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Libyans beware:  The Trojan horses are on their way!

Do not trust the horse, Trojans! Whatever it is, I fear the Greeks even when they bring gifts.”            From the Aeneid of Virgil


Libya is awash with offers of help but it behoves Libyans to examine these offers extremely carefully before accepting them, despite the “attractive” gift wrapping.

Recent French announcements over its “grave concern about violence in Libya” and the offer to step up help to stem ”the tide of violence particularly in the south of the country” must not be taken at face value.  France’s “concern” about south Libya/Fezzan is symptomatic of other larger French concerns not entirely shared by Libyans.

French anxieties about dwindling influence among its erstwhile allies in North African and the Sahel region are not new. Rather than any increase in the levels of violence within Libya, it is the growing closeness between the United States and the countries of the Sahel region which has prompted these anxieties to resurface

For the French, nothing illustrates the growing US presence in former French colonies more tellingly than the increasing levels of American/Algerian cooperation on regional issues, including Libya. Witness how much in tandem recent Algerian official statements on “reconciliation in Libya” were with those of US officials.

The American Algerian entente however goes beyond singing from the same hymn sheet on Libya. During US Secretary of State John Kerry’s visit to Algeria last April the United States and Algeria initiated “strategic” talks on regional security. The two countries pledged to continue their combined efforts to combat” Islamist terrorism” within Algeria and across the Maghreb.

The choice by Washington of Algeria as its regional partner in fighting ”Islamist terrorism” is puzzling. It ignores claims by people including Professor Jeremy Keenan, a world authority on the Sahara-Sahel region from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) who writes of   ” murky  imbroglios“  involving  the  Département du Renseignement et de la Sécurité [DRS] and groups of local terrorists. “ A claim former National Security Agency counterintelligence officer John Schindler appears to agree with.

So why is the US partnering with Algeria in the face of western reports indicating that its North African partner is perhaps not the most credible partner in the proclaimed fight against ” Islamist terrorism”? Might the bond between the two countries be something more significant than a  “spur of the moment” contrived common front to fight this common enemy?

The French are convinced that it is all about oil. Algeria is part of a wider regional policy network, which aims to vary energy supply sources in the event of any impending supply challenges. By 2035 world oil demand will still exceed production from existing sources, and the demand for gas will also have risen. British government documents obtained by the London-based oil and gas watchdog, Platform, show the UK is playing a central role in the drive to cement western energy ties with Algeria.The UK strategy thus fits into a broader US-led effort to dominate the region’s untapped oil and gas resources.

The French anxieties go beyond apprehensions about mere international standing and prestige, for them the future of their energy supplies is at risk. From a purely French perspective such concerns are understandable. France’s attempt to establish a Pax Francia in the Sahel, including a revived “presence in Fezzan “ is unacceptable to Libyans. And France’s attempts to counter what it perceives as an over domineering Pax Americana in North Africa and the Sahel is likely to be resisted not only by the United States but by Algeria as well

Libyans meanwhile must keep their eyes wide open to the complexity of what is happening in the region and more importantly develop the ability to see beyond their short political noses or they risk finding themselves unwitting pawns in a game being played way above their heads .

Some good advice for the Libyans might be to look any potential gift horse very closely in the mouth and not to shy away from sending anything even mildly suspect back where it came from, with a polite yet firm “thank you but no thank you” note.
The author of this article, Abdullah Elmaazi, is an expert on Libyan history and politics

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