The US and other world powers have said they are ready to arm Libya’s UN-backed unity government to help it fight the self-styled Islamic State (IS) group.
Speaking in Vienna, US Secretary of State John Kerry said world powers would back Libya in seeking exemption from a UN arms embargo.
He said IS was a “new threat” to Libya and it was “imperative” it was stopped.
There’s just one teensy little problem with Libya’s Government of National Accord — there’s no accord with the half of the (former) country which has its own government:
GNA has a lot of popular support it but not all the factions of the old Tripoli and Tobruk governments have recognized the GNA as the national government. This is mainly about terms for transferring power (now held by tribes and militias they represent) to GNA. This sort of thing is common in Libya and is a problem that won’t easily be done away with. It began with the first post-Kaddafi national government. This was the General National Congress (or GNC), formed after the 2011 revolution to create a new constitution for the voters to decide on. The GNC was to rule until the constitution was approved and government elections held. Progress was slow and in late 2013 the GNC illegally extended its power for another year. Despite that elections were held in 2014 but the GNC did not like the composition of the new House of Representatives (HoR). The UN recognized the HoR but most of the GNC members (who tended to be more tribal and religiously conservative) refused to give up power. The HoR and the government it had formed fled east to Tobruk and rallied most of eastern Libya behind them. The UN recognized the H0R and condemned the GNC. Now the UN only recognizes the GNA. The Tobruk government is now the biggest obstacle to unity.
Did you get all that? No? Me neither.
What are world leaders going to get for their arms? Will GNA take the fight to ISIS, or take the fight to their crosstown rivals in Tobruk?
If Middle Eastern history is any guide, GNA and HoR will keep fighting each other, while ISIS continues to thrive in the chaos.
And don’t forget that Libya is considered a foreign policy success for former SecState Hillary Clinton.