Connect with us

Middle East

Libyan Conflict: Actors and interests

Demonstrators gather at Martyrs' Square in Tripoli, Libya (file photo). UNSMIL

Published

on

The country of Libya has witnessed two main internal conflicts, one of them the anti-Qadhafi regime protests which at the end of the day was removed from power and brutally was killed. The second wave of protests erupted upon the regime’s fall which divided the state into two opposing sides. Thus, fighting between parties grew strained and involved both regional and international powers. On one side Turkey, Qatar, and Italy supported Tripoli’s UN-recognized government and on the other side Russia, Egypt, UAE, Saudi, and France backed the self-established Government by Khalifa Haftar.(1)As long as the involved actors inside and outside have interests in Libyan conflict, the war will continue. I suggest “The Onion” and “Conflict Mapping” as a tool of analysis to study the dynamics of the Libyan conflict and ending the conflict.

1)Background of the conflict

Identity crisis

Libya has suffered identity crises throughout the Libyan history (Andersen,1986).Dynamics of the Libyan civil war after the fall of the Qadhafi regime which lasted from 1969 to 2011 rooted in the long history of the tribal divisions since the ottoman and Italian wars. Tribal and identity diversity made Libya a weak state which obstructed creating a national identity. East and West division traces back to the time before Qadhafi took power. King Idris declared himself as a prince of Cyrenaica which is on the Eastern coast of Libya and later became the king of the whole of Libya. (2)

Lack of national identity gave way to internal infighting and due to tribaland geographic diversity, the state has not been able to build institutions to include all diverse tribes within the state. Therefore, Libya failed to build civic nationalism to create a mutual identity for all Libyan regardless of family, tribe, or regional connection. Namely building of democratic institutions was important for Libya to unify the people. As Fukuyama says lack of democratic institutions, states are exposed to war such as cases of Syria and Afghanistan.(3)

 Tribal and Family diversity

Historically Libya was comprised of three regions and was administered through three separate provinces, one province in the East named Cyrenaica, and the other two provinces were in the Northwest and Southwest named Tripolitania and Fezzan respectively. Ottoman empire divided the country into two separate administrations one in Tripoli and the other in Cyrenaica. Later in the era of Italian colonization, the provinces were unified as a colony state. These divisions and tribal diversities have lent socio-economic differences which paved the way for civil war particularly in the vacuum of central power that came into existence after the Arab Spring in 2011. (4)

Even in the era of Qadhafi tribal identity was stronger than national identity but in the presence of a powerful central government, tribal leaders were not able to fight each other, so after the collapse of central power these differences and divisions surfaced. During the revolution, tribes were divided between supporting Qadhafi or opposing him and the same repeated after the revolution who opted for different governments. Even Qadhafi has formally established multiple tribal committees and assemblies which through these tactics could hold grip to power.(5 )

Libyan divisions in terms of tribe, family, and geography have made way for internal conflict. simultaneously facilitated external intervention where the external powers have distinctive needs and interests to support one side over the other. This had complicated the conflict more for the conflicting party to reach an agreement. So, international intervention has always impacted negatively on peace-making in conflicting countries(Edward lutak,199). (6)

External actors

Besides internal divisions and lack of identity, external power’s disagreement over peace-making is another factor of keeping the conflict alive. Interest discrepancies of these powers have disappointed the prospects of peace. They have exploited the lack of national identity and tribal divisions to achieve their own needs and interests. They took sides in the conflict to accomplish their needs, not the interests of the Libyan population. Libya’s energy resources have motivated them to take polarization politics there. Both Turkey and Italy require oil, so it was in their interest to involve, and on the other side Egypt, UAE, Russia have the interest of balance of power toward both Turkey and EU, and French’s interest besides of oil, fighting extremism. Eventually, multiple actors are involved to ensure their needs and interests namely strengthening their positions. Thus government in the Tripoli led by Alsaraj (GNA, the government of national accord) and another in the eastern part led by Khalifa Haftar (LNA, National Arab army ) took shape and were supported by different tribal and distinctive external actors. (7)

