Making sense of the Libya situation - Politics | PoFo

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Violence in Libya has been in the news quite a lot for the past couple of years, but it has also been very difficult to find information about what exactly is going on.

Starting around July this year the situation has become a lot more clear and transparent, it confirmed a lot of things which, until then, were mostly the realm of speculation.
The emergence of two rival governments also drastically simplified the otherwise complex situation, reducing the number of major factions of interest by an order of magnitude.

As you may have heard, in late August, Libya's capital Tripoli was overrun by the pro-Islamist faction, and the recently elected (with 16% turnout) anti-Islamist legislature consequently ran away to Tobruk, Libya's easternmost major city. Since then most of the western media appears to have all but written off the anti-Islamist government, seeing it as helplessly hanging on to its last bastions in Tobruk and Bayda. The government, however, has no apparent intention of giving up and continues to fight on. Since it appears that no one had done it yet, I've decided to map out the current dividing lines, still fresh and highly blurry.

This is basically what I've got:


So that's basically Libya Today from what I can gather.

The main factions are of course the Tripoli and the Bayda/Tobruk governments, both being broad coalitions composed of many factions - the main ones among them are listed.
Though both of them are pretty diverse in their overall composition and serve as outlets for regional and tribal rivalries more than anything, it is also true that the Tripoli government has an overall "Islamist" flavor to it, while the Bayda government (the legislature is in Tobruk but the actual ministries are supposedly in Bayda) brands itself as more nationalist and liberal, for that reason it makes sense to shorthand them as "Islamist" and "nationalist" forces respectively.

Besides these two, and as usual in such cases, all the ethnic minorities also have their own factions which are ultimately looking out only for their own narrow ethnic interests - though they may ally others as part of that struggle. There are three main minorities in Libya - Berber (Amazigh), Tobou, and Tuareg, each with their own organizations and militias of course.

Among these three, the Berbers are said to have currently sided with the Islamists, though they have given them nothing more than token verbal support thus far. On the other hand the Tuaregs, which fought overwhelmingly on Gaddafi's side during the civil war, are said to be backing the nationalists, though again they appear to be settling their own scores right now more than anything. The Tobou's allegiance is unclear, but they seem to have problems with the Tuaregs.

You may note that since the last time I've made an attempt at such a map, two additional factions had ceased existence - the "green resistance" and "ansar al sharia".

Ansar al Sharia had become one of the leading forces of the "Libya Dawn" coalition - for now, at least. It operates primarily in the Benghazi and Derna regions, where it is actively engaged in fighting against the nationalist forces nominally on behalf of the Tripoli government. Though really, of course, it obey no one and that will be a problem eventually, if it isn't already (there are rumors of clashes among various Islamist factions in Derna, one of which is Ansar al-Sharia).

As for the Gaddafi loyalists, ever since their last major attack in January of this year they had gone quiet and apparently all but disappeared. There's a good reason for that. As the antagonism between the victors of the 2011 civil war picked up pace in early 2014 and turned into an armed confrontation in May, the nationalist faction had reached out to the tribes and figures known for their Gaddafi sympathy and allied with them out of fear of being overwhelmed by the opposition. The weight of circumstances had forced the "nationalist alliance" to open its arms to the losers and outcasts of the 2011 civil war - those who had either supported Gaddafi in 2011, tried to remain neutral, defected late in the war, or had a long history of serving the Gaddafi regime prior to defection. One of the most notable examples of this policy is Zintan's alliance with the Warshfena tribe, based in south-western suburbs of Tripoli, as well as Warfalla tribe to the south-east, both known for being pro-Gaddafi since 2011. Both of those are currently engaged in fighting against Misratan forces near Tripoli, while the Gaddafi's native Qaddadfa tribe is engaged near Sabha itself. The tribes are of course looking out for themselves, so they are more than willing to drop or at least tone down the "green" ideology if it helps to meet their demands - all it takes is to abstain from flying the green flag. Hence, despite all the tribal warfare, there's no "green resistance" for over half a year.

