Backgroud guide for the United Nations Security Council

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BACKGROUD GUIDE for the United Nations Security Council

The Situation in Libya

Author: Pavel A. Luzin

PhD student, IMEMO

Russian Academy of Sciences

Novosibirsk 2012


Contents 2

Introduction 2

1. Col. Qaddafi’s Libya as enfant terrible in international politics: 1969 – 2007 4

2. Interests of leading powers in Libya and the region around 5

3. Political landscape of Jamahiriya before the revolt of 2011: Col. Qaddafi’s family, institutions, tribes and religion 6

4. Why has revolt happened? Political causes of Libyan events 8

5. Who has revolted? Main actors 9

6. Influence of Libyan events in the Northern and Central Africa and Mediterranean region 9

Conclusion 10

Possibilities 10

Additional Information 11


In February 2011 the revolt against Qaddafi has begun in Libya after the beginning of revolts in Tunisia and Egypt, and turmoil in other Arab states. But in distinction from Tunisian and Egyptian revolts Libyan revolt has become a bloody civil war at once.

On one side the governmental troops and militias and pro-Qaddafi combatants are fighting for the political reconstitution. On another side the rebels with the center in Benghazi, the second largest city in Libya, and some high-ranking deserters and renegades are fighting against Qaddafi’s regime. Also the rebels have established National Transitional Council (NTC) which claims functions of Libyan provisional government particularly in international relations.

Despite Libya is on periphery of world politics its turbulence is a stressful challenge for Europe and the West at all. The aspects of this challenge exist in some sensitive fields: cross-regional security and stability, penetration of refugees and illegal migrants in European continent, political reputation of western elites etc. So ignoring of Libyan revolt is impossible due to carrying weight reasons.

But there are complex issues of necessity and measures of world community’s interference in Libyan affairs as well as will such interference in accordance with the United Nations Charter? Politicians should also consider the engagement of different states with dissimilar interests, for example, interests of the leading European Union members, interests of Russia, Israel, Turkey and interests of the members of Cooperation Council of the Arab States of the Gulf (CCASG) etc.

France, Britain, Italy and the USA newly refer to the concept of humanitarian intervention since Kosovo in 1999 but there is no assurance that the fall of Jamahiriya in Libya will escape the risk of so called humanitarian disaster. Russia speaks about prohibition of interference in interim affairs of sovereign state but doesn’t speak how the explosive influence of Libyan revolt in regional stability can be eliminated. Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar as leading Arab states try to overthrow Col. Qaddafi because of his contradictions with conservative Islamic monarchies in Northern African affairs but their strategic political goals don’t in phase with political goals, principles and values of the Western states.

So, the members of the United Nations Security Council are facing the dramatic issue in Libya when any decision for each state will mean the high responsibility for results.

1. Col. Qaddafi’s Libya as enfant terrible in international politics: 1969 – 2007

Since 1969 when Col. Muammar Qaddafi (or Gaddafi) has taken power in Libya and begun to build a Jamahiriya (in his political theory it is political regime where masses play the main role, also Jamahiriya is the “third way” – neither communism nor Western democracy) he was a source of problems and difficult situations for Libyan neighbors and for the West.

Firstly, Qaddafi tried to unite Libya with other Arab states such as Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria, Sudan or Syria in the Arab national state. His ambitious efforts didn’t end in success due to many reasons including Qaddafi’s aid for radical opposition forces in these states. Soon he damaged relations with Egypt and in summer 1977 there was war between Libya and Egypt.

Then Col. Qaddafi interfered in the Ugandan – Tanzanian war of 1978 – 1979 in the side of Uganda. At the same time he unleashed war with Chad which continued to 1987. Also Libyan government began to encourage Tuareg tribes in their fight for the establishing of Azaouad state primary in the territories of Mali and Niger.

Moreover M. Qaddafi announced the struggle against the West and Israel and sponsored some terrorist attacks in 1970s – 1980s. Qaddafi’s activity forced the United States to include his regime in the list of terrorists and then to bomb Libya in 1986. But it didn’t stop the Libyan dictator and in 1988 his secret service organized the explosion of American Boeing-747 above Lockerbie town. It was the most famous and awful attack of Qaddafi’s regime but not the last: the same attack against flight from Congo to France was in the sky of Niger in 1992. So, the UN used the sanctions against Libya after all in early 1990s.

The case is that the Soviet Union used Libya in its policy and intelligence deals in the Middle East and in Africa and blenched such “specifics” of Col. Qaddafi’s approach in foreign policy. But status quo has changed after 1991 when Libya became a full-rate rouge or pariah state and needed rehabilitation in international affairs.

