Friday, February 24, 2017

EU looks to Russia for help with Libya chaos: Libya has no central government, is main departure point for massive population transfer from Africa to Europe, 90% of which consists of men, including some Islamic terrorists. Five short years ago, Libya was a country of great wealth and stability--CNN, 2/10/17

90% of Libya migrants are men. (Third chart in 2nd article below). 

2/10/17, "Libya: Why the EU is looking to Russia," CNN, Laura Smith-Spark and Angela Dewan

"EU leaders are turning to Russia as they seek to stabilize Libya, stem the flow of migrants departing its shores for Europe and combat Islamist terrorism.

But what is Russia's stake in the volatile North African nation?

One Libyan figure may prove to be central to any negotiations: Gen. Khalifa Haftar, whose forces have been fighting Islamists and control a chunk of the country's east. He's already been talking to Russia.

Here's what you need to know:

Put simply, Libya is in a mess. Five years after the fall of strongman leader Moammar Gadhafi, three governments vie for power, multiple tribes compete for influence and a slice of the country's dwindling oil wealth, and ISIS has gained a foothold in some areas.

Keen to promote stability, the United Nations hastened in a Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) early last year. But it has failed to gain real popular support or legitimacy, said US-based Libya analyst Ronald Bruce St John.

It continues to compete with the Islamist-dominated General National Congress in Tripoli, also known as the Government of National Salvation, and with the previous internationally recognized government, the Council of Deputies, which has set up camp in the east of Libya and backs Haftar.

Haftar, who heads the so-called Libyan National Army, has been working to drive out Islamist forces, with some success, said St John. His forces now control much of the east, including Benghazi and most of the major oil producing and exporting areas -- crucial to Libya's economy, said St John.

Libya is one of seven Muslim-majority countries listed in US President Donald Trump's travel ban as a security threat. 

Libya's chaos, explained in five graphics

What is Russia's interest in Libya?

In the last six to nine months, Russia has been trying to take advantage of the chaos and instability in Libya to establish itself as a regional player, said St John. After gaining a "major foothold" in Syria, where it has backed the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, influence in Libya could allow it to expand its reach into North Africa, he said....

In Syria, Russia has been able to act as a power broker, bringing the warring sides together for talks where others have failed, Walker said -- and it may seek the same role in Libya.

"Certainly by engaging with different political actors in Libya, it's looking to reassert its presence there, not necessarily militarily but as another power player in the region," she said....

Russia is also "disappointed" by the results of Western involvement in the Middle East, he said, which it largely blames for the fall of pro-Moscow regimes in Iraq and Libya, and associated political and economic losses.

What are the economic drivers for Russia?

The Arab Spring and subsequent instability in the region has been a blow to Russia's economy, Kozhanov said. Russia had huge investments in Libya before the Arab Spring -- from military infrastructure to railroad construction to energy.

The Soviet Union was also a major supplier of weapons to Libya's former strongman leader Moammar Gadhafi following his rise to power in 1969, said St John. Russia would like to tap back into that market, he said. In addition, Libya has oil and gas reserves that could offer future development opportunities, said Walker.

Who is Gen. Haftar and why does he matter?

Haftar -- who defected from Gadhafi's military to live in exile in the United States before returning to Libya in 2011 -- will have to be brought on board if a stable Libyan government with popular support is to be formed, said St John. 

The general opposes the rule of the UN-backed Tripoli government and has indicated he might try to extend his power base to the Libyan capital, said St John.

Haftar traveled to Moscow last year and met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. He also met with a high-level Russian delegation on board a Russian warship off eastern Libya last month.

Kozhanov said he doubted Russia had a "clear master plan" in Libya -- but links with Haftar could be useful in a future Libyan government. 

What does all this have to do with the migrant crisis?

Libya is a departure point for hundreds of thousands of migrants who have left poverty and repression in African and Middle Eastern nations.
The European Union has struggled to stem the flow of migration from the Libyan coast while the lawlessness there continues -- so forming a stable government is a priority from its point of view.

There are also concerns ISIS is trying to infiltrate Libyan people-smuggling routes to get its militants to Europe.

