Karim Mezran

  • Why North Korea is Not Libya

    US National Security Advisor John Bolton infuriated North Korea by suggesting that Libya’s experience with denuclearization could serve as a model for Pyongyang to give up its nuclear weapons. The comment sparked swift condemnation from North Korean officials.

    That Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, who in 2003 made the deal to give up his weapons of mass destruction capabilities, was toppled in an uprising eight years later and killed by his captors is an important fact that has weighed on the minds of the North Koreans as they consider the fate of their own nuclear weapons program.

    In light of this concern, Bolton’s comment has thrown into doubt the prospects of a much-anticipated summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and US President Donald J. Trump in Singapore on June 12.

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  • A National Conference for Libya’s Future

    In the ongoing effort by international and domestic actors to solve the political deadlock in Libya, the spotlight is on UN Special Envoy Ghassan Salame. Since the second anniversary of the signing of the Libyan Political Agreement (LPA) in the Moroccan city of Skhirat in December 2015, Salame’s well-thought and defined Action Plan for Libya has morphed into a confused and mainly reactive approach. When discussing his plan with media, Salame oscillates between three different priorities: securing a deal between Libya’s two rival governments to modify the LPA; holding a National Conference as early as June; holding legislative and presidential elections by the end of the year.

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  • A Question Mark Over the Fate of Libya’s Haftar

    Reports that Libyan Gen. Khalifa Haftar is in a coma will deepen the chaos in a country that has been in flux for the past seven years. Haftar is a military strongman whose forces have fought Islamist militias, but has himself proven to be an obstacle in efforts to unite Libya.

    Media organizations reported that Haftar had slipped into a coma after suffering a stroke. He was flown to Paris earlier in April after falling ill in Jordan.

    If Haftar is incapacitated, or dead as some unconfirmed reports suggest, it could create a vacuum which would be hard to fill, said Karim Mezran, a resident senior fellow in the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East.

    “There are no figures of Haftar’s stature who can control special forces, tribal groups, and Salafists all at once,” Mezran said.

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  • North African Winds

    The situation in North Africa is developing in unexpected directions. Challenged by the Libyan crisis and the consequent threats that derive from its instability—continuing violence, expanding terrorism, and flourishing organized crime—it could be reasonably expected that a more assertive cooperation would incur among the North African countries. However, this is hardly the case: Tunisia is embroiled in a difficult economic and political moment with strikes and protests in many parts of the country, and Algeria and Morocco are facing their own developing crisis while Libya is slowly collapsing into a state of semi-anarchy.

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  • Libya: Permanent Limbo or Refreshed Hope?

    The situation in Libya seems irrevocably stalled. The internationally recognized government headed by Fayez al-Sarraj in Tripoli and the Abdullah al Thinni government in al Beida—supported by the legitimately elected parliament of 2014, now residing in Tobruk—are as distant as ever. The Libyan Political Agreement (LPA) is only as good as the effort invested in it. Last fall, gridlock between the groups prematurely cut off political negotiations to amend the LPA and hence any chance of a political deal between the two rival factions. Talks of holding national elections are in the abstract. Without a constitution, elections could not dampen the power grabbing mentality on the ground in Libya.

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  • Sarkozy’s Gadhafi Connection

    Former French president faces probe over campaign funds

    Commentators and analysts have long wondered about the speed with which France acted to support rebels that rose up against Moammar Gadhafi, Libya’s longtime leader, in the spring of 2011.

    The official narrative sees Henry Bernard-Levy, the French philosopher and opinion maker, as playing a pivotal role in pushing then French President Nicolas Sarkozy to assume a proactive position on intervention to protect the citizens of Libya’s eastern city of Benghazi.

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  • Going Local in Libya

    The political situation in Libya has slowly reached one of apparent paralysis while the military situation is continually evolving with frequent clashes across the country. Given the lack of any progress, the whole approach undertaken by the international community has clearly failed and desperately needs a new strategy. Political negotiation alone, without one that engages the various militias, will not yield new gains. One adjustment to the strategy could include investing in the development of local authorities at the municipal level and engaging them in the slow process of reconstructing state-society relations—an essential component of state rebuilding.

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  • Mezran in The Cairo Review of Global Affairs: Flawed Diplomacy in Libya


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  • While National and International Actors Stall, Local Leaders in Libya Step Up

    The impression that the political situation in Libya is stalled is widespread. The lack of productive movement from national-level actors is undeniable: the UN-led mediation is faltering, the transitional government in Tripoli is not moving forward as fast as it should, and the House of Representatives (HoR) in Tobruk continues to under-perform, plagued by a constant lack of quorum. The HoR continues to face the usual accusations of being under the control of General Khalifa Haftar and his Libyan National Army. The General himself is not moving much beyond releasing a series of interviews and declarations in which he affirms his acceptance of the UN-led mediation to the international stage, but at the same time professes his pessimism about its potential success, and threatens to directly intervene, assume control, and “save” the country.

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  • Tunisia 2018: Permanent Mobilization or Return to the Past?

    The riots that have occurred in many Tunisian cities and villages at the beginning of 2018 have caught by surprise many experts and observers of Tunisia’s political and socio-economic evolution. Tunisia has been presented to the world as the only success story in the framework of the so-called Arab Spring. Unfortunately, judging it as a success is premature and ignores the country’s situation and the depth of its problems. 

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