Rafik Hariri Center Senior Fellow Karim Mezran writes for Al Jazeera English on the ongoing violence in Libya:
The clashes currently under way in Tripoli and Benghazi have been interpreted by some as merely a battle between Islamists and secularists. In reality, the violence is indicative of a deeper political struggle comprising tribal rivalries, competition for gains from illegal human and goods trafficking, and local power plays. Nevertheless, the Islamist versus non-Islamist divide provides a helpful prism in understanding the sudden collapse in security.
The roots of the crisis lie in the political struggle that has played out over the last couple of years in the halls of the now outgoing General National Congress (GNC). Broadly speaking, the Muslim Brotherhood and its Islamist allies on one hand and the National Forces Alliance (NFA) on the other, have fought to assert political power over each other, with little respect for democratic rules, ever since the inception of the parliament in the summer of 2012. May 2013 was a particular turning point when the GNC, under physical threat exerted by pro-Islamist militias, passed the Political Isolation Law. The law effectively barred the NFA leadership and many others from holding public office. In response, many non-Islamist GNC members boycotted the political process, inadvertently ceding ground to the minority Islamists who wielded the parliament as their exclusive political tool.