This article is the fourth of our series focusing on scenarios depicting interventions in the Libyan war. In our previous article, we discussed an Egyptian intervention in Libya on the nationalist side. In this article, we shall detail a Qatari intervention on the side of the Islamists, as well as possible scenario outcomes for an intensified, protracted conflict that results from either an Egyptian or Qatari intervention. At this stage for our scenarios, external actors have decided to militarily intervene in Libya by taking a side with either the Islamists or nationalists that could emerge from a renewed split in the Government of National Accord (see previous article).

Considering the future names of potential factions that would result from a new split between the unity government, we shall use the label nationalist for the nationalist/liberal-dominated Council of Representatives and any future anti-Islamist factions; Islamist to note the General National Congress and any future pro-political Islamic movements; and Salafi will remain the label of choice for groups that reject democratic institutions and embrace jihadism.

For intents and purposes of not detailing every possible unilateral intervention scenario, we chose to detail one country per unilateral intervention type, as we deemed as most likely and representative.

Libya, scenarios Libya, Islamic State, Haftar, GNC, CoR, scenarios
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Sub-scenario 2.1.1.3: Qatar Enters the Libyan Conflict on the Islamist’s Side

Doha, Qatar

Concerned with installing a friendly, Islamist-dominated central government in Libya, Qatar decides to intervene. As detailed in the previous post, other regional powers – with the exception of Egypt – are less inclined to unilaterally intervene (see Sc 2.1.1.2). At this point, Egypt has not unilaterally intervened in Libya, and is potentially awaiting an international coalition to intervene before deploying its forces. Thus, Qatar has decided to preemptively intervene to boost the power of the Islamists in Libya. Its objective is to assist the Islamists in rebuilding Libya as a Muslim Brotherhood-dominated state with Sharia as its basis for governance, and to avoid an international intervention that may reduce the chances to see this specific Islamist Libya emerging.

Indicators to Monitor

Below are the main indicators we identified that impact the likelihood to see scenario 2.1.1.3 occurring. They should thus be monitored.

  1. Perceptions of national interests regarding the outcome of Libya’s civil war. As detailed in indicator 1 of Sc. 2.1.1.2, currently, Algeria and Tunisia are highly unlikely to intervene considering their fear of increased destabilization caused by interventions. Saudi Arabia is currently focused on more pressing national interests, and is also unlikely to intervene. Egypt has significant national interests in the outcome of Libya’s civil war; particularly fear of an Islamist government coming to power and the Salafi threats originating next door. Generally supportive of Islamist movements, Qatar and Turkey have national interests in Libya in the form of helping the Islamists come to power.
  2. The level of risk between unilaterally intervening and providing extensive support. If unilaterally intervening to ensure that Libya becomes an Islamist state is worth the risk – compared to just providing extensive support without deploying forces – the likelihood of Qatar intervening increases.
  3. The level of risk for Qatar to intervene in favor of the Islamists and help to make Libya a Muslim-Brotherhood state. Currently, Qatar may not be as willing to unilaterally intervene in favor of the Islamists, so as to avoid international disapproval and not be subject to retaliatory measures such as sanctions or border closings (for example, see The Clarion Project, “Saudis Threaten Qatar Over Muslim Brotherhood Support,” February 23, 2014). A higher level of risk decreases the likelihood of this scenario.
  4. The level of external constraints on Qatar that could prevent it from fully intervening in favor of the Islamists. For example, with ground troops currently deployed in Yemen to support the Saudi intervention, its involvement in Syria, and its backing of Saudi Arabia in the intensifying Saudi-Iran crisis, Qatar may be too constrained to focus on Libya and unilaterally send forces in support of the Islamists (Cafiero and Stout, LobeLog, December 8, 2015; Al-Jazeera, January 6, 2016; Gulf State Analytics, September 2015).
  5. The level of risk for Egypt between waiting for an international coalition or not. If Egypt decides to wait for an international coalition to be formed for a Libyan intervention, the likelihood of this scenario increases as Qatar could take advantage of Egypt’s hesitance and preemptively intervenes to help remove the nationalists from the Islamists’ road to power. However, if Egypt decides to wait for a UN intervention, Qatar might also decide that intervention is not necessary, but rather provide extensive support from outside the country – thus decreasing the likelihood of this scenario.

