Mohammed Al-Mubasher: State Militarization Has Delayed Solution in Libya

Head of the Libyan Notables Council for Reconciliation Mohammed Al-Mubasher
Head of the Libyan Notables Council for Reconciliation Mohammed Al-Mubasher

Mohammed Al-Mubasher: State Militarization Has Delayed Solution in Libya

Head of the Libyan Notables Council for Reconciliation Mohammed Al-Mubasher
Head of the Libyan Notables Council for Reconciliation Mohammed Al-Mubasher

Libya is home to many armed groups that do not stop fighting and movements that exploit the chaotic situation to achieve narrow gains, but, on the other hand, the oil-rich country gathers personalities and civil and tribal figures, who are deploying great efforts to reunite the people and squash political calculations and regional ambitions.

Among those figures is the head of the Libyan Notables Council for Reconciliation, Mohammed Al-Mubasher, who underlines the importance of national reconciliation and equal sharing of power as a prerequisite for forming a permanent government and holding general elections.

In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, Mubasher blamed “many Libyan media outlets” for not serving stability in the country and criticized the government of National Accord, which he said has achieved “limited success in Tripoli, but failed to unite the people under its authority.”

“The National Accord Government, located in Tripoli, is only active in a limited range of the country. Despite its relative success in Tripoli, it has failed to unify the whole country under its authority. Consequently, there is no agreement over it internally. Members of the presidential council have also differences among them,” he stated.

As for the role of the media in the Libyan conflict, Mubasher said: “The media usually contributes to the stability of the country or to the opposite; Libya suffers from the use of political money and different media orientations.” He added that only few channels worked to fulfill the interests of the country.

“We hope the media supports peace in the country… Peace must be a common goal of the local and international media as well,” he stated.

Asked about the mission and role of the Libyan Notables Council for Reconciliation, Mubasher said that the council was concerned with solving disputes.
“Its members include professional mediators and experts in this field, as well as professors in various universities, cities and tribes; it dates back to the era of Ottoman rule, which began in 1551,” he explained.

Since that date, the Council has been carrying out its duties in the country until the revolution of February 17, 2011, when a large number of Libyan personalities called for reviving its role to become a moral authority to compensate for the absence of the state and its bodies, resolve disputes and assist in the building of a just state, according to Mubasher.

“The Council is now calling for the formation of a neutral government, which does not belong to any political movement or disputing party, to guide the country through an interim phase, leading to a permanent state of transparency and justice,” the Council president told Asharq Al-Awsat.

Commenting on the recent initiative by UN Special Envoy Ghassan Salame to hold a comprehensive national conference, he stressed that the Council had announced its support to Salame’s plan, “as it comprised thoughts and ideas we have been calling for since the beginning of the crisis.”

“However, we have some comments on Salame’s plan, which we believe requires more clarification with regards to the comprehensive national conference,” he stated.

Asked about his opinion on the ongoing debate over the establishment of a civil or militarized state, Mubasher said: “Honestly, the plan to militarize the state exists, and has its supporters; but I think that this is one of the reasons for the delay of the solution in Libya so far.”

“The Libyan Notables Council for Reconciliation works for the achievement of a civil state, and I tell you that the majority of citizens prefer to integrate the military institution under a civil authority, and the recent statements by [Marshall Khalifa] Haftar fall in this direction; we do not believe that a military project could rule Libya in the future,” he affirmed.

Mubasher emphasized that a political solution to the Libyan crisis should fall within the framework of the Skhirat Agreement, which was signed in 2015, under the auspices of the United Nations.

“The solution has now become a commitment for the Libyans through the United Nations and the relevant UN Security Council resolutions under the political agreement signed in the Moroccan city of Skhirat at the end of December 2015.

"The Libyan Notables Council believes that this is the only framework for resolving the crisis,” he concluded.

Fakhri Karim: I Conveyed Talabani’s Advice to Assad on Terrorists

Fakhri Karim (Asharq Al-Awsat)
Fakhri Karim (Asharq Al-Awsat)

Fakhri Karim: I Conveyed Talabani’s Advice to Assad on Terrorists

Fakhri Karim (Asharq Al-Awsat)
Fakhri Karim (Asharq Al-Awsat)

The late Iraqi President, Jalal Talabani, excelled at delivering messages subtly. In private meetings, he spoke more freely than in public statements or interviews. His chief advisor, Fakhri Karim, often joined these discussions.

Luncheons were lavish, showing Talabani's respect for different opinions, though he rarely followed doctors’ advice.

Talabani believed that Iranian leaders were smart and hoped they wouldn’t try to control Baghdad from Tehran, citing the failed attempt to manage Beirut from Damascus.

He noted that Iraq’s independent spirit makes it hard for the country to follow the US, Iran, or Türkiye. Talabani also admitted giving refuge to 80 Iraqi officers who had fought against Iran, after they were targeted by certain groups.