M. Qaddafi decided on the carrot and stick. Libya began to pay compensations for the families of Lockerbie and Niger victims in 1999; moreover it extradited two agents of Libyan secret service which were accessorial to those attacks. As a result sanctions were annulled in 2003. At the same time Qaddafi tried to press on European leaders through the hostages: in 1999 Libyan authority arraigned five Bulgarian nurses in deliberate infection of Libyan children by HIV and received them into prison. In fact Col. Qaddafi exchanged nurses on the monetary aid from the EU and cooperation with leading European states (mainly France, Britain and Italy) in 2007.

The particular case is the Libyan weapons of mass destruction (WMD) development program. Its history counted decades and Libya was a customer of the A.Q. Khan illegal network for supplying of nuclear weapon technologies and materials (worked from early 1980s to 2004) but M. Qaddafi officially abandoned from developing of any kinds of WMD in 2003. It was a part of his carrot and stick approach.

So, we can speak, he achieved the goal of rehabilitation but there was no new foreign agenda in Libya after 2007 except chimerical reclamations on the leadership in all Africa.

2. Interests of leading powers in Libya and the region around

The European Union. First, the EU interested in security and stability in Mediterranean region. Moreover the Mediterranean Sea is the way for refugees and illegal migrants who try to come in Europe from African regions of Sahel and Sahara and the Libyan sea ports are the gates for the streams of these people. Any uncontrolled process in this territory means the growing of the threat. Also Libya is zone of strong tribalism and its boarders just are in maps.

Second, Libya is situated in the geographical center between Tunisia, Algeria, Niger, Chad, Sudan and Egypt. Stability in Libya means more guarantee of stability in the states and more capabilities for European powers to control of regional processes and risks.

France. It has additional national interests in Africa besides all European interests. French sphere of influence in Africa includes at least Cote d’Ivoire, Nigeria, Niger and Cameroon and this sphere need on control both through the Gulf of Guinea in the South and Libya in the North. Therefore French president Nicolas Sarkozy acted as a mediator between Europe and Qaddafi since 2007.

Italy has own political goals in Libya which concluded in the essential role in the solving of EU challenges. That is to say Italy tries to reinforce its positions in Europe through engagement in some key issues such as Libyan issue in 2000s.

^ The United States has global interests and within the context of these Libya took place as a painful point in the non-proliferation regimes, counterterrorism and African and Middle East stability. After the normalization of relations with Libya in 2000s this state became a back-burner issue for the US. Any new tensions connected with Libya mean a growth of American attention to this region and robust political efforts there.

^ The Russian Federation has amorphous political interests in Libya. There is no clear agenda and initiative in Russian policy in the region and this policy relies on conservation of Qaddafi’s regime. Sure, Russia interested in counterterrorism, containment of radical Islam (Salafism) and Mediterranean stability but without objective capabilities for realization of these.

^ The People Republic of China pursues the aim of developing its presence in Africa and Libya does matter in the context of the status quo preservation and transparency of the “playing field” in the continent.

As for other actors (including Middle Eastern and Northern African states) they conduct an opportunist policy in reference to Libya and decide as appropriate.

3. Political landscape of Jamahiriya before the revolt of 2011: Col. Qaddafi’s family, institutions, tribes and religion

The issue of political landscape of Jamahiriya is a tricky enough in consequence of combination of bureaucratic, tribal and personal factors.

^ 1) Family: The Qaddafi’s regime evolved into quasi-monarchy and succession of the power progressively became the main issue for aged Colonel. He has four sons – Saif al-Islam, Khamis, Al-Saadi and Mutassim. The oldest, Saif al-Islam, pretends to be a successor.

Each of them keeps own armed service or militia with well equipments and funding. The last such militia was established by Mutassim in 2008. These armed units serve as instruments in interim political competition within Libyan elite groups. So, we can see the escalation of political struggle in Qaddafi’s family and in Libya since at least 2008.

Another problem is that each son of Col. Qaddafi was a mediator between Libyan dictator and some groups of political, economic and tribal elites. In the case any handover of power in Libya means a breakdown of formed political relations and disruption of the system.

^ 2) Institutions: Libyan government authorities characterized as “a byzantine bureaucracy obscured an informal network of constantly shifting power brokers… working with these figures was uncertain at best”1.

At the same time it’s very important to see at armed forces of Libya because they hold indistinctive statement in Libyan political hierarchy despite of their role in revolution of 1969. Up to 2011 armed forces were marginalized, demoralized and not sufficiently financing and equipping. This trend began in early 1990s after the war with Chad because of Qaddafi’s fear of military coup.