Sub-scenario 2.1.1.3.1: Qatar’s Intervention Succeeds as No Other External Actor gets Involved Meaningfully to Support the Nationalists, Libya becomes an Islamist State

Having decided to intervene in the conflict on the Islamist side, Qatar deploys air and ground forces in Libya. With full Qatari military forces on the ground coordinating with Islamist military coalitions, the nationalists gradually incur losses of territory and legitimacy – eventually leading to a successful intervention for Qatar. Without a political and military rival in the East, the Islamists become the uncontested central government and rebuild Libya as an Islamist state. With an Islamist government in power that implements Sharia law, some Salafi-nationalist groups may be allowed to exist, considering their recent announcement declaring that any government that supports Sharia law would be recognized as legitimate in their eyes. The Islamic State stronghold in Sirte would pose a problem for the rebuilding of an Islamist state, and thus would have to be dealt with by the Islamist government and Qatar’s forces in Libya.

However, we consider a successful Qatari intervention scenario highly unlikely, considering Egypt’s likely decision to either unilaterally intervene first, or immediately intervene in favor of the nationalists in response to a Qatari intervention in Libya.

Indicators to Monitor

Below are the main indicators we identified that impact the likelihood to see scenario 2.1.1.3.1 occurring. They should thus be monitored.

  1. The level of external support for the Islamic State in Libya. An influx of external support in the form of foreign fighters, resources, and leadership would boost the current operational capabilities of the Islamic State in Libya – which would help disrupt the Qatari intervention, and decrease the likelihood of this scenario occurring. Past indications include reports of an influx of foreign recruits headed to the Islamist State stronghold in Sirte, as well as reports of senior Islamic State leaders arriving in Libya (El-Ghobashy and Morajea, The Wall Street Journal, November 29, 2015; Crilly, The Telegraph, December 2, 2015).
  2. Ability of Qatar and the Islamists to simultaneously combat the Islamic State and nationalist forces if both concentrate their efforts against the Qatari intervention. The nationalists will actively deploy their forces to counter the Qatari intervention, and, depending on its goals and military situation, the Islamic State may try to target the Qatari forces or increase their attacks against the Islamist leaders – forcing the Qatari-Islamist coalition to simultaneously confront two enemies. Combatting two enemies at once (one conventional, one unconventional) decreases the likelihood of this scenario occurring. However, if the Islamic State is more focused on attacking oil facilities in Libya to deplete the governments’ vital oil resources – as is currently the case (STRATFOR, January 18, 2016), they may be less inclined to fully focus on countering a Qatari intervention.
  3. The willingness of Islamist and Salafi-nationalist groups to coordinate their efforts against the nationalists. The Islamists currently have ties to the hardliner Islamist groups in Eastern Libya (some of the coalitions include Salafi-nationalists), and have loosely allied with them to oppose Haftar’s Operation Dignity (Amer, The Washington Institute, December 18, 2015; Mitchell, “Islamist Forces II,” January 26, 2015; Libya Channel, December 31, 2015). By allying with coalitions of mixed Islamists and Salafi-nationalists, the more moderate Islamists have already shown their willingness to unite with extremist groups against a common enemy. Recently, the Derna Mujahidine Shura Council – a Salafi-nationalist group (see Mitchell, “Islamist Forces II”) – announced its support for “any government” where “(Islamic) Sharia Law is the only source of any legislation, and anything in the form of legislation, laws or rules that contravenes sharia is rejected” (Libya Herald, December 24, 2015). The willingness on both sides to ally and coordinate against a common enemy, as well as the Salafi-nationalist’s support of a Sharia-based government increases the likelihood of this scenario.
  4. The perception of Libyan tribes towards foreign troops on the ground. Considering the deep impact of colonization on Libya’s tribal groups, some may consider foreign troops on Libyan soil reminiscent of colonization. Tribes siding with the nationalists will likely perceive Qatar’s involvement in a negative light and be willing to fight both the Qatari forces and Islamist forces. However, Qatar has had previous interaction with Libya’s Tuareg and Toubou tribes by brokering a ceasefire in November 2015 (The Peninsula, November 24, 2015). Although the ceasefire was quickly violated, the Tuareg have reiterated their commitment to the ceasefire agreement brokered by Qatar (Middle East Monitor, December 22, 2015). Considering Qatar’s interaction and temporary success with the two Libyan tribes, it may positively impact their perception of Qatar. The likelihood of positive perception, and possible assistance, by Libyan tribes towards Qatar will depend on the tribes’ previous interactions with it and their allegiances to either the nationalists or Islamists.
  5. The level of cohesiveness among Islamists when rebuilding the state. If Libya’s Islamists lack cohesiveness, it will be very difficult to rebuild Libya as an Islamist state, and certainly impact the likelihood of this scenario. Past indications of internal splits occurred when rifts appeared in Jordan and Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood groups (Al Sharif, Al-Monitor, March 3, 2015; Alabbasi, Middle East Eye, December 17, 2015; Trager and Shalabi, The Washington Institute, January 17, 2016).
  6. The level of ideological appeal for Salafi groups in light of the new Islamist government. If an Islamist government comes to power and manages to begin making progress in rebuilding the state, Salafi groups may lose their ideological appeal. However, if they choose to raise the stakes ideologically by declaring the Islamist government as an apostate, the government may have more difficulty in stabilization and rebuilding efforts. A past indication signifying the Islamic State’s opposition to Islamists in Libya occurred when the eleventh issue of its Dabiq magazine noted the indignation of Abul Mughirah al Qahtani (leader of Islamic State’s Libyan wiliyat) towards the armed Islamist groups that support the General National Congress, calling them “apostate forces” (Dabiq, Issue 11).

