Studying the Arab Spring would require one to look at Libya and U.S. efforts immediately after the popular uprising. The American’s didn’t want Gaddafi but they also didn’t seek any measure to sustain Libyan presence into U.S. orbit either. Today, Putin has linked his future to partial gains that has become North Africa after the Arab Spring. The Russian strongman is smart to only publicize what benefits Russian propaganda for Libya today is rife with war factions that cannot be reconciled to any national government. Reconciling Libya may be beyond American reach IF it assumes proportions that consumed the French in Algeria!
The U.N. backed government in Tripoli is held by Faye al-Serraj. Although he openly holds both French & popular support, his writ is limited. His counterpart is Khalifa Haftar holding the Libyan National Army (LMA). It is Haftar who continues to battle Islamic terror arriving from Egypt or Mali. No agreement can link the writ that each man presents because politics in Libya is archaic and tribal. Haftar continues to receive Emirati and Egyptian support while openly confiscating significant oil ports throughout eastern Libya. Having liberated Benghazi, his gains have yet to gain political traction. For either man to succeed, they’ll need the public backing evidencing knowledge, charisma and executive decision making necessary to push Libya’s political economy westward.
Because Serraj commands no fighting force, he needs to convince competing militias to align themselves to his command. To secure this objective, he’ll need to deliver on public services.
Both men need Mustafa Sanalla, Libya’s chief national minister for oil; without securing the sinecure of Sanalla, both men will fade. Only time will tell which man has the skills to master the components of Libya’s oil market that is heavily tilted toward Russia.
The key to Libya’s future resides in whomever masters Hayek’s extended order for Libya’s petroleum. If Sanalla can hedge to either Hatfar or Serraj, Libya just may end up favorably positioned toward western alignment, and that would openly confront Russia with a losing hand, given how Libyan oil would flow to Europe.
A lot is at stake in Tripoli, but don’t expect our guys at State to understand this. The shame is, we’re sitting out on building a viable outpost that could squeeze the Islamists throughout the Sahel.