Analyzing the distribution of forces, it becomes apparent that the Bayda/Tobruk government is not actually in such a bad position at all as some people assume it might be. Despite being forced out of Tripoli, it maintains a wide network of supporters among tribes, regional population centers, military infrastructure, and perhaps most importantly - oil and gas. It is indeed a very bad situation for the Islamist coalition, that despite controlling all three of Libya's biggest population centers - Tripoli, Benghazi, and Misrata, they control basically none of the oil that the country produces. They do, however, control the financial infrastructure in Tripoli, including Libya's Central Bank, which is directly involved in oil export and other financial transactions, and that gives them at least some leverage - but not a lot. If a compromise isn't found, the Bayda government can eventually set up its own Central Bank and other financial institutions as well. This would of course force the Islamists to take the energy infrastructure under direct control. So if a compromise isn't found soon, a war over resources is probably looming. The Islamist alliance does however appear to have the numbers and morale on its side, for now.

Some links which may also help to explain the situation: ... bya-66018/ ... fracturing
Small update:


The western front between Zintani and Misrata is becoming clearer.
  • In the north, central Zawiya is under control of the Islamist groups, but the refinery still seems to be operating under the Zintanis. Further west, Zuwara and its airport are definitely under the Zintani control.
  • South and south-east of Zawiya, the Aziziya and Warshfena areas are contested, with the Zintanis claiming to have cut the road connecting Gharyan to Tripoli. Their claim cannot be verified.
  • Misratans control Kikla in the Nafusa mountains, but it is holding out under attack by the Zintani forces. The position of the Berbers is very interesting here. On one hand, they are reportedly sending reinforcements to help defend Kikla, but on the other hand they are refusing to participate in any offensive operations against Zintan. Look like they may be interested in a stalemate emerging.
  • Finally, utter chaos is developing in a small southern Libyan town of Abwari/Ubari, contested by the Zintani, Tobou, and Tuareg forces - and now the Misratans are advancing from the east as well, coming withing 30 km of the city. The reason the city is so important is due to the giant oil fields (El-Sharara and El-Feel) located nearby, currently mostly under Zintani control. Who is supporting who there is unclear to me.

On the eastern front, the nationalist forces appear to have an advantage and they are concentrating everything they have at Benghazi, attempting to establish control over the city.
They began their offensive around October 15 and the battle is currently underway within the city itself. The center of Benghazi is still under the control of the "Libya Dawn" coalition. During the offensive, General Haftar (the de-facto head of the nationalist forces) had broadcast the message urging his supporters in the city to provide information on the location of pro-Islamist fighters in the city and their family members, as well as rise up and help him retake the city. This led to few instances of public lynchings and condemnation from the "Human Rights Solidarity" organization. In the meantime, the nationalists are completely ignoring Derna and Ajdabiya, both areas with heavy Islamist presence. The reasoning can be understood - they are afraid that without a single major city under their control, they will gradually lose their legitimacy and run out of manpower reserves. Since Benghazi is the only one of such cities where they realistically stand a chance, they hope to gain control of it as soon as possible, ignoring other Islamist strongholds in the meantime.

Since the centre of confrontation is around Tripoli in the west and around Benghazi in the east, there does not appear to be any action within the central oil-producing and exporting region. It is my understanding that the PFG sits quietly on top of that infrastructure and shares its proceeds with the Bayda government, waiting for what will happen next. If the Islamists prevail in places like Benghazi, the PFG will probably be willing to switch allegiance without bloodshed.
The information is appreciated and I read this when you first put it forward but was waiting for a bit of a discussion to emerge before commenting - I suppose with Iraq/Syria, Ukraine, Ebola, and everything else, Libya has gone off the popular radar which suits the agenda of those interested in burying coverage of the collapse there.

