We shall now discuss the organization, indicators, and likelihood of the various partition scenarios, after having detailed the indicators and determined the likelihood for intervention in the last article.

Note: In the following article, we shall use the acronym COR for the Council of Representatives (nationalists), GNC for the General National Congress (Islamists), and GNA for the UN-backed Government of National Accord (unity government).

Organizing the Scenarios and Indicators

Considering that external actors are already intervening in Libya, as we saw previously, as well as the fact that surrounding countries are experiencing migrant, smuggling, and jihadist spillover from Libya’s civil war, we organized the parent scenarios to account for these certainties. The next branch of scenarios—which have not occurred yet—are Partition or No Partition. In this level of scenarios, we will evaluate the likelihood of a tribal partition, a provincial partition, and a partition along a north-south axis, and plug them in to the partition and spillover scenarios in the forthcoming article.

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With three types of scenarios related to partition, we tailored each of their indicators to match the relevant type of partition. Although we only detail the indicators of a tribal partition in this article, a similar assessment will be used on each partition type to determine their likelihood.

Traditional provinces of Libya, which would reemerge in a partition along provincial lines

Evaluating the Indicators

*The likelihood of each indicator is based on the current reality on the ground, which may warrant a change of likelihood as we progress through each scenario in the forthcoming articles.

The following scenarios and their indicators will show how we determined the numerical likelihoods based on current realities. We use the following table for our likelihood levels:

Scenario: Civil War with Intervention

1. Are external actors actively intervening in Libya’s civil war? 100% (Certain). As detailed in our previous article, several actors are actively intervening in Libya for the COR and GNA. The United Arab Emirates is using mercenaries, Air Tractor attack planes, and Wing Loong drones to support Haftar’s forces in northern Libya (Delalande, War Is Boring, February 6, 2017; Assad, The Libya Observer, January 16, 2017). Russia has allegedly deployed Special Forces and military drones to Egypt’s western border with Libya in a likely move to support Haftar (DEBKAfile, March 14, 2017). Meanwhile, the United States is supporting the GNA with intelligence and military strikes on ISIS fighters, while Italy is training the GNA’s coast guard units and providing intelligence on migrant traffickers and ISIS fighter movements (Schmitt and Gordon, The New York Times, January 19, 2017; deGrandpre, Military Times, March 24, 2017; Dickstein, Stars and Stripes, March 24, 2017; Bocchi, Libya Herald, February 16, 2017; Kington, DefenseNews, March 20, 2017; ANSAmed, February 27, 2017). With these realities in mind, we gave this indicator a 100% certainty.

Scenario: Spillover (in case of civil war with intervention)

1. Are surrounding countries currently experiencing spillover from Libya’s civil war? 100% (Certain). Europe is likely the most impacted by spillover from Libya. Hundreds of thousands of migrants—perhaps up to one million, according to the UK’s former envoy to Libya—are poised to make the trip to Europe through the central Mediterranean route from Libya to Italy (Wintour, The Guardian, April 2, 2017). More than 24,000 have made the attempt thus far in 2017 (International Organization for Migration, April 7, 2017). Considering the horrific conditions for migrants in Libya, some have fled from Libya to Tunisia in an attempt to make the trip to Italy (ANSAmed, March 8, 2017; Kemp, The Guardian, February 20, 2017). Smugglers have also spilled over into Tunisia, which Libyan border guards recently tried to stop by shutting down the Libyan-Tunisian border (The Libya Observer, March 12, 2017). As a whole, Islamic State remnants in southern Libya have remained in the country—exploiting the conflict between rival governments (Dickstein, Stars and Stripes, March 24, 2017). However, the Chadian government closed its border for a short period of time earlier this year due to the threat of potential infiltration by extremists (Laing, The Huffington Post, January 6, 2017; Schmitt, The New York Times, March 21, 2017); last year, Algeria reported an estimated 200 ISIS militants fleeing towards the Tunisian and Algerian borders carrying forged passports and dressed as civilians (Moussaoui, Assabah News, May 9, 2016; Gartenstein-Ross, Zenn, and Barr, Foundation for Defense of Democracies, February 2017); and in early 2016, Tunisian Islamic State militants based in western Libya staged an attack on a Tunisian border town (Gartenstein-Ross, Zenn, and Barr, Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, February 2017). Furthermore, Libya remains a source country for drugs and arms being smuggled into western Egypt (Boduszynski and Arafa, The Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy, March 28, 2017; Daily News Egypt, March 20, 2017). Smuggling routes in southern and western Libya have also played a vital role in the proliferation of leftover weapons from the Qaddafi era—boosting AQIM’s resurgence in northern Africa (Krinninger, Deutsche Welle, March 14, 2016). Considering these realities, spillover is already occurring—meaning a likelihood of 100%.

Scenario: Partition along Tribal Lines (as civil war with intervention and spillover have taken place)

1. Are the tribes able to agree on borders? 5% (Highly Unlikely). Based on the combined likelihoods of indicators 1a and 1b, this indicator has an overall likelihood of 5%.

