The Caliphate is around the corner. In front of the coasts of Sicily, just 400 kilometers away from Lampedusa. The bloodthirsty men dressed in black are there, on the other side of the Mediterranean Sea. As in the Middle Ages, echoes the alarm yell: “The enemy is coming!”. Errors, omissions and conflicting interests between different regional powers along with Europe’s guilty inertia are transforming Libya into a new Somalia. A State which is not a State, controlled by militias and tribes fighting over strips of land, and where ideological fundamentalism finds fertile soil. After Muammar Gaddafi’s death and the end of his regime, Libya lived just a few months of equilibrium, becoming very soon a complex scenario where took form the nightmare of civil war, better than a fitna, to put it in an Arab word. Islamists against lay people.
Tribes that have been subjugated at first and now are willing to assert themselves with weapons. Violence has enhanced divisions and has encouraged the growth of extremist organizations that have chosen to take an oath of loyalty to the Caliph of Raqqa, Abu Bakr al Baghdadi. A small core that has been gradually growing. It succeeded in conquering cities and proclaiming the creation of an emirate in Derna. A kind of enclave of the Islamic State of Syria-Iraq at the center of the Mediterranean Area, just a few steps away from Europe. A first step towards the rebirth of the Ommayade empire, whose borders extended from Damascus, crossed northern Africa, and finished in Andalusia. The new enemies have immediately demonstrated their loyalty to the black Caliph by spreading a video which has become tragically famous, in which Christians are being beheaded on the beach. Since that day, the followers of the Islamic State have not only produced frightening images to terrorize the West, but have also carried on a military strategy to conquer territories. From Derna they have reached Sirte, threatening to reach also Tripoli. A strategy dictated by political and military opportunities. Moving Eastwards is easier: the tribes on the coast do not like the supremacy of the Islamist militias settled in Tripoli who have connections with tribes that have been always their rivals and who had previously subjugated them. Besides, militias in Misurata and Tripoli do not receive any international support and are only marginally sustained by Saudi Arabia. And let us not forget the proximity to the border with Tunisia, from where come many foreign fighters who join ISIS.
And the process has not finished yet. While in the West goes on the debate and the Arab countries divide, Daesh moves forwards and has occupied Sirte, widening a lot the territory under their control. The attempts made by the militia of Misurata to gain back Gaddafi’s hometown have been useless. The Islamic State is transforming it into its capital. Special Courts, prohibition of smoking and alcohol. Televisions that broadcast football are turned off and radio stations do not broadcast music any more. Only songs that celebrate the heroic actions of the mujheddins are allowed. Not only bans. IS men have opened clinics and are paying the widows per diem. After the Paris attacks, they decided to celebrate by going out in the streets and giving people sweets and candies. And a good part of the population seems to accept the new “Salafist government” after the failure to manage this territory which followed Qadhafi’s death.
From a military point of view, the Caliphate has targeted petroleum wells, but unlike its Syrian-Iraqi brother who exploits them, Libyans have set them on fire. These last days, through the desert, the jihadists from Sirte have succeeded, with a blitz, to take possess of Sabrata, an ancient roman city to the west of Tripoli, for one day. A warning to the rebel government from Tripoli and at the same time a warning to the West. To the militias in Tripoli, from which they have obtained the liberation of some prisoners, they made it clear that they were able to surround the former capital and take control over it. In the West, they have shown that they are ready to sow destruction in archaeological sites that are heritage of the humanity as it has already happened to Palmira in Syria and to Nineveh in Iraq. On the other hand, Abu Qurayn, the last outpost in the hands of the IS to the west of Sirte, is 400 kilometers away from another archaeological site of Leptis Magna, the homeland of the emperor Septimius Severus.
The consolidation of the IS in Libya has been strengthening over the last two months, i.e. since when air attacks have become more frequent in the lands of the Caliphate and forces loyal to Assad are regaining positions in Syria. This situation has prompted many fighters to move to Libya where they continue their insane jihad. In recent days and has been denounced the presence of many foreign fighters in Libya, among the IS’ men. Even some Europeans. Some of them arrived by sea from Turkey, others through the Sinai and the Libyan desert. There is serious risk that the IS could create a new base in Libya, to the point that different qualified sources in the past few days, had given as certain the possible presence of the caliph Abu Bakr al Baghdadi and of the leader of Boko Haram Abubakar Shekau in Libya, where they are thought to have met in a desert oasis. All this is happening in front of the coasts of Italy, the southern border of Europe.
The conference on Libya held in Rome has had the honor of bringing together all the actors involved: from the Arab countries to the United States, Russia and Europe. Something has moved but the IS does not wait and its speed is higher than ours, too much linked to compromising and maintaining balances that are currently obsolete. God forbid that we should repeat the patterns of the cold war or neo-colonialism! That time finished. We need new strategies if we do not want to just cry out as our ancestors did “The enemy is coming!”.