2) Conflict analysis tool

“Conflict Mapping” and “The Onion” as a tool of analysis

James Fearon believes that private information and commitment are two main factors that two conflicting parties do not reach an agreement (1995)(8)These two elements apply to the Libyan case. So, Identifying the actors in the conflict and understanding the needs of the conflicting sides is the start to initiate negotiations and potentially resolving the conflict. In this regard, “Conflict mapping “and “The Onion” are two important tools that can be employed to establish mutual interests and cooperation. The fightingactors within the internal conflict in the Libyan conundrum are divided among opposing sides which they have an end to achieve. So, they have both commitment and private information, on one side Haftar self-established government commits international actors such as Russia and Arabian Gulf states and on the other side Al-Saraj government commits other international actors such as Turkey and Qatar. Therefore private information and commitment preclude the opposing sides to reach an agreement.

Through the United Nations as a neutral actor is possible to keep away the external actors from the scene of the conflict and establishing conditions of terminating the war based on a win-win solution. As long as the conflicting parties inside Libya get support from external actors, the war is going on. So, As Donald Wittman “[V]iews the termination of war as a process of rational calculations by the participants; unless both sides believe that they can be made better off by a settlement, the war will continue”.(9)

3)Outcome and conclusion

Libya’s social structure in terms of geography and tribal life has made way for internal disagreement and lack of national identity. Such divisions set the stage for interest collision among tribal leaders and external powers. Energy resources have lent a factor of intervention which made the country more conflict-ridden. Both internal and external powers are working to meet their needs and protecting their interests. In doing so they are making alliances with internal fighting groups to enhance their positions. Establishing a kind of system which is ensuring all sides’ needs and interests is a key factor to finalize the conflict. To sum up, the conflict in Libya ends only in the case of considering the interests of all international and internal actors into considerations. Through “The Onion” and “Conflict Map”, the problem can be resolved, in a way the interest, need, and position of actors that were identified will be met.

References

Bayes Rascheed Amin is a freelance journalist. He is now a higher education student in the field of International Relations at the University of Essex in England. He is a political analyst and a contributor writer for multiple online websites in Iraqi Kurdistan.

Continue Reading
Comments

Middle East

Why is Melih Bulu Seen as a Pro-AKP “Trustee” Rector?

Published

on

Photo: Youth Committees / Twitter

The new year started under the shadow of social tensions triggered by Melih Bulu’s appointment to the rectorate of Bosphorus University by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Professor Melih Bulu had founded the Sarıyer district organization of the incumbent AK Party in 2002. Bulu who in 2015 became a candidate for being a deputy from AK Party could not gain nomination to run in the elections. Bulu also worked as a rector in two private universities before: İstinye University and Haliç University.

On December 31 2020, Bulu was the rectorate of Haliç University. The abrupt appointment of Bulu as the rector to Turkey’s most prestigious university prompted a major outrage since the move was regarded as a direct interruption of academic freedom.

Melih Bulu’s appointment to the rectorate of Bosphorus University caused a large unrest among Bosphorus students, graduates and scholars. In addition, people coming from different sectors of society who are critical of Erdoğan administration have also joined the “anti-Bulu” protest campaign on social media. After Bulu’s appointment, Bosphorus University students protested the appointment on social media by using the hashtag #KayyumRektörİstemiyoruz (“We don’t want a trustee rector”). For a couple of days, students of Bosphorus University have been making protests calling Bulu to resign. However Bulu posted an announcement on his Twitter account saying that he will embrace everyone and he is very excited and happy for his new duty.

After Bulu’s appointment, not just his political identity affiliated with AK Party was put under debate but also his academic background was put under scrutiny as well. Allegations of plagiarism against him broke out especially on Twitter. Bulu defined these allegations as “slander” and argued that this was the literature survey part of his PhD thesis and said, “I did not write some parts between quotation marks. We did not have something written available. There were different citation rules but I put it in the bibliography section.”

