Warnings of Civil War, 'Critical Plight of Civilians' in Libya
Vying militias, governing bodies fight for control in country whose destabilization, critics charge, was worsened by NATO intervention
As instability continues to grip Libya, officials are sounding alarm over the deteriorating situation that could lead towards civil war in the country, where destabilization, critics charge, has deepened since NATO's bombing in 2011.
"The situation in Libya is complicated," Ibrahim Dabbashi, Libya's United Nations Ambassador, told the UN Security Council Wednesday. "Yet the situation since the 13th of July has become even more complicated and the situation might unravel into a full-blown civil war if we're not very careful and wise in our actions."
On July 13, as Reuters reports,
heavy fighting broke out between rival militias vying for control of Libya's main airport, killing at least seven people and forcing a halt of all flights in the worst fighting in the capital for six months.
Yet, as author and professor of international studies at Trinity College Vijay Prashad told Democracy Now! Monday, "This violence has been ongoing since 2011," when the U.S. backed a campaign to oust Muammar Gaddafi. He continued:
There was an attempt—brief attempt—by NATO to try to create a unified command, but they basically gave that up. They bombed the country and opened the door for the different militias to now compete against each other. So the day Gaddafi was killed, from then onwards, the militias have basically been at each other’s throats.
Prashad noted that he was against the NATO bombing campaign, in part because it would lead to chaos and destruction that leaves a country little hope of having the ability to forge a democracy.
Similarly, Jesse Franzblau, policy analyst and freedom of information activist working with the National Security Archive, wrote in June:
In March 2011, as NATO’s intervention in Libya was getting underway, U.S. President Barack Obama predicted that Libya would face serious challenges to ensuring stability, a result of what he called 40 years of tyranny that had left “Libya fractured without strong civil institutions.”
Gaddafi’s legacy is surely relevant. But the current instability is also a direct result of the NATO intervention itself, which fueled the proliferation of armed militias and heavy weaponry in the country and has contributed to the spread of arms throughout the region.
Prashad adds later in his interview with Democracy Now! that
violence in Libya has been there for a long time. In the 1990s, the Libyan state was cracking down against the Islamists, brutally, inside the prison, killing 200 people inside a prison. At that time, the United States didn’t say very much. During the 2000s, when the United States was exporting prisoners to Gaddafi’s jails to be tortured, you know, nobody said a thing. You know, the United States used extraordinary rendition, brought in members of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, including one senior fighter whose wife was, I think, several months pregnant. They were caught in Malaysia, brought to Tripoli. When they walked into Tripoli, the head of the security services says, "I’ve been expecting you." They were hand-delivered by a British plane. So, what we’re saying is that, you know, the violence has been there in Libya for a long time. What I question is these bursts of great humanitarian concern. They don’t come, it seems to me, authentically.
Humanitarian concerns were mentioned at the Security Council meeting, when outgoing United Nations envoy to Libya Tarek Mitri stressed the disproportionate toll violence has taken on the civilian population.
“There is a general deterioration of living conditions. Food, fuel, water and electricity are in short supply. The departure of foreign medical staff and shortages in medical supplies has rendered the plight of civilians more critical,” Mitri said, adding that “no military solution is possible.”
According to reporting by the New York Times this week, senior U.S. officials accused Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, both U.S. allies, of carrying out two airstrikes in recent days targeting militia groups vying for control over Tripoli. The strikes, the Times reports, mark "a major escalation of a regional power struggle set off by Arab Spring revolts."
Hassan Morajea reported for Middle East Eye earlier this week:
Libya is closer than ever to becoming a split country, with two parliaments claiming legitimacy; one in the north-eastern city of Tobruk, the other in the Libyan capital Tripoli, both with their own prime ministers and governments.
But that situation is in flux, as Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni announced on Friday his resignation. His cabinet issued a statement to the new parliament stating that it hopes the new body will create "a new government that represents all Libyan factions without exclusion." BBC News adds:
The Islamist-linked militia which seized the capital, Tripoli, last week has called for the elected MPs to be replaced by the previous body, the General National Congress (GNC).
The Associated Press also reports Friday that militias in Tripoli had accepted a cease-fire call by the UN.
Libya Body Count estimates that over 450 people have been killed as a result of the violence in August alone, and in its briefer on the situation in the country, the Guardian reports that the "conflict is growing ever more savage and civilian casualties are mounting."