The Outstanding Issue of the Libyan Intelligence Services

Commentary: Libya's Intelligence Services have been without a leader since the death of Abdoullah Masoud Al Darsi in April. There are currently many more candidates than usual competing to replace him. Meanwhile, the Turkish Intelligence Service is now capable of deciding many posts and positions in the Tripoli government, pulling rank and underlining its military role in Libya.

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The post of Chief of the Libyan Intelligence Services of Tripoli’s GNA is still vacant, but only recently. Therefore, this is an optimal situation for the Head of Tripoli’s government, who is currently pro tempore Director of the GNA agencies, while the struggle for the next Intelligence Service Directors is intensifying. 

In an obvious triangulation with Turkey, which is now essential to Tripoli’s very survival, and with France, which can do harm outside and inside the perimeter of Haftar’s forces it continues to support, in spite of everything - also with the support of Qatar and the Emirates and even, to a residual extent of Italy, the major strategic failure in the post-Gaddafi chaos - and with the United States, which is returning to Libya from the peripheries. 

Russia is increasingly dissatisfied with Haftar, but it will now be difficult for it to negotiate a credible deal with Tripoli from a strong-to-weak position.

Pursuant to the UN-sponsored Skhirat agreement of 2015, the still national political structures of GNA were subject to a strict tripartite rule, whereby the three major regions of a definitively divided Libya, namely Tripolitania, Cyrenaica and Fezzan, always had equal representation at the "centre" of power.

Currently the Libyan Intelligence Services are without a leader since the death of Abdoullah Masoud Al Darsi on April 3, 2020. He had been appointed on November 1, 2018. 

He replaced Abdul Qader al-Thulami. who had died of a "heart attack" but was probably, and more likely, killed by the Al-Nawasi militia, closely connected with the Tripoli Interior Ministry.

The Al-Nawasi militia mainly operates in controlling the city of Tripoli, together with the other militias of the "Tripoli Revolutionaries’ Brigade", the Special Deterrence Force and the "Abu Slim Unit of the Central Security Apparatus" and also a large part of the regular Police forces. 

The Al-Nawasi militia was attacked by General Haftar’s Libyan Armed Forces, in Ayn Zara, in the recent attack by Cyrenaica’s militants, while in February 2020 Tripoli’s Interior Minister, Fathi Bashaga, the strong man of the region, publicly stated that the Al-Nawasi Brigade "blackmailed the State".

Al-Darsi, the former Chief of the Tripoli Intelligence Services, successor to al-Thulami, had been recommended to al-Sarraj by Parliament and also replaced Salem al-Hassi, an ineffective candidate who was considered a member of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group. That group included members of Al-Qaeda and participated in the Islamic Shield Force and was declared "terrorist group” by the Tripoli Parliament in 2012. It was later accepted as an internal force of Tripoli’s GNA when, during the "second Libyan war" started in 2014, the "Shield Force" defended Tripoli from a dangerous advance by General Haftar. 

Al-Darsi was also leader of the "Union of Reform" party and, incidentally, it was precisely him who harshly opposed the very few Jews' right to go back to the country, after the pro-Gaddafi uprising, as well as to be compensated for the damage they suffered.

Al-Darsi, however, represented Benghazi, but was temporarily replaced when his city, Garyan, surrendered to General Haftar’s LNA forces.

His predecessor, Abdulkader al-Thulami, whom he replaced in 2017, came from the Fezzan region, since he was born in Aqar al-Shati. 

The other deputy of the Libyan intelligence services is Abdulmajid al-Dabaa, representative from Tripoli, appointed together with al-Thulami, who is currently in prison.  

Accused of complicated illegal financial operations, he is certainly a part of the militia network that often blackmails, but operates on its own behalf, and sometimes funds Tripoli’s central State. 

Hence who are those competing for the post of Chief of Tripoli’s Libyan Intelligence Services? Firstly, let us study the structure and history of Tripolitania’s Intelligence Services, considering that General Haftar has an almost exclusively military Service.

The Intelligence Service, known as Temehu, was established with Law 7/2012: its primary goal is to wipe "Gaddafi's loyalists" out. The whole structure of departments and networks is in its Chief’s hands.

The first Director was Salem Abd al Assalam Alhasi, who in 2015 refused to resign, as requested by the Tobruk Parliament, although he was anyway still loyal to that Parliament. 

He was accused, above all, of having confiscated the material of 60 Libyan snipers trained in the United States to fight against terrorism.

Salem Mohammad Alaswad, his deputy and successor, was a figure who accepted the structural weakness of the post-Gaddafi Libyan State and hence also accepted the chain of command of Tripoli’ security during the time in which he was Chief of the Intelligence Service: Minister of Defence, the Supreme Security Council and the brigades of the then "Libyan Shield Force". 

