October 5, 2018 | Policy Brief

U.S. and UN Sanction Libyan Militia Leader Ibrahim Jadran

On September 12, the United States and the United Nations sanctioned Libyan militia leader Ibrahim Jadran for his role in spearheading multiple attacks on oil facilities. The move marks the second round of U.S. sanctions – and the first in coordination with the UN – on those responsible for destabilizing Libya by damaging its oil industry. 

Jadran is reportedly a former member of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), which the State Department listed as a terrorist organization from 2004 through 2015 and remains designated by the UN. LIFG leaders with ties to Al Qaeda played a significant role in the 2011 uprising against the regime of Muammar al-Qadhafi.

In 2012, Jadran led the Petroleum Facilities Guard, an armed faction that controlled the so-called “oil crescent” in eastern Libya, which includes the ports of Es Sidr, Ras Lanouf, Zuetina, and Brega. In 2013, Jadran began working with a movement known as Cyrenaica seeking autonomy for eastern Libya. He rejected the central government’s authority and blockaded the largest two oil export terminals in the east, Es Sidra and Ras Lanuf, with the help of some tribal and militia fighters aligned with Cyrenaica. 

In addition, Jadran tried to sell oil independently, in defiance of Tripoli. In two separate incidents in 2013 and 2014, Libya’s navy opened fire on tankers that reportedly belonged to Jadran, as they attempted to enter the Es Sider terminal without authorization. The two vessels retreated in response. 

Also in 2014, Jadran loaded an oil tanker loaded with an estimated $20 million in cargo to set sail from Es Sidra under a North Korean flag. At the behest of Libya and Cyprus, U.S. Navy SEALs seized the tanker and handed it over to Libyan authorities. Nonetheless, Jadran’s forces continued to blockade the terminals. 

Earlier this year, Jadran briefly controlled Es Sidra and Ras Lanuf terminals, which are located in Libya’s northeastern oil crescent near Sirte, with support from a mix of tribal allies, jihadists, and Chadian mercenaries. Jadran reportedly has close ties with Timane Erdimi, a Qatar-backed Chadian rebel leader, who supplied him with mercenaries to fight alongside him. The attorney general for Libya’s internationally recognized government has now issued an arrest warrant for Jadran for blocking oil exports. 

Jadran’s whereabouts are currently unknown, with conflicting reports placing him in the western Libyan city of Misrata, or abroad in Turkey or Italy. The U.S. Treasury estimated the disruption of oil exports cost Libya more than $1.4 billion in lost revenue. Libya’s National Oil Cooperation says the economic damage is worse, estimating “$60 billion in financial losses to the Libyan state as a result of oil export blockades in the Gulf of Sirte during 2013-2016.” 

The State Department said that sanctions are part of an effort to “take concrete and forceful action in response to those who undermine Libya’s peace, security, or stability.” Jadran’s designation represents a step forward in that regard, yet numerous threats to Libya’s peace and stability remain. The United States should continue working with its allies to end militia violence and prepare for credible elections so that Libyans can begin to rebuild their country after seven years of war. 

Romany Shaker is an Arabic-language research analyst at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Follow him on Twitter @RomanySh.

Follow FDD on Twitter @FDD and follow FDD’s Center on Sanctions and Illicit Finance @FDD_CSIF. FDD is a Washington-based nonpartisan research institute focusing on national security and foreign policy.