The last ten years have been for Libya, those of a long and bloody civil conflict in which many external actors were involved. However, little hope is currently emerging.
Is Libya - at last - on the path to stabilization, ten years after the civil war and the Franco-British military operation "Harmattan" who caused the fall of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi?
Unlike the previous government (government of national agreement - GNA - set up in March 2016), this transitional government is not only recognized by the entire international community, but seems to control more territories than the previous one. Composed of representatives of the three parts of Libya (Tripolitania to the west, Cyrenaica to the east and Fezzan to the south), different sensitivities (militias, Muslim Brotherhood, etc.) and ethnic groups from the Libyan political scene (Tuaregs, Toubous, Arabs , Beni Fezzan, Libous…), this government led by Prime Minister Abdelhamid Dabaiba and chaired by Mohammed el-Menfi constitutes a fragile hope for peace and reconciliation.
A conflict that is both local ...
Libya has become, over the past ten years, the theater of the greatest concentration of conflicting interests in the Mediterranean. The conflict that followed the fall of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 has gradually internationalized, to the point that now, the stabilization of the country seems to depend both on international mobilization and on local ownership, coupled with greater involvement of neighboring states.
To understand the nature and reason for the exogenous greed for Libya, perhaps it should also be remembered that it has the largest oil reserves in Africa (48 billion barrels of estimated reserves) and that the Mediterranean Sea, in particular in its eastern part, covers significant gas fields (50 billion cubic meters of natural gas) ...
The conflict, which opposes the Libyans among themselves (militias close to the Muslim Brotherhood still constituting the main support of the GUN located in Tripoli; forces loyal to Marshal Khalifa Haftar, forming the Libyan National Army in Benghazi), also involves militarily and diplomatically many external powers (Turkey, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Russia, France, Italy ...) and illustrates, through the tragic, the strategic importance of the Eastern Mediterranean.
From now on, fragile hopes are emerging through the various UN, regional and international mediations, such as the appointment in February 2021, in Geneva, under the aegis of the Forum for Libyan Political Dialogue (ardently supported by the UN), the GUN led by a Presidential Council, which is chaired by Muhammad Al-Menfi. The latter was until his appointment as president, in March 2021, the Libyan ambassador to Greece; he comes from the city of Tobruk, where the Parliament sits, chaired by the other “strong man” from eastern Libya, Aguila Salah Issa.
Referendum - theoretically scheduled for October - must make it possible to reform the Constitution. This was drawn up in the form of a provisional constitutional declaration in August 2011, following the fall of the regime of Muammar Gaddafi; it still serves as a constitutional benchmark, although it needs to be reformed in depth, particularly with regard to the functioning of the executive, judicial and legislative powers.
The grooming of this “provisional” Constitution also goes hand in hand with the arduous but essential work of identifying future voters. This step prior to the holding of inclusive elections in December 2021 finally gives hope that the Libyans will find peace and stability, and thus succeed in avoiding foreign interference, in preventing the return of Daesh cells, in curbing the harmful role of the militias and to find, finally, a way out of the migration issue which has largely contributed to weakening the country for ten years.
... and international
Emmanuel Macron, during his speech to the armed forces of July 13, 2020, had also strongly insisted on the “new power games” which are being deployed there 250 km from the Italian coast and therefore from the EU. The French President and his Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jean-Yves Le Drian, have not ceased since, to castigate the politico-military activism of Turkey in Libya.
La confrontation in June 2020, between the French frigate Courbet and a Turkish vessel, as part of operations to maintain the arms embargo decreed by the UN in 2011 and implemented by NATO ("Sea Guardian" operation) and the EU (Eunavfor Med operation "Irini"), came to confirm the rise of tensions between Paris and Ankara on the Libyan file. By evoking responsibility "Historical" and "criminal" from Turkey, Paris seems nevertheless to forget the equally active participation of the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, or even Russia and Qatar.
The United Arab Emirates militarily lends a helping hand to Marshal Khalifa Haftar, who, under cover of his Libyan National Army, 25 strong, refused to recognize the internationally recognized government (GNA) of Tripoli and is now waging a war more subdued against the GUN, from its stronghold of Benghazi (Cyrenaica, in the east of the country), although its offensive on Tripoli launched in April 000 failed.
The UAE and its Crown Prince Mohamed Ben Zayed (MBZ) are providing the Libyan Marshal with drones, armored anti-mine vehicles and fighter jets that have carried out hundreds of strikes according to the United Nations. While the UAE is seeking a way to remain influential in Libya, it, too, is aiming to respond to insistent demands from Washington for not be so active in Libya.
Russia, present through mercenaries of the private military company Wagner, gave his support to Marshal Haftar until last spring, then abandoned the military field to concentrate on the diplomatic theater in order to counter Turkey's slightly too conspicuous ambitions on Libya's offshore gas fields in the eastern Mediterranean. Russia speaks directly to Turkey, without worrying too much about the positions of the other actors involved in Libya, convinced that, when the time comes, the balance of power on the ground will dictate the outcome and not the other way around.