Sub-scenario 2.1.1.3.2: Qatar’s Intervention Fails, Forces a Withdrawal

Qatari intervention forces deploy, and coordinate with the Islamists to defeat the nationalists and then focus on the Islamic State threat in Sirte. Realizing the intervention threat of being caught in a more effective pincer movement (see map below), the Islamic State in Sirte bolsters its power with overwhelming external support and fighters. Forced to simultaneously confront the expanding Islamic State and nationalist forces in and around the Islamist territory, Qatar’s intervention force and the Islamist forces begin to get bogged down in a drawn-out, bloody conflict. With no assistance from Turkey (the other pro-Islamist external actor), Qatar decides to withdraw its forces and the intervention fails.

Libyan military situation as of January 6, 2016

Indicators to Monitor

Below are the main indicators we identified that impact the likelihood to see scenario 2.1.1.3.2 occurring. They should thus be monitored.

  1. Indicators 1, 2, 4 from scenario 2.1.1.3.1 act here in a similar way to impact the likelihood of a failed intervention.

Sub-scenario 2.1.1.2.3: The Egyptian (or Qatari) Intervention Results in Intensified, Protracted Conflict as Qatar (or Egypt) gets Involved to Support the Islamists (or nationalists)

This scenario is interchangeable between Egypt and Qatar. However, we deduce that Egypt is more likely to launch the initial intervention with a Qatari intervention response, rather than the other way around.

Sub-scenario 2.1.1.2.3.1: General Conflagration of the Region

The deployments of Egyptian and Qatari forces, or full-scale war would likely cause general conflagration of the whole region and significantly impact the current geopolitical paradigm. Additionally, this could potentially lead to broader international involvement, as we shall detail in future scenarios.

Sub-scenario 2.1.1.2.3.2: Egypt and the Nationalists Emerge Victorious, Qatar and the Islamists are Defeated, and Libya becomes a Secular State

The intensified, protracted conflict forces Egypt to increase the strength of its intervention force, which, when combined with the nationalists’ forces, allows them to gradually inflict losses on the Qatari and Islamist forces. Not willing to commit even more military forces to a drawn-out intervention or not able to match Egypt’s increased military commitment, Qatar and its Libyan Islamist allies on the ground suffer gradual territorial losses until defeat. Qatar withdraws its intervention forces and the Islamists are subject to the victorious nationalist and liberal-dominated government that becomes the uncontested central government. Pressured by Egypt to repress Islamist groups in Libya and reinforced by its own dislike of Islamists, the nationalist and liberal government cracks down on Islamism while rebuilding a more secular state. With a more secular, anti-Islamist government in power, all Salafi groups would be targeted and not allowed to exist.

