Rifles, travels, unforgivable mistakes and hopes

(To Julian Carax)
05/04/21

The good old Libyan fourth shore returns to attention; the UN, in an attempt to remedy the tragic mistakes of 2011, have paved the way for a government of national unity in time which has been given the mandate to allow fair elections by next December. An initiative that puts a further seal on Arab Springs and to their motivations, to revolts that have not represented a novelty in a region already crossed by riots of a socio-economic nature; in 2011 the protests turned into incomplete revolts, eradicated either by the restoration or by the transformation into civil war.

A more careful geopolitical evaluation suggests not to underestimate the elements of instability still present and potentially still capable of spreading. The Middle Eastern critical points are structural enough to have to go back to find them in a nutshell, to Nasser's clientelist policy, a model that was then disseminated in different ways throughout the MENA area (Middle East and North Africa, editor's note).

The explosion of the Nasserian system has produced different results depending on the case, so much so that in Libya, Yemen and Syria, protracted and indeterminate civil wars facilitated by the American withdrawal, and deep sectarian conflicts in Bahrain and Iraq, up to 2019-2020. , with the onset of new disagreements of a social and economic nature, which have led Algeria and Sudan to difficult transition processes, and in Lebanon to an aggravation of the general political context; all paintings characterized by the inability to quell protests even by states reindeer, albeit benefited from oil revenues useful for maintaining an apparent social peace. To this was added the further pandemic element, which accentuated the existing inequalities; a double-edged sword, which if on the one hand has allowed the tightening of containment measures, on the other has deprived the social base of its spaces for representation and vent.

Balances remain fluid, with an extremely mobile international system, and where the immature unawareness of unsuspecting geopolitical actors of the abc of government and skilled in that of the purest demagogy, they have inflicted very hard blows on their own interests.

Le Libia, unbeknownst to Italy, they constituted the meeting point and balancing of the regional geopolitical chaos, of all those vectorial thrusts that determined the birth of government of national unity, with the tandem constituted by Abdel Hamid al-Dubayba, graduated in engineering in Canada, and Mohammed al-Menfi (in the photo on the left), respectively new prime minister and president, thanks to the confidence granted by the parliament of Tobruk, ten years after beginning of the war that led to the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi.

We look at Libya as a catalyst; in the face of the Turkish intervention, Greece also intended to attribute a Libyan dimension to the dispute with Ankara for control of the eastern Mediterranean, with similar actions carried out by Israel, Egypt, France and Iran, which did not fail to offer support to Haftar in anti-twist key. In fact, the Libyan theater has hosted the frictions caused by the containment of Turkish influence which, it must be said, although it cannot combine its ambitious Mavi Vatan1 due to a devastating economic crisis, however, Dubayba himself obtained support for the maritime agreement signed between GNA and Ankara in November 2019, to be kept in force because it is considered in the Libyan interest; an approval that is added to that of Mohamed al-Menfi, a supporter, when he was ambassador in Greece, of the agreement itself, so much so that, for this reason, he was expelled from the country in December 2019.

The new Libyan government, where the prime minister holds Interim the defense department and the post of chief of staff are still vacant, which will have to draw up a new electoral law, a new Constitution, change the procedures that oversee the management of the NOC2 as well as to the board of directors of the central bank as well as to the reorganization of the FA, it therefore represents the element that subsumes the political dynamics that led to the Turkish-Greek negotiations, the rapprochement between Saudis-Emiratis with Qatar, the approaches between Turkey, Israel and Saudi Arabia, as well as the truce between Ankara and Cairo, which however does not exclude competition in other contexts3.

In the background, Washington meanwhile takes its distance from Moscow, which must be phased with the American intention that it wants to contain it in the Mediterranean, thanks both to an indirect political-diplomatic work that aims to make alliances with the Kremlin less attractive, and thanks to the larger military exercise in Europe since the Cold War, the Defend Europe 2021, which with the enlargement to North Africa places a limit on the space available to Erdogan and Putin.

Dubayba (photo), in his speech to the Tobruk Parliament, admitted the latent state of war, however facilitated by the particular Libyan social conformation, which remains fragmented into tribes and not into political parties4; those born in Libya are first of all an element of their tribe, and only afterwards a Libyan citizen, according to the principle that each tribe5 has its own area of ​​influence in accordance with the three great regions of Tripolitania, Cyrenaica and Fezzan.

