A Trumpian Peace Deal in Libya?

Why Tripoli Needs an Unorthodox Approach

Armed Libyan men celebrate the fifth anniversary of the Libyan revolution, in Benghazi, Libya, February 17, 2016. Esam Omran Al-Fetori / Reuters

Surprising as it may be stateside, U.S. President-elect Donald Trump is wildly popular in Libya. Since 2014, the civil war in Libya has been in a stalemate as rival factions, including the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli and the House of Representatives in Tobruk, each backed by an assortment of militias, fight for control. 

In 2015, things looked particularly dire in Libya; some cities have fallen entirely under jihadi control and most of the country’s oil terminals had been taken offline. But since mid-2016, there have been some positive developments too: Libya’s oil production is rebounding and the Islamic State (ISIS) has been evicted from Sirte, which was its largest patch of territory outside of Iraq and Syria. But the political roadblocks to reconciliation remain. A new war is brewing in Libya’s south and the GNA is on the verge of collapse. On January 2, its deputy prime minister, Musa al-Koni, resigned live on Libyan television. The next day, the Libyan National Army (LNA), which is aligned with the House of Representatives in Tobruk, bombed a civilian aircraft in Jufra airbase that was transporting senior officers from Misrata, which is home to militias that support the UN-backed government. This is a dangerous escalation and is likely to prompt extensive counterattacks.

The moment is truly ripe for alternative mediation efforts—outside of the existing UN framework. For the last few months, the LNA and forces aligned with it have finally gained control of the oil fields, pipelines, and terminals, which are needed for Libya to pump its way to something approaching financial solvency. These developments are wildly popular even among Libyans opposed to the LNA and the House of Representatives. Faced with an east consolidating around the LNA, the western factions, including the Misratans, have an incentive to come to the table now before their position degrades further. The LNA, on the other hand, can now pump oil via its behind-the-scenes deal with the National Oil Corporation and

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