by Fabio Giuseppe Carlo Carisio
Sabrata (Arabic: صبراته,) is a town in north-western Libya founded by the Phoenicians and then conquered by the Romans. Since 1982 the vestiges of its ancient splendor, including a Roman theater, have been included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
It is located 70 km from Tripoli and 100 from the border with Tunisia. But its role is now relevant and strategic for other reasons: it is only a few kilometers from the embarkation point of the migrant boats heading for Italy and from the oil and gas depot of Mellitah (Tajoura), owned by joint venture between Libyan National Oil Corporation (NOC) and the Italian ENI (Ente Nazionale Idrocarburi). The Greenstream, the 520-km submarine pipeline linking Libya and Sicily to Gela, from where the gas is redistributed throughout Italy, starts from the Sabrata platform.
THE SMALL RAIS FUNDED BY ITALY WITH $ 5 million
Precisely in order to preserve that crucial point in 2017, the then Interior Minister Marco Minniti, with the approval of the Paolo Gentiloni government, entered into an agreement with the military “rais” of one of the clans who first sensed the importance of Sabrata and had taken control. Today that militiaman, whose services would have cost Italy 5 million dollars, was killed during the fighting that saw him lined up with the Martyrs of Sabrata in support of President Fayez al-Sarray, President of the Presidential Council and Prime Minister of the Government of the Libyan National Agreement formed following the peace agreement of 17 December 2015.
“The news is confirmed, el Fitouri al Dabbashi died in clashes between rival militias south of Tripoli. The death of al Dabbashi, who was wanted for terrorism and ties with the Islamic State, is also relevant news for Italy, not only for the internal balance between the Libyan militias” reports Raffaele Masto on the blog Buongiorno Africa. The news was also highlighted by InsideOver, Il Giornale’s geopolitical column, and war reportages, after several launches by AgenziaNova, a media sponsored by Leonardo, the Italian state-owned multinational defense company.
The fear that this death could have serious repercussions on the safety of the ENI power plant and on the traffic of migrants it appears, in reality, to be poorly founded. The blogger Masto clearly explains this: «Sabrata’s strategic position makes us understand the political weight of a character like el Fitouri al Dabbashi, even if today the situation has radically changed. Sabrata is currently in the hands of the forces of General Khalifa Haftar, the strong man from Cyrenaica who has been besieging Tripoli since 4 April”.
In a forthcoming report we will see how the military leader Haftar, commander of the Libyan national army (LNA), considered a CIA agent also for the long period spent in the US without apparent occupation, managed to strengthen his military contingent thanks to a triple criminal activity: the smuggling of migrants, the smuggling of oil, the smuggling of hard currency (euro and dollar) and the use of a parallel central bank for the placing on the market of Libyan dinars printed in Russia.
Today we analyze the failure of Italian politics in Libya that with a suicidal maneuver gave the logistical support of the Bases Nato to France, suspected of supplying weapons to the Haftar militias, and to the US to unleash the so-called Arab Spring in support of the Council National Transition that succeeded in overthrowing Colonel Muhammar Gheddafi by killing him and thus marking the end of stability in Libya due to the continuous conflict between LNA and GNA in a struggle without quarter for the control of the great energetic resources of the country by Western powers.
What happened is almost pathetic. The Italian Republic, at the behest of the President of the Republic Giorgio Napolitano (head of the armed forces), supported a war against the Libyan president Gheddafi who had previously stipulated advantageous agreements both for an energy joint venture with Eni and for migration control thanks to the friendship and diplomatic ability of former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, induced by Napolitano to grant the use of Italian Nato bases for the attack in Libya.
Then the Gentiloni government spent 5 million dollars to agree with a small local rais, ready to help anyone for money and power and considered a supporter of ISIS, to remedy the consequences of the disaster created with the elimination, on October 20, 2011 , of Gheddafi, the only leader capable of guaranteeing order in a country undermined by tribal rivalries and sought after by international energy speculators of oil and weapons lobbies.
THE HAFTAR RISE THANKS TO THE SUPPORT OF FRANCE
In this extremely synthesized process, both General Haftar and the chieftain Fitouri al Dabbashi had an important role. Both were in fact among the first military leaders to oppose the Gheddafi regime. The current LNA commander, who is sowing relentlessly dead after the attack on the capture of Tripoli in the conflict between Chad and Libya, was one of the commanders of the Libyan army. In 1987, during the war against Chad, he was taken prisoner during the battle of Wadi al-Dum.
In prison, he formed a contingent of about 2,000 Libyan prisoners, the “Forza Haftar”, equipped by the United States, with the task of overthrowing the Libyan regime. He has released in 1990 thanks to good US offices and spent almost 20 years in the USA, also obtaining the citizenship of that country. In 1993, while he was at his residence in Vienna, Virginia, he was sentenced home in absentia for capital punishment for “crimes against the Libyan Jamāhīriyya”.
