The travesty of Benghazi

There is scant chance this will happen soon. The government’s problems go well beyond street crime and lawlessness though. Political leaders in the east of the country have been agitating for less centralized governing structure since the overthrow of Gaddafi, and now once again are threatening to break away from Tripoli.

Since July, Zidan has been struggling to overcome a strike by oil industry guards that has shuttered export terminals and resulted in oil exports plunging by 70 percent, a devastating setback for Libya, which relies on oil exports for nearly all of its foreign revenues.

“What we are seeing are shifting coalitions involving militias and different political groupings jostling as much over short-term economic interests as anything to do with political ideology,” says a political risk analyst who advises international oil companies.

To complete the dismal picture, in the last few months al Qaeda has established a significant foothold in the country, according to former and current Libyan intelligence officers, with half a dozen training camps being established for jihadists forced out of Mali by the French intervention there. That intervention was punished by a bombing of the French embassy in Tripoli in the spring, a worrying sign of a reconfiguration of jihadist ranks in a Libya ill equipped to cope with further security challenges.