FROM THE ANTHOLOGY: The Arab Spring at Five

Libya on the Brink

How to Stop the Fighting

Wreckage at Tripoli International Airport, July 2014. Hani Amara / Courtesy Reuters

Tripoli is burning. Western Libya’s two biggest militias -- Islamist-leaning fighters from the coastal city of Misrata and anti-Islamist ones from the western town of Zintan -- are facing off for the first time since they collaborated to oust Muammar al-Qaddafi three years ago. The Libyan army is nowhere to be seen, while the country’s prime minister, Abdullah al-Thinni, has done little more than plead for UN “trainers,” presumably shorthand for peacekeepers. In retaliation, Islamist fighters have thwarted his attempts to flee Tripoli.

What began two weeks ago as localized clashes between rogue brigades for control of Tripoli International Airport has quickly morphed into an all-out battle for control of the entire capital. Since then, the violence has rippled outward, setting the stage for a countrywide showdown between the anti-Islamist and Islamist blocs. Benghazi is now suffering the worst of the violence; jihadists there are recalling seasoned fighters

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