Months into mediation efforts led by UN Special Representative Bernardino Léon, Libya is yet to show any viable way out of its ongoing crisis. Today, the Spanish diplomat stepped dangerously close to the cliff of mission failure, as his fourth agreement draft proposal was rejected by Tobruk’s parliament, opposed to Tripoli’s and key actor in the conflict.
Future developments could follow two paths, although neither guarantees Libya much stability. In the first scenario, major opposing parties find a concrete agreement in the next weeks. Nonetheless, such apparent success would unlikely bring stability to the country – largely controlled by militias. What it would achieve is a united government to provide Libya with a single institutional and ‘legitimate’, however fragile, voice vis-à-vis the international community. In turn, other countries could collaborate with a unitary actor in the field of security and border control, especially regarding the dramatic problem of illegal migration. Moreover, international pressure could lead a Libyan government to formally declare war on IS, a struggle it could engage with help from the international coalition currently fighting the Islamic State in Sirya and Iraq. This declaration would rework Libya’s complex political and military reality, reshaping the political scenario and creating a clear-cut distinction between those who fight IS and those who don’t. Indeed, IS presence in Libya draws from the national anarchical situation and finds the support of ‘New Libya’’s ostracized actors. Sirte militias’ adhesion to IS exemplifies such dynamics, as the town is Qadhafi’s birthplace and thus rather unpopular among Libyan “revolutionaries”. However, Libya does not present sectarian premises such as Sirya and Iraq did before IS ascent, while local Islamic State finds multiple resistance forces, General Haftar, Misurata and most recently even other Jihadist groups in Derma, who perceive IS as an exogenous element. Concluding, this first scenario depicts a fragile but united Libya, with hopes to stabilize on the long term.
In the second, and perhaps more probable, scenario, negotiations fail and opposing actors find no common ground for an agreement, indeed the recent failure of Léon’s fourth proposal seems to point in this direction. Besides the political and security crisis, the country would face an economic-fiscal crisis, given the halt of energy exports. For months, oil sales have been a mere third of traditional standards, while the Central Bank keeps financing both governments and respective militias. In the last few days, the World Food Program (WFP) has distributed the first tranche of international aid, in Eastern Libya where thousands have found shelter from ongoing conflicts. WFP analysts foresee a plan to sustain 243,000 internally displaced individuals within the upcoming six months. In this context, there is high risk that Libyans will start emigrating towards neighboring countries, such as Egypt and Tunisia (where several hundred thousands have already gone.) This situation would favor establishment and intensifying of criminal networks by different militias, which would seek financial support in illegal activities and would engage each others for the control of oil reserves.