Tuesday 19 July 2022

Libya:Old rivals,new alliance


Libya's prime minister, Abdul Hamid Dbeibeh, has made an unforeseen alliance with his previous enemy, the eastern warlord Khalifa Haftar, in a quote to seal a delicate ceasefire and end a months-long oil blockade.

Less than 3 years ago, Haftar's self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) besieged Tripoli in a failed effort to capture the capital. On Monday, in a highly symbolic gesture, LNA's chief of personnel, Abdulrazek al-Nadoori, was welcomed to visit the city for talks.

The prospect of Dbeibeh and Haftar burying their distinctions might be welcomed by the United Nations as it has a hard time to maintain a ceasefire that ended a six-year civil war in 2020.

Dbeibeh had currently made an effective gesture to Haftar's supporters, with his sacking recently of the director of the state-owned National Oil Corporation, Mustafa Sanalla.

Sanalla had actually been at odds with pro-Haftar protesters who had actually been blockading eastern oil ports for months, sending oil exports into a down spiral. Those protests ended within hours of Sanalla's elimination, raising the prospect of Libya returning to complete oil production.

Western governments will enjoy with the return of Libyan oil to a constricted world market, but some will balk at the enhanced role for Haftar.

The 78-year-old general is a polarising figure. He is popular in the east for his campaign against anarchic militias, however his enemies accuse him of war crimes throughout the siege of Tripoli.

London and Washington are also concerned about Haftar's closeness to Russia, which supports him with mercenaries from the Kremlin-backed Wagner group.

" The Americans and the British had been following a policy where Haftar must be contained, because of his relations to Russia," stated Mohamed Eljarh, director of Libya Desk, a risk consultancy. "They had supported Dbeibeh as a guard against Haftar, today he's done a deal Haftar."

Meanwhile, Dbeibeh's takeover of the national oil corporation is questionable. When the existing chairman refused to be sacked, Dbeibeh sent out troops to occupy the structure on Thursday and force him out. Numerous are dissatisfied with Sanalla's replacement, Farhat Bengdara, a previous reserve bank chief during Muammar Gaddafi's dictatorship.

Bengdara, for his part, has actually promised openness for the NOC, combined with a significant pay rise for oil workers.

The use of troops to take control of NOC head office has likewise made oil experts worried. "The unrefined markets will welcome the stability with the resuming of Libya's oil ports," said Mark Rossano, president of financial investment consultant Capital Holdings. "However, concern stays about the length of time this time out in demonstrations and in-fighting will last."

Dbeibeh's hold on power is precarious. Previously this month, demonstrations erupted in nine cities against corruption and power cuts. Dbeibeh was initially installed as a momentary prime minister to run the country up until elections due last December. When those elections were cancelled, amid constitutional arguments, he decided to stay on, in spite of Libya's parliament requiring he step down.

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