The Interior Ministry of Luxurious Convoys Fails to Protect the Protest Movement, Masterminds Coup with the Muslim Brotherhood – Al Marsad

As Fathi Bashagha lands in Tripoli from what seems a desperate visit to his superiors in Ankara, he needs to face the fact that his Ministry of the Interior failed the simplest security challenge in years in the capital Tripoli despite the convoys, armored vehicles, capabilities, and the hackneyed claims of building security capabilities necessary for a civil state. All this was proven baseless overnight with the popular protest movement in Tripoli and the militia rivalry that ensued between the forces loyal to Fathi Bashagha and those loyal to Fayez al-Sarraj. 

(Libya, 29 August 2020) – Since the start of the popular movement in the capital Tripoli, the role of the Ministry of the Interior has been at the heart of all discussions. It has neither succeeded in controlling the protests by the usual methods to prevent violations nor did it succeed in protecting peaceful Libyans in the middle of Martyrs Square. Worse still, it did not even release the kidnapped in the prisons said to be under its control.

Fathi Bashagha‘s attempts to lead the movement and present himself as the savior, despite the abject failure of his ministry in this simple test of the police being in the service of the people rather than of not the minister, aroused the ire of his new-old opponents in the capital. The situation of the “Tripoli Cartel”, which the German Wolfram Lacher had described in detail in his April 2018 study and which still describes well the militia topography in the capital city, comprising the RADA Deterrence Force, al-Nawasi, Ghniwa, the Tripoli Revolutionaries, and other armed groups—now loyal to Fayez al-Sarraj though some of them are affiliated with the Interior Ministry.

Lacher’s study had warned: “They have grown into criminal networks straddling business, politics, and the administration. The pillaging of state funds—a hallmark of Libya’s political economy—now benefits a narrower group than at any previous point since the 2011 revolution. Actors excluded from this arrangement are building alliances to alter the balance of power in Tripoli by force.” Fast forward to 2020 and the situation is in many ways worse with the addition of Turkish operatives and over 15,000 Syrian mercenaries to complicate an already complex security situation in GNA territory. The “Tripoli Cartel” has not disappeared, it has only become more institutionalised within the organs of the state.

The Muslim Brotherhood and the followers of the radical Islamist cleric Sadiq al-Ghariani on their part continue their attempts to penetrate this spontaneous movement with firm demands. At times, they try to push back any dissent from the public against Turkey and its Syrian mercenaries and limit them to Russia, while at other times they attempt to lead this spontaneous popular movement that has no leadership, not has issued any statements. However, they have failed so far to either undermine or lead the public protests. 

They have also tried to pass politicized demands, such as the constitution referendum, municipal elections, and reform instead of the real demands of the removal of those in office, as they did in 2009. These are elite demands that have nothing to do with the youth who have not seen any benefit to their lives, with many forced into desperation and even braving migration by sea to Europe. Most have nothing left other than raising their voices in protest in the streets and squares demanding the departure of everyone and uprooting their corruption—of which the governor of the Central Bank of Libya (CBL), Siddiq al-Kabir, is top of the list. Kabir is a “red line’, however, for Turkey and the public knows very well why.

Add to this the attempts by other parties to employ and engage the demonstrations. Some omit slogans against one party and keep other slogans, and so on, all with the purpose of interfering in the popular protests. But the fact from ground is that these young people cannot be stereotyped or ideologized; they are also impregnable to any politicization attempts. They reflect a population that is tired with the illegitimate status quo.

Bashagha, the now former Interior Ministry who spent billions in training and armament which seems to have evaporated with its convoys and vehicles in front of the arsenal of other militants. His Ministry of Interior has turned out to be a fake ministry, the same as the rest.

Bashagha flew to Ankara on Friday to brief the Turks on the situation they already know, followed immediately by a visit by the State Council’s Khaled al-Mishri. Meanwhile, Sarraj remains in Tripoli besieging squares and streets while his forces lurk in wait for everyone who tries to take to the streets. All of a sudden Sarraj issues a decision to suspend Bashagha amid reports of a thwarted coup attempt Bashagha was planning in cooperation with Mishri and the Muslim Brotherhood to overthrow Sarraj.

It is a race that has no third option: either Bashagha pays the price for his survival to the Turks and moves aggressively to end the deadlock in the capital with the support of the Muslim Brotherhood, or Sarraj offers more concessions, pays more money, approves more commercial and oil contracts for the Turks to keep him in his position with red herring reforms and changes to pacify the street. However, such pacification will not include the dismissal of Bashagha.

Bashagha is like to ignite the Sirte front to undermine any negotiation path that may end by overthrowing him and obliterating any popular movement or demonstrations. The role of Mishri here seems to be to talk about elections to calm the public while obstructing the very same elections through his insistence on the constitution referendum, which requires at least a year and a half for approval and implementation.

One may ask how an internationally-recognized Ministry of Interior supported by the UN Mission of Support in Libya (UNSMIL) and the United States, in particular, can withdraw from the streets and shirk its responsibility to maintain security and public order? How can such paper ministry issue conflicting statements to undermine the movement and bring it to a predetermined conclusion? It seems Bashagha, whose ambition has no limits, is searching for a coup to trigger change.

If Sarraj is the president, then Fathi Bashagha does not see him as more than a colleague in the House of Representatives (HoR). They were both elected in 2014. The latter was one of its leaders of the NATO Coordination Operations Room in Misrata while the other was following the unfolding events on Al-Jazeera.

According to Osama Juweili, who is tasked today with securing Tripoli, said that Bashagha was the mastermind of the notorious Operation Libya Dawn (Fajr Libya), Through that Operation, Bashagha caused the current situation that produced Skhirat and the Presidential Council when Sarraj in June 2014 was just a mere civil activist demonstrating in Algeria Square in Tripoli with the kidnapped activist, Abdul-Moez Banon demanding an end to that war.

As a Libyan commentator right said, the Minister of Interior “is a Photoshop ministry headed by a minister who only has a portfolio and a stamp he uses to issue the statements received from Turkey as he did today.”

© Al-Marsad English (2020)