Indicators to Monitor

Below are the main indicators we identified that impact the likelihood to see scenario 2.1.1.2.3.2 occurring. They should thus be monitored.

  1. Egypt’s willingness to increase its intervention force strength. If Qatar comes close to matching Egypt’s original intervention force strength (particularly with air power), Egypt will likely need to increase its strength in order to emerge victorious. Thus, its willingness or not to deploy additional forces will impact the likelihood of this scenario.
  2. Qatar’s willingness to commit more military forces to match Egypt’s military commitment. If Qatar is unwilling to commit sufficient military forces to match the level of Egypt’s committed military forces in Libya, the likelihood of this scenario increases.
  3. The level of diplomatic effort to prevent other external actors from getting involved. If Egypt is concerned for the possibility of other external actors getting involved on the Islamist side with Qatar (primarily Turkey, in this case), it may pursue intense diplomatic efforts to keep the external actor out of Libya. If other external actors get involved, it may lead to general conflagration of the region (see above).
  4. The level of Egyptian pressure to repress Islamist groups in Libya. Once Egypt and the nationalists emerge victorious, there remains the question of rebuilding the state. Considering Egypt’s position on the Muslim Brotherhood within its own borders and its intervention in Libya to see the nationalists defeat the Islamists, it will likely put significant pressure on the nationalists and liberals of the victorious government to repress or entirely ban Islamists from participating in the government. If it gives in to Egypt’s pressure, the nationalist and liberal dominated government will attempt to rebuild a more secular state. A past indication of this occurred when Egypt – under El-Sisi’s rule – implemented an “unprecedented crackdown” on the Muslim Brotherhood (Brown and Dunne, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, July 29, 2015). Furthermore, our peacebuilding mission scenario (Mitchell, “A Successful Peacebuilding Mission?”) details indications on what is needed to successfully stabilize and rebuild the Libyan state, with the primary differences being that 2.1.1.2.3.2 is based on a nationalist victory and lacks some of the strength it might have had with a united government from Sc. 1.1.1.2.

Sub-scenario 2.1.1.2.3.3: Qatar and the Islamists Emerge Victorious, Egypt and the Nationalists are Defeated, and Libya becomes an Islamist State

Qatar Emiri Air Force C-17

Deciding to deploy significant forces to Libya in support of the Islamists, Qatar increases the chances of an Islamist victory. To further increase their chances of victory, the Islamists increasingly ally with hardliner Islamist groups and Salafi-nationalist groups in Eastern Libya. With full Qatari military forces on the ground and strengthened alliances between the Islamists and Salafi groups, Egypt and the nationalists gradually incur losses of territory and legitimacy – eventually leading to a victory for Qatar and the Islamists. Without a political and military rival in the East, the Islamists become the uncontested central government and attempt to rebuild Libya as an Islamist state.

With an Islamist government in power that implements Sharia law, some Salafi-nationalist groups may be allowed to exist, considering their recent announcement declaring that any government that implements Sharia law would be recognized as legitimate in their eyes. However, some Salafi groups – notably the Islamic State – may react to the Islamist government in one of two ways. They either lose ideological appeal in Libya, thus facing a decrease in mobilization power, or, they increase the stakes ideologically to declare the Islamist government as an apostate government unless it declares allegiance to the Islamic State. Both reactions impact the Islamist governments’ ability to rebuild and govern.

However, we consider a Qatari-Islamist victory scenario highly unlikely, considering Egypt’s high level of motivation and military power, as well as Qatar’s seemingly limited ability to match Egypt’s military strength in a Libya intervention scenario.

Indicators to Monitor

Below are the main indicators we identified that impact the likelihood to see scenario 2.1.1.2.3.3 occurring. They should thus be monitored.

