreement. He pointed out that the decision of some members of the proposed government to assume their duties before obtaining the vote of confidence from the Council of Deputies was also “tantamount to a provocation and a belittlement of the agreement's clauses." Jibril added that this "indicated clearly the persistence in imposing the fait accompli policy, which could set a precedent and an incentive for the other institutions emanating from the political agreement to adopt such a trend if it were not swiftly resisted."
Second - The eastern region is heading towards two options: The army commander in the east, Khalifah Haftar, and his allies could declare a military council over which he would preside and could act as a presidential council parallel to the Presidency Council headed by Fayez al-Siraj in Tripoli or declare the rise of the Barqa Province that encompasses the whole of the eastern region. This trend emerged on 2 April 2016 during the extended meeting held in the city of al Marj where the "general command of the armed forces" affiliated to Haftar is based. The meeting was attended by the speaker of parliament and deputies of the eastern region as well as tribal chiefs, dignitaries and military commanders; they debated the "available alternatives that could be implemented once it has been ascertained that the Presidency Council of the GNA has rebelled against the authority of parliament and insisted in remaining under the mercy and the motives of the militias. One of the main options is to declare the establishment of a military council to lead the country under the command of General Khalifah Haftar, the General Commander of the Armed Forces."
As for the second option proposed by the delegates at the meeting of al-Marj, it was "declaring the rise of the province of Barqa which will include all the eastern region and enjoys all the components of success, namely the oil riches and a social and tribal cohesion. This option does not constitute a secession but rather a federal trend since the central government continues to marginalise eastern Libya that suffered during the era of Gaddafi and following the February Revolution." And it seems that the first option is strongly favoured since it would not evoke a major backlash by domestic public opinion since it would not seem like a secessionist move; moreover, it would be a transitional step towards federalism while the conditions of the various institutions and the structures of the federation in the east are settled. The delegation also confirmed that one of the two options would be effectuated, yet it was decided to wait and give the GNA the chance to rectify its position before establishing an "alternative emergency authority". During a press conference held on the same day, the speaker of parliament, Aguila Saleh, also confirmed that "a government protected by militias in Tripoli will never be recognised." He also stressed that the leadership of the Libyan armed forces was a "red line" that no one could challenge or compromise.
This narrative was also reiterated by Khalifah Haftar in an interview with the Egyptian daily newspaper, al-Ahram, on 8 April 2016, when he said: "We will support any government of accord that parliament gives a vote of confidence and we will not remain bystanders if the political process were to lead the country to the precipice." As for the role of al-Sisi's Egypt and what he perpetrates in terms of sabotage and criminal acts, Haftar confirmed the presence of military and intelligence cooperation with Egypt saying that the cooperation was at its best. Hence, it becomes clear to us that refusal by Tobruk's parliament to give a vote of confidence to the government of Fayez al-Siraj and the Council of Deputies was a deliberate move by the followers of Haftar backed by the Kufr states so that the issue of the Presidency Council may be raised later in the eastern region, thus leading to declaring the federation in the province of Barqa.
If the House of Representative gives a vote of confidence to al-Siraj’s government or amends the constitutional declaration, this will be done for the purpose of fostering the legitimacy of the “Government of National Accord" in Tripoli and for weakening one of the pretexts the National Congress will use to reject al-Siraj’s government. However, what is firmly established is that the process of imposing federalism on the eastern region through deception and war has reached the point of no return for the agents of America headed by Haftar. On10 April 2016, a demonstration calling for separatism and "liberating Barqa province" was held in Benghazi with demonstrators raising the ancient banner of Barqa which is black with a white crescent and star.
Third: One of the most important goals resulting from federalism and separatism is to control a significant portion of Libya's wealth. It was mentioned in some western reports that "Libya has nearly 40% of the oil in Africa, and it is of high quality and low-cost in extraction. Furthermore, it has large reserves of natural gas so that the multinational European and American companies that exploit her can make profits that are much higher than those previously made in Libya."
After putting an end to the central state and dealing with political entities in separatist provinces such as Tripoli and Barqa separately, the international companies representing Western interests will be able to forge ahead with the privatisation of the energy reserves giving them direct control over them. In addition to controlling Libya’s oil reserves, large western companies from America and Europe are working on controlling the huge reserves of fossil water in the Nubian Aquifer that stretches beneath Libya, Egypt, Sudan and Chad.