Al Hasi relinquished his U.S. citizenship in 2015, by also falsifying the accusations that he was a member of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Currently, however, there are many more candidates than usual to replace the old Chief of the Libyan Intelligence Service.

The first in line is the businessman, Mohammed al-Assawi. Coming from Misrata, he supports in every way the Chief of the Misrata militia and current powerful number two of Tripoli’s regime, namely Maiteeq.

Still today Turkey wants Khaled al-Sharif - a fighter, at the time close to al-Qaeda - but it can also agree on Emad al-Trabelsi - the old commander of special operations in Zintan - or on the Misrata businessman, al-Issawi.

Trabelsi’s problem is that he has very bad and hard relations with the powerful Interior Minister, Fathi Bashaga.

It is interesting to note that last June Bashaga said that Egypt - currently supporting General Haftar - could play an important role in reconciling the political and tribal factions of Tripolitania. Hence Bashaga would accept the reality of a ceasefire with Egypt (and General Haftar) quickly.

Is this the will of Turkey, which is already asking for the administration of the Port of Tripoli - and in the future of the Port of Misrata - waiting to throw out of the way also our local hospital - the only Italian information body in Libya - thanks to our bunch of politicos?

Ahmed Maiteeq was elected, with some doubts and reservations, in May 2014. The following year, again as a man of the Misrata militia, he was elected Deputy Prime Minister. 

Minister Fathi Bashaga also refused to provide as many as 48 million Libyan dinars to Abdullah al-Trabelsi, the factotum brother of Emad al-Trabelsi. He said that the money was needed to "manage" the situation of migrants in the Tripoli area.

It should be noted that the UNCHR, the U.N. refugee agency, which operates in the Tripoli area, was assisting 287 people in mid-June, with a total of 401,863 migrants assisted in Libya. All of them are outside Tripoli and, to a large extent, outside Libya.

Moreover, Emad al-Trabelsi left the Tripoli front in February 2020 to reach General Haftar’s lines. 

Another candidate for the post of Chief of Tripoli's intelligence Services is Tareq Zarmoh. 

He is a former Director of the Intelligence Services Unit operating specifically in the fight against jihadist groups. 

He has excellent relations with the United States, Great Britain and all those who naively believe that the whole disaster in Libya and elsewhere in the region was brought precisely by the jihadists, and not by those who brought them in, i.e. those great Western fools. As far as we know, he has no good relations with the Italian intelligence services. 

How much influence has the United States on al-Sarraj, after Turkey’s magic hand that prevented Tripoli from falling into General Haftar’s hands? Not so much, we imagine. True friends come in bad times and in times of trouble you find out who your friends are.

There are considerable funds, however, for Zarmoh both in Switzerland and the Channel Islands, which could strengthen his anti-terrorist groups. Al- Sarraj knows this very well and takes it into due account.

A further candidate for the post of Chief of Tripoli's intelligence Services is Mustafa Gadur, precisely the militia leader that last February was accused by Fathi Bashaga of conspiring against his Ministry.

Bashaga said that a leader of the al-Nawasi militia, led by Gadur, allegedly contacted the Italian intelligence Services to coordinate a meeting between the al-Nawasi militia and Gadur himself with the United Arab Emirates’ intelligence Services.

Currently the al-Nawasi militia consists of approximately 700 members and includes also a well-established group of Salafist Madkalites who operate with the other members of the al-Nawasi militia, starting from their headquarters in Abu Seta, where there are also the members of the GNA Presidential Council.

The Madkhalites are Salafists who, in Westerners’ silly jargon, would be defined as "extremists".

They fiercely hate the Muslim Brotherhood, but the Madkhalite tradition - of Saudi origin, as usual - tends to be quietist.

The Madkhalites were left alone and sometimes favoured above all by Gaddafi, who often accepted and used their tacit revolt against the Ikhwan, the Muslim Brotherhood.

Nowadays, mainly thanks to France - which aims at getting us out of Gaddafi's Libya and above all taking ENI away from us - Italy is the target of the largest Islam immigration to Italy and Europe that the ignorant people define as "radical".

The members of Gadur’s katiba, i.e. the aforementioned al-Nawasi militia, have now infiltrated all the nerve centres of political and military power, given their role in the central security of Tripoli’s regime. Obviously the Interior Minister, Fathi Bashaga, does not like it at all. Bashaga does not want to be the Chief of the intelligence Services, but he wants to choose who should hold that post and wants, above all, to have him as a friend and, even better, as his servant. 

It should be noted that Mustafa Gadur has excellent relations with Seddik Omar al-Kebir, for having provided him both the security, which in Libya must be rather "assertive", and other support, mainly money-laundering.

He is the Governor of the Libyan Central Bank, who is probably also a member of the Muslim Brotherhood.

