Libya Tribune

By Karim Mezran

One of the unfortunate consequences of Libya’s crisis is that the main players with decision-making power in Libya’s conflict are the regional and international powers involved in the crisis.

Therefore, an international conference organized with the precise purpose to reach an agreement that satisfies most of the external actors’ interests could help move the country toward a process of stabilization and peace.

The international community seems intent to proceed according to the following plan: a meeting of the main international actors at the margins of the United Nations General Assembly meeting in late September.

This would be organized by France with the purpose to create the conditions for a convergence of minds among all the actors interested in a solution to the Libyan crisis.

This meeting will be followed by a high-level international conference organized by Germany for the second half of the month of October.

In Berlin a real and effective consensus on a new road-map and a commitment to adhere to it will be reached, and the effects of this agreement will rapidly spill-over to the internal Libyan situation.

Problems with the international plan

The success of such a process is highly improbable unless a critical change occurs on the ground, in the battlefield that sees the forces of General Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) opposing those loyal to the Government of National Accord (GNA) led by Fayez Serraj in Tripoli.

As an example, the defection of the militias of the city of Tarhuna, which so far have sided with the attacking forces of Haftar and carry an important weight in the strategic disposition of his forces, could infer a fatal blow to the LNA and force it to withdraw from its positions in front of Tripoli.

This fact, if it were actually to occur, would initiate a self-inquiring analysis by foreign supporters of Haftar that may lead them to reduce their support for him and either try to substitute him as the leader of the LNA, or force him into new negotiations to at least save face and limit the damages.

Without such a change, the opposing forces—despite a stalled military situation—are still convinced that a military victory is possible and thanks to their foreign support, are more and more intent to obtain that result. 

Thus, without a critical event on the ground that breaks the stalled position of the opposing forces, it will not be possible to unlock the situation, which may become endemic and last for a long and destructive time.

It is a Catch-22 situation in which foreign actors, even if conscious of the unlikelihood of a military solution, have to continue to support their proxies’ fight if they don’t want to lose the battle entirely.

At the same time, the situation can be unlocked only by a change of mind of any of the foreign actors involved.

In other words, it would require a change of sides—by one or more of the actors critically involved in the Libyan theater—to obtain the change on the ground that could lead to a new consensus among international actors to begin meaningful negotiations leading to a solution for the embattled country.

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Karim Mizran – Resident Senior Fellow with the Atlantic Council.

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