Libya is not divided politically or geographically, but socially, which makes the work of the Dabayba government particularly difficult, also given the reinforced concrete defensive hinge that, built by the Wagner Company and the Sudanese militias Ğanğawīd, cuts Libya between Syrte and al-Ğufra, a symbol of the division between Tripolitania Turk and Cyrenaica Russian, a symbol that testifies to both the impossibility of excluding military action a priori, and the need to consider Sirte, a symbolic place Gaddafiano and of the end of the Caliphate, as a geopolitical keystone: if it is true that the new government offers an internationally expendable image, militarily it does not have sufficient strength to change the assets, an aspect highlighted by the evident difficulties in imposing the withdrawal of contractors and mercenaries foreigners6.

The appointments of government representatives, for which geographical origin was taken into account and built, a la Cencelli, in fact, a mechanism for sharing the main political and economic positions, while rewarding Cyrenaica, does not reflect the real balance of power; Mohamed Yunus al-Menfi does come from Cyrenaica, but remains politically distant from General Haftar; in addition both the forces headed by Aguila Saleh7 and Haftar have been effectively ousted from governmental representation, both the Tripoli militias do not show reliable ties with a premier who brings Turkish sympathies and cross-suspicions of corruption that emerged among the 75 delegates of the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum.8.

Businessman at the head of the construction company Libyan Investment and Development Company, as well as president of the football club Al Ittihad, Dubayba, despite lacking an ideological line, has occupied important positions under the regime of Mu'ammar Gaddafi. The economic revival will obviously remain tied to the security situation and the credibility of the next budget law, under the auspices of an increase in GDP linked, in recent years, to dependence on oil activities. After a period of decline, BAD9 for Libya this year foresees a significant growth, a fact not escaped from the economically suffering Tunisia, whose President Kaïs Saïed, the same day of the settlement of Dubayba went to Tripoli.

But can the new government be trusted?

Its dimensions are larger than what had been announced, and the premier himself, who made relations with the press more difficult, had to admit that he had to give in to criteria of geographical representativeness and that he had never met some of his 26 ministers . Two women at the helm of departments: foreign, with Najla el-Mangoush (photo) who lived for a long time in the USA, and justice, with Halima Abdulrahman.

The others ... Representing Cyrenaica (east) and Fezzan (south), two vice premieres will work alongside Dubayba. Hussein Atiya Al-Qatrani, deputy minister, of the Awaqir tribe (Benghazi), contiguous to Aguila Saleh, was chosen to replace Saqr Bujwari, mayor of Benghazi, close to General Khalifa Haftar. Al Qatrani was a senior official in the Ministry of Finance of the Muammar Gaddafi regime. Ramadan Ahmed Boujenah Al-Hasnawi, deputy prime minister representing Fezzan, of the Hasawna tribe of Tamzawa Al Shati. A supporter of Haftar, active against the 2011 revolution, he is a former official of the Gaddafi regime. Leading the Ministry of Oil and Gas will be Mohamed Ahmed Mohamed Aoun, representative of Tripolitania, and known in Italian circles for being CEO of Mellitah Oil and Gas Company10 from 2008 to 2011 and member of the board of directors of Green Stream Bv, responsible for the transport of natural gas from the Libyan coast to the Italian coast in Gela.

A novelty is the introduction of ministers without portfolios, including Ajdid Maatuq Jadid, of the Warfalla tribe loyal to Gaddafi, minister for migration and opponent of EU policies on the return of migrants to Libya. Also to the economy a high official of the past regime, Muhammad al Hawij of Tripolitania, as well as inside, with the number two of Bashagha, Khaled al Tijani Mazen, former colonel of the Internal Security Agency during the last period of Gaddafi. To health care Ali Muhammad Miftah Al-Zinati, from Cyrenaica, awaited by the challenge of the pandemic, and to finance Khaled Al Mabrouk, from Fezzan, and holder of a respectable CV11.

In education the engineer Musa Muhammad al Maqrif, in Planning Fakher Boufarna Al Fakhri, coordinator of the university program between Benghazi and Bocconi University, as well as founder of the Libyan Stock Exchange.

Special mention (sic!) For the minister for communication and political affairs, Walid Ammar Al Lafi, collaborator of Abdel Hakim Belhaj, an Islamist militiaman and former emir of the Libyan Islamic fighting group. Close to the Libyan Muslim Brotherhood, in 2020 he appeared from Istanbul as head of the “Salam” channel. Several elements to consider; first of all, the presence of elements from the old regime brings to mind the application of a sort of Togliatti-style amnesty which, given the situation, intended to preserve existing capacities; to this is added a dangerous element of discontinuity far too close to the jihadist galaxy, and recourse neo Gaddafiano to the distribution of benefits and prebends useful to ensure the indispensable loyalty. Moreover, the failed American experience in Iraq with the elimination of every capable bureaucratic ganglion, something should have also taught, in terms of subsequent and violent insurgency, however still pulsating here, given the jihadist presence, and the role of General Haftar, in a condition of political isolation from the failure to conquer Tripoli, but already in friction with Dubayba.

