The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain
Week commencing 15th February 2019

The struggle for Libya

by our Arab Affairs correspondent

NINE YEARS after the NATO toppling of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi Libya remains in ruins as rival militias battle it out for control of the country. The authority of the United Nations-backed interim ‘Government of National Accord’ that is supported by Anglo-American and Franco-German imperialism barely stretches beyond the capital, Tripoli. A rival government based in the eastern coastal city of Tobruk is dominated by General Khalifa Haftar, the head of the Libyan National Army. Meanwhile rival sectarian Islamic militias backed by the Saudis and the other feudal Arab leaders battle it out across the country for the favours of the big oil corporations that plunder Libya’s oil.

Russia has established warm relations in recent years with General Khalifa Haftar whose Libyan National Army controls eastern Libya. Now the Kremlin seems to be favouring a greater role for Saif al-Islam, the current head of the Gaddafi family, who is expected to run as the ‘unity’ candidate in presidential elections later this year.

This was confirmed in December when Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov said that Gaddafi’s son should play a role in his country’s political life. Bogdanov said that one of Saif al Islam’s representatives had delivered a letter from him to Moscow earlier in the month in which he had laid out ideas for the political future of Libya and that Saif was in regular contact with Russia.

“We support everyone. We believe that nobody should be isolated or excluded from a constructive political role,” Bogdanov said. “That’s why we are maintaining contacts with all groups who are based in the west, east and south of the country ... Saif al-Islam has the backing of specific tribes in specific areas of Libya and all this should be part of the overall political process with the participation of other political forces.”

Bogdanov said the only way out of the crisis where UN-supervised elections are planned for 2019, is for the rival Libyan factions to agree amongst themselves on power-sharing, which Moscow is pushing as a solution.

Saif al-Islam Gaddafi was captured by a tribal militia as he tried to flee Libya following the death of his father in 2011. The puppet regime in Tripoli sentenced him to death whilst the International Criminal Court (ICC), where those charged are usually presumed guilty before the case even begins, summoned him for one of their ‘trials’ in The Hague. Luckily for him, the Zintan Brigades ignored both demands and eventually freed Saif al-Islam in 2017 following secret negotiations with Gaddafi’s family.

Muammar Gaddafi’s son also has the covert support of the Egyptian government. The Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies, an Egyptian think-tank, quoted sources as saying that another member of the Gaddafi family had been holding meetings with Libyan tribal leaders in Cairo, in order to mobilise their support for Saif al-Islam, based on understandings supported by the Egyptian General Intelligence Service.

Last year Saif al-Islam said he will run for the post of president in the next Libyan general election on the platform of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Libya (PFLL). Ayman Abu Ras, a spokesperson for the party that was set up in 2016, said that Gaddafi wished to focus on a programme of “reform” focused on reconstruction projects that would benefit all Libyans.

The former Libyan leader’s son believes that national reconciliation dialogue involving all the warring parties and transparent elections are necessary in order to overcome the crisis.

Whilst there is no constitutional barrier to a Gaddafi come-back — a law passed in 2013 banning officials in the Gaddafi government from standing for public office was revoked two years later — it is, however, difficult to see how national presidential elections can take place in a country.