On April 26, Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar's plane landed at Benina airport, which ended speculation about his very poor health or death after his hospitalization in Paris for two weeks. At 75, Marshal Haftar is considered the strongman of eastern Libya. He is at the head of the so-called Libyan National Army. This army is actually a group of militias rotating around a regular army nucleus representing a force of about 25,000 men. It is not a solid and coherent block. Each militia has its own agenda and its ambitions.
As negotiations between Libya’s primary political factions take place in Tunisia, leaders and international advisors are debating potential governing models for Libya. For now – amid deep disagreements about basic constitutional concerns – the process remains stalled.
Libya is walking a tight rope. Dozens of stakeholders jockey for power and opportunists spoil political progress, making for an uncertain trajectory in the conflict. The fourth United Nations Special Envoy Ghassan Salamè is dwindling in popularity but could make a lasting impact if any of his initiatives are realized.
Notwithstanding the rhetoric about collaboration, international players' national interests have often prevailed in the approach to Libya. Such interferences, determined by diverse and conflicting agendas, contributed to further dividing the country and have made it more difficult to undertake a true process of national reconciliation.
On May 29, French President Emmanuel Macron has hosted a UN sponsored conference on Libya in Paris, aimed at securing elections and commitments to a joint political roadmap from its warring factions. The conference has brought together key Libyan players and representatives of two dozen countries and international organizations. Libya’s rival leaders have adopted a statement calling for presidential and parliamentary elections in December. However, some relevant problems could persist.
There are some good reasons, why the Libya Political Agreement (LPA) is in a dead-end road. Several things went wrong in negotiating and implementing the agreement from the very beginning. The delegates participating in the so-called “Libya Dialogue” in Geneva and Skhirat, Morocco, were not representative for the parties on the ground, in particular not for the powerful militias.
Later this month Egypt will witness its third presidential election since 2012. With only two candidates and very limited competition, there is no doubt that Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi is looking at a second term in office. The cornerstone of the Egyptian president’s first term in office was countering terrorism and radicalization. It is fair to say that Egypt’s war against terrorism and radical/jihadist Islam had an impact on numerous domestic policies as well as on Egypt’s foreign policy.
The “Libyan Political Agreement” (LPA) is the somehow controversial outcome of the month-long, United Nations-sponsored negotiations between various Libyan stakeholders in Skhirat, Morocco. It was signed on December 17, 2015 and endorsed by the United Nations Security Council a few days later. The LPA is the foundation of the current stabilization efforts led by UN Special Representative Ghassan Salamé, strongly supported by Italy, France, UK, the U.S. and many other nations.
The years preceding the Arab Spring were rather calm ones for the armed forces of the Arab world: two major conventional campaigns (Iraq 2003 and Lebanon 2006) barely involved the military, and terrorism was mostly under control in Algeria and Yemen. Elsewhere all was quiet on the Arab front. The Arab Spring changed this in more ways than one: to start with, it turned the militaries of Tunisia, Syria and Egypt into political actors, and split those of Yemen and Libya in two.
Since 2011 the Libyan crisis has moved from being a domestic dispute to assuming increasing importance at the international level. Today it represents a crucial issue affecting global security. The intervention of external actors in the Libyan crisis was mainly driven by a desire to direct the transition towards outcomes that would best meet their own political and economic interests.
Accordingly, each external player tried to support one specific faction, favoring either the Parliament in Tobruk, upheld by Khalifa Haftar, or the Presidential Council headed by Fayez al-Serraj in Tripoli, the latter being legitimized by the UN as well as by local militias in both Misrata and Tripoli.
This report analyzes the troublesome re-building of Libya with a focus on the specific role played by international actors (neighboring and Gulf countries, European nations, Russia and the US) which make it more of an international rather than a domestic issue.