So, Libyan governmental institutions were just an image of strength but the giant with feet of clay in reality.

3) Tribes: Tribalism is the core and the root of Libyan political system. There are number of tribes in Libya (see Map 2).

Main Arab tribes:

  • Warfalla – a tribal group in west Libya, inhabiting the areas of Bani Walid, Sirte, Sabha and Benghazi;

  • Magariha – a large tribe in the central-western region of Libya;

  • Qaddadfa – arabised Berber tribe, centered around Sirte. Muammar Qaddafi belonged to the tribe;

Many lower-ranking officers of Libyan army belonged to Warfalla and Magariha tribes. There have been growing contradictions between these tribes and Qaddadfa since 1990th although all the tribes had been political allies in previous times.

Other Arab tribes in Western Libya:

  • Az-Zintan; Awlad Busayf ; Maslata ; Masrata with a large presence in Tripoli; Rijban, Rujban; Majabra, Mujabra (also and in the Jalo area in Cyrenaica in the Eastern Libya).

Arab tribes in Central Libya:

  • Riyyah; Haraba; Zuwaid.

Arab tribes in Eastern & Southern Libya:

  • Az-Zuwayya, Zuwayya, Zawiya (Benghazi, Ejdabiyah); Banu Saleem; Al-Obeidi; Manfa; Mesratha, Misurat (an Eastern Libyan tribe inhabiting a number of towns and villages including Benghazi and Darna); Al-Awagir, Waqir (the Barqa region of Cyrenaica); Tawajeer; Ramla; Kargala; Kawar; Al-Abaydat, Abdiyat (a group of 15 tribes found in the area of Tobruk); Farjan; Drasa; Masamir; Barasa; Fawakhir.

^ Berbers: Also there are many tribal groups of Berbers including Tuaregs (the Southern Berbers) which divided into various tribal confederations.

Toubou: Another group of non-Arab tribes is Toubou in Southern Libya near Egyptian border.

Any of presented tribes is political actor in Libyan landscape but with different capabilities because of the most powerful tribes situated in the cost and in the regions of oil recovery. Libyan governance is strongly depends on intertribal compromises, alliances and agreements.

^ 4) Religion: Tribal clout, however, is tempered by other affiliations: a strong middle class and, increasingly, religion. Among Libya's Islamists, the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, has long attracted the attention of the West because of its association with al-Qaeda. But non-Salafi networks preserve their matter – namely, the Sufi orders and the Muslim Brotherhood. The revivalist Sanussiya Sufi order has featured prominently in the country's collective memory. It provided the organizational base for the Libyan resistance to the Italian occupation and was the pillar of support for the monarchy under King Idris, who held sovereign power from 1951 until 1969.

Although long hostile to Sufism as a potential threat to his authority, Qaddafi himself had begun a policy of bolstering Sufi charitable networks as a buffer against radical Salafism. The long-suppressed Muslim Brotherhood may also reemerge as a potent force. It is perhaps significant that this organization was among the first Libyan groups to offer congratulations to the new regime in Egypt.

In conclusion of this chapter Jamahiriya has been unviable up to now, so it is crashing. The frames of a new political order are in complicated imbroglio of tribal, religious and secular aspects and actors.

4. Why has revolt happened? Political causes of Libyan events

We can emphasize the next causes of Libyan revolt:

1) Col. Qaddafi has lost political initiative in interim and foreign politics;

2) The groups of political elite have begun escalation of struggle around the aging dictator and in February 2011 there was a cumulative effect;

3) The risks of conservation of status quo for the elite groups outside the Qaddafi’s family exceeded the risks of uncontrolled changes;

4) There have been accumulated many unsolved system political issues and contradictions in Jamahiriya;

5) In the absence of reformist agenda and in the presence of high-personification power the war against the Qaddafi’s regime itself became such agenda;

6) The revolts in neighbor Arab states and pressure from government authorities became a trigger of people rebellion.

5. Who has revolted? Main actors

We can call main actors of Libyan revolt:

1) National Transitional Council (established in 5 March 2011). Some of its leaders served in the Qaddafi’s government, for example Mahmoud Jibril or Ali Al-Issawi, they also present interests of leading tribes.

2) Revolutionary commanders which were either military officers in Libyan armed forces or combatants at large of Middle East. One of the lasts is Abdul Hakeem Belhaj who was a member of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group. Other commanders have been trained in 1990s in the camps of Afghanistan and Peshavar.

3) Oppositional tribes which have the centers in certain towns (Benghazi, Misurata, Ajdabia etc.) and resistant to Qaddafi’s militias.

