Car Bombs Yield Further Escalation in Libya
For the second time in less than a week, Libyan cities and areas under formal control of the Tobruk-base establishment have been targeted by car bombs attacks. On Wednesday, three car bombs were detonated in Tobruk, Baida and Benghazi respectively. A fourth car bomb attack in Tobruk was reportedly foiled by security forces. Most disturbingly, the successful bomb attack in Tobruk appears to have been the result of a suicide attack deliberately carried out in the middle of a crowded road junction. Furthermore, in what appears to have been a retaliatory attack, airstrikes were carried out in the afternoon over Derna, with reports conflicting about the exact targets of the strikes.
Wednesday’s multiple bombings represent yet another element of the clearly escalating pattern marring Libya’s crisis. Although the full-fledged ‘civil war’ label has not been used yet to discuss the situation in the country, the employment of indiscriminate asymmetric tactics and retaliatory attacks could very well prove to be the last push needed to let the country slide further down the implosion path.
Meanwhile, in light of escalating violence, declining oil production and inconclusive negotiation attempts, talks of a military intervention in the form of a peacekeeping mission are starting to resurface again. Professor Dirk Vandewalle argued today on The New York Times about the necessity for European countries to return to protect the EU ‘soft underbelly’ and set up a peacekeeping force to allow the establishment of functioning institutions.
What Libya needs instead is a European peacekeeping force that would shield the fledgling government from the various armed groups currently contesting its power, and one another, and allow it to rebuild state institutions.
(…) Dialogue is moribund, and no amount of diplomatic cajoling can revive it. Several Western countries, including the United States, as well as the United Nations Support Mission in Libya, which was established in 2011 to guide the country’s post-Qaddafi transition, have made various efforts to bring the factions to talks. These have repeatedly failed, however, because no one can offer the militias, which are flush with weapons and money, enough incentive to cooperate.
Only the presence of an international peacekeeping force can make a difference today. The U.N. support mission was never meant to be such a force; it was designed to help build institutions of governance. And the United Nations Security Council cannot expand its mandate. Russia, which accused the West of wrongfully extending the U.N. support mission’s ambit beyond the protection of civilians during the 2011 conflict, would veto any resolution calling for the mission’s transformation into an intervention force. The United States government, for its part, has no appetite for sending more American boots on the ground, particularly as it pulls troops out of Afghanistan and struggles to forestall the advances of Sunni Islamists in Iraq.