Talabani praised Syria’s late President Hafez al-Assad for his invaluable support, providing accommodation and passports.

Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, Karim revealed he had warned President Bashar al-Assad, on behalf of Talabani, that militants allowed into Iraq to fight US forces might later turn against Syria.

This, Karim noted, did happen.

After the Israeli invasion of Beirut in 1982, Karim relocated to Damascus. There, he expanded his Al-Mada organization, focusing on publishing, translation, and organizing book fairs, alongside his political activities.

This allowed him to build relationships with top civilian and military officials.

In 2000, after Bashar al-Assad came to power, he met with Karim.

“I felt Assad was eager to listen, especially given my connections with many intellectuals,” recalled Karim.

“I told him dissenting voices exist but are mostly positive. You talk about modernization and renewal; this is a chance for some openness, even in elections,” Karim said he told Assad.

“Do you think anyone could really compete with you, given your position as the Baath Party's leader with all its resources?” Karim questioned.

Karim then discussed the situation of Syrian Kurds with Assad, noting that many lack identification papers, even basic travel documents. He also mentioned seeing historic Kurdish areas in the Khabur region with their names changed to Arabic, which causes sensitivities.

“I am not satisfied with this situation. Rest assured, this issue is on my agenda, and you will hear positive news about it,” Karim cited Assad as saying at the time.

In a later meeting, after the change in Iraq, Karim met Assad several times.

On one occasion, Karim recalls conveying Talabani’s greetings and concerns about armed fighters moving into Iraq and the dangers this posed to both Iraq and possibly Syria.

“We have deployed large forces to secure the borders, but what can we do? There are tribes and smugglers,” Assad complained about the situation.

“I told President Assad that as Fakhri Karim, I couldn’t share with the Americans what I know. I assured him that terrorists enter Iraq from a specific location I’m familiar with, not from all borders,” Karim recounted to Asharq Al-Awsat.

“I also noted that Syria tightly controls its airspace, shooting down any foreign aircraft,” he added.

Assad then responded to Karim and said: “We’re prepared, let us know what we can do.”

In reality, Damascus was worried because there were reports suggesting that Syria’s Baath regime could be the next target for the US army at its borders. Additionally, Damascus was concerned about the sectarian divisions—Shiite, Sunni, and Kurdish—in dealing with Iraq and the potential impact on Syria.

Repairing Kurdish Relations

Karim has spent years working on repairing the relationship between Kurdish leaders Talabani and Masoud Barzani.

This history began with the split that gave rise to the ‘Patriotic Union of Kurdistan’ from the ‘Kurdistan Democratic Party.’

Despite bloody conflicts and external meddling, Karim believes Kurdish leaders unify in the face of danger to their people and region, a pattern he expects to continue.

Karim believes that the Kurdish leadership, symbolized by Masoud Barzani and Jalal Talabani, made a big mistake at the beginning by focusing only on regional issues, ignoring Baghdad’s affairs.

He thinks they should have aimed for a federal democratic system that respects citizenship rights.

Karim pointed out that without a unified Iraq, the region’s rights would be uncertain. He also criticized the Shiite-Kurdish alliance, which he sees as odd.

Additionally, he mentioned mistakes in failing to unify regional institutions and increasing corruption, with party interests often trumping competence in appointments.

Asked about the personal bond between Talabani and Barzani, Karim said: “Both have moved past their tough history, but they haven’t done enough for the future.”

“I want to highlight an act by Barzani that shows his character. When Talabani was sick, Barzani made it clear to anyone thinking of harming Talabani or his family that there would be consequences,” he revealed.

“This isn’t hearsay, it’s firsthand,” affirmed Karim.

“Barzani also refused to discuss the presidency or a successor during Talabani’s illness. I personally organized a gathering for Talabani’s family, where Barzani reassured them, ‘I’m here for you, I’m family.’ His words moved everyone, showing a strong emotional connection,” he added.

When asked about Barzani’s character, Karim said: “He's been a long-time friend, and our relationship has been politically aligned and personally warm from the start.”

“I see him as a loyal friend, and he's shown that loyalty on multiple occasions. He’s smart, decisive, and listens carefully, often changing his mind after thorough consideration,” he noted.

“Once Barzani commits to something, he finds it hard to go back on his word. There was a moment during negotiations with Saddam Hussein when he stood firm despite my advice to reconsider,” recalled Karim.

Regarding the aftermath of the independence referendum, Karim believes that the negative turn in the political landscape began during Nouri al-Maliki’s tenure.

Al-Maliki’s attempts to shift alliances and his refusal to compromise exacerbated tensions.

The referendum itself wasn’t the problem; rather, it was exploited by some to punish the Kurdistan Region.

However, Karim emphasized that holding referendums is a citizen’s right, and the purpose of the Kurdistan referendum was to affirm this right, not to declare independence.