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Why Russia is returning Libya to Gaddafi

Written by The Frontier Post

Peter Akopov

The Taliban are returning to power in Afghanistan, and Gaddafi – in Libya: “I have not been with the Libyan people for ten years. You need to return slowly, like in a striptease. You need to play a little with them.”

No, this is not history going in the opposite direction, but the countries defeated by the West are trying to restore their unity, and at a high price. In Afghanistan, the occupation forces have almost left the country, and now a civil war is unfolding there between the forces of the pro-American Kabul government and the Taliban, who do not recognize its authority. In Libya, the civil war went on for several years: after the West overthrew Colonel Gaddafi, the country fell into several parts, which, with external support, fought for power. It is not possible to reconcile them – the internal contradictions between the multi-tribal Libyan society are too great and the interests of external players, including those who are not interested in the restoration of a united and strong Libya, are too strong. And then Gaddafi Jr. appears.

Recently, an interview with Saif al-Islam in The New York Times was published , in which the politician stated that his goal was to return the lost unity to Libya. He did not give a direct answer to the question of whether he intends to participate in the presid-ential elections scheduled for the end of December, li-miting himself to a risky comparison with striptease. Which, however, is not surprising in light of the past life of Gaddafi’s second son – the one he led before the events of 2011, which dep-rived his father and three b-rothers of power in the country they ruled since 1969.

Saif studied in Switzerland and England, spent money in Europe, where he drove white tigers as his pets, but after the start of the “Libyan revolution” he fought with his father. He was arrested by one of the tribes in the city of Zintan, sentenced to death in Tripoli. But the tribe refused to hand him over, and after five years of imprisonment he was released. Remaining in the same Zintan (after all, as he says, his former jailers became his friends), Saif has changed a lot, and not because he lost fingers on his right hand – the consequences of a bomb explosion. He now has a gray beard, good looks and confidence in his mission. After ten years of chaos, many Libyans are really ready to support Gaddafi, because what is happening in the country cannot be considered normal life:

“You can call what happened a civil war or troubled times, but it was not a revolution … They raped the country – it is on its knees. No money, no security, no life. Go to a gas station – you will not find diesel. We export oil and gas to Italy – we illuminate half of the country, and in our homeland there is often no light. This is not just a defeat, it is a fiasco. It’s time to return to the past. “

To the past does not mean to the order that was under Gaddafi the elder with his peculiar version of socialism, and this is already impossible. To the past means to unity. Saif is quite correct in saying that the goal of the rebels in 2011 was to destroy the centralized government, without which Libya, with its tribal system, simply ceased to exist.

It is impossible to reunite the country by military means – all attempts by Marshal Khalifa Haftar, who rules the eastern part of the country, Cyrenaica, to take Tripoli and control the western part of the state, have led nowhere. And the point here is not only the external support provided by various countries to the warring Libyan parties, but also the obstinacy of the Libyan tribes themselves. The unity of the country can only be ensured by some popular figure – and in this sense, Gaddafi Jr. really has no competitors.

The seventy-seven-year-old Haftar is not fit for this role, nor are tribal leaders or bureaucratic technocrats. United Libya is, in fact, Gaddafi Sr. What is his support among the people? Even if the figure of 57 percent cited by his supporters is exaggerated (and, of course, there can be no accurate polls in modern Libya), it is clear that if Gaddafi was nominated, Jr. his agreements with regions and tribes.

But on the way to power, Gaddafi has two obstacles. The first is not the worst – the death sentence of the Libyan court, and even the arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court . Both decisions can be reversed if desired.

But the second obstacle is more serious – it is necessary for the very expression of the will of the people to take place. At the moment, both presidential and parliamentary elections are scheduled for December 24. But they have already been postponed more than once, and there are no guarantees that they will take place this time. As Gaddafi Jr. said, there has been no state in Libya for ten years, and those who claim power are just armed groups:

“A strong government is not in their interests. <…> That is why they are afraid of elections. They are against the idea of ??the president. They are against the idea of ??a state, a government that is legal for the people.”

Perhaps that is why Gaddafi is in no hurry to declare his participation – first you need to get his conviction removed and be confident in the holding of elections.

But when Gaddafi is officially nominated, there is no doubt that we will hear about his Russian connections, if not about a “Russian candidate” at all. Yes, because already now The New York Times writes that the victory of Saif al-Islam “would be welcomed in the Kremlin, which participates in Middle East politics, financing the parties to the conflict and sending mercenaries to the region.”

It is very interesting: the West destroyed the country (allegedly not on purpose), it is he who supports the different sides of the conflict – and Moscow stands behind Saif al-Islam. That is, it turns out that Russia is interested in Libyan unity – well, this is only a plus for our reputation not only in Libya, but also in the Arab world as a whole. However, is Moscow really behind Gaddafi Jr.

Of course not – Gaddafi is a player in himself. He does have contacts with Russia – at the end of 2018, his representatives sent a letter through the Foreign Ministry to Vladimir Putin, in which Saif al-Islam announced his intention to be elected president and asked for political support.

A little later it became known that Russia was trying to secure the release of his younger brother Hann-ibal, who was captured several years ago in Syria and held in a Lebanese prison. The Gaddafi family is not a stranger to our country – Libya was a close partner of the USSR, and the colonel maintained good relations with Russia. Moreover, many joint projects with Russia were suspended after the collapse of the Libyan statehood.

Now Moscow maintains relations with all parties to the conflict – both with Marshal Haftar and with the Tripoli government. And with the Gaddafi family – especially if it is confirmed that Saif al-Islam is running for president. For Russia, this will be a perfectly acceptable option – because we, unlike many external players, are interested in restoring the unity of Libya.

But for the United Sta-tes, the return of Gaddafi will be, as The New York Times correctly writes, “a blow to the reputation” – however, the reputation no longer exists, and not only in the Arab world. France will also be dissatisfied, because in 2011, after the start of Western intervention, it was Saif who was the first to make public the information about the multimillion-dollar bribe to the former French president, demanding that Sarkozy “return the money.”

So, if the Gaddafi family returns to power, Russia will benefit not because it has pulled off a “cunning combination”, but because the West has once again done something in another country that will inevitably provoke a backlash. Our interest is that there are no more “new Libya”, and the correction of the situation in the current one ended with the restoration of our maximum possible influence there. What is in the interests and calm sovereign future of this state.

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