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'Elections don't mean more stability in Libya'

Published time: May 20, 2014 10:01
Former rebel fighters who are now intergrated into the Libyan army and form the Diraa al-Gharbiya brigade, are seen with their weapons guarding the western entrance of the capital Tripoli on May 19, 2014.( AFP Photo / Mahmud Turkia)

While everybody is waiting for elections to improve the situation in Libya, we should remember that many countries drowning in violence had elections, like Iraq, and they did not help, Washington correspondent and political analyst Said Arikat told RT.

RT: Former General Khalifa Haftar says he wants to root out terror in Libya. Could this be an attempt to grab power during a security vacuum or could he be a knight in shining armour?

Said Arikat: I think it is a little bit of both. First of all, there is a great deal of violence, a great deal of lawlessness. There are too many militias with different orientations and maybe he looks at the military as the catalyst to restore some sort of order. That may be not viewed too badly by Egypt which has a border with Libya, or Algeria or other countries because everybody is really concerned about the deterioration in the Libyan Sea.

RT: Libya's government claims it has the country under control. So what do you make of that attack on Parliament?

SA: I do not think that actually fits what we see happening in Libya. The head of the Parliament called on the militia themselves to fight the retired general of the Libyan army in this case. So I do not think they really have the situation under control. We saw at least that one airbase, at Tobruk, joined forces with Haftar, that the special forces joined forces with Haftar, so we are seeing a lot of the military element. A lot of the military units are joining forces together with Haftar to restore some sort of order. Is this a coup? It looks like this. Will the government be able to hold onto power? I am not so certain.

RT: The removal of Colonel Gaddafi by Western-backed rebels brought back decades-old tribal tensions. How, if at all, will this chaos be settled?

SA: This is the thing. I do not think that those who aided the Libyan rebellion, to begin with NATO, and flooded the country with arms paid by countries like Qatar, Saudi Arabia, really foresaw all this. In fact, the tribal tensions, the tribal divisions existed in Libya for a long time, it was certain [they would] take advantage of these arms that were flowing uncontrollably into Libya to serve their own power, their own tribal agendas and perhaps garner some of the oil wells and so on. It is not likely to be resolved any time soon. I heard some suggestions that maybe Algeria, Egypt and the United States of the Africa will form some sort of a task force to help the government control large portions of Libya and fight obvious militant militias.

AFP Photo / Abdullah Doma

RT: Libya is scheduled to hold general elections later this year. Can we expect a stable and legitimate government emerging out of it despite flourishing tribal conflicts? Will it be capable of bringing real change to the fragile situation?

SA: It is hoped that election will help, and everybody is waiting for that. Perhaps freezing the activities of the Parliament until such elections takes place may help the situation. But look, having elections and having stability are two separate things. We have had elections in many places, from Iraq to other places where there is actually a great deal of violence. So it can conceivably take place. Whether it can solve the Libyan problem in the long-term remains to be seen.

RT: Fighting between troops loyal to Haftar and Islamists began last Friday in Benghazi and has left dozens dead. Is this the start of a civil war in Libya?

SA: I think that all indications show that basically the violence in Libya is getting out of control, and more and more people are involved. I asked the State Department what do they make of it, and they said “We call on all sides to refrain from violence”. We know they can address themselves to government but who are they talking to in terms of the militias? Nobody really knows. It is not something that is going to be controlled in the near future. We see it happening in Benghazi, we see it happening in many parts of Libya, on the Sub-Saharan Africa border and many other places in Algeria. Algeria closed it border because the situation became so volatile. I expect that violence will spiral out of control in the next couple of weeks.

RT: Is any new foreign intervention possible?

SA: I think the intervention is not likely, but some sort of a coalition where elements of Egyptian special forces, Algerian special forces, maybe some elements of AFRICOM is possible. We have to remember that the US Marines pulled out and relocated into Sicily, so at least for now it does not seem to be intent on intervention, although it does not rule out any kind of airstrikes. There is always a possibility.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.