Five Reasons to Doubt Libyan Truce Will Hold

Paolo Gentiloni and Fayez al-Sarraj, the prime ministers of Italy and Libya, inspect an honor guard in Rome, July 26
Paolo Gentiloni and Fayez al-Sarraj, the prime ministers of Italy and Libya, inspect an honor guard in Rome, July 26 (Palazzo Chigi)

Libya’s two most powerful leaders have agreed to call a ceasefire and hold elections next year after a meeting with French president Emmanuel Macron in Paris.

Their deal has the potential to end six years of civil war, but there are at least five reasons to doubt it will hold:

  1. Khalifa Haftar, the generalissimo in charge of eastern Libya, and Fayez al-Sarraj, the prime minister of the internationally-recognized unity government in Tripoli, did not agree on a date for elections, so there is no deadline.
  2. The truce exempts counterterrorism, which Haftar and Sarraj could interpret differently. Haftar calls his entire campaign a counterterrorist operation.
  3. Libya’s institutions, including the central bank and National Oil Corporation, have recognized Sarraj’s as the legitimate government, but he has no security force of his own and could struggle to convince the militias that support him to stop fighting.
  4. Haftar, by contrast, has his own army, which occupies two-thirds of Libya, most of its oil ports and the city of Benghazi. But he has to convince a rival parliament in Tobruk to agree to the deal. Given how well the civil war has been going for them lately, they may balk at its terms.
  5. While Western countries and the United Nations back Sarraj, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates support Haftar in his war against Islamists. Read more

Egypt’s War on Sunni Supremacism Goes to Libya

American defense secretary James Mattis and Egyptian president Abdul Fatah Sisi stand to attention outside the Pentagon in Washington DC, April 5
American defense secretary James Mattis and Egyptian president Abdul Fatah Sisi stand to attention outside the Pentagon in Washington DC, April 5 (DoD/Amber I. Smith)

From Reuters:

Egyptian airstrikes destroyed twelve vehicles loaded with arms, ammunition and explosive material trying to cross the border from Libya, the army spokesman said on Tuesday.

The airforce acted after hearing that “criminal elements” had gathered to try and cross the western boundary, the army statement said, without giving details on exactly where or when the strikes took place.

Despite the paucity of the initial report, it’s clear the Abdul Fatah al-Sisi is trying to look like he’s getting revenge for attacks on Egyptian Christians by Sunni supremacists, who are trying the same old terror tricks of the 1990s to destabilize the regime. Read more

Libya’s Haftar Spurns Unity Deal, Blames Militias

Libyan general Khalifa Haftar speaks at a news conference in Amman, Jordan, August 24, 2015
Libyan general Khalifa Haftar speaks at a news conference in Amman, Jordan, August 24, 2015 (Reuters/Muhammad Hamed)

Libyan warlord Khalifa Haftar on Friday ruled out joining a unity government until militias that fight on its behalf disband.

“I would like to stress that Mr Sarraj relies on militia and we refuse them,” he told reporters, referring to Fayez al-Sarraj, the head of a proposed government of national accord that has been accepted by most factions.

“An army cannot unify with militias so they must be dismantled,” Haftar added. “It’s unthinkable to work with these armed factions.” Read more

Will Russia Go into Libya Next?

Russian president Vladimir Putin chairs a government meeting at his country residence outside Moscow, October 13, 2014
Russian president Vladimir Putin chairs a government meeting at his country residence outside Moscow, October 13, 2014 (Presidential Press and Information Office)

Herein may sound like rampant speculation, but I’m not the only one considering it: according to The Economist, high-ranking European diplomats also wonder if Russia will make Libya the next frontier of adventure. There are good reasons to consider why Putin may be doing so. Read more

Challenges as Libya Unity Leaders Win Recognition

The sun sets over Tripoli, Libya, November 8, 2011
The sun sets over Tripoli, Libya, November 8, 2011 (Ben Sutherland)

A unity government appears to have made progress toward consolidating power in Libya in recent days, raising hopes that the North African country may finally start to put five years of unrest behind it.

But even if most warring factions recognize its authority, the challenges the new administration faces are daunting, from an economy in disarray to militant Islamists professing fealty to the Islamic State group. Read more

Tripoli Islamists Make Way for Unity Government

Fayez al-Sarraj, the head of a proposed Libyan unity government, delivers a news conference in Tunis, Tunisia, January 8
Fayez al-Sarraj, the head of a proposed Libyan unity government, delivers a news conference in Tunis, Tunisia, January 8 (AFP/Fethi Belaid)

A proposed Libyan unity government made further progress on Wednesday when an Islamist-dominated rival administration in Tripoli resigned.

“We put the interests of the nation above anything else and stress that the bloodshed [should] stop and the nation be saved from division and fragmentation,” the head of the Tripoli government said.

Now only the formerly internationally-recognized parliament in Tobruk and its military strongman, Khalifa Haftar, stand in the way of reunification.

The central bank and National Oil Corporation have both recognized the new government, which came about with mediation from the United Nations. France and Tunisia have said they will reopen their embassies in Tripoli. Read more

Tobruk Parliament Rejects Libya Unity Government

Libyan flags at the airport in Tripoli, November 4, 2011
Libyan flags at the airport in Tripoli, November 4, 2011 (Ben Sutherland)

Libya’s internationally-recognized parliament in Tobruk voted down a peace plan on Monday that was meant to end two years of rivalry with a more heavily Islamist administration in Tripoli.

A majority did support a transition plan under which a Presidential Council operates out of Tunisia. But lawmakers rejected transferring power over military appointments to this new body.

The Tobruk-based legislature is protected by Khalifa Haftar, a former army officer who now commands a private army in the east of Libya.

Haftar’s troops battle both supporters of the Tripoli-based parliament and followers of the self-declared Islamic State. Read more