World View: Western Nations Agree to Lift Arms Embargo on Libya to Fight ISIS

This morning’s key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

  • Western nations agree to lift arms embargo on Libya to fight ISIS
  • ISIS continues to grow in Libya in size and effectiveness

Western nations agree to lift arms embargo on Libya to fight ISIS

ISIS in Libya
ISIS in Libya

The headline on this article seems a bit perverse, doesn’t it. How is lifting the arms embargo on Libya going to fight ISIS? A lot of people are wondering exactly that.

On Monday, officials from 25 countries in Europe and the Middle East met in Vienna, in a meeting jointly chaired by the U.S. and Italy, to discuss what to do about the rapid growth of the so-called Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh) in Libya. The decision was to supply arms to Libya’s “unity government,” the Government of National Accord (GNA), which is backed by the United Nations.

Despite the continuing growth of the so-called Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh) in Libya, and the danger that this represents not only to northern Africa but also to Europe, Western powers are unable to agree on a form of military action that will destroy ISIS or even stop its growth. As we reported in January, Western countries felt that it was urgent to mount a military action in Libya by the beginning of March. ( “6-Jan-16 World View — US, Britain, France preparing new Libya military offensive early in 2016”)

However Italy, Libya’s former colonial power, has always insisted that Libya’s government had to approve any Western military action before it could occur. That’s been a continuing problem, since there are two major governments in Libya, one in Tripoli in charge of western Libya and one in Tobruk in charge of eastern Libya. There are also nearly 2,000 militias running different parts of Libya.

The United Nations approved Government of National Accord (GNA) has received some level of approval from the government in Tripoli, but little from the government in Tobruk. The GNA controls only a fraction of Libya, and only a fraction of the militias.

The result is that Italy has decided that it’s too early to send in troops. Italy’s defense minister Roberta Pinotti says, “The first step to stabilize Libya is having a government that can represent the different parts, and can thus take the necessary step to make a request to the international community.”

Reports in March seemed to suggest that Italy might send up to 5,000 troops. By late April, that number was said to be closer to 900. But now, Italy will not even contribute troops to a peacekeeping force, and reports indicate that the U.N. Support Mission in Libya (UNSML) would instead be bolstered by Nepalese troops instead.

Monday’s decision to lift the arms embargo in Libya has been derided by some analysts as “kicking the can down the road.” First, Libya is already awash in weapons that were left behind in weapons stores previously owned by Muammar Gaddafi before he was overthrown. Second, the government in Tobruk has been receiving weapons from its allies, and so has gotten around the embargo. Third, lifting the arms embargo may end up benefiting ISIS, by making it easier for them to import arms.

The bottom line is that Western nations can only watch as ISIS becomes larger and more powerful in Libya. Western leaders and Western publics have little appetite for any military intervention in Libya, and so it will probably take some major crisis event to change things. BBC and Washington Post and Guardian (London) and Washington Post

ISIS continues to grow in Libya in size and effectiveness

The ISIS stronghold in Libya is in Sirte, from which it controls a strip of more than 250 km (155 miles) of Libya’s central coastline, from which it has launched attacks to the east, west and south. ISIS forces last week launched a surprise attack on local militias, enabling it to capture several towns southwest of Sirte, increasing the area it controls.

There are signs of increased cooperation between Boko Haram in Nigeria and ISIS in Libya. Both Boko Haram and ISIS have become increasingly effective with time, and analysts are now concerned that the ties between the two terrorist organizations could herald a push south into the vast, lawless Sahel region and create a springboard for wider attacks.

ISIS has also been stepping up attacks on neighboring Tunisia from its strongholds in Libya, where it has set up training camps. In March, ISIS launched a major assault on the town of Ben Guerdane in Tunisia, on the border with Libya. More than 4,000 Tunisians are thought to have left to fight for ISIS and other militant groups in Iraq and Syria. Some are returning to join ISIS in Libya, threatening more attacks on Tunisia.

Last week, the United States said it would give jeeps, communications technology and small aircraft to Tunisia to help protect the border with Libya. The US is already striking training camps in Libya to protect Tunisia. ( “20-Feb-16 World View — US warplanes strike suspected ISIS training base in Libya”)

Concerns are also growing because of the EU-Turkey migrant deal, which has reduced the flow of migrants from Turkey into Greece. The flow of migrants from Syria and Iraq has been irrepressible, and reports indicate that human traffickers are planning to use different routes. It’s possible that there may be hundreds of thousands of migrants crossing from Libya to Europe this summer. Many of the human traffickers in Libya are part of ISIS, and the surge in migrants will pour a lot of money into ISIS coffers. Telegraph (London) and Asharq Al-Awsat (London) and Reuters and Business Insider

KEYS: Generational Dynamics, Libya, Sirte, Tripoli, Tobruk, Italy, Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria/Sham/the Levant, IS, ISIS, ISIL, Daesh, Government of National Accord, GNA, Roberta Pinotti, U.N. Support Mission in Libya, UNSML, Nepal, Muammar Gaddafi, Nigeria, Boko Haram, Tunisia, Ben Guerdane, Turkey
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