The NATO-destroyed North African state of Libya is once again experiencing serious civil strife, but this time the UN-recognized "Government of National Accord" (GNA) is calling on the international community to intervene in order to stop the widespread killings in the capital. Over 110 people have been killed in fighting there while nearly four times as many have been injured, creating a chaotic situation that threatens to quickly spiral out of control and reverse the relative gains of the past year that saw the country somewhat stabilize.
A large part of that had to do with Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar's stunning military successes in the eastern part of the country, which established him as a pivotal figure for determining Libya's future in spite of his forces not being formally recognized by outside countries as representative of the legitimate government. Growing restless with this lack of international approval even though he commands what is undoubtedly the most powerful military force in the country, Haftar hinted that he might make a move on Tripoli in order to restore law and order there, meaning that the GNA's request for a UN intervention might be intended to preempt this from happening.
Complicating matters even further is that France, one of the countries that took the lead in destroying Libya seven years ago, suggested that the capital's warring militias be sanctioned, which could be seen as a step towards triggering a future French-led international intervention that may or may not be approved by the UN. Furthermore, Libya was supposed to hold elections by the end of the year, though the recent upsurge in violence might make this impossible and therefore fail to unify the politically and especially militarily divided country.
Libya has gained global notoriety in the years since the last foreign intervention because it's recently turned into a launching pad for sub-Saharan Africans to illegally migrate to Europe, and any large-scale migrant wave brought about by the capital's potential collapse might be all that's needed for France to assemble its own "coalition of the willing", potentially including former colonizer Italy and its new right-wing anti-migrant government. Still, a foreign intervention and subsequent "peacekeeping" mission of the magnitude that might be needed would entail enormous financial and other costs, which could be why it hasn't happened already.
Andrew Korybko is joined by Ahmed Ibrahim, Libyan student pursuing an International Relations and Global Development degree in the UK and Djella Smaine, Assistant Professor of political science and international relations at the University of Algiers, Algeria.
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