The five week offensive by rebel leader Khalifa Hiftar has moved into Benghazi itself with militias and troops loyal to Hiftar making air and ground attacks on militia controlled neighborhoods in the city. Many army units have joined Hiftar, providing him with eight fighter bombers and four helicopter gunships plus numerous artillery weapons and armored vehicles. Hiftar spends a lot of time organizing all the militias and armed forces units that have joined his cause. Unified command is one big advantage he has over the many Islamic and tribal militias that oppose unity and peace. Hiftar is representing the majority of Libyans who want peace and prosperity, not endless bickering and lack of national unity. Hiftar says it will take until the end of the year to complete his plan to destroy the Islamic terror and tribal militias. He points to the steady advance of his forces and the sharp decline in assassinations of government officials and those who oppose the Islamic terrorists. At the same time there has been an increase in the number of Islamic terrorist leaders being killed and people in Benghazi not that the Islamic terrorist gunmen have been less active in harassing ordinary citizens. Hiftar is popular with his armed followers because he uses tactics that minimize friendly casualties.
Despite agreements with protestors at shut down oilfields and export ports oil shipments this month are running at a record low of only 100,000 barrels a day. In western Libya protestors demanding more government benefits have been shutting down the refineries on and off for nearly a year now. This has caused growing problems for consumers because all sorts of fuels are frequently in short supply. While over 70 percent of refined petroleum products are imported criminals and militias often seize shipments sent to gas stations and fuel distributors. These problems with fuel are causing a lot of public anger.
June 26, 2014: The government announced that the newly elected parliament will meet August 1st in Benghazi. Despite the violence in Benghazi the government believes that by having many major government operations there will contribute to pacifying the city.
June 25, 2014: Only 19 percent of eligible voters and 27 percent of registered voters showed up for the second parliamentary elections since Kaddafi was overthrown in 2011. It seems that voters were discouraged by all the violence, factionalism and poor performance of those elected the first time around. While security was good in most of the country, there was violence in Benghazi. There Islamic terrorists ambushed an army convoy, killing four and wounding twenty. Elsewhere in the city a prominent lawyer and opponent of Kaddafi was murdered, apparently by five heavily armed Islamic terrorists upset with her views on women and criticism of Islamic radicalism. The attackers shot their way into a guarded residential compound. In many areas where Islamic terrorists were active there was no voting at all. It was simply too dangerous. There was voting in most of Benghazi although three soldiers guarding polling places were killed.
June 22, 2014: Rebel general Khalifa Hiftar accused foreign workers from Turkey and Qatar of spying and ordered those in eastern Libya (east of Sirte) out of the country within 48 hours or risk arrest. Turkey and Qatar denied the charge or that they were supporting Islamic terrorists but began arranging to get hundreds of their citizens (most of them working as specialists) as a precaution.
June 21, 2014: In the east (Hariga) oil export operations were resumed after a two month halt because security personnel shut the place down and demanded back pay. Once this port is in full operation daily oil shipments will rise to 270,000 barrels.
In Benghazi a group of gunmen attacked the port area for several hours. The attackers were driven off and six people were wounded. The attackers were believed to be Islamic terrorists angry at the continued attacks organized by general Hiftar, who is seeking to shut down all Islamic terrorist groups in Libya. The latest Hiftar move was to fire on boats smuggling in weapons for Islamic terrorist groups. Some Islamic terrorists apparently believe port personnel were cooperating with Hiftar, which may be true as most Benghazi residents back Hiftar, not the Islamic terrorists.
