West versus East, and in between, oil. Here, in a nutshell, is the situation in Libya ten years after the overthrow of dictator Muammar Gaddafi, who had ruled the country for over four decades before he was killed during the 2011 revolution. Since then, Libya has been plunged into an interminable series of internal conflicts that have also involved numerous extremist Islamic groups, and the country has not experienced a single day of stability.
The West: this is the part that belongs to Tripoli and Fayez al-Sarraj, Prime Minister of the Government of national agreement recognized by the United Nations, but in reality without real control over the affairs of state. In the capital, as in much of Tripolitania, real power – both military and economic – is in the hands of hundreds of heavily armed private militias. They have the support of Turkey and Qatar and are ready to do anything to defend their interests.
The East: here the focus is Benghazi, the domain of Marshal Khalifa Haftar, the self-proclaimed strongman of Cyrenaica who boasts that he has freed Libya’s second city from the grip of Islamic extremists, and who aspires to take the reins of the entire country with the support of Egypt and the Arab Emirates. Ten years on, the nation is still at war, and what was once hailed as probably the most significant example of the Arab Spring has turned out to be a long winter.
[Update 8 February 2021] At the end of the negotiations conducted in Geneva under the auspices of the UN, 75 delegates of the Libyan factions have decided to appoint a transitional government, led by interim Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah, who – despite the skepticism of many international observers – has been entrusted with the task of forming an executive and lead the country towards national elections, scheduled for December 24, 2021.