Friday, 17 May 2013

Power To The Wrong People

Security remains a major problem in the country. Progress is being made but it is slow because the government wants to disarm or otherwise disable militias without triggering another civil war. The dozens of major militias know they are unpopular and are under government and popular under pressure to disband. The growing number of anti-militia demonstrations is evidence of that. Most of these militias don’t agree with each other but are united by the desire to stay in business (be it just stealing or Islamic terrorism). If the government comes on too strong many of these militias could unite and put up some serious resistance. More civil war is very unpopular among nearly all Libyans, especially now that the economy is reviving. The government is training more police and some areas are organizing anti-militia defense volunteers. These could be called militias, except that they are led and staffed by people who are very hostile to the militia concept. Such local volunteer groups are common around the world when organized armed groups become intolerable.
On the Egyptian border security personnel strive to keep weapons smugglers from getting into Egypt and Egyptians from illegally entering Libya looking for work. Some 4,000 Egyptians have tried that so far this year and they come by land and sea. It’s unknown how many weapons (stolen from government warehouses or troops during the revolution) have made it into Egypt. Every month several shipments are detected and seized. 
In neighboring Tunisia police and soldiers have been searching for about fifty Islamic terrorists who are operating in the Atlas Mountains near the Kasserine Pass. The search concentrated on a hundred square kilometers of sparsely populated forests and mountains without much success. Algerian border security in that area has been increased in case the terrorists try to flee that way and none are expected to head for Libya. This is the first time Tunisia has had to deal with armed Islamic terrorists since 2007. The armed men in the Atlas Mountains have been active in the area for at least six months. Some of these terrorists recently fled Mali and others are from Algeria. These were joined by a smaller group (a dozen or so) of Tunisian Islamic terrorists who had apparently not been active until joined by all these new men and a few local recruits. Because of this increase in violence the moderate Islamic government of Tunisia has declared war on Islamic radicals and these groups have responded by accepting the challenge and promising a lot more violence. Eleven of the 32 terrorists killed nearby in an attack on an Algerian natural gas field in January, were Tunisian, which provided a hint that there were a lot more Islamic terrorists in Tunisia than the government wanted to admit. That group had travelled through Libya to reach their target. 
The U.S. FBI has identified 25 of the 45 people it has photos of attacking the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi last September. This left the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans dead. The FBI is seeking more information on three of the 45, apparently in the belief that they are leaders. 
May 15, 2013: For the second time in the last six months the Zueitina oil terminal (180 kilometers southwest of Benghazi) was shut down because demonstrators (demanding jobs or more money from the government) blocked access. 
May 13, 2013: A car exploded near a hospital in Benghazi killing three people. Thought at first to be a car bomb, further investigation revealed that it was an accident, when explosives used for fishing accidentally detonated. 
May 12, 2013: The militias besieging several ministries in the capital have finally withdrawn, several days after their main demand (a law barring Kaddafi era people from serving in government) was met. This allowed employees to return to work at the Foreign and Interior ministries. 
In neighboring Tunisia police broke up a large demonstration by Islamic radicals. 
May 11, 2013: A police station was attacked in Benghazi and damaged. One of the attackers was killed and the incident was apparently an act of revenge by someone angry at the police. 
May 10, 2013: There were two attacks on police stations in Benghazi early today. There were no casualties, just property damage. Later in the day there were anti-militia demonstrations in three cities.
The U.S. announced it was withdrawing some of its diplomatic staff because of the growing threat of terrorist violence. This came a day after the U.S. warned it citizens to not visit Libya because of the terrorist threat. Other Western nations have taken similar precautions. 
May 8, 2013: Tunisia arrested a Libyan man at a southern port and seized 150 kg (330 pounds) of explosives on his fishing boat. This is the latest such incident as individuals from Libya continue trying to smuggle weapons into Tunisia. Islamic radicals and gangsters are the customers for this stuff and so far the government has not found evidence of any organization behind the smuggling. 
May 5, 2013: Responding to weeks of pressure from Islamic radicals and militias the legislature passed a law banning anyone who worked for Kaddafi from holding political office for the next ten years. Such a law was proposed last December but stalled over the issue of what to do about Kaddafi officials who changed sides during the civil war and people who worked for Kaddafi but were not supporters of Kaddafi. The foreign ministry, like many other ministries, has some senior officials who changed sides during the war. There is an element of class, family and tribal envy here since during decades of Kaddafi rule educated or ambitious Libyans could either go into exile (which many did) or work for the government. Some supported Kaddafi’s ideas about a benevolent (in theory) dictatorship, most did not. After Kaddafi fell two years Libyans were split on the issue of barring everyone who ever worked for Kaddafi (including those who quit and fled the country) from government employment. For many Libyans it’s all black and white and no compromise will be tolerated. But many of Libyans who could be banned are just the sort of educated and skilled people the country needs in government right now. The group hardest hit by this is the National Forces Alliance, the coalition that controls the most seats in the legislature. The many officials forced out of office will not disappear and many will continue to influence national affairs as unofficial advisors to their successors. 
May 3, 2013: In Tripoli several hundred anti-militia protestors demonstrated. This attracted some militiamen, who attacked the demonstrators. 
May 2, 2013: The U.S. revealed that their investigation into Libyan nuclear weapons efforts revealed evidence that North Korea supplied key materials and technology. This was made possible by Pakistani nuclear weapons developer A Q Khan, who originally stole technology from the West that enabled him to create Pakistan's nuclear bombs. In 2004 Khan admitted that he had then sold that technology (as a private venture) to other nations (like Libya and North Korea). Outrage from the West over this led Khan to be placed under house arrest. But he was kept away from journalists and spared any prosecution. That was because he was a national hero in Pakistan for creating the "Islamic Bomb." Popular demand eventually led to Khan being released from house arrest four years ago. 

North Korea continued aiding Libya until 2007. After that the Kadaffi government made a deal with the UN and many Western nations to halt its nuclear and chemical weapons programs and get sanctions lifted. But many details of North Korean and Pakistani cooperation were withheld.

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