Richard Galustian

The West has totally misjudged the situation in Libya

The West has totally misjudged the situation in Libya
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Libya’s former Prime Minister Dr. Mahmoud Jibril has become the first senior leader of its Arab Spring revolution to call time on the country’s new western-backed government, saying 'the chances of success are very slim'. This apparent failure hasn't been caused by a lack of support, which has poured in from London and Washington in a bid to get the Government of National Accord (GNA) to stand up and walk on its own two feet. It was also hoped that by doing this, a fix could be found for the twin problems of Islamic State and mass migration. But Dr Jibril, who helped steer the country through its brutal uprising against Muammar Gaddafi, says foreign powers made a mistake by installing an unelected regime without popular support.

Speaking to me last week, he said 'The legitimacy of any regime or government should be based on its people’s support, not foreign backing only. It shows a huge gap between what Libyans want and what foreign powers plan for.' Instead of uniting the country, he warned the GNA may trigger the country's partition, already far advanced with the rival eastern government’s central bank issuing its own currency yesterday.

Two months after arriving in the capital, the seven-strong GNA presidency council - two members have already quit - remains stuck in a Tripoli naval base, whilst the city itself remains largely controlled by militias of Islamist-led Libya Dawn. The civil war between Libya Dawn and the army of General Khalifa Haftar rages as brightly as before, complicated by what has become a three-way battle with Islamic State for the key Sirte Basin oilfields. Meanwhile migrant gangs, far from being hoovered up, are booming, with 13,000 migrants - a new record - plucked from the Mediterranean last week, as Libya replaces Turkey as the key route to Europe.

For Dr Jibril, the failure of the new government began with the West’s decision to handpick yes-men, rather than talk to key players. Speaking to CNN this week, he said: 'The real players, the real doers on the ground starting with militia leaders, political leaders, and tribal leaders were not invited. We had one government then we had two governments, now we’ve ended up with three governments.'

Diplomats like to blame General Khalifa Haftar, commander of Libya’s eastern army, for the mess. If only he would roll over and give way to the unity government, all would be well, they say. The reality is that Haftar’s two year battle, Operation Dignity, against Islamist militias in Benghazi has made him a cult hero in many parts of Libya. His relatively disciplined army is the most powerful formation in the country, whilst his support has been bolstered by the decision of GNA prime minister Fayaz Serraj to side with Libya Dawn militias in Tripoli.

All of which leaves London and Washington in a quandry. The GNA was their big idea. But its failure to tackle IS or migration, as well as Libya’s worsening civil war, leaves question marks over its creation in the first place.

Richard Galustian is a defence and security contractor