4) The groups of radical Islamists. Some of them are parts of fighting tribes but some of them are independent.

It’s important that there are some unknown actors with uncertain military and political capabilities.

6. Influence of Libyan events in the Northern and Central Africa and Mediterranean region

Influence of Libyan events in the case of uncontrolled developing will include some directions in the regions around.

Northern direction: The stream of refugees goes to Italy and to Europe at all. It creates a humanitarian threat to the EU.

^ Western direction: Big number of illegal conventional arms is concentrated aboard of Algeria and creates the threat to stability in the state. The ideas of radical Islam penetrate both in Algeria and Tunisia from turbulent Libya.

Eastern direction: The illegal conventional arms can penetrate to Sudan and bring the risks of explosion in recently separated countries. Also the Libyan turbulence can influence on the revolutionary Egypt where the army tries to provide a peaceful transition from Mubarak regime.

^ Southern direction: The Libyan revolt can intensify the political processes in Sahel and Sahara and influent unpredictably to the cross-boarding military activity of Tuareg tribes from Mali to Chad in their fight for Azaouad establishing. As for Chad separately the level of political stability of the state is low enough, so Libyan tribes and Libyan weapons can explode that political situation.

As a result the revolt in Libya brings political and security risks for the neighbor regions and these risks need to be localized by the UN or concerned states.


In February – March 2011 world community is facing on strong challenge in Libya where rebels are fighting against Qaddafi’s regime and following different ideas and Col. Qaddafi tries to make “a bloodbath” for intractable citizens and former allies. Sure Libya is not in the center of international arena and not the key region of the world but Libya is the gate to and from the most difficult regions of Africa – sub-Saharan territories with permanent humanitarian disasters.

The members of the UN Security Council should try to localize Libyan challenge and make an effective decision of this for the regional and international security, stability and development.


Honorable representatives of the UN Security Council members have following possibilities in the solving of Libyan challenge:

1) The UNSC may sanction the international intervention in current Libyan affairs but such intervention can’t contradict the UN Charter. Also such intervention should be framed because of objective and political reasons.

2) The UNSC decision should contain measures which don’t require additional funding from the UN.

3) The UNSC can use the military sanctions if there will be effective executors and agreement from permanent UNSC members.

4) Qaddafi has lost his supporters and domestic legitimacy, so the reconstitution of Jamahiriya is impossible.

5) The main goal of potential intervention not the democracy but the localization of Libyan conflict.

6) Libyan revolt brings the domestic political risks for the Western politicians in the case of their abstention but the intervention will bring the risk of being bogged down in the civil war.

Additional Information

  1. Benny Morris. The West, the Arabs, and the Real Qaddafi // The National Interest. February 28, 2011 – URL:;

  2. Frederic Wehrey. Libya's Terra Incognita: Who and What Will Follow Qaddafi? // Foreign Affairs. February 28, 2011 – URL:;

  3. Jacob Heilbrunn. Why Did Tony Blair Become A Pal of Col. Qaddafi's? // The National Interest. September 25, 2011 – URL:;

  4. Lybia // Foreign affairs – URL:

  5. Melodee M. Baines. Stability in a Post-Gaddafi Libya // Reliefweb/ February 1, 2012 – URL:;

  6. Michael O'Hanlon. Winning Ugly in Libya: What the United States Should Learn From Its War in Kosovo // Foreign Affairs. March 30, 2011 – URL:;

  7. Michael Semple. What Post-Qaddafi Libya Has to Learn From Afghanistan: How to Avoid Decades of War // Foreign Affairs. October 21, 2011 – URL:;

  8. Mohamad Bazzi. The Death of the Qaddafi Generation. The Era of Arab Strongmen Comes to an End // Foreign Affairs. October 21, 2011 – URL:;

  9. NATO’s New Problem: Post-Qaddafi Libya? // The National Interest. August 18, 2011 – URL:;

  10. Ливия и Франция договорились об укреплении военного сотрудничества // РБК. 26.02.2012 – URL:;

  11. Межплеменные столкновения на юго-востоке Ливии: десятки раненых // Вести. 28.02.2012 – URL:;

  12. Роберт Скидельски. Парадоксы гуманитарной войны // Россия в глобальной политике. 19 апреля 2011 – URL:;

  13. Рудольф Кимелли. Пресса под ружьем: Как современная журналистика помогает войнам // Россия в глобальной политике. 19 апреля 2011 – URL:;

Map 1: Africa (source:

Map 2: Libya (source:

1 Frederic Wehrey. Libya's Terra Incognita: Who and What Will Follow Qaddafi? // Foreign Affairs. February 28, 2011.


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