President Barack Obama signed an executive order Tuesday which will allow the administration to sanction individuals it believes are hampering the security and stability of Libya, and immediately put the head of Libya’s Islamist government on the list.
Any individual included on the sanctions list will have their assets in the U.S. blocked, will not be permitted to enter the U.S., and will be prevented from receiving any donations. Obama has added Khalifa al-Ghweil, the leader of the Islamist General National Congress (GNC), to the list. So far he’s the only addition.
The political and security situation in Libya has become one of the most significant crises in the Middle East, yet it often gets overlooked because of ongoing conflicts in other parts of the Middle East. Libya is effectively a failed state thanks to infighting among various political interests and continued destabilization from terrorist groups like the Islamic State. President Obama’s new executive order aims to put a stop to these disruptive activities and individuals.
“This executive order allows the United States to take action against those who seek to obstruct, undermine, delay, or impede the political transition to the Libyan Government of National Accord, as well as those who threaten the peace, security, or stability of Libya through the supply of arms or related material,” said State Department spokesman John Kirby Tuesday during a press briefing.
The order gives the administration expansive powers in who they can sanction. According to the text, those who could be sanctioned include individuals who hamper the transition of the U.S.-backed Libyan government, terrorists, arms dealers, corrupt bureaucrats, smugglers and anyone who has threatened a “Libyan state financial institution” or the assets of the Libyan National Oil Company.
“The President took this action in support of Libya’s Government of National Accord, and the United States stands with, as we’ve said before, Prime Minister al- Sarraj’s government as it begins their important work in Tripoli and continues to implement the Libyan political agreement to build a better future for the Libyan people,” said Kirby.
Libya has been in turmoil since the 2011 uprising (backed by the U.S. and NATO) against former dictator Muammar Gaddafi. The GNC became the backbone of the new government in Libya’s west and the House of Representatives, recognized by the international community, came to dominate the east. The situation would eventually deteriorate in 2014, allowing ISIS to gain a foothold in the coastal town of Sirte.
A so-called “unity government” known as the Government of National Accord (GNA) secured the backing of the United Nations and attempted to take power in late March, but it has yet to secure itself as Libya’s accepted government.
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