Sixth: The Chances of the Trusteeship Government’s Success
Now we come to the next question: will America and her agents in Europe, Libya and neighbouring countries succeed in enforcing the initiative of fragmenting Libya and establishing a "green zone" in Tripoli as she did in Baghdad? To answer this question, we will discuss the following points:
First: The Parties
The Western and regional countries have succeeded in enforcing the al-Sukhayrat agreement, and the resulting al-Siraj government that came on the saddle of the Kafir coloniser, after they succeeded in fragmenting the Islamic movement, particularly in the western region in Tripoli. Also, they were able to create the al-Siraj government comprising of "secularists and Islamists" who agreed to follow the Western countries. The most significant secular parties of the GNA are Mahmoud Jibril's National Forces Alliance and Muhammad Yusuf Magariaf's National Front who was the former leader of the National Front for the Salvation of Libya (NFSL) during Gaddafi's rule. As for the parties which are considered to be affiliated to the Islamic movement, they are Abdul Hakim Belhadj's Al-Watan Party and who was an Emir of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group during the era of Gaddafi, and the Justice and Construction Party affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood in addition to some independent representatives of women and remnants of the National Transitional Council (NTC).
The International Western powers and some regional powers insisted deliberately on involving some Islamic movements mentioned above in order to pull the rug from under the Islamic movements which reject foreigners and their interventions in formulating the intellectual, political, and constitutional life in Libya. These movements refused the al-Sukhayrat agreement and its outcomes and they still oppose the al-Siraj government such as the Islamic movement associated to Libyan Dar al-Ifta which deemed the actions of the Islamic movements that support the al-Saraj government as a rebellion against the ruler that is represented by the Ghweil government and a violation to the scholars' opinions. Among the movements which reject the al-Siraj government are the "Loyalty to the Blood of the Martyrs" Bloc which was formed by some former associates of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), those who withdrew from the Muslim Brotherhood’s Justice and Construction party and some independent Islamists such as the Congress chairman, Nouri Bousahmin. These Islamic movements that reject the al-Siraj government still have the political and popular upper hand which enables them to perform key roles in preventing the encroachment of the parties that follow America, in addition to preventing the plot against the people of Libya.
Second: The Rebels
Although the security arrangements made so far are sufficient to secure the al-Siraj government thanks to the efforts by the security adviser of the UN Mission, the Italian General Paolo Serra, in attracting a number of leaders of the military factions stationed in Tripoli, that does not mean al-Ghweil's government does not have military support. In other words, there are still many of the "Fajr Libya" battalions which support the Salvation government, the National Congress and the Dar al-Ifta' government. The most important of these forces are the Central Libya Shield, the Libya Revolutionaries Operations Room (LROR) in Tripoli and the numerous battalions from Misrata, Gharyan, Az-zawiyah, Sabratha and Tajura. Perhaps the most significant of these is the al-Sumud battalion affiliated to Colonel Salah Badi.
Hence, no wonder that the House of Representatives issued a resolution on 25 August 2014 in Tobruk in which the Fajr Libya forces were classified as a terrorist group that was lawless and was fighting against the legitimacy of the state. The reason behind such a resolution was that the Fajr Libya forces were able to seize control of Tripoli international airport on 13 July 2014 and many camps in the western region after they succeeded in expelling the battalions that were loyal to Khalifah Haftar and Mahmoud Jibril, such as the al-Sawa'iq, al-Q'qa' and al-Madani battalions and the tribal forces affiliated to the remnants of Gaddafi. These battalions and others, such as the Abdul Rahman al-Tawil battalion (which controls the Mitiga airport) and the Abdul Ra'uf Kara and Haitham Tagouri battalions, are responsible for protecting the al-Siraj government and the surrounding areas of Boussetta base in Tripoli.
The military confrontation between the two parties has stalled for a while because of the lack of support making it difficult to promote by any party at this stage. Furthermore, the balance of military force is with the supporters of the agreement who accepted to be a bridge for the Kafir international powers whose navy is on the coast of Libya under the pretext of fighting "terrorism" and illegal immigration.
Third: The Army
The military will be a major hindrance to the al-Siraj government because it is divided into the Chief of Staff led by Maj. Gen. Abdul Salam Jadallah al-Obeidi who was appointed by the Congress, and the Joint Chief of Staff, led by Maj. Gen. Abdul Razzaq al-Nazhuri, who was appointed by the House of Representatives. The fact is that the role of both leaderships is limited in action, planning and decision making powers. The officers who lead the General Staff, headed by Abdul Salam Jadallah al-Obeidi, have a limited scope of manoeuvre on the ground because of the favourable fighting conditions, armament and readiness of the battalions over them; these battalions obey the direct orders of their leaders although they theoretically follow the General Staff. As for the General Staff affiliated to the Council of Deputies, they are virtually unheard of and are no match to Khalifah Haftar, especially after the Council of Deputies in Tobruk defined the "National Army" as being the Brigade established by Haftar in 2011. Since the officers who were members of the Libyan army during the era of Muammar Gaddafi are divided among themselves, the al-Sukhayrat agreement stressed that what was meant by the Libyan army was not the battalion led by Haftar; rather, it meant to include all officers and soldiers from both sides. The agreement also stipulated the return of all the top military and security competencies to the government headed by Fayez al-Siraj."Finally, the al-Sukhayrat agreement opened the door for new armed elements to enter in order to strengthen the Libyan military, through their integration.
