As terrorist attacks are reported to have taken place in Tripoli it's high time to sort out things that are really happening in Libya, to learn what decisions may end bloodshed there and what is the role of General Khalifa Haftar in this context. These issues were discussed with Andrea Foffano, a security and intelligence expert at the Venice-based Institute of Economic, Security and Geopolitical Problems (ASCE, http://www.scuolacompetizioneeconomica.it).
- What is the situation in Libya keeping in mind the recent events?
- I would say that the stage of circumspect has come to replace the stage of offensive. I don't believe that General Haftar is going to break the blockade of Tripoli at the first attack. He knows the people of Libya well enough and knows that in order to solve this situation he needs to secure consensus through political mediation. Just as al-Sarraj understands that it is impossible to stabilize the situation in Tripolitania only through agreements with various militia groups that often are at war with each other. There is an impression that we have got into a stage of strategic studying which can result in an agreement between the parties.
- And what will Haftar do?
- Although he has few European sponsors, I believe that Haftar is taking the correct political steps – he is trying through negotiations to get a prestigious post in the government, for example defense minister or commander of the new united national army. I don't think he is after the post of prime minister. Libya is a complicated country with hundreds of militia groups that are in conflict with each other, and it seems to me that today only Saif, Gaddafi's son, is able to bring all main tribes to the same negotiating table.
- Will this scenario mean the defeat of al-Sarraj and the incumbent Government of National Accord?
- Chairman of the Presidential Council and Prime Minister al-Sarraj doesn't enjoy full control even over the capital. Let me say once again that there are too many conflicting militia groups, too many tribes in the country. The situation is very complicated.
- Will the world treat the return of Gaddafi to power as a defeat?
- The return of Gaddafi's son may well be welcomed at the international level. We, the Italians, bet on the wrong horse, we were shortsighted, and the international community was far more shortsighted having begun shelling Libya in 2011. Everyone wanted a united government, be it even imposed on the Libyans from outside.
The problem of migrants that Italy suffers from is related to the absence of coast guards in Libya capable of permanently patrolling the situation on the shore. A strong leader will undoubtedly secure the effectiveness of the Libyan Navy, which means he will significantly improve the situation of Italy.
The rise of Saif Gaddafi to power with the support of Haftar could become a barrier to Islamic terrorism as well. Together they can become the only ones who have enough power to cast a deadly blow to various units of al-Qaeda and ISIL (both terrorist organizations are banned in Russia) by isolating tribes that have links with these groups.
- And what should Italy do?
- The Italians are Europeans who have the broadest presence in Libya and who are engaged in the country's social structure more than others. That is why much is said about the role that Italy could play during the period of restoration. There was a special group of more than 100 companies that invested in Libya's restoration in the northeast of the peninsula. However, regretfully, they found themselves in an unsafe situation in the country, and the investments were either lost or frozen. Reconciliation especially with Italy's participation is likely to help them return. Even during the first period after the elimination of Gaddafi, the Italians managed to engage locals into construction works, for example the reconstruction of an international airport or hospitals. Italy can effectively help Libya in restoring trade, using port infrastructure and adjusting transport communication between various cities.
- Are there terrorist-related militia groups among supporters of the Government of National Accord?
- There are tribes linked to radical Islamists, and they are involved in this infighting by the very course of nature. Let me say once again: only the Government of National Accord can defeat terrorism in Libya and oust it from the country once and for all. From this point of view, the authority of General Haftar is of course indisputable. During his offensive Haftar took districts with strong hotbeds of resistance that had been provoking instability on a major part of the country's territory. But his victories should be fought till the end. It is needed that a charismatic person leads the Government of National Accord who is capable of brining as many persons and tribes of Libya to the same negotiating table evading at the same time the participation of Islamist groups ISIL and al-Qaeda.