Analysis: Fallout from Israeli meeting shows militia power in Libya | News

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Last month’s meeting between Libyan and Israeli foreign ministers may ultimately do little but provide public justification for renewed fighting between Tripoli’s armed groups and the weakening, perhaps crucially, of Libya’s interim prime minister, Abdul Hamid. Dbeibahanalysts have said.

Since emerging from the ashes of the country’s 2011 revolution, many militias have maintained a series of uneasy alliances with the country’s shifting leadership, which relies on the armed groups to impose power. advanced over the 1.8 million square kilometers (nearly 700,000 square miles) of oil. – rich area.

While the parallel eastern government in Benghazi has been very successful in integrating its armed forces into the militia fold of the Libyan National Army, its western rivals in Tripoli – a is recognized by the United Nations – has been much less successful.

Tensions, often deadly, between militias are commonplace for those living in Tripoli, with the fault lines between rival factions blurred.

Keeping track of everything, at least on paper, the government of Dbeibah, in power in Tripoli since the failed elections in December 2021 and one whose policies must emphasize on the self-interests of the militias responsible for carrying them out.

Conflicts continued as late as August, with many of the same armed groups now seizing the Israeli meeting to push agendas only related to the meeting itself.

Power, influence and control are involved.

“The militias are before Dbeibah, they are confident that they will be there long after,” said Jalel Harchaoui of the Royal United Services Institute. “No grand vision is needed. They have found that in the long term but a series of short terms.”

“Since their inception, they have been an institution. They have become part of the state, its services, its information, everything,” he said.

Illnesses with Zawiya

Maintaining the delicate balance of power with the militias, while negotiating with the rival government in Benghazi, controlled by General Khalifa Haftar, was always going to be a difficult proposition for Dbeibah, interim prime minister under international pressure to help bring about some sort of deal. democratic mission to Libya.

For Dbeibah, under pressure from allies in the United States and Italy and eager to normalize a personal mandate now well past its sell-by date, allowing it may have been an obvious political choice. meeting Israel, as it is suspected.

However, by leaking news about the meeting, Israel to some extent threw petrol on a fire​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

As protests began – mostly, genuine sympathy for the Palestinian cause – Libyan militias are believed to have sparked opportunity amid the uncertainty, with groups from the western city of Zawiya being the first. who added their numbers to the population in the capital.

“Many people streamed down from Zawiya after news of the meeting broke,” said Tarek Megerisi, senior policy officer at the European Council on Foreign Relations.

In May, Dbeibah ordered drone strikes on armed groups in Zawiya after weeks of escalating tensions.

The government justified the strikes as targeting smugglers and human traffickers. But they were also a reminder of Tripoli’s military prowess, as well as a warning about Dbeibah’s access to the Abu Zariba brothers, Ali, an MP linked to the Tripoli government, and Hassan, the local Zawiya commander of another militia, the Stability. Support device (SSA).

Moving hierarchy

Since Tripoli International Airport was destroyed in 2014, access to the capital has only been possible through the Mitiga military base, which was taken over as a base for the Special Defense Forces (SDF) the previous year that, giving control to the hard militia. they all have access to the nation’s capital and largest city.

With the opening of a new international airport slated for 2024, the SDF’s unique role in the city’s militia hierarchy is fundamentally undermined. Other armed groups look ready to take advantage, especially the well-disciplined and well-armed 444 Brigade.

Fighting between the two groups finally broke out in August. In just over 24 hours of fighting, 55 civilians were reported killed.

Ironically, among those who broke the truce between the two groups was SSA al-Kikli.

“If there is a long war between these groups inside the city, the human tragedy and the destruction of infrastructure could be terrible,” said Harchaoui.

Already, Harchaoui said, the capital’s various militias, some inspired by religion, others with components dating back to former leader Muammar Gaddafi’s intelligence services, are linking up with the a preferred candidate, usually based on a cynical calculation of how they see the conflict developing, or as it is. their reputation or structural movement could be affected.

The hypocrisy of convention

Given the circumstances, attempts to establish Dbeibah as an international statesman by promoting normalization with Israel may not have been advised.

Nevertheless, the August meeting is not the first time that a Libyan politician has met with an Israeli official to discuss normalization.

“Everybody’s hands are dirty,” Megerisi said. ” Aguila Saleh [the speaker of Libya’s eastern-based parliament] walking around with his Palestinian flag and, rightly, mocking it. Libyans are not thick. A few years ago we remember him encouraging his foreign minister – when he had a foreign minister – to seek normalization with Israel. “

Two years before that, Saddam Haftar, Khalifa’s son, was reported to be in Tel Aviv to discuss the normalization of diplomatic relations due to Israeli military technology.

There is little doubt that the current torture has weakened Dbeibah fundamentally, perhaps even permanently. However, Megerisi warned, it is important to set the current crisis against recent unrest, from drone strikes, inter-ethnic fighting, kidnappings and arbitrary arrests of celebrities.

“These are not isolated incidents. They are more about the mafia style conversations between the two men [ahead of a future government]with Dbeibah signaling to Haftar that he cannot strengthen the military in the way he did with his predecessor, Fayez al-Sarraj,” concluded Megresi.

Knowing the instability on the ground, the involvement of Italy and the United States in the external affairs of Libya was “the worst diplomatic failure in years,” said German journalist Mirco Keilberth, who has been living and reporting from Libya since the 2011 revolution. “They don’t have elections, they don’t have a unified legal system, but Italy and the US think they can push them towards normalizing relations with Israel? This is the wrong time for such a strategy.”

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