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Sham elections postponed while tensions escalate in Libya

Published Jun 21, 2012 10:18 PM

Tensions have escalated both inside Libya and throughout the region since the beginning of the U.S.-NATO war against the North African state more than a year ago. Fighting among various sectors within Libya erupted in May and June, while the much-discussed elections have been put off until July 7.

These elections have been subject to the political designs of the imperialist-backed National Transitional Council regime, which was installed as a result of the assault on Libya between February and October 2011. Since the seizure of Tripoli in late August 2011 and the bombings and assassinations in Sirte, Libya has been in turmoil, with decentralized and undisciplined militias vying for control.

Members and supporters of the Jamahiriya, the system of governance instituted during the revolutionary period between 1969 and 2011, are banned from participating in the elections. A recent law prohibiting, through threats of prosecution, any “praising” of assassinated leader Moammar Gadhafi and the political system that prevailed for more than four decades has been purportedly repealed. However, Libyans know that thousands of people remain in prison and exiled as a direct result of their political beliefs.

Laws, militia checkpoints and the excesses of the putative newly constructed national army are designed to suppress popular opposition to the NTC regime. Discontent among the people — even among those who were swept into the war against the government — is at an all-time high.

Since last October, the NTC and other anti-Gadhafi forces have been blamed for the inefficiency in the public sector, the widespread corruption — which has resulted in billions of dollars being stolen from both private industry and the fragile government — and the general lawlessness prevailing throughout the country. Libya has descended from having the highest standard of living on the African continent to burgeoning poverty and social discord.

Seif al-Islam denied justice

The capture, torture and indefinite detention of Seif al-Islam, the son and heir apparent to Gadhafi, has drawn the attention of Libyan solidarity activists around the world. Captured in late 2011 by rebels, Seif is being held reportedly by the militia in the town of Zintan, which functions independently of the NTC leaders in Tripoli.

In early June four members of an International Criminal Court delegation visited Seif to interview him about the outstanding warrants it issued early on in the war. The delegation was detained on June 7 and accused of smuggling sensitive documents to Seif. The Netherlands-based ICC has never really objected to Seif being put on trial by the NTC, but their intervention in Seif’s case has resulted in a diplomatic embarrassment for the imperialist camp.

Although neither the U.S. nor Libya signed the Rome Statute, which established the ICC, the imperialists utilized the indictments against Gadhafi and other Libyan leaders in their attempt to isolate that government and create a stronger rationale for its overthrow. The continued detention of the ICC delegation by the Zintan militia brought about the visit of Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr on June 18 in an attempt to win the release of the two women and two men being held.

Carr met with NTC Prime Minister Abdurrahim El-Keib and offered to facilitate the dispute between the Western-backed regime and the ICC representatives. “I made strong representations for the immediate release of the Australian Melinda Taylor,” the diplomat said. “But I now have a deeper understanding of Libyan [NTC] perspectives and concerns with the way the ICC has responded.” [Reuters, June18)

The ICC, along with the U.N. Security Council and the titular head of NATO, have called on the “rebels” to release the delegation. The militia accused the two women in the delegation, who were said to have been present during the militia’s discussions with Seif, of subsequently leaking documents to him.

The detentions of Seif al-Islam and the ICC delegation are reflective of the lack of a strong, united political or legal system within the country. Nonetheless, the diplomatic response to these provocations bears no resemblance to the attacks leveled against the Gadhafi government in 2011, when thousands were killed and millions displaced and driven into exile for their refusal to bow to the dictates of the U.S.-NATO alliance that devastated the oil-rich nation.

Security situation deteriorates

Over the last few weeks the violence has escalated in the city of Benghazi. On June 11, the British ambassador’s vehicle was attacked by rocket-propelled grenades. The U.S. Consulate was attacked on June 12, when a bomb was placed outside that building. This attack was claimed by an Islamic resistance group supposedly in retaliation for the drone assassinations of al-Qaeda members in Pakistan.

On the same day as the bombing, a militia group at odds with the NTC regime in Tripoli temporarily took control of the airport, saying that one of their commanders had been detained by the Western-backed leadership. The NTC regained control of the airport within a few hours. Also on June 12, the offices of International Committee of the Red Cross in Misrata were bombed, resulting in one death and several injuries.

In the South of the country fighting continues as a result of attempts by the Zintan militia to take charge of the region that did not support the U.S.-NATO war. It was reported that 14 people were killed over a three-day period beginning June 11 when members of the El-Mashasia ethnic group resisted the forces from Zintan.

The current situation in Libya illustrates clearly that military and political intervention by the Western imperialists has only brought about mass killings, poverty and forced removals. Those who supported and cheered on the war against Libya are silent today in response to the horrors taking place inside the once prosperous and stable country.

These events point to the necessity of maintaining an anti-imperialist perspective in relationship to U.S. and NATO foreign policy. The imperialist states operate exclusively based upon their own material interests, which are aimed at securing maximum profit through the exploitation of African resources, labor and national assets.