According to the Global Academic Freedom Index Turkey has only 9.7 points out of 100 and it is in the rank of 135 out of 144 countries. Turkey is in the similar level with Syria and Turkmenistan.

In previous weeks, journalist Cüneyt Özdemir hosted Bulu in his live Youtube programme and in live broadcast, Bulu saluted the students from the window of his office at rectorate building while the students yelled asking for his resign and this act of Bulu caused surprises and ironies on social media. Amid this environment, on January 5, a group of Bosphorus University academics staged a peaceful protest by standing with their backs to the rectorate building during the handover ceremony for Bulu. The academics of Bosphorus University  made a public statement underlining that this appointment is a practice introduced for the first time after the 1980s military tutelage.

Their full statement is as follows:

“’We don’t accept, we don’t give up!’

On January 1, 2021 at midnight, an academic outside Bogazici University community was appointed as rector, which is a practice introduced for the first time after the 1980s military tutelage.

This is yet another case of many ongoing anti-democratic practices since 2016, aiming at abolishing rectorial elections. We do not accept it as it clearly violates academic freedom and scientific autonomy as well as the democratic values of our university. We refuse to compromise the principles the University Senate officially stated in 2012:

1. To enhance scientific research and social development, it is indispensable that universities be free from any pressure or influence from a person or an institution and not be used as a political tool.

2. For academic freedom, it is imperative that decision-making processes be delegated to democratically elected academic administrators and boards. All academic administrators including the Rector, Deans, Directors of Institute, Directors of Schools and Department Heads can be appointed only after being elected by the university community.

3. As universities are autonomous constitutional establishments, it is vital that university instructors and/or university boards decide on academic programs and research policies, which is an essential prerequisite for scientific freedom and creativity.

We strictly adhere to the principles above and we pledge to follow them up with all the other members of our university community.”

On the other hand, police forces detained more than 20 university students in home raids after the protests against the appointment of Bulu. In the mainstream pro-government media actors’ coverage of these events, it is argued that the detained people are not students, but they are members of illegal organizations whereas Canan Kaftancıoğlu, the Republican People’s Party’s current provincial president in Istanbul rejected this and argued that they are students.

According to Althusser (1971), the modern state keeps the authority and control through two main systems: Repressive State Apparatuses & Ideological State Apparatuses. One of  areas concerning the ideological state apparatuses is known as education. In this regard, Erdoğan’s appointment of Bulu can be seen as a step of using ideological state apparatuses.

Continue Reading

Middle East

Morocco Increases Pressure on Hezbollah by Arresting One of its Alleged Financiers

Published

on

At a time when global attention is focused on the fight against the pandemic and the global effort to vaccinate populations, terrorist organizations and organized crime are trying to take advantage of the situation to carry out operations to finance their operations. In this context, Morocco’s announcement of the arrest of an alleged international con man linked to Hezbollah is considered a success for the Moroccan security services.

According to an official statement relayed by the Moroccan Official Agency, a suspect was arrested last Wednesday by the National Brigade of the Judicial Police (BNPJ). The 57-year-old Lebanese national is linked to the Hezbollah movement, an organization supported by Iran and considered as a terrorist group by the United States, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. During the search conducted by the Moroccan police force, following intelligence and investigative work carried out by the Directorate General of Territorial Surveillance (DGST), investigators found European passports – French and Italian – as well as identity documents listed in the Interpol database as stolen. The suspect was taken into custody and brought before the King’s Prosecutor in order to continue the investigation, in partnership with Interpol and the countries involved in the alleged identity document thefts.