Alleged CIA agent, in 2011 he returned to his homeland to actively support the insurrection against the Gheddafi regime. In April, Abd al-Fattah Yunis assumed the role of commander in chief of the rebel armed forces, Omar al-Hariri assumed the post of Chief of Staff of Yunis and Haftar became the number 3 of the army hierarchy, with the rank of lieutenant general.
However, its power was consolidated during the Second Libyan Civil War in the coalition of the House of Representatives supported by Egypt, UAE, France, USA, United Kingdom, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Chad, Algeria as opposed to the Misurata Army (supported by the Muslim Brotherhood of Qatar, Turkey with the help of Sudan) and the Islamic State. In a second phase of the conflict, the same LNA of Haftar clashed with the GNA supported by Italy, Europe, and the UN with the formal support of the US and the United Kingdom.
His rise has had no limits even for Russia’s support, intending not to be cut off from the Libyan chessboard after the start of the Syrian conflict unleashed by the US with the financing of the FSA rebels and ISIS, but above all by France which, unlike Moscow, it continued to support Haftar even after the Tripoli offensive of April 2019. An unequivocal proof emerged last July 10 when the newspapers reported the news of the discovery of French weapons in the LNA deposits in the western territories of the country.
“The four Javelin anti-tank missiles found in Libya last week in a base of General Khalifa Haftar in the city of Gharian were bought from France in the United States – wrote the Italian newspaper Repubblica – The city was occupied with a surprise attack of the soldiers of President Fajez Serraj, who found the Javelin in a warehouse abandoned by the Haftarians. The mystery would seem to have been resolved, with the admission that the 4 bombs had been purchased by the French Ministry of Defense in a batch of 260, in 2010, a year before the outbreak of the revolution in Libya “.
It was the New York Times, based on information from the US State Department, that revealed that the missiles had cost $ 170,000 each and were generally sold to the allies. The French Ministry of Defense explained that they had been provided for self-defense to French forces “deployed for anti-terrorist intelligence purposes” in Libya; missiles “damaged and out of order” had been “temporarily stored in a depot for destruction”. “And the pro-Haftar rebels have not been transferred to the local forces”: these weapons were “owned by our forces for their own safety and the possibility of selling, giving away, loaning or transferring this ammunition was never in question. to anyone in Libya “.
However, the Paris insurers have left many doubts open as the 007 and the French special forces are stationed in the east of the country, very far from Tripoli and from the place where the Javelin missiles are found, which have a range of three kilometers and being very sophisticated they are used against armored vehicles, tanks or helicopters flying at low altitude. So a weapon too expensive and powerful to be used against Toyota pickups of jihadists.
THE ENI PLANT “PROTECTED” FROM THE DABBASH’S CLAN
Greenstream is the main pipeline between Italy and Libya. It has been operational since 1 October 2004 and its construction work has been carried out very quickly, starting in August 2003 and completed in February of the following year. The pipes were laid by Saipem.
The inauguration took place on 7 October of the same year, by Silvio Berlusconi and Mu’ammar Gheddafi. It is controlled by Eni (75% stake) and NOC (25% share) in the framework of the broader joint venture called Western Libyan Gas Projects and is part of the Libyan Gas Transmission System. It allows the gas extracted from the Bahr Essalam (offshore) and Wafa (in the Libyan desert, on the border with Algeria) fields to be transported to Sicily and from there to the rest of Italy. The total investment was 7 billion euro, of which 3.7 net to Eni.
The nerve center of the energetic activity is represented by the deposit of gas and oil (coming from the oil platforms in the waters in front of Sabrata) of Mellitah that after the fall of the Gheddafi regime has started to become a very dangerous area under the control of a well-known Libyan clan. «Proximity to one of the most important migrant trafficking establishments, these are the two elements on which the Al Dabbashi base their fortune – writes Mauro Indelicato on InsideOver thus revealing the role of Fitouri grew thanks to the killing of the Libyan president but also of his family – Fitouri Al Dabbashi is immediately considered one of the most active exponents of the clan.
Already in 2011, it is reported as one of the main supporters of the local anti-Gheddafi rebels, subsequently, it is mainly engaged in trafficking in human beings. But that’s not all: as is revealed by AgenziaNova, which takes its cue from sources in the anti-terrorism control room of Sabratha, Fitouri has been involved in terrorist activities since 2012. In particular, for several years he would have facilitated the entry of ISIS terrorists from Tunisia».
