On 5 February, the UN-assembled Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF) appointed a new interim government. Intended to see the country through until elections scheduled for 24 December 2021, the appointment of the Government of National Unity (GNU) ostensibly breaks the political deadlock of the past five years. But what can the GNU achieve? And how should the international community respond?
A limited mandate and low expectations
February 2021 conjures images of the same period in 2016, when the unity government produced by UN-mediated talks, the Government of National Accord (GNA), was unable to overcome the institutional divides that had emerged in 2014. … Seguir leyendo »
Last month, Field Marshall Khalifa Hifter, commander of the Libyan Arab Armed Forces (LAAF), surprised Libyans on the eve of Ramadan with an address calling on them to reject “all the institutions” established by the 2015 Libyan Political Agreement (LPA).
Four days later he claimed a mandate for military rule. But this has yet to transpire, with Hifter forced into negotiations with civilian counterparts. As his military fortunes have also taken a significant setback, Hifter is now on the defensive on all fronts. The coming weeks may be decisive for his ambitions.
Libya’s government dysfunction continues
The LPA, signed under the auspices of the United Nations in 2015, paved the way for the formation of a unity “Government of National Accord” (GNA) and sought to accommodate rival factions by maintaining the eastern-based House of Representatives as the parliament and the Tripoli-based remnants of the previous parliament as a consultative body.… Seguir leyendo »
This week, Libyan cease-fire talks brokered by Russia and Turkey addressed the country’s latest bout of conflict, which has claimed more than 2,000 lives and displaced hundreds of thousands of Libyans. Negotiations took place between the Government of National Accord (GNA) and rival Libyan Arab Armed Forces (LAAF).
Russia and Turkey’s involvement represented a change in international engagement with Libya’s conflict, as they asserted their leadership in the political process and attempted to sideline Western countries and the United Nations. It looked as if it was set to pay off. The prime minister of the GNA, Fayez Serraj, agreed to the deal, but commander of the LAAF, Khalifa Hifter, left Moscow without signing.… Seguir leyendo »
There has been a stark contrast between messaging coming from the international community and trends on the ground as Libya’s latest bout of civil war enters its eighth month.
Led by Germany, some states have been trying to build consensus for a ceasefire ahead of a summit that is expected to be held in Berlin in the next few months. Today marks the date of one of the final planning meetings for the summit.
The increasing use of drone technology, airstrikes and further influxes of fighters trend points in the opposite direction. Warring groups in Libya continue to receive support from external states, undermining international efforts to de-escalate the conflict.… Seguir leyendo »
State weakness and protracted conflict continue to plague Iraq and Libya. A breakdown of the unitary state, competition for power and influence, and the absence of a social contract all continue to drive conflict, while allowing a proliferation of local armed groups to flourish.
Yet while such groups in both countries are often viewed solely as security actors, many of them are better considered as ‘hybrid’ networks that also span the political, economic and social spheres. Western policies to mitigate the threats presented by these groups must therefore extend beyond security-based interventions to necessarily inclusive and political approaches focusing on accountability as a route to peace.… Seguir leyendo »
The Libyan Arab Armed Forces (LNA) led by Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar launched an offensive on the Libyan capital, Tripoli, on 3 April. The offensive soon lost momentum as forces in western Libya nominally-aligned to the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) rallied to prevent the advance of Haftar’s forces. Significant reinforcements have been despatched from across the country, raising the prospect of a protracted period of fighting – everyone involved has few incentives to back down and many incentives to avoid failure.
If the fighting drags on, the LNA’s revenue generation model may be its undoing.
Securing the necessary funding for the LNA’s operations has been key to Haftar’s success and the sustainability of his effort to establish security and a military governing authority across territories under LNA control.… Seguir leyendo »
Last month, the leaders of Libya’s Government of National Accord (GNA), the Central Bank of Libya (CBL) and the High State Council agreed a long-awaited package of economic reforms.
But, without accompanying structural reform they can at most offer a short-term fix. The recent fighting in Tripoli illustrates the inextricable links between control over the distribution of state revenues and conflict. A sustainable political settlement must therefore include economic components.
One of the principal goals of the reforms announced on 12 September is to curb profiteering from the state’s resources by those who can access foreign currency at the official rate (1.38 LYD=1 USD) and sell at the black-market rate (currently 5.3 LYD=1 USD). … Seguir leyendo »
For too long, the economic drivers of Libya’s conflict have received insufficient attention. But this may be about to change. Ghassan Salamé, the U.N. special envoy to Libya, has his sights set on targeting Libya’s “economy of predation.”
“I think this is the most important issue today in Libya,” he recently told Reuters. “It is, at least in my modest view, the heart of the matter in Libya.” He is right.
In Libya, networks of armed actors, corrupt business executives and politicians continue to find ways to make money through avenues such as the smuggling of fuel or people, the diversion of state resources and the growth of extremely profitable protection rackets.… Seguir leyendo »
It has been almost three months since UN Special Representative for Libya Ghassan Salamé launched his ambitious 12-month action plan for Libya. Salamé's programme seeks to amend the Libyan Political Agreement (LPA) that spawned the Government of National Accord, pass a constitution and hold presidential and parliamentary elections.
