Peace in Libya?

Peace in Libya?, Econospeak, Barkley Rosser

 On the tenth anniversary of the Arab Spring uprisings that held so much hope at the time but would lead eventually only to one nation, Tunisia where they started, ending up with a democratic government, while others ended up with either authoritarian governments such as Egypt or in ongoing states of internal war, such as Syria, Yemen, and Libya. But now it appears there might be hope for a peaceful, if not necessarily fully democratic, the outcome in Libya.

Since the end of the Qaddafi regime, the nation has been split into eastern and western parts, with a UN-recognized government based in Tripoli in the west at war with a competing regime based in Benghazi in the east. Each of these has had a melange of foreign backers, with those providing the most military aid to each side being Turkey for the Tripoli-based government and Russia for the Benghazi-based one. Not too long ago the Benghazi-based one came close to defeating the Tripoli-based one, until a new surge of military aid and support, including the introduction of mercenary Syrian fighters, helped the Tripoli-based one push back the attempted assault on Tripoli back to a position where the nation is roughly equally divided, although it appears that the Benghazi-based regime controls the majority of the oil-producing zones with the revenue from that accruing to it.

Nevertheless, under pressure from the UN a ceasefire was achieved in October that set the stage for negotiations. Following a recent meeting it was agreed that a new government would be formed based in Tripoli, with a supposedly independent billionaire named Abduhhamid Dbelbah named prime minister. This is apparently being accepted for now by the Benghazi-based leader, Khalifa Hifter, although I doubt that it means that he is actually giving up power on the ground.  Dbelbah does seem to have ties to the Turks and to be closer to the previous regime in Tripoli, so this may prove to be mere window dressing on replacing the former government in Tripoli, with not much else happening.  But at least for now the cease fire is holding and noises about moving forward to more substantially reunifying the nation are being made.

Observers are noting that for this not only to hold but to move toward a more solid outcome the role of the outsiders is crucial.  Many think that in particular the Turks and the Russians need to remove the various troops that they brought into the nation (the Russians have sent in the nominally private Wagner Group of mercenaries) and also more generally to support the new government.  For better or worse in more recent years the US has not been particularly involved in Libya, officially supporting the UN-backed Tripoli-based regime while at times tilting toward the Benghazi-based one.  Many are hoping that the Biden government will support this new initiative. We shall see.

Barkley Rosser