Fallout from León Scandal Reaches Beyond Talks
As if the UN-mediated efforts at creating a government of national accord (GNA) didn’t have enough challenges to face, it has now flown from the frying pan of increased factionalism and militarisation to the fire of downright scandal. Despite tone-deaf calls for cool heads and assessment of the deal by its ‘accomplishments’, the impacts of the revelations from León’s emails are reverberating through the economic, political, and security realms.
The Libyan Central Bank (CBL) and National Oil Corporation (NOC) both took substantial hits. The value of the Libyan dinar went into free-fall in informal currency exchanges before militias attacked informal commercial brokers and currency markets in Tripoli, shutting down its currency and gold quarter. Then, acting head of the Petroleum Facilities Guard Ibrahim Jadhran (at least formerly in favour of the GNA) suspended export operations at Zueitina’s port, causing the Tripoli-based NOC to declare force majeure. Jadhran’s latest move could be seen as an anti-GNA peace offering between federalists and the newly established NOC in Eastern Libya, despite international calls for unity – and a pro-GNA stance – within the HoR.
Fracturing within the HoR could be seen on the political battlefield, too, with a new scandal involving allegedly forged signatures on a pro-GNA petition. Members from the east and hardline federalists are using the event to further disparage the GNA, claiming that it is an obvious ploy to dominate eastern Libya. Fissures are also evident on the literal battlefield, where a number of commanders, particularly those from Ajdabiya, pulled their forces from the fronts, accusing Haftar of incompetence and disconnect. Various commanders held private negotiations in an attempt to consolidate and organise LNA forces.
That’s not to indicate that the GNC (or, more specifically, its tangle of alliances) is any more stable. Rather, nominally cooperative groups have gotten into spats over resources or kidnapped each other’s ministers, while others appear to be negotiating with HoR-affiliated militias. The GNC’s tenuous alliances are unravelling along with the UN-mediated process.
The prospect of a GNC unable to control its factions only appeals to IS, which could happily prey on rogue hardline Islamists more willing to cooperate on questions of resources and perhaps even keep conflict on its western front at bay. Exchanges between Misratan forces and IS have already taken place. Furthermore, IS’s continued killing and kidnapping spree in Ajdabiya is polarising the population, forcing it into pro-Haftar and pro-IS (or at least sympathetic) camps and creating a more inviting environment for IS in the resource-laden Oil Crescent – where it may have already set its sights.