Libya and its strategic enigma

(To Denise Serangelo)

That Libya is an inextricable tangle of problems is well known to all, that the solution to these problems will not be a hastily mounted military intervention is not so common opinion.
Libya represents a new Somalia, a hard core that we should face with accuracy, inlaying a military-strategic work never seen before.
The fear of public opinion screams vengeance and overwhelms the voice of analysts who support - for six months now - a first political and then military line for the pacification of the country.

We all admit with some intellectual honesty that if there were no IS in Libya, no one would look at you with such interest. In 2011, with the fall of the Gaddafi regime, no one had questioned what should have been done to make the country move towards a democratic future.

In a hypothetically real condition, all the states that formed the coalition in 2011 had the obligation to plan a "post Gaddafi" that did not include bloodthirsty militias and a country in collapse. The first step would have been to find someone capable of creating a stable government, with shared leadership and a large majority. We should have involved the neighboring Arab states, which in turn were victims of rapid geopolitics.

None of this was done because we were too worried about taking off bombers that seemed to have the extraordinary power to solve the world's ills.
As we have said several times, the military component is not the answer to all questions and cannot be used when you do not know what to do. It is an instrument that can allow the construction of a state only and exclusively if accompanied by the political component of the latter.

In Italy we are repeating the usual mistake, all ready to send their children to the fray without knowing what we are talking about.
Libya is a country that is currently struggling not to succumb to chaos, a military mission - exclusively ours or international - would be unmanageable because there is no interlocutor capable of leading the country after us.
The much hoped for Government of National Unity it is the main instrument underlying the formation of an executive capable of overcoming the danger for the democratic institutions of the country. As known in the news, Libya is certainly not a shining example of stable and secure democracy, on the contrary.

The union of the Government of Tobruk is that of Tripoli could allow the country not to succumb under the blows of the Islamic State and then die in a probable international mission to stem the phenomenon.

Through the diplomatic work of Bernardino Leon, the UN has already tried to reawaken the consciences of the two governments, urging them to join forces to create a Government of National Unity.
Even the most intransigent supporters of the United Nations have turned up their noses at the idea that a diplomat could find an agreement with two warring factions.
In general astonishment - also mine - Bernardino Leon triumphant, he succeeded in starting an action plan for a joint government whose birth should be seen shortly.
For those who maintain the uselessness of a diplomatic mission I remember the famous phrase of Carl von Clausewitz "war is the continuation of politics by other means", if one intervenes immediately with war, what position would politics acquire?

Italy, as the first promoter of a military intervention, then sided with the strong supporter of the United Nations diplomatic activity. For this time, it also seems the right part!

Whether we like it or not, in Libya it is not possible to intervene as if it were our home, we are only the neighbors and not the owners of the house. Despite the strong presence of Italian national interests - see ENI - our country will never be able to intervene unilaterally on the Libyan front.
The first reason is quite simple: Libya is a subject of international law and enjoys all the rights of a State made and formed.
Just as in Italy it is not possible to fly aircraft of foreign military forces except with the necessary permits, it works in the same way also for Libya.
Without the explicit invitation or without agreements stipulated by both parties, no Italian military aircraft can bomb positions - of any faction - on Libyan soil.

In the second analysis, the bombardment of workstations, however vital, is not conclusive. One cannot bombard eternally expecting miraculous results, so it is logical to assume that it will be necessary to intervene with ground troops.
And here the question becomes even more complicated!
The possible formation of a contingent - Italian or multinational - in an anti-IS key would enjoy only the support (not even discounted) of international bodies.

To exist in a context of international legality a contingent must be framed in a wide-ranging mission and with predefined goals and rules of engagement and studied at a table. In our case also with the Tobruk and Tripoli government.
Without these rules of engagement and this supranational framework we would not know what status to attribute to the combatants in the field and to their operations.
Would everything be allowed? In case of kidnapping or loss of life? In case of violence against civilians?
Questions we could not answer.

The Islamic State, the only real reason why it would be good to intervene in Libya, is leading many European governments on the wrong path.
Its presence and its branching - by now very strong - on Libyan soil would be easily manageable even before a probable military intervention.
As I have argued six months ago, there are "non-military" methods to stem the presence of IS in Libya and would allow a significant weakening of troops and supplies.
The keystone of the Caliph is basically his immense wealth; with it it is possible to pay the militias and support the enormous bureaucratic apparatus that they have created in the conquered cities.
The net cut in financial income from the West would result in a weakening of the economic component and consequently also a weakening of the main force of the Caliphate.
When the Caliphate - which behaves like any other economic structure - will no longer have a thriving economy with which to sustain itself will be forced to compromise and undermine its credibility in the eyes of its supporters.

