War on Refugees (II)

BERLIN/TRIPOLI | | libyen

BERLIN/TRIPOLI (Own report) - Libya's government has resolutely rejected the EU's plans for a military operation aimed at terminating the transit of refugees to Europe. No ventures will be allowed that place the country's sovereignty into question, announced a spokesperson of the internationally recognized Libyan government, located in Tobruk. Monday evening, the EU decided to make a four-step military mission to Libya's coastline, which, following an initial phase of "reconnaissance," the EU forces would begin regular inspections of vessels, to then ultimately prepare the way for military operations on Libyan territory. Those operations threaten to lead to armed conflicts with the Libyan branch of the "Islamic State" (IS), which, according to reports, has a strong business interest in refugee smuggling. Thanks to the West having laid the groundwork by overthrowing Libya's long-time ruler Moammar al Gadhafi, the IS was able to establish itself in Darnah, East Libya, as was reported in the spring of 2011. The easiest and surest option of shutting down the refugee smuggling business - permitting the refugees legal entry into the EU - is being contemplated neither in Berlin nor in Brussels.

Contradiction

Libya's government is rejecting the EU's planned military operation along the coast of that country, intended to end the transit of North African refugees to Europe. No ventures will be allowed that place the country's sovereignty into question, announced a spokesperson of the internationally recognized Libyan government, in Tobruk.[1] For the time being, this government is unable to prevail against the self-proclaimed Islamic counter-government, currently in control of Tripoli and Benghazi as well as large portions of the country. Nevertheless, the United Nations has recognized the Tobruk government as the country's legitimate ruler. Monday evening, the EU decided on a multi-step military operation scheduled to begin immediately. The plan is to initially spy on the Libyan smugglers, taking on refugees in Libya for transit to Europe, followed by inspections of the vessels, and ultimately by military operations targeting the smugglers off the Libyan coast as well as on the mainland. Preparations for this operation have already begun.

Darnah

The planned operations against Libyan refugee smugglers not only run the general risk of becoming an armed conflict with Libyan militias, but particularly of becoming a conflict with troops of the Islamic State (IS). IS was able to establish itself in regions of Libya last year - thanks to the NATO countries' vigorous groundwork. This can be seen, for example, in the port city, Darnah in eastern Libya. At the beginning of the West's attack on Libya in March 2011, the situation in the city already hinted at the looming dangers, should Moammar al Gadhafi be violently overthrown.

Al Qaeda

At the time NATO began bombing Libya, it was generally known that there was a strong Islamist orientation in some of the regions of the country. This was particularly true of the city of Darnah. Back in 1970, Islamist fundamentalists in Darnah had rebelled against Gadhafi. During uprisings in the mid 1990s, the city was considered the hub of the Islamist-oriented opposition. Jihadists from Darnah not only were fighting in Afghanistan in the 1980s, but later in Iraq as well. According to documents, discovered by the US Armed Forces in 2007, between August 2006 and August 2007 alone, more than 50 jihadists from Darnah were supporting "Al Qaeda in Iraq." The IS grew out of "Al Qaeda in Iraq." (german-foreign-policy.com reported.[2]) Back in March 2011, NATO countries simply brushed aside perfectly reasonable warnings that al Qaeda was active in Darnah, and could flourish unrestrained, should Gadhafi be overthrown. Reports in major western media organs at the time, clearly pointed to the jihadists' influence. "A veteran of the war in Afghanistan," who explicitly praises “good points,” about Osama bin Laden’s activities, runs "Darnah's defenses," against the Libyan military, reported the New York Times in March 2011.[3]

Islamic State

Soon after Gadhafi was overthrown, a Libyan branch of the jihadist Ansar al Sharia militia established itself in Darnah. These jihadists became famous through their September 11, 2012 attack on the US consulate in Benghazi and killing the US ambassador to Libya along with three other US-citizens. In the fall of 2014, the jihadists in Darnah submitted themselves to the IS' caliphate. Particularly those jihadists, who previously had come from Darnah to Syria to participate in the combat against Bashar al Assad supported this move. They returned to Darnah full of enthusiasm for the IS. The IS has not only firmly established its rule over Darnah - imposing an extremely rigid system of norms and corporal punishment, including executions in soccer stadiums - it has also begun using the free hand provided by the overthrowing of Gadhafi, to establish branches in other Libyan towns, such as the port city of Sirte.

Financial Requirement

According to a recent analysis by the "Global Initiative against Transnational Organized Crime," the IS is profiting from business opportunities arising from the mass exodus from numerous Asian and African countries, including Syria. Countless numbers are still fleeing the Syrian war, fuelled by western countries both politically and with supplies to the insurgents.[4] Many refugees are fleeing via Jordan through Egypt to Libya, from where they hope to cross the Mediterranean into Europe. They are dependent on smugglers to breach the EU's sealed borders. Already last year, "Pro Asyl," the German refugee organization, criticized the EU's sealed borders policy as a "smuggling promotion program."[5] The intake resulting, in Libya alone, from the refugee trade, is valued at an estimated US$ 255 - 323 million per year, according to the "Global Initiative against Transnational Organized Crime's" analysis.[6] Even the IS, which, in the meantime, is well established in some of Libya's coastal cities, is making an income from the business of smuggling migrants, according to the authors. Since the slump in its oil profits, IS has turned to the migrant smuggling business, as a means of financing its war and, to a certain extent, run the caliphate's social services.[7]

Smuggler's Profits

Other reports have confirmed that the Islamic State is not only taking in profits from smuggling refugees along the North African coastline, all the way to Libya, but also in shipping them over to Europe. A government advisor from Libya was quoted saying that the IS charges 50 percent of the smugglers' intake for every boat under their control.[8] This would amount to US$750 - US$950 per migrant, calculated on the current average transit prices.

Escalation

The impending military operation off the Libyan coast, aimed at imposing a permanent stop to the undesired trans-Mediterranean refugee transit to Europe - which for PR reasons is portrayed as a "battle against smugglers" - runs the risk of becoming a direct conflict with the Libyan branch of the Islamic State. This would further escalate the war in the Arab World.

Read more at Krieg gegen Flüchtlinge.

[1] Libyen erteilt EU-Plänen Abfuhr. www.tagesschau.de 19.05.2015.
[2] See Marching Toward Baghdad and Liberated by the West.
[3] Anthony Shadid: Diverse Character in City Qaddafi Calls Islamist. www.nytimes.com 07.03.2011.
[4] See German War Assistance and Syriens westliche Freunde.
[5] Abschottungspolitik ein "Förderprogramm für Schlepper". www.proasyl.de 02.06.2014.
[6] Libya: a growing hub for Criminal Economies and Terrorist Financing in the Trans-Sahara. The Global Initiative against Transnational Organized Crime, Policy Brief, 11 May 2015.
[7] Vivienne Walt: ISIS Makes a Fortune From Smuggling Migrants Says Report. time.com 13.05.2015.
[8] Islamic State militants "smuggled to Europe". www.bbc.com 17.05.2015.