Forcing Libyan Government to Accept Islamists is a Mistake

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Attempts at peace talks and agreements between the UN-recognized Libyan government and the unofficial government, Libya Dawn, have been unproductive in the past. However, another attempt at such agreements began Monday June 8 in Skhirat, Morocco.

The reported goal of these talks is to establish some sort of united, joint government between the two Libyan forces in order to “finally begin effectively addressing the serious problems of the country”.

An International Business Times article released this morning states that, “Libya’s two rival governments, which have been engaged in bitter conflict over the past year, remain at odds over a number of crucial issues as UN sponsored peace talks entered their second phase”. Some of the issues to which the parties can not agree include: an agreement by all combatants to withdraw from Tripoli; the sharing of power with individuals such as the Prime Minister of Libya, Abdullah Thinni, and the “head of Libya’s Armed Forces, General Khalifa Hafter”; and the lack of specific detail in the political agreement’s terminology.

It is no surprise that the two rival governments “engaged in bitter conflict” are unable to come to terms. After the toppling and overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in the 2011 Libyan Civil War, Libya was thrown into chaos and disorder. As a result, in late August of 2014, the Islamist militia Libya Dawn seized the Libyan capital of Tripoli. Here, Libya Dawn destroyed homes and statues, took over the Tripoli International Airport, and violently targeted individuals from specific opposing tribes. The officially recognized Libyan government was forced to relocate to the city of Tobruk in the northeastern part of Libya. The Tobruk government is unlikely to consider allying with its Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated opposition, especially as Tobruk continues to rely on the support of the U.A.E and Egyptian governments, both stridently anti-Brotherhood.

On Wednesday June 10, delegates at the peace talk negotiations are due to travel to Germany to meet a number of European Union foreign ministers and UN Security Council members. It will be interesting to see the language that is used in the meeting, and what pressures, if any, are imposed on which bodies of government.

Since the installation of Libya Dawn and the forced relocation of the official Libyan government, only conflict and collision followed. With such division and disorder, the country is woefully susceptible to the rising numbers of militias, in particular the expansion into Libya by the Islamic State. Already, the Islamic State has been responsible for numerous attacks in Libya, as previously reported on the Free Fire Blog. Massive executions of Christians and the attack on the Corinthia Hotel in Tripoli are just a some of IS’ bloody crimes.

The woeful reality of the Libyan situation is that IS is only one of the country’s problems. Thousands of refugees have fled the war-torn country for Europe. This journey has left many dead, and the number of those killed in this dangerous attempt will only continue to increase as insistence on a joint agreement is pursued.

UN Special Representative Bernardino Leon, in an address to all the delegates at the commencement of the talks expressed, in his opinion, the true importance of reaching an agreement: “Nothing you do today can ever reverse the terrible pain inflicted on the people of Libya over the past year but it is within your hand and none but yours, to spare the people of Libya”.

It is time for the US to take his advice. U.S. policy should support the internationally recognized Libyan government in Torbruk, and insist upon the disarmament and disbandment of all militias, including Libyan Dawn.  As Free Fire blog has previously noted, “The problem in Libya is not political; rather it is a security problem…We must disarm the militias and fight against terrorism first”.

The United States must understand that while they may have differences, Islamist forces, whether Libyan Dawn, Al Qaeda’s affiliate Ansar al-Sharia, or the Islamic State, all seek to impose Shariah law, and are inherently anti-democratic, and diametrically opposed to U.S. interests.

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