Ibrahim al Dabbashi was Libyan ambassador to the United Nations, Mostafa al Dabbashi, and a former Interior Minister of Prime Minister Abdullah al Thinni’s government. But other exponents of the family ended up behind bars for complicity with the terrorists: Wissam al-Dabbashi, nicknamed al-Batsha, al-Fitoury’s cousin, is currently incarcerated with Muneer al-Dabbashi in a prison run by RADA, the Special Deterrence Forces Ministry of Interior. Both were accused of offering shelter to the extremist elements that were brought from neighboring Tunisia.
Fitouri’s behavior is very similar to that of a mafia boss: shortly after the killing of two Italian Bonatti workers kidnapped along with two other compatriots, he reveals details of that episode in an interview and credits himself as “vigilantes” . “Our activities, my own and those of the militia, are the securing of the region and the surveillance of the Mellitah plant,” declares the representative of Al Dabbashi on that occasion as reported by InsideOver.
“But it is above all with the immigration emergency of 2017 that the role of the Al Dabbashi turns out to be decisive for the policies of our country. In August of that year the then interior minister Marco Minniti, in concert with the rest of the Gentiloni government, decides to donate funds to Tripoli to help Libyan institutions to guard the coasts and curb departures” the journalist Indelicato adds.
To remedy the damage caused by the elimination of Gaddafi supported by President Napolitano, a former Democratic Party deputy, his companions deployed use the small military rais, thus killing two birds with one stone: they stem the departure of migrants destined for Italy for the agreement under the Triton operation signed by former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, former Pd secretary, and guarantee protection to the ENI plant.
“Five million euros start from Rome in the direction of the Libyan capital. However, as a Reuters report reveals, those sums actually end up in the portfolios of the clans that manage human trafficking – adds InsideOver – In fact, that money becomes the reason why the organizers of the journeys of hope accept the boats remain on the ground. Among those clans, of course, that of Al Dabbashi is also evident. The millions that ended up in their pockets, however, break some local balances, with rival militias that are not there not to participate in the division of those sums. This leads to internal clashes in Sabratha, in which the Al Dabbashi has the worst”.
THE HAFTAR’S BOMBING ON THE ENI PLANT IN MELLITAH
Haftar is well aware of the strategic importance of that area and the interests it has in its gas and oil in France and the USA. For this reason, some militias close to the LNA coalition conquered it, forcing Dabbashi to take refuge in Tripoli where he led his men to support the forces of the government of Al Sarraj. But it is precisely near the Libyan capital that it is killed in the fighting, most probably by the men of the pro-American general.
Since the LNA army groups take control of the Sabrata coast, the lucrative trafficking of human beings, managed with criminal organizations in Nigeria and other African countries, resumes with great intensity, revealing worthless the substantial cost of 5 million dollars sustained by the Gentiloni Government. But it is also the Eni plant, last June, that was targeted by the Libyan general.
“Haftar troops attacked the oil and gas depot of the National Oil Corporation (NOC) and Eni of Mellita (Tajoura). This, as confirmed by the president of FederPetroli Italy Michele Marseille in a note, “at this point forces us to block any type of operation in Libya. We are in constant contact with some representatives in Tripoli to learn more details – he continued – first of all, we must express our closeness to the families of the operators who have been involved in this ugly and devastating happened. In the coming hours, we will have more details on the presence of the materials of the deposit and the amount of the substantial loss “.
“When one faction or the other comes to attack a country’s strategic oil resource, it means that the situation no longer has control and this can only be a first step and warning about possible attacks on the strategic infrastructure of oil production in Libya ». Furthermore, Marseilles underlined that the bombing of Mellita by the LNA is not just an attack on the African country. “But first and foremost a strong signal of an attack on Italy, as ENI is the first and only partner” with the NOC.
Back in April, immediately after the Haftar offensive began, Eni had evacuated some of its personnel in Libya for security reasons. As of February 21, the forces of the general that expanded in the south of the country took control of the El Feel oil field in Murzuq. The extraction of 75 thousand barrels of crude oil per day has not been interrupted, but the field is also managed by Eni.
The attack on the Mellita plant can be seen as mere intimidation precisely to obtain greater freedom in smuggling oil into the other plants. Haftar knows that a more disruptive action would force Italy to a military operation to protect the precious pipeline.
Indeed, the future of Libya remains very uncertain after the failure of peace negotiations due to the political weakness of the International Conference led by Italy, the first partner of President Al Serray recognized by the international community.
Now it is Germany that takes the field proposing itself as the leader of a new summit after the futile attempt by Emmanuel Macron to act as peacemaker between LNA and GNA. But it is unlikely that Hafar will accept a peace agreement by renouncing its leadership and the international crimes that are making it increasingly rich and powerful as we will see in the next report.