by John J. Metzler
Weirs Times Contributing Writer
UNITED NATIONS—Five years after the Arab Spring revolutions which swept the Middle East, the expansive North African country of Libya has descended into a dangerous downward spiral in which competing governments, militias, and terrorist elements are all part of a chaotic witches’ brew on the doorstep of Europe. Ominously, according to diplomatic and military officials, the Islamic State (ISIL) terrorists have become entrenched in this strategic but fragmented state which borders six other countries.
Martin Kobler, the UN’s point man on Libya told the Security Council that five years after the collapse of the former Gadaffi regime, the current political and military vacuum in Libya “is allowing terrorist groups and criminal networks to establish deep roots,” as the country has “no effective state institutions.”
Though Gadaffi was opposed by local uprisings, primarily in Benghazi which then led to the concerted political effort by both France and the United States and a subsequent allied air war which while toppling the dictator, opened the door to unmitigated chaos which endures to this day.
Mr. Kobler said that Islamic State or Daesh, as it’s known in the Arab world, is expanding its grip. He added “while Libya’s resources are dwindling, the criminal networks, including human smuggling , are booming.” ISIL militants are carrying out beheadings and other antiquities according to the UN to solidify their reign of intimidation.
He implored, “Daesh in Libya constitutes an urgent and growing threat to Libya, the region and beyond.”
Don’t assume for a moment that this teetering regime is yet another isolated and forgotten candidate for “failed state” status: Libya is strategically perched along the Mediterranean coast facing Malta and Italy, bordering Egypt and Tunisia, and opening a conduit to the impoverished Islamic Sahal countries to the such as Chad. Libya serves as a major conduit for illegal migrants flows from Africa into southern Europe.
Despite being ruled by the erratic dictator Colonel Mummer Gadaffi for forty years, Libya was a relatively prosperous state largely supported by a slush of petrodollars. As early as the 1970’s Colonel Gadaffi was a patron saint of international terror, predating even the Ayatollahs in Islamic Iran, and served as a terrorist paymaster from Northern Ireland to the south Philippines.
Libyan agents masterminded the bombing of Pan Am flight #103 over Scotland killing 243 passengers and 16 crew. But after the United States/British coalition toppled Saddam in Iraq, Gadaffi was basically “back in his box” as a contemporary threat.
Thus when France’s President Nicolas Sarkozy and the Obama Administration, with the active encouragement of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, decided to support the uprising against Gadaffi, the dynamic soon changed from a tribal/ethnic rebellion against a long ruling tyrant, to an international military mission which was authorized by the UN Security Council after some serious arm twisting by the Clinton State Department.
Significantly, the operation soon morphed from purportedly protecting helpless civilians in Benghazi, to a wide angle policy of regime change which toppled the dictator later in the year.
A New York Times investigative article on the “New Libya” basically outlined Hillary’s decisive role in the Libya operation. Hillary would make a victory lap in Tripoli, a kind of “Mission Accomplished Moment” before turning her attention and ire elsewhere. According to the New York Times, in a timeline of events by the Secretary of State’s top policy aide Jake Sullivan, cites Clinton’s “leadership/ownership/stewardship of this country’s Libya policy from start to finish,” as he wrote.
A year later on September 11, 2012, Islamic jihadi terrorists attacked the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, killing the American Ambassador Chris Stevens, as well as three security staff in a premeditated terrorist attack still not fully explained to this day.
In testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, U.S. Army General David Rodriguez, called Libya a “failed state” and warned that foreign fighters, weapons and illegal migrants are flowing through the embattled country.
The spillover of ISIL terrorism from Libya into neighboring states is a particular danger to Tunisia’s fragile democracy.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon stated starkly, “Libya’s future is at stake. The reverberations echo far. Right now we face the terrifying source of Daesh expanding in Libya and beyond its borders.’’ He added hopefully, “Success in stabilizing Libya will benefit the Sahel and our world.” Failure here could open a new migrant wave on to Europe’s shores.
John J. Metzler is a United Nations correspondent covering diplomatic and defense issues. He is the author of Divided Dynamism The Diplomacy of Separated Nations: Germany, Korea China.