UNSMIL changes do little to alter Libya’s political and security conundrums
The UN’s new envoy to Libya, Martin Kobler, may be trying to do CPR on the moribund UN mediation process, but he seems to be administering chest compressions in all the wrong places. By making his first visit to the country to Tubruq, he appeared to be continuing Leon’s legacy of bias and doing little to help the perception that the UN’s business-as-usual approach seems unconcerned with the ever-growing disconnect between international mediation and the de facto political divide. Though he did make it to Tripoli, Kobler allegedly met not only with GNC leadership, but also with members affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, causing widespread discontent. In its partial attempt at impartiality, the UN is already fueling divisive perceptions between and within both factions.
As disillusionment with the UN-led process grows, calls for a ‘Libya-Libya dialogue’ are intensifying. The municipality of Jadu has proposed a joint legislative council that would appoint an interim government, agree to the policy, and then dissolve. The plan was broached to the GNC and will be presented to the HoR, of which a number of hard-line members opposing the GNA are reportedly more amenable to negotiations with militias on the ground in Western Libya than the political Islamist groups in the GNC (like the Muslim Brotherhood). Interestingly, Ali Sallabi, a notable Islamist perceived as a key influence on the Muslim Brotherhood, has suggested that the most effective route towards negotiations is the dissolution of both the GNC and HoR, despite that plan’s numerous complications.
Meanwhile, conflict continues to plague the country. The usual hotspots of Benghazi and Derna saw more fighting between the LNA and its allies and the IS coalition of extremist militias. IS assassinated two more security officers in Ajdabiya, where local LNA officers have since called for a Benghazi-like uprising on 15 December to combat what they call increased collaboration with IS among the PFG and Adjabiya Revolutionaries’ Shura Council. In Western Libya, a new conflict between Misrata and Tripoli was narrowly avoided, and tensions remain high. Although both nominally legitimate according to and aligned with the GNC, simmering resentment between Misratan and Tripoli militias could boil over.
Of course, security arrangements are both among the most crucial and most ambiguous components of the political agreement. Even if both the HoR and GNC miraculously endorsed the GNA, state collapse would be likely if the security situation is not addressed. However, progress on that key issue is unlikely without involving and maintaining the support of actors at the local level.