TRIPOLI, Libya — As the militiamen saw it, they had the best of intentions. They assaulted another militia at a seaside base here this week to rescue a woman who had been abducted. When the guns fell silent, briefly, the scene that unfolded felt as chaotic as Libya’s revolution these days — a government whose authority extends no further than its offices, militias whose swagger comes from guns far too plentiful and residents whose patience fades with every volley of gunfire that cracks at night.
The woman was soon freed. The base was theirs. And the plunder began.
“Nothing gets taken out!” shouted one of the militiamen, trying to enforce order.
It did anyway: a box of grenades, rusted heavy machine guns, ammunition belts, grenade launchers, crates of bottled water and an aquarium propped improbably on a moped. Men from a half-dozen militias ferried out the goods, occasionally firing into the air. They fought over looted cars, then shot them up when they did not get their way.
“This is destruction!” complained Nouri Ftais, a 51-year-old commander, who offered a rare, unheeded voice of reason. “We’re destroying Libya with our bare hands.”
The country that witnessed the Arab world’s most sweeping revolution is foundering. So is its capital, where a semblance of normality has returned after the chaotic days of the fall of Tripoli last August. But no one would consider a city ordinary where militiamen tortured to death an urbane former diplomat two weeks ago, where hundreds of refugees deemed loyal to Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi waited hopelessly in a camp and where a government official acknowledged that “freedom is a problem.” Much about the scene on Wednesday was lamentable, perhaps because the discord was so commonplace
Quote:... a government official acknowledged that “freedom is a problem.”
In Tripoli, the traffic lights work, but are universally ignored.
“Why do you need an AK-47 to tame the traffic?” Sabri Issa, a petroleum services company owner, asked while watching four young militia fighters gruffly directing the clots of cars around Martyrs Square, their automatic rifles waving at windshield height. Two police officers sat in their car a few yards away. “They do nothing to control these guys,” Issa said. “We have a government in name only.”
Militia members from Tripoli have taken over the towering Grand Hotel. Others guard the airport. And although fewer dead bodies from revenge killings are discovered each morning, gunfire still echoes nightly.
Interior Ministry officials acknowledge they have no power over the looting and shooting. Criminal courts are paralyzed. When fighters are arrested, their comrades break them out of prison. With unemployment near 30 percent — and higher among young men — the Transitional National Council has scratched together a one-time payment of about $1,600 to each fighter, in the hope of drawing some of them off the street
The first round of voting in the presidential election was, above all, a voting out of the governing president. Sarkozy had falsely calculated that a desperate and risky campaign would see him scamper through the first round of voting with a lead, giving him momentum for the final two weeks of campaigning.
Andreas Noll says many French voters turned their backs on reality
There were two reasons his dreams didn't come true. The most important of which was that the French are sick of Nicolas Sarkozy and obviously want to give a chance to his opposite: the calm and calculated Francois Hollande. Sarkozy's mercurial personality, his need for recognition and his frequent unpresidential manner have all led people in his own camp to turn away from him. His polarizing personality has become a burden that could only be lifted by a positive economic situation. But on election day, France suffers from its highest unemployment in 30 years, a dangerously high national debt, a record trade deficit and an overall economic decline.
On Tuesday, gunmen stormed Libya's parliament and started shooting, forcing lawmakers to abandon a vote on the country's next prime minister, a spokesman for the legislature said. Omar Hmeidan told the news agency Reuters that the shooting had wounded several people and linked the attack to one of the defeated candidates for prime minister, though he did not give a name.
In Tuesday's first ballot, the businessman Ahmed Maiteeq came out on top among seven candidates. The gunmen arrived before a second round between him and the runner-up, Omar al-Hasi, could take place. A member of parliament told the news agency AFP that the legislature had postponed the prime minister vote until next week.
Reining in militias has proved one of many challenges for Libya's government - no matter who has led it - since the 2011 overthrow of the dictator Moammar Gadhafi, ironically thanks in large part to groups affiliated with the well-armed groups leading attacks on the current administration. The parliament was last stormed by gunmen in early March.
The previous prime minister, Abdullah al-Thinni, resigned two weeks ago, saying gunmen had attacked his family. In October, assailants detained then-Prime Minister Ali Zidan. About a week later, gunmen killed the head of Libya's military police force.
Production tumbled further over the weekend, to 230,000 barrels a day—compared with 1.4 million barrels just last summer—after renewed protests forced a shutdown at the El Sharara oil field deep in the Murzuq Desert, in the southwestern part of the country.
The field is operated by Akakus Oil Operations, a joint venture of Libya's state-owned NOC, Spain'sRepsol YPF, Austria's OMV and France's Total.
Those problems are on top of disruptions in the east.
"There is a structural political issue with the eastern provinces that is preventing exports from that region, but the government is so weak that it cannot even sustain production in the west of the country," Olivier Jakob, managing director of Swiss research firm PetroMatrix, told CNBC.
In its February report, the International Energy Agency noted that Libyan production capacity had shrunk to 1.2 million barrels a day from 1.7 million before the 2011 civil war. The most recent data available indicate that more than 75 percent of the oil exported in November went to Europe.
But European appetite for Libya's sweet crude may be dwindling because of the continent's deteriorating refining margins.
"The other side of the equation is demand for Libyan crude," Samir Kasmi, partner at Dubai-based advisory firm CT&F, told CNBC. "The European refineries have been struggling over the last few years, and we will certainly see additional closure of capacity in the next few years."
Jakob said that "Libya is a total failure in post-revolution management. Libya, Egypt, Syria, Ukraine … the Mediterranean is growing into a greater post-revolution mess."
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Airstrikes by U.S. partners caught the Obama administration unaware and come as chaos in Libya deepens.