U.S. Recognition of Moroccan Sovereignty over Western Sahara

Moroccan authorities believed the suspect used these false identities to present himself as holding important roles in multinational corporations to defraud victims with promises of juicy deals and quick profit. While it is unclear at this stage of the investigation whether the international swindler intended to raise funds for Hezbollah, the arrest comes at a particularly crucial time for Morocco, following the recognition by the United States of America of Moroccan sovereignty over the disputed territory of Western Sahara on December the 10th, and the resumption of diplomatic relations with Israël. After this recognition, The US announced a 3 billion dollars investment plan to help Morocco boost its economy and development, as well as the opening of a regional office of its “Prosper Africa” initiative. Moreover, this Sunday, the Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Schenker came to Western Sahara on the 9th of January to inaugurate a U.S. consulate in the coastal city of Dakhla, alongside the Moroccan minister for foreign affairs, Nasser Bourita.

Morocco Broke off diplomatic relations with Iran in 2018

Since 2018, Morocco has vigorously denounced Hezbollah’s alleged links with the Polisario Front separatist movement, and broke diplomatic relations with Tehran in the process, as explained by the Think-Tank Atlantic Council . Although both Iran and Hezbollah immediately refuted Morocco’s accusations regarding the organization’s alleged links with the Polisario Front, Rabat continued to increase its pressure and has since taken substantive action to curb the actions of the organization’s agents. In March 2017,  Kingdom arrested at the Casablanca airport Kassem Tajjedine, described by the Americans as the main financier of the organization. The latter was wanted for fraud, money laundering, and financing of terrorist activity, according to Reuters. Tajjedine was extradited to the US where he was sentenced to five years in Prison, and was released on July 2020 as part of a secret US-Iran deal.

Morocco is considered a stable country in North Africa, both on the political and economic level, as well as an important Hub for doing business in Africa and Europe. Over the last twenty years, the Kingdom had a steady growth rate of its GDP at around 4% and built top-class infrastructures, including the largest African port in Tangiers, 2000 Miles of Highway, a High-Speed train between Tangiers and Rabat, and the largest solar station of Africa in the south of the country.

Continue Reading

Middle East

Egypt’s search for a fig leaf: It’s not the Handball World Championship

Published

on

Photo: Flickr/Ninian Reid

Hosting major sports tournaments can confer prestige on a country, but in the case of Egypt, the 2021 Handball World Championship will do little to repair its relations with the US, Italy and states in the Gulf, argues James M. Dorsey in this analysis.

***

Egyptian general-turned president Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi sees the 2021 men’s handball world championship in Cairo and Alexandria as an opportunity to put his best foot forward at a time when Egypt’s relations with its closest regional and global partners are encountering substantial headwinds.

Successful hosting of the championship, the first to involve 32 rather than 24 competing teams, would also serve to  counter criticism of the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic. Egyptian health minister Hala Zayed recently admitted that many more Egyptians contracted the virus than the government has so far reported. A successful hosting would further put a crown in the feather of Egyptian-born International Handball Federation (IHF) president Hassan Moustafa.

Egypt has put strict pandemic-related precautionary heath measures in place for the tournament from the moment teams, officials, and journalists arrive at Cairo International Airport. The measures apply to training, lodging and media arrangements as well as the transport to and from hotels and the championship’s four designated match venues. Egypt is determined to ensure that the championship does not turn into a spreader of Covid-19.

That concern prompted the IHF and Egyptian authorities at the last minute to shelve a plan to allow fans into the four venues that include the Cairo Stadium Sports Hall, the New Capital Sports Hall in Egypt’s newly built desert capital east of Cairo, the Dr Hassan Moustafa Sports Hall in Giza, and the Borg Al Arab Sports Hall in Alexandria.

The IHF said the decision was taken “considering the current COVID-19 situation as well as concerns that have been raised, amongst others by the players themselves.”

Critics charge that Egypt is hosting the tournament even though it seems unable to meet the basic requirements of medical personnel who are on the frontline of the fight against the pandemic.

Doctors and nurses have protested against the high number of infections in their ranks because  they lack access to sufficient personnel protection equipment and are threatened with imprisonment if they fail to report to work despite the risk to their lives.

Symptomatic for Mr. Al-Sisi’s brutal crackdown on any kind of criticism, several doctors have been arrested on terrorism charges for voicing their grievances.

