Libya has become a den of intrigue following the ouster of former dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. He ruled the country with an iron fist but at the same time managed to create a balance among the country’s long warring tribes. This balance was broken following his murder, and Libya has become a scene of chaos, conflict, and civil war with no avail of its rich oil reserves. The US, France, Italy, Russia, Turkey, Egypt, and the UAE have involved in the conflict, supporting warring sides. Despite commonalities in the Western front, including Turkey, Libya has also been entangled with the East Mediterranean issue. Yet, Mohammed Dahlan’s role seems to have been confined to securing the positions of Gaddafi-like figures in the country and to preventing the ascendancy of Islamists. This was his main role in the region, tasked by the UAE, which has been opposing any democratic transition in any post-Arab Spring country.
“Mohammed DAHALAN […] whose involvement with Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi, Abdullah Al Senussi, and other individuals potentially most responsible for the most serious crimes under the Rome Statute […]”
International Criminal Court Investigation Report
In 2015, a Libyan channel, Panorama, released an array of voice recordings of Egypt’s then Defense Minister, incumbent President Sisi and his chief-of-staff, Major General Abbas Kamel. Sissi and Kamel were discussing the situation in Libya. Kamel informed Sissi that Mohammed Dahlan had a secret role in Libya, instructed by Mohammed bin Zayed. Egypt had to facilitate his mission, which would be beneficial for Cairo, which had recently ousted the Islamist president Mohammad Morsi. The two top Egyptian figures decided to allow Dahlan to travel to Libya via Egypt.
In another leaked voice record, Kamel talks about Dahlan’s visit to Libya, accompanied by three people on a private jet. Kamel also revealed another name: Mohammad Ismail Ahmad Ismail who worked as a security advisor to Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi, who is son of the late Libyan leader and has recently been found eligible by a Libyan court to run for presidency in the upcoming elections. In the conversation, military council member Mahmoud Hijazi is heard telling Sissi that “they want to remove the Muslim Brotherhood, so we will hear what he has to say and tell him nothing.”
The Sissi leaks also aired other voice recordings in which Sissi and his men discuss Dahlan’s role in a counter-revolution in Libya, led by Ahmed Gaddaf al-Dam until putschist Gen. Khalifa Haftar entered the scene. Allegedly, Egyptian officials arranged a meeting between Dahlan and al-Dam.
In 2017, the International Criminal Court started investigating Dahlan’s potential role in some of crimes, committed in Libya. “In furtherance of this investigation, my office seeks the assistance of the Government of Palestine in relation to the alleged involvement of two Palestinian nationals, Mohammed DAHALAN and Mohamed Borhan RASHID, whose involvement with Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi, Abdullah Al Senussi, and other individuals potentially most responsible for the most serious crimes under the Rome Statute, is of concern to the Office. My Office seeks your assistance in identifying details of their relation to such crimes, including potentially aiding and abetting their commission,” the ICC letter read. Saif al-Islam Gaddafi faced an arrest warrant in June 2011 for alleged crimes against humanity. A WikiLeaks cable showed that Dahlan’s relationship with Saif al-Islam Gaddafi was not new. In 2010, they met in Spain.
This was not Dahlan’s first involvement in an investigation about Libya. His name also appeared in Palestinian documents. The Palestinian Authority began examining the allegations by the Libyan opposition groups that Dahlan was responsible for shipping Israeli weapons to Moammar Gaddafi.
However, Dahlan’s efforts to instate al-Dam or the junior Gaddafi failed. Then, the warlord Khalifa Haftar appeared in the scene, becoming the UAE’s most favored figure in the country. Libyan sources claimed that the UAE mobilized Libya’s frozen assets, as many as 50 billion USD, through Dahlan for supporting Haftar’s cause against the internationally recognized and Turkey-backed government. A Libyan official said over 30 billion dollars of Libyan frozen assets were sent to Haftar in funding venues and military support via accounts opened in countries and banks the UAE has shares in. He also added “most of the money was sent through the Palestinian politician Mohammed Dahlan.” Indeed, in 2014, a Salafi-oriented Egyptian politician accused Dahlan with aiding Haftar. According to this politician, Ehab Sheha, the Dahlan-Haftar alliance was helping Israel realize its goals in the region. Putting aside the Islamists’ obsession with Israel, it was not a secret in the Arab world that Dahlan was instructed with helping Haftar.
Imad Mohsen, the spokesman for the Fatah Reformist current led by Dahlan, dismissed the allegations, saying that these were defamation propaganda against his leader. “Dahlan is calling for putting an end to Turkish colonial aggression against Syria and Libya, and he supports Libya’s army in its quest to restore their territorial integrity. This is even though [Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan sent terrorists to Libya. Dahlan encourages Sudan’s democratization and praises Tunisia’s peaceful transfer of power,” he said in an interview with Al-Monitor.
As indicated in the Serbia chapter, an intelligence report confirmed that Dahlan was responsible for arranging arms shipment to Libya. The media reports on the frozen assets suggest that Dahlan used this money to buy weapons from countries like Ukraine and Jordan. The abovementioned intelligence report reinforces this argument as it mentions Dahlan’s cooperation with a local arms dealer, Viktor Bout. This cooperation led to the creation of arms hubs Africa, involving Ukraine and Jordan for manufacturing weapons.
Libya, which was not of significance for being a post-Arab Spring country but also for owning rich oil resources, considerably long maritime in Mediterranean Sea and geostrategic position in terms of its proximity to Europe would not be left to its destiny by the UAE, which was intent on installing controllable dictators across the region. Yet, the same features proved that Libya was not an easy game to win through transacting billions and transferring weapons as other actors like Turkey, Russia, the US, and France also had strong interests.
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