Turkey has taken up the cause for the GNA in Tripoli, through the "memorandum of understanding" for the protection of their sovereignty, their diplomatic and economic rights in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea, signed between the Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the former Libyan Prime Minister, Fayez el-Sarraj, on November 27, 2019, in order to promote the installation of an Islamic power on the model of what Recep Tayyip Erdogan has set up in Ankara.
The Turks were directly responsible, through the delivery of arms, the supervision of the Libyan militias supporting the GNA through their special services (Millî İstihbarat Teşkilatı, MIT) and the contribution of fighters from Syria, for the recent setbacks inflicted by the GNA. GNA to the troops of Marshal Haftar who come to reinforce the failure of the operation "Peace Storm" launched by the latter against Tripoli in April 2019. Erdogan benefits, to implement his policy, from the support of Qatar, which supports generally the Muslim Brotherhood throughout the region.
The assistance provided by Turkey and Qatar to the GNA of course aroused the ire of Egypt, which shares a 1 km-long border with Libya, and whose current President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi has muzzled the Muslim Brotherhood movement, briefly in power in Cairo from 115 to 2013.
The United States, for its part, distanced itself from this conflict under the presidency of Barack Obama and even more under the mandate of Donald Trump. They did, however, effectively (and unofficially) support Marshal Haftar - who lived for twenty years in the United States, a stone's throw from the CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia - in its fight against the Islamic militias, back-up to the GNA. The initial stake, for them, was limited to eradicating Islamic terrorism in the region. The new Biden administration appears significantly more inclined to play a political role in resolving the Libyan crisis, as evidenced by the appointment of a special envoy for Libya, the veteran diplomat Richard Norland, who had already been Ambassador to Libya since 2019.
Today, the Americans would like to see hostilities cease so that the production and export of oil can resume, which would give a semblance of normalcy to the situation and pave the way for a way out of the conflict, while not harming either party. .
The European Union is not absent from the chessboard, but its role and its posture remain ambiguous. Officially, it participates in operations to maintain the arms embargo alongside NATO. Within the EU, Italy, which has actively supported the GNA government, now obviously supports the GUN.
The same goes for France. Behind these two countries, the oil interests of the companies Eni (Italy) and Total (France) are being defended. Germany, which is now home to a very large Turkish community on its territory (2,7 million people), seems to be renewing its past alliances and refuses to criticize Ankara's provocations.
Being a NATO member itself, Turkey officially supports the arms embargo put in place in February 2011 - an embargo that its ships ostensibly flout. So that allies and adversaries, regional powers and superpowers confront and coexist in Libya, through intermediary actors.
A few possible solutions
It is now necessary to consolidate the UN arms embargo imposed on Libya, by strengthening the EU maritime operation in the Mediterranean Irini while demanding an extension of the embargo by air, in view of the acceleration of flights having brought men and materials from both sides, especially those from the Syrian militias, who are now facing each other in Libya as they did not long ago in Syria.
It will also be necessary to urge all parties to participate fully in the Geneva ceasefire talks, under the aegis of the Joint Military Commission (JMC) and in the most recent international and regional negotiations - like the initiative. dialogue initiated by Morocco since July 2019, to bouznika, which allowed the competing parliamentary representations of Tripolitania and Cyrenaica to re-engage in dialogue between them, with a view to holding elections by December 2021.
Peace and stability will, of course, also depend on the deepening of the indispensable intra-Libyan dialogue, as has been possible, through the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF) held in November 2020 in Tunis, at l initiative of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL).
The observation of an undeniable Libyan blockade resulting both from military adventurism, supported by some of our allies in the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Peninsula, as from contradictory diplomatic relations - apparently - from our other European allies, paradoxically offers to France the unique opportunity but limited in time to highlight a position of equilibrium.
Moreover, the start of a process of dialogue between Presidents Emmanuel Macron and Recep Tayyip Erdogan, just like the recent process of reconciliation between Qatar and the “Quartet” (Egypt, Saudi Arabia, UAE and Bahrain) should - finally - allow to see the Libyan horizon with less pitfalls ...
It is in the light of this perspective that the polling institute Opinion Way and the Center for Strategic Studies and Foresight (CEPS) have joined forces to survey the 705 European parliamentarians as to their perception of the situation and the role they play. 'they intend to play for the political stabilization of Libya.
Ce survey, presented at the end of June, is particularly instructive in more ways than one. It reinforces the idea that institutional and political normalization will come, in Libya, from an incarnation and personification of power which has been the object, until now, of fratricidal wars between Libyans and also - and perhaps above all - importation of conflicts from external actors.
Among the major trends that this survey highlights, that of the fight against terrorism and criminal networks - which play on the despair of the thousands of sub-Saharan migrants wishing to cross the Mediterranean Sea - appear clearly.
The two intra-Libyan meetings held in Berlin (January and June 2021) raised certain hopes for the holding of the presidential election scheduled for next December. The announcement of the holding of a new intra-Libyan conference in Paris, on November 12, will it confirm this “reasonably” optimistic trajectory?
Nothing is less certain, whereas the Turkish and Emirati forces, as well as the mercenaries of the Russian private military company Wagner and the "auxiliaries" (Syrians, Yemenis, Chadians, Sudanese, Turkmens ...) that each camp employs, return the holding of these highly improbable elections ...