As the United States and the West, together with historical but problematic allies in Middle East, are trying to push back ISIS from the key places in Iraq and Syria, mind comes back to three years ago, when “Operation Unified Protector” air strikes defeated Gaddafi’s forces, breaking the balance of forces on the fields and setting the conditions for the still present, actually growing, Libyan instability.
A relevant comparison was proposed about the ongoing worsening condition in Syria and Iraq and the long-term disintegration of Libya, as an effective state. Egyptian President, General el-Sisi, in his recent visit in several capitals of the old Europe, namely Rome and Paris, stressed the situation while highlighting at the same time that Western Countries are completely forgetting Tripoli’s debacle, and reality seems to better explain Europe’s and America’s terror of putting “boots on the ground”, both in Libya and in the Levant. To be honest, nowadays Syria and Iraq grounds look far less suitable for masterminding the products of any long-lasting effect of an air strike, even if it is clear that military campaigns limited to air strikes need time to produce visible results. In Iraq, conditions look positive, as Shia militias, wisely powered by Iranian logistics and intelligence, will inevitably get a joint action with the Sunni front and the Kurds. In Syria, on the contrary, blooding struggle spread in the ranks of the rebellion’s front against al-Assad, at first, and then inside the most radical section of the rebels, deep into the jihadist group, between the Al Qaida’s al-Nusra Front and the now widely famous Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (then known as ISIS).
This long introduction aims to contextualize the tragedy of Libya, more and more involved into the far long threatened process of disintegration, and on the brink to become a failed- state, on the model of Somalia. Present condition of Syria reminds what actually it is happening in Libya, with the consistent difference that in Libya the process of institution building and the objective of maintaining, even after Gaddafi’s disappearance, a centralized monopoly of violence, have been hampered by the lack of strategy, after the airstrike, and not before, as in Syria. The West, in combination with those allies, namely Qatar and the Emirates, who, after the old regime’s falling, have immediately refused to activate a program that could boost the creation of a new Libya, taking into account the very specificities of the Country. Calculating that Western efforts in Libyan airstrikes were much more evident than what has been set for the anti ISIS coalition, future’s forecast are at least negative, strategically speaking.
While the US are still involved into the political querelle between Republicans and Democrats regarding what happened in 2012, when in Benghazi Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans, to not mention the endless amount of deaths among the population, were killed in a planned attack in the US compound, the threat of “jihadism of return” inside the already radicalized group of the “Islamic Dawn” has become reality. The West, while tending to stay out of Libyan affairs, even if Italy and France have already claimed their incumbent intervention into Tripoli’s destiny, is relying too much on retired General Khalifa Haftar, who has claimed to be able to free Tripoli from the Omar al-Hassi’s internationally unrecognized government before the 15th of December.
Plus, in Derna, on the eastern coastline of Libya, it seems that the Islamic State has reached the complete control of the city, helped by the return to the country of Libyan jihadists coming from Syria and Iraq, part of the ISIS al-Battar Brigade, who have quickly turn to support Islamic Youth Shura Council. The ISIS branch of Derna, who has renamed itself “Barqa”, is absolutely dangerous for Haftar’s strategy of moving towards Tripoli, after neutralizing Benghazi, as Derna is too close to Tobruk, where the internationally recognized Parliament and government has still taken refuge.
Haftar is keeping to strike from air the vital knot of Tripoli’s secondary airport of Mitiga, but any instability at his backs seems to reduce possibilities of any long-lasting achievement: the loss of the capital in August and, previously the abduction of the former prime minister Ali Zeidan in October 2013 should remind him, and to the West, that the resolution of the problem is drastically difficult to be achieved.
Research Fellow at “Iran Progress”