That timeline always looked ambitious. Salamé has had some notable successes, re-establishing the UN’s lead in negotiations and resuscitating a dormant political process. But now he faces the challenge of convincing Libyan powerbrokers to focus their efforts on succeeding in elections rather than fighting a drawn out battle over amendments to the LPA.… Seguir leyendo »
Last week, seven African and European leaders met in Paris to discuss means of reducing illegal migration from North Africa to Europe. They face significant challenges: during the first seven months of this year 115,109 migrants succeeded in crossing the Mediterranean Sea to Europe in search of a better life.
For Europe, the political task of managing the arrival of these newcomers is considerable. Nationalist populism – turbocharged by voter concern over migration remains a powerful force. Yet, the scaremongering over the size of refugee flows obscures a broader picture of migration in West Africa and the Sahel, driven by long-term development-centred challenges.… Seguir leyendo »
The meeting convened by French President Emmanuel Macron to find common ground on a solution to Libya’s crisis may prove to be a platform to relaunch a political process, or it may be a road to nowhere. The efforts of Ghassan Salamé, who officially took up his post last week as the UN’s new special representative for Libya, will have a significant say in determining which.
Salamé chaired the Paris meeting, and has extensive experience of the UN system, having worked with the UN Assistance Mission to Iraq and as a senior adviser to former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. His experience of the fractious Lebanese political scene, as minister of culture, is also likely to be instructive.… Seguir leyendo »
President Donald Trump’s authorisation of missile strikes on the Shayrat airbase in Syria last week has divided opinion. For some, the action was a proportionate response to the alleged use of chemical weapons by the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. For others, it is a strategically meaningless move that may serve to escalate the Syrian conflict rather than bring it closer to a resolution. How one assesses the effectiveness of the strikes is largely dependent on the context in which they are being judged.
Viewed in strict terms of chemical weapons deterrence, the missile strikes represent a minor success and allowed the Trump administration to show that, unlike the Obama administration, it was willing to act.… Seguir leyendo »
A year ago, Fayez al-Serraj, prime minister of the internationally recognized Government of National Accord (GNA), along with seven members of the Presidential Council, entered Tripoli on a naval frigate. That it was perceived as a victory for Serraj to simply enter the city that is the nominal seat of his government underlined the challenges he faced.
Twelve months on, little has changed. The GNA has little authority and limited legitimacy in the eyes of many Libyans, and is dependent on a group of Tripolitanian militias for its protection. A corresponding void in international engagement has contributed to a rise in conflict between armed groups, provided an opportunity for Russia to step in and emboldened the competing Libyan National Army (LNA) of Khalifa Haftar in the east.… Seguir leyendo »
Newly appointed British Prime Minister Theresa May has moved quickly to announce Boris Johnson as her foreign secretary. As recently as two weeks ago, Johnson was seen as a leading contender for her job. Now he is to be the face of the UK government’s foreign policy. His appointment is likely to divide opinion, not least due to his penchant for bold statements and controversial positions. His position on Syria will challenge the UK’s credibility in the Middle East.
An article written by Johnson in December 2015 advocated that ‘Britain should do a deal with the Devil: we [Britain] should work with Vladimir Putin and Bashar al-Assad in Syria’ to defeat the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).’… Seguir leyendo »
As the Iraqi security forces began their assault on ISIS-controlled Fallujah, the city's remaining inhabitants were advised to flee. They will join the millions of Iraqis who have been displaced by conflict, adding to a crisis that merits much more attention than it is getting, both from Iraq's politicians and the international community alike.
Overshadowed by the paranoia engendered by refugee flows, the plight of internally displaced persons (IDPs) - those who are displaced but remain within the state - receives little coverage. In Iraq, internal displacement is a chronic problem. Iraq has been in the top ten countries with the largest displaced populations every year since 2003.… Seguir leyendo »
Last Thursday, the International Syria Support Group (ISSG)—a group of 17 international powers—outlined its agreement to press for a 'cessation of hostilities' in Syria within a week. If implemented, the deal, which also includes provisions over humanitarian access, has the potential to save lives and alleviate suffering. But its provisions are vague, leaving key points open to interpretation even if it is enacted.
Crucially, there is little indication that the substantive disagreement in the Russian and US position over who can be considered a legitimate opposition group has been bridged. Without such agreement the ISSG announcement is yet another missed opportunity, and a cover for the continued assault on the moderate opposition.… Seguir leyendo »
Support for Syria’s neighbouring states in tackling the long-term challenges posed by the spillover of the conflict is welcome. Yet, funding pledges for humanitarian support − like those at this week's donor conference in London − are being fundamentally undermined by developments on the battlefield and the fraying political situation in neighbouring countries. The breakdown of talks in Geneva indicates that the situation will get worse before it gets better.
Political progress difficult to see
The divide between the humanitarian and the political is painfully apparent in the contrast between the hope espoused by leaders at the London donor conference and the acrimony expressed by those at the talks in Geneva.… Seguir leyendo »