While members of the House of Representatives who back Haftar insist that "the national army and its leadership is a red line", members of the General National Congress who are affiliated to the Ghweil government insist on getting Khalifah Haftar out of the political and military scene as one of the essential conditions for accepting the agreement signed in Sukhayrat. The al-Sukhayrat agreement did not mention Haftar as a part of the army but on 22 March 2016, the Western envoy, Martin Kobler, said in the meeting of Libya's neighbouring countries that Khalifah Haftar was part of the political and military solution when he explicitly said that building the Libyan army included eastern, western and central Libya and this also included Haftar who represented part of the solution. He added that it was up to the Libyan government to determine the mechanisms with which Haftar would be integrated.
Therefore, it is likely that the military battalions which refuse the al-Siraj government and the intervention of international forces will not surrender to the security procedures established by the Kuffar in the al-Sukhayrat agreement requiring the armed factions to withdraw from the cities and communities and then disarm in accordance with a specific timetable through temporary committees tasked with monitoring and implementing these procedures.
The forces loyal to the Congress, Salvation and Dar al-Ifta' battalions looked at these security procedures with suspicion stating that they would not accept them unless they were involved and that "terrorism" was defined in order to prevent being isolated outside the cities and communities. It was also to ensure they would not, consequently, be bombed by NATO air strikes and accused of being forces affiliated to al-Qaeda or Daesh. This is at a time when the battalions and the forces loyal to the al-Siraj government are integrated while retaining their weapons in the police, military and specific institutions that will be established and developed with the oversight of the coloniser.
As it has been made clear earlier, the potential for conflict in Libya exists between the GNA’s constituent parties, the rebels, the supporting and opposing armed battalions, the "military" institution and security forces that are to be constructed. Despite all these ticking time bombs in the pipeline, the al-Siraj government has the backing of the Western and regional powers which indicates that it is an international trusteeship government brought in to implement the dirty tasks of the West. This fact was expressed by the west’s envoy to Libya, Martin Kobler, who said in a statement that the House of Representatives' inability to make a decision will not stop the GNA from moving forward.
In spite of the West’s insistence on al-Siraj's government the latter will not succeed in embracing its opponents including the politicians who are loyal to the National Congress, the al-Ghweil government and the Fatwa House. Also, the government will not succeed in disarming the armed battalions although it has been able, so far, to neutralize the opposition forces and to embrace the forces of its supporters, thanks to the high cost of the armed confrontation and due to the readiness of the Western countries' and the public’s willingness to support GNA using political, economic and military means. The Western forces are getting themselves ready to use and attract the largest possible number of military battalions around Tripoli and the surrounding areas in order to impose and resettle the al-Siraj government in the capital backed by its call to fight against "terrorism" and illegal immigration and by the UN Security Council resolutions including article 7.
It has become known to many people that there are large numbers of Western special forces on the ground in Libya. US troops are stationed in the Watiyah Air Base, which lies 130 km west of Tripoli and controlled by Colonel Idriss Madi, . Also, the Benina Air Base in Benghazi, which is a subsidiary of Khalifah Haftar, contains French troops. Moreover, the Nasser Base in Tobruk, which is affiliated to Haftar, has British forces.
The mission of the Western forces in Libya will be to protect a "green zone", just like the one the Americans established in Baghdad, so that such a zone will allow the GNA to establish its institutions and departments before it tries to impose its control over the western region. Meanwhile, Khalifah Haftar has been given the opportunity to control the eastern region. In order to succeed in their colonial mission, the Kufr states will involve the neighbouring countries, particularly Egypt, in order to ensure the accomplishment of their desired task. Although the discussion about sending 6.000 Western troops to Libya has been initiated, a force of this size is not sufficient to invade a country like Libya which is five times the size of France.
Perhaps this is what prompted the Washington Post to publish an article that coincided with the arrival of the al-Siraj government to Tripoli, stating that military planners of Africa Command from the US Army were in the process of identifying dozens of targets across Libya stretching from the city of Derna in the east to the Sabratha in the west including Sirte which is considered a stronghold of Daesh. The report also pointed out that US officials are focusing their efforts on obtaining approval from the neighbouring countries, especially Tunisia and Algeria, to permit the launching of US aircraft from the territories of these countries in addition to using military facilities in Italy, Spain, Greece and even Britain.
Hence, the Kuffar are playing with the destiny of the Islamic Ummah through the Greater Middle East Initiative that requires increasing the fragmentation of the Islamic countries and exaggerating the loss of the Islamic identity. This is in order to keep the Ummah in a state of weakness and devoid of her compass that guides her to the path of her unity represented by the single state that believes in a single doctrine and led by the ruler of one single state (Khalifah). This ruler will end all manifestations of weakness, dependency and the loss of capabilities, not to mention the hideous killing of the Ummah's youth which has resulted from the fitna provoked by the enemies of Allah (swt) and His Messenger (saw) represented by the Americans and the Kafir West.
8 Rajab 1437h
16 April 2016