Libyans are bracing for civil war

In Libya, regional players have been battling for influence, reportedly supplying militias with weapons and even conducting secret military operations in the country. An alliance of Islamists militias reportedly took over Libya’s capital, Tripoli, on Aug. 23; soon after, they stormed and “secured” a U.S. embassy compound in the city. The freshly reelected Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni — who was appointed on Sept. 1 — faces a daunting mandate as the escalating crisis threatens the complete disintegration of the state and collapse of the country’s democratic process, just three years after the Qaddafi’s ouster in 2011.

Libya’s Islamist militias launched their campaign of violence in Tripoli after they suffered a devastating defeat in the recent parliamentary elections on June 25. Both moderate and extremist Islamist groups are attempting to block the new government from convening and becoming fully operational, fearing a legislative backlash. The Islamists have enjoyed undue influence over the political process since the overthrow of Qaddafi despite the fact that they’ve never won a single election; now they worry that the new government will undo their work to take control of the nascent institutions of post-revolution Libya.

Lately there have also been reports that regional powers are intervening in the crisis: Qatar and Turkey on the side of the alliance of Islamist militias’ side, Egypt and the UAE on the side of their foes, led by General Khalifa Haftar. This sort of meddling can only aggravate instability and political divides. By recognizing the deplorable actions of militias, these countries are complicating the situation and prolonging the turmoil. Outsiders are using Libya as a battlefield for their own agendas and regional interests — drowning out the voices of Libyans themselves, who now face full-fledged civil war. Cities, tribes, and entire regions within the country are starting to position themselves accordingly. Now even partition seems like a distinct possibility.

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