Post Supreme Court Ruling Uncertainty Continues in Divided Libya
Almost two weeks after the ruling of Libya’s Supreme Court, which declared the House of Representative illegitimate, the country’s rival institutions and actors appear to be still trying to come to terms with the newly established scenario. In a way, of course, the ruling has leveled differences between the two establishments in Tobruk and Tripoli, squashing any internal legitimacy the HoR had left outside of its environs and putting its international partners in an odd spot. This is well reflected by the hesitant response and limited engagement Libya’s international partners have tactically employed since November 6th.
On the other hand, the picture is not necessarily so rosy for the al-Hassi government and its allies either. After a few timid demonstrations in various Tripoli neighborhoods, clashes erupted during last week at Mitiga airport, leading to a temporary shutdown of operations. The GNC has not been officially re-instated by the Court ruling, and several of its members have rejected the idea of reconvening within it. Furthermore, the suicide car bombings operations undertook in Baida, Benghazi and Tobruk last week, alongside the acknowledgment made by self-proclaimed Caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi of a IS-recognised Libyan Emirate, make the partnership between Fajr Libya and radical Jihadist groups in the country all the more controversial and uncomfortable. Lastly, to further reinvigorate the narrative employed by the HoR-aligned Operation Dignity forces of a fight between them and international groups of terrorist, on Sunday, the newly established IS-aligned ‘Barqa Governorate Media Branch’ has published obituaries for a number of suicide bombers who died in Benghazi and appear to have come mostly from Egypt and Tunisia, rather than Libya itself. There are also many reports about Derna as a city being controlled by ISIS in the wake of various posting of media statements. See Time here and CNN here. I don’t however agree with Benotman or Zelin who argue that Derna is now a province of the Islamic State of that it follows Baghdadi. All that is happening is some Islamists are trying to govern territory and outflank other Islamists so they look up to ISIS given its success at holding territory and use this to outflank the Abu Sleem Brigade.
As talks of international mediation appears to be overpowered by the noise of battle, Libya is more and more in dire need of a positive shock to break the dangerous deadlock it finds itself in. Whilst only a few weeks ago al-Hassi went as far as suggesting that a new set of nation-wide elections could be a solution to the current crisis, his tone appears now too emboldened by the court’s ruling to be willing to restart the transitory phase from scratch, leaving all Libya analysts and observers hesitant as to what could possibly come next to positively shake the ground. Also that the al-Hassi government has praised Ansar Sharia for its propagation of the faith shows just how fluid and crazy the situation is and that the al-Hassi government needs all the allies it can get no matter what their ideology. I take this last statement as showing Libya Dawn’s weakness rather than its strength.