In this case, after an accurate financial intervention and after undermining the cornerstones on which the IS is founded with the support - and the authorization - of the Libyan and Arab governments it will be possible to intervene militarily.

The 18 Agosto 2015 in an extraordinary meeting in Cairo, the Arab League assessed the demands of Tobruk, on the possible use of bombers in the area of ​​Sirte which is in desperate conditions.
There are already several Arab states - from the Algerian government to the Saudi one - which claim that the deteriorating situation in Libya is a threat to the whole region.
Almost certainly, except last-minute opposition (the most probable is that of Saudi Arabia) the Arab League will have to face - at least out of a spirit of foresight - the demands of the Libyan government.
The involvement of the Arab states will certainly be a very valuable incentive against the IS by calculating that they risk being the next victims of the barbarity of the caliphate.

A big important point to touch is the trafficking of human beings which sees Italy widely involved and Europe fugitive.
Seen and considered that the most accredited theory in our country seems to be that of the sinking of the barges, I must point out that this option is not feasible.
Definitely more attentive to the lives of others and even less embarrassing from the international point of view is a unilateral initiative by Italy with both Libyan governments (even if one of them is not recognized).
The approval of the presence of armed men belonging to the Italian armed forces on Libyan ports could act as a deterrent for the departure of the barges of hope.
If the foreign military presence should not be pleasing to the two governments, Italy (and possibly even Europe) could finance together with the Libyans a company of contractors to deal with this problem.
I contractors seem to be a rather innovative solution and reduce those unpleasant squabbles related to the presence of foreign armed forces on Libyan soil.

The decrease in ships (if this can be defined) and the consequent landings would undermine a cornerstone of IS finances.

The Islamic State arrived in Sirte last February after having occupied some local radio stations, for four months the city was divided between the IS militia and a militia loyal to the Tripoli government, the one led by the "Dawn of Libya" coalition .
In mid-June, however, the men of the militia loyal to the Tripoli government withdrew from Sirte and ISIS was able to occupy the city.
We do not know how it would have gone with a government of national unity but surely the pressures on the government of Tripoli would have been greater so that it did not leave the posts.
In this case, even by mutual agreement with the Tobruk counterpart, a small coalition could have been created to defend the city and conquer it.
From Sirte it was then easy for IS men to extend control over other towns near the city.
At present the Caliph has put his hands on a portion of territory almost a hundred kilometers long.

In the week of Ferragosto, when Italy was getting ready for the celebrations, the IS managed to reach the city of Derna, killing several hundred people with random actions.
Here, in October 2014, a group of Libyan fighters who had just returned from Syria declared their loyalty to the leader of the Islamic State Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, sanctioning the birth of Libyan ISIS.

The control of the IS on Derna cannot be said to be absolute but it is nevertheless a mirror of how this organized militia can harm the social life of a country that is trying to find the way to rise again.

It is precisely under the sign of rebirth that peace talks are currently being held between the governments of Tripoli and Tobruk which should lead to a national unity government in the coming weeks.
The hope of many observers and analysts is that with a new government united towards a common enemy it will direct its efforts against the IS and the other independent militias.

Unfortunately, the Islamic State has a very big impact on the masses of Western public opinion, but this does not mean that it is right to plunge headlong into an impracticable war.
At the base of every modern international mission there must be the political support of a government capable of coordinating aid and guaranteeing national sovereignty.
We remember with a veil of sadness Afghanistan where we intervened with a blindfold on the eyes regardless of the concept of exit strategy and taken by the heat of the moment.
At a distance of 15 years it is practically impossible to sum up the ISAF mission that left a country in jeopardy due to the haste to leave.
In Libya we should at least have learned that the strategic base is not a quirk to deal with after the opening of a mission but first.

Italy, for this and for other reasons explained above, should not support military intervention in Libya's current geopolitical conditions.
On the contrary, it should become the spokesman for a current intervention that favors the targeted and precise use of its armed forces in a context of maximization of the military component.
Italy can support this line of intervention by completely detaching itself from the most typically American vision.

We can now decide whether Libya will be a new Somalia or a resounding success.