Some will say NATO fucked its own mission or made a huge blunder, but I disagree. That organization and alliance, which is and must be enemy number one for the last few states straining to hang on today with any degree of credible autonomy in their own affairs, achieved exactly what it wanted to in Libya - A reversion to tribalism rendering the country impotent.

A few quick questions:

1) Who are you supporting? I ask this because I don't see a positive outcome for the country coming from either side at this point, depressing as it is. The only force which turned a disparate collection of tribes into a united and cultured social state was destroyed as a military and political force.

2) Why hasn't overt Egyptian intervention garnered more press?

3) Where is Saif al-Islam Qaddafi being held currently? Depending upon which time of day you check the news it is either Zintan, Tripoli, or somewhere in between and the security situation in Tripoli after its fall to the hardline Islamic reactionaries is completely unclear.

4) Is Sabha "quiet" in relative terms? (Again, conflicting information)
You're welcome FRS.

1) Who are you supporting? I ask this because I don't see a positive outcome for the country coming from either side at this point, depressing as it is. The only force which turned a disparate collection of tribes into a united and cultured social state was destroyed as a military and political force.
No one really. If I lived in Libya I'd most likely be supporting the nationalists, since I'm an atheist and the whole Islam thing doesn't really do it for me, plus the nationalist side is the one that includes most of the tribes who fought for Gaddafi as well as remnants of his armed forces which defected at one point or another. But anyway, I have the luxury of not living in Libya so... It'd probably be more interesting to see what would happen if the Islamists took over. If the nationalists win, we know what will result from that - an attempt at consolidation under a pro-western military dictatorship, trying to copycat Sisi. If the Islamists win though, I don't know what the west will do about that for example. Hell, in theory they should already be bombing Derna since one of the groups there declared its allegiance to ISIS.

2) Why hasn't overt Egyptian intervention garnered more press?
There wasn't any proof. And, well, it's Libya, not Ukraine.

3) Where is Saif al-Islam Qaddafi being held currently? Depending upon which time of day you check the news it is either Zintan, Tripoli, or somewhere in between and the security situation in Tripoli after its fall to the hardline Islamic reactionaries is completely unclear.
I presume he's still in Zintan.

4) Is Sabha "quiet" in relative terms? (Again, conflicting information)
Not quite, a month ago there were clashes in Sabha between the Gaddafa tribe and the Awlad Suleima (pro-Misratan) tribe. The Gaddafis mostly wanted revenge for the death of one of their members, suspected to have been killed by Awlad Suleimas. But they don't have enough strength to wrestle the control of the city from them at this time. Even if they allied with the Tobous, who are also enemies of Awlad Suleima and who also have a presence near the city, they probably couldn't change the situation in their favor right now - the Misratans would just send reinforcements and either massacre them or at the very least fight them to a bloody stalemate.
For the sake of its peoples, I have to support sellouts from operation dignity. Sad as it might be, there will be no replacement to the martyred Ghaddafi. It's a choice of two rotten apples - Qatari / NATO rats vs IS Islamist rats. Everybody votes with bullets. Democratic indeed.

I guess it makes sense for the green resistance to join the nationalists, since IS seems to be a much worse fate to Libya.

By the way, it surprises me to see Sirte under control by the Libyan dawn rats. I assume that means the city is already being annihilated?

Also Pikachu, just curious where you got the info from?

I assume that means the city is already being annihilated?
It was in 2011. There are over 10000 Libyan refugees in places like Tunisia who come from pro-Gaddafi tribes and cannot return to their home cities.
benpenguin wrote:By the way, it surprises me to see Sirte under control by the Libyan dawn rats.

And to think the Arab League conference in 2010 was held here. It just goes to show that in hours of actual crisis, the so-called Arab League is not only worthless as any conceivable front for unity, not only not representative of the Arab people or the few remaining states interested in advancement of the Arabs rather than mere foreign overlordship of them in local costume, but an actual front of what today can be said to be openly enemy interests.

