Transitions in Focus: Libya

In yet another attempt to resolve Libya’s war, on September 20, the United Nations presented a new Action Plan for Libya, supposedly to form a legitimate, functioning, and unified government. But this Action Plan will also fall short of what is needed to end this crisis because it misses a key point: it focuses on producing a government all belligerent parties can agree on, without understanding the financial situation behind the crisis. The UN and the international community should not be narrowly focused on producing a legitimate government that satisfies all the rival groups, but rather should focus on supporting the government’s ability to exercise its power to improve the people’s lives. The crisis in Libya is not a government legitimacy problem, it is a government effectiveness problem. And how can a government be effective when it does not even control its own finances?
In the wake of the Security Council’s renewal of the United Nations (UN) mission in Libya (UNSMIL) in September, a sequel to UN-led mediation efforts directed by a new Special Representative of the Secretary General is underway in Libya. It once again hopes to reach an agreement among the main actors of the Libyan crisis while guaranteeing the will of the Libyan people to reject authoritarianism and realize a pluralistic political system respectful of human rights and individual liberties. The script follows a familiar pattern: a UN roadmap that paves the way for a grand elections finale. But the deadlock in Libya and the dynamics since the onset of the political crisis may require more unorthodox thinking and counterintuitive solutions.
The current fight against the Islamic State (ISIS, IS, Daesh) and Salafi jihadis in Libya should not distract from other Salafi groups in Benghazi and Tripoli that are spreading and enforcing anti-democractic and illiberal views and practices. The Madkhali Salafist-inspired groups are slowly gaining ground via both the al-Tawhid Brigades in the east under Field Marshal Hafter’s umbrella, and the Rada forces in the west that support the UN-sponsored Presidential Council. Both strands adopt an ideology that grants the ruler unquestioned authority, is intolerable to opposing views, and encourages the use of force against opponents. Such negative stances on elections and separation of power put Libya’s political process at risk. 
Although Tunisia is still seen favorably in Washington, the US is unlikely to be its savior. No matter how much Washington reflects on Tunisia as a successful democratic transition, the mood in the US capital will not lead to large amounts of aid to magically fix Tunisia’s security and economic woes. Only by looking to itself can Tunisia complete its democratic transition.
A recent series of militant attacks that forced the closure of three of Libya’s key oil fields represents the latest blow to the North African nation’s efforts to revive its energy sector while reigning in the chronic instability that has plagued the country since its 2011 revolution.

Over the course of two weeks in late August, the Rayayina Patrols Brigade (RPG) targeted oil fields and other facilities along a key pipeline corridor in western Libya, disrupting production at  the Hamada el Hamra, El-Feel, and El Sharara oil fields by an estimated 360,000 bpd.

Though all three fields are scheduled to resume production this week following a negotiated settlement, the attacks underscore the challenges the Tripoli-based and internationally recognized Government of National Accord continues to face as it attempts to revamp production and stabilize the country amidst a fraught security environment.
Diplomatic efforts aimed at ending the chaos that has prevailed in Libya since 2011 have legitimized Khalifa Haftar, a former Libyan general whose forces have been accused of torture and executing prisoners, according to the Atlantic Council’s Karim Mezran.

Haftar met Fayez-al-Serraj, the prime minister in Libya’s United Nations-backed government, in Paris on July 25. The fact that this meeting occurred in the first place was a recognition of the reality that Serraj’s government—the Government of National Accord (GNA)—has been unable to unite the country and that Haftar has an indispensable role in any solution to the crisis, said Mezran, a resident senior fellow in the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East.

“Haftar is the big victor,” he added.