Studio guest Dmitry Polikanov, Vice-President of the PIR-Center, an independent think-tank (studio guest), Mohamed Sabreen, Managing Editor, Al Ahram daily, Cairo, Dr. Alon Ben-Meir, Professor of International Relations at the Center for Global Affairs at NYU, Akram El-Bakush, Libyan political activist, living in the US, Iyad Khuder, reporter and producer at Middle East Channel web-based TV (Damascus).
Andrew Korybko: Where do you see the Russian support in all of this matrix of what is happening?
Dmitry Polikanov: We saw the visit of the Russian FSB head to the world summit on extremism. So, this means that despite all the sanctions and all the controversies that exist in the Russia-West relations, there are some issues that require joint effort and rational people realize that nothing can be achieved without joined work in this area.
Andrew Korybko: How much of a threat the Libyan destabilization is to Egypt?
Mohamed Sabreen: The situation in Libya speaks for itself. After the bombardments by NATO and weapons ending up in the hands of the wrong people, it started being a magnet for all the terrorist evil from different countries. And it threatens the security of Egypt.
Andrew Korybko: It seems that the wars is in Libya and in Syria are connected, with the Libyan weapons contributing to terrorism in Syria, and now the international terrorists based in Syria migrating to Libya. What connects these two crises?
Iyad Khuder: Terrorism and NATO – these are the things that connect Libya and Syria. The criteria for any country to be classified as good or bad for the US and its allies is only one thing – is it submissive to the US or not. This is the common factor between Syria and Libya before the Arab Spring. Syria has been resisting so far and has maintained its strength, unlike Libya which broke down. Not one country is allowed to be independent of the US. But some countries resist, such as Syria, Iran, Venezuela and, of course, Russia which has the leading role. The US and Israel want all the countries in the world to orbit around them, to be satellites and puppets for them. Libya wasn’t orbiting around the US and its allies. Was Gaddafi a good ruler or not – this is another issue. But it doesn’t matter for the US. In my opinion, he wasn’t a good ruler in terms of democracy and development, maybe. But did the Arab Spring succeed to bring a better reality to Libya?
Andrew Korybko: With all the chaos going on in the country, it makes one wonder – was the 2011 NATO war a complete failure. Where is the so-called liberal democracy and freedom that it was supposed to bring?
Dr. Alon Ben-Meir: It is very hard to talk about the democracy in Libya. And I think this was a misconception from day one. We tried to revolutionize the political system that has been under Gaddafi that was far from resembling any sort of democracy. So, it was naïve, I believe, on our part to try to introduce the democratic form of governance in a country which is tribal in essence. And therefore, it is extremely difficult to put it together, let alone introducing the reforms that are completely alien.
I've been observing the situation from day one going back 3.5 years back and said that we had to approach it completely differently, and focus more on how to get these tribal leaders together and develop a some kind of national strategy where there is a full representation of all the peoples, and allow the democratic form of government to come from bottom up, and not to be imposed from the top to bottom. That is the mistake we have committed. And as a result, what we are seeing now is that, basically, the country is divided into two governments or two armies. And in between these two you have a vacuum that the extremists are coming to fill in. And this is where ISIS has found a fertile ground to come in and begin their operation there. We are going to see far more escalation before we could actually address this terrible development.
Andrew Korybko: How much of a threat is it to the entire mid-east North Africa region? Do you think it can become a bigger Pandora’s box for the ME than Syria is right now?
Dr. Alon Ben-Meir: I don’t know if it is going to be bigger. I think ISIS’s focus right now is still Syria and Iraq, because they will have a very difficult time connecting between the ME and North Africa. They are interested in destabilizing the situation as much as they can to create the vacuum they can fill. The concern right now is more of a Western one, specifically Italy’s. The closest Italian island is only 300 km away from the Libya shores. They have a great deal of concern that they could come overnight and land in Italy. So, the concern is more European right now, than the ME, because the ME already has strong Al Qaeda basis there and I don’t think they are going to let them replace it. What they are going to do now is to merely continue stabilizing to be able to achieve more limited objectives at this juncture.
Andrew Korybko: What do you think is at the country’s current problems?
Akram El-Bakush: The weapons in the wrong hands that have been handed by the international coalition and NATO. And one of the most important reasons is the intervention of some countries into the Libyan internal politics. Qatar was one of the main players in the Libyan intervention. Qatar constantly supported the Islamic militias and the MB militias. They wanted them to get into power in Libya, even though they lost in a couple of elections in Libya. But Qatar kept pushing them and giving them weapons, media, money – you name it. They’ve given them power and they did the same with Egypt and Tunisia. They have this big dream of controlling the region through the MB.