Post-Conference Interview with Dr. Theodore Karasik on Regional Influencers in Libya

During our annual NCUSLR conference held on November 13th, 2018 in Washington DC, many participants raised questions to the speakers that we could not respond to due to time limits.

As such, we have initiated a series of follow up interviews with our conference speakers to answer these lingering questions.

As you go through these questions and answers please keep in mind that neither the questions nor answers reflect the opinions of NCUSLR.

  • Dr. Hani Shennib

Presenter featured in the following interview:

Dr. Theodore Karasik, Senior Advisor, Gulf State Analytics

Dr. Karasik is currently a Senior Advisor to Gulf State Analytics and an Adjunct Senior Fellow at the Lexington Institute, both located in Washington, D.C.

He is also a Fellow for Russian and Middle Eastern Affairs at the Jamestown Foundation in Washington, D.C. For the past 30 years, Karasik worked for a number of US agencies involved in researching and analyzing defense acquisition, the use of military power, and religio-political issues across MENA and Eurasia including the evolution of violent extremism and its financing.

Dr. Theodore Karasik presented at the 2nd Annual NCUSLR Conference on Panel I, The Libyan Political Process: Quo Vadis. The topic of his presentation: “Russia, Egypt, Qatar, the UAE, and Turkey: What's in it for them?" Dr. Karasik delivered verbal remarks only at the conference with a map of the eastern Mediterranean region as a reference.

Post-Conference interview with Dr. Theodore Karasik:

  • What are Russia's near and long-term objectives in Libya? Do they see Haftar as a short or long-term ally?

Russia’s near term interest in Libya is to help the dialogue process along between all sides in order to curry favor with their preferred outcome of a Libyan solution to a lasting peace. The long term objective deals with maritime traffic and energy. Russia seeks to ultimately enter the future Libyan gas market. From Russia’s point of view, Haftar is a useful ally but the relationship is not centered on this character alone as Moscow works with a variety of Haftar allies including his immediate family. In the long term, whoever replaces Haftar is likely to already have good relations with Russia.

  • With more print money received from Russia at the East's Central Bank this past week, how will this affect currency value?

Typically with the introduction of Russian-printed currency there occurs a quick inflation of prices that

tends to warp local economics, but the banknotes have another purpose: to rid Libya of old currency used by illegal groups and terrorist, thus hampering their transactions. Despite the cost of the impact on the local economy with inflationary pressures, it is seen as being worthwhile not only to track down illicit cash but also to win hearts of minds through crispy, fresh currency. We should note that Russia has been sending

printed Libyan money from Russia’s GOZNAK, under the jurisdiction of the Russian Ministry of Finance,

into southern Libya while the UK’s De La Rue is producing currency for Tripoli. Importantly, both

governments accept the Russian-printed money whose underlying economic value is underwritten by

Tripoli and functions as a “transfer of wealth” from Tripolitania to the LNA.

  • What are Qatar and the UAE's real interests in Libya? Can the US or UN ameliorate them?

Qatar and UAE both have real interests in Libya that involve how the country should evolve. Both Doha and Abu Dhabi have visions for a future Libya which could not be more diametrically opposed.

Interestingly, both sides see stability as paramount but the drivers behind the tribal-based Gulf crisis

only feeds greater division. The UAE is clearly enacting its plan with Egypt in Libya now backed by other powers, especially Russia. The visit of Russian National Security Advisor Nikolai Patrushev to Abu Dhabi on January 31 following a visit to Egypt signaled a next phase in the Haftar campaign. Yet, the complex situation on the ground also features a landscape where Qatari and UAE interests clash with their own respective partners especially in terms of the religio-political fabric. The US and UN try to hem in the activity but without much luck given that there is no real interest for either side to stand down diplomatically at this time.

The views shared in this published interview reflect those of the guest contributor and not necessarily the views of the National Council on U.S.-Libya Relations.

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