Libya: Stalemate or Calm before the (Return of the) Storm?
During the past few days, developments in Libya seem to have followed a slower pace as compared to the last few months. Tripoli is reportedly in a state of uneasy calm, with schools and a few commercial areas attempting to re-open despite the fact that several families are still living outside of the capital. In Benghazi, fighting continues around the Benina airport with Operation Dignity forces entrenched there succeeding so far in resisting repeated assaults by forces of the Benghazi Rebels Shura Council umbrella group.
The current state of things, however, is unsatisfactory for all parties involved in Libya’s struggle. More than a return to stability, these days represent the calm before the return of the storm. Both sides are likely busy re-organising their ranks politically and militarily, in anticipation of an imminent resumption of intense confrontations. Even if those confrontations lack a military component it is clear that al-Hassi and al-Thinni are not compromising themselves politically.
Despite having gained military control over Tripoli, the Misratan/Islamist camp seems to be preparing to go for the jugular and deal the final blow to its adversaries. In the last few days, the General National Congress has sworn in the government formed by its appointed-PM Hassi and unsuccessfully attempted to severe diplomatic relations with the UAE and Egypt. Even more worryingly, after being emboldened by the conquest of Tripoli, it appears that the Misratan establishment has re-buffed several negotiations requests coming from the HoR. This news, alongside rumors of arms shipment coming from Sudan, legitimately raises the question of whether Operation Dawn forces are not willing to further expand the scope of the current military battle to affirm their (military) supremacy and that of the the GNC once and for all.
Finally, the House of Representatives continues to register statements of support coming from neighboring countries and international partners. On Monday, the Head of the UNSMIL mission, Bernardino Leon, visited Tobruk to discuss current developments with HoR President Ageela Issa. On the other hand, each passing day the HoR seems more and more devoid of internal strengths and capabilities. Despite initial reports, appointed-PM Abdullah Thinni has yet to present his restructured and slimmed-down cabinet. Rumors have started to emerge that the process of ministers’ selection has been complicated by contrasting political pressures coming from the federalist camp and from forces aligned with the National Forces Alliance of Mahmoud Jibril. Lastly, in what is certainly depressing news for the HoR camp, reports emerged of Libyan cadets being dismissed and repatriated from their army-training course in the UK due to an episode of insubordination. As these are not the first Libyan cadets dismissed from training, both the HoR and its international partners have been reminded once again of the inherent difficulties of building any army from scratch, let alone one with the operation capabilities and esprit de corps required for operating in the contemporary Libyan security scenario.