Libya is quietly slipping into chaos while the more established debacles of Iraq and Syria dominate in Western headlines and corridors of power. The more grave and consequential the Libyan civil war becomes, the less attention is paid to it. It’s almost as if the country has already been relegated to an embarrassing footnote in the history books, another ‘oops’ on the growing list of flawed Western interventions.
But it can and will get worse if Europe and its international partners choose to stand idle, because there can be no long-lasting stability in North Africa unless Libya is brought under control.
A Security Crisis
It’s a worst-case scenario that has been unfolding with stunning regularity throughout the MENA region: Islamic State (ISIS) moves into a vacuum and quickly becomes entrenched, bolstering its revenue, recruits, and standing with jihadis worldwide. Many thought that Libya would not provide fertile ground for ISIS expansion due to the country’s tight-knit tribal structure and aversion to outsiders. ISIS appears to be proving them wrong by going the franchise route and aligning its ‘brand’ with pre-existing Libyan Islamist outfits. Now the black flag is flying over Sirte and Derna, providing ISIS with a base to make further gains amidst the fighting between Tubruq and Tripoli. There are also more established, al-Qaeda aligned jihadist groups operating in Libya such as Ansar al-Sharia, which is currently proving a tactical headache for General Haftar’s forces in Benghazi. Continue reading →
CAIRO (AP) — On a chilly night, bearded militants gathered at a stage strung with colorful lights in Darna, a Mediterranean coastal city long notorious as Libya‘s center for jihadi radicals. With a roaring chant, they pledged their allegiance to the leader of the Islamic State group.
With that meeting 10 days ago, the militants dragged Darna into becoming the first city outside of Iraq and Syria to join the “caliphate” announced by the extremist group. Already, the city has seen religious courts ordering killings in public, floggings of residents accused of violating Shariah law, as well as enforced segregation of male and female students. Opponents of the militants have gone into hiding or fled, terrorized by a string of slayings aimed at silencing them. Continue reading →
Interviewee: Mary Fitzgerald, The Irish Times
Interviewer: Bernard Gwertzman, Consulting Editor
October 3, 2014
Three years after the fall of Muammar al-Qaddafi, Libya is unraveling at a pace and scale few analysts expected, says Mary Fitzgerald, a Tripoli-based journalist. She says the violence which teeters on the brink of civil war, is rooted more in regional, economic, and social cleavages than religious differences. “Libya’s crisis is too often reduced to a narrative of Islamist versus non-Islamist,” she explains. “It’s less an ideological battle than a scramble for power and resources.” Meanwhile, she says that international efforts to stem the crisis, which are often viewed suspiciously in Libya, have achieved little.
Supporters of Operation Dawn wave Libyan flags in Tripoli as they demonstrate against the new Libyan parliament, September 2014. (Photo: Ismail Zitouny/Courtesy Reuters)
There are constant reports of violence in Libya. How bad is it?
Libyans talk of their country being at its most serious juncture since the uprising against Muammar al-Qaddafi in 2011. The scale and speed of the unraveling this summer has taken many by surprise. The ensuing power struggle has deepened polarization not just in the political sphere but also on the street, and even within families. Many Libyans fear their country could tip into civil war. Continue reading →
Mohsen Derregia was plucked from nowhere to run the $60 billion fund of the Libyan Investment Authority. He found a mess that he spent a year trying to clean up. Now, as many of LIA’s investments are being reassessed, he’s on his way out. He tells an extraordinary tale of sovereign wealth in a conflict-torn country. Further reading Libyan Investment Authority: The KPMG reports Mena Q4 results: Gulf becomes safer; Morocco and Tunisia resist heightened global risks MENA: Arab Spring redraws banking map After the Arab Spring: Taking stock of economies in transition Sovereign wealth funds: The new rulers of finance You are a country emerging from a bloody revolution that has ended 42 years of stultifying dictatorship, and you have one crown jewel: a sovereign wealth fund, fed with national oil wealth, with perhaps $60 billion of assets.
So where do you go, in these liberated but uncertain times, to find the right man to run it? In Libya in 2011 you went, it turned out, to the University of Nottingham Business School. Mohsen Derregia became chairman of the Libyan Investment Authority in April 2012 following a process he describes today as “totally a freak accident”. Indeed, the appointment of an academic, who had left Libya to become a research fellow at Manchester Business School in 2001 before shifting to Nottingham in 2006, puzzled some in the MENA investment community and continues to do so today.