Putting aside the fact that the impact of a handball tournament pales when compared to the prestige of hosting a mega-event like the World Cup or the Olympic Games, the handball tournament is unlikely to provide much of a fig leaf for Mr. Al-Sisi’s hardhanded repression of anyone voicing an opinion but his sycophantic supporters.

That is particularly true for the incoming administration of US President-elect Joe Biden that has not only promised to emphasize human rights in its foreign policy but also needs to do so in its bid to repair America’s image and restore its credibility, severely damaged by four years of Donald J. Trump, widely viewed as an authoritarian who undermined foundations of democracy.

Similarly, the tournament will not change perceptions in Italy and much of Europe that hold Mr. Al-Sisi’s intelligence service and law enforcement responsible for the kidnapping, torture and killing of Giulio Regeni.

A 28-year-old postgraduate student at Cambridge University, Mr. Regeni had been researching Egypt’s independent unions before he went missing in late January 2016. His body was found in a ditch so badly mutilated that his mother could only identify her son by the tip of his nose. He reportedly had sustained a broken neck, wrist, toes, fingers, and teeth before his death, while initials were carved into his severely burned and bruised skin.

Relations between Egypt and Italy last month deteriorated further when Egypt’s public prosecution closed its investigation into Mr. Regeni’s murder, rejecting Italian prosecutors’ findings that accused four Egyptian security officials of responsibility for his death.

Mr. Al-Sisi’s abominable human rights record may not be of concern to the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia but equally the tournament will do little to repair cracks in his relationship with the two Gulf states, his main financial backers.

In a move that will not have gone unnoticed in Gulf capitals, Egypt anointed the newly opened, Qatari-owned St. Regis hotel on the banks of the Nile River in Cairo as one of the tournament’s key logistics nodes, including its media center.

Qatari Finance Minister Ali Sharif al-Emadi landed in Cairo last week to inaugurate the hotel hours after a Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit lifted a 3.5-year long Saudi-UAE led economic and diplomatic boycott of Qatar, in which Egypt as well as Bahrain participated. Mr. Al-Emadi was the first Qatari Cabinet official to visit Egypt since the boycott was imposed in 2017.

Showcasing the hotel was meant to counter-intuitively signal to Saudi Arabia and the UAE Egypt’s concern that reconciliation with Qatar involved far too many concessions, including dropping demands for the closure of Qatar’s state-funded, freewheeling Al Jazeera television network and a halt to support of political groups like the Muslim Brotherhood.

Egypt was forced to reluctantly agree to lifting the boycott even though it accepted continued Qatari investment and Qatari gas supplies over the last 3.5 years.

Egypt also felt sidelined by the UAE and Bahrain’s establishment of diplomatic relations with Israel. The move deprived Egypt of its role as Israel’s primary official diplomatic conduit to the Arab world at a moment that the Al-Sisi regime is seeking to put its best foot forward in anticipation of Mr. Biden taking office.

Mr. Al-Sisi’s concerns are compounded by Emirati support for Ethiopia with which he is at odds over the construction of a dam on the Nile that threatens Egypt’s water supply; the UAE’s growing influence in neighboring Sudan; plans to link the UAE and Israel through a pipeline that would compete with Egypt in selling gas to Europe; and Emirati interest in the port of Haifa that could create an alternative to the Suez Canal.

All of this could undermine Egypt’s position as a key pillar of US Middle East policy and persuade the US to further shift the focal point of its broader Middle East and North Africa policy to the Gulf.

Mr. Al-Sisi has sought to pre-empt an incoming Biden administration by releasing prisoners, highlighting his good relations with Egyptian Christians, and hiring US lobbying firms to plead his case to the Biden camp as well as Capitol Hill.

Hosting a handball world championship is a minor maneuver in the mountain that Mr. Al-Sisi is trying to move, particularly one that Mr. Trump tarnished by describing the Egyptian leader as “my favorite dictator.” That is a label a handball tournament is unlikely to alter.

Author’s note: This article first appeared on Play the Game

Continue Reading

Publications

Latest

Trending