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Tripoli 29.08.2014 
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Sherwes Travel

Libya Weekly Security Update

Security Update – 20 August 2014

Dear Shewes Travel readers,

In this weeks' strategic Libya update from Bloxtons we analyse the impact of the ongoing security issues and what the future holds for the country.

Tripoli

The past week has seen a notable increase in the number of rockets fired towards civilian neighbourhoods within Tripoli. On the evening of Tuesday, 19 August, rockets fired towards the post office and telecommunications HQ missed their intended target and instead hit a residential building. Another hit the grounds of the Military Intelligence grounds in Alzawia Street half a kilometre from the trauma hospital. Rocket and heavy artillery explosions were also reported yesterday and this morning (20 August) in the upmarket and largely residential neighbourhood of Hay Alandalus which had previously escaped much of the recent violence.

Jet planes were heard to attack areas of Tripoli in the early hours of Monday 18 August. The attacks appeared to be precise and focused on Misratan held positions holding rockets and heavy weaponry. However confusion remains as to where the planes came from and who tasked them. The Chief of Staff, Major General Suleiman Obeidi, stated the planes did not belong to the Libyan Air Force and ruled out that Libyan bases had been used to launch them. However, a spokesman for General Hafter stated that the planes had been from forces under his command. The source of the planes became even less certain with some reporting that Hafter had stated the strikes were made in coordination with the international community. [See the Political Analysis section for more detail.]

The Tarhouna constituency in Libya became the first to announce its lack of confidence in their own House of Representatives (HoR) members. This was followed by the Soug Aljumaa constituency of Eastern Tripoli requesting that its HoR members return from Tobruk.

Benghazi

There has been fierce fighting between the Shura Council of Benghazi Revolutionaries and General Hafter’s forces who are attempting to take seize Benina Airport in Benghazi. The Shura Council of Benghazi Revolutionaries is seemingly gaining ground although their progress appears slow.

General

The broadcasts of two large Libya television channels (Libya Alrasmia and Libya Alwatanya) have been disrupted following a decree by the HoR and action by the interim Government. The two channels were closely linked to the 17th of February revolution and had in recent times been broadcasting updates on the recent operations along with footage of achievements on the ground. In addition they frequently carried statements by towns, tribes and military members in support of the “Dawn of Libya” and against the decisions issued by the HoR. In the past weeks they also reported scandals and corruption allegations linked to senior figures including members of al Thani’s government. Recordings of telephone conversations between some members of the al Thani government and members of the new HoR were broadcast and indicated links with remnants of Qadhafi regime and their support for General Hafter and his military campaign. It is likely that the cessation of broadcasts will only be temporary and that broadcasts will resume using a different satellite or on a different frequency.

The ministers of Planning and Industry resigned from their posts in the last week, providing a further indication of the extremely limited level of function across all ministries. Most banks remain unable to function normally due to a lack of cash availability and many thus remain closed.
Political Analysis

Libya is entering strange new territory. On the one hand, it is on the cusp of civil war. On the other, the oil sector that had been stagnant for most of the last twelve months has been making progress (albeit slow).

The latest headline grabbing news in Libya was the bombing of Misratan/Islamist arms depots in Tripoli by unidentified fighter jets under the cover of pre-dawn darkness on 18 August. Although, a spokesman for General Hafter claimed responsibility for the sortie, others have questioned whether Hafter’s jets had the capability to carry out bombing runs at night and with such precision. Some claimed that the armaments used in the attacks were laser-guided, the insinuation being that a European power (or a regional power with more sophisticated European aircraft) carried out the attack to support Hafter. For its part, Italy has denied any involvement in the attack. Other regional powers have refrained from commenting.

There is much chatter on social media and amongst Tripoli residents that the jets belonged to Egypt or the UAE (which reportedly moved a number of jets to a base in Egypt last month). Some have gone further and highlighted the links between General Hafter and the CIA and attempted to draw links to the potential willingness of Egypt to support him due to the significant foreign and military aid Egypt has historically received from the US. Although there is no evidence to support any of this conjecture there have nethertheless been calls for protests on Friday against Egypt, the UAE and Saudi Arabia. This just reinforces the need for the international community (and international companies and organisations) to be sensitive to the possibility of allegations of foreign interference, even when no such actions have occurred.

