European values are fairly clear: they want oil to travel northward, not people. Haftar, at the cost of the Libyans themselves, will make that happen.
by Vijay Prashad
You can well imagine the tension when Libya’s beleaguered Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj met with the UN envoy Ghassan Salamé in his office in Tripoli on Monday morning. Not far away, in the south of Libya’s capital, the troops of the Libyan National Army led by General Khalifa Haftar had made rapid advances. They had taken the shell of Tripoli International Airport and had made a dash toward the road that links Libya to Tunisia. Haftar’s troops, well-armed and well-disciplined, had moved northward toward the Ain-Zara neighborhood. On Monday, Haftar’s air force bombed the only working airport in Tripoli—at Mitiga. The United Nations wanted to let al-Serraj know that it would not abandon him.
Part 2 - UN Government
NATO destroyed Libya, but the UN was forced to pick up the pieces. This has become such a familiar sight. The West bombs a country, then withdraws; the UN, often with peacekeepers from the Global South, has to do triage.
A few days ago, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres came to Libya. He had hoped to broker a peace. Nothing seemed possible. “I leave Libya with a heavy heart and deeply concerned,” Guterres said. Guterres had been accompanied in his trips to see al-Serraj, the UN-backed prime minister, and Haftar. Guterres, whose UN has sent in a succession of five envoys since 2011, was perhaps aware that the work the UN did to unite the country’s factions that led to the government of al-Serraj was soon to unravel.
Al-Serraj, who comes from a wealthy and well-connected family, was always the UN’s prime minister. It has long been said in Libya that al-Serraj’s government is more interested in “international” (meaning Western) support than in Libyan support.
Basic needs of the population have not been met, with power and water being a challenge and security non-existent in parts of the country. Al-Serraj’s government has been bolstered by certain militias that came into their own during the NATO war. Disagreements over the role of political Islam tore apart Libya’s institutions, with a House of Representatives in the eastern city of Tobruk refusing to recognize the government in Tripoli.
Haftar and al-Serraj had several meetings. The United States, the Gulf Arabs, France, Egypt and Russia have been eager to see progress between the two sides. The prime minister and the general met in Cairo (February 2017), in Abu Dhabi (April–May 2017) and in Paris (May 2018). At each meeting, they substantially agreed on basic principles—a peaceful solution, for instance—but did not agree on specifics. Officials in al-Serraj’s government said that they hoped to bring in Haftar as the head of the army of the Government of National Accord.
But Haftar had other dreams. He saw that there was unrest in Tripoli about the inefficiency and inconsiderateness of the government. There was even a protest against Salamé. Haftar is the kind of man who has great ambition but no real agenda. He will take all of Libya, but he has not said what he would do with it.