1a. Are the tribes willing to partition Libya and form tribal states instead of unite? 25% (Improbable). In the past, the minority tribes have talked of autonomy and formed their own tribal councils (Nationalia, February 21, 2014; Lacher, Security Assessment in North Africa, February 2014), but continued to try to gain representation in the Libyan state. Recently, the Toubou tribe formed its first congress called the “Council of Elders” to represent the tribe’s issues “locally, regionally, and internationally,” but stressed that this formation was not an attempt to form a separate Toubou state or contribute to the division of Libya (Valiente, Jamahiriya News Agency, February 23, 2017). Some Arab tribes have begun increasing their support for Haftar, and other larger tribal councils—including the National Tuareg Movement—have called on their tribes to work towards national reunification (Assad, The Libya Observer, January 7, 2017; Valiente, Jamahiriya News Agency, January 20, 2017; Yakupitiyage, allAfrica, March 23, 2017), which is in stark contract to partition. Considering these realities, but also leaving room for smaller tribes or clans that may support partition, we gave this indicator a 25% likelihood.

1b. Are the Tuareg and Toubou tribes likely to agree on dividing control of vital smuggling routes and oil resources? 20% (Improbable). Ever since control over many of the southern smuggling routes was awarded to the Toubou for their opposition to Qaddafi’s regime in the 2011 revolution, the Tuareg and Toubou have fought for control of the routes and the south’s vital oil fields (Murray, Middle East Eye, January 17, 2015; Murray, Al Jazeera, June 22, 2015; Murray, Vice News, June 3, 2016). Although the Tuareg and Toubou have agreed to peace deals in the past (Libya Channel, January 17, 2016; Ibrahim, The Libya Observer, November 23, 2015), clashes continually erupt between the two tribes. Thus, they are very unlikely to agree on dividing the control of the vital smuggling routes and oil resources—leaving this indicator with a 20% likelihood.

2. Are minority tribes likely to advocate for partition? 9% (Highly Unlikely). Based on the combined likelihoods of indicators 2a and 2b, this indicator has an overall likelihood of 9%.

2a. Has the rhetoric progressed from autonomy to full independence? 15% (Highly Unlikely). Recent actions and statements by the minority tribes have not indicated a desire for full independence, but rather a call for the reunification of Libya and a greater inclusion of their rights in the constitution (Assad, The Libya Observer, January 7, 2017; Valiente, Jamahiriya News Agency, January 20, 2017; Yakupitiyage, allAfrica, March 23, 2017). Thus we gave this indicator a 15% likelihood.

2b. Has the influence of tribalism increased? 70% (Highly Likely). Tribalism has gained traction after recent actions (such as Misrata gaining a solid foothold in central Libya), and have led many Libyan tribes to reaffirm their support or shift allegiances depending on how the situation affects their clans (Bocchi, Libya Herald, March 10, 2017; Middle East Monitor, March 22, 2017; Cusack, The New Arab, March 21, 2017). Considering a noticeable increase in tribalism through a shift of allegiances, we gave this indicator a 70% likelihood.

2c. Do minority tribes remain marginalized? 85% (Almost Certain). Despite their support for the rival governments, the minority tribes remain marginalized on the national level. Some of the members of Libya’s Constitution Drafting Assembly have reportedly made statements in support of marginalization under the pretext of “protecting the national security,” and the rights of the Tuareg, Amazigh, and Toubou tribes have yet to be included in a constitution (Valiente, Jamahiriya News Agency, February 23, 2017; Assad, The Libya Observer, December 5, 2016; Libya Herald, March 30, 2017). As a whole, tribal and community leaders have been excluded from the political process (Yakupitiyage, AllAfrica, March 23, 2017). Considering these realities, we gave this indicator an 85% likelihood.

3. Have the tribes lost faith in a unity government? 81% (Highly Likely). Based on the combined likelihoods of indicators 3a and 3b, this indicator has an overall likelihood of 81%.

3a. Is the unity government failing to consolidate power and make progress? 90% (Almost Certain). The GNA currently lacks the ability to impose its authority, it’s experiencing internal political upheaval, there are violent clashes in its capital, and Haftar’s forces control the critical oil facilities in central and eastern Libya (Lewis, Reuters, March 2, 2017; Bahati, AfricaNews, March 15, 2017; Stephen, The Guardian, March 15, 2017; Al Jazeera, March 14, 2017). These realities led us to give this indicator a 90% likelihood.

3b. Are armed groups actively fighting against the unity government? 90% (Almost Certain). Haftar’s forces are actively fighting against the forces that support the GNA—most recently around the Tamanhent air base in southern Libya (Lewis, Reuters, April 10, 2017; Libya Prospect, January 7, 2017; Libyan Express, February 15, 2017). Considering these realities, this indicator was given a 90% likelihood.

4. Do the tribes face minimal pushback from the warring governments if they form tribal states that include seized resources (oil)? 20% (Improbable). Considering El Sharara is one of Libya’s largest oil fields (Wardany, Sarrar, and Mohareb, Bloomberg, December 14, 2016) and located in Tuareg territory, a Tuareg state would seize this vital resource as a primary means of state income. The importance of the oil field would also prompt significant pushback from the other governments who have shown that control of oil resources is synonymous with exerting control over their Libyan rivals (Al Jazeera, March 14, 2017; Libya Herald, April 6, 2017). With these certainties in mind, we gave this indicator a 20% likelihood.

Determining Likelihood

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After calculating the likelihood for each path of scenarios, we thus assess that Scenario 2 Partition (tribal, provincial, and north-south lines) would be highly unlikely—less than 20%, considering the current situation.

In our next article, we shall evaluate the likelihood of the various spillover scenarios, without partition taking place as it is for now the most likely scenario.


Feature Photo: Libya celebrates “Tripolitanian Republic” declared against colonial rule by United Nations Photo, [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0], via Flickr

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Ross Kemp, “The migrant slave trade is booming in Libya. Why is the world ignoring it?” The Guardian, February 20, 2017

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