Libya: Will Cyrenaica (or what’s left of it) secede?

If the world switches its recognition from the newly-unconstitutional but 2014-elected and eastern-based House of Representatives (HOR) government to the rump, western-based, Islamist-aligned, 2012-elected transitional “General National Congress” (the GNC, which should have ended already), tribal authorities in the vast, eastern Cyrenaica territory say they will secede from Libya.

I doubt the international community at large is likely to make such a switch, but if things keep deteriorating that might not be needed to trigger the threatened separation…

A council representing the tribes of the eastern coastal region of Barqa [the Arabic name for Cyrenaica] said that it would be obliged to declare the independence of the region in case the international community and the residents of the Libyan capital Tripoli had recognised the congress, instead of the recently-elected House of Representatives.

“We will have to return to the 1949 constitution,” the council added in a statement. Before 1949, Libya was divided into three autonomous regions, including the eastern region of Barqa [Cyrenaica].

Although Tobruk, the current refuge of the “House of Representatives” government, was previously outfitted (decades ago) the royal capital of Libya and could probably stand in again in a pinch if necessary, it’s pretty hard for me to imagine an independent Cyrenaica that doesn’t include Benghazi, its biggest city.

On the military side, the three biggest cities in Libya as a whole — Tripoli, Benghazi, and Misrata respectively — are under full or partial control of the pro-GNC faction and their various aligned Islamist-leaning militias. And the pro-HOR/Hifter forces in Benghazi are reportedly being utterly wrecked by the pro-GNC forces, even while armed with fighter jets and supported by the Egyptian military: In the past month, eighty percent of all deaths (military, Islamist, and civilians) in Benghazi have been from the military or Hifterite militias, according to Agence France Presse, based on Red Crescent and hospital accounts.

Even Tobruk’s calm has been punctured by bombing attacks on temporary government facilities, which began on October 29. (And nearby Derna has reportedly officially fallen this week to a newly recognized ISIS affiliate led by several hundred Libyan combat veterans of ISIS’s Syria/Iraq war.) Perhaps they want to secede, but the pro-HOR tribal authorities of Cyrenaica might not have much territorial control left soon, without a full-scale foreign intervention. And nobody really has the energy or time for that at the moment, including the governments strongly opposed to the GNC backers.

Map of the three pre-1963 Libyan provinces approximated over a map of present-day subdivisions. (Credit: Spesh531 - Wikimedia)

Map of the three pre-1963 Libyan provinces approximated over a map of present-day subdivisions. (Credit: Spesh531 – Wikimedia)

Securing loose arms

Besides regular domestic gun control and gun safety, there’s also been a growing concern since the fallout from arming the Afghan mujahideen in the 1980s as to what happens to those weapons (and bigger, military-grade hardware) once they go overseas into war zones. So how to solve that? Lots of solutions are being floated, and The Economist has an extended rundown on them:

Technological tweaks may be able to make possible weapons that stop working after a certain period of time, or can only be used by specific people or in particular places. Proponents of such technologies believe they have the potential to succeed where political and legislative attempts at arms control have failed…

I suspect — and this is sort of alluded to in the article linked above — that the major flaw in these concepts is that the secondary market, particularly in developing nations, doesn’t acquire the weapons until maybe 15 years after they were sold to the primary buyers.

I’m not an expert by any means, but just from reading news descriptions of the equipment seen in various ongoing conflicts, I think they end up having a use lifespan of 20-30 years (depending on the type of weapons). So most of the technologies being developed now could probably be hacked or eliminated in refurbishment by the time the secondary market was using them.

It would be like selling safes with fifteen-years-behind-state-of-the-art security to third world banks and then being surprised that ten years after they were first cracked in the first world, people were able to crack them all over the third world and make off with lots of money.

I guess then the question becomes whether this high-tech approach is better than doing nothing. Letting top of the line U.S. weapons systems and light arms fall into the wrong hands is something to be avoided, but this may not actually be solvable. And other, older weapons that can’t be traced (or even new issues of old models by less scrupulous manufacturers in some countries) are likely to be fueling wars for many years still to come. The people selling the tech are pitching this as a panacea that will succeed where legal measures have failed. I don’t buy that.