Since the air raid, rockets have continued to fly in Tripoli, hitting some of the more upscale neighbourhoods to the West of the city centre that had heretofore escaped most militia violence. And whilst the Tripoli air strikes may indicate that Hafter is gaining the upper hand in his confrontation with the Misratans and Islamists (both ikhwani and jihadi), Misrata still has access to a hefty arsenal with which to retaliate as does the jihadi Ansar al-Sharia in Benghazi. In fact, the prospect of retaliation has brought Libya closer to civil war than it has ever been.

Meanwhile, in its final votes before adjourning last week, the HoR passed legislation that would suspend state payments to militias and oblige militia members to join the armed services (as individuals rather than collectively) by the end of the year. In addition, the HoR authorized the formation of a ceasefire committee. The effectiveness of these two acts, however, is limited. First, the HoR is meeting in Tobruk, 1500km from the country’s capital, precisely because it cannot control militias, which begs the question of how it hopes to enforce its latest legislation. Second, as the HoR is in recess until 24 August, the ceasefire committee has yet to meet. Even if it were to meet, given the Islamists and Misratans rejection of the HoR, the committee would likely have little influence. In fact, the next several weeks will be critical for the HoR to demonstrate its competence and relevance.

Oil

Against the backdrop of warring factions and a nearly irrelevant and absent legislature, Libya’s oil is continuing its slow but steady progress. It is however judged that this progress is not sustainable whilst the current security issues and lack of governance persist. Further to last week’s opening of the Ras Lanuf export terminal shipments are now also departing from Sidrah. Upstream activity is returning, including at the disputed al-Sharara field, which has led to production vacillating between 350kbpd and 550kbpd and all export terminals with the exception of Zueitina are operational.

Why this is the case now, especially when production was often below 200kbpd for the last twelve months due to labour actions, protests, and blockades couched in ideological terms, is an open question. One possible explanation is simply that in the absence of a government, administrations at the federal and municipal levels have simply capitulated to demands that protestors had articulated over the last year.

The second, less compelling explanation is that the inexperienced and balkanizing Minister of Oil and Gas Abdelbari al-Aroussi was replaced with the dissolution of government of Prime Minister Ali Zeidan. The more experienced and savvy (and importantly, secular) Omar Shakmak has since taken over and may have been able to resolve some of the disputes that had prevented the sector from realizing its potential. To be sure, the Ministry of Oil and Gas (MoOG) had limited influence in the sector, but al-Aroussi’s departure and his replacement with Shakmak may have brought the National Oil Corporation (NOC) and the MoOG back into alignment. Whatever the reason for the improvement, without significant improvements to both the overall security situation and governance it is judged unlikely that that the recent progress will be able to continue. It is likely that there will be rapid swings in output levels and that the lack of investment in both maintenance and exploration will impact on state revenues for at least the next five years.

 
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Plasma Hotel**** - Tripoli
This very luxurious hotel is located just steps from Tripoli International Fair and a short walk to the city centre (Martyre Square). The hotel boasts wonderful views of the Tripoli city.
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Bab El Bahar Hotel**** - Tripoli
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Al Saraya Hotel*** - Tripoli
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El Khan Hotel*** - Tripoli
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The Golden Chain Hotel *** - Tripoli
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Al Fousul Al Arbaa Hotel (2) ** - Tripoli
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Al Andalus Hotel ** Tripoli
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Assafi Hotel** -Tripoli
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Thuria Hotel *** - Tripoli
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Safwa Hotel*** - Tripoli
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Al Rayan Hotel*** - Tripoli
New hotel coming soon.
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New hotel
Coming soon.
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New hotel
Coming soon.
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New hotel
Coming soon.
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New hotel
Coming soon.
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Sherwes Travel • P.O. Box 91713 Dath El Emad • Tripoli • Libya • Tel/fax: +218-21-4801370 • Cellphone: +218-925201677
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