Parliament approved a 2014 budget of $48 billion. This is based on oil selling for an average $100 a barrel and Libyan shipments averaging 800,000 barrels a day. So far this year shipments have been less than a third of that, but the government expects to settle the disputes with groups blockading ports and oilfields and average 800,000 barrels a day for the entire year. The budget assumes a deficit of $8 billion. The government had already lost $32 billion because of 11 months of interference with oil exports. Oil exports are still largely blocked by local militias demanding special favors before they will let the oil flow. Currently only about 100,000 barrels a day are being exported. The government still has about $1oo billion left but there is little credit because foreign suppliers and lenders take a dim view of the ability of the current government to turn things around. Government banking officials insist that the remaining $100 billion can be made to last for at least two years. What the government does not like to dwell on is that to make existing cash reserves last spending will have to be sharply reduced. This year the overall cuts are about ten percent. Already Libyans are seeing more and more cutbacks in government spending. Most Libyans depend on the government for jobs, food and other essentials. Without oil income the government cannot deliver and most Libyans will experience a sharply reduced standard of living. About two thirds of the annual government budget is for salaries and benefits. A growing number of government workers are having their pay or benefits delayed so that more essential issues (like food imports) can be attended to. The government reserves are not all cash and it takes time to convert some of those assets into cash. The government is also warning people that a lot of Kaddafi era subsidies will have to go in order to keep the economy alive. Eliminating subsidies would be very unpopular. Kaddafi provided a lot of stuff at very low prices. Like loaves of bread for a few pennies. Fuel and electricity was also sold far below cost as were airline, bus and train tickets. Another problem is the many people who collect a government paycheck who don’t do any work, or even show up for work. Changing all these bad habits is very difficult. The greed, Islamic terrorism and sense of entitlement that is so widespread in Libya also means that foreign investors are not interested because Libyans make inefficient and troublesome employees. Libya is no place to create wealth but it is an ideal place to squander it. The basic problem is that Libyans have proved unable to agree on how to handle their oil wealth. The tribes living where the oil comes from want a larger share. Actually, everyone wants more, for one reason or another. In the last year various local militias near the oil fields and export terminals have seized these facilities halted most (over 70 percent by the end of 2013 and over 85 percent now) oil exports. All this was largely unexpected because at the start of 2013 oil production was at 1.4 million barrels a day and nearly back to normal. Then greed got the best of many factions who decided their loyalties were more to themselves than to Libya as a whole. It’s been downhill since then. Before the 2011 revolution oil accounted for over 90 percent of government revenue and over 70 percent of GDP. With over $32 billion in oil revenue lost so far, eventually there will be no way to pay for essential imports, like food. These shortages have become more widespread and severe and that is driving many people to either back the government or use more desperate measures to grab whatever they can.
June 20, 2014: In Benghazi 70 Egyptian trucks and their drivers were released after having been seized at gunpoint several days earlier. The trucks were taken by a militia that was demanding Egypt release one of their associates who was prosecuted in Egypt for smuggling and sentenced to 20 years in prison.
June 16, 2014: For the second time in less than a year American commandos visited Libya and seized a wanted Islamic terrorist off the street. The latest incident occurred “somewhere near Benghazi” and involved some FBI agents and local operatives in addition to the team of SOCOM (Special Operations Command) operatives (SEALs). The man taken, Ahmed Abu Khattala, is a leader in local Islamic terrorist group Ansar al Sharia and has openly bragged about his role in the September 11, 2012 attack on a U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi that led to the death of the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans. Khattala later changed his story and insisted he was only on the scene to help rescue the ambassador. Libya, which was not given advance warning of this arrest, protested that the operation was a violation of their sovereignty. The U.S. replied that the mission was a legitimate act of self-defense in that Libya has been providing many Islamic terrorists de facto sanctuary because of the Libyan governments’ inability to crack down on the activities of the Islamic terrorist groups. The U.S. was able to pull off the operation despite the Libyan government still being upset about one in October, 2013 that grabbed another wanted terrorist. This time around the Americans had the benefit of former army general Khalifa Hiftar and his coalition of tribal militias and army units fighting against Islamic terrorists groups (like Ansar al Sharia) in and around Benghazi. Not all Libyans consider attacks on leaders of Islamic terrorist groups an illegal act. Ansar al Sharia is apparently still trying to figure out how the Americans tracked down Khattala. Recently Khattala has split his time between running a construction business and leading Ansar al Sharia gunmen in fighting Hiftars men.
In Benghazi officials banned car traffic at night in an effort to reduce the violence that has made life, and doing business, so difficult.
June 15, 2014: In the east the El Feel oilfield resumed production (80,000 barrels a day). El Feel had been shut down several months by a militia protesting abuses like not being paid on time.
Turkey has pulled its diplomats out of Benghazi and warned Turkish citizens in eastern Libya to leave the region until things calm down.
June 12, 2014: Across the border in Tunisia border guards fought a group of armed men coming from Libya.
June 11, 2014: In the east (Benghazi) a suicide car bomb went off outside a police station wounding five policemen. Fifty kilometers east of Benghazi another suicide car bomb went off at an army checkpoint, wounding six soldiers.
June 10, 2014: Outside Benghazi a suicide car bomber killed himself when unable to get through a checkpoint manned by men loyal to Hifter. Three of the Hifter gunmen were wounded.
Former army general Khalifa Hiftar agreed to have him men observe a ceasefire on the 25th, the day national parliamentary elections are to be held. None of the Islamic terrorist militias Hiftar is fighting have agreed to halt operations for the elections and many Islamic terrorist groups oppose the elections because they believe democracy is un-Islamic.
June 9, 2014: The supreme court ruled the recent election of Ahmed Miitig as prime minister to be unconstitutional. Miitig promptly resigned.