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Opinion: Peace in Libya seems highly unlikely

The Tripoli Old Castle in Libya. (Image courtesy of Ziad Fhema / Creative Commons Flickr)

The Syrian Civil War has lasted nine years and has been riddled with massive amounts of violence. Syria has become a geopolitical nightmare for everyone involved, but another situation like Syria is happening in Libya.

The Libyan Civil War is fought between the UN-backed Government of National Accord and the House of Representatives backed by warlord Khalifa Haftar, according to Al Jazeera.

This conflict erupted into an international showdown between foreign powers looking for access to the country’s oil fields or to establish dominance over the region.

Muammar Gaddafi, who had been the leader and dictator of Libya for 42 years, was overthrown and killed by revolutionaries during the Arab Spring on Oct. 20, 2011, according to ABC News.

After Gaddafi, Libya was led by two rival governments, the House and the GNA. Khalifa Haftar was a general who had previously worked under Gaddafi and had been living in the U.S. for 20 years before returning to Libya during the Arab Spring.

Once in Libya, Haftar got to work, creating the Libyan National Army and choosing to side with the House. Haftar’s allies, such as the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, oppose the GNA’s ties to political Islam, such as the Muslim Brotherhood. However, the GNA is backed by the UN and has control over Libya’s capital in Tripoli.

The GNA and Haftar see themselves as the leader of Libya. Both sides control armies and are backed by powerful foreign allies looking to further their own interests.

Both factions see a Libya led by their rival as a condition they can never accept and will continue to pour men, money and material onto the battlefield to fulfill their vision of a unified Libya.

However, their allies see peace efforts as a way to become a power broker in the region. Because of this, nearly all peace efforts have been led by their allies.

The Berlin Conference on Jan. 19 was the largest of the peace efforts. The conference resulted in an arms embargo fraught with vague conditions and no set punishment for violations of the embargo.

Not long after, Turkey, Egypt, and the UAE sent weapons and troops into the country. The UN deputy special envoy for Libya, Stephanie Williams, later called the embargo “a joke.”

A ceasefire was signed in Moscow between the two factions, in Russia’s attempt to establish its influence in the war. GNA president, Fayez al-Sarraj, and Khalifa Haftar signed the ceasefire, but violations still occurred every day.

One big reason why peace efforts have been failing in Libya is because of Khalifa Haftar, who is willing to do whatever it takes to finally control all of Libya.

The Libyan National Conference was planned to take place in April 2019 but was canceled by an attack on Tripoli by Haftar. The LNA has also been blocking Libyan oil exports, holding the economy hostage. Also, his foreign allies of the UAE and Egypt see the GNA’s continued tolerance of political Islam as a threat to their autocratic regimes.

Overall, peace in Libya remains highly unlikely, if not impossible. Both sides refuse to compromise and foreign powers, seeing some sort of benefit, only add more chaos to the situation.

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