Fighting IS is One Way to Unite Libya’s Warring Factions
As the deadline for the UN negotiations in Libya passed with no agreement in sight and spoilers launching a range of new attacks and offensive, the situation looks as dire as ever. In an article for Middle East Eye I survey the lay of the land and make the argument that the rise of IS in the Sirte basin and the impact of Libya’s lawlessness on Europe’s ongoing migration crisis mean that more punishing sticks must be unleash to disincentivize the spoilers.
As the incentive structures stand at present, the country’s opposing militia/military top brass have everything to lose and nothing to gain by a UN agreement or by working together. Haftar, a wildly divisive figure who only became Commander of the Libyan army by appealing to anti-Islamist partisans, may stand to lose the most from any settlement – as the inclusion of moderate Islamist elements in any subsequent government will lead to his overthrow. In the long run, Haftar hopes that undermining the UN-backed negotiations process will lead to a greater political vacuum, due to the expiration of the HoR’s mandate at the end of October. Presumably, he would then fill that gap by establishing a Supreme Military Council, thus attempting to take full responsibility for the country.
On the pro-GNC side, on Thursday, armed men aligned with the Islamist spoilers of the Steadfast Front stormed the GNC building to prevent the possible acceptance of the amended Libya dialogue draft document. At present, UNSMIL is responding to these setbacks by supposedly working towards a deadline of Thursday 24 September to finalise the deal. The only way to incentivise individuals like Haftar and Badi to not derail a deal is to have the international community underwrite punishing sticks to snap into place as a consequence of their disruptive behaviour. No such measures were unveiled in conjunction with the negotiations original deadline, however. Such an act would require political will. Yet even more gumption is needed to transcend the crucial blind spot of both the UN-mediated negotiations and Western policy towards Libya, in general: the dramatic rise of the Islamic State and the inability of negotiators to draft provisions to motivate the opposing factions to work together to face the menace.
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