By James M. Dorsey
Hi, and welcome to the Turbulent World, with me, James M. Dorsey. as your host.
Libya has figured prominently in recent headlines. These days, it’s floods that have devastated Eastern Libya and killed more than 5000 people, days after a catastrophic earthquake rocked Morocco like much else. Some 10,000 people are missing.
What starts in Libya doesn’t stay in Libya. It reverberates far beyond the North African country’s borders with two rival governments, both supported by external players.
Libya has been in turmoil since the 2011 popular Arab Revolt that toppled Colonel Moammar Qaddafi. Each of the rival governments is supported by external players. Eastern Libya is controlled by rebel leader Field, Marshall Khalifa Haftar, while western Libya is governed by an internationally recognised government in Tripoli.
The floods could not have occurred at a worse moment for Haftar. The short-lived mutiny in June by the Wagner Group has cast a shadow over Russian backing for the rebel leader.
Add to this, recent protests following a controversial meeting in Rome between the foreign ministers of Libya and Israel, raised the spectre of a disconnect between Middle East and governments and public opinion.
As the United States seeks to engineer the establishment of diplomatic relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel, Libya alongside Algeria, Syria, and Lebanon, may be the least likely candidate to normalise its relations with Israel, in part because of the influence of Islamists and militants in a country that is as much ruled by rival governments as it is by militia.
Overall, Libya may not be the most influential player in the Middle East, but the impact of what happens in Libya resonates across the region and beyond frequently impacting the domestic policies of countries like the United States, France and Italy. My guest today, Ethan Chorin, notes that Libya, if ignored, “may be marginal for policy formation, but it’s poisonous when neglected.”
A former US diplomat, who served in Libya and elsewhere in the Middle East East, is the author of ‘Benghazi! A New History of the Fiasco that Pushed America and its World to the Brink.’