Why Militias in Libya Need to Unite—And Fast
In a piece in the National Interest commenting on Leon’s bold move to unilaterally announce a Government of National Unity and how this has led to a realignment of the militia alliances in the country, I put forth a novel interpretation of how to resolve the current political impasse: build an anti-ISIS coalition from the ground up.
Grasping at straws after over a year of little progress, Bernardino Leon, the top UN Negotiator for Libya, unilaterally announced on October 9 the ministerial list of a Government of National Agreement (GNA) meant to reign in the militias and stabilize Libya. Lacking a pre-existing signed accord from the various Libyan factions, the move is highly unorthodox. It allows opponents of the negotiations to claim that the GNA is akin to outside intervention. Like a last-minute Hail Mary pass, a long shot likely to backfire, it might nonetheless have been Leon’s best chance to get an agreement before the October 20 hard deadline….
The proposed government can therefore be viewed as a balance between the Misratans and the wing of the Federalists who support Ibrahim Jadhran (the chief of the Petroleum Facilities Guard in Libya’s oil crescent). The Misratans represent the bulk of military power in western Libya, as well as the key militias that could tackle IS, while Jadhran’s Federalist supporters are the only force able to secure the stability of oil export revenues from the east of Libya. Both of these parties quickly announced their support for the UN proposal. The Muslim Brotherhood has also endorsed the plan, although more hesitantly.
The majority of other major local councils and militias, however, have denounced the proposal in the strongest terms. Paradoxically, the HoR, which stands to gain the most from a successful GNA, held a session on Monday, October 12 to vote on the proposed government but came to no conclusion.
Despite the political twists and turns, it seems the international community has taken its eye off the ball. No coherent plan to tackle the IS threat in Sirte has materialized, even from the political factions that still back the UN process. IS breeds on insecurity and aids Islamist spoilers such as the Steadfast Front, all of which hope to obstruct the peace process. This negative feedback loop must somehow be broken.
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