la giornalista e scrittrice Souad Sbai

In Rome, the conference “Italy and Libya’s Risiko” promotes the debate on the challenges and prospects of the complex Libyan scenario.

By Souad SBAI*

Libya is a decisive issue for the international geopolitics, but its relevance is too often underestimated. Due to ISIS emergence and growth in Syria and Iraq, the attention of analysts and commentators has mostly been focused for a long time on the developments in that specific area, while forgetting the south-western shores of the Mediterranean. The latter has been going through deep political rifts since 2011, and has turned into the cradle of a new form of jihadism.

As a matter of fact, since the fall of Gaddafi in Libya, the various forms of international terrorism could meet and merge in the Libyan territory, according to an osmotic process: from elements of Ansar Al Sharia and Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), to ISIS veterans and above all Al Qaeda’s strongholds: Libya is thus being regarded as a “virgin” territory to establish terrorist bases.

Trafficking in arms and migrants, in particular, is the “core business” of these groups, and Qaedist affiliates functions as their trait d’union and operational guide.

The cause that sparked such a mechanism is the domestic unrest culminated in Gaddafi’s demise, whose consequences are under our eyes today. Recently, it has been disclosed that many fighters and militiamen of Libyan origin were allowed to leave from England to Tripoli freely, without interrogation, despite having stated their intention to join the anti-Gaddafi factions.

These figures were tied to the Al Jama’a al Islamiyah al Muqatilah bi Libya, a terrorist group well known in the West. Yet, they were allowed to depart: a detail of no small importance that should prompt us to thoroughly reflect on the delicate Libyan issue in order to provide proper responses.

Who is at the helm of this axis of terror in Libya? Seemingly, the Algerian Mokhtar Belmokhtar, one of the most dangerous terrorist profiles of the world, leader of the Al Murabitoun group, which is linked directly to AQIM.

Those who know the events of the 90s in Algeria  for instance the massacres carried out by Islamists with the coverage of large fringes of the army  remember his name.

Such a scenario is made even more explosive by the heavy funding that Qatar ensures to Islamist movements. Political conflicts, terrorism, immigration emergency: seven years after the revolution that put an end to Gaddafi’s long regime, Libya is still a long way from achieving internal stability, and remains a serious source of insecurity for the Mediterranean and Italy in particular. Hence, what we need to do first is to figure out knots and linkages, assessing what we know exactly to address the medium-term possible developments.

With the Round Table “Italy and Libya’s Risiko”, to be held on Saturday 17 February, 17.00 hours, at the “Antica Biblioteca Valle” in Rome, the Cultural Center “Averroè” (Ibn Rushd) aims to promote a new reflection on the challenges and perspectives regarding the complex Libyan scenario.

Analysts, experts, and journalists will engage in an open, frank, and wide-ranging debate on the fundamental aspects of the crisis, examining Italy’s role as Libya’s privileged partner in supporting the national reconciliation, as well as the territorial integrity, the reconstruction and the socio-economic development of the country.

The danger to be avoided is what I call the “Algerization” of Libya, which would entail the creation of a jihadist safe-heaven, compounded by an uncontrolled migration crisis that will become even more explosive than today.

In North Africa, and especially in Morocco, this danger has been understood since a long time, and right in these days there will be a summit against radicalism and jihadism, promoted by an organized groups of women  A sign that the Libyan instability is spreading the fear of contagion not only in Europe, but also in the whole North-African region.

* Journalist, writer, and promoter of the Cultural Center “Averroè” (Ibn Rushd), based in Rome and devoted to the promotion of Mediterranean cultures. Since 2016, she has been speaker in the Conference of the International Association of Parliamentarians for Peace, yearly organized at the Italian Chamber of Deputies.