Peace in Libya? One Man Donald Trump is Unlikely to Ignore
In an article published in Middle East Eye, Rhiannon and I argue that Haftar’s growing influence and momentum in Libya mean that deals are increasingly being struck and compromises being made between rival factions in western Libya in order to avoid conflict and ensure a place under any new political agreement. Trump is likely to pivot towards Haftar adding yet further momentum to these trends. As the Transition Team may not hit the ground running immediately on Jan 20, we can bet than February and March will see a significant reshuffling of the the international community’s alliance structure.
Many speculate that the incoming US administration will look more favourably at anti-Islamist strongmen like Haftar and Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, freeing them up from previous international norms which hamstring their attempts to crush their enemies…. On 14 December, Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) announced its intention to “liberate” Tripoli from what they dub militia and “Islamist” control. Two days later, it mobilised reinforcements at the Watiya airbase south of Zawiyya, the main oil port in western Libya.
On 14 December, the Zintanti Petroleum Facilities Guard (PFG) unit based in al-Rayayna in the Nafusa mountains lifted its two-year blockade on the pipeline running from southern oil fields to the Zawiyya refinery. This is expected to allow up to 400,000 barrels per day of crude to flow, which would significantly boost Libya’s oil exports and revenues. The National Oil Corporation had been pushing for this blockade to be lifted since Haftar reopened the oil crescent. It’s significant that this happened at the same time as LNA fighters were spotted moving south of Zawiyya. As a result of Haftar’s inevitable role in future political agreements, it seems that through informal channels of contact between Haftar’s loose allies in Zintan and factions from Misrata and Tripoli a pipeline deal has been negotiated which seeks to benefit all these parties under any new peace process….
What does seem more certain, however, is that Haftar’s growing domestic and international power means that he and his allies must be brought inside the international political process on Libya. It might be that Donald Trump, with his flexible approach to diplomacy and his desire for a pragmatic defence of American interest abroad, may be just the person to do this.
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