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Libya, from a formal dictatorship to a failed state

By Cristina Casabón

Three years after the revolution, has Libya become a failed state? Western governments advised their citizens to leave the country after the intensity of fighting in Tripoli and the likelihood of further attacks on foreigners. Since the election results for the new House of Representatives (HoR) were announced on July 20, Zintan and Islamist militias have been fighting to control the international airport in the capital, in what has been classified as the worst crisis since the fall of the dictator Muammar al-Gaddafi in autumn 2011.

The Alliance of National Forces, a coalition of mostly liberal groups led by rebel government leader Mahmoud Jibril outpaced its Islamist rivals in the HoR, and its main supporter is Zintan militia, which controls Tripoli international airport since 2011. The attacks of the airport were claimed by the Operations Cell of Libyan Revolutionaries, a coalition of Islamist militias considered the armed wing of Islamists in parliament, the Nahda party.

Tripoli’s battle is linked with another in the eastern city of Benghazi. Zintan militia is allied to General Khalifa Hifter, the self-declared leader of the Libyan National Army who launched “Operation Dignity for Libya” to fight against the Islamist group Ansar Sharia. Hifter militias have attempted to crack down against Islamist insurgent groups in the last months, and the fighters from Zintan said their alliance with Mr. Hifter was the reason they were being attacked by Islamist militias in Tripoli’s airport.

Disputes over Libya’s vast oil resources have been among the many triggers for conflict between rival brigades of former rebels and allied political factions. The government is struggling to restore its authority over more than 300,000 militia, but many of those rebels have stronger royalties to their tribe, political faction, region or rebel commander than to the government.

Libyan Foreign Minister Mohamed Abdelaziz asked the United Nations Security Council for help protecting the country’s ports, airports and oil installations, and warmed that the country could become a failed state. The commissioners of the European Union, United States, France, Britain and the Arab League recently met in Brussels to promote a dialogue and a solution. The statement called for a ceasefire from all sides and an inclusive political dialogue on the back of the ceasefire agreement, leaded by the UN in conjunction with the Libyan government and other internal partners. Should the international community intervene in Lybia?

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