Europe's migrant crisis is not a real factor in Russia's plans, said Kozhanov. But, he said, "Moscow often offers to cooperate with the West on the anti-terrorist agenda, using it as the way to make the West less interested in confronting Moscow on other topics." That would include Ukraine, where Russian aggression has led to European sanctions.

US President Donald Trump has also spoken of working with Russia to fight Islamist terrorism.

What overtures has the EU made toward Russia?

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini last week spoke by phone about Ukraine, Syria and Libya with Lavrov. The pair have agreed to meet in the coming weeks, perhaps on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference.

"Both on Libya and Syria, we decided to find ways to join efforts and cooperate," said Mogherini of her call with Lavrov, adding that working with the Russians to help Libyans unite their country "can only be a positive thing."

Italian Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano also spoke with Lavrov about Libya, Russian state news agency Tass reported, citing Italian newspaper La Stampa.

Are there pitfalls in working with Russia?

Many European nations -- as well as the US -- also condemned Russia for its military intervention in Syria, particularly its role in Assad's siege of Aleppo.

What has Russia said?

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said last week that all sides should look to negotiations, not force, to resolve the situation in Libya. 

She stressed that Russia was talking to various political forces in Libya, not just Haftar, and planned to receive Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, head of the GNA, in Moscow this month.

90% of Libya migrants are men. (Third chart in article below). 

Aug. 4, 2016, "Libya's chaos, explained in five graphics," CNN, Bryony Jones, Anastasia Beltyukova 

"Five short years ago, Libya was the wealthiest and most stable nations in Africa. 

The country had been led by Colonel Moammar Gadhafi for more than 40 years, since he seized power in a 1969 coup, and its six million citizens enjoyed the benefits of the country's vast oil wealth.

Then the Arab Spring took hold, Gadhafi was toppled and summarily executed, and things got a whole lot more complicated. 

After years of uncertainty and upheaval allowed ISIS militants to gain a foothold in the country, the U.S. has begun carrying out airstrikes to try and oust them. 

Fixing Libya is going to take more than a few raids as these five graphics explain.

Libya is made up of three historic regions: Tripolitania in the northwest, Fezzan in the southwest, and Cyrenaica in the east, which were linked together as an Italian colony in the early 20th century. 

Each area is home to different denominations and interpretations of Islam, and to a variety of disparate tribes -- many Libyans' primary identity rests with their tribe, rather than their nation. 

Libya currently has not one but three ruling powers, all of whom make some claim to be in "government." 

The U.N.-backed Government of National Accord (now based in the capital, Tripoli, under Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj) took charge in December 2015, tasked with unifying a country bitterly divided by years of conflict. 

But the Islamist-dominated Government of National Salvation (also based in Tripoli, under Prime Minister Khalifa Ghwell) still has some support, and the capacity to cause trouble, and across the country in Tobruk, its one-time rival, the House of Representatives, has so far been unable to formally concede power to the GNA because of safety concerns. 

Libya is also home to a host of militia groups, and Mattia Toaldo, senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, says the country is "de facto...split in several areas similar to medieval city-states."

ISIS fighters infiltrated Libya in 2014, first seizing the Mediterranean coastal town of Derna, close to the Egyptian border, and then capturing Gadafi's hometown, Sirte, further west. 

Taking advantage of the country's political chaos, the militants carried out attacks in Tobruk, Benghazi, Misrata, and the capital, Tripoli, as well as  on the Al-Ghani oil field.

Libya is one of the main stops along the migrant route to Europe.

 In recent years, thousands of people have fled sub-Saharan Africa via rickety, dangerous boats from ports along Libya's Mediterranean coast, heading for the Italian island of Lampedusa and on to mainland Italy; the bodies of many have washed back up on its shores a short time later. 

But before the Arab Spring and the chaos that followed it, Libya was itself a destination for huge numbers of migrants, and many of those remain in the country. 

Widespread unrest -- particularly in ISIS-held areas around Sirte and Derna -- have also forced thousands of people from their homes." The International Organization for Migration says there are currently some 425,250 internally displaced people in 
the country."

No comments: