All posts by Wolfgang Pusztai

Wolfgang Pusztai is a Security & Policy Analyst. He was the Austrian Defense Attache to Libya and Tunisia from 2008 to 2012.

Libya: From Civil War to Regional Conflict?

A low-intensity civil war has been raging in Libya since after its 2011 revolution. The situation escalated in 2014 after Islamists ignored the results of parliamentary elections and forced the parliament and internationally recognized government to seek refuge in eastern Libya. That same year Khalifa Haftar, Commander of the Libyan National Army (LNA) and loyal to the elected parliament, started a heavy-handed offensive to end an Islamist assassination campaign in Benghazi, the largest city in the east, where U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were murdered two years before.

In 2015, the United Nations (UN) attempted to broker a deal, the Libya Political Agreement (LPA), focused on creating a new government. The LPA ultimately failed however because the negotiations were viewed as unrepresentative of actual power relationships on the ground. The internationally recognized Government of National Accord (GNA), formed by the LPA, relocated to Tripoli in March 2016 and has been under the de-facto control of Tripoli and Misrata militias ever since. Libyans outside of the Tripolitanian area reject the GNA and continue to complain about the perceived unfair distribution of resources and wealth as well as the criminal enrichment of the militias in the capital region.

An LNA offensive on the Tripoli in April last year torpedoed a UN initiative for a Libyan National Conference in Ghadames after several failed initiatives to revive the doomed LPA. In the eyes of many across the country, Heftar purposely tanked the initiative his supporters deemed unbearable. For the GNA and its allies, on the other hand, he simply seeks to establish a military dictatorship.

The Main Warring Factions

The conflict is primarily between the GNA and Marshal Haftar’s LNA. As the GNA has very limited capabilities, it is supported by Burkan Al-Ghadab (BaG), which is both the name given to the counteroffensive (and translates loosely to Volcano of Rage) against the LNA  as well as the unofficial collective name for the anti-Haftar militias fighting for the government formed under the LPA. The BaG, strongly supported by Turkey and Qatar, is run by the Misrata militias, the largest single military block, and all of the major Tripoli militias. A larger number of radical Islamists including Al Qaeda (AQ) affiliates from the Tripolitania area fights among the ranks of the BaG, initially providing the backbone for several of its units. Several hundred Turkey-supported jihadists from Syria reinforced BaG early on in the battle for Tripoli. An alliance between the Misrata — Turkey’s closest allies in Libya and followers of Grand Mufti Sadeq Al Ghariani — and the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), that has maintained a strong influence on politics, security, and the economy in Tripolitania over the years, maintains a dominating control over the GNA and BaG.

The core of the LNA are army units supported by various loosely connected militias. Its key foreign backers (and weapon suppliers) are Egypt and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The LNA has a very wide definition of terrorism, considering moderate Islamists and AQ affiliates, as well as the Islamic State (IS) alike, as terrorists. This approach has merged the usually disunited Islamists into a firm anti-Heftar block.

The civil war in Libya is now a war of attrition with belligerents who have very different capabilities. LNA casualties are mounting as it is no match for the state-of-the-art equipped Turkish troops in Libya. These troops maintain combat drones, electronic warfare capacities, long-range precision artillery, warships, and, most importantly, impressive air defense capabilities. As of 20 May, after retaking the last remaining LNA base in western Tripolitania, Al Wattiya, the BaG offensive has gained momentum while the LNA tries to consolidate its positions in the south of Tripoli.

An International Playground

Libya is a geostrategically important country holding Africa’s largest oil reserves. Naturally, several other countries have important and vital strategic interests there. Security-related interests are mostly concerned with the various Islamist groups, ungoverned areas, and Libya’s porous borders which allow for smuggling and human trafficking. Additionally, there are value-related interests focused on promoting either democracy or political Islam. Finally, several countries are economically interested in Libya’s valuable hydrocarbon industry. Between Libya’s regional neighbors (Egypt, UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar) and concerned parties in Europe (namely Turkey, but also France, Italy, and Russia), all eyes are on the conflict between the LNA and GNA.

Turkey‘s troubled economy is in dire need of Libya as an important export destination and seeks a major share in reconstruction. The survival of the GNA and a leading role for Misrata are essential for Ankara’s economic interests. Turkey gives permanent residence to several prominent former LIFG leaders (a dormant former AQ affiliate), members of the Libyan MB, prominent former Benghazi and Derna Islamist fighters, and Libya’s Grand Mufti. Turkey uses their influence to pursue its interests in Libya. Qatar is also a major investor in Libya. Both Qatar and Turkey are providing weapons and military equipment for several of the pro-GNA militias, particularly those from Misrata. In fact, the Turkish military itself is the backbone of the war against the LNA.

Egypt, Libya’s neighbor, is closely watching the crisis across the border for any evidence of a terrorist safe haven developing so close to home. Libya is also an important labor market for almost one million Egyptians who cannot find work at home. Italy and France have significant strategic interests regarding Libya, but while, for Italy, the economy and migration are in the foreground, regional security and counter-terrorism are the French priority. For Moscow, the chaos in Libya is an opportunity to regain influence. Russia is most likely interested in getting a substantial share of the reconstruction business and influence over the hydrocarbon industry, particularly the gas market as well as establishing a “beachhead“ in North Africa. While there are no vital American national interests at stake in Libya, its instability is an increasing threat to US interests in the wider region.

Consequences of Developments on the Ground

After explosions significantly damaged the Misrata airbase on May 6, the LNA increased its efforts to achieve a breakthrough in Tripoli but is unable to make any progress. After the recent setback at Al Wattiya, and as Misrata airbase is fully operational again, the LNA will find it very difficult to maintain its remaining positions in Tripolitania without significant outside support from Egypt or the UAE.

Currently, there is no major BaG offensive operation east of Abu Grein – Wadi Zamzam, an area to the west of the oil-rich Sirte Basin. It is possible there is a tacit understanding between Turkey and Egypt that the BaG/Turkish offensive will stop short of Sirte and the central Al Jufra Oasis. However, keeping the significance of the hydrocarbon resources east of Sirte in mind, it is doubtful that such an agreement will hold. Furthermore, if the Cyrenaica separates from Libya as a consequence of the LNA defeat in Tripolitania, the Turkish-Libyan Maritime Agreement from November last year delineating their exclusive economic zones, an agreement of critical importance to Turkey, would become irrelevant.

If there is a military escalation between Ankara and Cairo over Libya, Egypt is in a much better position to provide direct logistic support without risk of interception. Fighter aircraft will be able to attack targets all over Libya directly from bases in western Egypt. Even ground forces could easily intervene if required, whereas Turkish transport aircraft, drones, or even fighters flying to Libya could be intercepted at ease.

If the LNA is defeated in Tripolitania, Turkey will become the dominant political and economic power in Tripolitania and Fezzan. This will have a huge negative impact on European strategic interests in Libya. It can be assumed that Turkey will become the favored economic partner of (western) Libya, strongly undermining the position of the various European stakeholders, in particular Italy and France. Turkey will also gain a more important position on the European gas market and will certainly be able to influence deliveries through the Green Stream pipeline that runs through Western Libya to Italy. Furthermore, Turkey will be able to control the pipeline’s central route towards Italy in addition to the eastern Mediterranean migration route to Europe. This will significantly increase Turkey’s ability to pressure the EU. Turkey will also probably continue to expand its political and economic influence towards Tunisia, Algeria, and the southern Sahara states. This includes support of political Islamists such as the Muslim Brotherhood and possibly some even more radical groups that will bring Turkey into conflict with vital French strategic interests.

A Civil or Regional War?

Libya’s civil war is home-made and its roots are domestic but it is not a typical proxy war. International support is key for both sides and will not end anytime soon. If one side loses its arms suppliers for whatever reason, the other would certainly prevail. No party trusts the other, efficient enforcement of the arms embargo is unrealistic, and Libya is simply too important. Regular demands for a “unified international position on Libya” or a “resolution between the two major parties” usually means unification of all efforts against the LNA. Keeping the deep rift within Libya and the strong interests from outside in mind, it is doubtful that such a “solution” has a chance to succeed.

Turkey’s President Erdogan is close to establishing facts on the ground by a combination of diplomatic and military action. The BaG is very likely to win the war as long as Turkish military capabilities in Libya are not neutralized and are able to sustain its efforts in light of mounting casualties and an eventual escalation in Syria. Egypt is hesitant to get fully involved in what could be a protracted and very costly conflict. Russia has limited capabilities and avoids even engaging the Turkish military in Syria directly and they are certainly hesitant to do so in Libya. 

A political settlement is currently much less likely than a military decision, but with the potential upcoming defeat of the LNA at Turkey’s hand, it will not solve Libya’s problems. In fact, the situation could easily escalate and lead to a regional conflict leaving Europe and the United States to learn to live with the outcome.

Wolfgang Pusztai is a freelance security and policy analyst. He was the Austrian Defense Attaché to Libya from 2007 to 2012.

Tunisia – Fertile Ground for Terrorism?

Last week, Tunisia was –unsurprisingly– hit again by a terrible terrorist attack. At least 39 Tunisians and foreign tourists were killed when a jihadist killer stormed the beach of two luxury hotels near Sousse in the heart of the country’s historic tourist zone. Without intervention unresolved socio-economic issues will continue to provide targets vulnerable for exploitation by terrorist groups.

Since the Jasmine Revolution in 2010-2011, the security situation in Tunisia remained quite calm but somewhat fragile until the summer of 2014. Apart from the Bardo Museum attack in March, several locations throughout the country were targeted by terrorist actions and social unrest.  Violent attacks occurred in Kasserine/Mount Chambi, El Kef, Sidi Bouzid, Tozeur, and Gafsa in the center and south of Tunisia, as well as Jendouba in the north and the Sfax along the central coast while increasingly active Salafists exploited minor riots in the southern towns El Faouar and Kebili. After the Bardo attack, Tunisia’s security forces took the initiative and apprehended or killed dozens of Salafi jihadists. While these actions achieved measures of localized success, they were not enough to defeat terrorism in the country.

The Socio-Economic Situation

Tunisia possesses many of the necessary requirements to serve as a positive role model for the other Arab Spring countries. This became apparent through the ratification of a modern constitution as well as successful presidential and parliamentary elections held in 2014. Despite this progress the country is not yet “over the top”; a fact frequently ignored by the West which is too happy to declare the triumph of democracy. Although the tragic Sousse massacre served as a wakeup call no one wanted to hear, the economic situation in Tunisia provides a fertile environment for discontent. Unemployment, a lack of foreign investment, labor pressures, and threats to tourism will increase social problems exploitable by radical Islamists.

Increased violence in popular tourist locations endangers the fragile tourist industry in Tunisia.
Increased violence in popular tourist locations endangers the fragile tourist industry in Tunisia. Image Source: Tunisia Ministry of Tourism

The root cause of Tunisia’s current problem is a socio-economic situation that remains problematic four years after the revolution. There is wide developmental disparity between the coastal areas and the interior hinterland. Though the Tunisian government is using its limited resources to improve this situation in neglected areas like Gafsa, Kasserine and Sidi Bouzid (where the revolution started), the people there are –understandably– very impatient and the results have been mixed. In 2014, official figures said job seekers made up 15.2% of the 3,950,000-person workforce; an increase from 13.3% in 2006 though actual figures are probably higher. Unemployment among youth (those 15-24 yrs) is at 42.3% while about 35% of the country’s university graduates lack jobs. In the neglected areas of the hinterland these figures are significantly higher. In some areas more than 50% of the young population is unemployed.

By some estimates, Tunisia requires a 6% annual increase of the GDP for several years to achieve stability but this remains highly unlikely. Forecasts fall far short of that goal, ranging from +2.8% to +4%. What seems certain is the gap between available jobs and job-seekers will unfortunately increase for the foreseeable future though having a job in Tunisia is not an end to trouble. Even those Tunisians that are employed are coming into increasing conflict with their employers. Labor unions often stir up conflict with employers and between each other for their own gains. Fortunately, the most important union, the “Union Générale Tunisienne du Travail” (UGTT; Tunisian General Labor Union), has been playing a positive role in most of the conflicts.

Taken alone, these statistics appear daunting but the problem is further complicated by a significant decline in foreign direct investment since the revolution. Furthermore, Tunisia´s economy suffers heavily from the uncertain economic situation in Europe as well as from the war in Libya, where nearly 100,000 Tunisians worked before the revolution that overthrew the regime of Muammar Gaddafi. Prolonged regional instability and the continuation of terrorist attacks will retard remittances, discourage foreign investment, and impact the largest sectors of the economy.

In 2013 travel & tourism contributed 485,000 jobs (12.3% of the workforce) and comprised 15.2% of Tunisia’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Though the estimates for 2014 are slightly higher at 15.5%, tourist arrivals (6 million) are off 13.1% from the 6.9 million that visited the country in 2010. After the Bardo and Sousse attacks all these figures will undoubtedly decrease significantly.[1]

More than four years after the Jasmine Revolution unstable socio-economic factors serve as vulnerabilities for terrorist groups to target.
More than four years after the Jasmine Revolution unstable socio-economic factors serve as vulnerabilities for terrorist groups to target. Image Source: The Next Great Generation

Currently, the agricultural and fishing sectors employ approximately 20% of the Tunisian workforce. Of these industries, agriculture poses a very complicated problem as on one side it is a crucial provider of jobs while at the same time it draws heavily on the nation’s very limited water supply. Regrettably, Tunisian agricultural products do not fare well on the international export market. Because of the low quality of production compared to invested resources, many consider this use of natural resources a waste.

Another sector requiring immediate reform is the textile industry. Comprised of some 2,094 industrial enterprises employing 10 or more persons, 1,656 produce exclusively for the export market. This sector currently accounts for a quarter of Tunisia’s exports and just shy of half of all manufacturing jobs. However, the future looks bleak as the industry in the face of increasing competition from China, Bangladesh, and other low-cost production countries.

Decreasing tourist revenues and stiff competition from abroad in the textile and  agricultural sectors drains Tunisia’s foreign currency reserves, putting pressure on the government’s ability to maintain heavy (and increasing) subsidies on basic foodstuffs like bread, milk, and sugar.  In 2014, subsidies accounted for a staggering 20% of all public spending (USD $4 billion, up from USD $600 million in 2010). Subsidies of this magnitude create massive incentives for smuggling which reduces the government’s ability to tax commerce, further strains its troubled finances, and erodes social support programs, particularly for the unemployed. With little improvement in their situation since the time of the Ben Ali regime, unemployed Tunisians increasingly compete with up to one million Libyan refugees for jobs and government support.

The Strategy of the Terrorists

The radical Islamists are firmly entrenched in some parts of Tunisia. With their ranks strengthened by fighters experienced from the wars in Syria, Iraq, and neighboring Libya, terrorist cells recruit sympathizers and fighters by exploiting the grievances of the population in the neglected hinterlands. Once armed and trained, it doesn´t really matter to which specific group the terrorists belong. The various Salafist jihadists are “coordinated” through a common ideology and vision of a fundamentalist Islamic State based on the Sharia. This commonality provides a “good enough” guideline for their distributed activities while the porous borders and chaotic situation in Libya will provide access to inexhaustible stores of weapons and ammunition.

The Salafist jihadists are aware that a military victory is not realistic at this time. As a result, their immediate objective is the establishment of “resistance pockets” in remote areas such as Jebel Chaambi. A consolidation of their rule and an enlargement of the controlled territory will follow. As their territory expands, they will terrorize the population and enforce a strict application of the Sharia.

Terrorist groups will attempt to exploit socio-economic vulnerabilities to discredit governments while other branches attempt to demonstrate an ability to fill the gap in services provided by the government.
Terrorist groups will attempt to exploit socio-economic vulnerabilities to discredit governments while other branches attempt to demonstrate an ability to fill the gap in services provided by the government. Image Source:

Lacking the resources for a pure military victory, the Islamists’ strategy to assume power in Tunisia will likely include actions designed to trigger a social uprising. Initial phases will lean heavily on actions designed to destabilize the state in order to prepare the ground for such a revolution. For that purpose, attacks will focus on discrediting security forces, damaging or degrading key sectors of the economy (above all tourism) and (increasingly likely) threatening Western targets, as Western support is crucial for Tunisia´s economic recovery. These jihadists’ attacks will certainly come in the form of assassinations, bombings, raids, and larger scale coordinated terrorist attacks on prominent targets. (For a more indepth discussion refer to Security Risks in North Africa – The Strategy of the Terrorists)

While some groups focus on militant actions, other groups like Ansar al-Sharia serve a complementary function by engaging in charity activities to show care and concern for the needy among their followers.

The Way Forward

 Image Source: REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter walks with Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi before their meeting at the Pentagon in Washington May 21, 2015. Image Source: REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

Despite the odds, Tunisia is not a lost cause. There are signs of hope as well as many positive factors in the country. Tunisia has high levels of education, a strong civil society, close military links to the West (particularly with France and the U.S.), and an open-minded coastal population eager to integrate with other nations.

Furthermore, the successful transition from the Ben Ali dictatorship and the positive developments brought about by the moderate Islamist party Ennahda and its leader Rashid Gannouchi show that moderation and progress are achievable. However, there is an immediate need for much more international support in order to facilitate the transition of Tunisia into a model for the positive development of a Muslim state. The foundation for such a success is still present, but without sufficient support the future path of the country will be very, very difficult and without urgent intervention we should expect more violent incidents and terrorist attacks…

Wolfgang Pusztai is a Security & Policy Analyst. He was the Austrian Defense Attache to Libya and Tunisia from 2008 to 2012. Be sure to read his other contribution to The Affiliate Network: MISRATA’S NEXT STEPS: NARROWING THE WINDOW TO SAVE LIBYA 

[1] After the 2002 Djerba/Ghriba synagogue bombing in 2002 (21 killed) the number of financial strong visitors decreased by about one million. This time it will be worse.

Misrata’s Next Steps: Narrowing the Window to Save Libya

Originally published in September 2014 by the Navisio Global Publishing Unit

After several weeks of bloody fighting during what they termed “Operation Libya Dawn”, on 23 August militias from the town of Misrata finally conquered Tripoli International Airport from their adversaries, the Zintani. The capture of the airport and expulsion of the Zintani marks the achievement of the Misrata’s military objectives after losing recent elections for Libya’s interim parliament, the House of Representatives (HoR). Fearing political marginalization in Tripoli in the face of the more established Zintani, the militarily superior Misrata saw this as their only remaining alternative. With Tripoli finally under their control, the struggle for Libya’s capital appears to be decided, at least for the time being, but as the Misrata prepare their next steps, the international community faces a narrowing window of opportunity to achieve a stable solution in Libya.

The Misrata = “Islamists”?

Though quite frequently branded “Islamists”, many of Misrata’s citizens argue (rightly) this is not true. But while a radical Islamic state of Libya with a strict application of the Sharia is probably not in the business interest of the harbor town of Misrata, behind the scenes there is already a struggle for influence between the radical and the moderate Islamists, and the others in the town. As it looks now, the Islamist influence will increase over time for two reasons:

  • the city is a stronghold of the Libyan branch of the Muslim Brotherhood
  • several militias of the Misrata coalition are led by (radical) Islamists; some of whom are former members of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, an organization that produced several prominent Al Qaeda leaders like Abu Yahya al-Libi who was Al Qaeda’s number two when he was killed by an American drone strike in 2012.

Current Situation and Background

After their military success the Misrata are widely unchallenged in the capital where they are busy consolidating their positions and solidifying their control of the city. This includes acts of revenge against members and property of the Zintani coalition that remained in Tripoli, and against the Tawergha, who were dispersed from their own city by the Misrata in 2011 because of their support for Gaddafi during the revolution. The Zintani brigades have withdrawn to their strongholds in the Jabal Nafusah mountains, scene of their May 2011 victory over Gaddafi’s mighty army. There they are reorganizing their troops while trying to resupply. Though it is very unlikely that Libya Dawn forces will be able to mount a successful attack on the Zintani stronghold, a successful Zintani counterattack from there can also be ruled out for the near future. Thus, the former military stalemate in Tripoli is replaced with a stalemate in northern Tripolitania.

The Misrata wasted no time shifting their efforts to the political side. On 25 August, they unexpectedly resurrected the former General National Congress (GNC) – an embarrassment to many people that voted for the HoR. Replaced by the HoR in the recent elections, the original 200 member GNC was elected in 2012 as the first interim parliament of Libya. Though the strongest single party in the GNC was the liberal-leaning National Forces Alliance of the first interim Prime Minister, Mahmoud Jibril, a block of various Islamists widely dominated the original GNC. Though the estimated number of parliamentarians that showed up to vote varied from a few dozen to as many as 94 (the former minimum requirement for quorum), the GNC nevertheless designated the Islamist Omar al-Hassi the country’s new, but hardly legitimate, prime minister.  [Of the 200 seats in the GNC only 80 were allocated to political parties. Of these Jibril´s NFA got 39, the JCP (close to the Muslim Brotherhood) got 17. The remaining 120 seats were for independent candidates. The Islamists managed to drag many of these “independents” on to their side and formed an “Islamist block” in the GNC. -WP]. Meanwhile, the interim government of the legitimate Prime Minister, Abdullah al-Thani, resigned on 28 August to make way for formation of a new government. Within days however, al-Thani was asked to again form a government with the HoR leaving Libya with two competing legislatures and divided both militarily and politically.

Misrata’s Intent

The next objectives of the triumphant Misrata will be to safeguard their achievements by military, political, and economic means. Militarily they must protect the western flank of their positions in Tripoli and keep open the vital coastal road to Tunisia. This will take them and their local allies, the “Knights of Janzour” and “Libya Shield West”, deeper into the tribal areas of the Wrishfana (confederates of the Zintani) where the first clashes have already begun.

Politically the Misrata are attempting to overcome their recent electoral defeat by simultaneously offering incentives and applying increased pressure. While Libya Dawn forces invited the HoR to move to Tripoli and guaranteed the security of its members, it may be that by initiating the designation of a new prime minister, the Misrata want to force the HoR to select a compromise candidate as a head of the future government. This would be even easier for them if the legitimate interim parliament were located in Tripoli as their militias (like several others) are already well experienced in blackmailing parliamentary assemblies. The fact that the HoR again asked Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thani to form a cabinet despite his repeated insistence that he does not intend to continue serving, could be an indication that the HoR wants to keep open the door for negotiations with the Misrata. It remains to be seen how long they intend to stick to the old assembly and its weak, compliant president Nuri Abu Sahmain. Whatever the case, the very dangerous idea of reviving the GNC could eventually contribute significantly to the split of the country.

Political maneuvers and military campaigns will have little sustained impact however if the economics aren’t there to sustain the effort. For this, the Misrata know they must gain control of at least part of Libya’s hydrocarbon wealth.  Though the coastal strip from Sabratha to Tripoli and further on to Misrata and Sirte is now, with some exceptions, under control of the Misrata and their allies, this does not include a significant part of the hydrocarbon infrastructure (other than the refinery in Zawia) or water sources of the Great Man-Made river.

Misrata's Next Steps
The Situation in Libya, September 2014

These resources are decisive for any Libyan government and therefore it can be expected that the Misrata will try to gain influence by political or military means over the oil fields in the Sirte basin and the oil terminals on the coast of Gulf of Sirte (Ras Lanuf, Brega etc.). Those facilities are currently more or less under the control of the federalist Ibrahim Jadhran, who had blocked oil exports for months.

Misrata will also try to get the oilfields in the south under control, but this is much more difficult. Several of those fields are under firm control of tribes allied with the Zintani and the pipelines to the coast run through or close to Zintan controlled territory where it would be easy for Misrata’s opponents to interrupt the vulnerable tubes and attack the pumping stations.

What Can be Done?

The situation in Libya looks dire. There are four likely scenarios in the midterm (in order of decreasing likelihood): sustained multilateral civil war or “Lebanonization” of the country; an international intervention in the form of a peace-support operation; a political solution; or a decisive Islamist victory. It is also quite realistic that there will be a combination of the first two scenarios. For example, a peace-support operation limited to the critical area in and around the capital may not prevent civil war from raging in several other parts of the country. While mention of peace-support conjures images of European armies patrolling tense neighborhoods, we must also consider the possibility of an Egyptian intervention in the form of establishment of a “Ground Safety Zone” on the Libyan side of the border. After all, Europe is not the only place for which instability in Libya presents a security problem.

There may however be a narrow window of opportunity to prevent the country from descending into total chaos. The UN Security Council recently called for an immediate ceasefire but implementing such a measure will not be easy (see United Nations Security Council Resolution 2174). Politically, the current situation of divided government is inimical to a settlement there. Therefore it is absolutely vital that the international community force all parties to the negotiating table to accept the HoR as the only legitimate representative of the Libyans. To this end there must be focused support on moderates in Misrata and in Zintan to prevent the “hawks” from dominating. Countries like Turkey, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates must be convinced to influence their Libyan partners to keep a ceasefire and commit themselves to the democratic process.

Sanctions against individuals are a good tool although they will not have a quick impact. They must include political, military, and militia leaders as well as religious leaders from all groups unwilling to accept and support the democratic political process. Though these sanctions will make the daily business of the few remaining embassies in Tripoli even more difficult, their current situation is already forcing them to operate in a state of crisis.

Lastly, armed groups not entirely subordinated to the will of the legitimate government must be withdrawn from the capital, regardless which faction they come from. This must be achieved by international political pressure, a political compromise in Libya and, if necessary, by an accompanying international military Peace Support Operation. Such an International Stabilization Force would be a last resort to prevent a Libyan collapse (see Wolfgang Pusztai, “An International Stabilization Force for Libya?”), but as the preparations for such an operation takes months it is necessary to start the discussions and preparations now.

Wolfgang Pusztai is a freelance security and policy analyst. He was the Austrian Defense Attaché to Libya from 2007 to 2012.