It's a shame when one is reminded that Sirte was once a great city, and in fact it is its status as Muammar Qaddafi's hometown and as a former showpiece city of the Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya (some would say as Libya's "second city" after Tripoli) and not just the fierce and legendary resistance it offered in the final days of the first conventional phase of the foreign-planned breakup of Libya that those foreign proxies decided to make an example of it. Symbolism is important after all.

And now occupied Sirte is a place where the residents who gave their entire lives and staked their futures and their children's futures on a socially just and prosperous Libya which sat at the global-south's crossroads of Arab and African civilization have either been killed or expelled and living as refugees. The majority of those remaining shudder to come outside and see what their city has become and like any other occupied people, eventually have to adapt to keeping their heads down until there is a game changer.

At the moment, Islamists who wouldn't have lasted half a day under the former social-nationalist state walk freely and the picture couldn't be more bleak:

ISIS to launch TV station based in Sirte
Ibrahim Jadhran, the self-declared head of the Cyrenaica Political Bureau and a former rebel commander has said he would “rather stay in jail alongside Abdullah Al-Senussi than broker a deal with Fajr Libya [Operation Dawn]”, claiming he refused advances from the Islamist coalition. ... z3HzM0trpz

Ibrahim Jadhran is the head of the PFG militia which exerts physical control over the Libyan energy infrastructure located in eastern Libya. He had a fallout with the nationalists at one point which led him to briefly declare "Cyrenaican sovereignty", but his hatred for the Misratans and Islamists is something that's also been known all along. His statement can also be interpreted as a sign of confidence that the Islamist coalition is not a significant threat to him.

Abdullah Al-Senussi was the Chief of Intelligence in the Baghdadi Mahmudi cabinet of Gaddafi's Libya.
I realize this is a blanket statement, but the sour taste in his mouth for the Misratans is completely understandable and well deserved. I don't think there is a more provincial and self-righteously dogmatic yet ignorant people in Libya. Some as in every other Libyan town and city supported the nationalist government in 2011 and resistance to the unholy matrimony of the takiris and their inept IMF stooge handlers, but the city was still unique as a hotbed of sympathy for the foreign-orchestrated insurgency in western Libya. At least the concerns of easterners are slightly more reasonable.

As for Abdullah al-Senussi, was it ever confirmed that it was a handsome bribe which facilitated Mauritania's cowardly extradition of him to Libya, and was this same tactic used to induce Nigerien betrayal of Saadi Qaddafi? Why hasn't Oman faced similar pressure (that situation has been treated as some delicate indiscretion and very hushed up)?
In a long-awaited decision (delayed twice now), the Libyan Supreme Court has ruled that the Tobruk-based HoR parliament, and thus also the Bayda government are both illegal.

BREAKING NEWS: Supreme Court rules HoR illegal

By Ajnaddin Mustafa.

Tripoli, 6 November 2o14:

The Supreme Court has issued an unexpected judgement in the dispute over the constitutionality of the House of Representatives. It has decided that proceedings of the General National Congress’ so-called February Committee, which created the GNC’s replacement, the House of Representatives, were unconstitutional. Therefore this summer’s election and the representatives chosen to form the new parliament, were invalid.

It had been expected that the court would be ruling on the technical issue of the hand-over of power. Libya Dawn opponents of the HoR have argued that because the newly-elected legislators did not come to Tripoli for a formal ceremony marking the official transfer of authority from the old parliament to the new, they had never formally assumed power. ... z3IJZGWfxn

Note that unlike most government ministers, the Supreme Court members did not flee from Tripoli when it was taken over by Libya Dawn, and they continue to gather there. This raises some questions about their impartiality.

The Libya Dawn coalition was really hoping that the court would rule in its favor, since that would finally grant their actions some legitimacy. Legitimacy, domestic and international, was one of the big advantages held by the Bayda government thus far - and it translated into very practical advantages on the ground. Now this legitimacy is at the very least very questionable.
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