  1. Qatar’s willingness to commit more military forces to match Egypt’s military commitment. If Qatar is willing to commit sufficient military forces to match or exceed the level of Egypt’s committed military forces in Libya, the likelihood of this scenario increases.
  2. The willingness of Islamist and Salafi-nationalist groups to coordinate their efforts against the nationalists. The Islamists have ties to the hardliner Islamist groups in Eastern Libya (some of the coalitions include Salafi-nationalists), and have loosely allied with them to oppose Haftar’s Operation Dignity (Amer, The Washington Institute, December 18, 2015; Mitchell, “Islamist Forces II,” January 26, 2015; Libya Channel, December 31, 2015). By allying with coalitions of mixed Islamists and Salafi-nationalists, the more moderate Islamists have already shown their willingness to unite with extremist groups against a common enemy. Recently, the Derna Mujahidine Shura Council – a Salafi-nationalist group (see Mitchell, Islamist Forces II”) – announced its support for “any government” where “(Islamic) Sharia Law is the only source of any legislation, and anything in the form of legislation, laws or rules that contravenes sharia is rejected” (Libya Herald, December 24, 2015). The willingness on both sides to ally and coordinate against a common enemy increases the likelihood of this scenario.
  3. The level of cohesiveness among Islamists when rebuilding the state. If Libya’s Islamists lack cohesiveness, it will be very difficult to rebuild Libya as an Islamist state, and certainly impact the likelihood of this scenario. Past indications of internal splits occurred when rifts appeared in Jordan and Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood groups (Al Sharif, Al-Monitor, March 3, 2015; Alabbasi, Middle East Eye, December 17, 2015; Trager and Shalabi, The Washington Institute, January 17, 2016).
  4. The level of ideological appeal for Salafi groups in light of the new Islamist government. If an Islamist government comes to power and manages to begin making progress in rebuilding the state, Salafi groups may lose their ideological appeal. However, if they choose to raise the stakes ideologically by declaring the Islamist government as an apostate, the government may have more difficulty in stabilization and rebuilding efforts. A past indication signifying the Islamic State’s opposition to Islamists in Libya occurred when the eleventh issue of its Dabiq magazine noted the indignation of Abul Mughirah al Qahtani (leader of Islamic State’s Libyan wiliyat) towards the armed Islamist groups that support the General National Congress, calling them “apostate forces” (Dabiq, Issue 11).

In our next post, we shall discuss international interventions (from beyond the region) that take sides in Libya’s civil war.

Bibliography

Featured Photo:  Qatari Mirage jet by Mikhail Serbin [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0] via Flickr

“Derna Mujahidine Shura Council will support ‘any’ Islamic Sharia government,” Libya Herald, December 24, 2015

Eric Trager and Marina Shalabi, “The Brotherhood Breaks Down,” The Washington Institute, January 17, 2016

Fikra Forum, “The Use of Violence in Libya,” The Washington Institute, December 18, 2015

“From the Battle of Al-Ahzab to the War of Coalitions,” Dabiq, Issue 11, The Clarion Project

Giorgio Cafiero and Alex Stout, “Qatar and the Islamic State,” LobeLog

“Islamic State Will Keep Targeting Libya’s Oil Infrastructure,” STRATFOR Global Intelligence, January 18, 2016

“IS rebukes Benghazi Revolutionaries’ Shura Council in verbal counter-attack,” Libya Channel, December 31, 2015

Jon Mitchell, “War in Libya and Its Futures: State of Play – Islamist Forces (2),” The Red Team Analysis Society, January 26, 2015

“Libya’s Tuareg affirm commitment to ceasefire agreement signed in Qatar,” Middle East Monitor, December 22, 2015

Mamoon Alabbasi, “Rift widens in Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood after spokesman’s sacking,” Middle East Eye, December 18, 2015

Monthly Monitor Report, Gulf State Analytics, September 2015

“More countries back Saudi Arabia in Iran dispute,” Al Jazeera, January 6, 2016

Nathan J. Brown and Michele Dunne, “Unprecedented Pressures, Uncharted Course for Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood,” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, July 29, 2015

Osama Al Sharif, “Unprecedented rift splits Jordan’s Muslim Brotherhood,” Al-Monitor, March 3, 2015

“Qatar brokers deal between Libya tribes,” The Peninsula, November 24, 2015

Rob Crilly, “Islamic State is building a ‘retreat zone’ in Libya with 3000 fighters, say UN experts,” The Telegraph, December 2, 2015

“Saudis Threaten Qatar Over Muslim Brotherhood Support,” The Clarion Project, February 23, 2014

Tamer El-Ghobashy and Hassan Morajea, “Islamic State Tightens Grip on Libyan Stronghold of Sirte,” The Wall Street Journal, November 29, 2015

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