Tripoli Cannot Impose Unity on Libya
In an editorial for the Tony Blair Faith Foundation, I worked closely with Nate Mason, a partner of Eye On ISIS in Libya, to evaluate the political, military, and economic environment in which the UN-brokered GNA will be implemented. Among the concerns are the various militias that currently control many services like electricity and water in various municipalities. These militias would possibly retaliate if they felt short changed by a centralized government. Moreover, the presence of ISIS, particularly in eastern Libya, is a continued threat to stability. So, while the GNA has an opportunity for consolidating governance and initiating efforts to rebuild Libya, Western powers must be wary not to expect the unity government to exert comprehensive power throughout the country.
Libya is a consensus-driven society. It requires bottom-up conflict resolution to end the hostilities and refocus attention on rebuilding the country. The greatest obstacle to consensus, however, is fear among militias that they and their hometowns will not get a fair share of the spoils when the conflict ends. This, rather than religious or ideological concerns, is what motivates most militias.he threat of attack on oil ports, wells and pipelines from the ISIS-controlled towns of Bin Jawad and Nawfaliyah remains extreme. After the ISIS attacks on al-Bayda field on 2 April, three key oil fields were evacuated on 8 and 9 April at the request of the Marada Martyrs brigade, an LNA-affiliated militia, due to the ISIS threat.A deal between Haftar and the new government could be perceived as allowing him dominate eastern Libya. This has the potential to stoke opposition and strain whatever coalition the GNA can build in the west, where there is much opposition to Haftar. This puts the GNA in a bind. Without some kind of accord with Haftar, there is little possibility of establishing even nominal GNA authority in the east.
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