Libya grapples with foreign intervention and fragmentation
It is only by signing agreements that serve its own interests that Libya can dream of ridding itself of the internal divisions that are eroding its territorial integrity and the fabric of its society. This will not be easy to achieve as long as foreign forces and mercenaries continue to fight on its soil, and as long as most Libyan leaders refuse to take stock of their own shortcomings instead of blaming others for their woes.
This is not to criticize an agreement signed last year to establish a transitional government of national unity in Tripoli and create a roadmap for the December elections. This is to draw attention to the opportunities and possible pitfalls for Libya and the region at large – especially with the Arab country still caught between various local, tribal and geopolitical ambitions.
Taher El-Sonni, Libyan ambassador to the UN, said the departure of mercenaries and foreign fighters was inevitable. But at the same time, he stressed that this must be done according to a “disarmament mechanism” agreed by his country’s Joint Military Committee. In truth, however, it is almost impossible to achieve.
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For example, will the regional powers in whose interests the mercenaries fight in Libya agree to disarm them before leaving the country of North Africa? The simple answer is no. Because there is not yet a “mechanism” to do so; and any proposal to create this mechanism would be dead upon arrival at the military committee table, given the internal rivalries.
The best option – albeit a far-fetched proposition – would be for the Libyan government and other parties to just agree on the departure of these fighters.
The situation inside Libya is complicated. There is a Turkish military contingent deployed to two bases in the west, which Ankara says is legitimately present, given that it approved the deployment following an invitation from the previous government to Tripoli. Russia would also have a direct and indirect military presence there.
The Moscow-Ankara competition for influence in the MENA region is long and rich in history. It started in Syria and then spread to Libya, where both sides have long sought to establish their strategic and economic interests. In the case of Turkey, he also intended to create an ideological anchor by supporting the Muslim Brotherhood project. Russia will not withdraw from Libya unless it is convinced that the country is indeed stable and that its interests will be served there. Moscow also seems to think that Turkey will not leave.
This dispute has left the West in a tangle, with the United States so far focusing on preventing Russian expansion into North Africa, even as France has opposed the Turkish presence – although it is a NATO ally – because of the tensions between the two countries.
The responsibility, however, must rest with the Libyan people and their leaders. The question is whether these leaders can come together in the wider interest of their country, as some experts I have spoken to recently pointed out.
Irina Zviagelskaya, who heads the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at the Primakov Institute for World Economy and International Relations, said Libya’s problem was the lack of consistent leadership on the ground. “The problem is not just the activities of outside powers,” she said. “Of course, they have an impact on the situation. But it seems to me that what we have in Libya – and what we have in Syria – is a lack of accountability [on the part of] local forces [and] a lack of institutions. If there are no institutions, there is nothing we can do.
The ripple effects of such a vacuum are manifold.
For example, Elham Saudi, co-founder and director of Lawyers for Justice in Libya, said the country’s failing justice system means those working on human rights must rely on external actors for ” simple things like empowering people ”. “There is a real obstacle to our ability to do our job as Libyans, when international actors are just dabbling in Libya but not enough to change anything there,” Ms. Saudi said, citing inaction. member states of the UN Security Council and its sanctions committee.
Despite recent advances – including the formation of the interim government of national unity led by Abdul Hamid Dbeibah and the announcement of elections in December – the future remains uncertain.
According to Claudia Gazzini, an analyst at the International Crisis Group, Libyans fear that the presidential election will lead to more fighting. “First of all, let’s try to get an agreement to mitigate the risk of electoral violence,” she said, before adding that during this transitional phase there should be agreements on revenue management. oil and budget.
Focus on leaving mercenaries and militias is crucial
Consensus, however, will not be easy, either between internal factions or between external actors.
Perhaps the talks between Egypt and Turkey – two countries run by governments with many disagreements with each other – will have a positive impact on Libya. Even as Turkey attempts to deepen its presence in Libya, Egypt continues to be a regional power.
To find out why Ankara needs to soften its stance, one need only look at its current relationship with Washington. The Biden administration has a number of issues on which it disagrees with the Turkish government. The latter can therefore not count on the maintenance of the consent of the United States on its military presence in Libya – even if it is considered by Washington as a counterweight to the influence of Moscow in North Africa.
Given the stalemate in Libya and the uncertainties around the world, all foreign actors must agree on a lasting deal to secure Libya’s future. For this, it is essential to focus on the departure of mercenaries and militias. The idea itself has the support of the Arab League, the EU and the African Union, but now is the time for all stakeholders to walk.
Finally, Libya will not be able to rebuild itself as a viable state until it has institutions and responsibilities. Libya will not be miraculously saved until the Libyans themselves take responsibility for building their homeland and state, and compromising with each other to achieve national consensus.
Raghida Dergham is the Founder and Executive President of the Beirut Institute and Columnist for The National