He has long been a man of Qatar and Turkey, but he is now in the crosshairs of the United States, which considers him its sworn enemy.

The United States - Lord bless it - wants to merge the Central Bank of Tripoli with that of Benghazi, led by El Hebri.

It is an old U.N. project in the exit plan for Libya. However, currently pressing for such a reunification is really an operation that Benedetto Croce would define "enlightened", i.e. full of high and noble principles, but absolutely devoid of any pragmatism.

Obviously al-Kabir allegedly funded also "terrorism".

Which one? That of so many parts that make up his government, recognized by the United Nations?

Al-Kabir has obvious relations with the militias, i.e. above all with the "Special Deterrence Force" (RADA). Al-Kabir, however, can also rely on the support of the Libyan ambassador to Turkey, Abdul Razzak Mukhtar Abdul Gader, a very important Muslim Brother, as well as with Megaryeh, former director of the CBL and current Head of Bahrain’s branch of the Arab Banking Corporation.

Megaryeh is also Director of the Doha centre of the Brookings Institution, as well as Director of the Silatech association, founded by Sheika Moza Bint Nasser, the mother of Tamim al-Thani, the Emir of Qatar.

Al-Kabir is also one of the sources of the Italian Intelligence Services.

General Haftar’s heavy offensive, however, has led to some remarkable results: firstly, there is the almost total loss of power, influence and also information of the Italian Intelligence Services, which are now outside Libya. 

Obviously, the Turkish Intelligence Service, which has already much helped Italy in Silvia Romano’s liberation, is now capable of deciding many posts and positions in the Tripoli government, pulling rank and underlining its military role, with its jihadists transported from Idlib, Syria.

It has already happened with Khaled Sherif, supported by the Muslim Brotherhood, who last May was not appointed Chief of the LNA Intelligence Service.

He was, however, harshly "purged" by Fathi Bashaga.

After the Turkish jihadist support to Tripoli, there were continuous visits of the most important Turkish Ministers, starting from that of Foreign Minister Cavusoglu on June 17, and of Hakan Fidan, the Chief of the Turkish MIT Intelligence Service, immediately afterwards, who operated also with Tunisia. Not to mention the visit of the Chief of the Turkish e-intelligence, Cemalettin Celik, as well as of the very powerful new Chief of the Turkish intelligence Service network in Libya, Metehan Olgun.

The visit of the Turkish Foreign Minister was not by chance, not even from an economic viewpoint.

As already mentioned, Turkey harshly told al-Sarraj it wanted the almost complete management of the port of Misrata.

Now, there is the Misrata Free Zone, without Misrata; no major imports from abroad into Libya; no connection with the Mediterranean; no major transportation of legal or illegal oil to Italy and the EU.

Furthermore, just during the Turkish clash with General Haftar, Turkey explicitly stressed the importance of the Misrata Forces, which still report to Fathi Bashaga, the Interior Minister and true number 2 of the Tripoli government for long time. 

He is the likely king maker. 

Currently, however, the mediators, brokers and businessmen of Misrata operate mainly with exchanges from Turkey, especially with regard to the agrifood sector.

Moreover, Bollorè - a man of the French Presidency, but often in contrast with its intelligence Services, which sometimes have flooded the Italian ones with very negative dossiers on him - has had a contract with the Misrata Authority since 2010, but has obviously not supported the French engagement with General Haftar. Quite the reverse. But we do not believe that Bollorè is in the first thoughts of the Misrata Port Authority.

Turkey is largely penetrating Africa from Libya. 

Guinean President Alpha Condé visited Ankara twice in less than two months, but President Erdogan alone has also put the Turkish NGO, IHH, into action to support Alpha Condé and the Guinean population and to pave the way for some Turkish businessmen who want to do business and make transactions in Guinea Bissau, or are even forced to do so.

In the African regions of Islamic tradition, the Turkish government is replacing the still operational wide networks of Fethullah Gulen - by now its number one enemy - especially in Guinea, Senegal and Gabon, while Gulen's schools are still performing well in South Africa and Nigeria, despite the efforts of the textile oligarch (with factories in the areas where migrants from Syria stay), who is also honorary consul to Pretoria.

In Mogadishu, the Turkish conglomerate Albayrak operates by processing Guinean minerals, while the local government in Bamako has recently entrusted the management of a fast road to the Turkish family Kalioncu.

A Turkish business family, however, has failed to sign the contract for the construction of the Kandadji dam on the Niger River in favour of India, which can transfer the materials from the Konkola copper mine to Niger’s ports, while the government of Zambia - an unavoidable channel - supported Turkey. 

Currently, before its actual conquest of Libya, but mainly thanks to our strategic foolishness, Turkey records approximately 30 points of economic development in Africa.

 

Professor Valori is President of the International World Group

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