On April 6, the Democratic Party Draghi will travel to Libya. What to expect? If the moves of ENI, which has always been endowed with its effective business diplomacy, follow the path of tradition, those of the Farnesina seem to go against the trend compared to what has been seen in recent years, albeit in a multilateral version together with France and Germany. Fight against immigration, reconstruction projects, institutional support and possible use of the Irini mission to monitor the ceasefire. We will be out of fashion. Transeat. We persist in considering the past as an inexhaustible source of teaching; and for this reason we cannot look at a renewed activism without considering the fact that, at the base of the Libyan quarrel, there are Italian responsibilities, of executives who have allowed increasingly pervasive external actors to be introduced into their area of ​​influence.

Italy, attentive to the quarrels of poor internal courtyards, has culpably canceled any attention to the Libyan theater while the Farnesina revived forgot that in politics the empty spaces are immediately filled. From others.

Taken by euphoria Pekingese (photo), Italy has been charmed by superficial conceptualizations, and has not considered that its enlarged Mediterranean starts from the coasts facing the national ones. Thinking about the Indian Ocean is right and to the page, if there were an ENI at the levers of government, otherwise, as it happened, it remains an empty dialectical exercise.

Admiral de Giorgi jr shrewdly observed that the Turks had access to Libya with impunity because there was no opposition from a military instrument which, certainly more gifted than the Anatolian one, must however comply with the government's strategic political indications, also having the largest and most strategic Mediterranean island, Sicily, often used (horrible term) by others.

Well the Italian visit, well the revived interest, but what is the broad geopolitical line that should be underlying?

There is no doubt that courage, protagonism and not petty improvisation are needed, things in which in recent years Italy seems to have lacked on the one hand and exceeded on the other. It is necessary to know what you want, to identify the interlocutors, to have the courage to be ready to use force when interests are threatened.

It is essential to keep in mind Talleyrand's maxim also attributed to Fouché: "To remain inert .. is worse than a crime, it is a mistake". Have a good trip president!

1 Patria Azzurra, maritime expansion

2 National Oil Corporation

3 Sudan, Red Sea, Nile question, Horn of Africa

4 According to Stratfor, a US study center, there are 140 Libyan social formations. According to others, the number of Libyan tribes, which only formally are under the same flag, even reaches a few thousand.

5 During Gaddafi's 41 years of rule his tribe, Gadhafi, was the most influential and also the most hated; Gadhafi is historically allied to the other two most important tribes: Warfallah and Magariha. In Tripoli there are also the Bani-Walid and Tarhuna tribes. The Zentan tribe resides near the Tunisian border and is the one that has contributed most to Gaddafi's army. In Cyrenaica the Zuwaya tribe dominates because it controls the strategic areas where oil wells and deposits are based. The al-Awaqir tribe is the one that has fought more than all the others the Ottoman and Italian colonialism. Magariha is located in the Fezzan. From the Italian point of view, the most relevant tribe is the Tuareg tribe which lives mainly on the border with Algeria, near the Waha natural gas deposit which also supplies Italy and near the Elephant oil field shared by ENI.

6 The US has called for the immediate withdrawal of Russian and Turkish forces from Libya. The request was made by the head of the American mission to the UN, Richard Mills jr., After the deadline for their departure, foreseen by the UN agreement in October and expired on 23 January, was not respected.

7 President of the Tobruk Parliament who with Fathi Bashagha remains a leading political reference

8 The Dubayba clan ended up at the center of controversy after the family and staff of Ali Ibrahim Dubayba, a Libyan tycoon investigated in Scotland for fraud, allegedly offered $ 200 to two delegates of the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum in exchange for their votes in favor Abdulhamid Dubayba.

9 Bank of African Development

10 operating company jointly owned by Eni and Noc

11 earned a BA in Economics from the University of Benghazi in 1992 and worked as Head of the Sebha School of Economics, and holds a PhD in 2008 from the University of Queensland in Australia. He was manager of the Libyan credit institution Jumhouria Bank.

Photo: presidency of the council of ministers / anadolu agency / web