Fighting in Libya’s capital city of Tripoli marked the worst bout of violence in Libya in 2 years. Find out what this violence means for the future of the fragile state’s government and its citizens.
Foreign Brief covers the parallel GLA and LNA governments in Libya, whose warring has cost the country countless lives since Gaddafi’s death in 2011. The country’s recent uptick in violence could signal more instability in the near future.
Over the past weekend, intense fighting in the Libyan capital of Tripoli saw 32 people killed in the worst bout of violence experienced in the nation’s last two years. Libya has been in a state of conflict ever since the 2011 NATO-backed ousting of Muammar Gaddafi. Following his death, the country split into East and West factions, creating two parallel governments in Libya. This past week, the Eastern faction led by Fathi Bishaga and backed by the National Parliament attempted to install a new government in the West, which is headed by an UN-recognized Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibeh in the conflicts that ensued Dbeibeh aligned forces ceased bases aligned with Bishaga’s administration, leaving Dbeibeh’s government in an even stronger position than before. What’s the story behind the violent power struggle and is there any path for recourse?
While the recent violence was short-lived, many fear that it’s an indication of a resumption of the larger conflict that’s plagued Libya since the beginning of the 2011 uprising. Thereafter, the warring Eastern and Western factions struggled for control over Libya, specifically over the lucrative petroleum fields, which output over 1.3 million barrels of oil per day. Losses suffered by Bishaga-aligned forces signaled that the Eastern faction likely would not gain any further control in western Libya. Crucially, Dbeibeh’s administration was only meant to serve as an interim government. Elections were scheduled for December 2021 but were abandoned due to disputes over rules in the voting process, all without plans to return to regular elections. As a result, Speaker of the Parliament Aguila Saleh claimed that the Dbeibeh government exceeded its term limits and chose Bishaga to replace Dbeibeh in the wake of the election’s collapse. However, Bishaga has since been unable to court Western allies and must rely on locally armed militias to overwhelm Dbeibeh.
These politics are made even more difficult as Turkey and other western countries control air bases and ports in and around Tripoli and the Mediterranean and have used them to support Dbeibeh’s government. While another attack on Tripoli is unlikely, Eastern forces will likely limit the lucrative oil flow to the west. Cutting off this resource, which serves as the government’s biggest source of revenue could force Dbeibeh to the bargaining table. blocking the flow of oil has been effective in the past, as the last shutdown reduced exports by half, forcing Dbeibeh to appoint a Haftar ally as head of the National Oil Corporation. While security has returned to Tripoli, and the city has resumed functioning as normal, no signs point to a diplomatic compromise or a long-term end to the fighting, leading citizens to anguish over the possibility of another violent episode in their nation’s history.
Daniel is the Chief Operating Officer of Foreign brief. He oversees the production and publishing of all of Foreign Brief's products. His background is in the air, space and cyberspace domains of national security and Indo-Pacific geopolitics. He is fluent in Mandarin Chinese.